Saturday, June 23, 2012

One Year Ago: Norway to Ireland 2011

I've been thinking a lot this week about the adventure I had at the same time last year. I took part in the Tall Ships Races in northern Europe and sailed from Norway to Ireland aboard the Norwegian vessel SS Christian Radich. Many of you may have seen the photos and videos that I posted after I returned home.

I also wrote a journal of daily life and never shared that with anyone. We were completely cut off from all communication so I couldn't post to Facebook, Twitter, send text messages or even make phone calls. It was marvelously liberating! But it just occurred to me that I could post my journal entries now and relive the experience, so here goes. Depending on the length of the entries, I may combine more than one day in a post. I hope you enjoy the story.

Summer 2011

Day 1     Sunday                 June 19, 2011
So, I’m really doing this. We’re climbing past 20,000 feet and heading ENE and the sun is blinding, coming through the west windows.  Good thing I’m on the east side of the aisle. What’s really noticeable below is the number of fields that are still brown.  Here we are past the middle of June and crops are just barely out of the ground.

The SS Christian Radich
As I said, I’m really doing this.  It’s not just a plan anymore. Day after tomorrow I’m going to board the Christian Radich in Oslo harbor and head out into the North Sea for passage to Ireland.

I’ve been smitten with the love of wind and water since childhood, but it’s been particularly evocative in the case of this specific ship.  I saw the movie Windjammer as a grammar school boy and actually, all I ever wanted was to see the movie again.  Instead of that (which may never happen, I fear), I’m going to board the Christian Radich and spend nine days at sea with her. I really don’t think it will be easy to top that, even if I’m lucky enough to see the movie again.

Day 2     Monday               June 20, 2011
The two flights to reach Oslo were flawless, at least on the part of the airline, Icelandair. On time, comfortable, perfect weather.  Just minor annoyances caused by fellow travelers, but nothing worth discussing.  Flying over Greenland was awe-inspiring.  All I could see as far as the horizon was lofty mountain peaks, glaciers, and snow, snow, snow. As we moved off the eastern coast, the icebergs were numerous and though it didn’t seem like it from 36,000 feet, massive, I’m sure.

Greenland from 35,000 feet
The terrain in Iceland was a stark contrast: nothing but rock as far as the eye could see.  I’d love to spend some time in Iceland, but it will have to be at a later date. I want to do my friend, Bill Holm, justice at some point. The language is singularly distinctive.  I wonder how long it would take for a guy to get the hang of it.

I did think it odd that in Rekyjavik travelers had to go through customs just to enter the airport and proceed to a connecting flight and then present their passports before boarding again. All without leaving the secure perimeter of the airport.  Never really thought about Keflavik Airport as a terrorist target.  Oh well.

Descending into Oslo Gardamoen felt like coming home.  This is my third visit to Gamle Norge, but I haven’t been here for eight years.  Gorgeous cloud formations and the countryside a brilliant variety of hues of green.

Took the Flytoget (Flying Trains per my daughter) to Oslo Sentrum and walked the approximately one kilometer to my hotel on Rosenkranz Gate, the Best Western Bondeheimen.  Some interesting bits to ponder: it’s not surprising to need your key card to use the elevator, but inside your room, you need your card to work the lights. Now that’s a rational way to control energy costs.

Christian Radich at her home port
First piece of business: find the Christian Radich. It’s a very short walk from my hotel to her berth at the foot of Akershus Castle.  There she was in all her beauty, the queen of Oslo harbor.  Walked bow to stern and back and took a bunch of pictures.  Couldn’t go on board, but did observe several trainees who arrived early.  I tried to get a berth on board the night before embarking, but was denied. We sail at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Relaxing after an all-night flight
Back to Spikesuppa for an open-air lunch (and a couple of beers) and then back to my room for a nap.  After sleeping, I walked a square from my hotel to Universitet Gate to Stortingtgate to Nedreslots Gate and back. Took some time to enjoy the new pipe Kari gave me and had a few drinks at O’Leary’s Pub. Chatted with the bar keep, a 25-year-old from Sweden, recently emigrated to Norway because the pay is better.  He is a world traveler, telling me about his two trips to Thailand and his next trips to Miami and Barcelona.  Now it’s back to the hotel and a big day tomorrow.  Had a manic session at the bar emailing and facebook and twitter posting in anticipation of the upcoming 9-day blackout.  See you on the other side!

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