Bergen, Norway

Our first port, Bergen, Norway.

After we left Hamburg, we had a day at sea. The North Sea. A bit rough as we did not yet have our sea legs but nothing too dramatic. At least, not for me. Lorraine did struggle with a bit of mal de mer.

Bergen would be our first exposure to Norway and it certainly did not disappoint. A beautiful city to explore by foot.

Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway with a population of roughly 300,000 people. Not particularly large by North American standards.

I pulled together a short video that I like to call Bergen in 3 minutes.

This is where all of the tourists go to take a photo of Bergen atop Mount Floyen.

Bryggen holds a set of Hanseatic commercial buildings near the Vagen harbour.

The public areas of Bergen are large and well landscaped.

Lorraine and I took an excursion in the morning and spent the afternoon exploring Bergen on our own. The historic area of the city is an easy walk.

Although most of the construction dates back hundreds of years, the new seems to blend in quite well with the old.

St. John’s church, the largest church in Bergen, sits atop one of the highest points in Bergen.

Lorraine was our videographer for the trip and did a great job capturing memories.

I did all of the still photography and there was no shortage of great shots in the city.

As we came to the end of our day in Bergen, we took a final shot of Bryggen from the opposite side of the Vagen harbour.

And, just before boarding, the requisite selfie shot.

On Board

The above photo is of the Norwegian Jade, our ship for the next nine days. Norwegian Cruise Line provided me with this photo. A great shot of the ship and one that I could not capture as I was on board and not shooting from a chase ship or helicopter.

I have hundreds of shots of the ship in port, like this one.

And other shots of the ship in port in the fjords like this one.

Although I shot most of the images of our cruise with an Olympus EM1 Mk II, my iPhone X did come in handy.

I took this shot of the ship from inside a bus while climbing a steep, curving grade.

Smartphones can take some great photos!

Well, enough about taking photos of the ship. This was embarkation day at port in Hamburg.

We left our hotel at around 11:30am to get to the cruise centre for noon.

Chaos.

It seemed as though ALL of the passengers had decided to arrive at the same time.

There were two queues: the first involved dropping off luggage and the second involved checking in.

We were fortunate in that I was able to secure an upgrade for this cruise. Lorraine and I were Haven guests which meant that we had a special queue to bypass the crowds.

If not for the upgrade, I expect we would have been several hours attempting to clear the lines.

We were escorted to the ship along with two other families and seated at one of the speciality dining areas onboard the ship where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch.

At around 2pm, our room was ready.

I was expecting it to be a nice suite, and it certainly exceeded our expectations.

When we were doing our planning, I tried to find a video walkthrough of the Yellow Diamond Suite on the Norwegian Jade and I did not find one. So, here is my attempt at showing you our home on the ship for the next nine days.

We departed Hamburg around 6pm and Lorraine and I spent much of the evening enjoying the cruise along the Elbe river. Here are a few scenes from that evening.

Weather was perfect and the river calm.

Hamburg Day 2

The bike in our hotel room was tempting me to take a ride. The incredible heat and humidity convinced me that it would be foolhardy to brave the elements.

The air conditioning in the hotel couldn’t cope and our room was very similar to the outdoor weather: hot and humid.

Didn’t matter though. We had stayed up until 10pm local time before calling it a night. And we slept through until 7am. Not too bad.

Our second day in Hamburg was really just a morning. We planned to make our way to the ship by noon. Sailing was scheduled for 5pm.

This was our table for breakfast.

There is something just right about having a nice breakfast on an outdoor patio in the morning of a beautiful sunny day. Especially before the heat kicks in.

As we made our way from the hotel to explore Hamburg by foot, yet more bicycles stood in our way, tempting us to spin.

We found out that Hamburg is a very bike friendly city. Pedestrians and cyclists share the sidewalks for the most part. One part of the sidewalk is darker than the other part. Cyclists ride on the dark part.

Don’t ask me how I found out.

There are numerous canals in this part of the city. And most of the buildings favour a geometric design although every once in a while you find an outlier.

We stayed in a part of Hamburg called HafenCity, a major urban redevelopment in Europe.

Der Spiegel occupies this impressive structure designed by Denmark’s Henning Larsen Architects.

In the old town, the structures show their history. This building has been completely restored on the interior and reconditioned on the exterior although it almost looks like an abandoned warehouse from the street.

Most of the structures in HafenCity feature incredible designs like the Sumatrakontor complex pictured below. Such a dramatic contrast between the historic buildings and the new redevelopment in this port city.

The morning went by quickly and we returned to our hotel to collect our bags and make our way to the ship. More on that part of our journey tomorrow.

Hamburg

Our flight to Hamburg, Germany had a layover in Zurich which, of course, we missed the connection. Air Canada had booked a very tight layover, only one hour, and we were delayed over an hour departing Toronto which meant we were landing in Zurich as our connecting flight was taking off for Hamburg.

Very efficient transfer though. SwissAir had already rebooked us on the next available flight. The layover was now at four hours.

Long day for travelling.

We picked the 25hours Hotel in Hamburg as our base for the four days we would be in this city. Two days prior to embarkation and two days after disembarkation.

Here is a video walkthrough of our funky hotel room:

And a few photos from our first day in Hamburg.

We had no particular itinerary for this day. The plan was to stay awake as long as possible and attempt to readjust our biological clocks to the six hour time zone shift.

The first thing I noticed was the unique architecture of this part of the city.

So many modern office towers and almost all of them built from glass patterns like this one pictured above.

There are numerous canals that extend into Hamburg with wide walkways. Notice the geometric perfection of the new construction? In the new part of Hamburg, most of the architecture featured squares and rectangles.

The older parts of Hamburg also seemed geometric. Predominantly built with brown bricks.

Some of the architecture played with angles and curves like this modern condo tower.

Numerous sidewalk cafes in Hamburg. We had supper at one such cafe. I had my first German Diet Coke: fritz-kola. Ohne Zucker, captioned underneath the fritz-kola brand, means Sugar Free. Lorraine had raspberry iced tea.

The food trucks are definitely a step up from those we find in North America.

A unique home right on the edge of one of the canals.

Proof that Lorraine was in Hamburg. We had great fun trying to figure out what to see in this part of Hamburg. As the map suggested: Was ist wo in der HafenCity?

We had a chance to walk through the St. Nikolai Memorial. This site is Hamburg’s most important memorial for the victims of war between 1933-1945. During the bombing raids on Hamburg, the church tower served allied pilots as a point of orientation. During Operation Gomorrha in 1943, along with the 270,000 homes that were destroyed, the church was hit as well. Approximately 35,000 people were killed at the time. The ruins of the church were blackened by the raging fires although from a distance, the dark areas seem to blend into the main spire which survived the intense bombing raid..

Wonderful streets and cafes to explore in Hamburg.

We managed to stay up until 10pm local time in Hamburg — 4am in Kingston. Sunset in this part of Europe was around 9:30pm which helped us to stay awake.

Toronto

Kingston.

It is a wonderful town. The only thing it lacks? An international airport.

To get ourselves out to our Norwegian cruise, we needed to book a train from Kingston to downtown Toronto, a train from downtown Toronto to Toronto Pearson Airport, a flight from Toronto for Zurich and then, with only a one-hour layover, a flight from Zurich to Hamburg. And, once in Hamburg, board our cruise ship to enjoy Norway.

Cleaver’s rule of cruising: arrive one day early. In our case, that meant a day early in Toronto as well as a day early in Hamburg.

Having been a frequent traveller during my corporate career, I have encountered many, many delays while travelling.

Cruise ships won’t wait. If you miss the departure day, you have to catch the ship at the next port of call.

The trains in Canada are not great. Schedules are more like suggestions. We might plan to arrive at a certain time but that could be plus or minus several hours.

From Kingston to Toronto, our train was fairly close to schedule arriving about 40 minutes late. Via Rail is running old stock though. The cars are old, worn out and look a bit like something you might expect to see in an impoverished country. I agree with this recent article on our train system: we can do better.

Arriving into Union Station, it was a quick and easy walk to our hotel, Le Germain Maple Leaf Square. We’ve stayed numerous times at this small boutique hotel in downtown Toronto. Lovely place and great service.

The arena formerly know as the Air Canada Centre, now renamed the Scotiabank Arena, reminds us that we are still in Canada.

Hockey, eh?

Lorraine and I spent the day in Toronto walking through the harbour front. It is shocking to me how much the skyline in Toronto has changed in the past ten years.

I used to be an executive with a large Canadian bank in downtown Toronto. These buildings near the Queen’s Quay did not exist back then.

The waterfront has also changed dramatically over the past decade but not if you look out to the water. The Toronto ferry still goes back and forth to Toronto Centre Island. And there are no condos on the island.

Toronto’s CN Tower is visible from almost everywhere in the downtown area with the new condo buildings making it a bit more challenging to find.

Condos, condos, condos. No matter which way you look, condos are all over the downtown.

Toronto is amongst the most expensive real estate in Canada and in the world for that matter. Depending on which source you might reference, Toronto usually falls within the top 25 most expensive cities in the world. Vancouver beats Toronto. Both cities have become unaffordable for most Canadians.

Tiny 600 square foot condos will sell for $1,000 – $1,500 a square foot in the downtown.

$700,000 or more for a little space in the sky. Before condo fees.

Weather was sunny and very warm in Toronto and this weather pattern followed us all the way to Norway. We did not need to pack any thermal clothing for our trip. But we did not know that.

After a wonderful dinner in Toronto, Lorraine and I settled in for the evening, excited to begin the travel to Norway.

The next morning, we made our way to catch the UP Express from downtown to the Airport. This is the entrance for the UP Express:

Next post will cover our journey to Hamburg.