Bergen, Norway

I am ending my Viking Ocean Cruise narrative the way I started it oh so many months ago, with a photo of Bergen’s  colorful harbor houses.


What wasn’t apparent to me when I downloaded Viking’s promotional photo was that some of the facades were fake.  See the red and tan canvas coverings draped over two of the building fronts?  They are concealing  extensive restoration work currently taking place. What an ingenious way to preserve the beauty of the waterfront!


We had decided to extend our stay in Bergen for two post-cruise days.  Trip Advisor helped us find the Oleana, a wonderful little boutique hotel just a couple of blocks from the waterfront.  It was compact, but very well designed.  That area to the left of the refrigerator and bar, behind the colorful, abstract graphic, is the bathroom.  The graphic hides the more interesting parts of your anatomy from any viewers in the room while you are showering, but you can still smile and wave.


In addition to the delicious free breakfast, The Oleana offers afternoon waffles.  Wifi is free, the port is just a couple of blocks away, it is reasonably priced, and it has character, full of memorable art–see for yourself.  What’s not to like?


Bergen is a lovely town, but I was unable to fully enjoy it because I was very concerned about my main man.  He was badly bruised from the the spill he took coming down the mountain in Flam, however the worst part was what was unseen, and not discovered till we got home.  He managed to crack three ribs when he fell, which made him quite uncomfortable–no only for our three days in Bergen,  but also for the following several weeks.  Although we DID manage to get out and about, we were not able to explore to the extent that we had in other ports.

Normally, we hit every possible overlook wherever we go.  But not this time.  We didn’t make it to the top of Mount Floyen on the Floibanen.  Instead, we took short walks in the port area.

Notice the funicular at the top of the photo. Also notice how clean the streets are!

Fortunately, it is great place to hang out, full of little shops and restaurants, plus a huge outdoor market.  There is something for just about every taste.


For those with less adventurous palates, not to worry.  You can always dine in splendor at what our Danish guide called “the American embassy”.

Believe it or not, we passed up eating at Mickey D’s
We DID visit Starbucks. It provided the perfect shelter when we got caught in a brief cloudburst.

The outdoor market was quite colorful, with lots of flags and trolls.  I wish I could have brought this guy home with me.  I know two little girls that would have loved to have him in their back yard!


The side streets have stores with more traditional goods, just in case you are in the market for a new tractor.

Only kidding. This “super duper” store actually sells clothing. Sorry, I have NO idea why there is a tractor on their sign!

Just a few more photos from our rambles before we bring  our Viking Adventure to a close.

Bergen’s public art pays tribute to an important source of the population’s livelihood.img_2894

Another lovely, clean side street in the port area.
The lake and park near the port

What better way to sign off, than with a photo of two of travel buddies modeling their St. Petersburg purchases at our last dinner on board the Viking Star?


Flam, Norway

Imagine waking up to THIS spectacular scenery!  Ahhhh…


If you did, you would be just outside the little village of Flam.  It is peaceful, majestic, quiet and breathtakingly beautiful.

There isn’t much in the center of town–just a few shops and a train station, where you can buy tickets for one of the most scenic rides on this planet.


Viking offered a combined bike/train experience for $179 per person.  You take the train up the mountain and part way down, then get on a bike and glide the rest of the way into town.

I tried repeatedly to enroll us in that excursion, but the website consistently listed it as sold out.   Damn, I was deeply disappointed.  That disappointment lasted about 15 minutes.  Then I decided to do something about it, so I took to the internet.

Eventually, after much hunting and more than a few pokes around Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic, I discovered Cafe Rallaren.  Located in Myrdal, the last stop for the Flamsbana train, it not only supplies food (that’s the cafe part), but also offers bikes for rent.  You can ride the 12.5 miles down the mountain, then leave the bike in town.   No need to lock the bike, you just leave it there.  In town.  What a concept. Try THAT in Boston or San Francisco!

Total cost for the train ticket plus bike (and helmet) rental for both of us was $161.50.  Sold!

A closer look at Flam
A closer look at Flam

We chose the 11:05 departure, which gave us time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the ship, and wander through the town. We would arrive in Myrdal at noon, just in time for lunch at the cafe.  We were the only ship in port that morning, so Flam wasn’t crowded at all.  That was about to change.

When our train pulled into Flam, literally thousands  of tourists came rushing off–perhaps heading for the bathrooms?  To get a window seat on one of the tour buses in the parking lot?  Who knows?  It was a Chinese tour group, so we weren’t able to ask anyone why they were in such a hurry or where they were coming from.

The good news is OUR ride up the mountain wasn’t crowded at all, and we all had our choice of seats.

The train makes a stop at a waterfall,  so the obligatory photos can be taken.  That spray was COLD and powerful, so after about 10 seconds spent admiring the falls’ grandeur (and getting damp), I quickly reboarded the train to photograph the waterworks from the doorway.   I know.  I’m a wimp.  I just hate discomfort of any kind.  Especially when it is self inflicted.


What I didn’t see, but Mike (who is made of much stronger stuff) did, was the water nymph who appeared alongside the falls, waving her arms to the tourists. He took the next two photos.

Can you spot her?


How about now?  Don’t you love a zoom lens?

Getting our bikes and helmet at the cafe was easy and uneventful.  Not so for the rest of the trip.  So how was it?  It was incredibly beautiful.


It was incredibly steep, and rather rocky, for the first mile,

One of the many hairpin turns on our ride
We are smiling now, because we are standing on one of the flatter stretches during that first mile.
Check out the rocks and ruts.  Hitting one of those the wrong way while hurtling down a steep slope could be quite uncomfortable.  See the drop on the left side of the road?

Best strategy?  Walk your bike down the steep sections of that first mile.   Unfortunately, Mike didn’t, and took a bad spill.  He injured himself enough to made him uncomfortable for the rest of the cruise.  To make matters worse, shortly thereafter, his bike got a flat tire.  He soldiered on, NOW walking the bike.  What else could he do?  You don’t see any cell towers in these photos, do you?  No houses or cars either.  Put it all together and you end up with no bloody way to get help.   It was bad, but it would have undoubtedly have been far worse if the drama queen member of our duo had gone down.  (That would be me.  Mike, on the other hand, never complains…)

Eventually we reached a more inhabited area, where both Mike and the bike were rescued and given a ride back to the ship.

The ship sponsored bike trip started at the flatter, paved section, about half way down the mountain.  That’s something to keep in mind for the less adventurous.  Unfortunately, I can’t give future Flam visitors any information on how THEY could get in touch with that particular bike vendor.   I just spotted a trailer by the side of the road, with lots of bikes loaded onto it, but no signs or identifying information.

Of course, if you decide to do it on your own from the top of the mountain, you DO have the option of walking your bike down and around the hairpin curves.  That worked quite well for other bikers (such as me).

I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the ship to make sure my guy was doing okay, so I didn’t take many more photos.

In the US, we have speed bumps.  Here in Flam, they have speed goats.

Although we didn’t encounter any Trolls, we met more than three Billy Goats Gruff

This guy either took a shine to me, or thought I was the “other” character in the fairy tale.  All I know is he was repeatedly butting against my leg and followed me a while!


Beautiful flowers and clean water along the way.  The perfect photo for a happy ending

Yes, there was a happy ending.  Mike visited the ship’s doctor, who after determining that nothing was broken, sent him on his way with some happy pills.

Next stop, Bergen.


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.

The port area is very pleasant for strolling and people watching
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.


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!

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

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.
Get in line early if you want a seat on the top deck, or a prime spot for photography
Lots of waterfalls!
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.


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.


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.


Here’s a closer look.


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

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

p1160938 p1160942

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


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



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?


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.

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

Who knew that a fortress could be so peaceful?

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