Friday 15 June 2018

Silver Spirit Norway, Day 1 - To sleep, perchance to dream? Fat chance.

With thanks to Silversea for this Norway cruise
More photos to come when the wifi is faster
The trouble with hotels is that they're public places; and the public, sadly, does not always behave. So the two (?) couples in the room next door, who came rampaging back at around midnight, arguing and shrieking and thumping around, were not Radisson Blu's fault - but it was hard to acknowledge that, burrowed under a pillow, earplugs in and still able to hear them bellowing at each other through the small hours as precious sleep time slipped away.

Anyway. This beautifully sunny morning we set out via the ubiquitous HoHo bus into town where, during a short wait, I marvelled at the Tivoli Gardens, so old and yet still so appallingly vomit-inducing - and, somehow, still drawing crowds of masochists. Across the road was the Town Hall with its imposing exterior, and interior, so huge and high and empty, an ornate stage waiting for the day's performance. Outside were bronze creatures, some recognisable like the fountain bull, and some deeply weird, like the three dragons? on the wall. And of course there had to be Hans Christian Andersen, here the bronze highly polished on the reachable bits, and his hand, as seems usual, with a finger holding his place in a book.

We drove through the clearly expensive and classy district of Frederiksberg, all imposing 5-storey apartment blocks, more than a bit Parisian and heavy on the decorative details; and eventually got to the Carlsberg Brewery, which we had been convinced was The Thing to Do. The museum part was earnestly thorough, starting the story of beer back in the early Bronze Age with the cheerful fact that human skulls were used as drinking vessels. No explanation of how beer was discovered though, which, considering much effort was spent explaining how difficult it was to refine the product and control yeast, was a question worth having answered. However that happened, by the Middle Ages it was an essential part of daily life - ordinary water being undrinkable - and people were drinking 10-30 litres a day, driven as much by a salty diet as anything else. It was even standard for kids.

It was a thorough museum, and interesting, laid out through the old original buildings but, despite having become, thanks to the Baby, a beer convert, it was when we got to the stables that I really got interested. That’s where five people cosset seven horses, beautiful dun draught horses, smaller than Clydesdales but still wonderfully sturdy and hairy. Outside in the cobbled courtyard we drank our complimentary beers (not as good as Erdinger, can I say that?) and then went for a gentle spin in a cart pulled by Axel and Louisa, and driven by Jens, who was pleasantly chatty. It was just lovely, clopping along through a quiet suburb of pretty, old brick houses with Viking flourishes, blackbirds singing in the trees and whiffs of that glorious evocative aroma of horse washing over me where I sat next to Jens. Highlight of the day.

Back on the HoHo, we circled through Christiania, where the bus commentary mentioned hovels and loose dogs as well as restaurants and concerts; and got off in Reffon, tempted by talk of smørbrød and street food stalls. Which there were, in repurposed shipping containers, where enthusiasts sold food from everywhere, even Peru, and the tables had great views across the harbour to the cruise ship terminal – but it was too far for one of us to walk to, and so we got back on the bus.

Pretty soon we were at the Langelinie terminal ourself, going through the process of boarding Silversea’s Silver Spirit, which we last sailed in around the Adriatic, but which is now 14m longer (they cut it in half and fitted in a new bit) and fully refurbished. So it’s different, but still the same, and it was almost like coming home again with everything so familiar. Although, it was noticeable that there are more people aboard – 608 altogther. Hardly Ovation of the Seas, but still on a different scale from last year’s expedition ship Silver Explorer, with only 144 passengers. It certainly feels less personal.

However. It’s good to be aboard and the sailaway out past various Danish islands on a calm sunny evening was just beautiful – and sitting outside later having dinner and seeing a classic castle slide past, and learning that it was Kronborg Castle at Helsingør, aka Elsinore? Priceless.

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