Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, Scotland Disney cruise - summer 2015
Our Disney Cruise started in Copenhagen so we decided to fly in a few days early (Saturday) to see some of the sights.
I woke up at 6:30 am on Sunday morning so I decided to go for a walk before my family woke up. Our hotel was only a few blocks from Tivoli Gardens, so my rough plan was to walk to Tivoli Gardens, then down Stroget, over to Nyhavn, then back to the hotel.
After leaving Tivoli Gardens, I came across the Dragon Fountains. The Dragon Fountain is a fountain located in the City Hall Square in Copenhagen, Denmark. The central motif of the fountain is a bull fighting a dragon. On the edge of the basin sit three water-spraying dragons. Other decorations on the basin are inspired by Ancient Greek ornamentation.
After leaving the Dragon Fountain, these city workers were nice enough to point the way to Stroget.
Strøget is a pedestrian, car free shopping area in Copenhagen, Denmark. This popular tourist attraction in the centre of town is one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe at 1.1 km. You can see by the clock that it was 8:00 am. Surprisingly there were small groups of teenagers walking around. They appear to be walking home after a night of partying. While I saw the party trucks During our stay in Copenhagen but I didn't see excited High School graduates get naked in fountains like some of our fellow cruisers.
On the way to Nyhavn, I passed this interesting building. Børsen (English: The Stock Exchange) is a building on Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen, Denmark. It was built by Christian IV in 1619–1640 and is the oldest stock exchange in Denmark. It is known especially for its Dragon Spire shaped as the tails of four dragons twined together, reaching a height of 56 metres.
On one of the many canals in Copenhagen, I came across this boat (left). Former lightship FYRSKIB No.XIII Built 1880 Forenede Oplagspladser & Værfter, Christianshavn and in service until 1972. After over 20 years in service as a government hostel (the lantern tower was removed to the Esbjerg Fishery Museum), it was further converted to a private houseboat in Copenhagen and informally renamed ARK XIII.
After a nice walk down Stroget I arrived at Nyhavn. It was as colorful and beautiful as I imagined. One advantage of being there so early on a Sunday morning is that the crowds had not arrived for the day so I was able to get some nice pictures without throngs of people.
Nyhavn (literally: New Harbour) is a 17th-century waterfront, canal and entertainment district in Copenhagen, Denmark. Stretching from Kongens Nytorv to the harbour front just south of the Royal Playhouse, it is lined by brightly coloured 17th and early 18th century townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants. Serving as a "heritage harbour", the canal has many historical wooden ships.
Hans Christian Andersen lived in several of the houses at Nyhavn.
After my morning walk, I met up with my family and we all went to Tivoli Gardens for the afternoon. Walt Disney got much of his inspiration for Disneyland while visiting Europe, including Tivoli Gardens.
My plan for the day was to use a Copenhagen Card to see some of the museums on my own. I disembarked the ship and walked toward the ferry to Bygod where several of the museums I wanted to visit are located. On the way to the ferry I walked past City Hall.
Norse Folk Museum
After disembarking the ferry my first stop was the Norsk Folk Museum - The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.
The Norsk Folkemuseum is Norway’s largest museum of cultural history. With collections from around the country, the museum shows how people lived in Norway from 1500 to the present.
The Gol Stave Church dating from 1200 is one of five medieval buildings at the museum.
The Viking Ship Museum
My next stop was the Viking Ship Museum which was just a short walk from the Norsk Folk Museum.
The main attractions at the Viking Ship Museum are the Oseberg ship, Gokstad ship and Tune ship. Additionally, the Viking Age display includes sledges, beds, a horse cart, wood carving, tent components, buckets and other grave goods. Many fully or nearly fully intact Viking ships are on display. The museum is most famous for the completely whole Oseberg ship, excavated from the largest known ship burial in the world.
White Water Rafting
We spent our time in Kristiansand by going white water rafting and zip lining. Our tour operator picked us up at the ship and we took a very scenic drive to the river a little less than an hour away.
In Stavanger, we took an excursion to see Stavanger and the surrounding area. We left the port and took an hour drive through the countryside past several Fjords. After stopping for a few pictures, we ended up stopping for lunch in a restaurant that was inside a cave. After a nice lunch we did a little shopping then headed back to the ship.
The Golden Circle
After a nice relaxing day and a half at sea, the Disney Magic docked for the very first time in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Our itinerary for for the day was an ambitious (what was supposed to be 10 hour - turned out to be 12 hours) tour of the famous Golden Circle and a few waterfalls outside the Golden Circle.
Our first stop gave us a close-up look at the unique "moonscape" that cover much of Iceland. One of the first things you notice is, there are no trees.
Our next stop was Thingvellir National Park and the famous Parliament Plains.
This geologically unique area if formed due to the divergence of the North Americal and European continental plates. In this picture, we are standing on the North American continent. The mountains in the distance (about 10-15 Km) are on the European continent. The area in between is riddles with fissures, some filled with crystal clear water.
This area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest Parliament in the world was established here in 930 AD when the Vikings came to Iceland. Why here of all places? Of the numerous tribes, this was decided as a "central" location to meet.
The next stop on our tour of the Golden Circle was an active geothermal area known as Geysir. We were told that the word Geyser comes from this area.
The largest geysir here is called Strokkur. Strokkur erupts quite frequently, about every 4-5 minutes.
I got soaked!
We had been around Strokkur for about 10 minutes and it had erupted a few times of similar magnitude. At this point I had gotten all the "far away" pictures I wanted so I decided to move right to the boundary line to get a close up shot.
I set up my camera on the tripod, and looked through the viewfinder on my camera patiently and attentively waiting for Strokkur to erupt again. Without fail, I see the tell tale signs of the eruption where the water sinks into the crater by a few inches. On cue, Strokkur starts to erupt. I decided to take a series of rapid shots, so I am looking through the viewfinder the whole time. A few seconds into the eruption, I noticed the water appears to be coming toward me. I dismiss that as a function of just being so close. Then then a few seconds later, I could tell that the hot boiling water was definitely coming toward me. I grab my camera, still on the tripod, try to cover it under my jacket and turn to run. Too late! What turns out to be by far the largest eruption for the time we were there (at least three times larger than the rest) dumps a deluge of hot water on me and others close by. Thanks to my friends Wally and Terri for getting the picture of us running. The lesson here is, when on vacation in a place you may get wet.. Wear dri-fit clothes. I was almost dry by the time we boarded the bus, so apart from smelling like eggs if you sat next to me. The rest of the day was fine.
The next stop on our tour was the mighty Gullfoss waterfall.
The thing you discover about touring Iceland is that sights are very far apart. As a result, we drive for 45 minutes to an hour to stop somewhere for 20-30 minutes before moving to the next stop.
Gullfoss (as I came to find out) has two parking lots. One right near the main road, and one "much" closer to the waterfall. Our driver decides to park in the one farthest away from the waterfall. This means we have to walk down a boardwalk path then down a very long flight of stairs to even get to the second parking lot and ultimately the waterfall.
Once I make it past the second parking lot, I am rewarded with my very first sight of the mighty Gullfoss. The grandure of the falls combined with the roar of the water was overwhelming. The rainbow is caused by the constant overspray from the waterfall. The water is that color because the water in this river is glacial melt from a volcano and full of volcanic dirt and debris.
In order to give moving water that "misty" look, I use a photographic technique called a "long exposure". This means I need to use a tripod and that takes a bit longer to get set up to take the shot. After setting up my camera on the tripod and dialing in the shot, I take a few exposures.
I still have time so I decide to walk to the end of the path to get closer to the waterfall. Yes, all the way to where those people are in the picture.
About half way there, I stop to take the above two pictures.
I move on and hike to the end of the path. Being so close to the waterfall was impressive. You really can't appreciate the power of the waterfall from pictures.
I set up my camera and take a few shots of the waterfall from this vantage point.
By this time It's 20 minutes into what was supposed to be a 30 minute stop. I know I need to hurry back to make it to the bus on time. So without taking my camera off the tripod, I just folded up the legs and start walking very quickly back up the path. This is when I first notice that Iceland, unlike the U.S. tends to leave things in the most natural state possible. Read that as paths are not perfectly groomed and with the overspray makes for a slippery walkway.
I hastily walk the first part of the hike and make it to the second parking lot. Totally out of breath with 5 minutes to go, I look up at the LONG stairs that I must climb to get to the bus. Luckily the stairs were not too crowded, so I begin to sprint up the stairs. I finally make it to the top and I start down the long path to the parking lot. I see Jannis waving for me to come take a picture with the official ship's photographer.
In case you can't tell, I am completely out of breath in this picture.
At this point, this would be the end of the "normal" Golden Circle tour. But we had the "combo" package, so onward we go.
Our next stop was one of two waterfalls at the base of theEyjafjallajokull volcano. This is the famous volcano that grounded air travel across Europe in 2010 when it erupted.
After a short 20 minute stop at Skogafoss we get back on the bus. I think at this point is was around 11:30pm. Our tour was supposed to end sometime between 10 and 11pm. The tour guide took a poll and asked the group if we wanted to keep heading East (away from the ship) to our second to last stop or head back toward the ship to our last stop. The group voted to go back, so we missed our stop in Vik.
Seltun Geothermal Hot Springs
Our next stop was one of the geothermal hot spots in the area. This one was called Seltun.
Just before we get to Reykjanesta, we stop to see the location of the first lighthouse in Iceland. The original lighthouse was built in 1878, but destroyed in an earthquake 8 years later. The current lighthouse was built in 1929.
We finally make it to Reykjanesta. I wish I had a picture of the parking lot, but you would have seen A very large area where 50 full sized busses could park. Our driver, looking ever so confused picks a spot, then moves, then picks another spot. She finally settles on a spot with the bus facing uphill. Yes, the downhill points to the cliffs at the end of the peninsula.
She stops the bus and opens the door to let passengers out. After about 4 people got off the bus, she decides to hop out from her side. As she gets out of the bus (I'm still on it) the bus starts to roll backwards towards the cliffs. My whole life is flashing before my eyes and all I can think of is Pee Wee Herman as the school bus driver saying "shut up or I'll kill us all!". The bus driver/tour guide runs the bus down and flings open the door and jumps in and engages the parking brake.
The legend of Gunnuhver
Today the area is known for its hot springs and steam vents, but hundreds of years ago this area was believed to be haunted. The original Gunnuhver geyser (now a steam vent) is named after a woman called Guðrún Önundardóttir (Gunna is a common shorthand for the name Guðrún). The story goes that Gunna had dispute with a rich farmer and official, Vilhjálmur Jónsson, from the nearby farm of Kirkjuból. She accused him of stealing a pot from her, probably to settle a debt. Gunna was a determined lady and after her death she resolved to kill Vilhjálmur when he was leaving her funeral. After the deed was done Gunna became a murderous poltergeist who attacked both people and beasts. A priest called Eiríkur was able to lead an attack on Gunna and eventually she was thrown into the geyser which is now named after her. According to legend you should be able to see her stooping by the geyser refusing to go in. The hissing of the steam coming from the steam vent is her calling out to you to lure you in.
The Blue Lagoon was discovered quite by accident. As the story goes, the geothermal electricity plants in the area discharged hot water as a byproduct of their plant operations. Since there was nothing toxic about the water, they simply dumped it into surrounding lava fields. The water contained a very fine silica mud and the silica mud plugged all the holes in the porous lave fields essentially sealing it in a big pool. The workers decided to enjoy the hot water bath after work and after several dips in the pool, several workers noticed that chronic skin conditions went away. And thus the Blue Lagoon was born.
Sailing into Akureyri
The sail into Akureyri, like most of the ports we visited was breathtaking. This was also the first time Disney Cruise Line sailed into Akureyri.
Our first stop was Godafoss which translated means God Falls. The names comes from a time when the Chieftan of the area converted from Paganism to Christianity. As the legend goes, after he converted to Christianity, as a show of his conviction toward Christianity he threw his pagan idol gods into the falls - hence the name God Falls.
Our next stop was a unique landform called a Pseudocrater. A pseudocrater is a volcanic landform which resembles a true volcanic crater, but differs in that it is not an actual vent from which lava has erupted. They are characterised by the absence of any magma conduit which connects below the surface of a planet.
Pseudocraters are formed by steam explosions as flowing hot lava crosses over a wet surface, such as a swamp, a lake, or a pond. The explosive gases break through the lava surface in a manner similar to a phreatic eruption, and the tephra builds up crater-like forms which can appear very similar to real volcanic craters.
The Dark Castle
Our next stop was Dimmuborgir ("Dark Castle"). dimmuborgi is a large area of unusually shaped lava fields east of Mývatn. The Dimmuborgir area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel (hence the name).
Grjótagjá was one of the locations for filming the television series Game of Thrones where the famous love cave scene between Jon Snow and Ygritte was filmed.
The Grjótagjá cave is a small lava tube on the east side of Lake Mývatn. Inside the cave, is a thermal spring. Outlaws used to live in the cave and use the hot spring for bathing in the early 18th century. Grjótagjá was also popular for bathing in the 1970s, but during volcanic eruptions in the area from 1975 to 1984, the temperature of the water rose to more than 50°C. The temperature has since decreased again, but it is still very hot.
Hverir Thermal Area
Hverir is located just off the ring road around Lake Myvatn. In addition to the different hot springs in this area, the lava domes, boiling mud pools and sulfurous puddles were fun to explore.
My plan in Kirkwall was to do a photo excursion which started at 1:30pm. Since I was able to get off the ship by 9am, I took the opportunity to take the shuttle into town to look around.
My photography excursion
The photo excursion we went on had 6 people total. This allowed for lots of conversation with our guide Mark Ferguson, who is a professional photographer in the Orkney Islands. I had my iPad with me so on the way back to the ship, I shared some of the pictures I took earlier during the trip. He studied several of them very carefully, and I believe he was genuinely impressed when he told me so.