Bergen

Our last port of call was Bergen.  After being in so many small towns, Bergen seemed really big with 275,000 population. That makes it the second most populous city in Norway.   It was established sometime during the 1030’s as a handelsknutepunkt (trading crossroads for us heathens).

We arrived and started our visit in pouring rain.   This was the worse weather we had the whole trip.

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By afternoon, the sun was out and the city was a lot prettier.  We looked like drowned rats by that time.

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Bergen is a great walking city because there are so many  neighborhood, all that have different personalities.

I love thinking of her dancing in the rain.

I love thinking of her dancing in the rain.

The one thing about walking around the city was the changes in surface materials.  You always had to watch you step or you would find yourself tripping.

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Bergen has a famous fish market that has been around for 700 years.  When I read that I was expecting something old.  What I found was a very modern and  cleanest fish market I had ever seen.   There is actually two parts.   The indoor part was the more established sellers.

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They would also cook you fish while you waited though indoor seating was limited.

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The outside area was stalls that sold both fish and food.

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All the food looked so good and we would have had lunch there except for the weather.   We decided to eat in a nice, dry restaurant.     We chose an old restaurant named Bryggeloftet & Stuene.   It was started in 1910 and kept the old world feel about it.  It was like a big hug after such a blustery day.

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We started out with the traditional fish soup.  It was pretty good but not the best we had.

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For our mains, I had the most delicious steak sandwich I have ever had.   It was served with béarnaise sauce.  The fries were nice and crunchy with something sprinkled on top that I have no idea what it was.

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Lloyd decided to have just an appetizer for his lunch though he did beg some bites of mine since it was that good.   He chose the smoked whale.   Whale is a normal food for most of the countries that we visited this trip but this was the first time we actually tasted  it.  Before when we had talked to the natives, they kept saying it was like eating a very tender steak.   This dish was so highly seasoned, you couldn’t actually taste the meat.

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One thing that really impressed me was they gave me little chocolate bars with my tea.   Who wouldn’t love getting little chocolate bars.

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Now settle back and come explore the rest of Bergen with me.

 

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Notice how nothing is square on these old buildings?

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Shetland – Not just for ponies.

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I wasn’t very excited about going to the Shetland Island.   I thought see a couple of ponies and my day was done.  Boy was I wrong.  Shetland was a wonderful place.   Shetland is a group of 1oo islands around 100 miles north of Scotland.   About 16 islands are inhabited.  The largest city has less than 7,000 people.

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The culture is a combination of Scottish, Vikings and Norwegian.  The earliest inhabitants date back to 4320–4030 BC.  There really is a lot to see and we only got to see about 1/3 of the main island.   I really wished we had more time here.

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Even the history is interesting.   My favorite piece of history I learned there was that the Shetland islands were pawned.   I think they use the term pawned different from I am use to.   It all happened back in the 14th century when the islands belonged to Norway.   The King of Norway pledged the islands as security against the payment of the dowry of his daughter to King James III.   King James was only a young teenager at the time.   The dowry was never paid and the debt was called in.  The islands exchanged hands and became part of Scotland.

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Even the modern parts are quirky.   There is road that goes through the airport runway so traffic must be stopped when a plane is landing or taking off.

I am going to leave you with some more photos but I hope they inspire you to put Shetland Islands on your bucket list.

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Stavanger

Stavanger is a wonderful town.   It has found a way to be comfortable in both its past and its future and to celebrate both.

Stavanger is the 4 largest city in Norway and was founded in 1125 A.D.    It is considered to be the center of the oil industry in Norway.   The city was smart because they protected the 18th -19th century wooden houses so the town retained that part of their cultural heritage.

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The cruise ship port is right in front of the old part of town so it was very convenient.   It was just a short walk around the harbor to the commercial part of town.   I have to say that I really adored this town.

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In the old part of town was the Sardine Canning Museum which was a lot of fun.   I know, I know, how much of a museum can they have on canning sardines.   But it wasn’t just about sardines, they had canned fish balls also.   They took an old cannery and left much of it intact.

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Look at the wiring

They used rubber sardines to demonstrate the process the workers had to do to get them from fresh caught sardines to smoked sardines in a can.

Frames of sardines ready for the smokers

Frames of sardines ready for the smokers

Sardines getting their heads cut off

Sardines getting their heads cut off

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They had an Oil museum also but we decided to skip it since we had just been to one a couple of years ago.  Instead we visited Sjokladepiken which was a chocolate shop.   Not just a chocolate shop but a very good chocolate shop.  Oil or chocolate…..  there wasn’t a choice.

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Now I am going to let you explore this charming town on your own.

The Oil Museum that we didn't go to

The Oil Museum that we didn’t go to

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I had never seen a parking meter for a boat before.

 

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Sunday in Kristiansand

Kristiansand was founded in 1641 and named for King Christian IV.  They added sand to town name because it was built on a sandy area.  It is the 5th largest city with a population of 84,000 and has the second largest harbor.  It serves as the trade and communication center for southern Norway so it is an important town.

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Sunday is always a problem for sight-seeing since most of the town is closed.  Without the Information Center, I couldn’t find the one things I wanted to see in Kristiansand.   That was the Stiftelsen Arkivet which is the only authentic WWII Gestapo Headquarters left and it now houses the Institute for Dialogue and Conflict Resolution.  We tried to find it on our own but got horribly lost.

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Kristiansand really did a nice job on their water front areas.   There is a lot of park areas and public PAY restrooms.   It was really funny watching all the tourists who didn’t have Norwegian money.  They would find a person who did have change and then that person would pass the open door unto the next person in line.

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We stumbled on a boat show in the harbor that made my husband’s heart go pitty patter.   Since I had been to more than one boat show here in America, it was fun to see the differences in boats.

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Christiansholm Festning is part of the water complex.   This is a circular stone fortress that was built in 1672 to defend the city.  It was originally built on an islet about 100 yards from shore though it is now connected the land.  It ended its military life in 1872.

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Today cultural and other events are held in the upper level.   There was an art show when we were there.   The main draw is the gorgeous views from the upper level.

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Like every other town we were in, there is an old area but not was interesting as  the other towns we were in.

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Of course there is a beautiful church in the middle of town named appropriately, Kristiansand Cathedral.  It is the third one built at that site and was finished in 1885.  The other ones burnt down.  Luck was with them when the Nazis invaded Kristiandsand since only one tower was damaged from the shelling on the current cathedral.

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I don’t know if it is only on Sunday or others days also but near the cathedral were stalls selling items.  Many of these items were wonderful looking food.  Unfortunately neither of us were hungry and we weren’t allowed to take food items back unto the boat so we only got to look, smell and drool.

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We had a wonderful day just wandering around but it wasn’t a place we would hurry back to.  I don’t know if it would have made a difference if we were there on a day when more was open or not but it didn’t catch our imagination like other towns did.

Here is a few more photos of our wanderings.

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Oslo

Our visit to Oslo was fast and sweet.   Our sail into the harbor began the introduction to Oslo.

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For some odd reason, they only allowed 6 hours in Oslo.  Oslo isn’t a place you can do in a couple of hours.  It is a large city and like Copenhagen, they did a wonderful blend of old

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and new.  You really need days to see this wonderful city.

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Opera House – Doesn’t it make you wish you had a skate board?

It was hard to decide where to go and what to see because of the amount of options.  In the end we decided to spend that day on Bygdoy Peninsula.    The peninsula not only has several  museum there but also the Royal Forest, popular beaches, the summer residence of the King and lovely residential areas.   One of the interesting things about the residential area besides the gorgeous houses, were the  black tile roofs.   I hadn’t seen that before.

Black Tile Roof

Black Tile Roof

The main reason we wanted to go to this area was the Vikingskipshuset pa Bydoy (Viking Ship Museum).

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The museum  houses viking ships and other grave goods from  burial mounds.    It is famous for housing the ship from the largest known ship burial in the world.

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I had always bought into the Hollywood version of a Viking funeral.  WRONG!   They had both cremation and inhumation burials.  Cremation was performed on an open air pyre so the wind would carry the soul to Valhalla but not on boats.   Boats were priced possessions.  Only the wealthy could afford to include a ship in the burial.   If the body was cremated, then the ashes would be included with the funeral goods.   Otherwise, the bodies were laid out with all things required in the next life and buried.  The rich included boats and wagons to help them with transportation during their afterlife journey.  Isn’t that always the way it was?  The rich road while the poor walked.

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It was interesting to see how the boats were made but the part I really enjoyed was all the carvings on the artifacts.  There was so much detail on them and many adorned with metal or shell.   You just don’t think about Vikings and art.  Each items must have taken years to make.

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Can you imagine trying to bury this ship with just basic tools?

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Visiting the this museum didn’t take all six hours so we walked down to the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Folk Museum).   This is an open air museum that features 160 buildings that represent different regions in Norway, different time periods, as well as differences between town and country, and social classes.  It was established in 1894 with buildings going back to the medieval times  (1200’s).

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My favorite building was the Gol Stave Church.

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I sat in the inside of the church and you could just feel all the generations that worshiped there.  I can just picture the people in the church with the elements battering at the walls.   All the door sills are very high to keep the snow and mud out while the doorways are low to keep the heat in.

Alter Area

Alter Area

Painting by alter of the Stave church

Painting by alter of the Stave church

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Stave Church

Stave Church

In the town section, they had a paint museum.  I never really gave paint much thought before but I do now.   Norway didn’t have a lot of factory colors until the 1960’s.   Before that the painter you hired mixed his own colors.   A person apprenticed to learn how to mix colors and then had to pass a practical test to show they had the skills not only to mix colors but also to do decorative painting.   Painting in Norway was definitely an art.

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In the 1800’s, many of the houses had their furniture built in and highly decorated.

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They did a wonderful job and representing the countryside.   They included gardens and animals into the vignettes.   It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon and learn more about the Norwegian culture.  Near the end though, many of the abodes started looking alike.    I hope you will enjoy a quick stroll through the Norwegian  countryside with me.

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Geirangerfjorden and Geiranger

When you see photos of the Norwegian fjords most likely they are of the Storfjorden or Geirangerfjorden.  Actually Geirangerfjorden is a branch of Storfjorden.  It was amazing.   We took over 500 photos but don’t panic.   I won’t be including all of them. Our entry into Storfjorden began very early in the morning.   It was a good thing that sunrise was about 3:30 am so we had light to see by. DSC01545 We had spent the extra money for the larger veranda for just so we could spend hours and hours watching the scenery go by.   We even had breakfast this morning on our veranda just so we wouldn’t miss anything. DSC01573

It was a lovely morning but I am only going to give you a tease right now.  I will do all the things that takes words and leave you with the peaceful fjords.

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At the end of Geirangerfjorden is the town of Geiranger which was our stop.   This town is very interesting because there is only less than 500 permanent residence.  Come spring, the number blossoms with tour guides and other support staff because this is a holiday mecca.

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First off there is over 300,000 cruisers who come by water and then you have all the campers and adventure seekers.

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A major difference  about Geiranger was how we got off the ship.  Instead of docking the boat or using launches, we used the Seawalk.    Think Jetway for cruise ships.  I have to say I loved it.

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Since it was Noon, the first order was lunch.   We found this wonderful little restaurant very near where the Seawalk named Brasserie Posten.  Since there is only seven restaurants in town, we were lucky that one was very good.  Brasserie Posten has three separate seating areas.  There is one outside in front, inside and outside in back.    I wasn’t interested in the front area since your main view was the line waiting for the public bathrooms.   The outside was delightful but all the shady areas were full.

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That left us the empty inside.

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We couldn’t decide on just what to order so we ordered a variety of items.   The first was the fish soup.   This was the best fish soup we had on the whole trip.  The broth wasn’t too heavy and you could taste the herbs in it.

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This soup was so yummy.  If I ever go back, I am just getting bowl after bowl of the soup.    I am going to eat until I am soup logged.   After the soup our next courses arrived.  They were a salmon salad and a plate of differently prepared salmon and sausages.

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We enjoyed everything except the dark sausage.  We asked after we were done eating and the best we were able to understand the dark sausage included reindeer stomach along with other meats.

With full stomachs it was time to explore the town. That is about three streets.   One great thing about this town was its signs.

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You can’t get more descriptive than that.   They also believe in labeling things what they are.  No sugar-coating here.

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The town had a couple of hotels with the required attached souvenir shops.  It was a heat wave and going into the shops full of people (three cruise ships full) was like going into a sauna.   We spent our time looking at nature and marveling at rushing water.

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Time to say good-bye.   We and our neighbors all got ready for the fantastic trip back out the fjords.

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Now settle back and enjoy the view.

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See the skull in the rocks?

See the skull in the rocks?

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Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Raise your hands.   How many of you have ever heard of the Torshavn let alone Faroe Islands.   I sure hadn’t until this cruise.

Faroe Islands is a group of 18 major islands about halfway between Iceland and Norway though the don’t belong to either.   They are connected to Denmark.  Denmark is responsible for justice, defense and foreign affairs while the Faroese have autonomy over most internal affairs.   The EU treaties also expectantly exclude them from the EU.   In fact, the treaties stipulates that Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not to be considered as Danish nationals within the meaning of the treaties.  I would love to hear just why the EU doesn’t want them though they took Denmark.

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The islands are 540 sq miles of rugged, rocky land providing for around 50,000 people.   The population is descendants of the Vikings and as hardy as you would expect them to be.   The weather is actually very good with mild winters and cool summers.  One problem for tourists is that it is usually foggy.

The economy had been based on fishing.  But the catches fell causing a large economic slow down for the islands.  But that is changing.  Tourists are beginning to have an impact and the islands are finding new food exports   Here is an article that discusses it.

Traditional Faroese food isn’t overly appetizing.   Mutton is the basis of many meals, and one of the most popular treats is skerpikjot.  Skerpikjot is well aged, wind-dried mutton, which is quite chewy.   If you are still up to trying something local, there is also Tvost og spik. This dish consists of  whale meat, blubber and potatoes.

With these few facts, I approached Torshavn with an open mind.   What I found was a charming town, wonderful people and I wish to know them better.

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Iceland

I was very excited about visiting Iceland.  It is a geological wonderland.  The funny thing is that we arrived during a heat wave.  It was 70 degrees during the day and the people who live there having problems.   Their houses are built to keep the heat in and not to let it out. DSC01239 We chose to use GeoIceland as our tour company because of the owner’s education in geology.   We took the same tour as almost all tourists in Iceland take, the  Golden Circle.   The Golden Circle tour includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir hot spring & Haukadalur geothermal area and Hveragerd earthquake town.  If I had to do it over I think I would have done a tour that concentrated on some of the other areas. DSC01260 Our first stop was in Hveragerd.  It is an active geothermal area.  They suffered a 6.2 earth quake in 2008.  If I hadn’t lived in California most of my life, I would have been more interested in their story but the big earthquakes in the bay area and southern California told a better story on how disruptive an earthquake can be. DSC01236 One thing that was interesting was the greenhouses, which are heated by hot water from volcanic hot springs.  Hot water in Iceland doesn’t come from a hot water heater like we are used to but through pipes just as we get water. That means that each house has two sets of pipes.  One for regular water and one for hot water that is also used for heating the house. During the ride around Iceland, we saw lots of horses.   They were stocky, small horses.  While some are used as horses, a lot are raised as meat to export.  I guess that it really isn’t any different from raising cows for their meat. DSC01246   We stopped at one small waterfall (I forgot it’s name) that had a fish ladder going up it. DSCN1159   Our next stop was Gullfoss waterfall.   Glacial water feeds the waterfall.  The water is brownish, since it carries lots of sediments that the glacial ice has picked up.  It is called the “Golden Falls” since on a sunny day the water plunging down the three-step staircase and then tumbling in two steps down into a deep crevice is suppose to truly looks golden.  We didn’t get to see it be golden so it looked more like a regular waterfall. DSC01269 DSCN1189After the falls, tt was time to head for the geyser.   We had to laugh at the Geysir hot spring area.  Yellowstone is one of our favorite National Parks.  In our head we were thinking this area would be similar to what we see in Yellowstone. Not even close.   There is one small geyser, a couple of mud pots and a boiling steam.  That is the extent of it. DSC01282 DSC01283The good news is that this is also our lunch stop.   There was several options of places to eat.  We chose the Geysir Glima on advice of our guide.   It was kind of a cafeteria type set up with a variety of standard fare like pizza.   But they also had some traditional Iceland foods. DSC01286 My husband selected Fish Stew which is really Fish Hash since it is fish, onion and potatoes all mushed together.   It had good flavor but was monotonous to eat since every bite tasted identical.   It came with Geyser bread which is supposedly cooked 24 hours in the geyser.  It was a very dense bread that I think may have had rye in it.  I think it would be considered a steam bread.  I wish I could have seen them make it. DSC01288I had the traditional Christmas Pork dish with potatoes, vegetables and gravy.   My husband was jealously of my meal and I was a bad wife and only gave him one bite.   I think it was pork belly that had been cooked for hours and hours but I am not really sure.  All I can really tell you is if you get an opportunity, order it. DSC01284             They also had a wonderful souvenir shop but we didn’t get anything.  The things I wanted were very expensive or made from arctic fox.   Living in a desert we don’t have much of a need to wear fur. DSC01299   The last stop of Thingvellir National Park was our favorite.   It is a beautiful area that forms part of the volcanic fissure zone running right through Iceland.  This zone is part of the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extend the length of the Atlantic Ocean from north to south.  The movement of these plates has shaped the valley for the past 10,000 years.  The tectonic plates are still  moving apart by an average of 1/8 of an inch per year. DSCN1198 Thingvellir also has  the largest natural lake in Iceland. It’s deepest point it is 374 feet.  Most of the water comes from springs and fissures on the bed of the lake or shore instead of  rivers and streams flowing into it. DSC01309       This area is an important historical site to Iceland because it is where the Althing, an open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. Over two weeks a year, the assembly set laws – seen as a covenant between free men – and settled disputes. DSC01303   It was a long day.   We waved at Reykjavik as we drove through it.  We had talked about visiting the capital but we were worn out and decided we could do it the next day. DSCN1292 Unfortunately, the fog rolled in the next day so we decided to stay on board.  It was really fun watching the fog roll in and overtaking everything.  I haven’t experienced that since I lived in San Francisco.

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Fog rolling in

Iceland is a wonderful country and really deserves more than a day and a half to visit it.   There are so many other areas to explore including visiting a glacier.   Of course, as we are leaving the fog vanishes. DSC01317

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Copenhagen

I really liked Copenhagen.   It was such an amalgamation of modern and old.   The ultra modern building coexisted with 300 year old building making an interesting visual landscape.

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Opera House

We spent hours walking around the city just looking at the details on the building.  We did go to two very different museums.  The first being the Carlsberg Brewery museum and the other was a Danish Design museum.

DSCN0788The Carlsberg Brewery was a fun museum to spend an afternoon.   They had a combination of the history of the family plus that of beer.   The family history included important contributions in yeast and a father and son competing against each other.  And then there was the beer tasting that was included in your ticket.   In one of the brewery gardens, they had this amazing climbing maze.  It included climbing in and out of a car in a tree.   It made me wish I was about 13 years old.

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The Danish Design museum was interesting through about the first third of it.   After that, it was hard to see the differences in each chair.   They did have a really nice cafe.

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Of course we did tourist type of things also like visiting the Little Mermaid statue.

This isn’t a completely original Little Mermaid because she keeps gets decapitated.   She isn’t even the only Little Mermaid statue.   There 13 copies around the world with several in Copenhagen.  The first is the one in the harbor and the second is the copy at Carlsberg Brewery.

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The city is geared for cyclists and it wasn’t unusually to see whole families on bikes with the little kids in buckets in the in front of the bikes.  I called them minivans since the buckets carried a couple of kids.

DSC00576Businesses used bikes for their delivery vehicles.   You did see some funny deliveries when it was a big object.

DSC00777There is so many things I would love to show you but I will just try to entice you to go to Copenhagen and experience them for yourself.

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Eating in Copenhagen

Copenhagen had such a wide variety of places and cuisines.  Unfortunately, they were also very expensive.  We would lucky that our stay at the Best Western Hotel City included a free breakfast.  This wasn’t your ordinary hotel free breakfast of waffles and cereal.  This buffet had a wide range of choices.  You walked in and grab a pot of either hot water or coffee.  It was a nice touch instead of having to keep getting up and getting refills.  Food choices started with Muslis and oatmeal.  Of course they had a wide variety of add ins for them.  Next to the cereal was the juices, drinks and hard-boiled eggs.  You are now getting closer to the main attractions,   Their hot dishes varied but always had some type of eggs, bacon, potatoes and sausage.   The cold area included meats, fresh fruit and cheeses.  The last area was the bread area.  There were breads to toast,  bagels, a french style loaf to cut and of course pastries.   Should we talk about the Danishes?  It always made me chuckle to have a Danish in Denmark.  Of course they don’t call them Danish.  They call them pastries.  What ever you call them, they were wonderful.After tanking up and a hearty breakfast, we would head out for a day of sightseeing.   We would typically  stop at a little cafe or bar in the afternoon to get something to drink but wouldn’t need food until evening.

I have already told you about the our dinner at Tivoli Gardens but we still had two more dinners. Our splurge meal was at Fuego.  It wasn’t our first choice but most restaurants were already booked for dinner.   We got tired of getting turned down in the restaurant areas and headed back to our hotel.  Then like a beacon of hope, we spotted this restaurant a street away from our hotel.  Menu looked good and they could take us.  SCORE!  We got to eat.

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Fuego is an Argentine meat & wine restaurant.   It had the feel of a neighborhood restaurant.   My husband loved the wine they waitress suggested.  Too bad we didn’t take a photo of the bottle because neither of us can remember the name of the wine now.   All we can remember is the bottle had a large eye with a wine tear drop. Lesson learn for us.  I had some type of ginger martini.

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We were boring and both had the same starter and main dish.  We only broke rank at dessert.  For our starter, we chose Empanadas Criollas which is two empanadas filled with beef, peppers and spring onions.  I thought it was one of the better empanadas I have had.

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For our main course we selected the Argentina´s National Plate which was beef entrêcote, tenderloin,
homemade chorizo and sweetbreads.  It was served with chimichurri sauce and grilled vegetables.   My husband liked the sweetbreads best and said they were the best he ever had.  I preferred the entrecore and chorizo.  This chorizo isn’t like the greasy Mexican chorizo that we are so use to having.  It was more like the Spanish chorizo.

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I ate the chorizo before taking the photo.

Desserts are definitely a strong point with Fuego.  My husband chose the crème brûlée with dulce de leche, amaretto, passion fruit, apricot and crumble.  I decided on the Piña colada.  It was pineapple custard, coconut foam,
rum granite, and marinated pineapple salad.  I loved it.  It was a perfect ending to my meal.

What was left of my dessert

What was left of my dessert

Service was excellent.  Our waitress was very good explaining their various dishes and attentive in our needs.  It was a really nice evening.

Prior to our cruise, I participated on the Cruise Critic roll call.  A small group of us agreed to meet for dinner the night before our embarkation.  One person had relatives in Copenhagen who helped him find a place for our group. The place was called Grill Royal Kongens Nytorv.  There is actually two of these restaurants with the other one in Tivoli.  They serve what they term ‘fabulous fast food.’  It definitely wasn’t fast food in the sense we use the term in the U.S.

It is a sit down cafe that you get to pick either a cheeseburger, a marinated steak or a bowl of mussels.  Each meal is serves a green salad and fries family style.  There is no other questions asked besides do you want something to drink, which main course do you want and do you want dessert.  The main meal without drink or desserts runs around $38 which is very cheap for Copenhagen.  The salad was fresh with some kind of vinegar based dressing.  I liked it but others in the group didn’t like that it was a vinegar based dressing.  Everyone in the group ordered either the steak or the mussels.  Every person who ordered the mussels loved,  The bowl was so big it was hard for them to finish.  The steak people where split on their opinion.  It was served family style and was some form of a long marinated London broil or something similar.  It was served with a gravy.  I found the meat very tasty though not the most tender.  I think the issue hat people had with it was the term steak.  We were all expecting what we call steak and it was something different.  They also didn’t like how tough it was.   Everyone agreed the fries were first rate.  I got the extra satisfaction of making gravy fries.  No one at the table had ever heard of gravy fries before so that made for an interesting conversation.

I think the concept was brilliant.   By having such a limited menu, they were able to produce a good meal for a ridiculously low cost.   To give you an idea of the costs, before this dinner, we were averaging around $125 per person.  A hot chocolate ran me around $7 as did a coke.  It wasn’t just food but everything that was expensive.

 

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