Bonus post – Bergen, Norway. 9/3/18

I did not think I would have time to write another post until we got home but I forgot about the five hour layover in Copenhagen. Plus the WiFi in Copenhagen airport is much faster than it was on the boat.

In Bergen we spend much of our time packing and getting ourselves together. We have to put our luggage out in the hall at 10PM tonight and so you have to plan what you need and what you can do without.  But we do have time for a little walk around Bergen and have a local lunch.

The first thing we see on our walk is a statue of Snorri Sturluson. Snorri Sturluson’s writings provide information about persons and events in Northern Europe during the 10th and 11th centuries. He grew up in Iceland and in his writings is information about the discovery of Vinland.

Snorri Sturluson

Passing by Snorri we take a look at St. Mary’s Church. We were interested in looking inside the last time we were in Bergen but inconveniently someone was getting married.

St. Mary’s Church, Bergen, Norway

The construction of the church is believed to have started in the 1130s or 1140s and completed around 1180, making this church the oldest remaining building in the whole city of Bergen. It was at least party destroyed a few times by fire but was always rebuilt.

Drawing of Bergen from 1580 with St. Mary’s Church (Item C)

Unfortunately no photos of the interior are allowed. There are some pictures on the internet though. It has a very fancy altarpiece which must pre-date the Reformation. It is all full of saints and decoration which would not have played well with the strict Lutherans. The Church was under the auspices of the Hanseatic League so escaped becoming a ruin.

Altarpiece of St. Mary’s (photograph by Morten)

There is also an interesting painting from 1676 which has a very Protestant point of view.

Protestant and Catholic praying

If you look closely at the figure on the right you will see a humble man. From his mouth you see a red line going directly to heaven. He is the Protestant. Next to him is a richly garbed man. His red line goes to the Virgin Mary and the saints. There also lines to interests-money, trade, revelry and more. We asked the woman at the desk about it and she told us it was to show that Protestants could talk directly to God while Catholics had to go through intermediaries and their attention was diverted to worldly matters.

After seeing the Church we head over to a favorite restaurant of ours, Bryggeloftet og Stuene. They are famous for their fish soup.

Delicious fish soup

John enjoying a Hansa beer

After lunch we walk along the historic district and enjoy the sunny-ish day. In Bergen it rains 5 out of every 7 days so we are lucky in the good weather.

Old Hanseatic buildings in Bergen

With our packing done we go down to the Chef’s Table for one last meal with all the people there that we have gotten to know. Tonight’s dinner has a Scandinavian theme.

Reindeer consommé with reindeer ravioli

Salmon five ways (really delicious)

Beet granita

Lamb with potato and cabbage (cabbage too strong)

Cloudberry soup with panna cotta and sesame ice cream with a sesame tuille

Then it is goodbye to everyone and off to bed because we have to get up at 2:30 AM!

Pining for the fjords. 9/2/18

Today we are in Eidfjord, a picturesque little town in fjord country. It is so small that there are no traffic lights and are ship parked in front of the hotel here totally blocks the view of the fjord for anyone staying at the hotel.

We take a short bus ride to Hardangervidda Nature Center to learn about fjords and the flora and fauna of the area.

Hardangervidda Nature Center

First we are treated to a short movie showing the beauty of the region and then we go out to explore the exhibits.

John communes with a moose

Across the street from the nature center is a restaurant and the requisite gift shop. They have a novel way of keeping the grass growing on the roof under control.

Goat on the sod roof of the restaurant/gift shop

Fall is coming to this part of the world.

Colorful leaves outside the nature center

On the way back the mountains are reflected in the fjord.

Mountains and fjord

We are back just in time for lunch! The World Cafe is quiet today because most of the excursions left later than ours. As usual we end our lunch with an oatmeal raisin cookie.

Oatmeal raisin cookies

There is not much to do in the town of Eidfjord and even less so today as it is Sunday. I take the time to catch up on my blogs, look out at the mountains and fjord, and concentrate my efforts to try to shake my cold before the long flight home.

We have a really big balcony and we put it to use watching the ship get ready to depart and photographing the beauty of the area as we depart.

Getting ready to cast off the lines

Goodbye little hotel! Sorry we blocked your view all day.

Leaving Eidfjord

Departing

Since our cabin is in the back we only see where we’ve been

We pass under this bridge. Both ends of the bridge connect to tunnels

Bridge behind us

John finally finds a waterfall. It has been so dry here that most of the water courses have no water in them

We think about going down to dinner but I really do not feel like getting dressed and eating fancy food. Plus I am trying not to infect my fellow passengers. So we order room service and I get a hot dog. It is weird.

Hot dog with super spicy mustard, ketchup (which I told them I did not want), and relish in a not-hot-dog bun

We go to bed early which is a good thing because around 12:30 AM the seas are so rough that things are clanging around and we are buffeted around for the next four hours.   We have to spend a portion of our time in the North Sea and it is way rougher than the Baltic Sea or the fjords.

P.S. The title of the blog today, Pining for Fjords, is a reference to the Monty Python sketch, The Dead Parrot.

Black gold. 9/1/18

As we pull into Stavanger, Norway a strange sign greets us.

Houston, Stavanger’s sister city

It seems that Houston is Stavanger’s sister city.  Truthfully the only place in Houston that I have been is the airport and that is not a fond memory. Well, maybe they are sister cities because they are both ports. However, the little port of Stavanger is nothing like the busy gulf port of Houston.

Maybe it is because they are both the fourth largest city of their countries. But there is hardly a comparison.
Houston, TX. Population: 2,296,224
Stavanger, Norway. Population: 121,610

No, they are sister cities because like Houston the oil industry is the backbone of Stavanger’s economy. In 1969, a new boom started as oil was first discovered in the North Sea. Stavanger was chosen to be the on-shore center for the oil industry on the Norwegian sector of the North Sea.

With our guide we take a walk around Stavanger.

Charming houses near the harbor from the time when fishing was the main industry

12th century cathedral

Canning museum

“Most colorful” street

Our last stop is the Oil Museum.

Oil Museum, Stavanger, Norway (stock photo)

Inside we learn all about the oil industry in Norway. There are displays about how oil is created, mock-ups of oil rigs, drill bits, and a rather bleak movie. In the movie the son of one of the original oil platform workers goes to visit his father after not speaking to him for twenty years. During the ride to his father’s cabin there are flashbacks to his childhood. He thinks about all the ways that oil has ruined their idyllic country life and made them want “things!” He also realizes that all the money that Norway has now also is a good thing bringing everyone in the country great security. The film ends with father and son sitting side by side looking out at nature and not speaking to each other.

For all the “we are the happiest nation” (which Norway says is them and not Denmark) they surely make some depressing films.

So Norway is busily raking in the 78% taxes on the oil profits while becoming more and more a green energy nation. They are not interested in using the oil but have no problem with selling it. Each Norwegian’s share of the profits works out to about 1.5 million NOK. (8 NOK to $1 USD). This sum is put into a trust for the good of the Norwegian people and a percentage is spent every year for their benefit.

Later we enjoy the sail away from our balcony.

Sailing away from Stavanger

Dinner tonight at the Chef’s Table. Our menu is called Xiang and is inspired by Cantonese and Huaiyang cuisine.

Amuse bouche – a gingery hot and sour soup paired with a Sauvignon blanc and semillon blend

First course – fried prawns with Gavi di Gavi from Piedmont Italy

main course – wok-fried beef with a Brazin zinfandel