Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fiords and Glaciers

The first three days of the cruise have been busy. On the first full day we sailed up the Storfiord and eventually entered the Geirangerfiord. Very similar to Milford Sound but much longer. At the head of the fiord I took a tour in which we went ashore in a smaller boat and boarded buses for the very steep road up the side to a lookout at 1500m. Then we drove for several hours across country including 2 ferry crossings. We passed through a national Park and drove down the terrifying Trollstiggen (Troll’s path) road with hairpin bends. I would not want to drive it in a car let alone a tourist coach.

We had dinner in the town of Molde known as the city of roses, there is even a rose garden on the roof of the Town Hall and waited for the ship to arrive at 9.30pm.

The next morning was spent in the city of Trondheim where I will be leaving the ship on the return trip next Saturday. The cathedral was impressive  although darker inside than I expected in Norwegian cathedrals. It had a beautiful Rose window. The Norwegian kings are crowned there.

On the third full day, after crossing the Arctic Circle, I boarded a hydrofoil at 8.30am and we headed for the coast and the Holands Fiord which we followed up to the end and the Svartisen Glacier. It is Norway’s second largest glacier and the lowest in altitude. We walked a little over a kilometre (there was a bus but most walked) each way to the impressive view over a lake. Pancakes and coffee were provided as we walked around before returning to the boat and a fast trip to catch up to our ship at the town of Bodo. On the way we stopped near one island and the ship’s crew threw out fish they had caught, attracting lots of seabirds and finally some white tailed eagles.

The young guide spoke German, English and French and, when I chatted with him, I learnt he is studying Scandinavian languages (but there were no Norwegians on our tour). He lives in Hamburg and had visited New Zealand which he loved. He  has a friend at the Otago University in Dunedin. However he had never been to Munich.

In the afternoon the ship sailed across to the Lofoten Islands. I have booked a bus tour of them for the way back. In the evening we entered the Troll Fjord. This is scheduled for daylight hours on the return trip but  is only possible if weather permits so although way past my bedtime I stayed up as we entered the fiord at 11.30pm.  They used searchlights. The entrance of the Fjord is only 80 metres wide and it is 3 km long with 1000 metre cliffs so the manoeuvring of the ship (20 metres wide and  122 metres long was impressive. Some of the crew ran around dressed as Trolls and Troll soup (I guess fish)  and Troll drink (tea and rum) was served. I gave both a miss.
photos in order. I will arrange when better connection
Tronheim cathedral

Oslo, Bergen & Points North

As expected the internet on the ship is fairly expensive but I plan to buy an hour tomorrow and if that works perhaps another hour in about 4 days time. I am typing this into Appleworks and hopefully will be able to paste it into my blog and email programs when I go online. My apologies if formatting is a bit strange.

As I mentioned in my last message, I had a lovely sunny day in Oslo and made use of a dageskorter (transport day pass) to first travel by ferry to Bygdoy where I visited the Fram museum (Photo) and learnt all about the voyages of Roald Amundsen on his explorations of both the Arctic and Antarctic as well as the life of Nansen. I had lunch looking across the harbour to the city then a short walk and I was in a museum of three Viking ships which had been dug up in the last century, They had been used as tombs for nobility. There were also  museums of the Kon Tiki expedition and historical villages but I find you can only take in so much in one day. I returned by ferry to the city and caught a tram to the Vigiland Park. I remember this from my visit in 1974. It consists of nearly 200 statues in granite and bronze showing the human figure in all sorts of emotions. They are quite intriguing. I have included just one photo. I may visit the museum which explains more on my return. It was closed on Mondays. Then it was back by bus and metro to the city to prepare for an early departure the next day but I did sit and listen for a while to a German Oompah band playing in the main square.

As I stated in my last message, the next 2 days were wet. It was not a problem as I travelled by train from Oslo to Bergen. Some of the mountain scenery and even some snow in late summer might have looked better in sunshine. I was amused by 2 American ladies, especially the one from Texas. As she said, they do not travel by train in Texas and they had lugged all their luggage into the first carriage until told to move, They had correct seat number but wrong car so were rather hot and bothered when they reached the correct car further along the platform. She asked whether there would be a porter at Myrdal where they got off and, of course, was disappointed with the reply. However they were quite pleasant and real characters. It took both the guard and me to convince them to collect up all their quilting material which they had spread everywhere as there was only 15 minutes to their stop. They, and most of the passengers,  alighted at Myrdal for the trip down the Flam railway to the Sognefiord then by ferry and eventually a later train to Bergen.  I took this trip in 1974 wit h beautiful sunshine (but returned to Oslo instead of going onto Bergen) and had considered it again but, considering the weather, I was happy to stay in the almost empty train and arrive Bergen earlier.

Sadly the next day was also wet and I used the Bergen card to visit Museums and art galleries. I did enjoy the Rosenkrantz tower (photo) climbing down into the dungeon and up to the top. I made a quick trip for photos out onto the parapet.  Haakon’s Hall was very impressive and the free coffee was a pleasant surprise to which I added a pancake and jam at only $2. The Bryggens museum told the story of digging up the earliest settlements and life in the 1200’s. The present buildings of Bryggen are colourful if damp that day.(photo) The Leprosy museum was a bit sad and finally I learnt a bit more about the artists Dahl and Munch in the Art gallery while it poured down outside.

However I was pleased to see the cloud lifting and the lookout above the city appearing, making it worthwhile to travel in the funicular(which was still half price with the Bergen card). From up there I could actually see the ship, which was to be my home for the next 10 days,  entering the port.

After a smorrebrod lunch, I collected my bags from the hotel and fortunately chose a break in the weather to walk the 4 blocks to the Hurtigruten wharf. I was the third person on board at 4pm but as others got drenched when the rain returned. I was very thankful.
A buffet dinner was served at 6pm and we sailed at 8pm. It was wonderful to unpack my bags and make use of the cupboard space after 6 nights in different rooms.

I will try to describe the first 3 days in a following message. We have just docked at Stamsund the first town on the Lofoten Islands. These ships are not just for cruise passengers like me but also carry local people between towns especially now that we are north of the railway system. Cargo and cars are loaded and unloaded in stops of about half an hour along the route. I am continually amazed at how the ship is manoeuvred into the wharves.  When we pass sister ships going south they  sound their sirens, at least during daylight hours.
Photos above in order, I will arrange when better connection

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Planes,Trains and Ships

With some buses, trams and unfortunately some taxis.
I dream that one day I will front up at the airport and be asked if I would like an upgrade. It did actually happen way back in 1980 between London and New York but sadly not likely these days.
The flight from Sydney to Bangkok was bearable at just over 9 hours arriving 4.30pm . Sadly the hotel shuttle bus did not arrive but a taxi in Bangkok is not expensive and my hotel is in sight of the airport. I did have the shuttle back the next day for the Midday flight to Frankfurt. However all the Europeans were flying home from their summer holidays and I was jampacked into the middle of a row of French people for over 11 hours. The Thai Aircraft was the same type as I remember 2 years ago with just one central screen. Although staying in Bangkok is cheaper I think I will choose Singapore or Hong Kong for a stopover when I next decide to brave the flight to Europe. Being a Europhile who hates flying is a problem.

I arrived Frankfurt at 7pm (Midnight Bangkok time, 3am in Sydney) but managed to focus enough to travel the 15 mins by S-Bahn(metro) to the main station and my hotel where I stayed in 2008 was across the road. They did not have my booking although I had a printout but luckily they had rooms or I might have dissolved on the spot.

Saturday I was on the fast ICE train by 9am and arrived in Hamburg just after midday where I bought a salad roll while waiting for the connection to Copenhagen. On that train I sat opposite an elderly German lady who had been to New Zealand and Australia. My poor German and her poor English (she occasionally threw in French words) resulted in a limited conversation.

The train goes onto a ferry at Puttgarten and we all had to detrain and go upstairs where I experienced my first very expensive Scandinavian coffee.

Into Copenhagen at 5pm and the hotel was not too far away. It was called the Cab Inn and the room was tiny like a ship's cabin. I am finding the rooms getting smaller but more expensive as I go north. I went to a Pizza restaurant and the simple salami pizza, 2 glasses of wine (you could not get just one glass) and a lemon sorbet (it was terribly humid) came to 60 Australian dollars (NZ75, US53). I am glad all my meals are paid for on the ship over the next 10 days or I would be on a diet.

I did not expect the high humidity, it was higher in Bangkok but aircon everywhere but no such luxuries in Copenhagen, so it was a sleepless night.

Sunday I left my luggage in the hotel locker and set out by a local bus to the Amelienborg palace.  As it began to rain, I went  into the Royal museum. The guide book said only of interest to Danes but I am an Australian Royalist and loved seeing photos of 'our' Princess Mary with Prince Frederick and generally the history and room furnishings were interesting. When I came out it was pouring and I took refuge with others in a bar under a large umbrella. The $6 beer was well worth it this time. Fortunately the storm stopped. I had seen poor souls going past in the tour barges in plastic raincoats looking miserable but found a barge with perspex covers (over on right in picture) which was actually cheaper and obviously more popular. It did not actually rain for my hour tour of the harbour and canals.

 then wandered the streets (picture is of statue of Hans christian Andersen obviously) and bought  lunch again seeking cover from just a shower until 3pm when I collected my bags. Rain began heavier but I reached the station fairly unscathed and caught the metro 4 stops to a station about 500 metres from the wharf. My plan to walk the rest of the way was thwarted by another huge downpour and so I called a taxi.
I am not sure of the cause of the altercation at the wharf. As we pulled up the taxi behind blew his horn and then parked so close to mine that we could not open the back (a hatch back style) to get my luggage. The 2 drivers had words but there was no budging and my driver finally hauled my bags through the front. By this time I was soaked and I am afraid I told the 2nd driver what I thought of him in good Aussie language I usually keep under my breath.

The time on the ship (about 15 hours) was very enjoyable and the next morning we arrived in Oslo in beautiful weather although I splurged on a taxi to the hotel rather than negotiate the bus with my bags. I was pleasantly surprised to find my room available at 10 am.
However I was soon out to see some of the city which I will relate later.  (picture sailing up Oslo Fiord)
Although Monday was hot and sunny (but not humid like Copenhagen) it rained much of the way by train on Tuesday to Bergen and it is pouring now on Wednesday morning. I have bought a Bergen card and may spend much of the day in museums until boarding the SS Richard With at 4pm. I am not sure of the internet facilities on board so may have to save up messages until I leave at Trondheim in 10 days

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First part is over

Have been in Sydney for 12 days. Have related my church activities and attending the Sam-sex march. Have also been lunching with friends and completed 2 hikes with the group I use to join every Monday.
The first week we went to some falls less than 5 km from where I use to live.

 Last Monday we caught a ferry across the harbour to Manly then a bus north to another smaller harbour called Pittwater where we boarded a small ferry to Elvina Bay and climbed a steep 4 and half km to some Aboriginal carvings.

I have voted to day in the National Elections which will be held next Saturday.

Tomorrow I fly to Bangkok taking 9 and a half hours. Then on Friday another 11 hours onto Frankfurt. This is not a part of the journey I like.
I have had trouble keeping up with blogs.  Most of the hotels I have booked have wifi but I am not sure how good it will be while I am cruising the coast of Norway.
I will check in when possible.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wesley at St James

It has been good to return and worship at St James, King Street for 2 weeks. However there have also been some disappointments. The first Sunday coincided with the City to Surf Run which always makes it difficult for St James. Parking is impossible deterring many parishioners.   I had to stand on the train into the city as it was packed. The run attracted 80,000 who had free transport.
The settings had changed during my absence. People who had sat in pews near me for several years and with whom I exchanged the sign of peace made no comment about my absence of 6 months. I have made many more friends at St John's Roslyn in 6 months than I ever made during the 4 years at St James.

The second week was better as numbers were back to normal and we celebrated the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary with full procession and incense. Father John, associate priest who was acting Rector when I left, warmly welcomed me back.

On Saturday, after the same sex marriage demo, I met my sister and we attended a talk, afternoon tea and Evensong to commemorate the two-hundreth anniversary of the birth of Samuel Sebastian Wesley. The talk was given by Professor Michael Horsburgh, Diocesan reader who also warmly welcomed me.  He often preaches in favour of homosexual acceptance and hosted Bishop Gene Robinson and his partner when they visited Sydney. He was pleased to hear how I feel so much more accepted in the Diocese of Dunedin.

I, of course, knew something of John and Charles Wesley but was quite ignorant of Charles Junior or Samuel Sebastian.

At the tea, I spoke with a few other parishioners I knew.

In my late teens and 20's I attended Evening Prayer every Sunday but cannot remember the last time,  so it was pleasant to attend Evensong. The augmented choir sang the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Wesley in E and the anthem 'Wilderness' by SS Wesley. We sang the hymns "Christ is our corner-stone" to the tune Harewood by SS Wesley and the beautiful "O Thou who camest from above'", words by Charles Wesley to the tune Hereford by Samuel Sebastian Wesley.

The best I could find on Youtube is by the boys' choir of Rochester Cathedral although Samuel Sebastian Wesley apparently disliked boys' choirs but could not in those days have women in the cathedral choir. 

While it was wonderful singing, I gain far more from attending Eucharist.
I have already booked my air fares and plan to be back at St James, King Street for Christmas but I will no longer feel that it is that much better than St John's Roslyn and the Cathedral in Dunedin.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two Demos

I have been to 2 demonstrations in the last week.
The day before I left Dunedin there was a lunchtime rally and march in the city.
At the moment the South Island has 6 neurosurgeons. 4 are located in Christchurch with a population of 370,000 and 360 km away. The other 2 are in Dunedin with a population of 120,000. The Government wants to put all 6 into Christchurch and the people of Dunedin are up in arms along with those living in the regions of Otago and Southland, much closer to Dunedin than Christchurch.

Over 10,000 people marched through the city at lunchtime on a Friday which I thought was a good number for a city of 120,000. We then joined hands to encircle the hospital. Being Dunedin, the march was of course led by a piper. Some of the people I was with said they had never attended a demonstration before. I told them I was a veteran of many anti-Iraq marches but am afraid I omitted the many more Gay rights marches. A video of the march is at

Yesterday I attended a rally and march here in Sydney in support of Same-Sex Marriages. There were rallies in all major cities. They are held every year at this time to recognise the infamous date in 2004 when Parliament passed the Marriage Act which defined marriage as "the union between a man and a woman". This year it has more emphasis as being a week before the National elections in which both major parties have come out against same-sex marriage. While it is to be expected from the Coalition who were in Government when the Marriage act was passed and whose leader, once a Roman Catholic seminarian, says homosexuals make him feel uncomfortable, it is unforgivable from the Labor party whose leader (current prime minister) is in an atheist living in a de facto relationship. She has lost my vote.

It will be my last vote in Australia as the rule is that if a person  leaves the country for 6 years (or intends to leave for  6 years or more) one is ineligible to vote. I registered at my sister's address when I left in January but will tell them I have left permanently after this election.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sydney Symphony

As part of my time in Sydney I took my sister today to the Sydney Opera House for a concert by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting.

It was part of the Tea and Symphony Series commencing after coffee/tea and biscuit at 11am and finishing without an interval at 12.15.

This year I have attended 4 concerts in Dunedin by the Southern Sinfonia and one by the New Zealand Symphony. They were about half the cost and much easier to attend.
I must admit that the Sydney Symphony does have a quality not possessed by the Southern Sinfonia but then it is a Professional full time orchestra performing about 4 times per week while the Southern Sinfonia is part-time and performs about once a month.
I will be happy to continue regularly attending the Southern Sinfonia in Dunedin with occasional visits from the New Zealand Symphony and then add an attendance or two each year at the Sydney Symphony.

The program today was Richard Strauss 'Der Rosenkavalier Suite'
Sibelius 'Rakastava'
Elgar 'Enigma Variations'

I have discovered an interview with Ashkenazy as he took over the position of chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony last year.

and part of Der Rosenkavalier Suite played by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Enjoy

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Will

I have just sent a message to Anglicare, the social arm of the Diocese of Sydney.
This was in response to  a news item this weekend.
"The chief executive of Anglicare, Peter Kell, cites a child's need for both a mother and father among the 11 reasons why same-sex couples should not be given the same rights as heterosexual couples under adoption law."

My message was:
'About 15 years ago I drew up a will giving half my assets (about $xxxxxx) to Anglicare. This has been an increasing worry to me. I am glad to report that 2 weeks ago I drew up a new will giving those assets to Anglican Family Care, Dunedin. 
I have recently moved to the Diocese of Dunedin where Bishop Kelvin Wright, now a friend, often preaches in favour of gay acceptance and a partnered gay man is an assistant priest in the cathedral and regularly preaches and presides. They preach the Gospel of Love rather than the gospel of hate preached in the Sydney Diocese.  While living in Sydney I was a parishioner of St James, King Street, an island of sanity within the diocese, but it sickened me to think that any of my money should be used in the name of the Diocese.'

If you are interested, the remainder of my assets go to my sister but, in the event of her pre-deceasing me, to Medecins Sans Frontieres.  Sadly I am increasingly wary of giving my money to Church welfare agencies unless I can be sure they act without ulterior motives.

I should post them this excellent piece by my internet friend Betty (Birdie)

but it would be throwing pearls before swine.

I hope to meet up with Birdie while visiting Chicago.