A Travellerspoint blog

For the First Time in Forever...

Reporting from Bergen

sunny 14 °C
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Now, if you have an eight year old daughter, like we do, you would know that the title of this blog post comes from the Disney movie, Frozen.

So for the first time in forever, we are the furthest north we have ever been - we are 60 degrees north, and this is much further north than Harbin, China which was only 45 degrees north, almost level with Paris! We are even further north than the top of the United Kingdom!

But also for the first time in forever, Disney, when making Frozen, which is a computer generated movie, set what is otherwise a generic fairy tale (based on The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Anderson) in Norway. The developers visited Norway and drew inspiration for many parts of the movie from genuine Norwegian towns, costumes and forests.

When we were in the Historical Museum in Oslo, we came across a model of a Stave Church, which was not too far off the route we were heading along to get to Bergen... so we thought we'd stop by to have a look... And in the first time in forever, the Borgund Stave Church we visited was the inspiration for the castle in Arendelle...
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For the first time in forever, we drove along through the stunning fjords, which were also inspiration in the movie, and at one point, Elsa freezes them all! And saw snow capped mountains
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For the first time in forever, we drove through the world's longest tunnel - the Laerdel Tunnel - 24.51km long. It has 3 caves hollowed out along its length to give drivers a break from the claustrophobic feel of the tunnel, and you are allowed to stop in them! We didn't, but they are illuminated with blue lights and also give something to look forward to!
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For the first time in forever, we got to Bergen, which is a UNESCO Listed Heritage Site, and was originally one of the Hanseatic Trading Ports, and so like in the movie becoming trading partners would have been desirable. The wharf area of Bryggen (where we had lunch and dinner!) is just gorgeous, with brightly coloured timber buildings, just like the township of Arendelle...
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For the first time in forever, the whole family went on a hike! We got the venicular railway up to a view point to see a stunning view of Bergen, and then we started following a nature trail, complete with trolls, and streams and then realised that we could walk back to our AirBNB apartment... so we did...
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and had a beer in the sun in the front garden.
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Posted by aboo10 14:13 Archived in Norway Tagged landscapes mountains buildings children history norway ecotourism family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (2)

On to Oslo

Reporting from Bergen

rain 15 °C
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We arrived fresh and ready to hit Oslo after a night on the Ferry... amazingly smooth journey. We packed up our little cabin, and headed down to the car deck. Once our GPS booted up and realised it had moved to a different country we headed to meet the next key giver of the new AirBNB apartment - a lovely little space, I'm very taken with Scandanavian interiors!!
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Then once we had unloaded the car, we set off in the car - due to the short stay, we have not mastered the public transport system, and instead just visited three museums, all of which we drove to. The first was the Munch Museet. They were having an exhibition of Munch and Van Gogh, cohosted by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It was a terrific exhibition, and showed the parallels between the two artists, who came into painting around the same time, and had similar influences, however interestingly never met! I was fascinated because there were so many paintings by Van Gogh that I had never seen before, this one particularly grabbed me... Two figures in the undergrowth.
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The Munch Museet gave the kids a treasure hunt activity to do, where they had a map of the museum, and stickers with parts of the paintings. They had to match the stickers to the rooms, and (optionally) write the name of the painting and the year it was done. It was a terrific activity and really got the kids engaged with the artworks. Then they got this pack at the end as a reward for getting it all right!
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After the Munch Museet, we headed to the Vikingskipshuset - a fascinating look at 3 Viking Ships which had been used around 900AD as burial tombs for 'important' people. The deceased were interred in a burial chamber on the boat, and surrounded with useful goods which would be beneficial in the afterlife. These ships are the best preserved because they have been buried, however when they were discovered they were treated with a preservative, which stopped the outside of the wood from deteriorating, but sadly are now decomposing from inside, and the museum experts are not sure how best to prevent it continuing.
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Interesting fact for the day... Vikings did not wear helmets with horns!
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A bonus from our ticket to the Vikingskipshuset, was it also gave us entry into the Historical Museum within 48 hours! So on the morning we were leaving Oslo, we had a quick visit to the Historical Museum to get another quick look at Norwegian Viking History and Life in the Arctic Circle!
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We saw a model of a Stave Church in the Historical Museum, and then realised that it was en route to our next stop - Bergen!

Posted by aboo10 13:27 Archived in Norway Tagged children museum norway family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

Next Stop... Copenhagen

Reporting from the Crown Seaways Ferry

sunny 27 °C
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On the way to Copenhagen, we managed to spend an amazing afternoon catching up with old friends from Shanghai. They have a summer house in Hojby, on the coast of Zealand. We got there about 2pm, and had a traditional and yummy late lunch... although the kids preferred to just graze on choc chip muffins....

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We then wandered down to the beach, a dreamy 5 min walk down the road. We caught up about each family's changes since leaving Shanghai. They are in the process of relocating to the Hague - so we'll probably see a bit more of them in the near future!

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We were a bit late getting to Copenhagen, but settled into our next AirBNB apartment, ready to explore Copenhagen the next day. It did not disappoint... we went to Rosenborg - an old Royal Castle built in 1606. We saw the crown jewels and marvelled at the amazing rooms in the castle.

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And then we headed over to see the Little Mermaid, sitting on her rock in Copenhagen Harbour. We had seen her at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, in the Denmark Pavillion, so we knew she was little! But the crowds visiting her, proved her popularity. It was hot, and a long walk, and we found refuge from the heat in the Marmorkirken church, which was beautiful! Didi found it a bit far, and actually fell asleep during a piggy back ride on Mike's back! Although he perked up once we got there and he climbed around on the rocks.

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We continued our walk (wish we'd been wearing a pedometer!) and had dinner in Ny Havn - a fabulous outdoor eating area right on the canal, in front of traditional Danish buildings, all brightly coloured. Loved it! I had a herring platter - delicious!! So good we went again the next night!!
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Something we are still working out how to manage is that it is light until about 10.30pm, although the sun sets just before 10pm, and it makes it tricky for the kids to agree to go to bed! This has resulted in a build up of tiredness, and so after a lazy morning, we headed into town to visit Amalienborg - the palace where Princess Mary lives! It is a large gracious square with 4 (matching) palaces on each corner. One is Queen Margarethe's home, another is a museum (the one we went into) and one is for hosting State Events. The museum showed reconstructed rooms from each palace which were stunning, and as well there was information on the current royal family.

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On our last full day we again headed into the city, this time to visit the HC Andersen Museum. Unfortunately it was part of the usual tourist attraction of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, although we didn’t have to go into both, but it was a bit more tinny and tacky than I had anticipated. That being said there was a good history of Hans Christian Andersen, and scenes from many of his stories.
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After the HC Andersen Museum, we went to Tivoli. A-may-zing! It’s the most beautiful garden with concert halls and amusement parks altogether. It was lovely to stroll through the gardens, and the day was divine… a bit cooler than our other days, but still sunny and blue. There were surprises at each turn, from the Pirate Ship Frigate to an elaborate Chinese Pagoda, the rides were spectacular - frightening upside down roller coasters and quaint old merry-go-rounds. We didn’t go on any rides, but enjoyed the carnival atmosphere. And we let the kids have a fairy floss EACH!

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Today we had a quiet one, packing up the AirBNB place. We then went to the supermarket to buy lunch, which we had as a picnic in a local park, watching a soccer camp practise. Then we headed to the Ferry Terminal - because tonight we are sleeping on the ferry to Oslo. We have a tiny sea front cabin for four with two bunk beds and a mini bathroom. It’s minimalist to the extreme! The boat is huge. Our car is parked on the decks below and there are about 6 decks of cabins and entertainment… I feel like I might be on a mini-cruise - it’s quite fun! We pre-booked a table for a buffet dinner, and I’m planning on only eating salmon. Maybe a smoked salmon starter and a baked salmon main!

Posted by aboo10 10:51 Archived in Denmark Tagged buildings children flowers norway ferry denmark family_travel Comments (1)

So what's in Billund?

Reporting from Copenhagen

sunny 27 °C
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THIS:
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After we crossed the Danish Border, we were heading to Billund, and then as we approached Legoland we explained to the kids that we would be visiting Legoland the next day, and then suddenly it dawned on them, just as we were getting closer and closer, ARE WE STAYING AT THE LEGOLAND HOTEL??? Well, as a matter of fact kids, WE ARE! In a themed room. A Lego Friends themed room...

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The details were amazing... the carpet was printed, all the way along 'Friends Street' the hallway of the hotel we were staying on, there were full scale Lego hairdryers, decorations on the walls and decals that apart from being enlarged, looked like they came straight out of a Lego kit... like paw prints, butterflies and paraphernalia!

Around the hotel, and in all the restaurants, were massive pits of Lego or Duplo - it was definitely a hands on experience. Rooms screening various Lego films, big walls to make your own contribution to the art installations using Lego bricks. At dinner, there were people in fancy costumes circulating, making balloon figures for the kids. Child-centric hotel, that's for sure. Although how old is that child??

The next day we went to the Theme Park. It was great. Because it is not yet school holidays all across Europe, the queues for rides weren't too long. And because we were there from the minute it opened at 10am, until all the rides shut and we had dinner, we were in the park for nearly 12 hours! No, we didn't head back to our Lego Friends Hotel Room for a midday siesta! One of the clever ideas, was to have a Lego Pit in the centre of the way the queue would snake around, which meant that kids could play with Lego while parents queued, and then jump back into the queue when they got close to the end - no moaning children.
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The rides were varied, from rollercoasters to boat rides through a Small Lego World or Pirates Den, there was lots of splashing. The great thing, was that both kids met almost all the height restrictions. They were mostly required to be accompanied by an adult, but there were only 3 rides that Didi was too short for, even accompanied... so we skipped them!
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I loved the attention to detail in all the buildings, we roamed through Miniland - which is a huge village built out of Lego, and the buildings stood at about a metre tall, houses, airports and even an oil rig. It also had moving trains, boats and some road traffic. Very clever and super impressive. Also the model of Heartlake City, which is of course the home of the "Lego Friends".
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Jie Jie decided that she would like to try the Lego Seat Driving School. We had to book in and pay extra for this. It was promoting safe driving from an early age including respect on the road. She was booked in for a 40 minute session, which started with 15 minutes of driving theory. And then they got out in the cars. They needed to get 'petrol' (after getting a low fuel warning), interpret and make the right action at traffic lights and signs, indicate and stay on the correct side of the road (the right hand side!). Then after driving around the little town, the children aged between 7 and 13 were issued with a driving licence. I was amazed that the coordinator of the Driving School, who had a microphone, remembered which language to speak to each car. Jie Jie and Car #2 were in English, then the rest were in Danish, Swedish or German.
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There is also a water play area, and the kids loved cooling off in that at the end of a long day. We were all exhausted when we finally got back to our hotel room. It doesn't get dark here until about 10.30pm, so it's hard to say "it's time to go to bed!"

Posted by aboo10 00:38 Archived in Denmark Tagged children adventure family_travel theme_park midnightsunrun Comments (1)

Hamburg Happenings

Reporting from Hamburg

sunny 25 °C
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So after all the preparations and packing, we set off with the box on the top of the car... loaded for a four week driving holiday!!
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And drove 4 hours from our house to our first AirBNB place - it was perfect... balconies overlooking the canal, clean and streamlined.
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We had two days in Hamburg, and packed it in...

The first day we wandered around orientating ourselves, starting with lunch in a pop up wine village next to the Town Hall. Apparently this Weindorf has been 'popping up' every summer for 30 years! Each stand had it's own theme and was basically a small restaurant... but no beer!
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The Rathaus is a splendid building, and we were all suitably impressed!

Then we headed down to the Speichernstadt, which is the old warehouse district, easily accessed via canals and recently nominated for UNESCO recognition. The red brick buildings are right on the canals (damp basements?) and many are being restored.
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We visited a quirky, jam packed museum called Miniatur Wunderland - the world's largest model railway! Which took us on a tour of sorts through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandanavia and the US - amazing detail. Remarkable was the model airport - with taxiing, queuing, arrivals and departures, and all the
other airport activity! The kids loved it, and the whole way round Didi was planning his own model railway, making suggestions for what he (and Dad) could include!
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The next day, we were again lucky with gorgeous clear blue skies, and were headed for Hafen City - the harbour section of Hamburg, which feels amazingly like being near the ocean, even though it is actually 200km away! And we stumbled on a massive Ferris Wheel... so we went on it... 60m high - gorgeous views!
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Then we went to the iF Design Museum, which felt a bit like a showroom rather than a museum, and showcased many different design features from furniture, to mobility aids, bikes, packaging and bathroom equipment.
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After that we headed next door to the Maritimes Museum - so many model boats! With such detail, and a true international maritime history. It was pretty good - 9 floors of maritime history is quite a lot though, although Jie Jie was quite taken with it and took a thousand photos of the exhibits!
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After the Maritimes Museum, on the promise of an ice cream, we stumbled across Chocoversum, and joined a tour of the Hachez Chocolate Museum. We made our own chocolate bars, by adding ingredients like gummy bears, caramel, cinnamon and coconut to warm melted chocolate, which set while we continued on our tasting tour, and was ready for us to package at the end of the tour.
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We have had a lovely two days here in Hamburg... now today, it's off to Denmark!!

Posted by aboo10 22:26 Archived in Germany Tagged children chocolate germany museum family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

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