Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What the heck are the Faroe Islands?

I know I asked myself that question. Please tell me I'm not the only one... The Faroe Islands are situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Norway and Iceland. That last part explains how it landed on our itinerary as a cruise ship port. When you're going to Iceland, where else is "on the way", right?  It's right here...

Be honest. How many times have you noticed these islands on a map - or anywhere, for that matter?

Let's proceed into the Faroe Islands and on to Klaksvik, shall we? This was my first view of the islands. The little fishery circles fascinated me. 

As we got closer, you could see the fish jumping around in them.  

By this time on the cruise, we were becoming accustomed to mountains and fjords, but each country was unique in its topography. The Faroes allegedly have rain more than 260 days a year, and yet we had a clear day. Well, relatively clear. No rain - yay!

Klaksvik sits deep inside a sliver of waterway and is the largest city in the Faroes. It still affects me that people live in little places like this, but I can see the idyllic side of it. These residents of Denmark pay 50% income tax and have a 37% (!) HST (harmonized sales tax). That's the not-so-idyllic part.

As always, we spent a good part of the day walking the backstreets of town. I'll just share a few photos to give you a taste of life in the Faroes.

This gentleman, as many others we saw that day, was building a wind wall of hay. Hay is a huge crop in these islands. I loved walking among the locals and seeing how they really live. So often, when we visit, we're looking for "highlights", but, for me, the best things are the 'normal' things of the people and their country.

(note the roof of the house in the foreground...)

Some people like to be a little more remote. That's a hard concept for me in a place like this...

Around town, we found some interesting things. An odd statue, a war memorial with the Psalms (in Faroese), a business where one guy understands name recognition, and the fish hook...

 Ummm... I have nothing to say...

Psalm 103: 15-18

(Jordan said, "Bil had the right idea.")

(this one's for you, Michael Hatchell... You have always been a fisherman, and you hooked me long ago.)

The Christianschurch is a big draw here, because the church was the first one built in the old Norse Style. The high ceiling is excellent for acoustics (I, personally, like the little boat up there). It's dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Second World War. 

I would like to state, for the record, that I did not eat anything weird or wrong in this port. My ability to leave all my ethics behind has left, and I'm back on the straight and narrow. This is where I draw the line, friends. "Faroese Puffins are very common and part of the local cuisine". Nope! I hit up the grocery store and the bakery (as if  there wasn't any food on the cruise ship...).

Bye-bye, Faroe Islands.

Scotland! Lerwick, or Shetland if you choose.

What are you expecting? Sunny and bright? Not exactly...

Our first glimpse of Scotland was drab and a bit dreary but still so lovely. It was early morning (we'd adjusted our clocks for the 3rd time change in 6 days...), and, although the clouds hung low, the air was fresh and clean.

The town was beautiful, and the architecture seemed perfect for where we were. I feel that buildings should reflect culture - is anybody with me on that?

Due to a late start with the tendering process to get ashore, we didn't have much time in Scotland. Most people grabbed a cab to go find some Shetland ponies, but Jordan & I, in typical Hatchell fashion, made our way through the neighborhoods and mingled with the locals. 

 Here is the obligatory "English Garden" shot with the locals playing bocci on the lawn:

Speaking of locals... we do believe word about our feeding episode in Bergen may have made its way to Scotland. These 2 followed me around for awhile... If you zoom in, you'll see they were looking directly at me.

Or, it may have been that earlier they'd seen us eating exotics. Not birds, mind you - kangaroo. I confess, I tried it (and lots of you have told me you have, too, so don't go pointing any fingers...) Here's the evidence, and, yes, I cajoled my child into trying it, too. I'm a terrible, but interesting, mother.

While we're on the subject of food (hey, we were on a cruise... food is a big part of your daily thoughts) take a look at all the kinds of Turkish Delight! This is for all my Narnia sisters and brothers...

Sail-away gave us some views of some of the flattest cloud formations we'd ever seen.

Sorry - no pony pics. I guess we'll have to go back...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Geiranger - another view of Norway

I woke up at the ridiculous hour of 3 am and decided to peek out the balcony window. So glad I did, as  our ship was just leaving the open sea and entering the fjords that would guide us into Geiranger. And, it was sunrise...

Geiranger was beautiful. I can't imagine living there year-round, but neither can most people. Only 30 of the 1,760 residents stay through the winter (bless them). However, 300,000 cruise passengers visit there in the 4-month long tourist season. Do they love us or hate us?

We did private tours in Geiranger - one by bus and one by boat. Considering we slept through the sail in, we thought we should take a boat through Geirangerfjord. We did NOT do this tour:

No, we took a standard bus and boat tour. No costumes, thankfully. I embarrassed myself enough in Bergen, thank you very much.

This port was the beginning of our waterfall collection, so bear with me as I share lots of waterfall photos.

You can't see too many waterfalls, can you? I kept wondering what this looked like in Springtime when the snow was melting and pouring through these mountains. I doubt the tourism is at its peak then...

Here's an obligatory "bucket list" shot. With all these waterfalls and fjords, Jordan had to touch melting iceberg/waterfall water.

The bus tour gave us vistas that took our breath away. Enjoy the view:

Feeling small? We did. Looking down over our ship put it in perspective.

Or, wrap your brain around these campers (no, they're not cars) on the road at the bottom of this picture for a shocking size comparison...

This road is not for those who get carsick. A cruise friend's wife skipped the tour for that very reason. Good thinking. And, no, Michael, I can't see living here. (Do I have the only husband who is always looking at remote areas and saying, "Can't you see living here?! Wouldn't it be great?" My standard response is "Where do you shop?" wink-wink)

Oh! I almost forgot! Jared - here's your shot - the houses do indeed have flowers growing on their rooftops.

Norwegian Wood or Fur or Meat

Ah, Norway... Beautiful but different than I expected. Or maybe I was different. Jordan could probably differentiate between the two, because he saw me do some things I never thought I'd do. I'll confess as I go along.

The "ride" in was a little bumpy, but once we turned into the fjords, the water was completely calm.

The Pilot was just headed out, and snow was still sitting on the mountains in July:

Knowing the ship's path was 15km through the fjords, in semi-darkness, made my confidence in the Pilot's arrival that much stronger. if you're interested, take a look at this link to get an even better understanding of our route. It's a bit daunting to take a ship through here.

We slept in until 8am, ate a bit of a late breakfast, and watched the "early-riser-first-off-the-ship" people get rained on. It was the only real rain we saw for the first week, and it was over in just a few minutes.

Walking into town, we, somehow, walked past the walls of the fort. Don't judge me - it was my 2nd time zone in 4 days. Maybe we can credit my other behaviors here to that same thing, but I'll get to that...

It has more of a 'city' feel to it until you get away from the center of town. 

They have a Fish Market, which I know is not a shocker to any of you... Lots of fish(y) items:

and very large crabs:

They have whale... And, yes, I confess, I tried it. Judge me if you must, but "When in Rome" or Norway...

In my defense, there are A LOT of odd foods to eat here. "The Chef recommends":

What is surprising here is that the fish mongers speak 14 languages! You read that right - 14! I loved that, because it quashes all our stereo-types, does it not? Impressive... Spanish, Mandarin (!), Flemish - you name it.

We saw our first 2 churches in Bergen. The first was under reconstruction, so we couldn't enter. Mariakerke (St. Mary's Church) is Bergen's oldest building and dates back to the 12th century. It was the parish church for the Hanseatic Merchants from the 15th to the 18th centuries and still holds services.

This is Barbara. She's a manatee. (All Veggie Tales fans will get that...) Barbara travels with us, but, sadly, I left her in the cabin after this. So, here is her only shot:

We took a walk through town and found the City Gate, our second church (which was open and accessible), and the rows of historically wooden houses that explain everyone's fear of fire here. (Hi, Jordan. Thanks for putting up with my need to take pictures of you...)

The stained glass windows of the church were all made to appear child-like, and they had the single most interesting child baptism piece I'd ever seen. Check out the (mechanical) angel they can lower for use...

I always feel sorry for the seagulls that follow our ships. Often, they're so far from a shoreline, and I know they're just looking for food. So... during Sail-away I fed them. And they liked it. And we became "close" friends - really close.

I have 2 forms of proof we were in Bergen. Here's the first (please ignore the photo-bombing professional photographer behind us):

And, now, my final confession of this post. Here's the 2nd one:

I bought a reindeer... Judge me. I love it, and it was already dead. Does that count? I'm sorry - sort of.