Friday, August 27, 2010

Lands of the Midnight Sun Cruise--Part Two--Stavanger, July 26th

From Oslo we sailed on toward Stavanger, another town we’d visited in our ’07 cruise to Norway. Unfortunately, this was a town I slept through! I took more of the seasickness medication—Jo said I should have taken one tablet at a time rather than the two the doctor recommended—and was just too sleepy to do anything but nap! Bob went with Jo and Ray, though, to the Petroleum Museum, which he said was fascinating.

Timely, too, because of the oil spill this year. Stavanger has been booming since the 1960s when oil was discovered off its coast. Today, it is the 3rd or 4th largest city in Norway, with a population of around 100,000. It’s hard to be precise because the information given out by the ship and that in my guidebook differ.

When Bob returned to the ship, I sleepily requested that he take my camera back out with him and get some pictures of Stavanger. He did a nice job! The city centre is small and intimate, with narrow streets and open spaces protected from car traffic. The open-air market is one of the few in Norway where you can buy produce directly from local farmers every working day throughout the year.

On our cruise in 2007 we sailed up the fjord that is most associated with Stavanger. I remember this as one of the most memorable days of that cruise three years ago. We didn’t see Lyesfjorden this time.  Perhaps the most dramatic sight in Lyesfjorden is Prekestolen (Pulpit Rock), an overhanging platform above a drop of 1,959 feet to the fjord. 

Meanwhile, I snoozed on until 4:30 or so. I got up, skipped the Team Trivia game, showered, and then we met new friends Rachel and Tim—both doctors from Sioux Falls, SD—for drinks and dinner. They are a delightful couple whom we met before boarding the ship and have shared other meals with them in the buffet restaurant; they, too, are on our Team Trivia team. (This time the team did a bit better and were NOT the low scorers, thankfully!) After dinner, we went back to our cabin. I was able to get some lovely sunset pictures from our veranda. We wouldn’t see many more sunsets as we headed north toward the lands of the midnight sun.  As you'll see documented by the clock picture, sunset on this night was at 10:30.  Below you can also see a picture of our ship.

Bob, Alice, Tim, Rachel, Jo, and Ray--in the Horizons Lounge

Lands of the Midnight Sun Cruise--Part One--Dover and Oslo, July 23--26

I started a cruise journal on our recent cruise and have been working at home to complete it. Eighteen days is a long time to be on board and thus much to cover. Therefore, rather than sharing the completed journal—even in sections—I’ve decided to write greatly condensed versions of the journal and post them on my blog.

Our flight from DFW to Chicago and then on to London was as unpleasant as flying in the coach section always is! No reason to dwell on details. After landing in London, we were bused to Dover. Once on Oceania’s Insignia, we settled in and the first picture included below is of our friends Jo and Ray with us with the white cliffs of Dover in the background. We don’t look as tired as we were, fortunately!

Our first full day on board was a sea day, sailing from Dover to Oslo. The ocean was choppy—typical, I understand, for the North Sea. For the first time ever I suffered mild seasickness, but the medication provided by the ship’s doctor was helpful.  

We docked at Oslo around 8:00 AM on Sunday the 25th. It is a beautiful city, the capital and largest city in Norway. Its population is about half a million in the city itself, but its metropolitan area contains probably around a million and covers some 175 square miles. Its city center, though, is quite compact, and so that morning our friends, Bob, and I decided to explore on our own rather than to take one of the cruise’s excursions.

We walked by the Nobel Peace Center, within view of our ship. We had hoped also to visit both the Ibsen museum and the National Art Gallery, but the former was not yet open when we arrived. With just a morning to spend, we walked on to the art gallery. We passed both the Presidential Palace, the national theater and the opera house, as well plazas with fountains, sculpture (many by Vigeland, whose wonderful sculpture park we saw in 2007), and lovely gardens. Everywhere we went in Norway we saw beautiful flowers, and I took many flower pictures everywhere. (Perhaps I’ll do a blog post focusing just on flower pictures!)

Once at the art gallery, which appeared quite large from the outside but proved to not overwhelming in size once we got inside. We chiefly focused on the Edvard Munch room in the museum, home to the famous “Scream” painting, but we didn’t go to Munch Museum itself.  I particularly liked his "Dance of Life" painting.

From there we strolled back to the ship, stopping for a quick walk-through of the City Hall. Built in 1950, this building is somewhat controversial and unpopular with the Norwegians, many of whom don’t care for its Modernist style. I was impressed, however, especially by the gigantic (largest in Europe) mural on the back wall of the Great Hall, a work by artist Henrik Sorenson. In this huge room the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. Along the sides are frescoes by Axel Revoldt depicting the agricultural and consumer society of the 1950s. Once outside the building I took pictures of some of the lovely woodwork on the doorways and by the frescoes based on Norwegian folk tales.

We sailed from Oslo that afternoon. We settled into a typical routine of playing Team Trivia in the late afternoon, then having drinks with Jo and Ray in the Horizons lounge at the front of the ship, and then having dinner between 6:30 and 7:00. Open seating on Oceania cruises—so usually it was just the four of us, though we twice ate with new friends Tim and Rachel from South Dakota or friends we’d met in 2005 on the Baltic cruise—one of whom was in school with my sister Martha!

The pictures below are a select few from our first days on the cruise.  Remember, to see enlarged, just click on them.

The Nobel Peace Center


Sculpture probably by Vigeland

Presidential Palace

The National Theater, with another sculture of Ibsen

"The Kiss" by Vigeland, in front of the
National Gallery

doorway at the City Hall

Mural inside the City Hall by Sorensen

one of the folk tale pieces

The City Hall