Scandinavia – Day 12 – Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It was much cooler this morning and we left our hostel early, so that in the event we had difficulties at the train station, we would not be too late. We googled our walk to the station to make sure that we didn’t make any wrong turns and it actually seemed to be a little closer than when we first arrived in Copenhagen. We got to the station an hour before our train was to leave, hoping to have breakfast and coffee, and went straight to the ticket machines. Unfortunately, the machine would not take my credit card for some reason, so we had to go to the ticket office. There was a long line ahead of us, so we waited and waited and waited. We finally got to the head of the line and had no trouble whatsoever getting a ticket; however, our preferred train was to leave in 5 minutes. We went straight to the platform and then boarded the train 2 minutes later.

We made a couple of stops in Denmark, one of which was the airport, so now we know that the airport is on the Northeastern coast of Denmark and East of the city towards Sweden. I’m not sure why I didn’t know that. In any event the train moved swiftly across to Sweden, some underground (water) and some above ground across the bridge. We arrived around 10:30AM and two immigration ladies met us before we could take the escalator up from the platform. We showed our passports and were asked about 10 questions, while the immigration lady looked through our passports. I don’t remember anyone ever looking so thoroughly through the stamps in my passport, but I suppose they were looking for odd stamps. Then we were allowed passage and got on the escalator. Ingela and Frida met us at the top of the escalator and hugs were exchanged all around.

We had gotten off at Hyllie, which was the first stop in Sweden, and Ingela drove us down to Skanor, which is on the most southern tip of Sweden. We had to stop for a drawbridge, while a few boats went through, and then were once again on our way. The trip took about 35 minutes and Ingela told us much about this area of Sweden, including commentary when she was a girl and her children were small.

We arrived at the house and it was a beautiful beach home, totally remodeled, as it was an older home. There was paving throughout the neighborhood, but also pea gravel on many of the side streets. We were shown our cute little room with 2 beds and were treated to Swedish coffee and then lunch outside. Then we went out for a bike ride, remembering that I had not ridden a bike in 50 years, except for a little in Provence about 20 years ago. Shannon and I both were a little shaky at first, but just like they say — if you have ever ridden a bike, you won’t forget. We biked around the area on wonderful little pea gravel paths that were about 5 feet wide along the shoreline called the Skaneleden Trail. This trail is over 1,000 km long (2,825 miles). We arrived at a very prestigious golf course with a lot of beach frontage and got off the bikes to stroll around the golf course. The course was beautiful, except that it was very apparent that they had not had rain in a long time. The grass crunched as you walked on it.

We also stopped at a great lighthouse on the island called the Lighthouse of Falsterbo. It was completed in 1796. It is the oldest known beacon/lighthouse site in Scandinavia. We walked to the beach and the water was surprisingly warm. Ingela had said 70 degrees, but it seemed warmer. It may have been because there were no waves (and no tides) and that there was a little pool formed. We came back to the house and I was invited for a swim at the docks. The day had become significantly cooler, so I declined. Ingela had stopped off at the store and bought groceries, so that Shannon could have her favorite meal — spaghetti. Frida and I took showers and then we later sat down for a wonderful spaghetti meal with salad and then homemade ice cream with fresh strawberries that they had picked the day before. We had retired to the living room and watched some television and talked. Then it was off to bed for some much needed sleep.

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Scandinavia – Day 11 – Monday, June 11, 2018

We slept in just a little and then decided we’d have breakfast and then go to the Changing of the Guards at Amalienborg Palace. We also decided since we had a fair amount of time that we would ride the bus. We purchased tickets online, which was a mistake, and tried to find the right bus stop. We waited and waited at what we thought was a bus stop and we saw no busses, except across the street, which was the wrong direction. We finally gave up and walked around to see if we could find a different bus stop, as the one we were in kept scrolling that there was no information about the next bus. Finally, enough time had passed, so we decided we’d just take a taxi, so we wouldn’t miss it.

The 15 minute taxi ride was expensive, but we made it there in plenty of time and decided with the extra time that we would go inside of the Marble Church, which we had seen yesterday. Yes, it was a beautiful church inside and out, but we have seen many beautiful churches in Europe, so we just say in the pews and read about the church until it was time for the Changing of the Guards.

Like many of the tourists there, we did not know from which way they would arrive. Everyone was out in the courtyard waiting and the policemen there had everyone line up along a marking in the stones on the ground, so that the Guards could enter. Shannon had a front row seat and we watched as a woman went over the line to take pictures and was scolded by one of the policemen. He really made it funny and no one was offended. We all laughed. We waited for just a few minutes and sure enough, the Guards marked in with perfect precision. They had marched from the Rosenberg Castle, which was a 30 minute march for them. There was little ceremony about it, as there was no monarchy in residence apparently. We had read that when a monarch is in residence that there is a band. Afterward, we knew we had to be across town for a “free” tour, so we headed back via GPS. We have had a little trouble with GPS in Copenhagen and we really did have a tough time finding our way back. It took us longer than expected because there is a lot of construction going on in the city and the GPS routed us all over the place. We finally arrived 30 minutes before the tour, stopped off at McDonald’s to get Shannon some French fries and a McFlurry, then stopped at an outdoor cafe so I could have a Smorrebrod, which is a Danish open-faced sandwich. Mine had soft-boiled eggs, shrimp and quite a bit of mayonnaise on it, along with lettuce, on a very dark piece of bread. It was delicious and I finished just in time for the tour.

James from the UK did the tour and he was very good. The tour lasted about 90 minutes and he packed in a lot of information and history about Copenhagen and Denmark in general. I highly recommend doing this. As a matter of fact, we did see the Guards walking from the Parliament and they had a drummer playing with them and I believe I remember flutes. Is this called a fife and drum??? We learned that probably some monarch must have been in Parliament that day. The tour was called the Classic Tour. There is another tour that is 3 hours, but we had seen much of what they were going to show in that tour. We ended the tour at an open air market and stopped off for coke, wine and a chocolate croissant, which we have grown quite fond of.

As we were sitting, I looked into a taxi app and the cost was not outrageous, so we ordered a taxi. It would not accept my credit card, but said we could pay with cash. When the driver arrived 2 minutes later, he said that the system was down and he could take my credit card. The problem occurred when we got to the end of the trip and he asked for my credit card. He ran it on his own and input 50% more than the cost of the trip and then wanted me to sign the receipt. I did not and argued with him about it, but to no avail. The card had already been swiped. I wrote the taxi company with my complaint and took a picture of the amount with my phone as verification. THe taxi app that I used was taxi.eu, so be sure that you pay up front, if you use this app or you could have trouble.

We got to our room and I had messages from one of my past students, Sara Rywe, to have dinner. We met her at a cute Mexican Restaurant called Barburrito. The food was good, but the company was the best!!! We could have stayed there all night, but they had the table reserved for 7:30, so we had to leave. Sara had ridden her bike, so she walked the bike back to our hotel with us. We wanted one last picture with her, so we asked one of the guys outside the hostel if he would take our picture. He flatly said no, which was a bit of a surprise. We asked another guy out there and he agreed. As is typical, he took the picture way to far away, so we did a selfie.

We got into our room and started packing for our move to Malmo, Sweden tomorrow.

Scandinavia – Day 10 – June 10, 2018

We decided to take a taxi to the airport, since the tram thing seemed a little. Implicated and the cobblestone roads were hard on our luggage. It was extremely expensive as taxis go, but well worth the money. We had downloaded an app called “NorgesTaxi” and precooked our taxi, much like Uber, but a reputable taxi company. The driver was there 10 minutes early and I already knew what the price was. He drove very well and carefully and we were there in 20 minutes. We had already checked in online, but when we arrived there were no humans to take your bags or help you in any way. We were able to scan the phone with the QReader and get our boarding passes and luggage tags. We put the luggage tags on our luggage and then took our luggage to a conveyor belt. The bags were weighed and apparently passé because the bags were whisked away. We hoped we had put on all the stickers correctly.

We walked to our gate and waited for our flight, which left on time. We arrived in Copenhagen on time, picked up our bags and went to the arrivals door where my previous student, Freja Vluff, was waiting for us. The line for a ticket for the train was very long, so she just used her card and we took the short trip into town. Our room was not ready, so we stored our luggage in lockers and followed Freja around for about 4 hours, seeing nearly everything in the city. We finally parted and we checked into our room. The check-in process was also nearly humanless. We entered our information and printed out our room keys, retrieved our luggage and went up to our room. Again, our room is a little strange. We are in a hostel, but we have a family room with 6 beds, a shower room and a toilet room. The beds are bunk beds and are very comfortable. We are using the extra beds for our luggage. It is all very clean and neat.

Scandinavia – Day 9 – Saturday, June 9, 2018

We started the day early as we found out that we had arrived during BergenFest. One of the highlights would be a Norwegian Market and a parade that would start at 2:00PM. One of the things that I most wanted to do was a hike up the mountain to view the city and then take the funicular back down. We found out the funicular was broken and they were waiting on a part. Doing all of this would require an entire day, so we had an early breakfast and headed to the beginning of the trail, which was just steps from our hotel.

The hike is a series of switchbacks from sea level to about 1500 feet. I took a series of photos with an app called “My Altitude”, which I really like. It took us much longer than we had thought, since we stopped many times to catch our breath and to take pictures. Many times you had the opportunity to cut off the switchback and climb some stairs. We ended up in backyards a couple of times and had to climb the railing to get back on the trail, but it made for quite a bit of interest. The houses and garden are fabulous and the scenery on the way up breathtaking. There was very little foot traffic on the way up and even less motor traffic — maybe 4 cars during the entire 1-1/2 hours. We were told 45 minutes, but we dawdled quite a bit, I think. A couple of times we weren’t sure which way to go, so we elected to just go up. We reached the top (Floyen) and stayed quite a while enjoying the view and got some snacks. The view was as beautiful as any I have ever seen. We did not see the goats that we had read about, but probably because it was so hot.

We decided it was time to walk down and this, of course, was much easier on the heart. I always think, though, that walking down is a little harder on the body. On the way down, we encountered a lot more foot traffic, so we took the stairs quite a bit. Towards the bottom of the mountain, we found more people on the stairs, as they had not worn themselves out as much.

We did see some things on the way down that we missed. There was a bronze statue of a deer that I had remembered reading about and towards the bottom, we noticed what at first appeared to be painting artwork around the trunks of a lot of the trees. Upon closer inspection, we found that it was knitting that was wrapped around the tree trunks. They called it “Grakniti” and the information said that it was and interactive art project exploring folkloristic and ethnographical patterns in the urban landscape. More info can be found at http://www.bergen2017.no.

We arrived to a city that seemed to have quadrupled in size. It was hard to walk around the harbor, as this was where BergenFest was stationed. There was lots of music of all different types, a stage with music and small bands playing in various areas of the harbor. There were many people dressed in traditional Norwegian clothing, so it was a fantastic site.

We walked to where the parade would begin. On the way we noticed everyone was wearing the traditional colors for the gay movement. I had read that they invited all people regardless of persuasion to join and we did after we had seen some amazing sites. We took lots of pictures and even did a live video feed on Facebook. Shannon saw someone that had a sign that said free hugs. She asked for one and, sure enough, got a really good hug. It all happened so fast that I didn’t even realize what was going on. We were sad to see that it was over, but we continued seeing the flags and traditional rainbow colors throughout the day. Even the busses were flying the flags.

We walked around the harbor for a bit longer and then decided to go back to the room to freshen up. Shannon took a short nap and then we went back out. We walked down to the Bergenhus Fortress and learned about the only battle from the Fort, which actually sounded like a mistake. It seems that the Fort did not get word in time that the British and Danish-Norwegian Kings had agreed to split the bounty from an Indonesian ship passing through, so the fort opened fire on the British ships, who were forced to withdraw with heavy losses.

We walked back towards our hotel looking for some place to eat through Yelp. It seemed that most were too far and the street cafes were jammed with people and some even had wait lines. We walked down an empty street towards our hotel and found a cute little bar/cafe called “Vinyl”. They made extraordinary cocktails and we had small hamburgers that were delicious. We listened to records for awhile, one of which Shannon was familiar with, and was really happy to hear, then we headed back to the hotel to pack for our flight the next morning to Copenhagen.

Scandinavia – Day 8 – Friday, June 8, 2018

Today we were to leave our cabins by 10:00AM, putting our bags next to the elevator for them to pick up and put in the baggage claim area of the terminal once we arrived in Bergen. We were to have an early lunch (11:30AM) and then the ship would dock in Bergen, NO at 2:30PM. We still saw some beautiful country, but as we came into Bergen, it was obvious that we would see more people onshore. The houses were much more numerous and even the boat traffic increased. We docked in Bergen and never felt the boat touch the dock. Truly amazing. It occurred to me that we never felt the boat touch a single dock and we probably docked 15-20 times during our 3-1/2 day journey.

The Hurtigruten cruise would not be for just anyone. It is not the typical cruise that we see in America. The cruise line is actually a working boat/ferry with vehicles like a ferry stored below. They deliver cargo to these ports and make several stops per day. Most of the fe excursions leave at one port and pick up at another because they rarely stay for long. It was cold up North, even in June and very warm once we got in Bergen.

Bergen has a wonderful harbor area with restaurants, a Fort, several beautiful churches, etc. We checked into our very strange little hotel, The Magic Hotel, and went out to explore. We found most everything within walking distance of our hotel and did quite a bit of exploring that first day. We found the trailhead for the hike up to Floyen and then had dinner at a cute pizza restaurant, which was very good.

We read a newsletter about what was going on in Bergen and found out that BergenFest was going on while we were there, which included old wood boats in the harbor, Norwegian folk singing and dancing, New Age music and a parade. The parade was a rainbow parade and all were invited to participate. We wanted to hike up the mountain to see the city, then take the funicular back down, so we knew we needed to leave early, both because of the heat and because we wanted to get back in to,e to see the parade.

Scandinavia – Day 7 – June 7, 2018

We decided one day without getting off the boat was too much, so we signed up for a bus trip along with coastline and specifically the Atlantic Road, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The day started at 50 degrees, then dropped to 45 degrees within a couple of hours.  Along the way we went through some fantastic areas where it seemed you could reach out and touch the shoreline when we were going through some passes.  We saw Munkholmen which is an island that during the Viking age was where public executions were held and where heads were placed on poles after fighting for a kingdom and Christianity.  It became a monastery and now is called Monk’s Island (Munkholmen).

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We were also lucky enough to see the Royal Yacht sailing North, while we were sailing South.

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We got off the boat at Kristiansund and were loaded on a bus with about 20 other people and were driven on a coastline highway. We stopped by a stage church and were given a history of the church.

Then we drove to a restaurant to have a typical Norwegian meal and then headed to the Atlantic Road, which is ranked as one of the top 7 road trips in the world and we found out why. It began with this spectacular bridge.

We drive through some beautiful areas and saw natural fish farming, cows, sheep and incredibly beautiful landscape. It was a wonderful day and we ended with a celebratory beer and coke on the boat.

royal yacht.

Scandinavia – Day 6 – June 6, 2018

We decided to take it easy today, since we had been traveling hard, so we stayed on the ship with no excursions. Shannon slept in while I went to breakfast. As usual, the breakfast was delicious and I have decided that I like smoked salmon in the morning along with my usual yogurt. Today was really a momentous day, though, because we crossed the Arctic Circle. I actually didn’t realize how far above it we were and didn’t think about having a celebration about it. It was early this morning about 9:30AM and we heard it in our room. I raced upstairs and did a live feed for Facebook. It was wonderful and there were about 50 people up there on the top deck freezing to death. I had planned ahead, but it was still cold.

Not long after that, we were treated to the series of mountains called the Seven Sisters. The Expedition Team did a great job explaining about the sisters who were not very sophisticated, since their father kept a close eye on them. One night they sneaked out and went swimming. One troll was so excited to see them that he brandished his sword. They were afraid so they fled down the coast of Norway. Unfortunately, no one was thinking straight and when the sun came up, all 7 sisters who were also trolls turned to stone including their pursuers. There was a lot of cloud cover, so we couldn’t really see the tops of the amount wins, but we had a good view anyway. Looks like I may have lost my pictures, but this is a professional picture.

We stopped in the town of Sandnessjoen, but again, we did not leave the ship. We stayed on board and had a delicious lunch. I tried reindeer for the first time and it was delicious!

We have also noticed some art along the way.

We also passed by the Helgeland Bridge, which is a suspension bridge built in 1990. The bridge is 3500 feet long.

We passed by the Torghatten Mountain, which is a granite mountain with a hole or natural tunnel running through it. It is hard to see, but here it is….. just to the left of center. Today, again, we passed through some narrow straits, which was pretty amazing.