Thursday, April 28, 2022

Hamburg and Schwerin

The original cruise itinerary had us stopping in Warnemünde Germany with excursions to Berlin, another highlight of the trip. That involved a five hour round trip train ride from the port city of Warnemünde to Berlin and back. Unfortunately that stop was canceled since all cruising in the Baltic Sea was temporarily canceled due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Hamburg was only a three hour round trip train ride from Berlin but no Berlin excursions were offered. I'm not sure why.

So instead of a trip to Berlin we did an excursion to Schwerin about a 1.5 hour drive away from Hamburg. The main tourist attraction in Schwerin is the Schwerin Castle which was very scenic inside and out. Click the picture below to see more pictures of the inside of the castle.

The grounds around the castle were also very scenic. Below is a statue of Grand Duke Paul Friedrich with the castle in the background.

Another interesting work of art behind the castle was what looked like a "picture" of the view of lake Schwerin, but was actually a wall with a picture frame inside of it. Click the picture below to see the entire wall as well as the picture below. If we go there again I'll have Elizabeth stand behind the wall making it look like a framed picture of Elizabeth on Lake Schwerin.

A short walk from the castle was the main town square with the work of art below.

The second biggest attraction in Schwerin is the cathedral, started in 1270 and completed in 1426.

Back in Hamburg we hit some of the worst traffic I've ever seen. If I remember correctly it took us almost two hours to get through traffic to the ship. The last mile or two we probably could have walked faster than the bus drove us.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Hamburg and Schwerin photo album.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Kristiansand and Lillesand

Our next stop was in Kristiansand. After Oslo it was a bit of a letdown, though it might have been a nice place to visit for a few days and seemed to have a lot of nice outdoor activities. It also seemed to be a more popular summer time destination so we were a bit early in the season.

We had booked an excursion with the cruise line. The main destination for the tour was Lillesand. It also seemed a very quiet town while we were there and looked to be mostly a summer time destination.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Kristiansand and Lillesand photo album

Monday, April 25, 2022


We were finally on our way on our "Western Europe" (which was originally a Baltic Sea) cruise. The first stop was Oslo. We passed this small, but cozy looking island as we pulled into port.

We'd booked a morning tour with the cruise line. Although crowded, as most excursions are, it was still a nice experience since most of the stops were in large wide open areas. The first stop was in Frognerparken, a park containing a number of Gustav Vigeland's sculptures. As it states in Wikipedia: Gustav Vigeland occupies a special position among Norwegian sculptors, both in the power of his creative imagination and in his productivity. Much of that creativity and productivity is on display in this park. Click the picture below to see more of the park.

Norway is really into winter sports as you might have noted if you've watched the Winter Olympics. Norway is one of top winners of gold medals at the olympics even though it only has a population of a bit over five million people[*]. The Holmenkollbakken ski jump and the stadium that is at the bottom of it and holds 70,000 people, illustrates Norway's commitment to winter sports.

Our final stop on the cruise ship excursion was at the Viking Ship Museum, which is run by the University of Oslo. It is the world's leading Viking museum.

Our ship excursion completed, we still had half a day to explore on our own. One of our favorite tours in the various cities we've visited is a food tour. The food tours, besides being interesting just because they provide a variety of new experiences, are also interesting due to their cultural and historical significance. Since there wasn't a food tour available in Oslo, Elizabeth had done quite a bit of research to find out which places we should visit.

Our first stop was at the Oslo Street Food. Although it may be back in full swing now, at the time it was still recovering from COVID shutdowns and many of the restaurants were closed. Disappointed, we moved on to the next stop.

Our next stop on our self guided food tour was at Godt Brød Grünerløkka. It far exceeded my expectations and more than made up for our first stop disappointment. As reviewed by Elizabeth:

This is a great place to start on tasting some of Norway’s best bread and snacks! The woman on the counter was so gracious and helpful in providing us with a small snack of the highly recommended Norwegian Brown Cheese with grain bread and a piece of sourdough bread with smoked salmon. It was one of the best and memorable food tasting we’ve ever had! Give it a try!

If you're like me, when you hear "brown cheese" you have an immediate negative reaction. But it's really quite delicious. The taste is sweet and caramel tasting. Technically it's not a cheese as it is made from the whey byproducts from making cheese. If you're ever in Oslo, Godt Brød Grünerløkka is a must see (and taste) stop.

Our next stop was at Syverkiosken hotdog stand. Although highly rated on Google, we weren't that impressed. Maybe because I had just a plain hotdog with mustard on a bun. There are some wilder combinations available such as crispy onions and jalapeno which definitely would have spiced it up a bit.

The last stop on our self guided food tour was at Den Glade Gris, The Happy Pig. As you might guess, although there are some non-pork dishes, this restaurant specializes in pork. Some, such as the Langgrillet Svineknoke, a grilled pork knuckle, is slow grilled for at least 5 hours. It's not always available, but if you're there and it's available it's a must try.

The beer menu was also outstanding! See the photo album for a complete menu and beer list as well as pictures of some appetizers.

Stuffed from the great food at Den Glade Gris, we casually made our way back to port. Luckily we didn't have to go too far out of the way to get this picture of the Royal Palace.

The end to another great day! An extensive morning tour followed by our own self guided food tour in the afternoon. It almost seemed like we spent two days in Oslo. It was a great city to visit and I hope to visit it again. This time longer.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Oslo photo album.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Copenhagen - Princess Cruise Boarding

Originally this cruise was a Baltic Sea cruise scheduled to go to St. Petersburg. It's on our bucket list and we were looking forward to finally seeing Russia. Then Ukraine was invaded by Russia two months before our cruise was scheduled to leave. The original cruise was a Baltic Sea cruise with numerous stops within the Baltic Sea and a return to Copenhagen after 10 days.

First the St. Petersburg stop was canceled and replaced with a stop in Sweden. Then other stops were modified on an almost daily basis as the cruise line scrambled to replace formerly safe stops which were no longer considered safe. Finally the entire Baltic Sea was considered too dangerous for cruise ships. Our Baltic Sea cruise morphed into a Western Europe cruise. Instead of ending in Copenhagen it was going to England.

Those weeks preceding the cruise turned out to be extremely stressful. We had made plans to fly from Copenhagen to Brussels after the cruise and then spend a number of days in Bruges and Brussels before flying to Ireland. Now we were faced with having to take a train from Southampton to London airport and then fly to Copenhagen to catch our original flight or fly directly to Brussels and then take a train from Brussels to Bruges. The cruise was turning into one big complicated mess.

Luckily the trip ended up being a bit simpler than that because our now Western European cruise had a scheduled stop in Bruges a few days before we had originally planned to be there. That meant we could cut the cruise short to seven days instead of 10 and spend a few extra days in Belgium instead of spending two days at sea and one day in Portland UK, a stop we'd already been to before. The two days at sea and the Portland stop had been added to the tail end of our "Western Europe" cruise to make it a 10 day cruise. Getting off the ship early, the extra days ashore actually turned out to be very good days, with an extra night in Bruges and unplanned nights in Ghent, halfway between Brussels and Bruges. Ghent was also an easy train ride to Antwerp so we ended up taking a day trip to Antwerp during one of the two days in Ghent.

All in all it ended up being an enjoyable trip despite the month plus before the cruise being stressful with a rapidly evolving set of stops. Add to all that the fact that we were still emerging from the COVID pandemic and multiple COVID tests required during the entire trip. One for Copenhagen, one for boarding the cruise, one for entering Ireland and one for returning to the US. Never mind what would happen if any of those happened to test positive - we'd handle that if it ever happened. Which luckily it didn't.

There was one more itinerary change we found out about after we boarded the ship. Our first stop in Skagen Denmark had been canceled due to weather concerns and we were spending an extra night in Copenhagen. We actually could have gone back into Copenhagen for the morning as the cruise ship wasn't leaving until early afternoon. We decided to spend the day aboard the ship relaxing instead of rushing out on a crowded shuttle bus and waiting in a long line to get back aboard the bus to get back to the ship. The day before we'd seen the long long line waiting to get on the shuttle bus back to the ship. Besides - the ship had one of the best beer menus I'd ever seen aboard a cruise ship.

Unfortunately I've never seen anything remotely like this variety of beers on the subsequent cruises. I've complained on most of my cruises of a very limited beer menu. For a one week cruise this lineup was more than adequate.

Click this link or the picture above to see more pictures in the Princess Cruise Day 0 photo album.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Copenhagen Day 4

When Frederick VII became king of Denmark in 1848 he was the ninth absolute monarch of Denmark since 1660. In 1849, at the urging of a crowd of 10,000 people who had gathered in 1848, he signed the document that made Denmark a constitutional monarchy.

When this statue of Christian IX created by Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen was unveiled in 1927, it was the first statue of a monarch on horseback done by a woman. Pretty amazing considering how many monarch on horseback statues there are in Copenhagen alone.

We next took one of the many canal by boat tours available in many parts of Copenhagen. This one started in Frederiksholms Kanal but took us all the way back to Nyhavn via the Hønse Broløbet.

After the canal by boat tour we passed through the King's Garden again on our way to the castle you see in the background.

The Rosenborg Castle is one of the best preserved renaissance castles in Europe. Getting inside for a self guided tour was not easy, and the castle was fairly crowded, but it was well worth it. We were visiting on a Saturday, so perhaps it would have been less crowded on a week day. Click the picture below to see the entire day's photo album which includes some of the Danish Crown Regalia and other valuables of the Danish monarchy.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Copenhagen Day 4 photo album.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Copenhagen Day 3

Our main goal for Copenhagen day 3 was to take the train to Sweden for some genuine Swedish meatballs! On the walk from our hotel to the train station we stopped at The King's New Square, a "relatively" new square, built in 1907. Below is the Equestrian statue of Christian V which sits in the King's New Square.

On the way to the train station we also stopped by the City Hall Square to take a picture of Tivoli Gardens, a 19th century amusement park with antique roller coasters. We never did get a chance to visit inside as everytime we were in the area it was very busy. The square also contains a statue of Hans Christian Andersen but unfortunately the light wasn't very good to take a picture of that statue.

Taking a 40 minute train ride across The Sound which separates Denmark from Sweden, we arrived in Malmo! If you search for "best swedish meatballs in Sweden" you'll probably find this article in the search results: "The Best Swedish Meatballs and Where to Get them.". The article says three cities have the best Swedish meatballs, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. The recommendation for Malmo is to go to the Bullen restaurant, which is "known to serve the city’s tastiest köttbullar," Swedish for meatballs. When we arrived at the restaurant a bit before it opened there was already a line of people waiting to get in, all of them locals. We felt lucky to get seated right away, especially since shortly after we arrived small tour groups began to show up.

The seating was rather tight and we ended up seated between two taciturn locals. It seems that Swedish people are a bit shy and need time to warm up to you. The linked article also mentions that it helps if you are drinking beer together. Luckily this restaurant also had some excellent beer which both I and the gentleman sitting next to us ordered. I broke the ice by asking which beer he might recommend. We actually ended up talking quite a bit with him. He told us how he lived nearby and came almost every day for lunch, usually getting the daily special. The daily special that day was roasted chicken which looked very tasty and was reasonably priced.

The waiter also instructed us on the proper way to eat Swedish meatballs. As you can see in the picture above the meal came with potatoes, toast and lingonberries, though the lingonberries are optional. All in all, we had very high expectations for the day and Bullen, and their other guests, exceeded those expectations!

Our Swedish Meatball craving satisfied, we took the train back to Copenhagen and walked to the Rundetaarn or Round Tower. This 17th century tower (round of course) has a spiral ramp to get to the top instead of stairs. This no doubt made it much easier to transport the telescope shown in the picture below to the top of the tower. The tower was built by King Christian IV in the early 1600's in memory of astronomer Tycho Brahe, who was one of the last major astronomers to perform his work before the invention of the telescope.

After the Round Tower we returned to Nyhavn (New Harbor) to take pictures of the colorful buildings that line Nyhavn. Click the picture below to see more pictures of Nyhavn, including a panoramic view of the harbor and its buildings.

At the end of Nyhavn is the Inderhavnsbroen, a bridge built just for pedestrians and bicycles, mostly bicycles. If you look closely at the pictures you'll see a lot of people sitting on the waters edge on the other side of the bridge enjoying the sunny weather. That area attracts a lot of young people on Friday afternoons and weekends when there is a food court with a variety of food and beers.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Copenhagen Day 3 photo album.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Copenhagen Day 2

April 21, 2022 - Copenhagen

Our first full day in Copenhagen and we were ready to go after a good night's sleep.

Our first stop was at the Church of Our Lady near Copenhagen University. For such a small walkable city Copenhagen has an amazing number of churches and castles.

Next we went to a scenic view of the Frederiksholms Kanal. You can also see one of the many tour boats which travel around Copenhagen. They're a very good way to see a lot of the city. They also have electric powered harbor buses which are used by commuters but can also be ridden by tourists to see the sights or easily get around the city.

Although we didn't tour the Christiansborg Palace today, I thought this picture of the bike racks full of bikes was very interesting. With 546 km of bicycle paths, bike bridges and even cycle superhighways Copenhagen is considered the most bike friendly capital in the world.

In the mornings when we had breakfast in the hotel we could look out over the large boulevard showing many commuters, most of them on bikes. Even parents taking young children to school or daycare were riding bikes with their kids in large wheeled carriers on the front of their bike. Many of the rest of the people took buses or walked leaving very few private cars visible on the road.

Among the famous people from Copenhagen was Soren Kierkegaard who lived from 1813 to 1855. He is considered by many to be the first existentialist philosopher.

The Nyhavn (New Harbor) houses are one of the iconic sights in Copenhagen. Tour boats can also be caught here as well on the Frederiksholms Kanal. We returned to Nyhavn many times and you can see even more pictures taken here including a panorama picture in the 2022-04-22 Copenhagen Day 2 photo album.

We were lucky enough to arrive at Frederik VIII's Palace just in time for the changing of the guard. The entire square is a very scenic area containing, in addition to Frederik VIII's Palace, the Amalienborg Palace Museum, Christian VII's Palace, Christian IX's Palace and Amalienborg, the Queen's winter residence.

Another scenic church is Frederik's Church with beautiful architecture and stained glass windows.

Frederik's Church is also surrounded by a number of statues, including this one of Danish King Canute IV.

Rosenborg Castle Gardens is the oldest and most visited park in central Copenhagen.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Copenhagen Day 2 photo album.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Copenhagen Day 1

We arrived in Copenhagen early afternoon after leaving San Francisco the previous afternoon. Needless to say we were exhausted having not really slept very well during the flight. Due to COVID they also didn't serve anything other than water on the flight. After checking into the hotel and taking a brief nap we headed out to get some dinner. The picture below was taken at almost 8pm as the sun was setting.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Spent an afternoon at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, just east of Mesa. Unfortunately I left my camera on the plane while running to catch a connection and had to use my smartphone for these photos. Click the link or the picture to see more photos.

click to see the pictures

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Run or Dye 5k Run Photos

I didn't run in this, but it was but I was on my feet for over three hours taking over 900 pictures. Below is my favorite. Click on the picture or this link to see more of favorites...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tokyo Japan

Last day to enjoy Tokyo. Started with Sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market, then the Tokyo-Edo Museum, Sumo Wrestling (but it was closed on Saturday), Akihabara electronics district, Senso-ji, Tokyo's "biggest, oldest and most popular Buddhist temple" and ending the day back at the 45th floor observatory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building for a night observation. Click the picture to see more...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tokyo Japan

Took a looooong walk today starting from our hotel near Shinjuku station to Shinjuku Imperial Gardens, Meiji-Jingu temple, Yoyogi Park, ending up at the 45th floor observatory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. Click the picture to see more...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cruise Day 8 - Bepu Japan

Last stop, and one of the best. Visited the Mt. Takasaki Monkey Park and Jigoku Meguri ("Boiling Hells") hot springs. Click the picture to see more...