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In Pursuit of Vikings, Fjords and Cooler Weather, thursdaysd Goes North

In Pursuit of Vikings, Fjords and Cooler Weather, thursdaysd Goes North

Old Sep 3rd, 2015, 05:19 PM
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I'm enjoying your account of the cruise, thursdays.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2015, 08:23 PM
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I'm also interested to hear about the cruise as my mother would love to take it!
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 07:31 AM
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Cruise sounds great, but I am afraid that my terrible snoring precludes sharing a tight cabin with anyone, so probably couldn't afford it on my own.
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 10:58 AM
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yes, it sounds exactly like the sort of thing my DH would love - must remember NOT to tell him about it!
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 11:22 AM
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@irishface - there are interior cabins, which are presumably cheaper. We had a "best available" rate, and actually got a bigger cabin on a better deck than the category seemed to warrant. You could also look at doing a shorter cruise, they really promote the five/six/eleven night cruises, but you can do less, and Wideroe has small planes that fly to some of the ports.

@ann - such a pity... Maybe he could go alone?

Am staying really busy in London. William Morris Gallery plus Stanfords plus Percival David Chinese ceramics at the BM today. Freemasons Hall plus Fenton House plus 2 Willow Road plus Truckles wine bar plus Indian dinner with younger sister yesterday.
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 12:05 PM
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your London trip sounds lovely, thursdaysd.

I was joking [I think] about not telling DH about the Hurtigruten cruises - i will tell him, but perhaps not yet!
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Old Sep 5th, 2015, 12:31 AM
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@ann - LOL.

London trip has been good, but tiring. I had my days wrong, my sister came up on Wednesday. Thursday was Leighton House, Kensington Palace and scone and clotted cream plus "Luxury" at the V&A. I'm thinking of taking tomorrow off - I leave for Portsmouth on Monday.

Freemasons Hall and Leighton House were both lovely surprises.
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Old Sep 10th, 2015, 09:18 AM
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Sorry for the delay in posting, but I picked a virus in London and have been feeling under the weather. I also stayed quite busy in Portsmouth. I'm now having a down day in Horley before flying to Strasbourg tomorrow.

<b>August 16-17, 2015: Further North, Under the Sun</b>

Although we were too late for the midnight sun, we couldn't complain about the amount of sun we did see. Nor could we complain about the scenery. We reached the Lofoten islands the late afternoon of the 16th, and that night we were summoned to the top deck for hot fish soup, while we sailed through the Raftsundet straight and up and down the very narrow Trollfjord. (Maybe another time I could arrange to actually visit the Lofotens, instead of just sailing past them...)

There were a number of excursions on offer the day we passed the Lofotens, but we were the only passengers - yes, just us! - who opted for the Aviation Museum in Bodo. I don't know about the others, but we really enjoyed ourselves. Learned some things, too. I suppose I should not have been surprised that one of the very first things people found to do with the ability to get off the ground was to use it in warfare, but I was. I read with some disbelief that the French used a tethered balloon for observation as early as 1794, and the Austrians tried to bomb Venice from balloons in 1849 (not successfully). Balloons were used again during the American Civil War and the Franco-German war of 1870-71, and of course, by WWI, balloons had been replaced by the much more efficient and effective airplane.

The museum was big, but not really big enough for all the planes on display, and we nearly ran out of time. I was especially pleased to be able to get up close to a WWII Spitfire, even if it was in Norwegian livery. I was less pleased to find a British atomic bomb in a dark corner.

Our excursion to Tromso the next day was less successful, I thought. I had chosen to take the ship's excursion, instead of exploring independently, because I wanted to see the Arctic cathedral without worrying about getting back to the ship before she sailed. The cathedral was, indeed, worth seeing, although it really didn't take very long, and we weren't given very long. The architect had designed the church with plain glass, and the stained glass which I admired had been added to block the light that was blinding the congregation over his strenuous objections. We spent some time driving round town, and most of our time at an attraction called Polaria, which I thought largely a waste of time. The video of the northerly Svalbard islands was mostly useful in convincing me to take them off my list of places to see, the aquarium was small, and I certainly do not need to be convinced that global warming is a real and dangerous phenomenon.

We had stopped at plenty of other places, dropping off and picking up passengers, cars and cargo. At each port we were met by fork lift trucks, looking quite small from our vantage point on the higher decks, which buzzed busily around, in and out of the cargo holds. Our arrivals did not seem to generate the interest that Hurtigruten talked about in its brochures, but at one stop we could admire three vintage cars, shining in the sunshine.
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Old Sep 10th, 2015, 12:55 PM
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I'm now having a down day in Horley before flying to Strasbourg tomorrow.>>

are there any other sorts of days in Horley, thursdaysd? seriously, I used to live reasonably close to Horley and it was pretty boring then.

sorry you got ill - better luck in Strasbourg!
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Old Sep 10th, 2015, 01:37 PM
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Lol, ann, still is, but the B&B picks me up and drops me off.

Now I think about it, one time when I did an overnight here before a flight out, I went to Arundel and caught a cold waiting for a train on a freezing platform.
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Old Sep 10th, 2015, 01:56 PM
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Now I think about it, one time when I did an overnight here before a flight out, I went to Arundel and caught a cold waiting for a train on a freezing platform.>>

lol, yourself, Thursdaysd. The only time we ever spent there was one January when we spent the night in the somewhat damp spare bed of the taxi driver who picked us up from the airport to take us to our hotel where our car was parked - the snow was so thick that he couldn't get to the hotel so we stayed with him instead.

I definitely never wanted to go back.
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Old Sep 10th, 2015, 02:35 PM
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The Hurtigruten cruise sounds good, thursdaysd. DH did a North Cape cruise years ago before I knew him, and he'd like to go again with me. This sounds like a good option! How long did you have in the ports, in general?

We were in Tromso in December 2012, and went to the cathedral. It is beautiful. We took a very expensive bus ride to get to it because it was just too dang cold to walk! It would be fun to see it in summer.

The plane we took to Tromso was going on to Svalbard - in December-ha! I can't imagine!
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Old Sep 12th, 2015, 08:18 AM
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@Florida1 - the length of the stop varies considerably, depending on the port, the direction of the ship, and the season. The Hurtigruten brochure, available online, has all the details.

<b>August 19-20, 2015: Very Far North. And East.</b>

Norway's North Cape is mainland Europe's northernmost point. And also home to what sounded to me like a tourist trap, so we did not take the ship's excursion to North Cape, but instead the "Taste of Lapland" offering. This meant we spent a long time in the otherwise unremarkable port of Honningsvag, waiting for the North Cape excursioners to return, and that we missed actually sailing round the North Cape as we got off at Kjollefjord and rejoined the boat in Mehamn.

In general, stops in the far north were shorter than those further south, often just 30 minutes. Another change was the weather. Instead of the sunny skies we had enjoyed for the first five days, we woke on day six to a grey mist. This seemed only fitting for such northern latitudes, although the following day, which we spent in Kirkenes, where we disembarked, was also sunny. Kirkenes is, of course, a long way north, but it is also notable for being a long way east - further east than Istanbul, in fact!

The Lapland excursion turned out to be a drive through very northern-looking countryside - rocky and boulder-strewn, with limited low-growing vegetation - and a show-and-tell in an oversized tourist teepee. Leaving aside the teepee, the demonstration, given by two Sami, was very interesting. We learned about dress, music, and handicrafts, and got to pass around reindeer booties and nicely carved cups. After once attempting to suppress the culture (a familiar story, alas) the government is now supporting it, and there is a Sami parliament in Karasjok. Afterwards we had a photo op with a couple of reindeer.

This was our last night on board, although we did meet some people who were making the full eleven day cruise and returning to Bergen on the Kong Harald. As on the first night, dinner was a buffet rather than a set menu, but a buffet with a difference. Never mind unlimited smoked salmon, this buffet featured king crabs and shrimp as well as salmon.

We had to be out of our cabins by 8:00 the day we arrived in Kirkenes, although we were able to enjoy a final breakfast buffet, and didn't disembark until after 9:00. Most people were headed to the airport, but we were spending one night in Kirkenes before flying to Oslo. Our hotel, the Thon, turned out to be very comfortable, and our room had a water view.

The Russian border is in the middle of a river very close to Kirkenes, and the most popular excursions take you to the border, and sometimes on the river. But if you go south instead of east you reach the Finnish border, and I found an excursion that included a short visit to Finland (the Russian excursions don't actually cross the border). The visit to Finland wasn't much - although we did see quite a few more reindeer - but the highlight of the excursion was a small, secluded chapel that is normally only open once a year.

The chapel is the sole Russian Orthodox church in Norway, as well as, at 140 sq. ft., the smallest church building. Its heritage goes back to a monk named Trifon of Petchenga, who converted the Skolt Sami, the indigenous population, in the 1500s. A small bell tower flanks the chapel to one side, and a spirit house to the other. The chapel is so small that the annual service, on the last Sunday in August, is actually held outside. In contrast, we also visited a Lutheran church, in the nearby settlement of Neiden. I was surprised to learn that Norwegians are still legally obliged to tithe, although this may not last much longer.

The next day we took the bus to the airport. The driver had insufficient change, so we had to stop at the depot on the way, after which it took so long for her to actually issue tickets I began to wonder whether we would ever arrive. At the airport I was amused to see that the SAS passengers had to use check-in kiosks, while those of us on the budget Norwegian airline got actual people. While waiting for our flight to Oslo, I noticed a couple of Wideroe turboprop planes on the tarmac. For those who suffer from seasickness, this is another option for reaching the more remote parts of Norway.
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Old Sep 16th, 2015, 09:17 AM
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<b>August 20-23, 2015: Housekeeping in Oslo</b>

After six nights in close quarters on the Kong Harald, plus three more nights sharing a room, I thought my sister and I might be ready for rather more space. Plus, everything I had read had said how expensive it was to eat out in in Norway, so kitchen facilities could be a worthwhile economy. Those considerations led me to suggest that we book an apartment with AirBnB. My first AirBnB rental, in Aix-en-Provence, had produced an excellent room up far too many steps, so I agreed with my sister to sacrifice AC in favor of an elevator.

Booking with AirBnB is clearly a learning experience. I had learned to pay attention to important details mentioned in passing, like 4th etage (fifth floor in American). Now I discovered that information about the host might also be useful. The apartment did look like the photographs, although a bit more worn, but our host was a young bachelor, and had stuffed a surprising assortment of stuff into almost all the available closet space, and there was no power point within easy reach of a mirror. On the other hand, there were loads of cups, glasses and plates, and we loved the terrace (when the sun was off it).

While AirBnB has solved the payment problem with apartments, there is still the matter of getting the keys. This was compounded by the fact that I could not get the AirBnB app to send a message from my Gmail account on my iPad (I think I need to update the Gmail password, but can't figure out how), but happily it worked on my Android phone. Initially our host had said he would meet us at the bus station, but then said he would leave the keys in a locker at the train station. While this did work, it left us with a longer trek to the apartment. We also had difficulty getting the keys to work in the outer gate to the apartment complex, and by the end of our stay needed to be let in by another resident - not that we were by any means the only ones in difficulty.

The apartment was close to a very good coffee shop, where I was able to get a proper macchiato, two mini-marts and a wine shop, along with a bus stop to the south and a metro stop to the north. It was also walking distance to the impressive new Opera House, notable for a roof you can walk on. Also, sit on, our last day there was a huge crowd for the Red Bull Flugtag competition, to watch a bunch of people try to fly, and a fair number, including us, were up on the roof. Unfortunately, this seemed to be more a comic exercise, in Norwegian, rather than serious attempts to take wing without engines, and we didn't stay long. There was a lot of impressive new development going on around the Opera House, and I had the feeling the area had previously been pretty run down.

We ate all our dinners in - meals which included some very good cheese and wine - and made sandwiches for most lunches, although we did eat one good if expensive lunch at Apotek, when it turned out the cafe at the Design Museum didn't do food. The Design Museum, near a pleasant cemetery, was otherwise a success, if overly warm, offering sections on clothes, royal evening dresses, silver, glass and ceramics, besides a series of period rooms. The Art Nouveau showed strong Viking influences, and some of the modern chairs looked more like parodies than something anyone would actually use. Unfortunately, the History Museum, which we did next, was a complete waste of time. The Bergen Museum had had a much better section on the medieval period, and the less said about the Viking section the better (weird fabric representations of Norse deities!).
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Old Sep 16th, 2015, 04:25 PM
  #135  
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Glad to hear more of the saga!
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Old Sep 16th, 2015, 11:59 PM
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Thankskja,good to know someon is still reading!

Figure one more post on Oslo and that will conclude this leg of the trip. Am so far behind am thinking of skipping the UK, at least until I get home in November, and starting over with France.
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Old Sep 17th, 2015, 05:39 AM
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This is the last post for the northern leg of my three part trip. I spent two and a half weeks in England, flying to Strasbourg September 11th. I stayed very busy in England, and then came down with a nasty virus, which I am still fighting. Neither helped with getting the blog up to date, and I am now so far behind I have decided not to blog England, at least until I get home in November. So I will be starting on the southern leg of the trip on a separate thread shortly. Thanks for following along!

<b>August 21-23, 2015: Ending Scandinavia in Oslo</b>

As I wrote in my last post, we had an informative and enjoyable time at the Design Museum, among the royal dresses, the period rooms and the bizarre modern chairs, and a decidedly unsuccessful time at the History Museum. We spent the whole of the next day visiting a series of museums out on Bygdøy. A very crowded bus delivered us to a very crowded museum, the Viking Ship Museum. Unlike the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum, this one held artifacts recovered with the ships, not just the ships, and if I had to pick just one museum it would be Oslo's. Despite the crowds, I was impressed by the layout, the information and especially by the artifacts, which included some wonderfully decorated sleds and a cart.

Moving on, we found the excellent outdoor museum much less crowded. Almost deserted, in fact, which seemed strange, as I thought it one of the best such museums I had seen. Perhaps not surprising, as it was the first. Of particular interest was an apartment building, where a series of flats had been decorated to represent different eras. A couple of the flats were almost exact replicas (in one case the architect owners had detailed records, in another the occupant had died in the flat, leaving her belongings intact), others were imaginary creations. One large house had been home first to the wealthy and influential Collett family (expat Brits) and subsequently to a publishing operation. As both our father and grandfather had worked for a printing and bookbinding concern we were especially interested in the displays here. For Norwegians they also had particular significance as the founder, Jorgen Wright Cappelen, had been at the forefront of the movement to replace Danish with a written Norwegian language. We finished our visit at the beautifully decorated stave church, the only one I had seen.

Then we took the bus further south to the Fram and Kon-Tiki museums. Looking at all the photos of the frozen north, and south, I marveled at the hardihood of the men who had manned the exploratory expeditions, but my choice would definitely have been the Kon Tiki! The Fram museum offered a wealth of information, including some on Scott's ill fated expedition, and on Amundsen's subsequent activities, and the Fram herself was there, available for boarding. By the time we reached our final museum of the day, the Kon Tiki we were running out of both time and energy, but still appreciated Heyerdahl's intelligence and persistence. You have to admire someone willing to put his theories to the test personally.

Our final museum, on our last day in Oslo, was the Munch, where a number of people were in line to see the exhibition on Van Gogh and Munch. I have to confess that while I admire Munch's work, I prefer Van Gogh. Afterwards we wandered through the botanical gardens, conveniently located close at hand. A number of sources had recommended visiting Frogner Park to see the 212 sculptures by Vigeland. We looked at photos, we looked at what we took to be a couple of his sculptures in front of the (uninspiring) city hall, and we agreed to skip the park.

The morning of the 24th we loaded the dishwasher, mailed the key back to our AirBnB host, and walked over to the bus station to catch the airport bus. We both had window seats on our BA flight to Heathrow, with an empty middle seat next to us. We had bought baguettes in the airport, although BA did serve a light lunch. The northern leg of my trip was over, and the UK leg beginning. My niece's wedding, the catalyst for the trip, would be on the 29th.
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Old Sep 18th, 2015, 12:28 PM
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For anyone still reading, I've started the southern TR here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ders-south.cfm
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Old Sep 20th, 2015, 12:36 PM
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Hi THURSDAYSD,

I just read through your excellent blog. I really learned a lot about Scandinavia, a part of Europe with which I am not familiar. Interesting about your Hurtigruten experience. I know some savvy travelers who swear by that line. They are hearty souls.

I enjoyed your description of Berlin. We didn't make it to the Reichstag, but visited many of the other sites and museums. Too bad it was so hot during your stay. Wonderful pics for all sections.

Glad you made it to Ceciliehof. Being a WWII buff, I loved the history of the place and the anecdotes about Stalin, Churchill, and Truman. If I recall, Sans Souci was in the Eastern sector. The neighborhood has many lovely homes, formerly owned by German aristocrats which have been brought back to life in recent years. Haven't been there since 2008.

Saving your Boston section until later....
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Old Sep 20th, 2015, 12:53 PM
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Glad you enjoyed it, LTD.

I was particularly interested to see Cecilienhof because I had previously been to Livadia in Yalta. Didn't think to look for the site in Casablanca when I was there, though.

Of course, Hurtigruten isn't like a "regular" cruise, but we were comfortable and well fed, and the scenery was great. And there's no way I'm signing up for one of those ships with 3,000+ passengers in any case.
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