Stavanger, Norway

No, we are NOT still on that Viking cruise we embarked upon last July.  I am just a very lazy blogger, who only puts fingers to keyboard when the spirit moves me, and there clearly hasn’t been much movement lately.  But this epic narrative will end shortly.  Only one more country — Norway — and three more ports left, starting with Stavanger.

This lovely town features a Maritime Museum which could possibly be spectacular.  I have no idea whether it is or it isn’t, because  we didn’t get around to visiting it.

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The port area is very pleasant for strolling and people watching

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The port of Stavanger as seen from town

Can you make out the white tents around the harbor in the above photos?  They were booths for the food festival that was in full swing the day we were in port.  Given the abundance and the quality of the food on the ship, eating was the last thing on our minds, so we didn’t experience THAT either.  What we did instead was climb the hill into town to get a better view  of the harbor (seen from above)  and the tower (seen from below).

Every town needs a lookout tower.

Every town needs a lookout tower.

Is this a sculpture?  Or is it a loaner for anyone in need of transportation?  I think the latter, given the lack of locks and another identical bike in the background.

As usual, Viking offered an array of excursions, including a free walking tour of the port. Our choice was one of the other options:  cruising Lysefjord and seeing the famous Pulpit Rock.

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I had briefly considered hiking up Pulpit Rock, but was dissuaded by the comments from bloggers that had gone before.  And boy oh boy, I’m so grateful they convinced me to sit this one out.  Take a look!

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That rectangular outcropping?  THAT is Pulpit Rock.  And that sucker is WAY high!

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My telephoto lens was able to confirm that there WERE some successful climbers

Here’s a tip for future cruisers visiting Stavanger.  The Viking sponsored cruise to Pulpit Rock cost $149. per person.  Instead, before leaving home, we booked directly with Rodne for $60 per person.   (Clicking on the blue link will get you directly to their website). The ferries were identical, the routes were identical, only the price differed.  I don’t mind a cruise line making a little money on the trips they put together, but this mark up seemed a bit excessive.  I was a little concerned about the distance from our ship to the ferry, but the port is so small, it was a short distance to the boarding area, which was clearly marked.

We discovered we would have been able to buy a ticket at the Rodne office in the harbor,  however even if I had known that, I probably would have bought the tickets in advance.   We were only in Stavanger one day, so I wasn’t willing to take a chance that the time we wanted was sold out.

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During our trip, we passed several Rodne ships identical to the one we were on.  This photo gives you an idea of the ship’s size.

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Get in line early if you want a seat on the top deck, or a prime spot for photography

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Lots of waterfalls!

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Did I mention that there were lots of waterfalls?

Okay, this one is the last…p1170069

Aalborg, Denmark

Yet another advantage of cruising?  You visit ports that you probably would not have found on your own.  We had never heard of Aalborg before our Viking cruise.

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Is Aalborg Europe’s happiest city?   The tourist board certainly thinks so and after spending the morning with Jane, our cheerful–and informative– tour guide, I think it might just be.

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Jane told us residents are happy because they feel safe and they have what they need.  Although taxes are high, there is no charge for education, pensions are universal and health care is provided.  University students live in cheap apartments, get a stipend and have free tuition.  In Denmark, Jane told us, people are cared for.

What I found interesting is that although mothers get one year paid maternity leave, and families receive a per child payment, the average family size is less than two.  Especially with those long winter nights…

Aalborg is a lovely little city, very clean, artistic, and orderly, with a nice mix of old, preserved buildings along more modern edifices.

The Jens Bang house (on the left)  was built in 1624.  Mr Bang was a very successful merchant, but unfortunately was never accepted by the power structure.p1160937

He took architectural revenge, however, by decorating the side facing city hall with these grimacing creatures, who are sticking their tongues out at the politicians of the day.

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Here’s a closer look.

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The rather irreverent Danish sense of humor continues to this day, as displayed in these figures found in a gift shop.

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No, I didn’t buy any presents here.

Our tour included a visit to the monastery/nunnery, where proximity led to a flurry of construction.  It seems that in the 1400’s, unplanned pregnancies were resolved by bricking up the nuns (into walls) where they (and their unborn children) were left to die.

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What a difference a few centuries can make!

We also visited the local churches where we saw something rather novel: refreshments being offered in the church proper.  They really ARE a very welcoming community!

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Sign posted outside a church. I guess when you feel happy an cared for, that feeling can be extended to others that are less fortunate.

As with other Scandinavian churches, this one had a ship hanging from the ceiling, which we were told is meant to symbolize passage from this world into the next.

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If you happen to visit Aalborg and have a hankering for some good ol’ American fare, not to worry.  This wonderful town has you covered.

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On our way back to the ship we were treated to a “reenactment”, something those of us in the northeast are all quite familiar with.

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As the ship pulled out of port, residents gathered to bid us farewell, waving flags while loudspeakers broadcast Danish music.

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Yep, they sure looked happy.  And we were too, after spending the morning with them!

 

Copenhagen

The great thing about cruising?  You get to sample lots of different places without having to pack and unpack.  The downside?  Your stay in a fantastic country like Denmark is way too short.  Not only that, but you are doing so much and seeing so much, your blogging gets delayed till you get home.  Then, if you are me, months later you start looking at photos and trying to decipher your notes only to realize how much you have forgotten.

Our Viking itinerary included two stops in Denmark–a full day in Copenhagen and a half day in Alborg.   For both stops, we opted to take the included Viking tours, and we were quite happy with our decision.

Of course, we knew we HAD to see the iconic Danish landmark, The Little Mermaid, which was within walking distance of our ship.

What was surprising to me was how close she is to the shore.  It was possible to climb out to join her on the rock, an impulse our guide requested that we resist.  Other tourists, however, did not feel so constrained.   I’m thinking that I probably shouldn’t have waited till they cleared off to take my shot.  It might have been a far more amusing photo to see them cavorting alongside her.

Our guide mentioned that the mermaid has a less famous sister down the road a bit,  who is affectionately known as the “Dolly Parton version”.  Hmmm, wonder why Walt Disney didn’t include HER in his movie?

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Also alongside the harbor is the Opera House, a gift from Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller, the Danish shipping magnate.   The building design has been compared to a spaceship, the grill of a 55 Pontiac and a fly. Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller’s response to suggestions for modifications?   “I’m giving you a gift, not a gift certificate.”  p1160743

The Danes are rightfully proud that the harbor is so clean that you can swim in it.  In fact, someone used the roof of the opera house as a diving board to prove that very point.  (Was it Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller?  Unfortunately, I don’t remember — but I DO remember that Maersk lived 98 years, so maybe.  I certainly had fun envisioning the old guy balancing on the roof’s edge. )

Copenhagen is a lovely city with the requisite number of palaces, towers, forts, churches and statues.  Here are just a few of the images from our city tour.

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This horseman is surrounded by four identical buildings, all housing members of the royal family.

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Notice the three crowns atop the tower. If my memory is accurate (and that is a pretty big “if”), they represent the three countries of Scandinavia.

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A profound quote from our former president, is as relevant today as it was a half century ago.

We were getting close to experiencing sensory overload, so after the tour concluded,  we returned to the ship for lunch.  The fortress was within walking distance of the ship and was the perfect place to spend the rest of our time in port.p1160806

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Who knew that a fortress could be so peaceful?

Another beautiful departure, as we headed for our next stop: Aalborg.

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