Southern Scandinavia Cruise 2022 by Marion Chessell.
This is the second trip this year with Hurtigruten. The drive to Dover was uneventful, which was much better than the last time we came and got stuck on A12.
We had a last minute flurry of activity when Roger was checking all our paperwork and we had not got a car park booked. In his usual efficient admin manner he rectified the difficulty and we arrived early.
Boarding the ship was much faster this time. We still had lateral flow tests, passport, security. The system to do all this had been changed and also we found out later that although the ship takes 528 passengers there were only 150 on the voyage .Good for us as queues are not so long but for Hurtigruten it can’t have been a very profitable voyage.
Safety briefings, captains welcome and introduction to the crew all done. Some of the staff on the ship were the same as our previous voyage but most of them had changed. The company move them around various ships.
While sitting in the lounge the Queen Mary cruise ship passed us and looked rather splendid with the setting sun behind it. Not much wildlife seen as yet but I’m sure that will change .
Dinner eaten and we then crashed out in our cabin.
Day at sea
Our first stop is Germany tomorrow. Today we were travelling through the North Sea. We decided that every morning around breakfast time we would do a mile walk around the promenade deck. It meant going around this deck five times, so you can tell that this is not a big ship! A few oil platforms, cargo ships and wind farms were spotted on the way round.
After breakfast we were into briefings again about safety on the rib boats, general itinerary of the voyage. The three man team who run the kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking were keen for guests to do their activities because if we didn’t they would be assigned to “port duty” which generally means helping people off the rib boats.
We decided the shorter and less arduous hikes would be ok but kayaks and paddle boards were not going to be on our list!! The phrase “Beached Whales” come to mind.
We brought a couple of games with us this time and in the afternoon we set to a round of triominoes.
The evening briefing was about what is happening tomorrow in detail. We are booked on a hike, which you will hear about later.
After the briefing the historian/story teller did what he called a 20 minute “tiny talk”. He was telling us some Viking mythological stories. The way he tells them is excellent and entertaining.
Sylt is an island in North Frisian Islands, Germany. It is situated in the Wadden sea which stretches from The Netherlands, through Germany and to Denmark. The Wadden sea is a UNESCO world heritage site. Why would it be so valued ?
It is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world. It took me a while to get my he’d round this (geography was never a strong subject for me at school, but that’s another story) but here goes:
The intertidal zone is the bit where ocean and land meet e.g the shore. it can be sandy or rocky. These areas are important because they provide nutrients and oxygen which are supplied by the incoming tides and sunlight for the seaweeds and corals. Birds use the Wadden sea to stay in winter because of the rich source of food to stock up before migrating.
The outgoing tide will take out waste products, and the eggs and larvae of various sea creatures are also distributed on the outgoing tide. The biggest threats to these areas are coastal building developments and rising sea levels. Phew.. done it. I hope it makes sense!
The ship anchored near Lyst and we were transported onto the shore on rib boats. We went on a science walk and dug around to find crabs, shellfish and jellyfish. We also saw some Blacktailed Godwits which are amongst the birds that stock up on their food before migrating.
I must say I dislike Jellyfish. I remember as a child causing my parents problems if they were on the beach at Snettisham. I seem to remember screaming at some point!
There were quite a few barrel jellyfish and I managed to get a reasonable photo of one swimming.
The west coast of Sylt has a naturist beach apparently and it is very popular with German celebrities as a healthy place to have a holiday. The shops and restaurants are expensive, which you would expect!
Back on the ship, after dinner the tiny talk was about migrating birds and animals by the ornithologist on board. He highlighted the difficulty that migrating birds had in the Mediterranean area, particularly Cyprus and Malta. There are some people in this area who will try and trap migrating birds and keep them in aviaries. We saw a lot of evidence of this when we lived n Gozo.
Very interesting tiny talk!
Kiel Canal, Germany
The Kiel Canal links the North Sea with the Baltic Sea. It is 98 kilometres long. It was opened in 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm ll and called Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, after his grandfather. Between 1907 and 1914 the Canal was widened to take dreadnought sized ships of the German navy. This avoided them having to go around Denmark. After world war 1, the Treaty of Versallies required the Canal to be opened to commercial shipping. It was not until after WW2 however, that it changed its name to Keil Canal. It takes quite a while for the ship to get through the Canal but the scenery is good. There are also plenty of bridges, ferries and loads of birds along the way.
One of the bridges called Rendsburg High bridge is a railway bridge and a “transporter bridge” or “suspension ferry”. It carries up to 4 cars and passengers in a gondola under the railway bridge, quite an unusual construction! You didn’t know when you first startled reading this blog that you would not only be hearing about nature, history and geography but also engineering!
At either end of the Canal are locks which lower and raise the ships going through. The locks are enormous and were built with granite and iron and not concrete.
After going through the canal the ship docked at Kiel for a few hours for supplies and maintenance so we had a few hours onshore. We popped into the town to do a little shopping. Didn’t attend the tiny talk tonight as we were both fighting sleep.. so listened to the briefing for tomorrow and had an early night !
Skagen is the Northernmost town in Denmark. It is Denmark’s main fishing town and also popular with tourists. During the morning there were a few things happening on the ship. One of them was called “Expedition Exercises” and consisted of a circuit training to get ready for the day ahead! We had a go and think we both surprised ourselves when we discovered which exercises we could actually mange. It was great fun and quite a few people took up the challenge.
It was not far away from lunchtime then and we arrived in Skagen. We were booked to go to a lighthouse and birdwatching station. Skagen has also built a reputation as a great place for artists and has an artists retreat. There is also an art museum. It is very similar to some of the seaside towns such as Southwold and Aldeburgh in Suffolk, near where we live, in that about 40% of its population is present only in the summer.
Skagen has migrating sand dunes. Here we have the geography bit again! Shifting sand dunes, some stretching to 7 km have drifted across Skagen and in 16th and 17th Century drove people back inland. In 1857 the state of Denmark bought the areas of sand and planted grasses and conifers to stabilise the area. One area was left as a shifting sand dune to remind people about what happens with the dunes. It is called the Rabjerg mile. One of the churches in Skagen was part buried by the sand and is known as the sand covered church. This happened in the last part of 18th century. The congregation had to dig their way to the church entrance every time they had a service. It was eventually demolished and the tower is the only bit that remains. A new church was built in a safer place.
So on to the Lighthouse and Bird station.The grey lighthouse was built in 1858. There are 200+ steps up to the top, which I decided to climb. Fantastic view of the coast from the top. Attached to the lighthouse is a migratory bird centre where migrating birds are monitored and some caught and checked over to see what the state of migrating birds is. They have young people working there from all over the world and many visitors.
From the lighthouse you can walk along Grenen beach and after walking for about a mile and half you reach the point where the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet and you are on the Northern tip of Denmark. The seas do not mix because of the different densities and salinity. You just see a white foam which forms the demarkation line.
The expedition organisers took whoever who wanted to go up the beach to this phenomena. I walked up there and it was almost a party atmosphere which photographs of one foot in the Baltic and one in the North Sea. Some Danes had champagne!!
I must say Skagen is quite a unique place and it was a pleasure to visit.
After dinner on the ship we went to a presentation on the voyage that Hurtigruten does to Iceland. Yes we are hoping for another trip before too long with this really great company, but we decided maybe not to Iceland.
Lysekil and Smogen
Lysekil is situated in an area in Denmark where there are red granite rocks. The main church here is built of this Red Granite. We only had a few hours here as we were then going on to Smogen. The church is quite a structure and walking along the harbour area a delight.
They have a small aquarium which reflects the diversity of sea-life they have in this area.
Back on the ship and up the coast a bit to Smogen, which is full of fishing cottages and is very charming. It’s population of 2,000 grows to 30,000 in the summer.
We did cruising along the coast here in the small Rib boats which was interesting.
When in the Rib boats its an ideal time to chat to the person driving the boat. The ship has dedicated drivers and also some of the other crew if they are qualified to do it will help out when cruising. The rules are quite stringent and you really need to know what you are doing.
Our driver was one of the female expedition staff who arrange the cruising and offshore expeditions. One of the passengers asked her the question that you hear all the time… “How long have you been driving boats? “She is Norwegian and has been driving boats since she was seven years old. Which apparently is quite common.
There is so much water in Norway that many people have boats and grew up with them. Children are also taught to swim and lifesave at a very early age.
On another Rib boat a passenger asked the driver if his main job on the ship was to drive Rib boats. He replied “ No, I drive the big ship” The captain had decided that he wanted to join in with driving the Rib boats!!! Embarrassed giggles all round I think.
Back to Smogen.
Smogen is an island and connected to mainland Sweden via a road bridge. There are many small islands and rocky outcrops in this area and most of them are home to seabirds like cormorants, black Gillimots and gulls. I also managed to get a lucky shot of a heron in flight. As mentioned earlier there are plenty of holiday homes and they had wooden saunas and hot tubs in the gardens. Norwegians often come to Smogen as it is warmer in the summer in Sweden than it is in Norway. Property, as you can imagine is also expensive.
This is a small fishing village in Sweden.
Ingrid Bergman, the actress spent many summers here and found it a quiet haven. The paparazzi did follow her here initially but soon got fed up and moved away to find another target. The local people remember her humility and her longing to be part of the village as much as possible.There is a small bust of her in the village and some photographs and memories beside it.
We went on a local walking tour of the village which was done by a lady who was a real estate agent in the area. The people of the village have on a number of occasions saved various businesses from being lost to big bucks entrepreneurs by forming co operatives to buy and run them.
They did this with the local fish shop and made it into a delicatessen as well. They also bought a hotel and employed a chef and manager. What a great idea. This means that the businesses stay open all year round and not just for the summer.
It is a fishing area and one of its main fish is herring. Herring shoals come and go so the herring period in this area is limited but the shoals are quite large. When it is not herring season sometimes the fishermen will go out of area for work and come back when it is time for the herring fishing again.
They also fish for langoustine, which is a small lobster. One of the expeditions today was to go out with the langoustine fishermen. They place baskets on the sea bed for the langoustine to be lured into as trawling for them would be damaging to the sea bed. I was tempted to do this one but restrained myself as the next few days are going to be quite busy.
The Tiny talk tonight was about Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian Antarctic explorer. He beat Scott to the South Pole by using husky dogs when Scott tried to get there with tracked vehicles. His careful planning and knowledge of survival in such cold conditions meant he arrived a month before Scott.
He then attempted the North Pole but failed to get there on the ship “Maud” but succeeded on an airship called The Norge in 1926. Previous trips to the North pole by others have been disputed so no one is really sure who precisely got there first!
In 1928 he went on a rescue mission to the Artic in a flying boat to rescue the crew of an Italian airship who got into trouble. He was never heard of again and some debris from his flying boat was found and it was assumed he crashed into the Barents Sea.
Koster, Sweden is known as the hiking island. It has a number of farms with cattle, orchards and small fields. I went on a 7 km hike. Roger was originally on it too but his back was troubling him so he did not go. He did his circuits around the ship instead. I must say within the first kilometre I thought Rogers decision was wise as the first bit was clambering up and down rocks along the sea shore. We also went through an ancient woodland which had loads of different funghi and well established trees.
Part of the island is a nature reserve. It was a very beautiful island and also used as a holiday destination . There are some permanent residents of course but apparently no children. If there were children they would have to go to the Swedish mainland during the week for school.
There were loads of bicycles available for the tourists and motor bikes with large wooden boxes on the front for groceries and small people. A boat repair yard and small marina served the island too.
At the end of the 7km hike I was pleased I had done it as it ‘tis the furthest I have walked for a while, but my feet were not!
During Rogers walk around the ship he found 7 different types of moths hiding in various crevices on the walking deck. He spoke to the science centre about it partly to try and identify what type of moths they were. Tim, one of the scientists decided that it might be a good idea for a science project on the ship, so we wait to see wether that happens on another voyage.
The tiny talk tonight was about pronunciation of the Norwegian language. This was totally confusing as there are lots of different things you can do with the letter A. However, we did learn that “takk” is thank you.
Norways capital which is situated on the head of oslofjord.
Today we started off by going to Huk Beach to do a beach clean for an hour or two. This is a common feature of Hurtigruten expeditions to try and give back something to the places we visit. There were quite a few of us and although the items we picked up were quite small we seemed to haul in quite a lot. Loads of cigarette ends and small pieces of plastic twine. We also found sheathed needles . We were given grabbers and gloves so were well protected against any thing we came across.
We returned to the ship and after lunch went for a walk along Oslo waterfront which was delightful. I had a couple of geocaches I wanted to find in the area. One at the city Hall and the other at the Fort right on the harbour. We were also near the Noble peace prize building.
There were some old historic ships in the harbour and a rather strange bell. It was large and hanging on a strong piece of wire across two poles. Rather curious thing to have on a harbour front. We thought it might have been a ships bell but found out it was not. There are bells in the city hall and this one was removed from there because it was out of tune. It sat for a while forgotten but was cleaned and tuned and placed outside the city Hall. This was done in 2020. Visitors can press a pedal underneath it to make it ring. Nothing is useless !
Back at the ship we attended a presentation on the Alaska expeditions Hurtigruten do as that may be our next trip with them. Sounds exciting looking for bears, whales and of course the fantastic landscape.
Kragero is a small coastal town in the Telemark area of Norway.
The area itself has inspired many artists. Perhaps the most famous is Edvard Munch who is probably best known for his painting “the scream” It has many small islands around it.
Roger went on a ferry to Virgin island (also known as Jonfruland) It is a nature reserve and has a bird station and lighthouse. There are photo opportunities and some of the crew and guests had a swim in the sea. There was also a short walk organised by the historian of the ship. Magnus decided to go through the woods there and look for trolls. Trolls feature quite heavily in Norwegian folklore. They were really looking for knots in trees that look like trolls and Roger found one which looked like “the scream !”
I chose to go to the Telemark canal for a boat ride between Skien and Lunde. The canal was used by commercial shipping and also to transport logs to various areas of Norway for domestic use or export. It is now only used for tourists. It is 105 km long and has 18 locks. The biggest staircase lock has five chambers. We went into this lock and it lifted us up a total of 23 metres. All the locks are manually opened and shut and on the day we were there the workers were all young women between about 18yrs and 25yrs. At each set of locks there were small hydro electric power stations. Norways electricity is generated by 90% hydro and 10% wind so no fossil fuels used at all. They export some to Germany and UK but because of the lack of rainfall this year are struggling with the amount of power they can generate.
The scenery around the canal is stunning and some areas are nature reserves. It is heavily forested and although we did not see any , there are quite a few moose in the area.
There wasn’t a Tiny talk tonight. A film about the life of Roald Amundsen was shown.
Lysefiord. Is a 42km long fiord and is 25km east of Stavanger,
It is well known for the Preikestolen (the preachers pulpit). Which is a steep cliff overlooking the fiord. It is one of the most iconic natural sights of Norway. The hiking team did a hike to this rock which is said to be quite difficult and arduous. About a dozen guests signed up for this and they all made it there and back. Apparently it is one that will be on the bucket list for serious hikers.
Most of the people on the ship are 50 + in age but there was a family with two early teenage girls and a young woman in her 20s also on the ship. They did the hike and apparently the two teenagers were like mountains goats and got up the Preikestolen seemingly fairly easily. During the voyage they also did paddle boarding and kayaking. The young woman was Norwegian and has always wanted to do this hike. She was delighted that she managed to do it and has a photo to prove she was there.
The rest of us went on the Rib boats along the fiord and looked at the waterfalls and cliffs along the way. We also saw an eagle up on the top which was a fantastic sight as we hadn’t actually seen an eagle in the wild before. There was also a landing stage where there was a gentleman fishing. That may not seem a big deal but there were a few houses up on the cliff and the only way to them is by boat then climbing. There is no road. So if you want somewhere out of the way for a holiday or a bolt hole that’s going to be a good one.
Early on in the day we had another session of exercises on deck which again was great fun.
The Tiny talk was about the Norwegian Royal family which we did not attend as all that cruising on the rib boats had worn us out.
This place will be etched in our minds when we think of this holiday, so read on.
There was also another Hurtigruten ship anchored at Rosendal. It takes twice as many passengers as the Maud and called Otto Sverdrup, named after a Norwegian sailor and artic explorer. It operates out of Hamburg. This ship also becomes part of todays tale. So you have had history, geography, engineering and a little bit of art and now we are getting into drama.
Rosendal has a population of 800 and is located between high mountains, making it very picturesque
Roger decided to go on the last hike of the trip as it was only 4.5km long. The path was a little steep and I heard Roger say to the expedition person walking with us that he was going to stop for a breather at the gate, which I was just coming up to.
I turned round to wait for him and as I did that he was rolling down the side of the hill on a 70 degree slope into the brambles and ferns below. He had turned to take a photo and as he put his foot down there was no path as he was quite close to the edge and over he went.
He must have rolled about three times, fortunately there was a load of brambles and undergrowth stopped him falling any further than about 8m down the slope.
The expedition leader went down the bank to try and assess the damage. There appeared to be no broken bones and he was conscious and talking so they agreed to try and get him up the bank rather than call for the helicopter. One member of the leadership team told the rest of the guests to find somewhere to sit and wait further up the path and round a corner. Hurtigruten have rules about how many expedition staff go with how many guests so they could not continue the walk until Roger was in the hands of the ships doctor who they had just called.
The main difficulty for Roger and the leader was getting up the bank to the path as there was very little to get your foot onto, or hands to grip, to lever himself up. I laid across the paths and offered my outstretched arm down to reach him as he was being pushed up, to give Roger something to pull on. Eventually with a lot of team work Roger was safely back on the path. The leader insisted that Roger sat on a couple of mats while they checked him over and treated his wounds from the thorns. Of course the bramble thorn on the back of his head was bleeding the most as any wound in that area does.
The walking group from the Oto Sverdrup (another Hurtigruten ship anchored with us) was just coming up the path. Our expedition team knew the other team really well so they were renewing friendships. The leader had a small group so he agreed to take the rest of our group to the top along with his and one of our team went with him to ensure the numbers were correct.
Roger said he thought he could walk so we helped him up and walked down to the Rib boats to meet up with the doctor and the medical team. They had a scoop stretcher but it wasn’t necessary. After the doctor had checked him over the assessment was that he had loads of cuts and some bruising but no major injury but he did need to go back to the ship for cleaning and assessment.
So as you can imagine we took the rest of the day quite slowly after that and he became a bit of a celebrity. Everyone was concerned that he was ok and I’m sure there were lots of forms to fill in.
I have to say that the professionalism of the team was outstanding and they knew what was expected of them. Later on, Roger joked with the expedition team that he had saved the rest of the guests from a tiger in the bushes as that is what his scratches looked like all over his legs because he wore shorts for the hike!!
Roger apologised to the other guests that had to wait until they were able to carry on the walk.They agreed that they really didn’t mind because the view was great and it gave them a good rest so they were not upset about that at all. They were just concerned that he was ok. The group did complete the hike to the top. End of an “exciting” day. Phew.