Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last Day In Denmark - Do We Have To Leave?

We had a spare day at the end of our trip to act as a cushion in case our return to Copenhagen was delayed. We did this so we would not miss our flight but it also gave us a day of leisure to wander around Copenhagen to places we had not yet been to or places we wanted to explore more in depth.

Click on any picture to see them full size - they are that much more impressive!  :)

One of those places was the National Museum Of Denmark located only a few blocks from our hotel. This was our first stop of the day and we spent a few hours wandering around the exhibits that started with the Dawn of Mankind as our distant relatives came to life (Home Erectus) and were replaced by the Neanderthals and they in turn replaced by Cro-Magnon people approx 35,000 years ago.

The Cro-Magnon people were able hunters and reindeer hunting (the skeleton above is of an old reindeer species) brought them to Denmark 35,000 years ago.

Also on the hunter's dinner plate were Aurochs that are now extinct;I was surprised to learn that the last Auroch died in Jaktorow Forest in Poland in 1637....I thought they would have become extinct thousands of years ago.These massive beasts were the ancestors of today's modern cattle.

We walked through the museum gaining in historical time as we did....Cro-Magnon people were replaced Viking raiders....then by sea going people and farmers...pretty civilized all in all...  :)

This is a great museum and the displays are well done and well organized as to step the visitor through the history of mankind as it relates to Denmark. I would go back here and spend more time if I could.

We next visited the Round Tower just a block off the Stroget and almost out of site from the main pedestrian thorough fare. I have to admit I've walked along the Stroget numerous times and not noticed the Tower.

The tower was built in the 17th century as an observatory and today still functions as same, making this the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.

A smooth ramp winds its way up and around the inside of the tower until you eventually reach what was the Library. It is said that Hans Christian Andersen often visited the library and found inspirations for his work here.

On last set of steps leads you up to the top floor of the observatory, that were the telescopes are housed under a wooden roof with shutter doors that open so you watch the heavens above.

Back down the short flight of stairs and outside on the observation deck you can get a 360 degree few of Copenhagen. The city's skyline is a mixed view; steeples from churches hundreds of years old mix in with modern buildings and industrial cranes that are adding steel and concrete together to make more modern buildings. One thing is for sure....a city never stops growing.

Back on the ground we explored small side streets that led off the Stroget; we had no place exactly where we wanted to go...we were just wandering around looking at the art work on the buildings and the numerous water fountains we came across.

Eventually Annette remembered that Christiansborg Slot, or Palace, was only three blocks away from were we happened to be. We have visited the Palace once before but just a quick walk around - this time we went in and took our time exploring the Palace.

 As usual with Palaces it was exquisite and wonderful and extravagant and all those other things that leave you in awe of the opulence of the ruling people.

I won't post a whole lot of palace pictures as I could fill a blog post alone on Christiansborg Slot.

After visiting the palace it was getting late in the day and Annette and I were ready for an early dinner before we headed back to our hotel. Ken and Linda still had a few more horse power in them and they left us to go off and explore the city a bit more before they headed back as well.

Annette and I found an upscale restaurant close to Tivoli Gardens and had a good but pricey meal as our last dinner in Denmark.


Back in our efficient little room at the Wakeup Copenhagen on Carsten Neibuhrs Gade we read for a while and enjoyed the city skyline from a high vantage point.

Before you could say "Vi ses næste gang" (see you next time) we were at the now familiar Københavns Lufthavn waiting for our flight to be called and wondering how three weeks had gone so fast.
We had mixed emotions getting on the plane...we love Copenhagen and had tremendous fun exploring Denmark by car and visiting new cities for the first time and exploring deeper into those cities we had been to before on our previous trip.

For me, most of all, I was thrilled to meet my "extended" family on Aero and was very touched by the warm welcome they extended to these unknown foreigners from across the ocean.

I found out later that we Canadians represented two brothers that the families back home had lost track of when the brothers left the Americas and headed to Canada to homestead.
Nice to know that we completed the circle for the families by having the descendants of those brothers return home.

I can't overstate how thankful we are to the families on Aero for allowing us into their homes and lives, if only for a few hours.....tak fra vores hjerter

The above pictures and many more from our last day in Copenhagen can be found here on my Flickr web site

Monday, December 28, 2015

Bergen Norway - Last Port Of Call

Our last port of call on our Norway fjord cruise was Bergen Norway. This city of 277,000 people was established in 1070 just four years after the Viking age ended. Thought to have been an established trading post by 1020, the city came into itself around 1100 as a flourishing trade in cod which was fished from the North Atlantic and dried for easy transport.

Click on any picture to see all the pictures full size.....
You can also see more at my Flickr site here

By the mid 14th century the Hanseatic League, made up of German merchants, had made Bergen Northern Europe's largest trading centre. For a while Bergen was the country's capital until Oslo gained that title in the mid 1300's during the reign of King Haakon V

From the 14th century to mid 1700's the Hanseatic League dominated trade in Northern Europe through the town of Bergen. Gradually Norway business man, many of German descent, grew in dominance of the trading of goods in and out of the city.

Bergen is a town spread out over many islands where much of the land is steep terrain and the town is disjointed due to the ocean separating the citizens. In recent years Norway has constructed a series of tunnels connecting traffic island to island which has energized the city and it's growth.

Today Bergen is a modern city and one of Norway's largest with a population on the move. Modern trams shuffle the streets in the main part of town; the centre of town has a picturesque plaza with a scenic mountain backdrop reminds me of something I would expect to see in Switzerland.

It was still only May and winter was late leaving..which meant it was still cool and unsettled weather. The beaming sun was replaced 10 minutes later with a rain that soaked us in just a few minutes and cooled our bones.....just like back home in Vancouver Canada.

We didn't know it at the time, but from our ship we had a good view of the oldest part of town which was were the historical German merchant stores were located.

Within minutes a steady rain was making the walking part of our tour not fun so we hopped the Hop On - Hop Off bus for a tour of the city while we got a quick view of where to go and tried to stay dry. The part about the "staying dry" didn't work very well as we were on the upper deck with only a canvas roof to keep the rain off. The wind was pushing the rain sideways into the bus with  the stiff accompanying wind, so staying dry was not an option.

As the saying goes, "if you don't like the weather wait ten minutes" and sure enough the rain went away and the sun tried to poke it's nose through the clouds. Ahh, that's more like it...

The bus chugged along the city roads through the shopping district and past City Hall and the other local highlights giving us a perfect vantage point to see the fair city's lovely streets and homes.
This is the part of travelling in Europe I love...old brick buildings with the occasional street's cobblestone surface still intact never fails to bring visions of an older time to mind. Men and women strolling down the street in period garments enjoying the weekend sunshine after a long winter. Or business men walking briskly, with that no nonsense Germanic influence about them, on their way to make another deal before the end of the day.

We hopped off the bus at a likely place which turned out to be the centre of town with the lovely fountain and what surely is a favourite gathering place for the city folk during the nice weather. The view sure couldn't be beat....I know I would hang out here on a warm summer night drinking in life's small pleasures and being thankful for what I had.

Look, we're smiling! Being dry and not cold can do that for you...... :)
We thought about taking the tram for another trip or catching the Hop On - Hop Off bus again but as the sun was trying to warm up the city we decided to take stock of where we were and where we wanted to go.

We all agreed that the funicular (tramway) that went up the side of Mt. Floyen was high on our lists of things to do.... so, after a quick check of the map, we realized that we were not that far way.. so off we went for a walk.

This turned out well for us as it not only brought us back to the edge of the harbour close to where the old German Town was, it also provided a walking tour through the older section of town. At some point we realized we were in the the "avant garde" part of town judging by the funky little shops and murals on the buildings.One piece of whimsical art we enjoyed was the shoes affixed to the side of a that was unique!

A few short blocks of walking brought us to the city's highlight and a first for me - the funicular up to the top of Mt. Floyen. As this was a major tourist attraction we had to wait about 45 minutes before we had a chance to board - but that was to be expected for an attraction such as this.

Apparently you can take walking trails up the mountain to reach the observation area as well....hmmm, no thanks......that doesn't sound like my cup of tea.....I don't do hills well...  :)

Click on any picture to see all the pictures full size.....these pictures taken from the mountain are great! If I do say so myself...

Once on top - WOW....what a view! The above three shots are a panoramic view of the city from right to left. The first view is the harbour and gateway to Bergen. The middle picture is the centre of the city with the aforementioned fountain and plaza in view. The last picture is off to the left  of Mt. Floyen, this looks like the newer part of the city where residents have expanded the city's edges.

Here are a few closeups of the areas seen in the pictures above. I look at this pictures and see the heart of old Bergen on the water front....ocean going ships still come into the harbour for loading and off-loading goods like they have for hundreds of years.

The centre picture is a celebration of life....the fountain and it's surrounding walk ways and plaza provide a meeting place for the city's residents to come and enjoy each other's company and to smile at life for a while.

The third picture is best described as shows that the city is alive and thriving in this current age even though it's geographical location pinpoints the city as "remote". This city is anything but "remote" in life...

We took the obligatory photo that says "we were here"! and then it was time to go back down the mountain...perfect timing as another tram was heading up and another rain squall was coming our way.

First picture above.....No matter were you go....McDoanlds has been their first..

Wait a minute, McDonalds has free WIFI and Ed remembers that there is a geocache right around this street corner somewhere. (Ed was smart enough to pre-scout locations where we would visit and keep them in the back of his mind for future reference).
So Ed walks over to McDonalds, takes his IPad out of his back pack and gets onto the Internet and then goes to to check it out. Sure enough, right across the street is the Hanseatic League Museum and there is a geocache right outside. A couple of minutes looking by Ken and Ed and we have the geocache in hand - YAY! One more country I have geocached in....only a few hundred or more to go.  :)

We had walked ourselves right into the heart of the original German Town area of Bergen - this is where the Hanseatic League had their original merchant shops. Some of the buildings in the picture are the originals from way back in the day when the area was the centre of trade in Northern Europe. In behind the shops are a warren of alleys and passage ways that lead to other shops hidden behind the street facing shops. See how the buildings are so old they are leaning on one another for support...

This was a wonderful place to explore both from a historic point of view and a personal point of view. It's so wonderful to see a town take pride in it's heritage and take the effort to keep their history intact for all to see and enjoy. Many years ago when I was a wee lad in Vancouver Canada learning about the Hanseatic Leagure that existed hundreds of years ago in far away Europe I never thought that I would have the live experience of wandering around the buildings those same people did.
And it was fantastic as Mt.Floyen was to visit and be on top of the world....this was far more impressive. Good on Bergen for saving this for the world to enjoy.

This original German town areas was the last of the Unesco World Heritage sights that we would visit on our trip...I think we visited 5 altogether which is pretty amazing. To travel and visit one is hard to arrange and spectacular when you visit 5 in one week is phenomenal.

     We were only 3-4 blocks away from our ship and the day was getting to an end so we walked away from history and back towards our present day reality with a couple of more views of old Bergen along the way.

The first picture is of the Rosenkrantz Tower built in the 1560's by the governor of Bergen Castle as a combination family residence and fortified tower. The Rosenkrantz Tower is considered to be one of the most important Renaissance monuments in Norway.

I do not know what the buildings in the second picture are....they remind me of a army barracks high up on the hill keeping guard over the city.

That's it folks, back on the ship and next stop is home port of feels very much like home to us now. Over the past two visits we have spent probably a week's worth of time in Copenhagen and have become very familiar with the city.

We had one more day in Copenhagen before Ed and Annette had to head home to Vancouver Canada. As Ken and Linda had come over a week later than us they were to fly out the same day and head for London and then onto a bus tour of south-east Britain...lucky them....

Thank you for reading this blog post and if you read all the ones that made up this trip to Europe then thank you very much for taking the time to come along with us on our journey.

These pictures and more not shown on this blog posting can be seen on my Flickr photo site here