Tag Archives: Norway

4 July 2019:
Bergen, Norway:
The Hut of the Hall of the Mountain King

By Corey Sandler

Bergen, the second city of Norway, is a gem that has managed to hold on to much of its character even as it becomes more and more popular with cruise ships and overland visitors.

It is one of our favorite places to walk: from the cruise terminal to town, from town up one of the seven hills, into the university district, and into corners and neighborhoods off the tourist track.

Grieg’s Troldhaugen

On this trip, I went with guests to Troldhaugen, the former home of the great composer Edvard Grieg, best known for “The Hall of the Mountain King”, “Peer Gynt”, and other masterworks.

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful trip, a beautiful conclusion to this cruise. In addition to touring his home, we also enjoyed a concert of works by Grieg, performed by a young Japanese pianist who won Bergen’s Grieg competition in 2018.

Here is some of what we saw today at Troldhaugen:

Grieg’s house, Troldhaugen
Grieg’s composing hut, down by the water. The diminutive Grieg would often sit on a thick volume of music by Brahms to reach the piano he had here.

The Beauty of Bergen

We’ve been in Bergen winter, spring, summer, and fall. Here are some of the city sights:

The Bryggen district, former home of the Hansa merchants in Bergen.
The Bergen train station
Winter in Bergen, on a previous trip

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

3 July 2019:
Olden and Loen, Norway:
The Sky Above, The Fjord Below

By Corey Sandler

Norway is a relatively small place, but Olden…well, it’s a tiny place in a grand setting.

Think of the Halls of the Mountain King and glaciers and trolls.

Olden is a village in the municipality of Stryn at the mouth of the Oldeelva river on the southern shore of the Nordfjorden, the North Fjord.

On this visit we anchored offshore of a nearby tiny village called Loen, which two years ago came onto the world stage with one of the most spectacular mountain gondolas in the world.

The Loen Skylift rises 1,100 meters or 3,317 feet from sea level at the fjord to a wonder world up above. Opened just two years ago, it is one of the three steepest gondolas in the world, with the last stretch nearly vertical.

Silver Wind from on high.

Each of the two cabins can accommodate 35 people, and the trip takes about five minutes in each direction. The cable car also serves hiking trails and winter ski trails.

We began on a light drizzle at our ship and ended up in a snow storm. I’d like to show you some beautiful views of the fjord and the glacier, but you’ll have to settle for a whiter shade of pale. On July 3…

Nordfjorden is one of the longest fjords in Norway, with its main arm extending eastward from the sea about 106 kilometers or 66 miles. The fjord starts as runoff from the Jostedalsbreen, Europe’s largest mainland glacier, in the east and it flows west.

Snow squall in July

That said, the glaciers of Norway are mere shadows of their former grandeur. The Briksdalsbreen glacier, a popular hiking destination, is located about 25 kilometers or 16 miles south of Olden; just a decade ago it was a broad blue belt of ice. Today it is more like a dirty string tie.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

1 July 2019:
Hammerfest, Norway:
Everything Old is New Again

By Corey Sandler

Hammerfest is very Norwegian, with the same sort of end-of-the-world feeling as most of the other places we visit in northern Norway, inside the Arctic Circle.

And yet it also feels different.

500 kilometers or 312 miles inside the Arctic Circle, this is a place of very severe weather.

Hammerfest is an old settlement with evidence of inhabitation going back 10,000 years, the ancestral home of the Nordic Sea Sami people, and beginning in the early 19th century a settlement of European and then North American traders attracted to the ice-free harbor that is tempered by a finger of the Gulf Stream.

This is not a town of old clapboard houses and time-worn storefronts. You’ll find contemporary office and apartment building, state-of-the-art oil and gas terminals, and a church on Kirkegata shaped like a space rocket.

All right, not really a rocket ship: it is supposed to pay homage to the traditional triangular drying racks for stockfish or bacalao.

It is also home to the famed Struve Geodetic Arc Monument, a point of measurement along a meridian line from the 19th century, one of the first scientific efforts to determine the size and shape of the globe.

The Struve Geodetic Arc Monument

But why is Hammerfest so relatively modern?

The first reason is that old Hammerfest has had a very hard time over the years. The town has been knocked down, burned down, and bombed and rebuilt many times.

The second is that it is the recent beneficiary of massive investment by oil and gas producers working even farther north, in the Arctic.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

30 June 2019:
Honningsvåg and Nordkapp, Norway:
The Far North

By Corey Sandler

We’ve reached the top of Norway.

Honningsvåg is the northernmost city on the mainland of Norway.

There are a few gotchas in that description. Mainland, not on an island. City, not a town or village or settlement.

Honningsvåg has only about 2,484 inhabitants, which is below the Norwegian definition of a city as a place with at least 5,000 residents. But its status as a city was grandfathered in place.

Searching for a northeast passage to India in 1553, British navigator Richard Chancellor—among the early explorers of the far north—came upon a jut of rock 307 meters or 1,007 feet above the Barents Sea.

Chancellor named the dramatic landscape North Cape.

A small fishing village near the cape was totally destroyed by the Germans in 1944 and never rebuilt.

What today is called Nordkapp, North Cape, arose in 1950 as the northernmost municipality on the mainland of Europe.

The steep cliff of North Cape at 71 degrees 10 minutes North Latitude is about 2,102 kilometers or 1,306 miles from the geographic North Pole. But it is not the northernmost piece of land in Europe to purists like me.

The tourist attraction at Nordkapp includes a metallic sculpture of planet earth a display of art and artifacts, plus a gift shop.

Nordkapp is just across the bay from the actual northernmost piece of land in Europe.

So why is the gift shop there?

Because Nordkapp has a road, a parking lot for buses, and plumbing and electricity.

Neighboring Knivskjellodden Point, just to the west, extends about a mile further north. But that place is a rather difficult hike and has no parking lot or plumbing.

But actually, since both of these points are situated on an island, some purists will maintain that neither is on the mainland of Europe.

And so, they point to Cape Nordkinn (Kinnarodden)  about 70 kilometers or 43 miles to the east. It’s not quite as far north, but it is on the mainland of Europe.

Silver Wind at the pier in Honningsvåg, the big fish in a sea of fishing boats.
Repurposing some of the tools of winter with hopes of summer.
Nordkapp, which is near the northernmost piece of mainland Europe. The actual northernmost finger of land is almost inaccessible and doesn’t have space for tour buses to visit.
The marker at Nordkapp.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

29 June 2019:
Tromsø, Norway:
Churchill’s Northern Obsession

By Corey Sandler

Tromsø is the largest city in Northern Norway, 350 kilometers or 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

It is the second largest city within the Arctic Circle, behind only Murmansk, Russia. (Some of you may be preparing to look up the population of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Let me save you the trouble: Reykjavik is a sizeable city about twice the size of Tromsø, but only a small slice at the northern end of the entire island nation of Iceland is within the Arctic Circle.)

Back to Tromsø. Please don’t expect Paris.

Even though at one time this city of 50,000 or so did claim the nickname “The Paris of the North.” It earned that title because successful merchants in the late 19th and early 20th century developed a relatively significant trade with France and brought back a few of the niceties of Paris.

Today I went with guests to see the striking Arctic Cathedral and then to ascend the cable car to the mountain above for a view of the island city. Finally, we visited the Polar Museum, filled with artifacts, photos, and charts of the early explorers and hunters of the far north.

Just as I had promised the guests, we had all four seasons in the course of one day. Starting with rain, moving to a brief glimpse of sun, then snow squall, and back to gray skies.

Silver Wind at the dock
The Arctic Cathedral
The Polar Museum

It is still a very remote place, quite cold and dark in the winter and chilly and not dark at all in the Midnight Sun of summer. Summer solstice came a week ago, on June 21 so locals and visitors will not see the sun fully drop below the horizon for another month.

By the end of the 19th century, Tromsø was a major base for Arctic expeditions. Explorers like Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile and Fridtjof Nansen picked up supplies and often recruited their crew in the city.

As the Germans advanced northward in 1940 early in World War II, Tromsø briefly served as the seat of Norwegian government. Tromsø escaped the war without major damage, although this part of Northern Norway was one of the most closely watched places in the world.

It was just outside of Tromsø the great German battleship Tirpitz was finally bottled up and destroyed by the Allies after serving as the northern obsession of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill because of the threat it posed to Allied convoys and military vessels in the area.


Big sky in Tromsø.
Tromsø in winter, on a previous visit.


All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

28 June 2019:
Leknes, Norway:
Pastoral Times

By Corey Sandler

Leknes, a bit more than two square kilometers or just under one square mile, is home to about 3,200 people. Plus the occasional hundreds who descend from cruise ships who come to this beautiful part of Norway.

It is hard to think of a part of Norway that is not beautiful. Leknes has a leg up because of its location in the geographical middle of the Lofoten archipelago on Vestvågøy island.

Stockfish on the racks

I went with guests to visit the Lofotr Viking Museum in Borg, near Leknes. Europe’s largest Viking longhouse, a chieftain’s farmstead, it was discovered by a farmer in his field.

We saw re-enactors practicing old Viking trades and enjoyed a version of a 1,600-year-old recipe for lamb soup.

Out in the country you’ll see some old cabins, called rorbuer.

Along the water in the islands there still stand more than a few old rorbu, a traditional type of seasonal house used by fishermen. One end of the structure is on land, the other end stands on poles in the water allowing easy access to vessels.

They’re not much used for their original purpose anymore; instead they are used as vacation homes to fish money out of tourist’s pockets.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

27 June 2019:
Brønnøysund, Norway:
The One with the Hole in the Mountain

By Corey Sandler

The small town of Brønnøysund, population about 5,000, sits just below the Arctic Circle.

It has managed to hold on to an economy based around fishing in the open sea and in many fish farms, agriculture, the largest limestone mine in northern Europe, and our guests and most of the readers of this blog: tourists.

It also is home to the Fort Knox or the Tower of London of Norwegian government documents, the Registry. Marriage licenses, birth certificates, divorce decrees, tax filings: the essential detritis of society.

Bronnoysund is about 75 miles below the Arctic Circle, which means there is a short period of twilight between about 1 and 4 in the morning on the day of our visit. But not to worry: they have lights inside the Registry.

About 9 miles of 14 kilometers south of town, on the island of Torget, is Torghatten Mountain—Square Hat Mountain. That name for the place that rises like a colossal castle of sheer granite is apt. But the fact is that most people will remember Torghatten as the “one with the hole in it.”

The hole is a tunnel about 160 meters or 520 feet long and 20 meters or 66 feet wide. There are trails that lead to it, but most visitors see Torghatten from ships approaching or departing town.

According to legend, the hole was made by the troll Hestmannen while he was chasing the beautiful girl Lekamøya. When the troll realized he would not get the girl, he released an arrow to kill her, which is certainly not appropriate.

In any case, the story says the troll-king of Sømna threw his hat into the path of the arrow path to save her. The hat turned into the mountain with a hole in the middle.

If you don’t buy the story about the troll and the girl and the arrow, scientists say the hole was formed during the Scandinavian ice age, about 11,000 B.C.E. Ice and water eroded looser rocks, while the harder ones in the mountain top resisted erosion.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

26 June 2019:
Ålesund, Norway:
In a Reflective Mood

By Corey Sandler

In Ålesund, it’s nearly impossible to avoid slipping into a reflective mood.

This handsome city includes an interior harbor for small vessels, surrounded by a handsome collection of Jugendstil buildings, the Germanic version of Art Nouveau style.

Like many built-up cities of its time, Ålesund suffered from a great fire; the one here came in 1904 and reconstruction was partly funded by and absolutely influenced by German kaiser Wilhelm II.

We have been to Ålesund many times and it is always a place that gratifies me as a photographer. The trick, for me, is to find a new way to reflect on its appeal.

You can see more photos from our visit of two weeks ago in the blog entry for June 4.

Bales of hay in the countryside; some local wags call them Troll Eggs.

Today I went with a group of guests on a day-long trip inland to lunch at a spectacular restaurant atop Mount Stranda, a substantial ski resort about 3,400 feet above the fjords.

We traveled by coach, ferry, and ski gondola in each direction. Here is some of what we saw:

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved.

For most of our time we were above the clouds, but there were brief intervals of clearing and reflections of yet another wondrous part of Norway.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

25 June 2019:
Flåm and Gudvangen, Norway:
Up and Over and Around

By Corey Sandler

We arrived early this morning in Flåm, one of the busiest tiny places in Norway. There is not much here except for the base station for the extraordinary train that climbs up the mountain range…and a rather good craft beer brewery that for some reason set up shop here.

We were last here on June 5, and you can read more details about the train and the town in the blog entry for that day.

After about two hours at anchor, Silver Wind went around the corner to Gudvangen through one of the most handsome fjords in Norway…which is about as high praise as I can offer.

I went with a group of guests on an all-day excursion that began with a tender into Flåm to meet up with the morning sailing of the Future of Fjords catamaran to Gudvangen. The name of the vessel reflects the vision of its owners: it is an all-electric boat, made of lightweight carbon fiber and powered by battries that deliver 450 kWhr of power to each of the two propellers. It glided at 16 knots through the fjord, leaving no smoke and only wake in its path.

Aboard the futuristic Future of Fjords boat.
Silver Wind at anchor, reflected in the glass of the Future of Fjords.
In Aurlandsfjord.

From Gudvangen we went by coach up into the mountains and then onto the mainline of the Norwegian railroad that connects Oslo to Bergen. We rode across from Voss to Myrdal, and there transferred to the famed Flåmsbana railroad that descends down to the sea.

At Kjossfossen (the Kiss Waterfall) a hyuldra lures.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

19 June 2019:
Oslo, Norway:
The Monumental City

By Corey Sandler

We have reached the apogee (and final port of call) of this cruise. Late this afternoon we will exit Oslofjord and head for the North Sea, and from there back to London. It has been a lovely excursion from the United Kingdom to five countries: France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

Oslo is the capital and largest city of Norway, a mid-sized country, a bit smaller than Germany or Finland, a bit larger than Poland or Italy. It is Europe’s fastest-growing capital and the third-largest city of Scandinavia.

Silver Wind at the dock below Akershus Castle today.

It includes a green space with a sprawling sculpture installation that is a wondrous, strange, uplifting, and disturbing theme park of humanity: Vigelund Park.

A set of intriguing museums, including one that houses a nearly-intact Viking ship.

Under the guns at Akershus.

Another holds Fram, one of the pioneering Arctic exploration ships of Fridtjof Nansen.

And a third memorializes the unusual vessel Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft that was at the heart of a theory by Norwegian adventurer
Thor Heyerdahl. He theorized that the islands of the South Pacific were populated by explorers from South America. Interesting theory, though more modern analyses point elsewhere.

Reflections of a monumental city. All photos copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

And there is a monument to global peace, funded by Alfred Nobel, one of the developers of dynamite and other explosives that greatly increased the death rate of modern warfare.

Modern Oslo is the hub of government for Norway as well as much of the country’s trade, banking, industry, and shipping. It is also considered one of the most expensive places to live, somewhere in the company of Singapore, Paris, Melbourne, and Tokyo. In return, residents receive one of the world’s best packages of social services.

The amazing Vigelund Park in Oslo, a theme park of humanity
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo
The Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

5 June 2019:
Vik and Flåm, Norway:
Fjords, Falls, and Rails

By Corey Sandler

Our last calls in Norway are two small settlements in a spectacular fjord, in many ways an encapsulation of the history and legends of the country.

We began with an early morning visit to Vik, on the southern shore of the Sognefjorden. Like much of Norway, it is a tiny settlement in an outsized setting. The municipality spreads across 833 square kilometers or 322 square miles, with about 2,700 residents.

A thousand years ago or so, this fjord was a thoroughfare for the Vikings.

These days, cruise ships pass by pretty regularly in the summer. Most are headed directly for Flåm, but from time to time, one of them stops for a while in Vik.

I went with guests on a day-long trip from Vik, up into the mountains and then across the top by railroad and then down the hill to Flåm. Our first visit was to the very impressive Hopperstad Church, first erected about the year 1130. It is probably the oldest stave church in the world, and a living bridge between Viking mythology and Christian belief.

Here is some of what we saw there:

Hopperstad Church in Vik. Photos by Corey Sandler, copyight 2019, all rights reserved.

About lunchtime, our ship sailed around the corner to the even smaller settlement of Flåm, famous for its scenery and its railroad that ascends from the sea toward the sky.

The village of Flåm is at the end of the Aurlandsfjord, a small arm of the spectacular Sognefjord from the Norwegian Sea.

Flåm has been a tourist attraction since the late 19th century.

Truth be told, though: the port is basically a train station, a ferry slip, a cruise dock, and a few gift shops.

About 500,000 visitors come each year by ship or train; about 175 cruise ships come each summer.

The 20-kilometer (12-mile) Flåmsbana railway rises from the town at sea level to the high village of Myrdal on the steepest standard gauge railway in Europe. The maximum rise or gradient is about 5.6 percent; up 863 meters or 2,831 feet_(1:18) through 20 tunnels and across one bridge.

The trip takes about an hour each way, churning up the mountain at 40 kilometers or 25 miles per hour. Going down, they apply the brakes to keep the speed to 30 kilometers or 19 miles per hour.

There’s a spectacular waterfall about halfway down the mountain, which is high praise for a place like Norway. And, just for us, a huldra, a temptress of the forest emerged. I–and the other men in our group–barely escaped.

The temptress emerges. Photos by Corey Sandler

The idea for the train arose in the 1890s, when trade and tourism was beginning to grow in this part of Norway. But the technology was not yet ready, and construction only began in 1936.

After Germany occupied Norway in 1940, the line was completed. Germany wanted the railway to support their military aims as well as export of raw materials.

After the war, steam engines were replaced by electric locomotives. And the industrial and agricultural products were replaced by tourists.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

4 June 2019:
Ålesund, Norway:
Out of the Ashes

By Corey Sandler

There are many things terrible about a great fire. Lives, property, history lost.

But if you’re looking for something positive about the destruction of a city by fire, there is this: when a boomtown burns down and is rebuilt, the result is often a handsome showpiece of a particular style.

Such was the case in the core of the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. The Chicago Fire of 1871. Virginia City in Nevada in 1875 at the peak of the silver mining boom. San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906.

Ålesund was almost totally destroyed on January 23, 1904.

The familiar story is that the fire began after a cow kicked over a torch and in the cold night a wind-driven fire raced through the wooden town, destroying about 850 homes, killing one person, and leaving more than 10,000 residents without shelter.

German Kaiser Wilhelm had been a frequent vacationer to Ålesund and coastal Norway. After the fire, Wilhelm sent four warships with materials to build temporary shelters.

And then the town was rebuilt in stone, brick, and mortar in Jugendstil, the Germanic version of Art Nouveau style.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

3 June 2019:
Hellesylt and Geirangerfjord, Norway:
Up and Over

By Corey Sandler

We headed in from the Norwegian Sea on one of the most spectacular watery highways to the interior of coastal Norway, following a twisting and turning pathway along the big Storfjorden, then into the smaller Sunnylvsfjorden, and finally the even narrower Geirangerfjorden.

And just for fun, along the way, we sailed alongside an area of unstable mountainside that threatens the entire region if and when it finally lets loose. The thought of a tsunami in a narrow Norwegian fjord is enough to send the trolls into hiding.

In the morning, we made a stop in Hellesylt in the outer reaches. The local waterfall was in full force as the snows of winter melted.

Here is some of what we saw:

Silver Wind at the dock in Hellesylt
All photos copyright 2019, Corey Sandler

At noon we headed to Geiranger, at the dead end of the fjord.

A GEIRANGER ALBUM

At the end of the fjord in Geiranger

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

2 June 2019:
Bergen, Norway:
Fire and Ice

By Corey Sandler

Bergen is a modern city set in an ancient town, the one-time capital of Norway and a place with a broken link to England.

The beautiful horseshoe harbor, framed by a handsome bowl of seven hills, has a bustling commercial center, an active fishery with a great public fish market, and a laid-back Scandinavian culture that meets up with a lively university and student culture.

Across its history, thought, Bergen has had its tough times. Plague and war, fire and ice.

Skies today began gray and threatening, with no fire or ice expected. Sun broke through at midday…forestalling a return to gray.

All photos copyright 2019 Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

Bergen is said to have been founded by Olav Kyrre, also known as Olaf III. Olaf, the King of Norway from 1067 to 1093, was present at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in England.

That battle is considered the end of the Viking Age, or at least the beginning of the end. It pitted an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada against an Anglo-Saxon army led by King Harold Godwinson.

King Hardrada and most of the other Norwegians were killed in a bloody battle. Olaf—the son of King Hardrada—survived and returned to Norway, where he founded the city of Bergen in 1070.

There are many intriguing alternate endings to that story:

London as a Viking capital?

Bergen as home of the occupiers of England?

Bangers and mash as the national dish of Norway?

Lutefisk in the pubs of Camden Town?

We’ll never know.

Bergen served as the capital of Norway in the 13th century, and late in that century it was a Kontor, a trading post, of the Hanseatic League. Some of the homes and warehouses of the traders, Bryggen, still stand along one side of the harbor.

In truth, what we see in Bryggen has been rebuilt numerous times. Many fires and a disastrous explosion in the harbor during German occupation of Bergen during World War II destroyed much of what was original. But the Norwegians mostly rebuilt, as built.

Dried fish at the market
A fresh monkfish…hoping to hide in plain sight. He may have seen a cousin on the menu aboard ship last night.
Inside Bryggen, the old Hansa merchant district

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

1 June 2019:
Stavanger, Norway:
Like Oil Above Water

By Corey Sandler

Stavanger is a little bit old, a little bit new, a little bit Norwegian, and a little bit New England.

Let me unpack that a little.

Stavanger is one of Norway’s oldest cities, the third-largest urban zone and metropolitan area of the country . . . and perhaps one of Norway’s least-known ports.

Its history, population, and relative wealth are all due to the real estate agent’s three most important words of advice: location, location, and location. It is, in relative terms, in a much more moderate clime than the settlements up north. And it is one of the more significant ports, along with Bergen, that lies in reasonable distance from Norway’s North Sea oil and gas fields offshore. A significant part of the economy is involved in supplying the platforms and repairing the equipment.

The old part of town grew when Stavanger was a flourishing fishing port, and one side of the harbor is pretty much unchanged going back to the 18th and 19th a century. And strangely, we find Gamle Stavanger, the old town, quite reminiscent of our part of the world, the fishing villages and islands of New England.

And then there is the really old section, outside of town. The first traces of settlement in the Stavanger region date from when the ice retreated after the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago.

Today was what Norwegians consider a pretty good day: neither raining nor snowing. Here are some of the photos I took today:

Silver Wind at the dock, reflected in an art piece.
All photos copyright 2019, by Corey Sandler. Ask rights reserved. Please contact me if you would like to purchase a copy

The region was an important economic and military center as far back as the 9th and 10th centuries.

The Battle of Hafrsfjord took place near present-day Stavanger about the year 872.

The battle, which mostly took place on the water, is considered perhaps the most important event leading to the unification of the various kingdoms of the region under a single monarch for the first time.

The victorious Viking chief Harald Fairhair proclaimed himself the first king of the Norwegians.

The title of this blog post, “Like Oil Above Water”, is derived from Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. It resonates with me in these wobbly times.

Cervantes writes: “Truth will rise above falsehood, as oil above water.” One can hope…

Old Stavanger
New Stavanger, a model of a drilling rig at the Oil Museum

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

What I Did on My Winter Vacation:
In Living Color

By Corey Sandler

Even professional travelers need a vacation from time to time. And as I often tell people, when I am away I do not want to feel at home.

This winter we checked off one of the boxes on our to-do list. We have been to the far north many times, but this time we made a specific plan to revisit the top of Norway at the optimal time of year to view the Aurora Borealis.

The Northern Lights (and the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights) are glowing almost all the time, but they cannot be seen in the daylight or when there is heavy cloud cover. In the winter the sun never rises above the horizon for six to eight weeks which gives a whole lot of dark.

And some places on our planet receive significantly stronger solar particles than others: the Aurora Zone is a belt that sits at roughly 70 to 80 degrees above or below the Equator. Too far north and the angle to the lights is too thin; too far south and the odds of seeing them are very slim.

One more thing: in the far north, March tends to have less cloud cover than earlier months in winter.

So we went to Norway for nearly a month.

Here is some of what we saw:

Northern Lights Near Tromsø. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved
Narvik, Norway. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Snow people, Tromsø. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Bergen in winter. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Tromsø under a blanket. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Near Lillehammer. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Landing at Oslo. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Why I Travel.

If you would like to order a print of any of my photos, please contact me using the link at the top of this page.

VIKING SKY INTO THE PERFECT STORM.

14 MARCH TO 24 MARCH 2019

By Corey Sandler

Viking Sky set sail from Bergen, Norway March 14 on an extraordinary wintertime search for the Northern Lights.

We made our way up the wintry coast of the beautiful nation of Norway, one extraordinary sight after another, reaching our northernmost port of call at Alta near the top. The seas, the snow, the sky were extraordinary.

And then we turned back toward the south for a few more stops before our ultimate goal of London’s cruise port at Tilbury.

We almost made it.

You can retrace our journey in the blogs I posted, using the menu at the left side of this screen. The story of our night to remember is at http://sky.coreysandler.com/23-24-march-2019-a-night-to-remember-in-hustadvika

Corey Sandler in Tromsø, Norway 8 March 2019.

As most of the world knows by now, Viking Sky got caught up in a vicious storm just off the coast of Norway, avoiding disaster through the professional work of ship’s crew and heroic efforts by Norwegian rescue services.

Our night to remember offshore of Molde ended our cruise unexpectedly.

We left the ship at 5am and flew from Molde to Oslo, and from there on to London and back to the U.S.

Bleary-eyed and exhausted, I still could not resist carrying my camera onto the plane for some final photos of the Norwegian winter. Here is some of what I saw:

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by Corey Sandler; all rights reserved. The photos presented here are low-resolution and small size. Please contact me if you would like to obtain higher-resolution versions.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER:

23-24 MARCH 2019 IN HUSTADVIKA

By Corey Sandler

Viking Sky departed Tromsø to begin our voyage back to the River Thames and the Port of Tilbury near London still aglow with the warmth of the cold Norwegian north.

Instead, something wicked our way came.

Heavy winds caused us to cancel our scheduled call at Bodø.

Then Captain Bengt Gustaffson chose to sail along western Norway’s spectacular inside passage where we would be somewhat sheltered from the winds and high seas.

Somewhat.

By Saturday noontime we were in a gale, with 40- to 50-knot (45 to 55 mile per hour) winds, and 9 meter (29 feet) seas.

And on the inside passage we had little room to spare. In some places the channel was only a few hundred meters wide.

We entered the notorious stretch of coast known as Hustadvika, a shallow 10-nautical-mile stretch with hundreds of islands, reefs, and skerries.

The winds picked up, and at precisely the worst possible time the ship’s four engines–generators which produce electricity for the ship’s propellers and most of the other functions of the vessel–shut down.

UPDATE: Norwegian maritime authorities say the engines shut down automatically because sensors detected low lubricating oil levels. The problem was apparently caused by the unusually rough seas and motion aboard ship. In a statement, Viking Cruises said it accepted the finding and would make appropriate changes to procedures across its fleet.

Viking Sky began to drift toward the rocky coast. With just moments to spare, Captain Gustaffson managed to put down two of the ship’s anchors and we lurched to a halt.

Viking Sky in trouble, seen from the shore in western Norway

No power, rolling seas, high winds. There was significant damage to most of the public spaces on the upper decks including the pool grill and World Cafe buffet. About a dozen people sustained injuries.

Very quickly came first the crew broadcast, “Code Echo”, the call to alert the crew to an imminent emergency.

Perhaps a minute later, about 1:30 in the afternoon, the blast of the ship’s whistle: seven short and one long.

After a lifetime of travel and hundreds of cruises around the world, it was the first time I had heard the call to muster stations in a real emergency.

And up on the bridge, two things occurred: the captain issued a mayday call to Norwegian authorities and an abandon ship order.

The winds and seas were so rough that it was decided not to use the lifeboats immediately.

Norwegian rescue helicopters were on the way to pick up 20 guests at a time and take them to shore.

By pick up I mean just that: guests were hoisted one-by-one from the dark, rolling, and cold upper decks of the ship. It was a process that required nearly an hour for each copter and at times there were two in service at different locations.

Guests gathered in the ship’s main restaurant were quickly scattered when water breached the window wall. Some guests were swept along with the water and furniture.

That muster station was abandoned and cold, wet passengers were moved to join the rest of us.

At the other principal muster station, the Star Theatre, we put on our life vests and listened as the captain and other officers detailed the plan. But the dark, wild night meant the evacuation was very slow.

The helicopters could not land on the ship’s deck and they had great difficulty with the gale force winds. The guests who were evacuated were hoisted up to the hovering machines.

The operation was suspended several times when the weather became too treacherous. And just to add to the drama, a second ship, a small freighter, also abandoned ship nearby, and helicopters were diverted because some of their crew were forced into the cold, very rough seas.

As we waited for groups to leave our ship by helicopter, a small flotilla of ocean-going tugboats headed out to lend assistance.

It was not until about 1 a.m. that the first tug arrived, and conditions were too rough to allow her to fully attach to our ship. A second and then third tug came with dawn, about 5:30 a.m.

The purpose of the seagoing tugs was to assist the ship in maneuvering, and to be on standby if the engines were to stop again.

Finally, after about 475 of the 900 passengers had been brought to shore by helicopter, the captain decided we were safely secured to the tugs and could proceed to shore with the rest of us.

And so we did.

We had been at our muster stations from about 1:30 Saturday afternoon and remained there more than 22 hours.

When we slowly moved to the dock in Molde, the shoreline was filed with locais, many waving Norwegian flags.

We were safe. Grateful for the efforts of a fine crew. And ever more appreciative of the strength of nature in Norway and the gracious help of its people and its superb rescue services.

This cruise is over, two days early. It will take a while to repair some of the damage to the ship. But our spirits today are high: the morning after the night to remember.

Safe travels to all of our guests. I look forward to sailing with you again somewhere, sometime, in calm seas and fair winds.

In the morning, after the all-clear, passengers returned their life vests to a celebratory heap in the theatre.

Captain Bengt Gustaffson poses with some of the crew who served all night to help keep guests safe.

Photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

A Norwegian rescue helicopter lands near Molde with passengers taken from Viking Sky. Svein Ove Ekornesvag / AP)

21 MARCH 2019. TROMSØ, NORWAY: LAST CALL FOR THE WINTER

By Corey Sandler

Although it snowed a bit during the night, hints of what pass for summer in northern Norway are evident: patches of asphalt that have been white for months, slush on sidewalks, and even some bare skin on the walkers and hikers in Tromsø.

We are preparing to head south to our last two ports of call in Norway before returning to the River Thames and London.

We went for a walk in balmy 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) today:

Back aboard ship, the huge LED screen in the Atrium displayed some photos of the Northern Lights. Some guests, I am told, may even pose in front of the photo and try to pass it off as the real thing. Nice try…

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

To send me an email or to inquire about copies of photos, please click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

20 MARCH 2019. TROMSØ, NORWAY: A SIDE TRIP TO FINLAND

By Corey Sandler

Back in Tromsø, we spent all day looking at the dark and gloomy sky, wondering how–or if–we were going to catch a glimpse of the Aurora once more. The skies never cleared here, but off we went nevertheless, with a guide promising cloudless skies two hours away…just across the border in Finland.

Sounded like a deal too good to miss. I have been in Southern Finland many times, in and around Helsinki on the Baltic Sea and in Karelia, just above Saint Petersburg in Russia. But we were headed for the region of Storfjord, near the town of Skibotn in far northern Finland.

Sweden was neutral during World War II, although the nation traded with both sides. Finland began the war fighting the Soviets in the Winter War with some success, becoming a proxy of Germany for a while. Later Finland fought against Germany, with the Soviets pushing them in that direction. By the end of the war, Finland was once again fighting–and losing–to the Soviets.

The Germans used the region as one of their land gateways to fight the Finns, and this was the only part of greater Tromsø that was not all but burned to the ground by the Germans.

Today it is a very, very remote place with mixed populations of Norwegians, Sami, and Kvan peoples.

And us. As promised, the skies were clear on the Finnish side of the border. Unfortunately, the bright supermoon  and a weak solar wind gave us only a glimpse of the lights. But for me, no voyage of exploration is without discovery.

Here is some of what we saw; for more, see my blog entry for 7 March below.

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.