In an age of instant holiday photographs of wild and wonderful places, it is worth reminding people that travelling is not always instant gratification and issues can happen. Whilst we have travelled extensively for over 20 years with relatively few problems, this year has been a challenge for a number of reasons. Although the year started off well with a round Britain cruise, things went downhill from there. First of all our Baltic cruise was cancelled at the last minute due to the ship having problems, then there was a mix up at the hotel when we took our granddaughters to Windsor and the worst blow was when we had to cancel our trip to China because I had developed a severe ear infection.
Against this less than favourable background we decided to take a late short cruise to Southern Norway, what could go wrong !!!
This short six day cruise was our chance to finish off our travels on the Norwegian coast, last year we had visited the more northern cities on the Norwegian coast and into Russia. Cruising is a great way to visit Norway because many of the cities are on the coast and it represents more value for money than taking the more expensive options like flying. Norway is one of the most expensive places to visit, probably in the world and it is not just transport and accommodation but the high cost of food and drink.
We knew the weather would be quite cold but was not too concerned as long as it was not raining. It could not be much worse weather than in the UK just before the cruise which suffered from floods and high winds.
Looking forward to the cruise, we began to make plans for what we would do in Norway when a text from the cruise company bought us back to earth. It said that the cruise ship was stuck in Antwerp and we would not be able to sail until six hours later than planned. Beginning to think we had somehow offended the travel gods and were cursed, we looked at each other and smiled, “well at least it is not cancelled,” said Mrs Nice.
With some trepidation we made our way to Tilbury and went to a rather crowded cruise terminal, as we made our way to the various sections we found ourselves in a queue and within 30 minutes we were free from the crowded terminal, on the boat and enjoying a drink and something to eat. Ah, perhaps our luck was changing we thought as we settled down to for the cruise up the North Sea to our first port of call that was to have been Oslo but had now been changed to Stavanger. We were quite happy with this change because we would have more time in the Norwegian capital.
The first day of the cruise was at sea and was an opportunity to relax, have a look around the ship and watch the world go by. The North Sea is one of the busiest stretches of water in the world, so there were no shortages of ships to see. The North Sea is also well known for the large wind turbines that great a rather surreal sight as they whirr around, out in the distance you can see oil platforms which are an important part of Norway’s prosperity.
At the end of a relaxing and uneventful day, we made our way to bed, just as we were ready to settle down it was noticeable the ship was rocking a bit more and the captain made the announcement of the possibility of rough seas ahead with the chance of Force 8 gales. I must mention here that we have sailed in relatively rough seas before and both of us do not suffer from seasickness or associated problems. Another factor was that we had an inside cabin which means you are not exposed to the crashes of the water on the side of the ship.
Despite these reassuring factors, the ship began to rock and roll more and more, lying on our beds we tried to get to sleep but were often awakened by a loud crash. This was an indication that this was a particularly bad storm and although we drifted in and out of sleep, we both suffered a disturbed night. As is often the case after a storm, the following morning was bright and sunny and the ship was serenely making its way to the Norwegian coast. As we ate our breakfast, we noticed many of our fellow passengers were sleepy eyed and tired due to lack of sleep. The main topic of conversation was the storm and even the more seasoned cruise travellers has said it was one of the worst they had experienced. The captain confirmed the serious nature of the storm by indicating it reached a level of Force 10 with 25 feet waves.
With some relief we made our way to the Norwegian port of Stavanger and were happy to get our feet on terra firma and enjoy the delights of this small Norwegian city.
Stavanger is one of the large cities and has an interesting history as a trading and military centre in the 9th and 10th centuries and Stavanger grew into an important centre of church administration with the construction of Stavanger Cathedral which was finished around 1125. Over the centuries, Stavanger was known for its herring fisheries, shipping, shipbuilding and fish canning industry. In the late 1960s, oil was first discovered in the North Sea and Stavanger became the centre for the oil industry on the Norwegian sector of the North Sea.
The ship docked in the main harbour near to a large number of 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses, From the city centre, there are a series of bridges that take traffic onto the various islands and beyond.
Like many Norwegian cities, Stavander is located in wonderful scenery, at the end of the harbour is a plaza on the hill is Stavanger cathedral which dominates the skyline. This is also common in Norway that the city or town was built up around the church or cathedral.
Stavanger is one of Norway’s oldest cities but is an interesting mixture of old and new with brightly coloured wooden buildings and new buildings like the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. A very unusual sight in the harbour was a Dutch patrol vessel and submarine.
Stavanger is a popular tourist destination, especially in summer with plenty of parks and green spaces in the city and beyond. Stavanger is a popular base for tours to Lysefjorden and the Preikestolen (the Pulpit Rock) which is a massive rock overhanging the fjord.
After an enjoyable visit to Stavanger, we carried on around the Norwegian south coast to the city of Kristiansand which is the fifth largest city in Norway. Unlike many Norwegian cities, Kristiansand attracts a large number of tourists throughout the year and especially in the summer season.
Christian IV who created a number of towns, formally gave the town the title of Christianssand in 1641, strangely the town was laid out in Renaissance style on a grid plan and it offers an unusual experience because modern Kristiansand is compact but quite diverse city with a number of attractions. Some of the highlights are Kristiansand Cathedral, shops, restaurants and bars in the city centre, the woods of Baneheia, Posebyen is the old part of the town and has a large collection of wooden buildings.
The riverside area along the River Otra has plenty of boats in the river and Bystranda which is known as the city beach. Along the beach front is the Christiansholm Fortress and finally the attractive Fish Market or Fiskebrygga.
The last destination on our short Norwegin cruise was Oslo which is Oslo which is the capital and most populous city in Norway. We had visited Oslo about 15 years ago for a few days and were interested in how the city had changed.
Highlights of Oslo include the distinctive Norwegian Opera and Ballet House, Vigeland Park which has a remarkable large collection of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Bygdøy which is a green peninsula which is the location of a number of interesting museums like the Fram Museum, Viking Ship Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum.
Major landmarks include the Royal Palace, Storting building (the Parliament) , the University, National Theatre, Stock Exchange and the Nobel Centre.
Oslo is one of the most attractive cities in Europe being at the northern end of the Oslofjord and surrounded by green hills and mountains. There are 40 islands within the city limits and numerous lakes.
After three enjoyable days exploring the delights of Southern Norway, it was time to make the long journey down the North Sea to the United Kingdom. Thankfully this was without incident with mostly clear skies and calm seas.
When we arrived home, we both agreed it had been an interesting and enjoyable cruise but we were looking forward to a more trouble free 2020 as regards to travelling. Issues when travelling is part and parcel of the experience and part of the learning process but it is very unusual to have a series of issues one after another. Nevertheless, the Old Fogies move onwards and look forward to further adventures in 2020.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
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