The Wendelsí Three Vacations in One
Norway and Svalbard 1999
(Note: these are just rough, unstructured notes from the trip. A much more organized version, with pictures, was published in the July/August 2001 issue of TravLtips magazine.)
Our Arctic trip was actually two mini-vacations sandwiching one large one. We started with three days in Edinburgh, Scotland, finished with a week wandering about in the Oslo-Bergen, Norway area, and in-between spent two glorious weeks on the MS Caledonian Star traveling from Scotland, through the northern islands and up the coast of Norway, around Spitsbergen. We saw birds, ice, glaciers, flowers, and polar bears!
Business class on ANZ; upstairs on a 747 is better than downstairs. When downstairs it seems like no one is driving. Getting from International terminal to domestic at Heathrow made us feel like rats in a maze. There is supposed to be a shuttle but we missed it. British Midland "code-shares" with many airlines so we could have checked baggage through to Edinburgh. One nice thing, Joy had arranged for Greyline to meet us at the airport and take us to the hotel.
Channings Hotel is a bunch of old row houses that have been turned into a 48-room hotel. Quite nice. Since Channings is within easy walking distance of downtown we spent most of the rest of the day downtown. Walked back to the hotel for a drink and to pick out a candidate restaurant for dinner. After eating constantly from LA we didnít expect to be hungry. Walked back to town to our selected restaurant and were told that the place was fully booked although it was empty at the time. They suggested we try McEwanís Mugwump just around the corner. We did and had a very good meal. It is small, quaint, decorated in earth tones, and features medieval cooking, sort of.
Breakfast is included at the hotel, as it was in all hotels we stayed in on this trip. At breakfast we overheard an American father talking to his 5-year-old son. "I was looking at your ĎJust So Storiesí book and saw the story about how the leopard got his spots. Do you know how the leopard got his spots?" His sonís answer, "DNA?"
Sunday, our first full day in Edinburgh, we walked the Royal Mile and almost saw the queen. There was a mob around a church which was disbursing as we approached. Many of the elegantly dressed parishioners (ladies in big hats) hurried on down the hill to Holyrood Palace. When the arrived, they presented their photo ID to the police and were admitted. We werenít. I think we may have seen Princess Margaret arriving, however. About this time it started raining, although actually it was more like a mist and didnít last too long.
On day two, we took a Greyline tour with John. We were the only people on the small tour bus. Went to the Edinburgh Crystal Factory, the Glenkinchie Scotch distillery, and had a lovely drive across the heather-covered hills to Floors Castle, the home of the Duke of Roxburghe, then finally to Sir Walter Scotts home, a castle-like building that he built. It is loaded with stuff that he collected, including many arms and more books than you can imagine. The country is green and beautiful. The villages are neat, quant, handsome. United Distillers & Vintners owns the distillery, along with Johnny Walker and a bunch of others. Johnny Walker is 60% blended single malt scotches and the rest grain whiskey. Four million bottles of scotch are lost by evaporation from the aging barrels each year. Tax is not paid until bottling. Most of their production goes to Scotch whiskey blenders.
Had a pretty good dinner at the hotel.
We stored our bags at the hotel for our final jaunt to town . Lunch the final day on Hanover street. Jodie took a picture of St Maryís Cathedral. We returned, got the bags out, and requested a taxi. When it arrived one of baggage people hauled the bags out for us. When I gave him a tip I said, "Thank you, Andy." He seemed surprised and pleased and said, "No one ever called me by my name before. Its usually just Ďboy.í"
The Caledonian Star started life as a trawler and was eventually converted to a passenger ship. It was extensively refurbished a year ago and has a very attractive interior. On the other hand, our cabin has very poor temperature control, as evidenced by the presence of a large oscillating fan in the room. There are two small closets, each provided with 3 smallish drawers. There is also a dressing table/desk with one lockable drawer plus a bed table with two small drawers. There is a large shelf under the two port holes. There is room to store the baggage under the bunks. There is also a coat rack near the door. As is customary on most small expedition cruise ships, the cabin doors are not locked.
Leith harbor is provided with a lock to isolate it from the tidal variations of the firth of Forth. When we left, the difference was 10 ft.
45 minutes after departure from Leith we circled Bass Rock to view 40,000 nesting pairs of Gannets plus a few muires. Gannets are beautiful, albatross-like birds with mostly white bodies and a beautiful light golden head. The rock is a volcanic plug. There is a lighthouse, fog horn, and the ruins of an old castle on top. The castle was also used as a prison.
Kirkwall, Orkney Islands. Bus tour (included) of prehistoric places. Very good local guide/bus driver with very thick accent. Beautiful country, very narrow roads with wider places that allow vehicles to meet each other. Gigantic bay called Scapa Flow. The Ark Royal was sunk there by a German submarine at the start of WWII with great loss of life. It is a national monument and is marked by buoys. Very few trees, lots of rock. Stones used to make fences, called dry stone dykes. There are stone monoliths all over plus circles of stones. Skara Brae is a Neolithic village about which much has been conjectured but nothing known. Maes Howe is a burial chamber from 2900 BC with Viking 12th century graffiti. Entry requires walking bent over for 25' tunnel that is 4' high. (Bog Cotton, Dry stone Dykes, Wild Bog Orchid)
Captainís dinner. Crew 64, 86 passengers. Ship built as a factory trawler in 1966 and converted to passenger ship in 1983. Was the FMS (Fish Motor Ship) Marburg from Bremerhaven, built by A.G. Seekech Yard. Converted in Gothenburg, Sweden to North Star and operated by Salen Lindblad. Further conversion in 1987 in Vancouver. Changed to Caledonian Star in 1990 and operated by Noble Caledonian.
Fair Isle is misnamed. It is barren, damp, and windy. It is however the home to 20,000 pairs of Atlantic puffin. Fair Isle was originally called Far Isle. Home to about 70 hardy souls and a few hundred sheep. Saw puffins really close! Walked to and from the community center, about 2 miles each way, where handicrafts were available. Also coffee, tea, and homemade goodies. Walked back with ships Dr., Dennis Noasaine. His practice is at Sutterís Mill, CA. His wife is also on the ship. Their 15-year-old son is staying in England or Scotland.
Mousa Broch, a defensive structure, is the largest and best remaining example of the hundreds that were built throughout Scotland about 2,300 to 1,400 years ago. They were all built to the same general design; round, tall, stone towers which taper gradually towards the top. Built with double walls and no windows, there are inner stairways, an enclosed courtyard and a single entryway. Lots of flowers, primrose, milk wort, orchard. There were also quite a number of seals hauled out on the far shore.
-wick comes from the Norwegian word for bay.
Each projecting strata on a bird cliff is clearly marked in white by its continued use by the birds.
For lifeboat drill, they had the boats lowered to the boarding position. First time I have ever seen that.
The reason that there are fans in every room is that the air conditioning failed on a Mediterranean cruise 2 years ago. It occurred during a refurbishment that was being conducted while the ship was in use. Part of the refurbishment was replacing the air-conditioning. Rather than repair the old they decided to finish the new. They bought all of the fans available at the current port and gave them to passengers via a lottery. The remainder were picked up at the next port.
Zodiac ride at 7 Sisters waterfall: common valerian (p 234), vetch (130), wild rose , geranium (142).
Geirangerfjorden - grey, twisted granite, green plants & trees, waterfalls everywhere, snow on top like icing on a cake. Little farms & homes perched high up the sides with no apparent access, boat shed on the water. Profusion of flowers seen only when close and/or with binoculars. Iíve always expected that fjords came to a gradual end, tapering to a point that was bisected by a roaring cataract. Garranger terminated in a flat, bowl-shaped valley however there is the roaring stream.
The waterfall across from 7 Sisters is Suton.
7/11 Happy Birthday Jodie! Went ashore at Torghatten and hiked to a remarkable rectangular hole in a rock wall at least 60' wide, at least as high, and 100' long. Intermittent light rain. Dined with the shipís radio officer. Jodie was presented with a lovely cake topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream and serenaded by the Filipino dining room staff with a love song.
Crossed the Arctic Circle around midnight and went ashore at Bekinggen Island alleged to be on the circle and marked with a monument. My GPS said 66o 31.98' N (should be 66o 33'), 12o 58.43' E. A brave (foolhardy) few swam briefly and all enjoyed glugg, hot spiced wine. There was a terrific wind and rain.
Second bird cliff is on the island of Noss
Quaint is a word that is overused with Norwegian villages. They arenít really quaint; they are functional and utilitarian for their environment, and quite attractive.
We missed our zodiac trip to Rost since the weather turned quite bad during the night. The ship bounced around quite a bit. (The rough seas "helped" us move our heavy stuff off of the shelf under the port holes.) This moved up the visit to Reine, a fishing village situated on a deep harbor surrounded by some dragon-teeth grey peaks. Flowers are everywhere, both wild and cultivated. Each grave in the cemetery has a planting, not a single flower but a plot. Tools for cultivation hang on the cemetery fence for all to use. Most houses are surrounded by flowers in full bloom, including lilac bushes. Many have lace curtains with blooming flowers in the window. There are several whaling ships in the harbor. These, a seasonal cod harvest, and year-round fishing support the town.
Source of common red buildings in Scandinavia - Sweden had copper mines with a plentiful supply of CuO2 which can easily be made into paint. They have white houses in the south since there is a plentiful supply of ZnO2.
Three engineers were arguing about whether God is an engineer and, if so, what kind. The mechanical engineer said, "Of course, God is a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the magnificent machines, levers, etc in the body." The electrical engineer said, "No. Look at the nervous system. God is obviously an electrical engineer." The civil engineer said, "You both are wrong. No one but a civil engineer would route a main sewage line through a major recreational area."
Electrical engineer and lawyer were arguing whether God was an electrical engineer or a lawyer. The electrical engineer said that first there was chaos then God said, "Let there be light." God is obviously a E.E. Then the lawyer said, "But who created the chaos?"
Tromsö - 50,000 people live here. The airport was built a couple of years ago & now they have 13 flights a day to Oslo. There is a university (northern-most) with a large hospital. They have the only school of fishing here besides Japan. Seems appropriate that two of the foremost exploiters of the sea have schools. The bustling business district has a comparatively large number of book and craft (sewing, knitting, embroidery) stores. The sun never sets for two months in the summer and never rises for two months in the winter. There are a lot of "northern-mosts" here. There is also a very good museum dedicated to polar exploration. Church features large stained glass window. The architect built the place with clear glass so that the mountains could be seen. The Sun was too bright so the stained glass was put in over his strenuous objections. He never entered the building again.
Fugloya Island - passed on the way out of Tromsö. Home to a large number os puffin, murres. Didnít see masses of birds as at previous rocks. There were, however, three white-tailed eagles soaring about.. Also the shear granite face was illuminated by the lowering sun in highlighted patches through broken clouds. As we passed the cliffs, the ship began a gentle rocking as we approached the Barents Sea.
7/14 Glassy seas with large SW swell rushed us to Bjørnøya (Bear) Island. Went ashore in late afternoon for a brief tundra walk. Naturalists equipped with shotguns loaded with slugs for a chance polar bear encounter. Remains of old whaling/walrus facility on shore. After dinner viewed the bird cliffs then headed north for ICE ahead of schedule.
On the way north we encountered several hump-backed whales. The first one announced its presence by breaching several times. One stayed so close to the ship that we could see its white pectoral fins under the water. There was no fog around the island, apparently a rare condition. Moss campion, root rose.
Svalbard - 60% snow/ice, 27 % bare, 13% plants. 300,000 kr/person subsidy/year. 10,000 reindeer.
Halvmåneøya - landing scrubbed due to thick fog, in and out of light ice all day. Fog cleared late in day to brilliant sun & lots of ice. Encountered a polar bear around midnight and were able to watch it for at least an hour. Finally went to bed at 1:30. The weather was bright, sunny, and warm.
Fri - awakened at 7 by the spotting of another bear. Since it was on the port side I looked out our port hole & there it was! Took several pictures then finished dressing & went up on deck. We spent an hour with this one also.
Stopped at Halvmåneøya on Nordaustlandet in the afternoon and went ashore for 2 hours. We walked up onto the face of one of the snow fields. This is on the east side of Spitsbergen and the Gulf Stream is on the west, so it is colder. This plus the cold from the snow banks leads to sparse vegetation. The plants are scattered about on the gravel banks. Now we continue on around Spitsbergen, since we are far north and havenít encountered solid pack ice yet. The ice seems far north of here.
Fanshaw Cliffs - thick-billed murres nesting
Went into Leifdefjorden and stopped at the glacier. Zodiac rides along the front. Masses of sea birds feeding on the little creatures in the streams welling up from under the glacier (melt water). Then off to Reinsdyrflya (Reindeer Flats) where we hiked across the tundra. Many, many flowers. Three reindeer approached our group quite closely. Visit cut short since one of the other groups, the "short" hikers, spotted a polar bear on shore. We returned to the zodiacs and viewed the bear from a safe distance. Steve Mc stated that the bear was probably young and looked quite undernourished.
Capt. Skog wants heavy pack ice so he is heading north. We stayed up until 2 am but never encountered any ice. At 5 am the ship eventually turned around at 81o 32.88' - 507 NM from the pole!
Sjuøyane (Seven Islands) are the northernmost islands of the archipelago. Zodiac tour at one of the islands, Rossøya. Named for Sir James Ross, an early Arctic explorer. Quite windy. The island is small and barren. Snow clings to all of its lower flanks. Lots of eider ducks, including some ducklings in the water. Top of island capped with a flowing fog blanket. There were also puffin, dovekies, thick-billed murres flying about like little winged footballs, the usual northern fulmars, and gulls of various types. As we were approaching in the ship, I watched a fulmar raise from the water by simple extending its wings and taking a few paddles/steps with its feet.
Went ashore on Phlippsoya Island in the afternoon. Hiked across a very barren landscape. Saw only mosses & lichens although I eventually found a tiny, flowering saxifrage. There was fast ice in the bay on the other side upon which there were ringed and bearded seals.
July 19 Moffen Island is a low, flat atoll-like island that is a walrus haul-out. There were less than 100 tightly packed next to each other. They were a very light brown, changing from a much darker grey when in the cold water. Several frolicked in the water, probably to cool off. One seemed to run out of energy as he returned to the water and just flopped at the edge.
Pink-footed goose, black guillemot, murre.
Danskøya (Danes Island) Wellman - National geographic 1906, p205
Wellman transported 300 to 400 tons of timber & iron, 75 T iron filings, 125 T H2SO4, 30 T apparatus & other chemicals. To produce 5,000 m3 of H2 takes 23,000 kg Fe, 40800 kg H2SO4, 76,000 kg water, 450,000 kg washing water.
Vast piles of iron shavings, wooden debris from the Wellman airship hanger, stone remains from the Dutch try pots, iron drums, ceramic pipes of unknown use, graves of Dutch whalers. Ceramic pipe was not used for anything. About all thatís left from Andrèeís ill-fated balloon attempt is his filter, used to separate the hydrogen gas from the water and sulfuric acid.
Magdalenfjord - Devilís Wagon Trail glacier. Pulled into the fjord and found the Albatross, a big (800 passenger?) cruise ship parked opposite the ranger station at Cemetery Point (130 whalers buried). This place is so popular that Norway has placed two summer rangers there to control things. It is one of two places where big cruise ships can stop. They take passengers ashore and set up a bar, sometimes even the ship band. As we passed by one of the rangers called on the radio to see what our intentions were. We went to the glacier at the end of the fjord and anchored. We did 45 min zodiac trips along the face, hoping all the time for a spectacular calving. Our group went first then we watched from the bow while the second group went out. Since it was , by now, cocktail hour, I got drinks from the bar. The ice never melted in my drink.
Dinner was a chilly cookout on the stern. The pool was filled with silty fjord water with some glacier ice floating in it. There was a toy polar bear on one of the pieces. Since there was a very light mist, we found a table under the overhang.
As we got ready for bed, the ship engines started and we moved closer to the glacier. It finally calved. The cavity we had watched all day finally fell apart, first with a few small pieces and then several large blocks. We could just barely see it through the port hole. The ship was rocked by the waves the calving produced.
July 20 - We encountered a single walrus floating on a tiny piece of ice as we approached Lilliehøøk glacier. It is 5 km across the face. We approached through a thick, low fog that magically parted as we neared the glacier. The water was glassy-smooth. Between that, the intermittent patches of fog, and the just generally fabulous light, I couldnít stop taking pictures. The kittiwakes were busily attending the various upwellings from under the face, riding their feeding conveyor. The ice bits in the water were cracking like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies.
Hanging Gardens in a patch of green along the shore of Krossfjorden. Steep cliffs are the home of countless sea birds. The scree slope at the base is richly fertilized from the droppings/runoff, therefore, there are plants in profusion. There are also thick carpets of deep green moss. Murres, guillemot, barnacle geese, arctic fox foot prints.
Ny-Ålesund originally was a coal-mining town. A final gas explosion killed a number of miners in the 60s so the government decided to close the mine. Since the explosion occurred in the winter, the families had keep the bodies of their loved ones frozen until spring when they could be taken south and buried. Rather than abandon the town, the government turned it into a polar research station. The mooring mast for the Norge dirigible used by Amudsen and Noble to cross the North Pole and fly on to Alaska is still there. So also are quite a number of nesting arctic terns who attack by dive bombing anyone they perceive as getting too close. Residents carry sticks to hold above their heads since the terns attack the highest point.
Red throated loon, barnacle geese. 80 private business in Svalbard. Most northerly post office and also a gift shop.
July 21 - Hornsund. Hung around the glacier for a couple of hours then went ashore on a very windy point. The zodiac ride was quite wet due to the spray. Got ashore and up to an old trapperís hut and just got a brief glimpse inside when a passenger spotted a polar bear high up on the slope above us, apparently munching on baby muire chicks trying to get to the sea after hurling themselves off of the nest. We hurriedly evacuated the beach, had a spot of tea, and started packing. Visited 5-mile glacier and saw a bearded seal.
Captís farewell dinner. Started on free booze at 6. The official cocktail party started at 7 so we had a good head start. Very pleasant evening! Especially since we were all packed.
Up at 6:30 am to put away clothes from dinner & set the bags out. Off the boat at 8:30 for a tour of Longyearbyen. First impression is coal; there are many remains of coal tramways around the town. The town is named for an American, Longyear, who started and operated coal mines here for many years. Most of the mines are now closed. Most stores feature an excellent selection of outdoor stuff. Town aiming economy toward tourism and outdoor adventure. Snow mobiles parked at all residences.
Went to airport at noon, boarded charter for Oslo at 1 PM for 3 hour flight to Oslo. Upon takeoff the pilot leveled out at 3,000' and drove down the coast, eventually climbed to 5,000' to cross the island so that we could enjoy the view. Then climbed to normal altitude for the reminder of the flight. Charter was great with it being only 2/3 full. Free booze, good food. Had a bit of a shock at the airport as we were boarding, Peter Carey, one of the naturalists, came in with Dr. Dennis, carrying an IV bag attached to his arm. He seems to have contracted some strange ailment that required evacuation. He went immediately to the Oslo hospital and, we found out later, was placed in isolation. After four days he was released and sent home.
Arrived at 4:30 at the very modern Oslo airport. Bus took those who wished to the Fram museum. Ship quite large and well built. Gjöa outside-quite small. (The Gjöa was the ship sailed by Amudsen on the first successful transit of the Northwest Passage.) To Grand hotel but still no baggage. Dinner at Louises
First night of relative darkness, however quite warm in spite of open room window. No AC. Much waterfront activity for power boat race over the weekend. Hotel continental breakfast buffet a shambles. We bid most of our travel companions good bye as they headed off to the airport for the charter SAS flight home via Newark.
Bought Oslo card and set out via tram to Vigeland park, a remarkable sculpture display. All nude people of all ages. Touted as erotic however we didnít feel that way. It is a magnificent analogy of life & quite beautiful. Took tram back to waterfront and had a lunch of ice cream then boarded the ferry to Folksmuseum. Stumbled upon an English tour which showed us a small part. Learned that in the old days, horses were more highly valued than cows. Often in winter, the horses were fed grain and hay while the cows got boiled horse shit. I wonder whose job it was to boil the horse shit? The beds were quite short since people slept curled up - so their spirit wouldnít escape. Also saw elaborately carved courtship ironing boards. These are long wooden boards that a suitor presented to his intended. If she started using it this indicated that she was receptive.
Stave churches are so named because the wood is vertical rather than horizontal as in a log cabin. Similar to standing a Viking ship on end.
Walked from there to the Viking ship museum and then to the Fram museum so we could see the interior of the Gjöa. Also visited the Kon Tiki museum. Took the ferry back with the intention of souvenir shopping however rain and my fatigue drove us back to the hotel for a drink. Had dinner at Blums, the oldest restaurant in the city. It is located in a shopping center about a block from the hotel. When the center was built, the old building was wrapped to preserve it. When wandered out to find a place to eat, we wandered around a shopping area reputed to have a lot a restaurants. We couldnít find anything that looked appealing. We encountered someone in an obvious wait-type uniform standing on the sidewalk taking a breather. We asked where she worked & she directed us Blums.
Oslo is a neat old, new, modern, historic city. In some areas, however, there is a lot of graffiti. Taxis are mostly Mercedes.
Up at 6 to finish repacking. Took the two large bags down and checked them into the hotel storage for the week, had breakfast, then set out for the train station with our two wheeled carry-ons, click-clack along behind us on the cobblestones. Eventually found our train and our reserved seats - on the only smoking car.
Beds, both on the ship and in all the hotels - the mattress is a relatively thin pad laid on a spring. The single cover is a similar but larger pad or quilt. Since the rooms were usually too warm it was difficult to reach a comfortable temperature. Your arms & chest would get cold while your lower half was sweating.
Train from Oslo started out in subway & emerged in suburbs. Eventually city slowly gave way to farms; farms eventually gave way to mountains. We reached 3000'. Just past that we reached Myrdol & left the placid comfort of reserved seats for the cattle car atmosphere of the Flam train. This train is one of the most popular since it drops from the snow-covered heights to sea level through spectacular canyons & many tunnels, one of which executes a 180o turn inside a mountain! We were unable to find a seat. In fact, we were lucky to find any room at all to stand. Standing wasnít all bad; it allowed us to easily shift from side to side to see the changing views. At Flam lunch was another mess.
Eventually our boat, the Bergen express left. We got off at Balstrand found the delightful Kviknie Hotel located very close to the pier. Our room had a wonderful view of the fjord, mountains, and waterfalls. We had cocktails on our balcony!
Norway certainly has no shortage of waterfalls or of water. Speaking of water; the distilled water on the ship did not have a very good flavor. When we got to the Grand Hotel in Oslo it was difficult to stop drinking the delightful water.
The waterfalls also allow Norway to be a big aluminum producer, not that they have ore. The production of aluminum requires a lot of cheap electricity. With all their waterfalls I think Norway could power the World!
Dinner was a large buffet in the old hotel dinning room. Our room is in the new part. It seems that you have assigned seats. We were taken to a lovely table for two overlooking the grounds and the fjord. When we came down for breakfast the next morning the waiter told us to take the same table. I told him we couldnít since someone else was sitting there. So he took us to another table. When we came down for dinner that night the matre-d took us to some other table. I made some comment about eating there the previous night. He left and came back, most apologetic, and took us to our original table. The selection of food was outstanding.
Fjaerland - boarded the boat at 8:10 just before a large American tour group. Reached Fjaerland in an hour and boarded a bus that took us to the Norwegian Glacier Museum. Saw an Imax-like video that was shot with 5 synchronized video cameras and projected from 5 video disk players on 5 flat screens of the Jostedal glacier. This is the largest glacier in Norway.
After a suitable delay we reboarded the bus and drove up to one glacier face, 30 min later left and drove to another where there was a restaurant and gift shop. We had provided ourselves with cheese sandwiches at breakfast so that was our lunch. We drove back to Fjaerland and did absolutely nothing for 2 hours since there is absolutely nothing to do there. The only open stores were Norwegian used book stores, all over the place. The two grocery stores were closed since it was Sunday.
The ferry on to Bergen arrived and departed with much haste, as all its stops were. We passed through a profusion of low rocky islands as we approached Bergen. Many times the boat slowed to a crawl to creep thru narrow channels. Finally we approached Bergen. As you would expect from a city that grew from seaborne commerce, the heart of the city is around the narrow harbor. The three sides are graced with old Hanseatic League buildings, or copies. The Fish market is on the end of theU. Among other things, whale meat is for sale there. It is so dark it is almost black.
Bergen does not seem as tourist-friendly as Oslo. For example, there is no bus route map available like there is in Oslo. Another example, some restaurants donít post an English version of their menus or donít have English translations on their menus. It seems that most Europeans converse across their language barriers in English. One exception seems to be the Germans. They are as egoistical as we are.
The same ship we saw in Magdalenfjord is here. It must be German. Hotel is a couple of blocks from the ferry terminal. Room quite small however adequate. View is of the building across the street.
My perception of Bergen changed quite a lot when we went up the funicular. It is a vast spread-out city with large harbor facilities along the many water-ways. We found the bus system impossible to use since there is no published route map. Apparently the locals know where the busses go. Contrary to reputation, we had a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Great (!) dinner at the top of the funicular. Only problem was too much Sun, not a usual problem in Bergen.
Cell phone coverage seems to be extensive, even when deep in Gerrangerfjord. Smoking is also extensive. Restaurants do not seem to have nonsmoking areas.
Off to Stavanger on the MS Draupner, a 38.8 m long jet cat, cruises at 35 k (40 mph), 2, 2040 kW diesel engines driving water jets. I heard that they each pump 600 l/sec.
Stavanger is a confusing town. The tourist maps donít seem to properly represent or depict the streets. When the ferry arrived, we found maps at the ticket office but had to ask help twice before we found the hotel. It is fairly close to the harbor and very close to the train station. QEII was here. Shopping uneventful and unproductive. Worst mistake was eating dinner at the hotel. It was dreadful however I was tired and didnít feel like going out. Quite warm and of course no AC in the room except for a very large open window.
Norway - rocks and water. Intimate relationship between land and water, like the interlacing the fingers of your two hands. Any available somewhat flat area that has any soil is put to use. If too many rocks to clear it is used as pasture; if clearable it is used for hay; if suitable for some crop things are grown that adapt to cold, short growing season. Potatoes are grown and served a lot. Boiled potatoes are offered with most meals, usually served in huge portions.
Your ears pop on high-speed trains when entering or leaving long tunnels. Tunnels everywhere. Norwegians must be rock moles. Tunnels, bridges, and ferries interconnect the country.
Osloís beautiful, new airport terminal is so spread out that employees ride manually-propelled 2- and 3-wheeled scooters around. It is open, airy, lots of glass and blond wood, granite-like cement columns, stainless steel accents. Interesting pieces of art.
Oslo is easy to get around with a map and public transportation. Oslo Card a good deal - free transportation and admission to museums. Bergen has the same thing.
During this final week in Norway our lunch usually consisted of cheese sandwiches made from the wonderful whole grain bread and whatever white cheese was available at breakfast. If we were in town for the day rather than traveling we ate at a restaurant or had ice cream, which was good.
Steerage-class from Oslo to Frankfurt. Airport seems antiquated and overwhelmed by traffic and passengers. Left plane on the tarmac and bussed eventually to terminal. Great circle hike in terminal: clear immigration, collect bags, clear customs, hike out into terminal and eventually find elevator to departure level, find ANZ check-in, find way back toward gate, pass through security, passport control. Eventually found business class longue. Excellent service on long flight home.
Our film budget for the trip was one roll per day, split more-or-less evenly between us. When I feared running out I bought two more rolls on the ship. It turned out they werenít needed since we brought home three rolls for me and four for Jodie.