Tag Archives: Braemar

Lysekil, Sweden

It is our last port of call for the Braemar Mystery Cruise to Maiden Ports. In the early morning, we sailed past large, granite rocks to dock at the town of Lysekil, Sweden. as we docked, ABBA was playing from the tourist information area, just to verify that yes, we were in Sweden. I had arranged another tour for this area, so while we did drive through part of this beautiful town, most of my day was seeing other things.

Our first stop was to the fishing village of Smögen where we learned that many of the local churches were designed by the same person and built with the local granite stone.

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From there, we went to Vitlycke Museum to see the Bronze Age stone carvings.  The museum is set in a beautiful park-like setting and the stone carvings were really interesting, especially considering how hard the stone is to carve and the type of tools they had to work with in the Bronze Age. We had a guide give us detailed information about a couple of the stones. In the pictures, you will see that the images are painted red.  This is not how they were originally, it is just to help us see the images better. There is also a nice museum, gift shop and restaurant there.

Our next stop was the fishing village of Fjällbacka. It is very picturesque and is famous for two people. Camilla Läckberg, an author of crime novels, and actress Ingrid Bergman who had a summer home there. It is said that she enjoyed the peace of the town and being able to live quietly. We had a wonderful lunch, with fresh, local fish and topped by the best coffee I had on the entire cruise!

When we returned to the ship, we had to go through a passport inspection — and it was really nice to  be able to actually talk and have pleasant conversations with immigration officials!

We sailed away to more ABBA music — and everyone on shore dancing (even some of the immigration officials!)

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It was a wonderful the end to a perfect day — and a perfect cruise on the Braemar.

 

Fredericia, Denmark

Our fifth port of call on Braemar’s Mystery Cruise to Maiden Ports was Fredericia, Denmark. We were greeted with more porpoises — this time I have some “bad” photos of them, but at least I can say I saw them this time! As we docked, a marching band, the Sixth of July, announced our arrival. Fredericia is a fortified town, and it is also very close to Jelling, the home of the Viking King Harold Bluetooth. This would be my first stop of the day.

Jelling is an interesting site. It has two mounds — the North Mound and the taller south Mound. The North Mound was used as a burial mound, but no bones were found there. It is believed that it was originally built for Harold’s father, Gorm. Bones were eventually discovered in the church, and have been reburied there after extensive renovations. The Church stand between the two mounds and in the exact center of a large “long boat” shape that is the center of the palisade. Archaeological findings located the wooden indicated the pillars the marked the site and have marked the site with stone pillars.

Also on this site are two carved stones. The oldest is known as Gorm’s Stone and is the first time Denmark is indicated as a country (~950). The larger stone is Harold Bluetooth’s Stone it is tells of the conversion to Christianity.

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The museum that is located with this site is now one of my favorite museums. It is a very interactive museum that shows Viking history and basic living through interactive displays. I found myself playing with every button to see what the displays would show next. There there was the room where you could stand on different spots on the floor and experience a Viking death, funeral and journey to Valhalla to be with your kin and fellow Warriors. Sounds a bit morbid, but really is was so much fun!  I think it did that a could times. From there, you climbed the stairs to learn more about the Viking Gods and their stories. On the roof of the museum, you can get a panoramic view of the whole site. Yes, I could have stayed at the museum for a long time!

But it was time to head back to the ship and Fredericia. The ship was docked very near to the city center and there was a visitor’s center setup right there. It included a place to rent bicycles, a souvenir shop, an information center with a map of the local area and there was a tourist train that would take you directly into the center of town. I enjoyed my walk into town, passing by a display of old cars, a market, and then down the main street.  One corner had an English pub on one side and and Irish pub on the other — I found this interesting!

As with everywhere we went in Denmark — the people were friendly and very helpful. This is another place I would love to visit again!

On our way out of port, the band played and I think I saw a few more of those elusive porpoises.

 

 

Wismar and Rostock Germany

Our next stop on Braemar’s Maiden Calls Mystery Cruise was Wismar, Germany. We guessed that we would not be in Denmark again this day because we needed our passports with us. Most people guessed it would be Germany — I had stopped guessing! Watching as we sailed through a narrow channel marked only by buoys, I noticed the language and flags and could determine that yes, it was Germany — but where? We were pulling very close into a city. The ship even turned around and slide into a very narrow docking slip (great parking job!) and we were informed we were now docked in Wismar, Germany. It was an easy walk form the ship to the city centre.

I had opted for another tour. This is highly unusual for me, especially if we are dock within a quick walk to the city, but not knowing made me want to ensure I saw everything! The tour I picked today took me to two cities — Wismar and Rostock. So off we we went!

The central plaza of Wismar has a really nice market around the original source for water for the town. The building that protected this water source was very ornate and beautiful. There was also a number of buildings representing different architectural styles.

Then it was off to Rostock. This area was formerly part of East Germany and our guide, who was from Rostock, told us what it was like before and after German reunification. It was very interesting. He told of driving to the around 100 kilometers to closest town on the opposite side of the border and, when he told someone where he was from, they had never heard of Rostock! And yet, they were so close.

The central plaza of Rostock seemed a bit more modern — maybe it was because of the light rail transit system that lined one side of it. Or maybe it was the modern architecture that surrounded its central fountain. The sculptures were very modern representations of Norse Gods. There was a market here as well, selling fruits and vegetables as well as arts and crafts. there were also a number of outdoor cafes. I took advantage of this to get a nice espresso.

There was also a huge church. I went inside and was very surprised to see an Egyptian obelisk and sphinx as well as more typical iconography one might expect in a Catholic Church.

Back in Wismar, everyone was very friendly and gave advice on where to go for a nice walk into the city. As we left, a men’s chorus sang German shanty songs and we were sent off with a salute from a cannon and rifle volleys (I think they hit a seagull with the fist volley, as there were feathers flying!). It was a picture perfect day!

Hundested, Denmark

Our second port of call on Braemar’s Maiden Call Mystery Cruise was Hundested, Denmark. It is a small fishing town of about 8,500 people on the northern parts of the island of Zealand. We started to sail in before 8 AM — and it seemed that the entire town was out to greet us!  The seaside and port was lined with people and the bay was filled with a flotilla boats of many types, including a Viking ship, a Danish warship, a kayak and a small boat filled with photographers taking our pictures. There was even a plane circling over us.

And it kept getting better! There was a Viking group that meet us as we docked alongside the pier. They blew horns to welcome us and erupted into battle as I tried to walk between the two rows — swords and shields were flying!

As we left the official port area, townspeople, a even a few dogs, were lining the street into town — it was an overwhelming welcome and one that I will never forget (and of course, I had to stop and pet the dogs!).

Again, not knowing where we would be, I opted for a tour and again was surprised to learn that we were going to Kronborg Castle — also known as Hamlet’s Castle. On a previous cruise to the Baltic, I had only seen this castle from a distance as we sailed by — now I was gong to go inside! We climbed up the the main living area and saw many furnished rooms and some impressive paintings. One long hallway was called the Queen’s Gallery. It connected her apartments to the main ballroom. The room was huge, taking up one whole side of the castle. I imagine it would also be very cold, as it only had one fireplace at one end of the room.

On the way back to Hundested, we drove past the Queen’s Summer Palace, also known as the Peace Palace.

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Once back to the ship, it was easy to walk into town. There was a Viking Village setup to sell various types of trinkets, including some amazing mead. Locals were also around the town, offering information and advice on things to do and see.

Would I go back to Hundested? Yes, no question! Everything was absolutely perfect. Here are some links to more information about Hundested:

As we sailed away, the Vikings were back and sent us off by blowing the horns again.

Our Captain responded by blowing the ship’s horn three times. And the Viking ship escorted us out of the harbour.

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Larvik, Norway

I was up early to watch as Braemar’s Maiden Call Mystery Cruise sailed into our first port. We picked up our pilot and, as the boat sailed away, I noticed the pilot board’s flag was Norwegian.  that was the only clue I got for our first mystery port — we were somewhere in Norway. We sailed along the coast past many small islands, some covered in grass and other appeared to be only large boulders. I wasn’t until we were fully docked that our Captain announced we were in Larvik, Norway.

Larvik is primarily a fishing town of about 40,000 residents — with many more during the summer months. On a good day, you can see Sweden across the bay. I decided to take a tour in the morning, just so that I would see some of the sites considered important in this area. On the tour, we drove through Stavern, a small town that hosts a music festival every summer and is home to many creative writers and artists.

Our first stop lead us to Minnehallen, a monument to Norwegian seamen who died during WWI and WWII. It is constructed from the local granite that is known for a high concentration of quartz that makes it look like it sparkles. Inside the monument, there are plaques listing all the names  remembered in this place.

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Our next stop was Fredriksværn. It started out as a major ship building facility around 1750. During WWII, Germany used this area as a POW camp for Russian prisoners and Norwegian dissidents.

Our final stop on the tour took us on a quick boat ride from Fredriksværn to a small island where there is a special look-out tower.

 

Maiden Call Mystery Cruise on the Braemar

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From May 5 to May 14, the Fred. Olsen Braemar was my home as I and my fellow passengers and the ship’s crew embarked on a mystery cruise to maiden ports — places that the Braemar had never been to before this cruise! Our starting port was Dover, but once we left, only the captain knew where we were headed (at least we hoped he knew where we were going!)

It was a mystery!

But now that it is over, sadly, I can share the wonderful places we visited! Here is the overview of where we went and how we got there.

May 5th
We left Dover around 4:30 under clear skies and sailed 176 miles. We all made note that the ship turned north as we headed out (although that did not mean much as the captain could have easily turned us around in the middle of the night). But we were confident that we were not heading to Spain this time.

May 6th
This was a sea day with partly cloudy skies. We sailed a distance of 285 miles and I did a load of washing since some of my clothes were a bit smokey from camping for a few days before getting on the ship (and yes, I will write about that adventure, too!). At night, it was our first formal night and the Captain told us all he would about the cruise and places we were going by saying, that only two people know where we are going, me and the Head Chef. And all I will say is this … it`s a mystery!

May 7th
We arrive at our first mystery port. I am up early to watch us pull into port and to guess where we were. I saw a Norwegian flag, so I had the country — but no sign of where. The Captain finally announce that we were in Larvik, Norway! This would be my first time in Norway and it was a beautiful start to the day with clear skies and a light breeze. Distance sailed: 295 miles.

May 8th
Watching us sail into our second port was overwhelming because it seemed that everyone who lived in the town we were going was out to greet us! They had lined the port and vessels of all kinds were sailing along side us, including a Viking ship! And this was all before 8 AM on a Sunday! At dockside, there was a Viking group doing battle and providing a honour guard for us as we departed the ship. Welcome to Hundested, Denmark! This was the warmest welcome I`ve ever had while sailing and I will never forget it. All Hail! Distance sailed: 200 miles.

May 9th
Watching us pull into port, I was confused at first because I thought I saw a Swedish flag, however we were back in Denmark — this time is was Nyborg, Denmark. This is a beautiful town and, while we were docked in an industrial area, a shuttle bus took us to the town centre close to the Nyborg Castle and other sites. The people were friendly and helpful in showing us places to go and things to do. It was another beautiful day! Distance sailed: 100 miles.

May 10th
Sailing into our next port was very interesting, as we seemed to have a very narrow channel to navigate, marked by bouys. Once near the town, the ship was turned around and slide into a narrow docking space. We were docked very close to the centre of Wismar, GermanyIt was an easy walk into the town that has an interesting collection of architectural styles. It is also a quick drive to Rostock, another German town along the coast. Again, it was easy to get information and people were so welcoming and willing to help. as for our send off — we had a men`s choir singing Germany shanty songs and a group of men wearing uniforms from different periods who, with the addition of a small cannon, gave us a gun salute as we left! Distance sailed: 109 miles.

May 11th
We really had no clue where we would be next, of course. All through the cruise, there were people playing various guessing games and a lot of us checking the atlas in the library (which went missing one night). I finally figured out that I could at least find out the country by checking what flag we were flying. But that is as good as it got for my guessing game. Where do we sail this day? We were back in Denmark in Fredericia. Our welcome this time was a marching band! There were also bikes we could rent and a tourist train that would take us the short distance from the port to the town centre.  A short drive from the town is a Viking site, Kongernes Jelling. Distance sailed: 163 miles.

May 12th
Sailing into our final mystery port was interesting. It did not look like there was anything there except very large rocks — granite is important to this area, as we would soon learn. The biggest clue as to where we were was the ABBA music playing at we docked.  We were in Lysekil, Sweden. This area is dotted with small fishing villages, beautiful scenery and Bronze Age rock carvings. There are seals close to the harbour as well. The weather was again perfect — as it had been the whole trip. As we left the port, we had to check in with immigration and verify our passports. It was nice to have such friendly immigration officials to talk to (and even joke around with). As we sailed out of port both tourist guides and immigration officials were all dancing to ABBA. Distance sailed: 214 miles

May 13th
The mystery was over and it was time to sail back to Dover — our final port. It was a great trip and I would do this again! Distance sailed: 329 miles.

I love sailing on the Braemar! Everyone is friendly — from crew to the passengers. There are great places to sit and relax throughout the ship, which is one of the things I really enjoy.

 

 

 

La Coruna and the Torre de Hercules

The last stop on the Braemar “Choose your own cruise” was La Coruna, Spain. This is a small, charming coastal town. I was drawn to it because it is the home of the oldest lighthouse, La Torre de Hercules. It is very walkable, but also has good transit. During the summer, there is an old-fashioned tram, however from the port, it is easy to get around by bus. The main tourist bus is 3 or 3 A, however 5 also goes to all the same places — and heads out to the suburbs and university.  Yes, I ended up taking this one, not realizing how much of a “tour” of the city I was going to have!

It is also a very friendly city — I had several opportunities to practice my Spanish, and even a chance to speak French! It was very pleasant to walk around and see this charming place. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Sunrise in La Coruna

 

La Marina Galeries

La Torre de Hercules

The marina had a lovely park with statues.

And there was lots of waves!

This was one of my favorite stops on this cruise — completely surprising, friendly and a mixture of city and nature.

Walking in Cadiz

All the research I did indicated that it would be easy to walk around Cadiz from port where the Braemar would dock. There is also a Hop on, hop off bus. So, I opted for a quick trip around Cadiz to get my bearings, then it was time for a nice walk next to the beaches and through parks. Cadiz is a great place to walk and see some interesting architecture, beautiful beaches and gardens and old forts. Perfect for pictures!

Before leaving ship, I got top see a submarine being towed out of the port, then heading out to sea.

There are several parks that run along the Atlantic Ocean. Here are somize of my favourite areas.

There was an interesting area with a waterfall, dinosaurs and ducks …

and this beautiful tree that provided shade to a memorial for Jose Marti — the Cuban poet and freedom fighter.

I did mention beaches, right? One very nice one is located between two forts.

 

One of the fortresses is a star-shaped fort named Santa Catalina.

From this beach, it is an easy walk to the main plaza and other sites such as churches and monuments.

Cadiz is a beautiful city — very easy to get around and friendly people. I was sad to leave.

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Lazy Day in Cartagena, Spain

After the heat and dodging marathon racers in Valencia, I was looking forward to an easier port of call. Cartagena proved to be just that! The Braemar docked right next to a small habour and wide boulevard that gave easy access to the city.

Directly across from the harbour is a monument to fighters last in the battle at Santiago de Cuba, along with several statues leading into the main city.

As you walk into the plaza, the Museo Teatromano de Cartagena provides an entrance to the Roman Theatre. It is a nice museum that includes several different rooms and a series of escalators to bring you to the theatre.

Besides the Roman theatre, Cartagena has a number of archeolgical sites. It also has a number of walls and fortifications that protect its natural harbour. It is easy to walk and there is a hop on, hop off bus as well as a harbour tours boat. Along the harbour, there are cafes, which makes this a very easy and pleasant port to visit.

Here are some of the sights of the city.

Our sail-away was spectacular. This is the only way to see the series of fortresses that guard the harbour. We also had fun with a small boat that had photographers from the ship sailing around the Braemar taking pictures of us– taking pictures of them!

Hot day in Valencia

Valencia probably was not everyone’s first choice on our Braemar “Choose your Cruise”, but we were told there was a marathon scheduled for Palma de Mallora, so Valencia won the vote. Unlike the last two ports we visited, the cruise port is not that close to town. When docking there, either the ship will provide a transfer, or the Port of Valencia will. In our case, the ship provided this, which also meant that it could only drop us near the old town. What we did not know was there would be more detours waiting for us. But, on our way to the old city centre, we passed some of the new, modern buildings that are part of the Ciudad de las Artes Y Ciencias — arts and science museums.

We were dropped off just on the border of the old city, near a park and the library.

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I meandered through the streets, until I got to the main street that runs through the city centre and came to a complete stop.  We escaped one marathon to come to another one!

Fortunately, once I figured out I did not want to try to cross the street where the runners were, I found some charming places in the old city, first walking up a charming street that led to the church and Torre de Santa Catalina.

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It was near the Plaza de la Reina which is in front of the cathedral.

Behind the cathedral was another plaza with cafes, statues and fountains.

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It was an easy walk to the Torres de Serranos.

One of the interesting things about Valencia is the creation of a series of parks that are in a dried riverbed. It was very peaceful to walk in this section of Valencia, after the craziness of the marathon and twisted streets around the cathedral.

In additional to gardens, there are playgrounds and, of course, a soccer field.

I continued my walk through the city centre until the heat got to me and I headed back the ship’s pool. Here are some other sites I enjoyed in Valencia.