Neptun’s Empire and Svartisen Glacier

On August 1st, we will have crossed the Arctic Circle. Neptun appeared on deck at about 11:00 am and requested obedience. We all have to get baptized or else … Some refused. They will become fish fodder, eventually. The rest of us were allowed to proceed and discover moose later that evening. As you can see below the ritual was very human. Quite different then we had expected. Based on Neptun’s introduction, we thought we had to be baptized in the cold basin of the aft deck pool, but instead we just had to drink some vodka. So most of the passengers managed. See below our souls after the baptism.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the baptism, we continued our journey without incident and reached, in the evening, the Svartisen Glacier. The mighty glacier reached down from the highest mountain range to the shore. At least almost, it had retreated approximately 2 km from the shore line.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We lowered our tender boats and shuttled to the shore. We had heard that in the local forest, we could see some moose and maybe reach the glacier tongue. When we set foot on the shore, it was already 20:00. Therefore, we restrained ourselves to the moose visit and took pictures of the glacier, the little birch forest at its bottom and the frontal moraine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are images of the glacier from several decades ago when the glacier reached down to the sea, and later to the location where we found the rubble bump stretching through the forest from one side of the glacier bed to the other. We found one public domain picture from 8 years ago, where the glacier was wider.

The rubble stretch, we found, looks like an frontal moraine. However, it is very small maybe two meters high. They cut through the frontal moraine for a road which allowed us to examine its structure a little. While I am no expert when it comes to glaciers and geology, I have at least the impression it is an frontal moraine. In case I am mistaken, I am eager to hear and read a better explanation for the rubble stretch.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


We took quite a few glacier pictures and on one we marked a waterfall of meltwater running down the mountain. You can also see that in the glacier’s bed that there must have been ice in the past, which is now gone. Yes, this is only one glacier, but this one is retreating rapidly. You can see that the area beside the glacier do not show any larger vegetation, which would usually enter the area very quickly, as water is available and also minerals from the surface.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also visited the moose couple with a little moose. I had the impression that they are smaller then those I saw 27 years ago in Canada. However, this is a long time ago. And things seem to increase in memory.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Moose are apparently the biggest wild living animals in Europe, according to a sign beside the moose park.

One our way back, we encountered a minion and a herd of smilies beside the road and we learned that we could have rented bikes (they were hidden, by a large bus when we arrived). Anyway, it was too late so we shuttled back to the ship and had a nice farewell from the fjord.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bergen, Large Fish Stocks available

This morning we had to get up early to grab a bite on the aft deck, as we wanted to explore Bergen early on before our visit to the Fantoft Stavkirke.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before breakfast we talked with our steward a little about his work conditions. As expected and as feared, they are depressing from our European point of view. We did not discuss his income, but holidays, leisure time, working hours, and family. They work for seven month every day more or less around the clock with one real free hour and time to sleep. Then they have two months off without pay. To get home to the Philippines, Russia, Indonesia and other countries they have to pay for that trip themselves. Our steward was doing this now for over 10 years. This implies that he can see his family and have a family only for a short time on his bill. If you compare this to our contracts from Europe and our living standard, we are way above them in terms of income, benefits, paid vacation, healthcare etc. just because we are born in a wealthy country. This is definitely unfair.

The whole class difference becomes even more apparent through social conventions on board. Except of the officers, the crew and the travel agency employees are addressed by first name, while we, the guests, and the officers are addressed by last name and full name. While this pattern is also visible in Germany onshore in restaurants, we usually address them either formal or both sides use the informal form.
Furthermore, while we lay around like wobbly walruses in the sun and moan the heat and that we have to eat all the food, the other inhabitants of the ship have to work all day, get what is left and have to eat out of site.

This all sounds rather dark and it does not fit in the overall lovely and joyful theme of a cruise trip. However, it is part of such cruise and it shows very clearly the global social divide. This becomes even more apparent when you talk with them and they see this more as an opportunity than a burden. This also implies that the conditions at home are even worse. We should, no, we must consider that and keep in mind that our privileges are merely there by chance and inheritance, and not result of our hard work. Thankfully, the guests on our boat try to treat the staff with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case on other cruise ships, as we have witnessed while docked in ports.

After these considerations, lets talk about Bergen. We arrived early in the morning and docked at cruise ship pier just about 1000 m from downtown Bergen. We went onshore around 10 am and had a short trip into town by foot. We visited the old Bryggen houses. B bought a cup. This is very early on in our journey. Therefore, I speculate that there will be another cup purchase by the end of the trip. It is a lovely wooden cup.

Wooden cup with stone in Norwegian lake.

Before shopping, we visited Mariakirken (Mary’s Chruch). However, due to an ongoing service, we examined the place only from the outside. It comprises Romanesque and Gothic style elements and was build from 1130 to 1183. Even though it looks partly artificially new due to a recent renovation.

Later we visited the fish market, which is nowadays merely a tourist location where you can by fish, reindeer and whale meat and sausages. Please keep in mind that buying whale meat is an atrocity and it is illegal to import the stuff to Germany.

Later the day, we took a tour around town. We learned that, like many Norwegian towns, Bergen burned multiple times. Thankfully, the old Bryggen part originating back to Hanse times survived. They traded fish from the Lofoten with other Hanse towns. The Bryggen building were used as storage and later replaced by newer buildings further down in the harbor which allows to unload the ships directly to the storage facilities, whereas the old building required to unload the good to the pier and then transport to the storage buildings. Still the Bryggen buildings are a wonderful sight. They are skew-whiff in all possible and impossible directions. They are continuously renovated and part of the local heritage.