Monday, September 27, 2010

Cruise Journal #8--Kristiansand, Norway

The "white city" of Kristiansand

We docked at Kristiansand, our last port in Norway, on August 9th. Three years ago we also visited this port, and Bob, our travel companions Jo and Ray, and I all recalled especially the open air museum we saw on that visit, one of the cruise excursions outside of the town. This time we decided to stay in town and explore on our own.

Almost as soon as we got off the ship, we came to a location quite familiar to all of us—one where we had walked in the afternoon on that other cruise. Another fish market! But this one was enclosed, and it was in an area of most attractive shops and restaurants, built around an inlet where ducks peacefully swam.

Bob admiring lobsters!

Check out the slipping
trousers on this troll!
From there we headed for the City Center. Kristiansand is built on a grid, and thus it is easy to find your way around. Along the way we came across a display of impressive sand sculptures.  In addition to the sand sculptures, we immediately identified a "real" sculpture and knew it must be one of Vigeland's; sure enough, we found a plaque that proved us to be correct.

boy riding a polar bear, by Vigeland

Kristiansand Domkirke
In the main square in town was an imposing cathedral, Kristiansand Domkirke, which faced a lush park with many lovely flower gardens. This cathedral is the fourth to be built on this site. It was completed in 1865, after a fire five years earlier.

From there we sought out the area known as Posebyen. In Kristiansand’s early days as a fortress and garrison town, the soldiers lived in private houses in what has now become the best-preserved part of the old town. The name Posebyen stems from the French reposer, meaning to rest (French was the military language of the time.) These small, attractive, white houses have survived several fires and the threat of demolition. Nowadays, Posebyen is a fashionable place to live, and the historic houses are maintained in pristine condition by their inhabitants. The popularity of white-painted houses here has led to Kristiansand’s nickname, “the white city.”

We were in Kristiansand on a Monday, and we were amazed at how many residents seemed to be not working, but sitting at ease in the many sidewalk cafes, shopping, relaxing in the park. Soon a sign informed us that this day was the beginning of a weeklong Summer Festival, Sommerfesten!

The next day we sailed for Copenhagen and our long flight home, after a wonderful 18 days spent cruising in the Lands of the Midnight Sun!

After many days we finally saw another sunset!

Cruise Journal #7--Bergen, Norway

The Edvard Grieg house
Our next-to-last port was Bergen, one of my favorites of the cruise. We took a ship’s excursion to visit the home of Norway’s favorite-son-composer, Edvard Grieg, and also one of the fast-disappearing “stave” churches. Both were well worth our time! We wished we’d had a longer time to spend at the museum at the Grieg house, but our guide unwisely advised us to see the house first and then the museum. She didn’t realize that at least two bus loads of tourists had gotten there before us, so we had to waste many minutes in a slow-moving queue.

Grieg composed his
music in this little
building, which is down
a steep incline from
the yellow house.

At the Grieg location, this was the first sod-covered building we saw on this visit to Norway.  In 2007 we saw many more!

Inside the Stave church

The little door at the left was used by the pastor to serve Communion to those of his parishioners who had leprosy!
Exterior of the Stave church--the rain made getting a clear picture a challenge!

The church was lovely with all the natural wood and its unusual architecture. It was cool and rainy on the morning we went to these two out-lying destinations, so taking the tour ended up being a good way to spend our time.

That afternoon the misting rain had stopped, so after lunch on the ship we walked into Bergen’s Old Town. One of the most distinctive trademarks of Bergen is the area called Bryggen, formerly a warehouse district established on the northern side of the harbor by the German Hansa traders. Long after the days of the Hanseatic trading in Bergen, the warehouses became a trading center for fish and fish products. On several occasions the medieval gabled buildings have been ravaged by fire. The last in 1955 left only 10 gabled structures standing. Today this area is a center for artists and restaurants.

I tried to get photos of Bryggen that would duplicate the postcards that clearly show how the buildings seem to be tilted to one side, much like men standing shoulder to shoulder, all leaning in the same direction! Alas, I couldn’t get the proper distance away to get this perspective, so my pictures don’t accurately depict this charming aspect of Bryggen.


We visited the open-air produce and fish market, too. The latter seems always to draw Bob! Jo, Ray, and I all recalled vividly how we practically had to drag him away from the sights and SMELLS of the gigantic inside fish market in Athens, Greece, when we were there in 2003!

Bob's favorite--the fish market!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cruise Journal Six -- Harstad, Norway

View of Harstad from on board our ship

I had intended to combine our last three ports, Harstad, Bergen, and Kristiansand, into one posting. But when I wrote the journal entries on which I am basing these blog posts, I realized that I would not do justice especially to  Bergen and Kristiansand (our final two ports) if I attempted a combined account here!

So, first Harstad. This is the third largest town in Northern Norway. When I say that it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004, that sounds as if it is a “new” town, but actually this area has been settled since the Stone Ages. Located here—though we didn’t visit it because it is at some distance from the town center—is the 13th century Trondenes Church, the world’s most northernmost medieval stone church.

 Though it is 20 to 30 degrees farther north than cities such as Chicago, Beijing, and Toronto, it experiences warmer winters than those cities. At first this was thought to be because of the Gulf Stream, but more recently it has been speculated that Northern Europe’s mild climate is due to intercontinental weather patterns driven by North American’s mountain ranges. Thus Harstad residents don’t experience the brutal winters of most locations north of the Arctic Circle. Summers here are cool, with average temperatures seldom reaching 70°. The city experiences the midnight sun during the summer months from May to mid July. The polar night lasts from November 30 to January 12.

Harstad is an attractive town with a mix of old and new architecture. It was one of the few coastal towns in Norway to escape German bombardment during WWII. We and the Cannons chose not to take any of the official cruise excursions here. We walked through the city center, visited a modern mall with a bookstore that had many familiar American best sellers in Norwegian, as well as many books in English. On the next level of the mall was a store that was obviously Norway's version of Crate and Barrel.  As usual, I was shocked at how expensive everything was.  From the deck of the ship we spotted a interesting looking church, so we decided to walk up to visit it. The church was locked, but from its location, we had a lovely vista of the town. As usual, I took many flower pictures in Harstad; soon I will blog just about the flowers of Norway!  But I will put a few flower photos here, too.
I loved these hanging flower baskets on all the lamp posts in the City Center!

the little church
we walked up to
Here are a few other pictures from Harstad.

Harstad city center

A residential street, a typical (though larger than most)
Norwegian house

Yes, they have Mexican food in Norway!

From out verandah, Bob and I watched them load fresh produce onto our ship.  It takes hundreds of heads of lettuce to feed 684 cruisers!
Sailing from Harstad