Saturday, 16 June 2012


15th - 16th June 2012

End of the Journey
I had a decent supper on board the splendid HMS Stena Brittanica and watched most of the footy where, uncharacteristically, "Ingerlund Ingerlund" won. I thought they performed rather well and seemed to display rare good manners and fair play; but then I know diddly squat about football.
Earlyish to bed in comfortable cabin and the next thing I knew it was a happy 'Good Morning' call over the PA system at 0500hrs. We were due to disembark at 0630hrs. I was back in UK. So thats it. Journey over, I suppose; or as we used to say in the army 'ENDEX'.
Not many pics of the return because I really couldn't be buggered to find my way up to the promenade deck on the roof to take a snap of what, frankly, looked a dull view over an ordinary harbour in fairly dismal overcast weather. I just got off and wandered down a long covered passageway to check in through what is now called Border Control. Not even a sight of the ship after stepping out of it. The Border Control people were dressed in rather scruffy black tie-less shirts. Why do our officials ( in most agencies ) seem to wish to look so down-at-heel and sport what can only be described as the baggy, unkempt Oxfam style? They are, as we put it, in shag order. Other nations' officials tend to take pride in looking smart in well fitting, stylish uniforms, polished shoes and are well groomed. Having said that, the lady who checked me in was at least polite and cheerful. Maybe they are trying to cultivate the 'homely and casual' look. Personally I think they lack a good Sarn't Major to smarten 'em up and give them a bloody good rifting and, from what I have read, their so called 'officers' are a bit of a shambolic, irresponsible and 'slopey-shouldered' shower. It shows.
I reckon I've had a most entertaining and educational trip around the globe, having visited 31 countries ( and I count Hong Kong as separate from China, which in fact it still is as any Hong Kong resident will tell you ). It has been done in a fairly relaxed fashion in just less than 18 months; 508 days to be precise, but who's counting. Well I was, obviously. If time and money had permitted I might have taken in more countries but the only additional places I would like to have gone to, but didn't, were; Alaska, Japan, Egypt, most of the rest South America, lots of Eastern Europe especially Poland and Turkey and perhaps the Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania group. It is good to leave a few places for future ramblings.
Of the countries I did visit I really only scratched the surface, but got a reasonable idea of what they are like. Some places I am keen go back to, to explore and enjoy further. In many ways this scamper around the world was just a bit of a 'recce'.
The inevitable question people ask is "which country did you like the best?" It is impossible to answer, because one thing I did confirm is an already firmly held belief that all places/countries/nations have their pluses and their minuses, pros and cons, good things and bad things, good people and bad people. People are people the world over; and they are governed, and manipulated ( and lied to ), for better or for worse, by systems that are essentially beyond their control, however much the 'powers that be' pretend otherwise. They are then duly subjected to that government's laws, like 'em or not. I could, but it would be rather pointless, list all the things I, personally, found agreeable or otherwise in each country, so I won't. You should go and see for yourself, because your views are your own. Some people like marmite, some hate it.  I mean, some weird people in this country might even enjoy all the intrusive 'elf 'n' safety and surveillance procedures to which we are subjected nowadays ( for our own safety and protection, of course ) including those constant and maddening public transport 'announcements', or even wish them to go further. As individuals we don't really have any choice. Nowhere is perfect. That is for sure.
I will post this off as my FINAL BLOG, but may at some stage add an appendix chiefly for my own benefit, but which might also be of use to others wishing to do a bit of long distance travelling. It will list tips for kit, admin and procedures which I have learnt, often the hard way, over the past 18 months. Having said that, I never experienced any serious problems despite all the horror stories I was regaled with by well meaning 'advisers'. Neither did I feel it necessary to invent some dramas and crises to improve the story, as I am sure most successful travel writers do! For me the reality was good enough.


Friday, 15 June 2012


13th - 15th June 2012

Das Ferry Kapitan, Hans Kniess von Bumpsedazy 
Achtung Spitfeuer! Donner und Blitzen, mein Schmeisser ist kaput. Verdamt Britische schweinhund. Jawohl Herr Obersturmbahnfuhrer. Noch ein bier bitte. All my Kraut lingo is flooding back now that I have reached Hamburg. I rolled up to the Hauptbahnhof information centre on arrival and ordered the lady at the desk to "hande hoch und herausfinden ein Hotel, schnell schnell !! ". Luckily nobody understood my Deutsche which has been almost entirely gleaned from those great 1950s War Picture Library comics, you know, the ones where when Jerry gets shot he goes "aaaargh!" and when a Nip is shot he goes "aieee!" I digress. Helpfully, despite my ribald comments, she found me a decently priced and, as it turned out, remarkably comfortable hotel room within 5 minutes walk from the station, the Hotel Alte Wache. Recommended.
I had set out on the train from Copenhagen at the civilised hour of 11.45am. It was one of those high-speed Deutschebahn ICE trains, although nowhere near as high-speed and modern as the ones out of Peking that I used to get to Tianjin. The Danish countryside looked remarkably flat, boring and beautifully manicured.

Left: Das ferry. We stopped at Rodby ( on the south coast of somewhere in Denmark ) and the train rolled onto a ferry. I didn't notice this because I was sound asleep at the time and thus became rather confused when I was woken up, ordered off the train and stumbled upstairs to the reception area on a ship. I thought we had reached Hamburg. There were excellent dining facilities for the 50 minute crossing to the German town of Putgarten. It must have been a German ship because I was immediately hit by that unmistakable aroma of Currywurst mit Pommes.
Back onto the train, through more flat and well mown farmland and we arrived at the Hanseatic city-state of Hamburg at 4.20pm.
I am not exactly breaking new territory with Hamburg. I remember the place well ( well, I remember going there often ) when stationed with the army at the garrison town of Fallingbostel about 80kms to the south. This was 40 years ago.
I decided to go on a nostalgic U-Bahn ride to St Pauli, and the notorious Reeperbahn. Yes, it is still there in all it's tawdry best. The Salambo ( and a few of those reading this will remember that delightful and sophisticated establishment with fondness and enormous embarrassment ) seems to have disappeared. Can't remember who it was ending up naked in a soapy bath there, or worse in some cases. The Eros Centre is still going, but I didn't recognise any of the staff. It seems amazing now that we ( some of us ) regularly drove here, an hour and a half up the autobahn, after an already debauched Dinner in the Mess for a night of entertainment and, mortally drunk, got back to barracks by about 0400hrs and were on 'first parade', smart as parrots, at 0800hrs. It brings back memories, amongst many others, of Buzz's car, the metallic blue BMW 2002 convertible with 'wide magnesium wheels', the height of sophisticated vehicular conveyance in those days, and the many narrow escapes from various drunken escapades. Good grief; I could not even think of doing it now.
I seemed to have arrived in Hamburg on the evening Germany were playing Holland at the Euro footy competition. There were many thousand youngish 'lads' and 'ladettes' with black, red and yellow stripes on their faces plus black, red and yellow silly hats and other accoutrements all crowding the U-Bahn and wandering the streets. They were boisterously fuelling up on lager to prepare themselves for the match. I considered it wise to make a tactical and orderly withdrawal to mein Hotel before the end of the game and thus avoid the jolly street celebrations/commiserations. I believe Germany won, so expect there was carnage in St Pauli and elsewhere.
Hamburg is a relatively pleasant city with decent shops, restaurants and some very smart houses and hotels, especially around the Alster lakes. It doesn't, however, have any particularly notable landmarks as far as I am aware, so not much to take photos of. Right: Haven't a clue what this is supposed to represent, but was standing in the Hauptbahnhof and one of few things to snap.
The next day I really couldn't be bothered to visit any museums or other 'sights'. I am somewhat 'museumed out' by now, so as it was warm and sunny I went on the longish walk around both the Binnen and Ausen Alster lakes. It was very quiet with few people about. Thousands of little yachts and boats were mostly tied up at pontoons around the edge. This might have been because it was Thursday and the industrious Germans were at work or, more likely, a considerable proportion of inhabitants were still in bed nursing monumental hang-overs following the successful footy match of the previous night.

Left: I think I remember this chap standing in the middle of Ausenalster many years ago. Still waiting for his taxi.

Up one side there were thousands of ducks and geese. They may have added to the jollity of the place, and they most certainly added to the shit on pavement and grass. Right: These are not fallen leaves, they are goose turds in profusion. It is not even possible to walk on the grass without getting your shoes covered and probably up to your knees in places.

Left: What kind of geese are these anyway? Can you shoot them? If so, I think the park authorities are missing a trick not to have a few 'hides' built around the shores and sell off the wildfowling rights. It would kill several birds with one stone...make money and reduce the level of shit. Actually you wouldn't need hides, or shotguns for that matter. A big stick would do the job.

The walk around the lakes was relaxing and enjoyable. I nearly found myself whistling at one point. Many of the houses overlooking this prestigious area are large and elegant;  obviously multi-millionaires' homes.

There are a few consulate buildings as well. Of course, the only place to really let the side down is, as you might expect, the American consulate ( right ). It is surrounded by two impregnable and ugly perimeter fences, lots of bollards and heavily fortified guard posts at both ends. I expect there are battalions of ugly, shaven headed and aggressive sunglass wearing marines lurking in the flower beds. Sometimes I think the US policy of paranoid over-reaction to the 'terrst' threat only goes to provoke hostile reaction in return. If they are so frightened of being attacked why do they fly such a fucking big flag on the roof? Another red rag to the bull if you ask me.

Left: Noch ein view, this time over the smaller Binnenalster lake.

Ach so! A pleasant day's vondering and I returned to  my room, via the Hauptbahnhof and an efficient travel advice centre, to organise the last bit of my journey. I decided, reluctantly, to put off no longer my return to Blighty and go by train to the Hook of Holland and get the ferry from there to Harwich...just about where I started from on 25th January 2011. It is interesting to note that many years ago there were daily car ferries to UK operating out of both Hamburg and Bremerhaven. Now there are none. I suppose cheap airline fairs have reduced the need...but car drivers and freight still need to go by sea? Whatever, if they don't make money they disappear.
I made my first booking cock-up at this point when I bought a reasonably priced ferry ticket for £76, including the now compulsory cabin ( never used to be compulsory and I remember sleeping well enough on chairs or even flat out on the floor after suitable tranquillizers ) to Harwich by internet. Inadvertently I put in the wrong date..and confirmed it! Not thinking; must be getting too casual. I rang up the booking company and they said they could change it. Fine, but they charged me £25 for the two minute service! What rip-off! Money for old rope for somebody, but I suppose I was a little bit to blame.
I departed the next morning by train via Osnabruck, Amersfoort and Rotterdam. Nearly had another disaster because I wasn't aware that the train from Amersfoort stopped at Utrecht and split into two halves. Of course I was in the wrong half. The conductor did insist that an announcement had been made, but only in Dutch. Fortunately at Gouda, the next stop, I could rejoin the other, correct, half which was following five minutes behind. Don't ask. Arriving at Rotterdam I had five minutes to get from platform 15 to platform 1 to catch the ongoing connection to Hook of Holland. I was told it was not a problem. By now dragging two heavy suitcases and carrying a small rucksack, with a sea of passengers to barge through, it most definitely was. Not easy to sprint under these circumstances, but necessity prevailed and followed by the curses and yells from scattered and trampled people in my path and possibly a few seriously injured small children and dogs, I made the train with literally 10 seconds to spare! Things are conspiring against me in the dying stages of this journey. 
On the ferry now; HMS Brittania or similar. Good heavens, these ferries are nothing like I remember. They are luxurious, like cruise ships, and my cabin is immaculate and comfortable ( plus WiFi and TV ). I believe the footy match between England and Sweden is on, so will show a sense of patriotism and go down to watch it in the lounge bar amongst more English supporters than Swedes I suspect. 
Homeward bound and, unless the ship hits an iceberg, I will be back in Blighty tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


10th - 13th June 2012

The little mermaid and friend.
Onwards and downwards to Copenhagen. I went by ship; the DFDS Pearl Seaways ( Danish ship ) which left at 1645hrs and arrived in Copenhagen at 0945hrs the next morning. Left: The view back towards the city from the ship just before we set sail. Opera House centre. It is a big ship with eleven passenger decks, not including the viewing areas and bars on the roof ( whatever the nautical term for that is ).

Right: My 'basha'. It was actually very comfortable, luxurious even and, by any standards, comparatively good value for money. I had a 'double' cabin with a sea view on the 10th deck, very comfortable bed, a bowl of fresh fruit, complimentary chocolates, TV which worked, excellent shower, plus magnificent breakfast included and all for £204. OK, may sound a bit pricey but considering that's not much more than you might pay for a basic bed in a hostel in Oslo, good by comparison. The breakfast alone in Oslo would have been at least £30!

Left: Fellow passengers relaxing with a drink on the rear deck and we hadn't even gone anywhere at this stage. The initial route took us south down the scenic and at times very narrow Oslofjord. When the Germans invaded Norway from this direction in April 1940 they must have done a lot of navigational pre-planning. Our ship had to negotiate many marker buoys to avoid rocks. I presume the Norwegians moved these about a bit to foil the German ships; but obviously not enough.

There were several bars and restaurants of varying style, and price, on board. Right: One of the dining rooms. There was a small casino and, I believe, some sort of musical entertainment in a far off lounge, neither of which I patronised. Maybe it was Justin Beiber performing, although I didn't hear any screaming demented teenage girls. I think this Beiber character would, in my opinion, be at his best when walking the plank or being 'keel hauled'.
On disembarking there was a convenient and free shuttle bus service to the city centre. Once dropped off there of course I had no idea of where I was, relatively speaking. Sure, I had a tourist street map, but was still rather disorientated. I could only remember from a distant past visit the Tivoli Gardens and they were at the other end of the centre. I walked off towing two ( I seem to have gathered possessions ) suitcases over uncomfortably cobbled streets. I had selected, but not booked, a small hotel at random from some rather shoddy guide book ( not nearly up to Lonely Planet standard ) but hadn't a clue where the street was. After wandering aimlessly and dragging two reluctant bags for twenty minutes I realised I was in a part of the city with many grand buildings but utterly devoid of any shops or cafes, or pedestrians to ask the way for that matter. Eventually I stumbled upon a street with a cafe and people in it. After a coffee refuel I was told where to find a taxi. I naively assumed ( I really should know better by now ) that the genial Danish driver would look after me. He knew the hostelry to which I wanted to go. We spent the next 25 minutes getting there of which 20 were spent static due to traffic jams and road works. I started to watch the goddamn meter clicking up like a football rattle. I mentioned that this was looking rather expensive for going nowhere. His reaction to this adverse comment was almost hostile and, of course, one is entirely helpless in this situation ( with my bags in his boot ). He then helpfully said that most of the hotels were completely booked up and if this one was he knew a few more to try. I had visions of being driven endlessly around Copenhagen, a hostage to this arsehole, and clocking up an astronomic fare which would secure his and his extended family's financial future. By the grace of whatever Gods, the hotel had a spare room, for one night only. I would have waved off the bloody taxi anyway as the bill had reached the equivalent of £22 and still clicking up! We had gone about half a mile in total. I could have walked it. This, once again, served to remind me that most taxi drivers are bandits out to completely rip-off tourists. I do not appreciate paying a taxi to sit still. I think I am becoming somewhat paranoid about taxis, and with good reason I hasten to add. I would like to teach the bastards a lesson, but haven't yet worked out how to do it without using violence.

It was while I was getting the much needed caffeine infusion that I noticed this sign on the street outside ( left ). I'm not sure what the implication is here. Is it literal or metaphorical? Have the Danes had some unfortunate experiences with fashion shows?

Once the accommodation issue was, temporarily, solved I went walkabout. Copenhagen is not particularly big and for the most part easily walkable. Off down various cobbled streets, and there did seem to be a lot of people around. I was heading initially to the tourist info centre near the railway station to ask about a hotel for tomorrow night. Right: The Town Hall. Threatening rain clouds approaching.

Left: Statue nearby. It never did rain, surprisingly. Indeed the sun came out later.

Right: Rather impressive bubbles being 'blown' by these two gents outside the Town Hall.
My enquiries at the tourist info office were not very fruitful. The lady there told me that Copenhagen hotels were completely booked up! Bollocks, I thought. I went around several, some dodgy looking, establishments near to the railway station and yes, they were all fully booked. I decided to postpone this problem. This is the first place I have arrived at that has given me accommodation problems. I believe an influx of cruise ships was to blame.

So, on to the famous Tivoli Gardens which are adjacent to the station. This is the place I remembered fondly, if hazily, from 29 years ago. The gardens consist of an amusement park, a main stage for music and acts, subsidiary stages, many restaurants, a sort of Disney theme area and, of course, ponds and gardens. It hasn't changed much, apart from the prices.

Right: The first ( and only while I was there ) act on the stage was this children's' choir which sang jaunty songs. They were quite endearing, I suppose. At least it wasn't Justin Beiber.
It was Monday, and I was told Mondays are quiet days at Tivoli Gardens.

Left: The pirates' ship in the theme park.

Some of the rides in the amusement park were interesting. Right: This thing lifted them up and dropped them from the top and then bounced like a hydraulic bungee jump.

Left: The 'aeroplane' on the arm of a vertically rotating pylon did amazing aerobatics in all planes and ended by looping-the-loop at incredible speed. Rather like being in a fast three dimensional spin-drier I think. It must have been a most thoroughly vomit inducing ride.

Right: This machine elevated the punters to a great height while spinning them out to the horizontal.

Right: The roller-coaster in the inverted position.
The most breathtaking thing about these rides was the price. To pay for the main rides individually cost about £10 a go. You could buy a ticket to cover them all for about £40.
There were lots of the old fashioned fairground stalls with 'bat the rats', 'shooting galleries' and 'horse racing' etc. All very nostalgic ( and comparatively cheap ). Tons of candy floss, toffee apples and hot dogs were being consumed, with much beer and fizzy drinks drunk. All good ammunition to throw up with.

Walking back past the Town Hall I watched, briefly, this trio of 'Andean style' musicians. They seem to be related to those performing in Oslo if the feathered outfits are anything to go by. Many eagles must be grounded and shivering in the mountains down the west coast of South America.

Left: I passed this emporium; the oldest glove factory in the world. I didn't realise there were such things as glove factories. Must be a Nordic/Scandinavian thing or perhaps a Copenhagen speciality. Brussels makes chocolates. Copenhagen makes gloves.
Of course Copenhagen is quite famous for it's 'Little Mermaid' which sits on a rock near the embankment of the harbour ( picture featured at the top ) and which, a few years ago, had it's head removed by vandals. Not sure if they recovered the original or had to make a new one. It is still possible to step over to it without getting your feet wet and without some officious guard telling you that you can't.

There are several other mermaids around the place, such as this rather well proportioned one ( right ). Copenhagen must have a mermaid factory as well. I didn't see a mermaid wearing gloves.

Left: ....and this one; the Genetically Modified Mermaid. They are all located in the harbour area.

There is a pleasant walk down the waterside back from the harbour to the centre. Amongst many old and pleasant buildings you pass this ( right ), the Gefion fountain; Copenhagen's most spectacular fountain...the blurb says. It's a fiercesome lady riding a chariot whipping four buffalo which are pulling her.

Left: Plus the Amalienborg, the Royal Palace. Its not easy to make out which bit is the actual palace because there are four identical buildings such as this one forming a square. I presumed it was this one because it had a flag on top and there were more guards outside it.

The guards ( right ) look a bit Ruritanian and attracted a bit of possibly unwelcome attention from some passers-by. This one had just been given a kiss by the lady with the pink scarf. Doesn't she look pleased.

Left: Walking on past the Nyhavn ( old port ) is a street lined with bars and restaurants which seemed to be doing roaring trade on this sunny(ish) day. By the way, a feature of Denmark is that the drinks here are less than half the price of those in Norway and Sweden. It is financially possible here for Brits to consume enough beer to get intoxicated if they so desire.

Right: Of course this street featured at least one Oirish bear, and it is also a regular feature of this blog to show at least one from every port of call. Looking back, the only country that I recall which resolutely holds out against the omnipresent Irish drinking emporia is India. Bars in India are crap to non-existent anyway. I think I saw one in Rangoon, but not sure.

Carrying on up the street called Stroget, advertised that at 1103 metres long it is the world's longest pedestrian shopping street, one passes a few of those ( frankly rather passé and tedious ) human statues. Although this one ( left ) showed a bit more imagination than most. 'The Invisible Man'. Not a good photo because you can't see the hat, but it really did give the appearance of an invisible face. It cost me a 1000 Mongolian Tugrik ( 2p at last estimate ) to be allowed to take the photo.

Right: Unlike this human statue, of the reclining variety, which while convincing and maintaining the pose successfully, did not seem to react to any stimulation, either financial or physical.
I ended up back at the information centre and was told that they had discovered one hotel room on offer for 1900 Krone ( about £230! ). I said 'wait out' and went to the railway station with the intention of going somewhere else. The Danish railway ticket office system is the most inefficient I have yet experienced. There were only four of the twelve desks 'manned', lots of customers, and each ticket buyer was taking about half an hour to get a ticket, or whatever, involving much heavy discussion. What the hell were they discussing? I stood irritably in a queue for one and a half hours to get the last train to Hamburg, and the train had left before I got to the front! My patience with Copenhagen's tourist scene was running a bit thin. All lost, I went back to the info centre which was due to close in 5 minutes. The monstrously expensive room had been taken ( thankfully as it turned out ) so zilch available . Back to my original hotel in a foul mood to collect my luggage and expecting to spend the night in a shop doorway ( and I've done that before ). I was then told that they had a 'hostel' room for K150! ( £17 ). I hadn't asked about hostel rooms before, they said. Problem solved, and at a good price. I shared a room with two others and woke up in the morning. This is not a given outcome considering my snoring and the murderous intentions it can engender in others.
Anyway, leaving Copenhagen......onwards onwards

Sunday, 10 June 2012


29th May - 1st June 2012

Viooowe erv Urslur frurm oop the ski-jurmp
Hellerwe frurm Urslur. Very jolly place from what I have seen, even if you need to be a multi-billionaire to make the best of it. Arrived late evening at the Central Station and got a taxi to a hostel ( can't afford hotels here ) which took about 20 mins driving and cost the normal Norwegian taxi price equivalent of an air ticket to the Bahamas. I later discovered that I could have walked it in 5 minutes.

Left: The Royal Palace. Nice weather and did a bit of wandering the next day. The main street through central Oslo is Karl Johans Gate and leads from the railway station up to the Royal Palace, the home of King Harald and Queen Sonja. Looks like they've got the builders in doing the roof...unless it is meant to look like this.

Karl Johans Gate is a lively street with lots of bars, restaurants, posh shops and a rash of those 'human statues' which spring temporarily to life when you feed them a left-over ruble or yuan ( the banks won't change foreign coins of course ). Right: There was also this miserable looking female 'clown' who was not terribly impressed when I offered her my last remaining Peruvian nuevo sol. I later saw that the face is a mask and shared between several 'clowns'.

Left: A view up the northern part of Karl Johans Gate towards the Palace.

Left: The grand statue outside the Palace, of whom it didn't say as far as I could see. Anyone knur?

Right: On the way back I met a band and soldiers marching up to the Palace, so I did a U-turn and followed them. This was to be the Changing of the Guard. The Norwegian Royal Guard wear these extraordinary looking bowler hats with black horses' tails hanging over the front. Must be somewhat irritating when the breeze blows it into your face. They are actually quite smart ( only quite, I hasten to add ). However, if you really want to see some spectacular drill ( on ice, would you believe ), go to 'HMKG 04 Norwegian Military Tattoo' on Youtube. Anyway this lot were not up to that standard.
They provided a reasonably amusing spectacle and attracted a crowd. Interestingly there were no barriers or police telling passers-by or spectators where they could go, or stand. You just had to show good manners and not get in the way, and people duly obliged. At some point a lady nonchalantly pushed her pram and led her other child across the parade area. The authorities here are remarkably relaxed about 'access' to these sort of occasions despite that lunatic blowing up their Parliament and massacring many children on the island north of Oslo last summer. I am impressed by that willingness, indeed determination, to continue unfazed and not impose draconian security measures after that horror-attack as would undoubtedly be the case in UK or America where the public would be strip-searched before being kept behind barriers 2 kilometres away. In America the equivalent place would, by now, be bristling with snipers, anti-aircraft batteries, hovering attack-helicopters and squads of rude and ruthless heavily armed guards.

The only people clearing the way for the band and guard were these five mounted police ( left ) who were well mannered and smiling. Their main purpose was to stop motorists from entering Karl Johans Gate at the wrong moment and running into the band.

Right: The guard was duly changed with good drill and minimum fuss. Each sentry box around the Palace was marched up to and the change-over smartly effected. They must get used to that horses' tail blowing into their faces because it did and they never flinched. It would drive me mad. I suppose it keeps the flys off.

Left: A guard in his box.
After the change-over the police mounted escort, band playing jolly tunes and old guard duly marched back down the street. It was a fun occasion and professionally carried out ( if not quite up to our Brigade of Guards standard of drill and turn-out ).
Right: The Norwegian parliament building, the Storting as its called, or National Assembly, or whatever, off Karl Johans Gate. This was where the nutter planted his car bomb ( ANFO ) last summer.

Left: A curious 'work of art' nearby

Right: The cathedral; again on Karl Johans Gate.

That afternoon, by quite an amazing coincidence, in the middle of a crowd near the railway station, I bumped into the Californian Vikings who were staying with a relative outside the city. They had come into town to do some shopping ( they must be loaded ). They told me that their 'host', a retired builder I think, has, since retiring 15 years ago, refused ever to come into Oslo because he doesn't like the fact that the city has become home to so many ethnic minorities. I must admit, there was quite a predominance of 'foreign' looking types of various hue and ethnicity hanging about the streets including many of what I took to be Romanian/Albanian beggar women who spend their days sitting on the ground on street corners and under street lamps, often with babies, holding out begging bowls. They seem to be kept clear of the smarter areas.

Left: A scene repeated in much of the street where I was staying. There were also some very evil looking men around who gave the impression of 'organising' these beggars. I suspect they are not of enormous benefit to the Norwegian economy or social scene. I was subsequently told that there is an ongoing and contentious political issue involving the many immigrants, a large proportion of whom are Romanian, coming into the city to beg and engage in other nefarious activities. Apparently they live rough in the parks. Reminds me of Dublin. They must make a lot of money begging to be able to exist in this city!

Has anyone heard of a someone called Justin Beiber? I hadn't until I wandered into the square by the railway station. Hundreds of teenage girls were gathered around a stage. Occasionally they would scream and rush off, only to come screaming back later. The Viking girls told me that this Justin Beiber is a current 'heart-throb' teenage pop star and was visiting Oslo. He was supposedly going to do some singing but in the meantime was popping up, or not, in various places up and down the city centre which caused these wild stampedes of squealing girls to go looking for him. The police were hopelessly trying to control them. Extraordinary and quite funny to watch it all as I sipped my small ( but astonishingly expensive ) beer at a nearby cafe. I have no idea when, where or even if Master Beiber ever showed up.
I arranged to meet up with the Viking girls at a cafe up near the Holmenkollen ski-jump for tea at 4.30pm. This eatery ( the Frognersteren Cafe ), according to the Viking mother, the ex-US Navy parachute rigger, who had been there several times before, is a renowned place for nosh, especially cakes and apple pie. I would go up there on the metro, the T-Bane, as it is the last stop on line 1 and I might be able to get up the notorious Holmenkollen ski-jump as well, i.e. killing four birds with one stone.

I underestimated the time it would take. The T-Bane stops at about a hundred stations between the centre and the other end, so I made it to the cafe late and no time to do ( see ) the ski-jump. I resisted the cakes ( I had promised myself to go on a diet after the Hurdigurdi cruise ) and took out a bank loan to buy another small beer. Right: The Californian Vikings; Alexandra, Anastasia ( the ex-US Navy rigger and model ) and Katrina after they had devoured their apple pie.

Left: I made it to the Holmenkollen ski-jump the next morning. It is, I think, the biggest ski-jump in the world. The old one was completely rebuilt in this modernistic style a few years ago.
There is also a 'skiing' museum here. It has some interesting old skis including a pair from 600AD. I learnt all about the differences between Nordic, Telemark and Alpine skiing, plus lots about cross-country skiing and ski jumping. There is also a whole gallery which features the late King Haaken V11 ( 1872 - 1957 ) and his Queen Maud. They were keen skiers and very popular with the public.

Right: Looking back up. I don't know what, if anything, would persuade me to ski down this. I have no ambition to emulate Eddy the Eagle. Anyway, there was 'noe snoe'.
They also had a 'simulator' which promised 'space- age technology to create a unique and realistic feeling' doing the ski jump and a downhill alpine race. I couldn't resist. It lasted five minutes and successfully created for me a very realistic feeling of being ill. I only just escaped without throwing up.
I had bought a 2 day 'Oslo Pass' which for 395 Krone ( £42 ) gives access to all city transport and most museums ( but not the ski simulator vomitorium ). I was determined to make good use of it and duly set off to visit some of the many museums. Several of the nautical ones ( Norway has an impressive nautical history ) are on Bygdoy on the other side of the bay. I duly took the 20 minute ferry to get there.

First to visit the Viking Ship museum which, unsurprisingly, exhibited three original Viking ships. They are all from about 800AD.
Left: The Oseburg ship which was a queen's barge for ceremonial occasions and in which she was buried. Powered by 30 rowers and/or a sail.

Right: Another, the Gokstad ship, was a sea going vessel of 32 oar-power plus sail. This one was again used as a burial ship for some high ranking Viking chief. The third vessel was in much worse condition and featured a wooden burial chamber on board.
They should have had them at the Queen's Jubilee Thames Pageant to remind us of a bit of good old-fashioned Viking raping and pillaging.
Many artefacts, tools, preserved fabrics, ceremonial sledges, wagons and other Viking impedimenta was also on display. Not bad.

Left: Norwegian sailors outside the Norwegian Maritime museum which features largely the expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen, amongst several others. I hadn't realised that in 1895 Nansen deliberately took his ship, the specially constructed and reinforced Fram, into the Arctic pack-ice deliberately to become ice-bound for 6 years to prove the drift of Arctic ice and thereby to reach the North Pole. He, his crew and the ship, survived. I don't think he quite reached the Pole. What a way to spend 6 years of your life!
The entire ship, the Fram, is preserved intact and on display as the centre-piece. You can wander around inside it. No decent photos because it was rather dark inside. The various expeditions these brave explorers/scientists undertook are well photographed and documented and provide a fascinating history of mainly Arctic and Antarctic exploration. The Amundsen South Pole expedition is well photographed and displayed and includes quite a lot of Scott's stuff as well. A fascinating museum especially if you are interested in Arctic/Antarctic matters.

Then to the Kon-Tiki museum. Left: The original Kon-Tiki raft built from balsa wood and Thor Heyerdahl's conveyance to prove it was possible to sail and use ocean currents to go west from South America to the Polynesian Islands, which he did in 1947.

Right: Ra 2. Mr Heyerdahl also built two more boats, Ra and Ra 2, out of papyrus reeds to prove it was possible in early days to sail these basic craft using prevailing wind and currents to go west from Africa across the Atlantic. The first attempt in Ra failed because the reed boat disintegrated. The second, Ra 2, succeeded in reaching Barbados.
The Ra boats looked rather the same as the ones I travelled on at Lake Titicaca.

Left: A statue down on the quayside featuring a family of man, woman, boy and girl, all naked. What is the fascination of displaying naked humans in public spaces, especially in this part of the world where the last thing you want to be, out in the open air, is naked! Someone should give them some warm clothing.

Right: The opera house, near the central station, is a curious construction. It is possible to walk from ground level to the top of it all on the sloping roof.
Quite an impressive building. Can't speak for the actual operatic performances.

Left: As viewed from the opera house, a 'thing', a large 'work of art' floating in the harbour. It sparkled. Maybe it is supposed to represent a collapsing oil rig? Answers on a post-card please.

The following day I visited the Akershus Castle ( right ) overlooking the harbour. It dates from 1300 and contains state-rooms used by the Norge Government for official functions and banquets. It must also do smart weddings because preparations were being made for one later that afternoon.

Down in the dungeons is the Royal Mausoleum ( left ). The big white one contains King Haaken V11 and the smaller green one, his wife Queen Maud. There are more at the other end containing older deceased royals.

Right: The main Banquet Hall. Rodent in centre of the table. I think the chap on duty said they can seat 150.
I seemed to be the only tourist wandering around inside this castle. I was aiming to maximise use of my Oslo Pass. Not doing too badly so far I think.

Left: Looking up from the walls of the castle to the north. That ski-jump certainly dominates the view with the cathedral to the right.
I then went on a tour of the Resistance Museum in the castle grounds. This was recommended to me. It features the story of the Norwegian resistance movement from 9th April 1940 when the Germans invaded to the end of the war. Reasonably interesting and featured quite good photos, documents, reconstructions of battles and acts of sabotage, as you might expect. It played original recorded speeches given by Churchill, King Haaken V11 ( in exile in London ) and Quisling ( the Norwegian Nazi traitor ). Curiously, and I later learnt that this was done deliberately, the displays don't mention any of the Norwegian resistance heroes by name nor the stories of their gallant deeds. I was told that they didn't want to single out any particular people. Neither do they mention what happened to Mr Quisling. As it happened, he was tried after the war ended and shot just outside where the museum now stands. I would be surprised they didn't torture him beforehand. Educational.

Right: I met these two castle guards marching out. They appear not to have right arms. One presumes this is all part of the Norwegian military policy of job equality for the handicapped ( sorry, physically challenged ).

There were lots of bands playing around town, and very jolly the music was too. Left: This lot in the white jackets were mixed ( quite senior looking ) men and women. They all wore dozens of medals on their chests. I didn't find out what they had done to deserve them. There are lots of tall bollards on the pavements in this part of the city as there were just out of sight in front of the chap with the banner. I watched as they marched off, toot toot oompah oompah, and the front ranks negotiated the bollards successfully, unfortunately concealing them from those towards the rear playing tubas and french horns or similar, who then fell over them bringing down a selection of other 'instruments'. It was like the Foinavon fence in the Grand National all over again. The crashing, banging, yelling and occasional peep was impressive to behold. How I laughed! I nearly wet myself.

Of course there are the mandatory Oirish bears. Probably lots of them. In this one ( right ) I was informed that they were preparing to perform an Irish 'jamming session' whatever the heck that is. I didn't stay to find out.

Left: And as for these performers, I couldn't quite work out where they came from. They had the flutes and drums of the Andes style bands and enough feathered decoration about them to embarrass a flock of randy show-off peacocks. Wherever it was that they come from there is now probably a severe shortage of large birds!

Right: A tiger in front of the central railway station. It was often being 'ridden' by children and it's tail was a popular place to sit.
So, that was my visit to Oslo in a Nutshell. A decent enough city and likeable folk apart perhaps from the evil looking beggars and their gangs, but not the sort of place you can afford to stay too long.

I have just returned from my TSDM ( not part of my planned journey ). If anyone is remotely interested this pic is a clue of where I was. If you've been there you'll recognise it.

Onwards again. Another boat trip coming up I fear.
Must dash.