Category Archives: Travel Generally

Getting to Know Nuremberg

December 4, 2017:


So, dear Readers, yesterday was a travel day for us so not much to report, except that we finally had our first day of snow all day. Yippee! Jim figured out how we could take the high-speed train from Cologne, where our last tour ended, to Nuremberg, where our new tour is starting today. It really was super easy, with a couple of caveats … 1. There are two train stations in Cologne, one of which is the super nice terminal which is think is for short hops intercity, and then ours, which was the Deutz station. The bummer about that is that there is virtually no seating in the terminal, and limited retail opportunities (read: 1 option for coffee, and it was bad). 2. Even with “first class” tickets, there is no place to store larger bags so it is some what of a logistical challenge to get all your stuff on the train and stored somewhere in the train in the few minutes the train is in the station. Even so, we had comfortable seats and good WiFi on the train, so our 3 hour trip to Nuremberg was pretty easy. Here’s some pictures of the countryside as we bombed along at 120 miles per hour.Train Ride to Nuremberg-4Train Ride to Nuremberg-5

This morning, we had several options for our sightseeing explorations. Jim and I opted for the WWII tour.   It snowed all night, so that presented us with a lovely change of pace.


There are many reasons why Nuremberg is a good place to learn about the Nazi history of the War, but first let me give you a little history of the area. I don’t know about you, but I still have painful memories of learning about the Holy Roman Empire, and then I promptly forgot it all. Let me try to dumb it down a little for you. In general terms, Charlemagne was responsible for forming the Holy Roman Empire in the year 800 AD under a grant of divine power from Pope Leo III, which purported to reach back to the Roman Empire. The Western Roman Empire had ceased to exist over 300 years before.

Nuremberg itself was established 950 AD, and gained in importance when it became a Free Imperial City of the HRE. The city was the home of Emperor Charles IV, author of the Golden Bull, which established the Imperial Diet (parliament) of the HRE. Charles IV is buried in Nuremberg Cathedral. Geographically, Nuremberg is located in Germany’s largest state of Bavaria. The area surrounding Nuremberg had become an industrial power in the years leading up to WWI. However, with the loss of that war, and the imposition of heavy war reparations against Germany, many Germans were angry and under some severe economic stress caused by both rampant inflation and the Great Depression.

Enter Adolph Hitler, who was born in Austria to a family of modest means. He dropped out of school at age 16, and for a while, lived in a workhouse for the poor. Hitler immigrated to Germany, and by 1925, had already led the failed “Beer Hall Putsch” in which he tried to take over control of the government. Instead of being sentenced to death for treason, a tribunal of conservative judges, who supported the aims of his party, merely sentenced him to a few years in jail. That sentence was ultimately commuted, and he served only a few years of his sentence. By 1933, Hitler was a German citizen. In that same year, the German President, Hindenberg, named him as Chancellor of Germany, and he was already in charge of the Workers Party, which became the Nazi Party. In short order, Hitler made his own laws, started by getting rid of all other parties; Germany became a police state with no freedom of press or speech, and lots of spying. 1st concentration camp was opened in Nuremberg. Jewish businesses boycotted, trade unions banned and books banned shortly thereafter. Also, physically and mentally handicapped adults and children sterilized. By 1934, Hitler had assumed all state powers.

In part for its historical significance as the former seat of the Imperial Diet, and in large part because of its deep support for the Nazi Party, Hitler chose Nuremberg as the site of the annual Nazi Party rallies which drew hundreds of thousands of people to the city. In furtherance of this, Hitler based a huge Zeppelin field in the center of town, surrounded by stadium seating and viewing boxes for Nazi officials. We visited the Zeppelin field as our first stop. Somehow, the snow covering it all really added to the feeling of alieness of it all. Hitler also built a huge parade grounds for showcasing Nazi troops on parade and youth Hitler squads performing nearby.

The viewing stands
Panorama of the whole Zeppelin area
Area from which Hitler viewed the troops and addressed the crowd
Photos of what it looked like then


Another reason Hitler chose to focus the Nazi Party here was he had a close friendship with the local police chief, Julius Streicher, who was extremely anti Semitic. Streicher also founded a newspaper, Der Sturmer, full of lies about Jews, and was very responsible for many of the war crimes carried out against local Jews. He was convicted of war crimes in the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to die.

Our next stop was at the Documentation Hall. The building was constructed by Hitler as a huge Nazi Party Congress Hall based on the design of the Coliseum in Rome. It was never finished, and the building has now become the site of a comprehensive museum exploring the causes and phenomenon of the rise of the Nazi Party, with a whole exhibit dedicated to artifacts from the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.

The front of the Congress Hall with the Documentation Center added to the front
Photo showing what the Congress Hall was supposed to look like finished


Panorama of partially finished Congress Hall-rear of buildings
I thought the train tracks were particularly ominous

Finally, our tour of WWII history ended with a visit to the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials were held. In addition to being able to see a film of the actual trial, it was cool to be able to see the courthouse. From the exterior, we could see the windows of Room 600 where the trials were conducted.

The front of the court buildings where the Nuremberg Trials were held


The building in which the trials were held;

the courtroom (Room 600) is in the center on the top (the four windows together)
Photo taken during the trials

Finally, it was off to the old town. The entire old town area was a walled city, and unlike a lot of European towns, many sections of the old wall are still standing.

Section of the original city wall

We also could see the Imperial Palace, but we did not get close enough to take any photos. However, we were bound for the center of the old town Nuremberg Cathedral is located and the Christmas market spreads out in the square in front of the church.

Imperial Palace
Old city architecture

The old town was really charming with all the snow all over the Christmas decorations and the Cathedral. The Cathedral houses the grave of Charles IV, so it remained a fairly important pilgrimage site all through the Middle Ages.

Christmas pyramid on the fountain in the center of the old town
Looking up towards the Cathedral
The Cathedral


Now that we’re in Germany, we’re interested in seeing how the Christmas markets differ here in Bavaria. One thing we learn right away is that this part of Germany is really big on gingerbread, which is known as lebkuchen. There are all sorts of different types, and one of the vendors let us sample his traditional style lebkuchen. Another thing that is very popular here are little thin grilled sausages, which are served three in a bun with mustard. You know we had to try those! We didn’t notice too much different in terms of the types of handicrafts sold in the market here with one main exception; the famous Nürnberg prune people!  These little dolls are made of prunes and other dried fruits with a walnut for a head, and are decorated as all different types of townspeople.  Cute but kind of creepy!Nuremberg-91

I did buy the obligatory Christmas ornament. Then it was time to return to the bus, because we have an early departure this afternoon.

We are travelling on a tributary canal called the Mainz-Donau (Danube) Canal which ultimately will connect us to the Danube. Because this canal actually crosses the continental divide in Europe, it has to first go up and then come down which requires a crazy number of locks to accommodate the elevation differentials. Jim and spent the afternoon in the observation lounge in the front of the ship so we could watch our navigation. One of the most interesting aspects of this is that the canal actually crosses over a couple of highways, so a bunch of us raced upstairs to be able to snap pictures as we sailed over the road. Tomorrow we will dock in the university town of Regensberg, and we look forward to learning more about it.

Sailing to Regensburg-2Sailing to Regensburg-8Sailing to Regensburg-13Sailing to Regensburg-16Sailing to Regensburg-19

Ringing In Rüdesheim

Dec. 1, 2017:

Middle Rhine Cruising-1

Today our schedule was a little different as we are actually doing our traveling along this middle section of the Rhine by daylight. We haven’t found the Rhine nearly as scenic as we found the Rhône in France, but finally we are occasionally able to see a castle or two. There are something like 40,000 castles in Germany from tiny houses with turrets up to giant Schlosses. In any event, we will be pullng into our next mooring in Rüdesheim about 2:00 this afternoon.

Middle Rhine Cruising-12

Middle Rhine Cruising-20

Middle Rhine Cruising-23

Middle Rhine Cruising-42
Coming into Rudesheim

This is a fairly small town, but really cute deep in the heart of wine-growing country in Germany. In fact, as we docked, our ship was met with a huge delivery which appears to mostly consist of cases of local Riesling wine, all marked “Drink Riesling; Not Water!”.





This was also the first town we were able to walk right off board and into town. Jim and I really like the freedom this gives us. So we walked into town, with our first activity being a visit to the music box museum, which has everything from what we think of as music boxes to huge cabinets of mechanized instruments which can replicate the sounds of an entire orchestra popular around the turn of the last century.

The building housing Siegfried’s Musical Cabinet Museum and its merry-go-round
Our Tour Directors
The petting zoo at Sigfried’s

Right after that visit, we headed to a local hotel, with a cozy restaurant called Rüdesheim Schloss, where we had a lesson in baking the local type of Christmas cookies, Christmas Coffee, and glühwein. After the lesson, Jim headed off to explore, while I sat out in the patio to try to upload photos for the blog.



FF Finnish Sami man in traditional dress– they had a sale pavilion selling Finnish products

Mission accomplished, we walked back together through the many Christmas market stalls to the ship. Tomorrow is also a later sail to our final destination for this part of the trip, Cologne (Köln).

Insatiable for Alsace

Nov. 27, 2017:

Today we’re doing a deep dive into the Alsatian region of France. Our explorations today will take us both to the small town of Riquewihr, and to the third largest town in Alsace, Colmar. Both are deep in the heart of the Alsatian wine growing region, which is France’s third largest.Riquewihr-4

Our boat is docked on the German side of the Rhine, in the German port of Breisach. However, shortly after boarding our busses, we are in France, and headed to Riquewihr. I’d like to tell you there’s a bunch of historical significance to this stop, but the main purpose of this trip is to experience the Christmas markets that fill these small towns.


From a historical perspective, it’s probably enough that you know that this region has a dual identity, due in large part to this area trading ownership between Germany and France for about the last thousand years. Many of the inhabitants speak both French and German fluently, and most of the menus and and many street signs are in both French and German. The culinary tradition is also a happy mixture between both countries. In addition to the viniculture, local farms raise pigs, sheep, cows and goats, with the expected abundance of meat and dairy offerings. One of the best local dishes is a very thin Alsatian flatbread pizza called tarte de flambé which features crème fraiche, sautéed onion, bacon tidbits and grated Emmenthaler cheese. The local wine varietals tend toward more Germanic grapes such as Riesling (which is very dry), Gerwertztraminer, Müller Thurgau, Grüner Veltliner.

Glass Ornaments


After a brief orientation walk through the very small town, we were turned loose to shop. Knowing I had to keep Jim in a good mood, I made sure that our first stop was at a stall selling hot mulled wine. His mood was further improved by all the free samples of cookies and gingerbread (pain d’epice) on offer.

Buche de Noel (Christmas cakes)
Vin Chaud (or Glühwein)

The town was really cute with all these half-timbered houses dating back to the medieval period. Also, the little stands for the Christmas market were stashed in alleyways and along the main street, with everything being decorated to the Nth degree. The Christmas stalls are about divided in half between those selling foodstuffs and drinks, and those selling Christmas crafts. In this region, some of the most popular crafts are blown glass Christmas ornaments, carved wooden ornaments and nativity scenes, leather goods, and pottery.

Colored marzipan and other candies and fruits




Gingerbreadmen-shaped chocolates


After we covered about half the market, Jim and I had a very good lunch in a traditional Alsatian restaurant or (Vin Stube). I tried the tarte de flambé, while Jim and a meal with Pork sausages and ham paired with sauerkraut (choucroute), and we both had the local Riesling wine, which is very crisp and dry. Thus fortified, we finished shopping the market (and drinking gluhwein) and then loaded the bus for our next destination, Colmar.



The Little France area of Colmar




Colmar is a much larger town than Riquewihr, but it also is predominantly a medieval town, although it was first established during the Roman empire. Many travel resources consider Colmar the most beautiful medieval town in France, and some would say, in Europe. By the time we arrived, it had gotten quite a bit colder, and we met our local guide for a walking tour of the town. Colmar is also famous as being the birthplace of Auguste Bartoldi, the man which designed the Statue of Liberty. In fact, The town has its own Bartoldi museum, and smaller scale model of the Statue of Liberty, and historical monument markers on the sidewalks imprinted with the head of the Statue of Liberty.



The Customs House Building (in the back)

Scattered all over the old section of town, starting in the riverfront area known as Little Venice where the tanners originally plied their trade, there are multiple different Christmas market areas. A couple of these areas even have merry-go-rounds and little rides for the kids. One thing Jim and I have noticed is that these markets exist largely to cater to local families, and French and German tourists. You do not hear hardly any English spoken here, to the point that most of the shop keepers in the markets have very limited English skills, although they are friendly. Nonetheless, it does not seem to be impairing Jim’s ability to order Gluhwein!


The Living Nativity Scene waiting for baby Jesus to be born


The Cathedral


All gingerbread, all the time

The buildings in this town are just crazy cute on their own, and over the top cute, decorated as they are for Christmas! One other funny thing that strikes us is that there are Christmas carols playing almost everywhere, but they are all in English. Go figure! The old customs house is an especially handsome building, and there is a large local specialty artisans’ market located inside and next door in a church. There is even a nativity scene with live farm animals outside. I had shopped Jim into the ground by this time, so we trooped back to the bus for the ride home. Tomorrow, we visit the capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg.

Internet Hell


Dear Readers:  In keeping with our earlier post today, we are experiencing technical difficulties with the Internet onboard ship.  After 3 days of messing around, we think we may have a tech solution, but it will need to wait until we get into town tomorrow (November 30th) to find out. Until then, wish us good tech karma …

Panic in Basel

Nov. 26, 2017:


After our day at the Basel Christmas markets yesterday, Jim and I had a FABULOUS dinner last night at a traditional Swiss restaurant called Walliser Kanne. I was craving fondue, and I talked Jim into indulging with me. I have to say; it was the BEST fondue I’ve ever had!

Today had its high points and low points … as a transition day, there is always a great deal of “hurry up and wait” for which we try to mentally prepare. However, today was especially trying, as I found myself channeling my inner “Kaplan” (Virginia peeps; you know what I’m talking about). After a less than complete night’s sleep (trying to adjust to the time zone change), I got up finally about 6:30, and started getting my stuff together to transition to the river ship, M.S. Inspire. Loud gasp; where was my purse?!!!!!!!

After looking through the room several times (including getting down on my belly so I could scan under the beds), I concluded that I must have left it at the restaurant last night. We quickly planned that we would walk back over to the restaurant to retrieve it if it opened before we left at 3:00 this afternoon.   Except … the restaurant was closed today all day! So, I went to the concierge and asked her if there was any possibility that someone could find the owner of the restaurant to let me in. The concierge was able to find someone at the sister restaurant to Walliser Kanne who said there was someone who would arrive at noon, who could go over and check. After a nerve-wracking 3 and half hours, she reported that they were not able to find my bag. Fortunately, before I could go into full panic mode and start canceling all our credit cards, I remembered my iPhone was in my purse, so I had Jim activate the tracker. Strangely … my purse appeared to actually be in our hotel in! I went running back to the room while Jim activated the pinger on the phone. Sure enough, I found the purse hiding behind the curtains in the room. Whew!!!!!!!


As an aside, I am having some technical difficulties uploading my photos right now, so it appears this will be a photo less post. However, I have my tech gurus working on a solution right now (thanks, JIm). Hopefully we’ll be back up and running in just a couple of days.

Disaster averted (although still feeling massively foolish), Jim and I took a walk along the river to burn off some excess adrenaline. We were even able to see our ship.  After walking back to the hotel, it was finally time to board. Our room is lovely and the ship is nicely equipped, so we had a good day to a day that started our pretty shaky. Tomorrow, we dock in our first port; Breisach, Germany. From there we will be visiting two town in the French Alsatian region, Riquewihr and Colmar.


Hail to Helsingborg!

September 11, 2017:

After a very rough and windy sail last night, we made in port this morning in Helsingborg, Sweden. The winds are still so strong that the Captain had a very big struggle just to get the ship docked! Helsingborg lies just two miles across the Øresund strait from Denmark. When the weather is clear, you can actually see Hamlet’s castle, Kronborg, across the strait.


Our explorations of the day will take us out into the Swedish countryside. We plan to take in morning coffee (the Swedish call this custom fika), and then we will drive out to a coastal area called Kullaberg to see a natural preserve in that area.

As we drive along, we are still dodging rain as we take to the country roads. We can immediately see some differences from the Norwegian architecture. For one thing, many of the older buildings are made out of stone. Further, instead of being painted white, most of the wooden houses were painted yellow, blue or red, which was a cheery relief on a drizzly day like today!


Our first stop was about 45 minutes outside of the Helsingborg city center (which is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Sweden), at the farm converted into a coffee shop and bakery called Flickorna Lundberg. The current owner and operator of the farm met us at the bus, and he had a charming story to tell once he guided us into the greenhouse coffee room. Apparently, early in the last century, his mother was one of six daughters in her family when their father, who owned the farm, and told them that he was in danger of losing the farm because he couldn’t make the payments on it. The girls got together and came up with a plan to save the farm. Since all the girls were very good pastry chefs and since the farm grew many wonderful fruits and dairy products that could be showcased if they ran a bakery coffee shop, the sisters proposed starting that business. Now, nearly a century later, our host is running the business with his daughters, and his mother still lives in a charming cottage on the farm. Along the way, the coffee shop became semi-famous, as Crown Prince Gustav Adolf (who later became King) discovered their wonderful pastries and patronized their shop regularly. History lesson over, we tucked into some really fabulous flaky pasties and cookies, and then wandered outside to explore the gardens.

The greenhouse coffee shop


Mama Lundberg’s cottage


Our next stop was at the Brunnby Kyrka (Brunnby Church), which was originally built in 12th Century, and then reconstructed in the 15th Century. Like most Swedish country churches, it has a very plain white exterior, but inside it features a barrel stave ceiling. Also of note is that walls of the church were painted with frescoes painted by the “Helsingborg Master” (please don’t ask me who that was!) in about 1450 A.D.

Brunnby Kyrka


The barrel stave ceiling

Helsingborg-13Sadly, the frescoes were whitewashed after Reformation, but they were later uncovered in the 20th Century.

From Brunnby, we drove on to the coastal area of Kullaberg. This seaside community is a favorite vacation spot for the local Swedes, and many from the Helsingborg area own summer houses here. By this time, however, summer is officially over, and the town looked pretty sleepy and deserted.

The village of Kullaberg


The main object of our visit, however, is the Kyllaberg National Preserve, a wild cliff side area just outside of the town. We were happy to see that the rain had passed on by this time and we got out of the bus to explore the preserve. We climbed up to the light house to take advantage of the great views, and to visit the the small museum there. Frankly, the wind was so chill out on this rocky peninsula (which lies to the northwest of Helsingborg) that we were happy to go into the museum just to warm up.

Aerial view of the Kullaberg peninsula (not mine)

Helsingborg-18Helsingborg-20Helsingborg-21Helsingborg-22Another cup of kaffe would have been great right about this time, but the café at the Reserve was closed for the winter. Oh, well, back to the ship!

Sailing away from Helsingborg


Hamlet’s Castle (Kronborg)

Possibly the best part of the day was our passage down the Øresund Strait. We joined our new friends Marty and Bob up on the aft deck fortunately equipped with heat lamps, comfy chairs and wool blankets for the sail away. Not only were we able to see the Kronborg Castle across the Strait (at least with my telephoto lens), but as we drew near to Copenhagen, we could see the city clearly. Jim and I will return here next week when we visit our cousins in Gothenburg. Probably the coolest thing we saw, though, were the wind turbines situated in the shallow waters of the Strait. From the location of our ship, you could see the cars driving on the bridge connecting Malmo, Sweden to Copenhagen, including the place where the bridge becomes a tunnel and dives under the sea. From where we were standing on deck, it looked like the cars were just disappearing under the waves! If that weren’t exciting enough, the flight path for the Copenhagen airport had one plane after another flying right over us as they came in on final approach. Wow!


First views of Copenhagen and the waterborne wind turbines
Passing the wind turbines
Jets on final approach


With our new friends, Marni and Bob

With that, we went down to dinner. Tomorrow we will land in Szczecin. Poland. Sweet Dreams!

Awesome Oslo

September 10, 2017:

We arrived in Oslo this Sunday to a cool, but somewhat clear morning. Our ship is moored at a wharf right next to the Akerhus Fortress (Akershus Festning). The town was founded in 1048 by King Harald III, and became a Bishropic in 1070, and then became the Norwegian capital in 1300. The city itself is located on a huge bay located at the apex between Norway and Sweden, although they call it the Oslofjord. The bay is home to over 40 islands, and the area surrounding Oslo has 348 lakes.



We have no planned activities this morning, so after a leisurely breakfast, Jim and I set off on a walk to see some of the notable sights in downtown Oslo. From the ship, we walk around the harbor waterfront area which a very pretty. The buildings of the Nobel foundation are also located here. Then we wandered into a flower market that seemed to only be selling different varieties of heathers.

Oslo Harbor
Viking Biker
Nobel Building
Oslo Flower Market


Then we walked over to the Royal Palace, which lies on a slight hill in the center of the city. The views were very good, and we saw a bike tour featuring someone wearing a Viking helmet! When in Oslo …Oslo-21Special

The Royal Palace

Viking Bike Tour

From the Palace, we walked down the main shopping street, Karl Johan, but since it is Sunday, almost none of the stores are open. We passed by both the Norwegian Parliament building and also the University of Oslo, both of which are housed in very imposing buildings.Oslo-25Special

View down Karl Johan from the Royal Palace

University of Oslo
Oslo Parliament


Finally we walked through the grounds of the Akerhus Fortress, which offered fantastic views of the bay from the battlements. Even better, we chanced upon a family dressed in traditional Norwegian costumes leaving from the chapel in the fort, and they were kind enough to let us take their pictures.




Our formal excursion this afternoon is to learn more about the maritime history of Norway. To do this, we take a sightseeing bus a short way out of the city to the Bygdøy Peninsula, where a collection of notable Norwegian museums are located. Along the way, we pass an immense ski jumping hill, the Holmenkollbakken, right outside of town, which also has a museum dedicated to the sport of skiing.

We have three museums on today’s itinerary: The Kontiki Museum; the Fram Museum and the Viking Ship Museum. We then drove on to our first stop, the Kontiki Museum. I can’t tell you how excited we were to see this museum dedicated to the explorations of Thor Heyerdahl, one of Norway’s most famous explorers.

The Kon Tiki Museum


Heyerdahl was an adventurer and ethnologist, with a background in botany, geography, and zoology. He first became famous by theorizing that the islands of the Pacific could be colonized by the inhabitants of South America by them building rafts out of local materials and sailing west. In support of his theory, he and several others built a raft out of balsa wood trunks called the Kon Tiki and successfully sailed from the west coast of Peru to the Marquesas islands of Tahiti in 1947. The trip took over 100 days and a distance of about 5,000 miles. Although anthropologists have largely debunked his theory (based on more recent DNA analysis of the Tahitian inhabitants), the quest was a great adventuring achievement. The Museum houses the Kon Tiki and also its later brother, the Ra II, which successfully sailed from Morocco to the Caribbean island of Barbados in 1970. Of particular interest to us was the fact that the Ra II was built out of papyrus reeds using the ancient reed boat style of the Bolivians of Lake Titicaca. Jim and I met the Bolivian boat builder who assisted Heyerdahl when we visited Lake Titicaca in May 2015. Heyerdahl was also instrumental in exploring and restoring the many moai statues of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island. The museum also houses numerous writings and artifacts of Heyerdahl’s life. Normally, just visiting this one museum would have been a great visit in and of itself, but wait … there’s more.

The Kon Tiki


The Ra II

The first Tiki Bar

We next visited the Fram Museum, which is home to the actual ship, Fram, which was designed and sailed by the great Norwegian explorer, Fridjof Nansen. Nansen had a great many epic explorations to his name, including being the first to cross the Greenland icecap, and his expedition to prove the existence of a transpolar ice drift from east to west.

The Fram Museum

Prior expeditions, which had attempted to prove the polar drift, had all tried to move from west to east, and the prior ships had all cracked and sunk when they became frozen in the polar ice. To counter these failures, Nansen designed the Fram (meaning “Forward”) with a rounded hull of the sturdiest types of wood with a thickness of almost five feet! Nansen’s plan to prove his theory involved putting together a highly specialized team of twelve men with a plan that the expedition would take up to five years starting off the Siberian coast. Nansen theorized that the polar drift would move in a northwesterly direction up and over the North Pole. The Fram left Oslo in June, 1893, and by September of that year, had become frozen in the drift ice off the Siberian coast. The Fram performed as intended and its rounded hull allowed it to pop up on the top of the polar while being carried west without the coast being crushed. However, the drift was taking far slower than anticipated, and Nansen concluded that in order to complete the journey with the supplies on board, he and one other person would have to leave the ship and set out to reach the North Pole on foot using kayaks and dog sleds. The crew spent the rest of 1894 and winter, 1895 preparing Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen for the journey. Unfortunately, the journey was so treacherous that the two were not able to achieve the necessary forward momentum necessary to achieve their goal of the North Pole, but they were successful in achieving the highest north latitude ever recorded, and they successfully trekked to the little known Franz Josef Land (a small archipelago of islands in the Barents Sea, arriving in April, 1895. The plan was for them to try to catch a ship bound west to the east coast of Norway. When no ship had been spotted by August, Nansen and Johansen made camp for the winter. After sheltering in place for eight months, they had the extreme good fortune to stumble upon the British explorer, Frederick Jackson, and were able to take his ship to the east coast of Norway, to the town of Vardø, landing there in August 1896. The Fram and her remaining crew emerged from the polar ice near Spitsbergen and made for Tromsø, Norway, where they were reunited with Nansen in August, 1896. Nansen became recognized as even more of a Norwegian hero than before, and in his future studies and travels, he was recognized as a zoologist and oceanographer, and eventually became a diplomat, and humanitarian, culminating in his foundation being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The bow and hull of the Fram
Depiction of the Fram floating on the polar ice
Aboard the Fram


In the hold of the Fram

Although being able to board and investigate the Fram in the museum was a highlight of the visit, there was so much more there to explore. Of special interest to Jim and me was the exhibit detailing all the prior failed attempts to find a Northwest Passage, along with an exhibit detailing Roald Amundsen’s successful passage expedition from 1903-1906. Next year, we plan to take our own Northwest Passage expedition, so the history was fascinating! It was also very enlightening to chart Amundsen’s course, as well as to be able to see his expedition ship, The Gjøa. Amundsen, like Nansen, was part of the golden age of Norwegian explorers and had numerous successful quests to his name as well. In addition to his Northwest Passage, Amundsen is probably best known for being the first to reach the South Pole from 1910-1912. By this time, Nansen was no longer actively leading expeditions, and he gave Amundsen permission to use the Fram to attempt again to reach the North Pole. However, by the time Amundsen set off, there were already at least two disputed claims by explorers of reaching the North Pole, so Amundsen diverted to Antarctica, which he successfully achieved in Dec. 1911. Amundsen was also credited with being the first to cross the North Pole in an airship. Needless to say, we could have spent all day at this museum!

However, we still had one more museum to visit: the Viking Ship museum. This museum is home to three separate Viking ships: the Oseberg, the Gokstad and the Tune ships. The Oseberg ship is the most complete Viking ship ever recovered, and the museum is also home to an amazing array of Viking grave goods, including furniture, jewelry, beds, sleds, and a horse cart. The displays of these archeological treasures is very well done, and once again, we could have hoped to spend a little more time here. But it was time to return to the ship!

Charting the Vikings Travels
The Oseberg Ship
The Gokstad Ship
The Tune Ship
Hull detail from the Oseberg

Once again, we had a very pleasant sail away from the harbor, and it was fun to see all the islands in the bay on our way to Helsingborg, Sweden tomorrow. On our way out of port, a whole flotilla of small boats accompanied us away from dock adding to the general fun of our sail away.