OT:True confessions-A cruise to nowhere-18

We skipped Mont St. Michele this time (can’t fit two pounds in a one pound container), but have been to that fascinating pile of rock in the past.

This trip is like a whistle stop version of “If it’s Tuesday, it Must be Belgium”. Yesterday we were in France and tomorrow in Norway. Not the best way to see things in-depth.

Once we passed Copenhagen through the Kattegat Strait this week, we entered the Baltic Sea (an area which was in-doubt because of the possibility that the Russia-Ukraine conflict would impact our itinerary further – as St. Petersburg has already been cancelled). The Baltic is fed by numerous rivers and forms the largest body of brackish water in the world.

From an historical perspective we look through the compression of time in the confusing jumble of forces which affected North and Western Europe. Around 400 A.D., the Romans pulled out of what was to become England and the Anglo-Saxons started migrating there from what is now The Netherlands (Holland), Denmark (Jutland) and Northern Germany, displacing the leadership of the indigenous Celts.

It was about another 500 years before the Vikings swept down from Scandinavia and Jutland, taking land and displacing the Anglo-Saxon leadership of England as well as the Franks in Normandy (not to mention numerous other areas of Europe and what was to become Russia. In 1066, “Normans” who were descended from Vikings originally from Scandinavia, but who lived in France and who had adopted the French language, invaded England which was ruled by their relatives – other descendants of Vikings.

The Hansiatic League, an association of trading towns in the Baltic and North Seas centered around Lubeck and Rostock on the Baltic coast of Germany was most active between the 1400’s and the 1600’s (though they didn’t formally dissolve the association until the nineteenth century).

In the midst of this, the three kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden alternately combined, split and changed leadership, and the French king used the Crusades as a method to start driving the Dukes of Normandy (Kings of England) out of France. The German states wrestled with the Reformation and the 30 Years War, the English had an early form of Brexit when Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church over his marital challenges, And on and on – eventually leaving England with the Channel Islands, Flanders in France, French in Belgium, Prussia in Poland and Swedes in Mariehamn, Finland.

Strange things happened.

In May 1963, Norway asserted sovereign rights over natural resources in its sector of the North Sea. Exploration started on July 19, 1966, when Ocean Traveller drilled its first hole. Initial exploration was fruitless, until Ocean Viking found oil on August 21, 1969. Britain travelled a parallel route with its North Sea oil exploration. And then their social policies diverged.

England followed a traditional capitalist model where commercial firms, such as British Petroleum, invested in, and made the money from, the pumping of the oil fields “commissioning” the UK government through leases and taxes. The Norwegians decided to do things differently. The government invested in the drilling, took the profits and, rather than distributing them to the country’s citizens (in the fashion that Alaska does), which would have caused inflation, invested the profits into a sovereign wealth fund which should be able to continue supporting the standard of living for future generations after the oil runs out.

Norway kept high taxes on their population in order to supply free education, health care and unemployment insurance making it, along with the rest of the Nordic countries, consistently considered by their populations to be the best countries on earth to live in. Sort of an interesting contrast to how we work things in the US as well as how satisfied the average American thinks he/she is.

During our 2022 trip, the US dollar has risen against the Euro until it is at near parity (around 1.04 to the Euro) and prices in the EU are generally quite reasonable, even given the high VAT tax rate. Even the usually astronomical prices in Norway and the rest of Scandinavia have become nearly human as the US dollar is as much as 25% higher than it was last time we visited.

I mentioned that I had decided to cease playing face-to-face duplicate bridge because of concerns about the recent (accelerating) COVID outbreak aboard which started when both the EU and our ship’s management dropped their mask mandate policies. What I forgot to mention is that the current bridge instructors/directors (these have been changing every few weeks) are the well-known Grand Masters Bill and Rozanne Pollack and, after spending a couple of days as Rozanne’s partner I had still decided to put my finger on the scale despite the loss of the opportunity. Oh well, “la vie, they say”.

There was a lunar eclipse during the early morning of May 15, 2022. It is late enough in the year, and north enough on the planet on our way to Oslo, Norway, that when I when I woke up before 4am, the sun was already dawning. By the time we leave this latitude we’ll be within a couple of weeks of the summer solstice and it may not get dark at all – we’ll see.

I was chatting with a group of Norwegians and, despite their having a full shutdown during the opening days of the COVID pandemic and around half the group having been infected sometime over the past couple of years, there is no longer any presence of masking I the country and simply the feeling that there was no longer any particular concern about the disease. On the other hand, aboard our “fully vaccinated”, heavily boosted ship, there are a significant number of cases. The good news is that there have been, to the best of my knowledge, no cases serious enough to need hospitalization or cause death. There have been, however, some cases which have been infectious for more than five days and at least one case (of a young entertainer) of apparent “long COVID”.

With the exception of Germany, where masking is required on public transportation and some restaurants, the rest of the Baltic ports have either lifted all COVID restrictions or have “recommended” (but optional) masking requirements on public transportation. Considering that the COVID cases aboard were picked up ashore, we are going to continue wearing masks while on shore.

We are now getting tested on a two week cycle (except upon request). Positive cases are isolated for five days and, if negative, are then released – otherwise they are held for five more days before retesting (then put on a three day cycle). The initial quarantines picked up from the last test are being released – about 20, so far. It is rumored (not confirmed) that yesterday’s testing culled about 20 new customers. While some are cycling out of isolation, there are currently 49 staterooms which contain isolated passengers (some with a single person, most with a couple).

I figure that, over the past few weeks, over 100 of the roughly 250 passengers have contracted COVID. I wonder whether, by the time this trip is over in a bit over a month, there will be many passengers who have not had COVID while being aboard the ship.

Anyhow, we’ve moved from the Med to the Baltic.


Kristiansand, Norway
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment”. ~Hilaire Belloc

Founded in 1641 near the southern tip of Norway, Kristiansand once claimed the world’s largest fleet of sailing ships. Today, the city serves as the primary hub for ferry, shipping, air, road and rail traffic in southern Norway. As it is one of the warmest cities in Norway (both warmest and “city” being relative terms in the global context), it is becoming a vacation destination. That said, it is at a high enough latitude to get nearly 24 hours of daylight during mid-June.

The bay is surrounded by modern apartment houses with large outdoor terraces lining the apartments facing the water. When I asked the prices of these, the locals expressed horror that the roughly 100 square meter units (about 1,000 square feet) could sell for as much as (the equivalent of) $600,000 US dollars. To someone from NYC, where that amount of money buys a broom closet, the prices seem reasonable considering the incredible seaside view – again, everything is relative.

Kristiansand (formerly Christiansand) and not to be confused with Kristiansund which we will be visiting in a couple of weeks, is the first of many stops we will be making in Norway, so we are going to get some local currency out of an ATM for incidental expenses that a credit card won’t work for. The Norwegian Kroner is currently at 10 to the US dollar (or a 25% drop in its value since the last time we visited – and if we hadn’t been visiting on a Sunday, prices might actually be nearly affordable. We are putting away our Euros, for now, as they won’t be helpful over the next few days as we travel through the Scandinavian countries, each of which has their own currency (usually called some variation of the Krone or “Crown”). Subsequently, it turned out that credit cards are accepted everywhere in Scandinavia, and there is no reason to use cash any more.

The main dock is within walking distance of town (0.3 km). (There is also a small hop-on/hop-off train at 15 € per person). The town measures roughly 1km by 1km.

The Oddernya peninsula (just to the right if you walk off the cruise pier) is a former military area that was converted into a recreational park a few years ago. It makes for pleasant and quiet nature strolls, with views across town or the bay. Also to the right is the ultramodern façade of the Kilden Performing Arts Center where concerts, opera, ballet and so on are presented.

Walking from the cruise ship, over the bridge into town, the first landmark we came to the fish market (Fiskebrygga) which not only houses fish mongers, but also a number of popular seafood restaurants. A couple of scenic blocks further down the waterfront, passing huge corporately sponsored sand sculptures, brings you to the pedestrian Markensgate, lined on both sides with stores, banks and food stands. Interestingly, the bank whose ATM I used could not break the bills into smaller denominations and I had to detour to the Post Office for that service. Credit cards are so widely used that banks do not necessarily carry any cash. The McDonalds had the expected clean toilets (door code 6865) and free Wi-Fi (but this was available in many other locations as well).

We headed to the Christiansholm Fortress on the coast where people were sun bathing in the (to us) chilly air. This rather small rotund building was locked, but luckily an inspector was unlocking the door and was nice enough to let us inside (it was empty).

The Library (Bibliotheca) has free Wi-Fi and clean toilets (on the 3rd floor), but you will need a 5 Krone coin to open the door (ask at the front desk of the library and they might give you one to use).

Last time we were here, it was the the solar solstice and the day seemed to constitute their summer. The weather was bright, beautiful and pleasant at about 75F/24C degrees with little wind and the Norwegians are out in droves (apparently the weather up until today has been dark and pouring rain – but at least all the flowers are in bloom).

On the other hand, the weather, while bright and clear was pretty chilly (55F/14C) when we visited in May – which didn’t seem to deter the locals from wearing short sleeve shirts and visiting the beach in bathing suits. In fact, there were long lines at the excellent ice cream shops selling huge scoops of the wonderful Hennig Olsen as the Norwegians tried to cool off from the “extreme heat”.

As Einstein said – everything is relative.

While many Norwegians match the stereotype of blond hair and blue eyes, nowadays many are swarthy of skin and curly of hair (a sign of the times in Europe). The drivers are well behaved and the prices in the stores are sky high. This is Norway where the per capita income is among the highest in the world – as are the prices in the stores (figure nearly double what they are in the US – even if the item is on sale).

Norwegian taxes are much higher than ours, but they do not pay for education (through post graduate), medical care, have liberal vacation time and an excellent social welfare program. While this sort of social safety net is expected in most European countries, the Scandinavian country’s’ versions are about the best – and Norway leads the pack. Most Europeans find it bizarre that the United States is so primitive and uncaring towards its own population when it comes to our versions of these programs – as well as being entertained when we complain that our much lower tax rates are too high. They get what they pay for (but I’m not sure if we always do).

As in other Baltic and North Sea nations, herring and salmon (known here as lox) is very popular.

A store not to be missed is the “Galleri Knapstad” (Radhusgt, 3) whose gla$$blowing couple crafts beautiful handmade goblets and vases. While not inexpensive (at about $50-55 a magnificent glass), they are unique, tasteful and the techniques of gla$$blowing that you can observe the couple performing are a pleasure to watch. (Dollar signs required to get around Foolish obscenity filter)

There are a number of museums in town including the Agder Museum of Natural History and Botanical Garden, which opened in 1828.

The cooking implements store, in general, was much more expensive (about 2X) than in the States. They did have a unique type of two piece silicone covered magnetic trivet (by Eva Solo, which could be assembled as a cross) and pretty decent prices on well balanced ceramic knives. They also had quite a few models of “stand” mixers that had built-in induction cooking at obscene prices and lots of other Scandinavian designed cool (but expensive) kitchen tools.

We crossed town to the east to Posebyen – what is what’s left of Kristiansand’s old town. Small wooden buildings occupy several blocks on the quiet eastern part of the town center. The buildings are typical of the “legacy” portion of Norwegian town, but it is not worth a special trip to see them. We turned right, towards the water and, passing by the 19th century neo-Gothic Kristiansand Cathedral (open a few hours each day) whose roof resembles an inverted wooden boat.

Heading to the west side of the town, we headed up the steep slope of the Ravenedalen Park (about 3km/2miles from the ship) which Is surrounded by steep cliffs which provide great views of the entire city. The park contains some ponds and a decent sized lake. The maps given out by the Visitor Bureau were nearly useless here, but fortunately we ran into a couple of women walking their dogs who guided us around the lake. While maintaining the feeling that you are “in the wild”, the vistas are so stunning that the careful landscaping effort isn’t obvious. The lakefront is dotted with cutaway areas where locals were sunbathing in bathing suits despite the chilly temperature during our Sunday visit during May. The total walk for the day was about 8 miles/13km – or about 1 ½ ice cream scoops worth of calories ?

For those with more time, the Kristiansand Zoo (the Dyrepark – Deer Park) is said to be Norway’s most visited attraction, covering 150 acres of Nordic terrain where animals like red pandas, moose and Bactrian camels roam in wide-open spaces. The park itself is very large and is like a very nice hike in the woods. Simply walk into town and take the M1 or 01 bus to the Dyrepark (Quality Inn) stop - it is a 30 minute bus ride and costs 38 NOK each way. The service runs every 15 minutes.

Another option is to take the M1 Flekkeroy to Kroodden (Møvik) to visit the Kristiansand Cannon Museum (NOK 80) at the Vara Battery, 6 miles/9 kilometers from the pier. Following the German invasion of Norway in the spring of 1940, construction of a large number of artillery installations began along the coast, including the Vara Battery. A similar installation was constructed in Denmark’s Jutland and together they were meant to guard the Skagerak Strait between the two countries and the shipping lane to Kattegat and the Baltic. The battery now houses the only completely intact 38-cm gun remaining in the world and the world’s second largest cannon. The Kruppcannon, one of the largest ever built, weighs 337 tons and can lob a shell to a range of 35 miles – halfway to Denmark.

Norwegian taxes are high and you should look into getting a 25% VAT refund when making sizable purchases.

Oslo, Norway
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money”. ~Susan Heller

It is grey, nasty and chilly as we cruise further north along the coast of Norway and at 11PM it is still light enough to play tennis (if only we had a court).

Early in the morning, I watched our passage through the 60 mile long Oslofjord to our dock, a six minute walk from central Oslo. Oslo covers 175 square miles within its city limits, which makes it one of the world’s largest capital cities, but much of the land is occupied by farms and its population is only 460,000 (and it is the least densely populated capital in Europe). Overlooking the gorgeous fjord, Norway’s capital and largest city simply radiates with natural beauty. A very large portion of the city is covered in trees – and a large part of the waterfront is filled with forests of small masts and quite a few large-masted square-rigged ships. Again, while a bit cool, the sunny weather has held up.

Two items we should have considered in advance: First, because of the potential of going to multiple museums serially on a single day, we should have evaluated the potential efficacy of the “Oslo Card” tourist card which provides free transportation and free entry to some museums. Secondly, we should have made reservations in advance (required) to tour the Royal Palace (open during the summer only).

In Norway, nearly everyone speaks perfect English.

As we lefty the ship, I noticed a number of men (idiots?) jumping off a platform on a building near the end of the dock into the ice cold water. I asked a policeman about it and he said the building was a sauna and they were jumping in to “cool off”. I wonder how many aneurisms a year this causes.

Last time we were here, we started our sightseeing with a trip to the vast Vigeland Sculpture Park and found ourselves in the midst of the tour bus crowds when we visited the Bygdøy marine museum area (once the king’s private reserve). This time, as soon as the ship released us, we made a bee-line to the ferry terminal. While it is possible to buy tickets on the ferry, it is much cheaper (NOK 60, round-trip) if you buy them at the “tourist boat” ticket office next to the terminal. The ferry comes once every 20 minutes. The first stop, Dronningen, is where you would get off for the Viking Ship Museum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the Holocaust Center. This area is home to the residences of many of Oslo’s industrialists, foreign ambassadors and other luminaries.

Oslo’s rich seafaring history is on display at the Viking Ships Museum, with incredibly well preserved ships (excavated from burial mounds) built over a millennium ago. It is awesome to think that these small boats (holding 32-36 rowers) were part of the fleets which swept Vikings to power across Europe – from Normandy to England to Sicily to Russia – and to the New World on the other side of the Atlantic.

The Holocaust Center was dedicated to the acceptance of Norwegians of the deporting of 748 Jews (nearly half of the nation’s Jewish population at the time) to German concentration camps, during the Second World War, where nearly all of them perished. There is an immense modern sculpture in front of the building entitled “Innocent Questions”. It portrays a large computer “punch card” with selections for questions regarding a person’s background to represent the surveys taken by the government and then turned over to the occupying Nazis who used them to select their victims. There are currently about 1,000 Jews living in Norway – mostly in Oslo and one other town in the interior.

Taking the ferry one more stop (included in the fare) takes you to Bygdoynes and the Kon-Tiki Museum, which holds the balsawood raft that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from Peru to Polynesia and the Fram Polar Ship Museum which houses the ship which Amundson used in 1911 to explore the North Polar region.

Taking the ferry back, we walked west, across town, to the Oslo Opera House, a contemporary marble-and-glass building that has won countless design awards, and walked up the long ramp to its roof (and down the other side). There are hourly guided tours (in different languages, so check the schedule first) which take you into the vast area used to stage the scenery for events.

This set us up for a walking route in the downtown area. We headed towards the street named Karl Jochans Gate, a major pedestrian shopping street that is adjacent to the city’s cathedral (built in 1697). Along the way we noticed one of the brass memorial plates (measuring about 10cm x 10cmm, 4”x4”) indicating the location that a Jew was deported from. We have seen these frequently in Germany and less often in Italy and France, but this was the first one we have seen in Norway. (This one honored Max Oster, born 1884, deported 1942 to Auschwitz, died December 1, 1942).

We stopped at W.B. Samson (on Karl Jochans Gate since 1894) for coffees and an almond/chocolate pastry (I suggest taking a bit of Norwegian currency here as, on our last trip, they were not accepting foreign credit cards). The street leads to a mall where flowers were being planted to take advantage of the sunshine. Along the mall is the Oslo University with its statue of Munch (Norway’s renown painter, famous for his painting “The Scream”), the Parliament and the National Theater with its statue of Ibsen and the Royal Palace at the end. The ticket to the Viking Ship Museum also included entry into the Historical Museum to the north side of the street as you approach the palace. There is now a Munch Museum near the Opera House.

Crossing the mall (and asking a few times) put us on the path to the Rådhuset (City Hall). This art nouveau building has fabulous murals encircling a huge main chamber inside and is well worth seeking out. Continuing south past the statue of the Pied Piper towards the waterfront, we took the No. 12 tram to Vigeland, a city park that is decorated with over 200 life-size sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland. The tram ticket remains valid or an hour and we used the same ticket to return.

On our way back to the ship we continued along Rådhusgata, turning right onto Nedre Slottsgate. We walked to the end of the street. At Myntgata, we turn right and passed through a gate. This put us on the grounds of Akershus Castle (built in the 13th century). For centuries, the rulers of Norway have lived here, protected by the fortress’ thick earth-and-stone walls. The first building on the right is the Norwegian Resistance Museum. The museum has displays on events related to the Nazi occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1945.

The Akershus Castle and Fortress structure was rebuilt in the 17th century. (You can take a guided tour and walk the ramparts if you want). In front of the Norwegian Resistance Museum you’ll find the Execution Site where the Nazis shot prisoners, often Norwegian freedom fighters. There’s a memorial to the resistance movement, and a good view of the harbor in the distance. Crossing the drawbridge to the east, right before Kongensgate, and continuing through the castle grounds brings us to the National Monument to the German Occupation, which commemorates Norway’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis.

About a block further, you will find the Armed Forces Museum (100K entry fee) which houses a broad collection of WWII and current arms and artillery on the ground floor and displays the history of arms dating from Viking times to the present on the second floor.

From there, it is a short walk to the ship.

Frommer (at www.frommer.com) has some particularly good free self-guided walking tours of Oslo available for download.

Copenhagen, Denmark

“I do not know where I’m going, but I’m on my way” – Carl Sagan
There is a magical feel to Copenhagen. If you squint your eyes on almost any street you could easily be back in the time of Hans Christian Anderson. Its name is pronounced with a long “A” (like babe), rather than a sound like “ah”. There are also many parallels between Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

There are currently about 6.65 Danish Krone (DKK) to the US dollar, but it is easier to remember that DKK 100 is equal to $15US. Nearly everything in Copenhagen can be paid for by credit card (including buying transit cards from vending machines and paying taxis) and there is no need to withdraw local currency (especially if your credit card does not have a foreign transaction fee). Restaurant and hotel bills are inclusive of service charges, as are taxi fares.

Some credit card usages add an additional slight surcharge (we found this to be true of taxis, for example) which I suspect are to compensate for the additional cost to the vendor of using a credit card (but we received a different interpretation when we asked). In Copenhagen, tipping is not a tradition. If you receive extraordinary good service, you are welcome to reward it with a tip, but it is not expected. Service is normally included in the bill at restaurants, hotels and taxis. Thus it is optional whether to round up the bill or not. Porters usually expect a tip of about DKK 5 per item of baggage. Tipping bathroom attendants is customary, usually around DKK 1 or 2. As in many European countries, there is a tip box on the counter of hair salons, rather than giving individual gratuities.

There’s high speed free Wi-Fi available from the port (Freeport Cruise Port) on our veranda.

I picked up a map of Copenhagen’s sights from the guy selling Hop-ON/Hop-Off tickets. While this is a city built for walking, rather than bussing, the HO/HO bus stops identify many of the important sights and their free map is a useful tool. There was also a great downloadable map that I found on www.planetware.com.

CAUTION: I have rarely been in a place where most people can’t point out where they are standing, walking or working on a map, nor give usable instructions to guide you towards your destination. Make sure you know how to use a mobile phone based GPS package (Google Maps if you have a data connection or one of the options listed at the front of the book if you don’t.

Buses generally need the fare to be paid in Kroner (or using a ticket purchased from a vending machine with a credit card). In an interesting turn of event, the 24 Kroner fare of the #26 bus from the port to downtown can also be purchased for 4 euros or $4 dollars (your choice) as well. I am going to try to make this a “plastic” and foreign cash visit without hitting an ATM (called a Bankomat/Bancomat/Cashpoint outside of the US) and avoid using the local currency if I can. You can find the bus at the port by walking perpendicular to the sea, through the tunnel, around the round-about and then about 50 meters further - on the right side of the street.

On our 2022 trip here, we eliminated the currency question by taking the free shuttle bus suppled by the ship to downtown, walking about 12 minutes to the Tourist/Visitor Center near Tivoli Park and picking up “Copenhagen Cards” which cover transportation as well as most museum/site entrance fees.

One of the things that begins to dawn on you is the high number of electric Tesla luxury sedans that one sees. In Amsterdam, only Tesla taxis seem to be allowed to pick up fares at Schiphol Airport and in Copenhagen Tesla’s make up a noticeable percentage of cars as well. As taxis they are not taxed and cost about 90,000€ from what I was told. Another is the attention of Europe on alternative energy. Along the German rivers we saw loads of solar photovoltaic panels and the occasional wind turbine, but in the harbors of Amsterdam and Copenhagen there are forests of the giant windmills – in this case acting as the foreground of a photo of the bridge to Sweden (remember to take your passport if you are crossing the bridge).

On our last trip here, the temperature had risen above 32C (90F) and I’ve been told that it was the hottest day Copenhagen had in thirty eight years. Since stores generally do not have air conditioning, some of them were uncomfortably hot. During our 2022 trip, the temperature was very pleasant (60’sF/teensC).

We used to dock closer to town and started our day of walking (more like a forced march) by passing by the MS Queen Elizabeth that is docked in front of us and continuing along the seashore to Copenhagen’s iconic bronze image of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid”. Making a right turn brought us to the entrance of the Kastellet, the earthwork fort which has guarded the harbor’s mouth for centuries. This time, our dock is at the end of the world at a pier known as “Terminal 3 which has to be reached by either the ship’s shuttle bus or an M4 (Blue) Metro to Orientkaj station and then taking the #25 bus – followed by a 12 minute walk – which is far less convenient.

On our last stay, we got a great price on the Crown Plaza Towers room, but it was a $60 taxi ride from the pier and, while tomorrow’s pier is a different one, the fare will likely be similar. So we’ll try using Uber for the ride and see how that changes things. The hotel was brand new, our room was airy with a great view of the shopping mall next door? (But it was better than looking down on parking lots).

We considered a full sightseeing day, including a train to Kronborg Castle (“Hamlet’s Castle”), about a 45-minute ride from town. Other out of town destinations would be Fredricksborg Castle and the Roskilde cathedral. If we had included them in the day’s plans, then buying a day pass on the train/metro/bus system would have been worthwhile – but we decided against working hard. Interestingly, the ticket machine (this is the first time this has happened to me) asked for the PIN I had set up on my credit card. (In the US, we still use credit cards requiring signatures, rather than PIN’s– though we are finally adding chips to the cards, so we might actually catch up with the rest of the world soon who have been using chips and PIN’s for years).

Our goal lay at the other end of the street in front of Tivoli Gardens. The meeting point on the grounds of the Town Hall (Town Hall is notable for its roof-top golden statue of Bishop Absalon, who founded Copenhagen more than 800 years ago) of the ”free” (tip what you think it is worth) city walking tour we’d pre-booked (starting at 11AM and lasting a bit over three hours). This was another typical Sandeman (www.neweuropetour.eu) tour which was run by a student who entertained us as she meandered through downtown Copenhagen pointing out buildings and talking about the history of Copenhagen and Denmark.

These “escorted” walking tours are useful to giving you an orientation of a city, but to “really” see it you should walk a city on your own. The tours almost never enter buildings (so you will miss the interior of churches, museums and other iconic interesting spots), they will avoid markets and they will net expose you to any part of the city outside of their circular path. The walking tours are very useful, but never a substitute for diving deeper into a city.

While at the Town Hall we entered the room to the right of the entrance door which houses the world’s most advanced mechanical clock which shows the stellar bodies over the City Hall, time zones in other parts of the world and festive holiday changes through the years. Looking at the mechanism is an awesome experience. The building’s huge Main Hall is decorated with ornate architectural details and is worth seeing. While some of the building is open to the general public, there is a DKK60 guided tour of rooms normally closed to the public (M-F at 1pm, Sat at 10am) and an additional DKK40 for a trip up the 300 steps to the top of the tower (M-F at 11am and 2pm, Sat at noon)

First, a bit of introduction: Copenhagen has been the capital of Denmark for nearly 600 years and home to the oldest resident monarchy in the world. The biggest city in Scandinavia, Copenhagen occupies a pleasant and strategic spot on the Baltic east coast of Denmark’s largest island, Zealand, its harbor overlooked by the world-famous statue of the ‘Little Mermaid’. One of the first impressions that strike visitors to this busy, dynamic capital is the cleanliness and orderliness in its narrow medieval cobbled central city streets and along the picturesque canals in Christianshavn. Most of the attractions for visitors are situated within about one square mile (3 sq. km) of flat terrain in the center, making it easy to explore on foot (or bicycle, that is the vehicle of choice for locals). Five streets in the heart of the city have been merged to provide the world’s longest pedestrian mall, running between Rådhuspladsen and Kongens Nytorv, which are packed with historic gabled buildings, dynamic department stores, stunning shops, restaurants, pavement cafes, theatres, and world-class museums and galleries. Despite the condensed city center, Copenhagen is full of parks (such as Tivoli Gardens). The city prides itself on its strict anti-pollution laws and lack of glass and chrome skyscrapers.

We continued through the King’s Garden to Amalienborg Palace, the current residence of Denmark’s Royal Family to watch the Changing of the Guard at noon. The ceremony takes place every day, but a military marching band accompanies the guardsmen when Queen Margrethe II is in residence and the concert lasts from Noon to 1PM. Danish king’s names alternate between Christian and Frederic, but I’m not sure if a similar naming protocol exists for queens.

Entry to one quadrant of the palace is available to the public (at a fee). The top floor displays the Queen’s jewelry collection (with detailed English description and provenance). While not as “over the top” as the Crown Jewels, it is a vast, varied and opulent collection and its display fills a floor of the palace. A floor lower brings us to the living quarters of a previous generation of royals who seemed to be packrats of family memorabilia.

We walked through the grounds of the Royal Palace at Amalienborg Slotsplods (admiring the soldiers posted at each of the four royal residences) to Kongens Nytorv (King’s Square). This square is torn up due to the massive subway/metro expansion project, but its perimeter is crowded with a craft and flea market. The first was expensive (tough admittedly we were intrigued by the unique hand-blown glass necklaces shown by Marianne Amtorp – www.amtorp.eu) and we have enough fleas already to last a lifetime.

Copenhagen’s other palace is the Christiansborg Palace, the house of Denmark’s three supreme powers. You can tell which members of the royal family are in residence by their flying the Danish flag over their specific residences. Hilary Clinton is in town today and might have been the passenger of a spit shined antique Rolls Royce about the size of a small house we saw pulling into (what mere mortals might call) a garage at the base of one of the palace residences. The palace consists of a series of buildings connected by underground tunnels, surrounding a circular plaza so, in crossing the plaza, you are actually within the palace.

One of the great free things you can do is to take the elevator up the tower of Christiansborg Palace which give a great panoramic view of the city. Wait on the line, staring at a surveillance camera and someone will come out to take you through a security check to the first elevator. There is a restaurant at that level (more on that in a minute), then a second elevator to a couple of flights of stairs to the viewing platform.

Oh yeah – the restaurant. Its name is Tarnet (Tel: 35424042) and, while pricy, its open-faced sandwiches are fantastic. We came near the end of their lunch service and were seated without reservations, but I would recommend making them. My sandwich was a herring picked in currents, dotted with sour cream and covered with a wide ribbon of beet. My wife’s was asparagus, grapes, smoked almonds, radishes and greens. Both were served on course dark rye bread. Add a Coke and a beer and lunch was about $47USD – but wonderfully tasty.

Assuming the Christiansborg Palace is not being used by either the royal family or a foreign potentate, you can tour the place. There is a “combo” ticket or a number of separate ones for the various areas open to the public. The most interesting part of the tour is the Reception Rooms which feature a series of modern tapestries which are incredible as well as numerous other items of interest. Also interesting (but only open in the afternoon) are the Royal Stables, with their white horses. For those who love copper pots, the kitchen will more than satisfy their fantasies. There is an exhibit of the ruins found under the present palace of castles built a millennia ago, which while historically somewhat interesting, would be miss-able if time did not allow. Also able to be visited are the Royal Chapel, the Thorvaldsens Museum, the Theatre Museum and the Parliament.

Heading out the east side, across the canal and Frederiksholmskanal Street we found the National Museum. This is a four floor building full of fascinating collections and, if it were not for the guilt we would feel about abandoning our efforts to see the entire city, we could have spent our entire stay enjoying its displays. This is neither an art museum, nor a natural history museum (Copenhagen has both of these elsewhere in the city), but rather a museum of cultural history. It currently has a fabulous multimedia exhibition concentrating on the Vikings, but also has fascinating rooms concentrating on India, American Indians, Indonesians, ancient Egyptians, toys, the 1970’s, doll houses and so on – all with items of superior quality and variety.

Also near the Christiansborg Palace is the Ny Carlsbad Glyptotek Museum donated to the city by the Carlsbad beer magnate. The vast collection of antiquities and impressionist art (by Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir and Gauguin), is the most important one in Denmark.

The former “red light” district known as Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s revitalized canal area, once home to Hans Christian Andersen (when he first arrived in “Wonderful Copenhagen”). Today it is lined with casual cafés where you can enjoy lunch and outstanding Danish beer and a wooden ship collection/museum.

There are one-hour canal boat rides available from both Nyhavn and on Ved Stranden near Holman’s Church (the one we selected). The canals wander through Copenhagen’s military and commercial history and the boat ride is a very worthwhile (and, at around 8 Euros, reasonably inexpensive) way to see the city from its harbor and intricate canal system.

We moved onto Stroeget, the pedestrians-only shopping zone that measures almost one full mile (again, the world’s longest pedestrian street). Here you’ll find everything from quirky souvenirs to Denmark’s most famous home décor outfits, such as Royal Scandinavia and Georg Jensen, Ryal Copenhagen china, and Illums Bolighus to the more international standards ranging from H&M to Armani. It resembles a fairy tale version of Spring Street or 5th Avenue in NYC. We had some great coffee in a local chain (with free Wi-Fi). While there are McDonalds here, Starbucks seems to have disappeared from Denmark.

While not on the Stroeget, the optometrist City Briller (Norregade 49, Tel: 33 14 70 50) has super-cool eyeglass frames (not cheap, but very unique). Similarly, Østerlandsk Thehus (Nørre Voldgade 9) sell unique blends of teas at far higher prices than you would pay in the supermarket for more plebian brews. (My wife’s favorite is “Cool Mint”, which has a heavy lemon overlay).

We then walked back to the Christiansborg area across the canal (originally its moat) to try to find the Jewish Halocaust Museum. This is tucked away through an archway behind the Christiansborg Palace and took some effort to find (with a bit of slapstick humor supplied by a bunch of willing, but confused French cyclists). The architecture of the museum is very modern with walls at strange angles matching into the ancient bricked arches of the castle’s basement ceiling. The floor tilts slightly as well to give you the feeling of being on the rolling deck of a ship (I found this a bit disconcerting). The walls are covered in light birch to show that the Danes were “good” and their Jewish population largely survived the Second World War as opposed to the dark walls used by the same architect in another Jewish museum he designed that is located in Germany. The museum tells the story of both the history of the Jews in Denmark (it turns out the cemetery we stumbled across in Aalborg yesterday, with tombstones spanning three centuries is all that remains of its community, and there are similar vestiges like it scattered across Denmark).

The Danes saved 95% of their Jewish population from being deported to concentration camps by the Germans during the Second World War. When the Germans demanded that Danish Jews wear yellow stars, the Danish king wore one and asked that all his countrymen do so as well. When, in 1943, word got out that the Jews were going to be rounded up on their high holidays and deported the Danish physicist Neils Bohr – a necessary component of the US “Manhattan Project” insisted that the US apply pressure on neutral Sweden. The Danes mustered every type of boat and watercraft and smuggled their entire Jewish population across the short strait to Sweden while the Swedes turned a blind eye. The country’s current Jewish population numbers under 3,000.

Crossing the street (for a New Yorker) is an adventure. Everyone respects traffic lights and crosses only at a crosswalk. Taking a “lead” off the corner to steal across the street is liable to get a person run over by bicycles whose lanes run next to nearly every curb between pedestrians and cars. I’m sad to say that safety seems to dictate following the law here.

There are relatively few taxis (expensive, though they take credit cards), but UBER works here. I saw almost no policemen on the street. The X-Raying of parcels being carried into buildings and the metal detectors that some of us take for granted in sensitive places (such as royal palaces) is not present here.

On the way back to the ship we walked down Langelinie Promenade from the heart of Copenhagen. It runs along the water to the port, skirting the 300-year-old, moated citadel near the celebrated statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid (still sporting her head). The surrounding park is home to the Gefion Fountain, Copenhagen’s most spectacular. Just down the waterfront from the Little Mermaid is former site of the Museum of Danish Resistance which traces the country’s history during the German occupation of World War II. The museum burned down in 2013, but a sign indicated that all the exhibits had been saved and a new museum would be built soon.

While it was tempting to spend the evening in Tivoli Gardens, a distinctively European amusement park and the most magical spot in Copenhagen, we are too tired (and have been there before). This park, over a century old, was the inspiration of all the amusement parks which followed (including Disney Land). The park is designed for all-ages fun with delightful rides (including a wooden roller-coaster built in 1905) and inviting restaurants for dinner and snacks, but is very expensive (think Disneyland prices).

We took the new (driverless) Metro (M1 line) into town. What should have been a fifteen minute ride became a tedious ordeal because a lightning strike last night had taken out the tram half way to town. (Again, while our weather has been generally flawless, there has been chaotic weather on both sides of our visits to many of the ports). We had to board a bus and then get back on the tram further down the line. Danes are a very helpful bunch and all of them speak English well (and babysat us through the process of getting us where we were headed). Interestingly for such a modern Metro, they seem to have forgotten to put in an air conditioning system and the cars were pretty warm.

We exited at the Norrport Station. We took a walk through a bit of the Botanic Garden (Botanisk Have), which features 25 acres of landscaped grounds and a 19th-century Palm House. We then walked to the Kunguns Have (King’s Garden) where we could see the Rosenborg Palace on the opposite side. Many of the rows of trees in the city, including here, are neatly pruned with the leafy area pruned as cubes. This gives the city an Alice in Wonderland appearance whenever there are trees in view.

Right beside the King’s Garden is, quite literally, one of Copenhagen’s treasures, the Rosenborg Palace. This place has it all. A moat, a draw bridge, a dozen or so guards in camouflage fatigues carrying M-16’s marching back and forth like the guards at Buckingham Palace in London, a handful of ghosts and of course the Danish Crown Jewels and other treasures of the Danish Royal Family dating back to the year 1500 are located in the basement vaults of this 17th-century royal residence.

Which could explain why, during our 2022 visit, when an alarm went off, we were herded to the middle of a lawn by soldiers while others, toting automatic weapons, ran back and forth on whatever security missions they were assigned to. The whole event (whatever it was) was over in less than 10 minutes and life went on.

This is a palace of the old school and the rooms are very ornate. Dropping in for at least a couple of hours is mandatory for those visiting the city from the States where this sort of display is only seen in much smaller venues; in some of the rooms of the mansions of the industrial barons of a century ago (and only then if they “borrowed” the trappings from Europe). After examining the jaw-dropping treasury (family jewels and such) we went upstairs to look at the rooms. Each room is decorated with items and styles from the reign of a different king (alternating Christians and Fredericks) and run the gamut of bedrooms, throne rooms and assorted salons – each filled with exotic and valuable artifacts.

The wall along the far side of Rosenborg Castle park, along Kronprinsessgade, is lined with a series of former guard shelters turned into art and jewelry shops, including the one named “Alsing” at No. 5, selling weird animal items. Across the street from the wall is the “David Collection” (free admission), which has one of the world’s best Islamic art collection as well as a couple of floors of fine Danish art and furniture. The elevator functions from the ground floor to the third floor, but the fourth floor is only available by stairs. While narrowly focused, this is a uniquely interesting collection.

Outside the castle, not only was there a “changing of the guards” ceremony of blue uniformed soldiers wearing bear skin hats, but also two battalion sized NATO units – one Danish and the other from the Baltic States who marched in formation to a military band. We then then watched sword toting officers and politicians inspect them and then make long winded speeches while the lines of soldiers at attention wilted in the heat.

We meandered over to the “Round Tower”. This building, attached to a church (which was holding choir practice) contains a spiral ramp eventually delivering you to a staircase at the top which delivers you to a viewing platform – and then to an additional staircase to the old observatory on the roof. It’s quite a climb, passing rooms which include the bell belfry, an ancient toilet and an art gallery – and, maybe more importantly, a series of clean toilets around halfway up.

and made our way through the commercial district noshing and window shopping. That’s when “it” hit the fan. Large truck loads of kids screaming, blowing whistles and drinking beer. One of the trucks was supplied by Tuborg and another was camouflaged and had a 30 caliber machine gun mounted on top. Then about 30 girls jumped into the fountain near the Amalienborg Palace (where the Royal Family lives) and started cavorting in their thin white dresses in the water as they shot guns full of confetti into the air. All in honor of the last day of school?.

Eventually, we reached the Kongens Nytorv station in front of the Royal Theatre. Fortunately, the Metro was working properly on the way back to the hotel and the trip only took a few minutes.

Supper was (fairly expensive) pizza and dark ale in the high-end food court of the “Fields” mall in the same complex as our hotel. But, all food is expensive throughout Scandinavia – as is everything else. While the local products like Helly Hanson sailing jackets or local cookware are high quality, even at 30-50% discount, they cost far more than the equivalent would cost in the US (though ours would likely be made in Asia).

Note on Danish food: The Danes are probably best known for their open-face sandwiches (smørrebrød) of which there are many tempting varieties. What we call Danish pastry is a bit hard to locate and oddly enough referred to as wienerbrød, or Viennese pastry. We were looking forward to enjoying a lunch of (Frikkadeller (Danish meatballs) and Smørrebrød (open sandwiches)) and outstanding Danish beer. We ended up eating at a small bar owned by a displaced American (who claimed he came here chasing a girl). While he described his fare as “Italian” (the only evidence I saw of this was some of his sandwiches included salami), the bread, most of the fillings and the beer were all Danish. By the way, the bread in Copenhagen is some of the best anywhere and tends to be rustic and whole grain. The tab for a soda, a beer, a tuna sandwich and a salami sandwich came to about $40 US.

We were invited by the cruise ship we were on to an evening at the National Aquarium Denmark (Danish: Den Blå Planet, Danmarks Akvarium) Copenhagen’s public aquarium in its Kastrup suburb. It opened to the public in March 2013 and is the largest aquarium in Northern Europe. The building is an architectural tour de force and there are cool effects like walking through a tunnel through the shark tank, but this is no Sea World or even Long Beach (or Sydney) aquarium. That said, they throw one hell of an affair – including a TED talk about its architecture, a free diver in a mermaid outfit doing gyrations in the shark tank and the jazz/soul/Latin sounds of “Acoustic Lounge”, one of Denmark’s most celebrated bands – not to mention a great meal.

One of the art museums we had on our radar screen, but never visited, was the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, commonly known simply as Glyptoteket. The collection represents the private art collection of Carl Jacobsen (1842–1914), the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries.

Primarily a sculpture museum, the focal point of the museum is antique sculpture from the ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Rome and Greece, as well as more modern sculptures such as a collection of Auguste Rodin’s works. The museum is also noted for its collection of paintings that includes French impressionists and Post-impressionists (including works by Jacques-Louis David, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas and Cézanne, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard) as well as Danish Golden Age paintings. Well, we have to have a reason to return!

Note on Danish prices: Prices here are about double those found in the UK (which are about 20-30% higher than in the US).

As we cruise out, we pass the (now expected) forest of wind turbines – this time highlighted by a huge rainbow. Shortly afterwards we passed the extraordinarily long vehicle bridge linking Denmark and Sweden.

Lubeck/Travermunde, Germany

“I think that travel comes from some deep urge to see the world, like the urge that brings up a worm in an Irish bog to see the moon when it is full.” – Lord Dunsany

The ship’s shuttle bus stops at the nearby town of Travemünde. Travemünde is a suburb of Lübeck and a sea resort that is very popular with families and where daily passenger and cargo ferries leave on their way to Scandinavia & the Baltic. Originally Travemünde was a small fishing village but its position at themouth of the river Trave which stretches through Lübeck let it grew to be a small harbor town. If Lubeck is the West German equivalent of the nearby, originally East German, Rostok (both towns were members of the Medieval Hansiatic League), then Travermunde is the West German equivalent of nearby Warnemünde but is a slicker, more modern, beach resort. Interestingly, Lubeck/Travermunde is the only place I was not able to find free (or even cheap) Wi-Fi. (The only internet connection I found was in a sleazy internet café which seemed to cater to guys looking for porn. My wife dragged me out before I got much of a peek).

The main street and the sea promenade of Travemünde is only for pedestrians.

The principle reason to call at the port of Travemünde is to take an excursion to Lubeck.

The train leaves once an hour for the twenty minute trip (3.30 Euro) from Lübeck-Travemünde Hafen to Lübeck Hauptbahnhof. The #30 bus also heads there twice an hour (at :23 and :53 after the hour) for a 45 minute ride. (CAUTION: we was some passengers depart the return train at the

Our ship has, without warning changed the time that the ship is in port and we will leave at 5:30PM instead of 8PM that is wrecking the plans of many passengers.

The original Germanic waves of “boat people” who sailed out of the Baltic, landing in Britain and elsewhere at the end of the Roman Empire were from its south shore – places like Anglia, Saxony and Jutland (the original Anglo-Saxons).

These were followed by the Vikings of the turn of the millennium (plus/minus a couple of hundred years) who radiated outwards from the northern shore of the Baltic. Lubeck was originally a Slav city, founded as Liubice – pretty place - around 800. In 1143 Count Adolf II of Schauenburg built a settlement for Christian merchants here, borrowing the name of the earlier (destroyed) town. Soon this was Northern Europe’s most powerful port and the capital of the Hanseatic League from the 13th century on. This association of merchants picked up the slack after the Vikings retreated but was located in the southern Baltic. Lubeck was a particularly well defended city as it was built on an island with a natural wide moat. Their hold on the area was so strong that Lubeck’s iconic imposing multi-towered city gate (the Holstentor) was built for show, with half its bricks super-expensive glazed black ones, rather than defense. The Tourist Information Office is opposite this landmark.

Originally, the term “hansa” referred to a group of merchants who, for protection against brigands, would travel in a group, frequently with armed guards (what would be called a “caravan” along the Silk Road. Eventually, while individually competing with each other for business, they formed guilds of those selling similar items as trade consortiums, giving each other trading privalages. These hansas congregated in walled cities to protect their wealth and traveled in convoys of armed ships to protect against pirates. The cities, many having a degree of autonomy from local aristocracy, provided mutual protective assistance and formed the “Hansiatic League” which, while concentrated in cities along the southern Baltic, with Lubeck as its center, stretched as far as the North Sea and English Channel.

On our 2022 visit, we were lucky to be shown around by Jan Kruijswijik (jan.kruijswijik@t-online.de) a talented local guide.

We then walked a block to the Church of St. Mary (Marienkircke), built from 1200-1350 and is an outstanding example of the north German architectural style known as Brick Gothic (Backsteingeid) and its twin towers soar over the street. Just as Lubeck’s Hanseatic merchants decorated their homes and civil buildings to show off their wealth, they decorated their grand churches – perhaps as a kind of futures contract with the hereafter. The church was badly damaged during the Second World War as evidenced by two of its massive bells which fell from the belfry and have been left as a reminder in the crater they left in the floor.

While ”merely” the church of the wealthy merchants, St. Mary’s sports a pair of spires, a privilege normally retained for a cathedral supporting a bishop. During its earlier incarnations, the church competed with the Bishop’s for size and grandeur until the Bishop ran out of money in the process of extending the Cathedral. After negotiating, the businessmen agreed to pay for the balance of the expansion of the Bishop’s church and the Bishop agreed that they could reconfigure theirs to have twin spires. I guess that, while in religion nothing is negotiable, in real estate, everything is negotiable. It also has the largest mechanically controlled pipe organ in the world. The bass tubes throb at an amazing 45hz – at the limit of hearing but able to bounce your innards to the bass beat.

Our guide told us a plausible story explaining the phrase “stinking rich”. Common folk got buried in the holy ground of the church’s graveyard if their family could afford it – else it was the “potter’s field for them where the holes left when clay was dug up to make pottery and bricks, made for free convenient graves. On the other hand, the wealthy who could afford to donate significant works of art to a church or endow it with a fancy chapel, could be buried inside the church, covered with an inscribed marble slab (so people would be praying over their body during each mass). In the days before mechanical ventilation, after a while these decomposing bodies became “aromatic” giving rise to the phrase “stinking rich”, It also explains the abundance of flowers found at funerals as well as the burning of incense regularly used during masses.

Nearby is the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, built by wealthy merchants trying to work up some good karma, where elderly people, upon gifting enough to cover their funeral, would stay to live their last years in cubbyhole sized rooms which make a cruise ship cabin look large. The building is massive and decorated with murals commemorating its founders.

Much of the center of this city consists of medieval buildings (and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site). It even includes a Puppet Theatre Museum (TheaterFigrenMuseum) that is home to the world’s largest marionette collection (I guess it has to be somewhere).

While walking, we came across a grouping of four brass bricks known as Stolperstein, or "stumbling stones” which, like others found throughout Europe, commenerate Jews which were taken to Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

The ornate City Hall (Rathaus) and the adjacent Hansiatic League meeting house are not much further up the street. Many of the other Hanseatic towns have copied their City Halls from this one.

Lunch was at the Schiffergesellschaft restaurant (Breite Strasse 2). This guild meetinghouse for ship captains was built in 1535 and has had a restaurant serving the public since 1866. This is a rather large establishment with the ability to seat 500 if you add all of its rooms together. We ate in the “Historic Hall” which retains the “feel” of a renaissance room suitable for sea captains to spend their winter furloughs chewing the fat together as they waited for the spring season. They tended to sit together based on their routes.

Many had suffered from scurvy (vitamin C deficiencies) and their teeth were shot (not to mention that mashing the food could hide food that wasn’t exactly fresh). Labskaus was developed in the 18th century as a dish nutritious, quick meal was eaten while crossing the high seas. The recipe was first mentioned in writing in 1706 - as a meal for seafarers. Where the name originally came from and what meaning it has is unknown. The mixture of ground cured beef, beets and squash were foods that would stay edible, without refrigeration, for extended journeys, fresh eggs were available from chickens kept on-board and, at sea, fish were readily available. The Matrosen Labskaus (spiegelei suss-saure Beilagen) I had was made with ground salt-beef (tastes parallel to corned beef hash) with beets and squash, had a fried egg on top and came with a slab of matjes herring. While the restaurant also served such “normal” food as roast beef, salmon and sausages, I think this dish has a new-found fan

A few blocks away, we stopped for a unique desert of marzipan cappuccino and tarts at Niederegger (Breite Strasse 89), famous for marzipan since 1806. The marzipan and Black Forest cherry/chocolate cake were great, but the strudel was a poor copy of what we have had in the past in Austria (moral is: order what a restaurant is famous for). The marzipan cappuccino was an interesting idea and tasted like good coffee laced with almond extract.

Travermunde is a nice beach town, but it is still too cold for swimming. The shops are interesting, but tomorrow’s visit to Warnemunde will likely be similar. On the other hand, Lubeck ios such a unique and supurb experience that it deserves spending time exploring its Hansiatic ambiance.
Warnemünde (Germany)

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.” – Amelia E. Barr

Founded in about 1200, Warnemünde was for centuries a fishing village with minor importance for the economic and cultural development of the region. In 1323 Warnemünde lost its autonomous status as it was purchased by the city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city’s access to the Baltic Sea. It was not until the 19th century that Warnemünde began to develop into an important sea resort. Today Warnemünde has approximately 8,400 inhabitants

Warnemünde’s broad, sandy beaches are the largest on the German Baltic Sea coast and stretch out over a length of 3 kilometers (1.9 mi).

We avoided a visit to the larger Ha



Love your travel posts…BUT!

How could a world traveler engineer like you not mention the AMAZING ship Fram!

from Wikipedia

“…ship that was used in expeditions of the Arctic and Antarctic regions by the Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, Oscar Wisting, and Roald Amundsen between 1893 and 1912. It was designed and built by the Scottish-Norwegian shipwright Colin Archer for Fridtjof Nansen’s 1893 Arctic expedition in which the plan was to freeze Fram into the Arctic ice sheet and float with it over the North Pole. Fram is preserved as a museum ship at the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway.”

Fram is the emblematic artifact of the end of the great age of Earth exploration, and also of the staggering changes in technology of that age. She was designed to survive freezing into icepack, and successfully did so. She had the first marine diesel engine in history, as well as the first windpowered electrical generator in history (Amundsen consulted directly with Edison on its design and installation. After just missing passing over the North Pole she took Amundsen to the Antarctic for his pioneering journey to the South Pole while the more famous but miserable Scott and companions starved and froze to death.

When I visited no one was there. I stayed with her for two hours, and finally the watchman came in and smiled when he found me in the bilge, laying against her cork lined ice proof hull, weeping. He said, smilingly, “You must love exploration and journeying?” “Yes!” I replied.

david fb



Thanks for pointing that out. I mentioned the museum, but didn’t elaborate the importance of the ship in context (now corrected for insertion into the book). It’s hard to include every nuance of interesting fact in the world, yet keep the book focused on being a guidebook for the serious tourist who only has a day or a few days to see the high points of a place. I’ve also put in a couple of sentences about how Dutch architecture spread, along with their concept of the “stock exchange” through the continental North and Baltic Sea areas.

“the book”, “Take the High Road - A Primer for the Independent Traveler” is segmented into sections.
It starts with a couple of hundred pages of accumulated “generic” advice about traveling, in general. Things like packing, how to benefit from various types of transportation systems, internet security, etc., etc. There is also a massive section of “articles” about places - like the ones I post (I think now approaching 1,000 of them), each between 1 to 10 pages long arraigned geographically. In the “real world”, the babblings that I start each weekly post off with are segregated to a third section of the book for those who enjoy that sort of rambling.

I haven’t checked recently, but the total book must be approaching around 2,500 pages (each of which I try to keep brief). The good news is that it’s an E-book, so it’s pretty light to take along when you travel. It may not be the best travel book for everyone, but I honestly refer to it every day as we travel (along with other resources).



Fram is the emblematic artifact of the end of the great age of Earth exploration, and also of the staggering changes in technology of that age. She was designed to survive freezing into icepack, and successfully did so. She had the first marine diesel engine in history, as well as the first windpowered electrical generator in history (Amundsen consulted directly with Edison on its design and installation. After just missing passing over the North Pole she took Amundsen to the Antarctic for his pioneering journey to the South Pole while the more famous but miserable Scott and companions starved and froze to death.

When I visited no one was there. I stayed with her for two hours, and finally the watchman came in and smiled when he found me in the bilge, laying against her cork lined ice proof hull, weeping. He said, smilingly, “You must love exploration and journeying?” “Yes!” I replied.

You wrote the same post I was about to, only 1,000 times better. The Fram is very possibly the greatest ship of exploration in human history. Seeing the Viking longships was cool, but walking aboard the Fram was the pinnacle of my trip to Oslo.