Greenland

I didn’t think anything could match the natural beauty of Iceland, but then we cruised through Prince Christian Sund – a long channel along the bottom of Greenland. 

The pictures below don’t begin to describe how amazing it was. We were very lucky to have a clear and calm day for the passage, which is apparently not the norm. For close to eight hours we slipped through narrow passages with steep cliffs, glaciers and weaterfalls on either side. Icebergs, too numerous to count, dotted the way. 

There are five places along the passage where the ice cap glaciers reach the ocean. As we went by one, a large chunk calved off creating a clap of thunder and large spray. I saw this once in Alaska but this was even better because of the isolation. For most of the passage our ship was totally alone except for a small sailboat we passed coming the other way. A couple of times where the passage was wide enough the captain slowly spun the ship around to get a full 360 view of the glacier we were passing by with only a few hundred metres to spare on either side. 

Near the end of the channel we passed a small isolated Inuit fishing village. Except for the weekly supply ferry very few ships come by the village. Our passing brought out a half dozen open power boats to view our ship, take pictures and wave. It was as much an event for them as us!  Although cruise ships are becoming more frequent in Greenland very few go through this passage. 

This has been some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen!

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Iceland

The first two of our three scheduled stops in Iceland were Akuryri on the north end of the island, and  Isafjodur on the northwest. Both are small towns existing mainly for fishing and a bit of farming. Now that they are on the tourist map some of the locals have purchased vans and ave started to provide tours. Yesterday we were driven around by a gentleman who lived a bit out of town (just about everything is out of town) who, in addition to driving the school bus and local taxi, had a farm, raised sheep, and harvested eiderdown from the thousands of eider ducks that nest on his property each spring. Apparently, the majority of the world’s eiderdown comes from Iceland. Who knew?  

Both days were filled with eyepopping scenery and amazing geologic features – waterfalls from melting glaciers, bubbling hot mud puddles, steam vents, fiords and lava rock formations. It’s like walking through a National Geographic magazine! It’s rugged and mostly untouched, but that will undoubtedly change as more tourists arrive. For now though, no MacDonalds, Starbucks or even traffic lights!

Our last stop in Iceland was two days in Reykjavik, the capital city.  Unlike the rest of the country, Reykjavik is a modern bustling city with high rises, highways and lots of cars. But it only takes a short ride to once again be immersed in the rugged beauty of the island. Our tour outside of the city included the famous geysers, more spectacular waterfalls and the national park. 

Next – on to Greenland!

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North Atlantic/ Arctic Circle 

A couple of blustery days at sea in the North Atlantic and crossing the Arctic Circle.

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Bergen Norway

Second largest city in Norway. Great views from the hilltop – had to take a tram to the top. 

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Copenhagen 

We are spending a couple of days in Copenhagen before boarding the ship. It has been around 12 years since our last visit here and expectedly, things have changed somewhat. It is still a wonderful city – the iconic landmarks are still here – the boats and restaurants of Nyhavn, Tivoli, Stroget (the walking street), the pastry shops, the Little Mermaid, etc. but there are lots of new buildings going up, fewer bicycles, and more cars than I remember. 

This is where a quarter of my DNA originates so I have an affinity for the city. It is a unique blend of Scandinavian modern, cosmopolitan vibe, and Danish quaint.  

Dinner tonight at a restaurant known for its traditional Danish food. Tomorrow- on the ship and heading to Norway!

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Rembrandt et al

An afternoon at the Rijks Museum. The pictures speak for themselves..

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Windmills, Dikes and Clogs

We toured out of the city today to find some of the mainstays of Dutch tourism – windmills, dikes and clogs. It only takes a brief ride to leave the city behind for vast fields of reclaimed land (polders) surrounded by low lying dikes. Not the storybook vision of breaking walls holding back the raging sea, but low berms with gentle pastures of grass, sheep and cows.

Most of the iconic Dutch windmills are gone, destroyed in the war or replaced by more modern methods of pumping and grinding. The ones we saw were still functioning, partly for the benefit of tourists, but still fulfilling their original purpose of harnessing the almost constant breeze. Inside the thatched mills we saw giant stones grinding flax seeds into a powder that is then pounded to squeeze out the oil – the same source for the paintings of Rembrandt we will see tomorrow.

It was then on to a cheese factory, a wooden shoe factory (yes they still really make them here) and another canal boat ride. Touristy yes, but surprisingly quaint. The locals are refreshingly pleasant and clearly proud to tell you about their heritage. There will be no cheese or clogs in our luggage but good memories and an appreciation for Dutch culture.

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Anne Frank House

No photos allowed.

None needed.

The message will last.

It is not a memory. It is a warning to all of us” – Shimon Peres – visiting Anne Frank House, 2013

Always relevant. More so now.

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Amsterdam – First Impressions

We’ve been in Amsterdam for just a day so far and are still a little time-zone fuzzy, but I am very impressed. What a friendly, tidy, and practical city! It reminds me of Copenhagen but with more canals and, if possible, more bicycles. Bicycles. They are everywhere, way outnumbering cars and pedestrians. And not your typical North American cycling – no helmets, no spandex, no multi-gear racing or mountain bikes. Just plain, functional two-wheel transportation- all with handles set so the riders sit upright, normal clothes, suits, dresses, children strapped into seats front and back, and all just gliding along without urgency or attitude.  

Another observation – the people. Like the city they live in, they appear friendly, tidy, and practical. Not a lot of glitz, high fashion, fancy clothes or even make-up, but healthy, attractive and fit (must have something to do with all the biking).

Last night we ate a light meal at a canal-side bar and watched boat after boat glide by, each filled with groups having drinks and snacks. Like taking a stroll in the park after dinner but on a boat. No busy streets, no honking of horns, or roaring scooters (sorry Rome). Also, we felt safe. I imagine Amsterdam has its underbelly, but even strolling past the red light district, bars, and a multitude of shops selling every kind of cannabis product imaginable, we saw no rowdiness, intoxication, or a single panhandler.

It has been just one day, but I like this city. Tonight – dinner on a canal boat.

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On the Trail of the Vikings

We are heading out on Tuesday for a month-long trip/cruise tracing the voyages of my Viking DNA! I’ve set up this site to post pictures and commentary to share with family and friends. 

We will spend a few days in Amsterdam first, then on to Copenhagen where we board the ship. We cruise the fiords and visit Bergen Norway then visit three ports in Iceland. Next stops are in Greenland, then across to Saint Johns Newfoundland, then Halifax and finally disembark in New York City. We will spend a few days in Toronto before heading home to Vancouver on September 13.

I hope to post pictures and updates every couple of days (assuming a decent internet connection). 

Thanks for following along! ⚓️

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