Saturday, 1 October 2022

I have been to Norway and Denmark

 I recently returned from a mini cruise to Scandinavia, calling in at Oslo, Copenhagen and Skagen. As ever, here are some of the more vaguely historical related photos from the trip.

We sailed from Southampton, here looking rather nice in the sunshine. It certainly beats flying and losing our luggage or attempting to cross the channel by ferry.

As it is a long drive to Southampton from Sheffield we went down the day before and stayed overnight, which gave us time to have a good look around the old town. I was amazed how much of the medieval walls had survived given how heavily it was bombed in the war.

The North Sea was a bit of 'roly poly' as the Captain put it, the storm maxed out at around Force 7 so not too bad.  It was still and calm however as we sailed up the fjiord to Oslo though. This is one of the local ferries.

Another trophy in my quest for ancient wrecks, the KMS Blucher is on the  bottom just up ahead. I'd thought the wreck had been raised but evidently not, just the oil pumped out. Almost as exciting as when we sailed over the wreck of the Graf Spee. 

The cruise terminal is right next to the fortress in the middle of town. Shame those unpleasant portacabins spoil the view. The fortress has been steadily upgraded over the centuries.

We hired some bikes to cycle around, first stop being the fort. Vauban type forts are often a bit underwhelming inside. This is one of the inner gateways.

And a rather more imposing building.

Finally, some artillery! This battery had a fine view over the city. Not sure what the guns are, they look like Krupps but are sheeted over. 

I was very taken with the 1940s city hall. A stunning brick built edifice, finally completed after the war.

It was lavishly decorated with Norse Gods. Here is Odin riding Sleipnir.

Loki instigating the murder of Baldur (Loki is lurking in the rear right view looking a bit sinister).

The Valkyrie, 1950s style. 

I think this is Sigurt(?) fighting a serpent.

View back into the deco/modernist square.

King/Marshal Bernadotte of Sweden who ruled Norway long enough to have a good go at turning bits of Oslo into an imitation of Paris.

Bernadottes palace. 

Down in the harbour were various historic ships. This is a corvette, wood built and with twin 20mm Oerlikens on the front.

A rather nice steam launch.

This was also armed in the war, but doesn't mount any guns now. The owner makes excellent waffles however, and very reasonably priced (for Norway).

Loads of tall ships.

I like a sailing ship, this one is a schooner. Our monstrosity of a cruise ship is moored in the background.

This is a big, square rigged sail training ship. The Captain of our liner had sailed on this a few times and was reminiscing about it. I've also crewed a sail training ship a couple of times, and it is a very memorable experience.

And another square rigger.

The sun came out later which made the castle far more attractive and hid the portacabins in shadow.

Then off to Stockholm, and a much smoother crossing this time.

This is one of the fortified islands on the approaches. Mainly a classic star fort, with extra nineteenth century and WW2 additions.

This fort guards the inner harbour. There was a whole network of these within 'long cannon shot' of each other.

Umm. Christian the IV? Anyway, I think it is him, reputedly one of the greatest Danish kings, although rather more successful at architecture than warfare.

Danish Guard, apparently armed with an M16 with a short Vietnam style mag.

Marching off to the rather jaunty sentry boxes.

The 'new harbour', although only in the sense it is a lot newer than the old harbour. Lots of sailing ships here.

This is Archbiship Absalon, supposedly the founder of Copenhagen (although human settlement predates him by hundreds of years). I was a bit surprised to see he is dressed like William the Conqueror.

Lego Samurai in Uniqlo. Fab.

The dragon steeple, four intertwined dragons to protect the church from fire. It has never burned down so it must have worked...

Entrance to the main citadel in the city fortress. This is a star fort with an impressive moat.

Located right next to the statue of the Little Mermaid.

There was a naval museum across the river, you can just make out the old Danish Frigate moored there.

Slightly clearer view. The frigate is mainly famous for accidently firing a missile during a NATO exercise which destroyed dozens of houses.

The frigate is moored next to yet another fort. This one fires the dawn and dusk gun each day, although to save Copenhagens sleep, 'dawn' is defined as 8am in the summer months.

After Copenhagen we went up to Skagen right at the very tip of Denmark. It was really delightful with a very different feel to mega-urban Copenhagen. These are traditional fishing houses although it was only in recent centuries that they had the luxury of tiled roofs. 

The whole area is essentially a huge sand dune on top of a reef and the level of coastal erosion (east) and deposit (west) is monumental.

The houses mainly adhere to  the local colour scheme of ochre walls and red tiles, with (artificial) tile reinforcements on the gable ends. It gets very windy indeed here and in times past the tiles used to blow off.

The Germans also noticed that it was an ideal spot to control the entrance to the Baltic and built a large bunker complex. This one is an artillery bunker facing northeast. The sea used to be further away to the east and there is a collapsed bunker at the waters edge.

This is the main command bunker, largely exposed now due to sand erosion.

Same bunker, different angle. The gun bunkers to the west used to also cover the sea, but there are now several hundred yards of sand(!) and forest in the way. 

Some idiot in a tabard for scale. We hired bikes to cycle around here too as the bunker complex is a fair way out of town.

Another one of the traditional houses. As there isn't any clay here, they used to be thatched with grass.

The remains of a brick built church from the 1300s. Most of it is 4 to 5m down under the drifting sand, the bell tower being the only bit remaining above ground. The bricks were imported from Germany and it is built in the North German style some familiar from Bruegel paintings.

You don't often get a chance to climb late medieval brick structures as they fall down much faster than stone ones, so I climbed up into the top. The spiral staircase was so steep and narrow you need a rope to get up it, but it opened out into this platform.

And at the very top was this lovely gallery, populated with Swifts who were busy flying in and out.

What a great trip, very enjoyable. Here is a final farewell from the 'Angry Baby' in the Oslo sculpture park. See if you can figure out which bits people like to touch...


  1. That looks like a great trip Martin! I visited both Denmark and Norway on family holidays in my teens. We went to Copenhagen but not Oslo. Fantastic countries with very friendly people!

    1. Yes, they are both very civilised places. I like them both almost as much as the Netherlands.