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Norway - Stavanger, Eidfjord & Bergen

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Day 12 - Stavanger, Norway

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Early morning along the coast of Norway as we approach Stavanger

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Coastal fishing area at the entrance to Stavanger, reminds us of Nova Scotia

For the first time on this trip we were not in a port by breakfast. We did not slip into the harbour until about 9:00 am so we took the opportunity to sleep in a bit and made our way up to Deck 7 and the breakfast buffet just as the ship was pulling into the harbour. Our ship slowly did an end for end turn in the middle of the small harbour and then backed into our assigned spot at the pier. Interestingly we are docked right across from our identical Viking sister ship, the Viking Sky. You could almost throw a stone between the two identical ships that towered over the little harbour.

I have been very impressed with the maneuverability of this 745 foot long ship. With two huge bow thrusters and one stern thruster they have no problem swinging the ship end for end in her own length. In some ports, we are required to have a tug on stand-by but in all of our ports for this voyage they bring the ship up to the pier under her own power. Then when we depart some of these small ports they will move the ship sideways out from the pier over 100 meters before doing any forward or reverse progress. In many ports we have backed the ship into our berth.

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Our ship backing into her berth across the way is our sister ship

Stavanger is situated on a series of small islands connected by a series of bridges and is located on the south coast of Norway. Although it is on the south coast Stavanger is located roughly at the same point of latitude as the border between Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.

The first traces of human presence in Stavanger stretch back 10,000 years ago. Evidence of a significant organized community appears to date back to 872 and by 1100-1300 it had become an important center of commerce as well as an important church center with the opening of the first cathedral in this area in the early 1200s.

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Stavanger Cathedral dating back to the 1200s - note the two different styles of architecture in the windows.

Over the centuries Stavanger has had many ups and downs of economic activity and the population size has risen and then receded as various industries came and went. The most recent boom began in 1969 with the discovery of massive amounts of oil in the nearby North Sea. Stavanger was chosen as the headquarters for the Norwegian oil interests in the North Sea. Stavanger is still a fairly small city with a population of just under 130,000. As soon as you enter the harbour the evidence of the oil industry strikes you. The ships that service the offshore platforms are tied up at three different piers. Across the harbour is a small offshore platform at a shipyard having some maintenance performed. Stavanger is also home to the Norwegian Petroleum Museum a fascinating place that chronicles the growth and development of the offshore oil industry in the North Sea.

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Norwegian Petroleum Museum

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Inside the Petroleum Museum

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Inside the Petroleum Museum

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Inside the Petroleum Museum

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Old style rescue pod off an early North Sea oil platform

Stavanger is also the home to one of Europe’s best-preserved collection of wooden buildings that date back into 17th and 18th centuries.

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Pedestrian way in the old section of Stavanger

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Row of typical old town wooden houses

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Typical housing in the old town. Unlike many other old cities we visited, Stavanger has a lot of white houses. That is because white was the most expensive paint color and people painted their houses white to demonstrate their wealth. Note the entry to underground parking at lower left. This of course is a modern addition to this old area of houses.

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Group of friends having dinner in one of the specialty restaurants. (Hazel, David, Francine, Ray, Sue, Roy, Leslie and Howard)

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New friends Francine and Ray having dinner in one of the specialty restaurants

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Oil platform service vessel

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Oil industry has meant a boom in housing. Here are a group of ocean front condos

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More new shore side condos

End of day 12, next is day 13 and Eidfjord, Norway

Day 13 – Eidfjord, Norway

Early this morning we woke up to an amazing sight, through the haze were mountains rising to the sky, some had snow in the giant scars that ran down from their peaks. We have been steaming up this fjord for two hours and the scenery is breathtaking.

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Sheer sides of the fjord

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Looking up the fjord towards Eidfjord - note the snow on the peaks

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Dramatic scenery as we sail up the fjord

By 7:00 am we had reached the very top end of the fjord and the village of Eidfjord.

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Looking down from the amazing cliffs onto the village of Eidfjord - note the cruise ship - photo courtesy Wikipedia

By adding the 900+ people from our ship we just doubled the population of the village. Even more amazing this village had a large concrete pier right at the base of the town large enough to tie up our 745-foot ship and could probably handle an even larger ship. It was quite a scene this huge cruise ship looming over this little village.

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View from our balcony looking down on the village of Eidfjord

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Looking down from our balcony on deck 5 at the local Quality Inn - the largest structure in town

There is not a whole lot right in the town of Eidfjord, it is more of a jumping off point for those interested in exploring some of the tremendous natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. This is the entryway to a massive upland plateau and home to one of Norway’s largest wilderness parks. There are amazing cascading waterfalls, one being over 600 feet high. Since our time here is limited we chose to visit the amazing Hardangervidda Nature Center a few kilometers from the village.

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Goats eating grass on the top of one of the buildings at the Nature Center

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Stuffed White Arctic fox in the nature center

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Stuffed bird of prey

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Stuffed red fox

One of the things we learned was that Norway plans to ban the sale of new cars equipped with internal combustion engines by the mid 2020s. Seems like a pipe dream? Not here where gasoline and diesel costs over $4.00 a liter; where electric powered cars are exempt from the normal 25% VAT tax and where hydro generated electricity is plentiful and by far the cheapest in all of Europe. Did I mention that those electrical charge stations are free to registered owners of electric cars? All those dramatic mountain rivers and waterfalls have a use beyond the amazing scenery. The impact of this is that already over 30% of cars in urban areas of Norway are all electric.

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An all electric car stopped at one of many charging stations all over Norway

By dinner time our ship was preparing to depart the lovely village of Eidfjord. The trip back out the 20-mile-long fjord was even more impressive than the morning trip up the fjord.

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Looking out over the stern of our ship as we head back out of the fjord

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Looking out over the stern of our ship as we head back out of the fjord

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Suspension bridge recedes into the distance as we head west out of the fjord

End of Day 13, tomorrow is our final day and we’ll be in Bergen

Day 14 – Bergen, Norway

The voyage from Eidfjord out the fjord and on to the port of Bergen was a straightforward journey, at least we think it was since as usual we slept in our lovely king bed for most of the journey. For the most part our ship is in port most days and travels at night.

Very early Friday morning we eased into the harbour of our final destination, Bergen, Norway.

Despite hundreds of devastating fires over the past several hundred years Bergan has done a wonderful job of restoring its old waterfront area and the area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bergen is a mid sized city of roughly 300,000 people located on a series of fjords on Norway’s northwest coast. Bergen is nestled in between seven mountains and a series of bridges and tunnels connect Bergen to its suburbs.

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Bergen harbour

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Bergen historic waterfront

Bergen started as a regional trading center in the 1020s and was founded as a city in 1070. The city’s industry tends to focus on aquaculture, subsea technology and the petroleum industry. It also tends to be a center of higher education, media and tourism for Norway. Bergen is Norway’s busiest port in terms of both freight and tourism. In the past decade, it has become a major destination for cruise ships and now hosts over 300 cruise ship visits during its short summer season.

Despite being located at the 60th parallel, similar to the border between Manitoba and Canada’s Northwest Territories, Bergen’s climate is heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream and winter temperatures are quite mild. The other impact of the Gulf Stream is that Bergen has a very wet climate with rainfall similar to that of Seattle or parts of Newfoundland receiving over 2200 mm of rain a year. Our guide made frequent references to the amount of precipitation and the lush growth was a testament to the ample rain received. In late 2006 Bergen recorded 85 consecutive days when it rained. The Norwegians have a very droll sense of humour - our guide told us there was no bad weather - just bad clothing.

Bergen has also had its share of misfortune, in 1349 the Black Plague made its way from Britain to Bergen and when it was all over 40 to 60% of the population had died. Starting as far back as the 13th century Bergen has suffered from no less than a dozen major city fires. In 1702 90% of the city was destroyed by fire. There was another major fire in 1751 and in 1756 over 1500 buildings were destroyed in a fire. More recently in 1916, 300 buildings were burned and again in 1955 a significant part of the old city was burned.

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Easy to see why the city burned down a number of times – typical street in old section of Bergen with wooden houses placed very close together and narrow streets

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Restoration project – note the tarps covering the renovations are painted to match the eventual look in order not to mar the streetscape while the restoration is going on

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Major waterfront restoration-even the tools being used are true to the era of the old buildings

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More of the major waterfront restoration

During the second world war Germany captured Bergen in one day of conflict and subsequently set it up as a major center of German naval activity. Many of the German submarine wolf packs originated from the port of Bergen subsequently the city was hit hard by allied bombers towards the end of the Second World War.

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Summer residence of the royal family

Like the rest of Scandinavia, the Norwegians were Catholics until the reformation when the state ordered that everyone convert to Lutheranism. Norwegians are moderates and church attendance has declined steadily in modern times. In a recent Gallop poll 78% of the respondents stated that religion is unimportant to them. Only about 2% of the population claim to attend a church regularly.

The Conclusion to our amazing adventure

Our evening wrapped up with a long leisurely dinner with new found friends Francine and Ray after which we sadly headed back to our cabin to pack and leave our main luggage outside our cabin for a 10:00 pm pickup. Although our 10:30 pm lights out was fairly early the 2:30 am alarm came far too quickly as we roused ourselves, showered and packed our carry-on luggage. At 3:30 am a bleary-eyed group of North Americans gathered in the ship’s Atrium and stumbled off the ship to board our busses to the airport to catch our 6:00 am flight to Copenhagen which is the main international transit point for many international flights. By 11:00 am Roy, Sue, Hazel and Dave were settled into our seats on a big Boeing 777-300 for the seven-and-a-half-hour flight to Toronto.

We have all agreed that our overall cruise line of choice is now Viking Ocean Cruises. Although we think that Oceania may edge out Viking for the quality of dining we feel that the overall Viking experience is superior. Viking has been a well-known name in European river cruising for a number of years. Their presence in ocean cruising is very new and as of this year they only have three identical mid size (960 passengers) ships in the water with another one joining the fleet later this year or early 2018. However, they have made a major impact on the industry winning many prestigious awards and it is easy to see why.

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Our wonderful home away from home the Viking Star

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A frequent travelling companion on our voyage when we were tied up in ports – he or his cousins would even land on a vacant table from time to time to finish off the leftovers

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World Café, the main buffet on both sides of Deck seven

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The infinity pool at the very stern of the ship on deck 7

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Main pool on deck 7. This was as about as crowded as it ever got

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Uma, the most cheerful and optimistic person on board, he even had positive views of the rainy days

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The Explorers Lounge at the bow of deck 7, one of our favourite quiet places with a great little snack area called Mamsen’s

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The main atrium of the ship

Finally, a shout out to our travel agent extraordinaire, Tanja of Barrett-Carlysle Travel (Barrett-Carlysle.com) who not only helps us with research, helps us choose our destinations and gets us great deals but who can solve almost any snag that may crop up before, after of even during our adventures even when we are thousands of kilometers away at sea…..thanks Tanja

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Tanja, friend and travel agent extraordinaire

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The sun sets on another fantastic adventure to a very interesting part of our world

Putting this blog together has been a lot of fun and a labour of love. We do it not only to share our adventures with our friends and fellow travellers but also as a memoir that we frequently refer back to later as we relive these trips. It also forces us to do a lot more research about our destinations than we might do by just sitting passively and observing the world go by. Our sources include our travel guides on our various stops and a variety of websites including Wikipedia and Trip Advisor. we have attempted to give credit wherever we have used a direct quote. Except where noted all photographs are taken by David using a Nikon D5500 with a 18-140 mm Nikon lens or Hazel using a Lumix ZS40. Given the time constraints and available resources while travelling there is minimal retouching of any photos. Any retouching has been done using the basic Photos App that comes with Windows 10. We download our photos daily to a Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook laptop and we use the Travellerspoint template to create the blog. All text is created on the Travellerspoint site and the photographs are uploaded to the Travellerspoint gallery. When composing the text we place links to the photo gallery where we want the particular photographs to appear. Since ships use satellite technology for internet access speeds are quite slow so In order for us to upload the photographs we want to use in the blog they all are reduced from their original size down to 200 to 400 kb each and stored in a separate directory from the originals before being uploaded.

Happy travel adventures to all our followers,

David & Hazel

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This featured blog entry was written by DavidandHazel from the blog The Baltic & Northern Europe.
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By DavidandHazel

Posted Sun, Jul 30, 2017 | Norway | Comments