Exploring the fjords

Yesterday Mark and I walked around Bergen and took a brief tour of the harbour, where we saw an enormous yacht named Katara, with the Qatari flag on display on its stern. When Mark asked the captain of the boat whose yacht it was, he confirmed that the emir of Qatar owned the boat but he was not in town, however four of his wives and eight of his children were. Subsequent Internet research (i.e., Wikipedia) says that it is indeed owned by the emir of Qatar. We didn’t see any of the Qatari royal family strolling about the rainy streets of Bergen, but we did see gaggles of tourists. Sheesh! They’re everywhere: all over Reykjavík, Amsterdam and the city of Luxembourg. The best place for lack of tourists so far on this trip has been Antwerp, which seems ironic to say since the city is relatively small and it was after all teeming with athletes in town for the OutGames.

I am using a free Internet station on board the MS Finnmarken, a medium-sized cruise ship owned by the Hurtigruten company. The Internet here is s-l-o-w, so I won’t be composing lengthy travelogues here although once I get back home I will be adding photos and filling you all in about finalizing my plans for my trip to Tristan da Cunha. If everything works out okay I should be on the island one month from now. But I have a different voyage–this one–to tell you about first.

Mark and I were able to leave our baggage at the Bergen hostel while we saw the city. The bus service on Sunday was once every hour, so when we had finished our own self-guided tour we had to race back to the hostel, then grab our luggage and race back to the bus stop to catch the bus as it finished its route and looped back. My suitcase and backpack were overloaded with books, and when I have to run up and down hills (as Bergen certainly ain’t no flat prairie town) carrying all of this, I get tired, thirsty and drenched with sweat all over. Not a pretty sight (or smell) am I. We took the bus to the central station and grabbed a tram where we got off as close as we could to the Hurtigruten terminal. There wasn’t a tram stop anywhere near the terminal, so we had a bit of a hike. Needless to say I felt like falling asleep as soon as we checked in and both Mark and I felt drowsy which watching the compulsory safety film beforehand. The ship’s crew and film went overboard (no pun intended) in explaining how important hygiene was on board, how one should always wash one’s hands and use antibacterial sanitizers. I understand why they did this, as no one wants an epidemic to break out on board, but I can’t stand those sanitizers as they always leave my hands feeling tacky, as though I soaked my hands in a bowl of glue and left them to air-dry. I should be grateful for this because the alternative is spending the remainder of the cruise throwing up in my cabin with stomach flu.

The food is delicious: all kinds of fish, shrimp, mussels, tasty vegetables and Mark, who is reading this over my shoulder, interjects “and desserts” as he obviously is enjoying the sweetness after dinner. I get enough sweetness just from him. It is rainy here as we explore the fjords. Today we stopped off at Ålesund and then saw a bridal party of veily waterfalls on both sides and houses built into the sides of the mountains, with no roads in sight. How do these people get to their homes? Some are 450 metres above the waterline. The ship has two Jacuzzis and a pool, as well as a gym. I always lose weight when I am on vacation but in this case I am afraid of coming home weighing more than I left. I might spend my workout today on the treadmill instead of weight training. Breakfasts and lunches, as well as yesterday’s dinner, have free seating yet dinner tonight and for all the rest of the dinners on the trip will be at a set table. Mark and I are wondering who our table mates will be. I only hope that whoever they are, they’re not annoying. I tend to be very reticent when I meet new people.

We have been playing Scrabble ever since the start of this trip, in the hostels and now on board MS Finnmarken. I brought along Mark’s revolving deluxe board (because it will fit in my suitcase, not his) as I knew we would be playing often and I dislike playing on a travel set. Earlier today I played TuGHRIK, an amazing find on a board with two other monetary units: LIRI and VATU. While in Luxembourg a British gentleman stood by watching us play over several games and asked us what language we were playing in; I wonder if the curious onlookers aboard this ship are wondering the same. It’s fun to play in public with our fancy board, Adjudicator timer and special Mississauga Club-versus-Toronto Club tiles. It’s definitely not fun when your rack is AAAGOOY and you’ve got two people looking over your shoulder, as happened with me today.

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