Oslo, Norway and our first sighting of snow!

As we came into Oslo with not a breath of wind, another cruise ship tried to pass us.

Today we are in Oslo, Norway and there is still snow on the ground at the ski jump behind the city.  For three and a half months we have been in tropical weather and today for the first time we are in parkas, mitts and hats.  Guess what?  The temperature today in Oslo was in the mid seventies and it could not have been a nicer spring day.

We were surprised to learn that Norway is the second highest producer of oil and gas after the Middle East.  Most of their facilities are in the North Sea.  Coupled with this is the fact that Norway is the fifth wealthiest nation in the world. Their expertise in tunnel building and winter sports also makes them the best in the world.  Now you know!

The trip up the fiord to Oslo was spectacular (an overused word on this trip) and it reminded us of Georgian Bay. The rock and pine islands we passed were very similar as our boat carefully manoeuvred its way between the shoals and rugged rock outcrops as it approached Oslo.

Our dock in Oslo was essentially an extension of the Main Street and provided easy access to the downtown and the busy harbour.  Located directly opposite us was the Nobel Peace Prize Centre where the Peace Prize is awarded.  We noted that Lester Pearson has been the only Canadian to receive this prestigious award in the mid fifties and his picture is there with the other super stars in this award category.

The Nobel peace prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, not Sweden.

With perfect weather and dressed in summer wear we visited three major tourist sites including the Olympic ski jump at Holmenkollen just north-west of the city, the sculpture park know as Vigeland named after the sculptor Gustav Vineland and the Viking Boat Museum which has two Viking ships dating back to the first century.

Each of our stops on our tour will not soon be forgotten.  Holmenkollen was the site of the 1952 Olympics and still had snow on the landing surface and around the park area.  It is mind boggling to see the height of the jump and progressively better distance records that the jumpers are able to achieve.  The sculpture park was like none other.  The very lifelike castings are some of the best we have ever seen.  All are displayed in a park setting and there was no admission charges.

This statue is carved from one piece of rock.

The two major Viking ships were intact and we marvelled at the contents of the ships when they were discovered.  One had 14 horses on board while the other had beautiful hand carved carts.  Two bodies were also discovered on board as was an apple that was still red in colour.  The male body had his legs cut off.  This was done by the Vikings so the “soldier”, once captured, could no longer return to battle. It was fascinating to know we were looking at artifacts from the year 100 A.D.

The ship was found fully loaded with the contents also on display at the museum.

This ship was built in the year 900.

The downtown core, like so many of the other European cities we visited, was alive with pedestrian malls, beautiful historic buildings and a waterfront complete with wooden schooners that was totally accessible by the public.  A waterfront promenade stretched for  9 kilometres across the city. Fortunately we will cruise both in and out during the daylight hours so it should be very scenic.

The ski jump as seen from the bottom looking up to the top.

The top of the ski jump is accessed by an elevator.

The life size sculptures are as realistic as you can get.

The ski jump and the surrounding viewing stands emphasize the unbelievable height.

Copenhagen and the Little Mermaid

Copenhagen started as a little fishing village and has transformed since the 11th century into a vibrant metropolitan hotspot that has much to offer.

Copenhagen is a fascinating maritime city with a maze of canals not unlike Amsterdam.  As the capital of Denmark,  Copenhagen is home to the royal palace and the monarchy. The King and Queen and their family members live in the palace and are frequently seen out in the local shops and are loved by everyone.

Like all the ports we’ve visited in Europe, there are crowds everywhere.  All were jockeying for position to see the iconic Little Mermaid, who sits perched on a large rock right on the shore.  She apparently has been painted many times, and beheaded twice.  But she remains a beautiful statue and an iconic symbol of the city. It turns out that the model was a young ballerina who was very shy and only consented to her head and shoulders being used for the statute.  The rest of the body is that of the sculptor’s wife.

The canals with their tall ships and multiple lift bridges makes for a great city to explore.  The canals are now lined with condominiums transformed from warehouses, specialty shops, cafes and restaurants and all with facades maintaining the appearance of the middle age centre trading centre that it once was. With very little clearance under some of the bridges, we were constantly ducking.  In the more affluent areas, no commentary is allowed as it might disturb the residents.

Off to one side of our ship was a relatively recent naval frigate that has been retired to obscurity.  It turns out that it accidentally fired its missiles, striking a number of houses and buildings, totally destroying them.  Fortunately no one was injured but the result was a quick end to the career of the ship and I expect the captain.

From our one day stay in Copenhagen we are back on the water on our way to Oslo, Norway where we are told we will see snow.  This will be a first in almost four months and means a further change in the wardrobe for the day’s activities.

The little mermaid is on the waterfront promenade next to the cruise terminal.

The canals of Copenhagen are fronted by cafes, restaurants and specialty boutiques.

Like Amsterdam we were able to take a canal tour that passed the many cafes and wooden schooners.

The palace guards are all students and now include women. They are heavily armed and well trained.


Flam, Norway and the 100 mile Fiord

There are no more superlatives when it comes to Flam, Norway.  Flam is a hamlet at the end of a 100 mile long fiord that cuts through giant cliffs of granite from the North Sea.  Every mile of the fiord comes with multiple waterfalls dropping thousands of feet into crystal clear and very deep waters.

It was a spectacular and very special transit in to our dock in town.

The trip down the fiord at dawn.

Adjacent to the dock was the railway station that would take us up into the mountains for more photo opportunities and a visit to an alpine hotel for waffles and coffee. Two of our travellers took their bicycles with them on the train and were going to cycle back to the ship.  One of the pictures below shows the multiple switchbacks they would follow as they travelled downhill some 6000 ft.

Our ship occupied most of the town docking facilities and dwarfed the town.

One of hundreds of waterfalls along the fiord.

The Flam Railway takes you into the mountains and hooks up with other lines to Oslo and beyond.

The trains are all electrified as the country is heavily invested in green technology.

Looking down to the valley bottom with the switch backs making for hair-raising driving for the buses.

As the legend goes there are wood nymphs alongside the waterfalls calling to the males to join them. We found one of them off to the side of the railway

The harbour was alive with activity as there is frequent ferry service here to other outports as well as rental and charter boats for dolphin watching, salmon fishing or more intimate sightseeing.  The two little hotels overlooking the harbour would be great to stay in for a longer visit.

My next post will be of Oslo which was actually the previous port of call.  Internet capability has been an ongoing challenge and the high cliffs and fiords of Norway presented very unusual reception difficulties for the ship.

I also missed telling you about Copenhagen.  Another maritime city with an illustrious history dating back to the 11th century it also had many canals to explore.  More on Copenhagen later.