Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 27, 2015

15. Viking Cruise – Aug. 17, 2015 – Edinburgh Castle & Tattoo

Hi All,

At our last post we reached the castle gate, so let’s go in and look around this 12th century castle that sits on volcanic Castle Rock.  Here’s another welcome sign:

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To get to the actual castle you must cross a huge esplanade (parade grounds) which is where the Tattoo (which I’ll cover later) will be held:

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This is one of the most famous castles in the world, one that movie makers, Disney, etc. have copied as the typical “Medieval Castle of Europe”.  Look closely at the front entrance:

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Notice the “Moat” (A deep water channel around the castle to prevent approach by the enemy from land) and the old ramp across the moat into the entrance which in the old times could be drawn up when the enemy approached.

Once your inside the castle you begin to climb up a winding road to all the interior buildings:

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From the ramparts of this castle the views are outstanding (here’s a few):

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Now let’s look outside and inside some of the buildings in the castle:

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Having finished our tour of the castle, which was closed at 6:00 PM, Susy and I next prepared for the evenings activities.  Just outside the parade grounds were various Pubs/Restaurants where we would have a five coarse dinner as a part of our entrance fees to the Tattoo:

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As we near the start of a great show, Susy and I wish all our new friends at the dinner the best, with the best single malt scotch whiskey I have ever tasted:

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TATTOO

This spectacular show is just that “a show” Officially called ‘The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo”, it is self described by its promoters as a “thrilling demonstration of military musical precision and theatricality.  The Tattoo was first and always held on the Castle Esplanade in 1950.  The show is performed every year about this time and is next scheduled 5-27 Aug. 2016.  There never has been a cancelation.

Now, I can tell you having seen the show, it was spectacular, but Susy talked me into a new philosophy.  She argued that I normally spend all my time filming these shows and not enjoying them, when we can buy a professional version of the whole thing and I can spend my time enjoying it. So that’s what I did/will do.  The professional DVD will be out in October and I’m inviting you all over to watch it when I get it.  In the meantime I’ll try to give you a brief look at the evenings show.  First the night’s program:

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The show was 90 minutes non-stop, so here, the head Piper is getting a shot of Scotch before he gets things going: (lol, but true):

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The opening bagpipes:

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Scottish Dancers:

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The United States Air Force Color Guard made me proud of my service (photo from program):

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China was there with many units:

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and you can not believe how the castle was used for background for the acts:

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That’s it for Edinburgh.  One last post left, a review of the ship and the cruise overall. 

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

Hi All,

As you can tell from the date of this posting Susy and I are home.  I want to finish this cruise with 3 posting, one today, and in the next week or two the last ones.  Today, I will cover our last port, Edinburgh (Rosyth is its deep water port, 20 to 30 minutes by train from the center of Edinburgh). Next, because of length, I want to review Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, one of the most spectacular shows of military and civilian precision marching/dance/music in the world.  My last post, as usual, will feature the ship we sailed on, the MS Prinsendam.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and second largest city with about 600,000 inhabitants (Glasgow is the largest). It’s best known for the major hub of the 18th century intellectual movement, the Age of Enlightenment, which was orchestrated to advance knowledge and reform society.  Since Susy and I had purchased tickets to the Tattoo show in the evening (including dinner) we decided to go into the city center by train in the early afternoon and walk the “Royal Mile” up to the castle, which is located way above the city. First, as usual, we see the ship and, port signs:

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We bussed to the train station and caught the first train for Waverly Train Station in the center of Edinburgh.  The train ride in was very scenic and I got this one photo of a fort on the water:

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As we came out of Waverly Station we looked across the roof of the station at this beautiful city:

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You immediately feel like your in a historic city like Paris, London, Madrid, and, yes, even Buenos Aires. There are bridges everywhere and we had to cross one to get to the ‘Royal Mile”:

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One of the beauties of this city is that there were flowers everywhere:

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The Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline:

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Crossing another bridge:

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An old hotel “the Scotchman”:

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A typical street scene on the “Royal Mile” (Susy out ahead as usual):

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I might explain that the “Royal Mile” is the main street of Edinburgh, and as its name, is about a mile long ending at the Edinburgh Castle.
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As you walk along you notice that if you want a cold one you don’t have far to go.  Here’s a typical Tavern, flowers and all, which isn’t far from the next one:

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One of the important buildings along the way:

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As we drew near the Castle, the crowds got thicker. You felt like you were in medieval times in the streets around the main castle, when the King was having a festival.  As we walked along we started to run into street musicians, jugglers, and in this photo a group of Japanese’s marching for some cause:

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Another Tavern:

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One last look at one of the many side streets/sidewalks off the main street, most of which lead to courtyards or other streets:

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And the courtyard behind:

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The Castle in just ahead at those flags:

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And finally the Castle:

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That’s it for this post.  In the next post I’ll take you into the Castle, and then give you a flash of the Tattoo.

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 21, 2015

13. Viking Cruise – Aug. 15, 2015 – Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Hi All,

As you know Susy and I lived in Europe, but surprisingly enough we had not heard or became aware of the Faroe Islands until this trip.  On Saturday, Aug. 15th, we arrived at the capital of the Faroe Islands, and major city/port; Torshavn.  The Faroe Islands are located northwest of Scotland, half way between Iceland and Norway.  The archipelago consists of 18 islands covering an area of roughly 550 sq. miles or about 70 miles long by 47 miles wide shaped like an arrowhead.  The islands have a population of 48,308, with almost 20,000 living in the area of our port visit; Torshavn.  They are a self governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark.  It has its own parliament and its own flag.  Like most of this area of the world, the Faroe Islands trace their history back to the Vikings and the city of Torshavn traces its name back to the Viking God of war – Thor.  You might be interested in the fact that the Faroe Islands have a long-standing tradition which involves hunting pilot whales as a food source.  We were warned that there could be problems because of on-line protests against cruise lines who stopped there, although we were assured that Holland American does not condone such practices.

Now let’s take a look at the port, which by the way was our first and only tender port.  Here’s a panoramic view as we pulled into the bay:

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Susy and I decided today to ride the tender into the port, and just walk around, as both the old and new areas of Torshavn came together at the pier where we were being dropped off.  Here’s a series of photos I took from the tender, mostly of the old city:

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You notice for the first time in the photo above and below, most of the oldest buildings have grass roofs, are tarred black, and have white paned windows, a trademark of the area.

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One of our tenders going out:

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We finally arrived at the pier and our ship sign greeted us:

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Looking around the port we see more colorful buildings:

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And to show Susy was there:

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We came to a small park where children were being monitored as they painted:

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We next see Susy with one of the local residents relaxing next to her:

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Now we entered the old town:

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These stone streets/paths are said to date back to the Vikings:

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White building with “Visit Faroe Islands”:

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A last look at the “old town”:

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Susy returning to the pier and our tender:

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A last look at the boats in the harbor:

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And finally, Susy and I after a long day in a lovely new port, on the way back to the ship and the comfort of our cabin:

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If you noticed a difference in the size of the photos, it’s because I accidently dropped my camera of many years in the water and it went out of commission.  Fortunately we have our cell phones, tablets, and a movie camera to get us through our last port, Rosyth (Edinburgh), Scotland, so until then:

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 20, 2015

12. Viking Cruise – Aug. 12 & 13, 2015 – Reykjavik, Iceland

Hi All,

I know that most of you have heard of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and its largest city.  Let’s put Reykjavik in perspective.  It has 120,000 habitants and our first port, Akureyri has 80,000 habitants, but there are only 320,000 habitants in all of Iceland.  As the capital, on the western coast of Iceland, its history, like most of Iceland, goes back to the 9th and 10th  century. It was first believed to be settled by Celtic and Norwegian immigrants, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that a full-fledged township was developed. It has become a tourist center in the summer, when its temperatures get up to a balmy 55 degrees F..  The main draw is what is referred to as the “Golden Circle”; including waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, mountains, and the famous “Blue Lagoon”.

Now after all those words about Reykjavik, we arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 12th to a rainy, cold, and windy (up to 60 miles per hour) day.  Our departure, which was to be at 4 PM the next day, was delayed until midnight on Aug. 13th due to inclement weather around us.  Since Susy and I at least wanted to make an attempt at seeing this port, we ventured out into this lovely weather.  Our usual ship and port signs including a look at the port store/building:

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Susy and I almost got blown away when going over to that port store, so the decision as to take a one hour tour around town on a hop on/ hop off bus or a 7 hour bus tour around the “Golden Circle” was easy to make; go hop on/ hop off.  Here we are leaving the port:

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You’ll have to put with the rainy photos just as we did looking out the bus windows.  Houses:

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Luckily I got this church through an open door:

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A colorful building:

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And for the young ones, the Whale building:

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My traveling companion sometimes (lol) comes up with some great ideas.  She had seen that a building called HASP, which was a new large opera/ theater with galleries, restaurants, etc. had a small theater that showed the “Golden Circle” tour in a 360 degree room that had projectors on the ceiling and all four walls.  Here’s what we saw, first fjords:

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Then the waterfalls:

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The scenic coast:

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And the scenic interior:

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Fields of glaciers:

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I need to stop here as we look at the glaciers and let you know that this part of the world is very fortunate regarding energy. Between the waterfalls, and the geo-thermal water (underground water with temperatures at about 147 degrees F.) they generate not only all their electricity, but all the hot water for heating their homes and buildings, at basically only the cost of installations. In our virtual tour here is one of the most famous “hot springs” in Iceland called the “Blue Lagoon”:

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And we got to see the famous “Northern Lights” you see in the winter when there is darkness all day:

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And to finish our tours, a look at the many volcanoes in the area, both active and not, day and night:

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So that’s it, in a little over 20 minutes, in a nice warm theater, we had accomplished a 7 hour bus tour, and with our hop on/ hop off bus  tour saw metro Reykjavik all accomplished in one day instead of two.  In the meantime the storm continued for both days.  However, as you can guess, at 8 PM as we were going to sail away in a few hours, the sun came out, and Susy and I took these three photos from our dining table:

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Only two ports left, Torshavn, Faroe Island on Saturday, Aug. 15th, and Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday, Aug. 17th., so until Torshavn,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu or Opa)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 18, 2015

11. Viking Cruise – Aug. 11, 2015 – Isafordur, Iceland

Hi All,

Today, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 we entered our second Iceland port, Isafordur.  Like Akureyri, Isafordur depends on fishing as its major income, but it is much smaller.  Tourism, however, is becoming very important to the area, because it has some of the oldest dwellings in Iceland and because of its beautiful surroundings, which offer many sport activities and scenery.  The port itself is set in a valley between two large mountains.  Here’s two panoramic views from one side of the ship looking away from the port and the other side looking at the town/port itself:

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That first panoramic is 5 photos combined, the second 3.  Now look at the view of the entrance to the port:

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Again Susy and I decided on a walk around the town, so first the ship’s sign then the port sign:

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As we walked into the town center we came upon some unique buildings, the first from 1910:

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Downtown, the main square:

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Susy shows us this 1924 Model T, worked into a bakery wagon”":

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Another colorful building:

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If you don’t like blue how about green:

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A last look downtown:

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One last blue building:

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The town is so interesting you forget that you are in the middle of such beauty (look at the background of the photos), so let’s look up:

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Back on the ship I thought I would take you along to one of our special dinners.  It’s early, 6:00 PM, as we enter the Pinnacle, our 5 star restaurant on board.  We are met by the maitre’d (our friend since Susy and I eat there many evenings) and white gloved waiters with trays of champagne (sorry Iwonka isn’t Lauren Perrier) . The menu for the evening:

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If you counted it’s a 9 course meal paired with 7 wines (one Champagne) and a glass of champagne at the beginning with the first course and one with the 6th course.  This was on the table when we arrived and we thought it was table decoration:

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This was the first course, “Edible Earth” and you can’t believe how good it was with the champagne.  We had dinner with two Dutch friends we met on this cruise, Hans and
Barbara:

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This is Chef Jean who explained each course:

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Finally, this is the main course, “Grilled Chicken Roulade” (if you want to know what’s in these wonderful dishes just go back to the menu):

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Needless to say after 9 courses and 9 different glasses of wine we were all very happy, finishing about 9:30 PM.  Just a typical meal aboard the Ms Prinsendam. lol

Until our next and last Iceland port, Reykjavik,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 16, 2015

10. Viking Cruise – Aug. 10, 2015 – Akureyri, Iceland

Hi All,

First, again, I want to thank all of you for your comments, including my grandson, Nicko and yes, Nicko we’re having a “blast” of a time.

After sailing south for two days we finally reached Iceland on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 and the port of Akureyri.  Akureyri is named the “Capital of North Iceland” and has a population of about 80,000, the second largest city in Iceland.  It was first settled in the 9th century, but only established as a city in 1562.  It is booming today based on it’s major industry, fishing.  From the dock we look down the ships railing aft:

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and forward:

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I had to take a selfie:

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A look out at the entrance to the port:

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A closer look at the townhouses on shore:

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Susy and I decided to spend the day walking the central part of Akureyri.  First the ship’s sign:

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A look at a map of the city:

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We finally got to see a Polar bear and her cubs up close:

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And Susy has a new friend, a “Pullin”, a bird common to this area:

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We ran into our animal friends just outside the ship.  As we walked along the bay toward the town center we began to get a feel for the beauty of Akureyri:

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The town plaza:

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A local having a conversation with a friend:

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And Susy runs into a couple of locals:

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If you want a different meal, how about Indian curry:

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This city is clean, well kept, and very colorful.  Everywhere you looked you saw freshly painted colorful buildings:

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Trees and large flower pots everywhere:

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The main church of the city:

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I ran into this Viking princess again (short horns):

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In case some of you were worried about Susy getting out of practice “shopping”,don’t worry.  She first figures out the local words for “sale”:

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Then she heads in:

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On the way back to the ship we passed an interesting tea house on a hill:

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As we left this port we looked back at one of the most beautiful city ports we have visited:

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Until the next port, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2015, Isafordur, Iceland.

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

THIS IS PART 2 OF THE 9. Ny Alesund POST, PLEASE DON’T START UNTIL YOU HAVE READ 9A Aug. 7, 2015 – Ny Alesund – PART 1 WHICH IS THE NEXT POST BELOW.

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Here’s an administration building:

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This is why we were warned to stay on the path.  None of the residents go outside this area without their rifles, because although polar bears look nice and friendly, they are always looking for food; human, animal, or whatever they can get, thus the sign:

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All we saw, however, was a few reindeer out in the distance:

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A dog pound for the site:

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Beautiful views everywhere you look:

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As I returned to the ship,  a fellow passenger agreed to take my picture after the long trek:

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One last sign re the lab:

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On the way out of the port, the captain announced some polar bears had been sighted, so I rushed out with my camera and snapped away at the far off cliffs. After to many photos to count I think the best I can show you is this photo which looks like a polar bear on top of some ice (or something white):

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That’s it for Ny Alesund.  On Saturday, Aug. 8th, and Sunday, Aug. 9th, we sailed toward Iceland and our first port there; Akureyri.  Until then,

Love You All:

Gary (alias Gagu)

BECAUSE OF THE SIZE OF THIS POST I HAVE DIVIDED IT INTO 2 PARTS.  PLEASE READ THIS PART FIRST AS PART 2 MAY BE ABOVE THIS IN A FEW DAYS

Hi All,

To begin with, I need to warn you, get out your reading glasses and have a lot of time to spend with this post.  This is the longest post I have done over the years, with over 50 photos.  My rule to keep these posts to 10 to 20 photos and as little comments as possible had to be broken to give Ny Alesund research station its complete due, as you will see.  OK, having been warned, let’s go.

The night of Thursday, Aug. 6th, our cruise director informed us that our Norwegian pilot (as you know, when your going into ports a pilot comes on board and captains the ship because of his knowledge of the local waters) had advised our captain that he had permission to take us into one of the largest fjords in the Arctic area on the way to the Ny Alesund port, and certainly would be a first for a ship of our size.  Our captain agreed and the catch was, we had to go in at 5 AM and be out within an hour to an hour and a half.  OK, here’s going into the Lilliehookfjord:

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As usual we had fog and full cloud cover, the air temperature about 41 degrees F., but believe me it felt a lot colder. I was there at 5 AM:

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If you look at that back ground you can see that it looks like there are several glaciers coming into the fjord, but that low one to the right looked a mile or more across. Let’s start looking at that wide glacier:

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Up close:

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Enough of fjords, they are all beautiful, but they’re walls of ice coming at you and this one is certainly the widest one we have seen. We left the Lilliehookfjord and at 8 AM arrived at the furthest research station north.  Here the ship sign as I debarked (you noticed Susy was not with me, because of her comfortable perch in the cabin, when it’s almost freezing outside at 8 in the morning):

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The research station from the ship:

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The beautiful view off the bow of the ship:

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and I was there:

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Ny Alesund has it own beach for warmer days:

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Now here’s were we start on our hike through the station.  To help us and save me typing we will pass signs which explain what we’re seeing and afterwards I’ll show the photos of what the signs are explaining. We’ll start with the overall information sign (as I said get out your reading glasses and if you still can’t read them, click them twice with the mouse and they will enlarge, hit the back arrow to go back to the blog):

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Did you note that the station has 30 (winter) to 150 (summer) residents?, next:

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Green is little barren, this is northern green:

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How about the Arctic yellow of these buildings?  Next, I stopped at the one and only store.  The way it works is you get into the check out line which weaves through the store and pick up your purchases as you wait (up to more than 45 minutes):

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THIS IS THE END OF PART 1, PLEASE GO TO PART 2 WHICH I WILL POST ABOVE THIS IN A FEW DAYS.

LOVE YOU ALL, TO BE CONTINUED

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 11, 2015

8. Viking Cruise – Aug. 6, 2015 – Top Of The World

Hi All,

Today, Thursday, Aug.6, 2015, we headed for the north polar ice cap, but first we have a stopover at the Magdalenafjord. I think before I show you this fjord we should talk a little bit about what is a fjord and what is their history.  Fjords are long, narrow inlets stretching deep into the mountains.  At the innermost reaches their depth often matches the height of the cliffs above, while shallower waters connect them to the sea.  They were created by a gradual process of glacier erosion during the last ice ages (around 110,000 to 13,000 BC) when enormous glaciers crept through the valleys, gouging steep-sided crevices into the landscape, often far below the surface of the sea.  When the glaciers melted sea water burst in and filled hollows left by the ice.

I have to also point out the fact that we are in the land of the midnight sun.  We went into the Arctic Circle on Aug. 3rd and since then have had daylight continually (although because of clouds and fog we haven’t seen the sun).  Can you imagine having 24 hour daylight from July thru September and then be plunged into 24 hour darkness from October 25th to March 8th.  The people we talked to who live here say it’s not bad at all because in the darkness period they have the “Northern Lights”, which are beautiful streaks of color that go through the dark sky from time to time.  Here’s Susy and I celebrating our first daylight day at 12 midnight:

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You can see the daylight out the windows of the Crows Nest, our late night stop over for a nightcap before hitting the sack.  OK, it’s 9 AM in the morning and as usual I’m out at the top deck of the ship to photograph out first days event, sailing into the Magdalenafjord, a very picturesque fjord on the way to the Polar Ice Cap.  I tried a panoramic view of the rear of the fjord:

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Let’s get in closer to the main glacier:

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and closer:

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and closer:

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On each side were mountains.  Look at one up close:

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I was there:

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Looking of to the side, we have more mountains with glaciers:

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At the back of the ship, one of our Nordic passengers (I’m sure) was enjoying a swim in the pool while watching the scenery:

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In case your asking about the temperature, remember it’s summer:

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Now we move to about 2:30 PM as we pull up to the Polar Ice Cap:

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How about a selfie close to the North Pole:

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They let one of the life boats down so that photos could be taken of the ship and the Polar Ice Cap.  Here’s the boat near a small iceberg ( that boat is fairly large, holding about a hundred passengers):

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Oh! you didn’t see the Polar Ice Cap?  It’s OK, either did we.  Because of the fog we had to take the Captain’s word for it, that we were very close, but he  couldn’t get closer because of the ice.  In case your concerned, don’t be.  Susy and I were certified into the Ancient Order of the Blue Nose:

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Did somebody ask about Susy?  Oh, didn’t I tell you, in the cabin our television has a channel with a view from a big camera on the front of the ship and another with a view from a big camera on the back of the ship.  Again, you guessed it, she sat/laid and watched all the action, while yours truly brazened the northern cold. lol

Well that’s it for today, Thursday, Aug. 6th.  Tomorrow is our last stop up here at the Top Of The World before we head south.  So until then,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

WE ARE 6 DAYS MINIMUM WITHOUT INTERNET, SO YOU WILL GET THIS AND OTHERS TO FOLLOW AS SOON AS WE ARE “CONNECTED”.  FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD:

Hi All,

I am writing this post on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, where we have reached our furthest point north.  I’m going to cover today in my next post, but first let’s go back to yesterday and our stop at the further most city north in the world; Longyearbyen.  To set up this port, I’ll try to give you a short geography lesson (sorry I’m not a teacher).  Looking on a map there is a medium size mass of land north of Norway, toward the north pole, which looks like a large island, and is called “Svalbard”. This mass of land is administered by Norway, in agreement with 42 other countries (including the U.S.), whose citizens can come and go, live or leave, etc. without any restrictions other then the laws of the territory.  By the way, they even have their own passports.  Now, if you look on the west coast of Svalbard you will see the area of Spitsbergen and the small port of Longyearbyen.  The city has a very interesting history, because even though it was visited off and on by many sailors, including the Dutch, who stopped and occupied it for several years, it wasn’t until 1906 that the settlement actually was established.  Believe it or not it was founded by an American, John Longyear (the name of the town is Norwegian for Longyear), who set up the Arctic Coal Company, a mining operation, for about 500 people.  Over the years seven major mines were established and the town flourished. However, it was occupied by Germany in WWII, the Germans actually using it’s resources for a time, but as they started to lose the war, they decided to burn down every building, and virtually ended the coal operations.  Thanks to the treaty of the 42 nations after the war it has grown into a thriving town with about 2024 people, mainly working in mining (although today only one coal mine is active), tourism, and support services.  In addition to being the northernmost city (about 600 miles from the geographic North Pole) Longyearbyen is also home to the world’s northernmost church, ATM, post office (including Santa Claus’s post office), museum, commercial airport, and university.  It is the only city in which the sun doesn’t rise for four months, from Oct. 25th to March 8th each year.

Now that I have painted the scene for you let’s start to look at this town thru my camera, because while it’s very barren, it’s space is beautiful.  Let’s start as usual with the ship’s sign:

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Susy and I opted for a bus tour today, which I found through a web site called “Cruise Critic”.  The tour was on a 5 star bus, with Wi-Fi, and a 3 coarse meal (typical of the region) served as you road along. Here’s the bus:

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Here’s Susy sitting at our table ready for our tour (with a can of local beer in front of her):

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In front of the bus is the owner/guide/bus driver of Arctic Tapas, who turned out to be a fabulous guide and host:

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How do you like those fur seats?  Now let’s start to look at the scenery.  First the coal community:

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The only church (all denominations):

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The only building not burned by the Germans besides their sleeping quarters), was the old post office:

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Their are several laws in this town; 1. You can not be born here (women have to fly down to Norway to give birth), and 2. You can not die here, among a few other laws.  You can not die here because of the permafrost.  If they buried you, you would pop up every few years, so you have to go somewhere else south to die.  There is a graveyard here but these where the last people to be buried and it’s only their ashes.  Oh, and of coarse this is the northern most graveyard in the world:

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OK, enough of the town, here’s why I said the place was beautiful, but barren:

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We’re going to drive along this road to the end of the valley and then drive up that mountain on the left to get a birds eye view of the city.  Along the way we crossed a mass transit dog sled:

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One of Santa’s reindeer:

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Had a three course meal with the main course of fish on the left and mostly reindeer meat on the right:

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Susy’s plate after:

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and Susy said I had to show my plate, because Leo would never believe it:

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Yes, I out ate Susy and with the exception of the fish ate almost everything.  Enough of food as we reached near the top of the mountain, just below Coal Mine #7, the only active coal mine today, we look out on one of the most spectacular views I have seen:

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Here’s the bus stopped at this viewing site:

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More scenery to our left, the coal mining operation and mountains behind:

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and those mountains behind up close:

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Now to our right:

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The air is so clean in this part of the world that we are looking at mountains in the background that are between 40 and 50 miles away.

I have to stop here and explain why the coal mine is on the side of a mountain.  It seems that thousands of years ago this area sat at the meeting of two faults.  As in most earthquakes when these faults move it is with great pressure.  In this case, these two faults (which were covered with ocean) moved against each other and virtually opened up and fell backwards leaving the ocean floor upside down.  For this reason coal, which is normally down deep in the earth, in this part of the world is on the side of mountains and only has to be scrapped away to be mined.  Another thing is the coal is of the highest quality of any in the world (burns with more heat).  Here’s a sample I’m bringing home (you can pick it up anywhere on the ground):

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It was time to head back to the ship, so I’ll just show you a few things we saw on the return.  First a dog kennel:

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Of coarse, since Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, his post office is in Longyearbyen:

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Some more of the houses in town:

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and a short view of a part of main street:

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To finish this post a little bit of trivia: first have no fears, Noah had his Ark, Longyearbyen has it’s “Seed Vault”.  Stored deep in the permafrost, is a warehouse with 2.25 billion seeds.  In case anything happens to the planet, this reinforced warehouse is ready to provide any seed necessary to start life again, from every variety of potato, to almost every food plant in the world.  Did you know that while there are only 5 million Norwegians, they consume  over 18 million pizzas a year, and nobody counts the number of Coca Colas they consume (Dirk, you have friends in Norway), their favorite food and drink.

I just want to show you that I was around, so here I am dressed for the warm summer weather here:

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Until my next post, “Top of the World”

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

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