Euro-Star-Trek 2013 Journal
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mmm Friday 4th October 2013 To Oslo mmm

The Husband is in Norway already...he usually I finish work a half day and fly from Edinburgh to Oslo.  It's a nice flight, about 9pm, straight there, no Schipol to contend with, and at this time of night, I'm well glad of that.  Before I get on the plane I go shop, I'm going to Norway, outside of the EU and the biker boots from Kurt Gieger I swag are my best duty-free buy, see them on The Star Swag Blog.  I wear them every day of the entire trip.

Going through security at Edinburgh Airport I'm pulled over for the pat-down body search, I say to a security guy that I thought I'd removed everything, by which I mean my Toy Watch watch that set off the metal detector the last time I went through airport security, he tells me it's not me, it's them, this is a routine random search.  I get the full body patting from a lady, at the end she tells me...remove the necklace.  I think she must be talking about my heavy long silver chain with tassel, I think it's tasteful and special, she's telling me it's too audacious or something?  But no, it's my Shooting Star necklace that's causing the problem, she says it depicts a firearm.  My tiny silver star and gun pendant, I say...really???  She tells me to remove it.  I suppose I can only be grateful she didn't confiscate it, but I think the country's going to hell in a hand basket, what damage can I do with a 2.5cm long 925 solid silver hallmarked Peculiar Vintage Pulse Shooting Star charm?  I don't even have bullets for the solid barrel with it's non-existent bullet chamber bit, or whatever you call that bit, where you put bullets, if it's there to put bullets in, which I reiterate, it isn't.
The Husband picks me up in the Starry Towers Jeep Wrangler and drives us to the mansion built in 1912 which is the Clarion Collection Hotel Gabelshus.  Oslo is expensive, all of Norway is expensive, and though this hotel is expensive and rather grand in the public areas, the rooms are small and adequate.  The decor is simple and too modern to be in keeping with the delightful ivy-clad building.  The toilet/shower room is too tiny to turn around in and the huge black ceiling light shade is a hazard to be artfully dodged by anyone taller than 5ft 6in.  The padded pleather room number on the wall is the strangest thing I've ever seen in a hotel bedroom.  It's impossible to forget what room you're in when you stay at Gabelshus. 
  Clarion Collection Hotel Gabelshus
  room 410 at the Clarion Collection Hotel Gabelshus
  Saturday 5th October 2013 Viking Museum, Kon Tiki Museum, Bygdøynes Point, Holmenkollen, Akershus Fortress, Hard Rock Café and beggars
 I awake on Saturday morning with a pain.  NO!  Not The Husband, though granted, he is there, but I've got a new pain in my back, left side around the shoulder blade area.  I put this down to sleeping in an inferior and strange hotel bed that's not up to the quality of our high-quality Starry Towers mattress, and get on with my Oslo experience. 
 I've got things to do, and Norway's leading crime detective novelist Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole features on my list.
 Our first Oslo tourist attraction is the Vikingskipshuset på Bygdøy, the Viking Museum on the Bygdøy peninsula.  There's three main Viking ships and lots of other Viking relics to see including three human skeletons found in graves with the boats.
  Tune ship and burial chamber
 Close by is the Kon-Tiki Museum.  The balsa wood raft and the papyrus boat Ra II are both there along with many items associated with them and Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, including the 1951 Best Documentary Film Oscar statuette awarded to the movie filmed en route as Thor and his crew crossed the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Polynesia. They covered 4,300 nautical miles (7,964 kilometers) in 101 days.  In 1970, Heyerdahl and his crew sailed the Ra II across the Atlantic Ocean from Morocco to Central America, to demonstrate that ancient Egyptians would have been able to reach the Americas.  All very interesting in a historic boat exploration way.  The skull with engraved totem fish deserves special mention due to it's strangeness.  Who sees a human skull and thinks...I could engrave a fish on that?
  cranium engraved with a fish
 The Kon-Tiki Museum sits at Bygdøynes Point, a rather pleasant picturesque harbour area with boats and public art sculptures sprinkled around.  I had to explore.  The main ship in harbour is the schooner Svanen, The Swan, a ship owned by the Norwegian Maritime Museum.  Then there's a shiny silver object in the water, and several sculptures of famous men and a WWI sea mine, which didn't explode when I touched it, The Husband lied.
 A steel sculpture in the water catches my attention due to my love of public art.  This is by Norwegian Thor Sandborg  The plaque looses something in the translation, thanking Norway for freedom FROM Vietnamese boat people, I don't see any round here at Starry Towers, so thank you Norway.
 An Oslo location of great importance in the world of Harry Hole is the Holmenkollen ski jump.  That's worth seeing, but we decided not worth climbing, and definitely not worth taking the zip-line from top to bottom in a matter of seconds.  We take a trip up the hill and marvel at the world's most modern ski jump and the only one made of steel, 100 tons of the stuff.  It is also a site which features in a couple of Mr Nesbø's books.  On the way back down from the jump we stop at Holmenkollen Restaurant for dinner.  An expensive place, but it's Norway, fish and chips or a burger and chips, is going to cost £20 a pop.  Hollmenkollen offers wonderful views over the city and fjord and has The Eternal Peace Flame and a statue of of the Peace Run founder Sri Chinmoy.  The Peace Run, or World Harmony Run, as I understand it is now called, is very much what you'd expect...peace and harmony to all, and founder Indian spiritual Master, Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007), travelled the world saying it.  This Peace Flame has moved around Oslo, previously being in more central places, the Pier of Honor and Aker Brygge, it's now up on the hill in a hotel garden. 
  Eternal Peace Flame
  There's also this skiing figure with sports figures incorporated in the design.
 Back down the hill and we take a tour of the Oslo streets with Eddie Izzard on the sat-nav, playing a game of avoiding death-by-tram on route to the Akershus Fortress.
 First thing we see is Pillow Man, I get a bit excited thinking this is a famous public art work, can't deny my bit disappointment when I read it's the work of three primary school children.  Credit to the kids, but really, excitement zapped.  The rest of the Sculpture Trail works are not up to Pillow Man's high standards and didn't get photographed by me, sorry kiddiwinks, get over it and grow up.
  Pillow Man
 At the Akershus Fortress we happen to arrive in the main square area at the same time as Norway is changing guard in ill-fitting uniforms.  This is an amazingly underwhelming experience to witness.  I've seen the UK version, I later witnessed the Danish, and this is the least dramatic changing of the guard imaginable.  If anyone knows of a changing of the guard less impressive, I'd like to hear of it.  You can tell these soldiers aren't planning on making a career out of the armed services, though the Google is trying to convince me there's more to Oslo's changing of the guard than what I witnessed at the Akershus.  Leaving their watchmen's house involves a short flight of steps, a chubby boy has difficulty marching downstairs, then another boy keeps us hanging on as he gets a sweat on trying to fix-bayonet with one hand while keeping eyes-right (while everyone else has moved on to eyes-front).  We grow bored and move on to tour the fortress inside, it's all very rugged and basic, I forget this isn't the Royal Palace and leave thinking Norway doesn't have much in the way of royal riches.  When I recall they have a Royal Palace I learn it's only open for a very short Summer season and we're here outwith that time, so no joy for us to see Norwegian historic splendors. 
  changing guard badly
  fix fecking bayonets
 Then I learn the Royal Palace isn't very old at all, it was actually commissioned by a king of Sweden after Denmark gave Norway to Sweden, interesting history this Scandanavia.  Work began on the build in 1825, ended in 1848 minus toilets and running water, and from what I understand, the renovation is a work in progress.  Then I recall, I saw the Norwegian Royal Regalia in Trondheim.  Rumour has it some Catholic archbishop nicked the originals in 1537, and they've never been seen again, you'd imagine the Pope would feel obliged to give them back.  I swear, if the Catholic church was keeping Scotland's crown jewels some of our students would be storming the Vatican and bringing them home.  I saw the current royal regalia, made in the first half of the 19th century, in Trondheim.  The Dano-Norwegian royal regalia from the 1600s are kept at Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen, we'll see them a few days later.
 In the fortress mausoleum is the white marble sarcophagus of King Haakon VII (1872-1957) and Queen Maud (1869-1938), and the green bronze of King Olav V (1903-1991)and Crown Princess Märtha (1901-1954)
  sarcophagi in the mausoleum
 Come evening time we take a taxi into Oslo central and find The Hard Rock's quiet and restrained, on a Saturday night.  A plate of chips and a couple drinks out on the street.  There's a couple of female beggars, Roma by appearance, shaking their coffee cups round the area of the crossroads in front of us.  This is an issue in Oslo, I've previously seen immigrant begging in Trondheim, but their presence is more noticeable in Oslo in 2013.  It's unpleasant to witness, and worse, causes an atmosphere of fear, the impression is that crimes are being committed.  As a tourist, with Roma gypsies begging on every corner and church doorstep (spoiling a load of photo opportunities), you look to your handbag and stay alert around the pocket area.  Norway should take note, this influx of beggars/criminals could start to effect their tourist industry.  After a few days in Oslo The Husband and I had gone right off the place because of them. 
 Back to The Hard Rock Cafe.  One beggar woman is sitting on the pavement while the younger one is more chatty, hounding passersby and going round the customers at the Hard Rock Cafe's outside tables.  Though a bouncer does at one point chase her off, the two of them are working this crossroads all evening.  While we sit there only one man is kind (and stupid) enough to give them money.  A middle-aged Norwegian man with quite a few drinks in him, accosted by the younger of the two women, fuddles around in a trouser pocket for an age while she shakes her cup and gives him flirty smiley encouragement.  He pulls a wallet or purse from his right front trouser pocket, this is duly noted by beggar woman, money is put into her cup and he staggers off apparently good-humoured as he refuses her begging for more money.  The information about where he's keeping his money is passed on to the older woman who was sitting but is now on her feet, then she's following the drunk man along the street.  This second beggar quickly has her arms around the man and is dipping his money pocket.  I watch this as they disappear along the street into darkness towards the Royal Palace.  She returns alone and the two beggars move off together and we see them no more.  I am furious, I watched a man being robbed and felt powerless to prevent it.  This memory of Oslo won't fade anytime soon.
  Sunday 6th October 2013  Munch, Vigelandsanlegget, Harry Hole’s door, Holocaust Centre and Schrøder Restaurant
 To The Munch Museum.  I have to see The Scream (Shrik).  Turns out this is the 150th birthday anniversary of Edvard Munch (1863-1944) and Oslo is celebrating with a year of events.  My event involves wandering the Munch Museum paying a respectable amount of glimpse and ponder at all the exhibits while searching in vain for The Scream.  We see self portraits, The Madonna and nearly out the door we ask a security man re the whereabouts of The Scream, there are other buildings exhibiting his work, it might be elsewhere.  The man tells us it's back there, round the corner blah blah blah.  We'd missed it.  We went back and located the small, dark, dull and not very good painting in a corner of one of the spaces.  For one of the world's most recognizable works of art it's easily missed.  There isn't a crowd staring, beyond the xray machines on entry to the museum, there aren't lines of protection and security.  My overarching feeling from Munch's work is that a child could do better, call me philistine, I respond.
  The Scream 
 I buy the obligatory fridge magnet of The Scream and we're back in the Jeep, to go search for Harry Hole's flat.  His address is at 5 Sofies Gate in the Bislett area.  And sure enough, his name is on the door buzzer...round the block at 5 Dovregata.  I'm not sure how Norwegian addresses work but that's where it is.
  Harry Hole's door bell
 We also check out Harry's favourite eating and drinking place, Schrøder Restaurant at 8 Waldemar Thranes Gate, which is a handy few minutes walk away, we wondered if it would be necessary to book a table for dinner, but this appears to be a foreign concept to the staff there.  We'll just turn up later this evening.
 Back in the Jeep we catch sight of the Radisson Blu hotel, another of Harry's places.  Our next tourist visit is to The Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement (Vigelandsanlegget) in Frogner Park.  This is an amazing place, a beautiful breathtaking sculpture park, the world's largest made by a single artist.  The sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland's (1869–1943) lifework with 212 sculptures in bronze and granite.  The tree foliage in the park is having a perfect moment when we're there too, multiple variants of orange, yellow, brown and green.  The central feature is the 14.12 meters (46.32ft) tall Monolith,  composed of 121 human figures, perhaps inspiration for the human totem pole in Hannibal (the TV series), that's what The Monolith reminded me of.
  There's so many people (real ones) in the park, clogging up my visuals, spoiling my photo opportunities of the stone ones, but apart from that it is one of the most enchanting places I've ever been, a modern day Versailles gardens.  I recommend you check out the photos on The Norway Gallery for a taste of the awesome that is this sculpture park and never visit Oslo without experiencing.
 With marvelling at the wonderful statues over, I slip an acorn from one of their Oak trees in a pocket and we go for a late lunch at Frogner Manor House Museum and cafe, sitting outdoors in the courtyard in front of the manor house.  Large portions of wholesome healthy foods, The Husband has soup while I have a chicken salad concoction.
  After lunch we have a drive around Oslo and check out the Holocaust Center which is in a building called Villa Grande on the Bygdøy peninsula.  Unfortunately it's closed when we get there, but it's interesting to see.  During World War II this was the residence of the Norwegian collaborator and Nazi-leader, Vidkun Quisling.  Oslo being ironic, probably the only time ever.  The large, permanent installation on the front of Villa Grande is Innocent Questions by Arnold Dreyblatt.  Mirrored sandblasted glass featuring a LED computer punch-card display, asking personal, spouse, birthplace etc, putting the questions to the world in which seemingly innocuous information can seal a person's fate, while reflecting the beautiful natural world of sky and trees, and also you, the innocent visitor.
 We go out for dinner at Harry Hole's Schrøder Restaurant.  It would be a shocking disgrace of poor etiquette to go in there clicking the Canon EOS M in people's faces as they enjoy their Norwegian dinner, so I take undercover spy type photies.  Fish and chips is 129 NOK, kjottkaker (Norwegian meat cakes...similar to Swedish meat balls) is 129 NOK, and Eplekake (apple pie) is 59 NOK.  With x2 Carlsberg at 65 NOK each and x2 glass hvitvin (white wine) at 65 NOK each, the total bill of 577 NOK is the cheapest night out we have in Oslo.  I'm keeping the receipt as a memento of my Jo Nesbø Oslo trip.
  Monday 7th October 2013  Opera, Karl Johans Gate, Egertorget Square and Sphinx  
 The Husband and I start our third day in Oslo with a drive down to Den Norske Opera & Ballett, the Norwegian national Opera and Ballet House.  This is a magnificent prize-winning (World Architecture Festival in Barcelona Oct 2008 & 2009 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, the Mies van der Rohe award) building at the head of Oslo Fjord.  Startlingly beautiful, a sublime cool icy building that melts into it's surroundings, resembling a snow covered mountain, a ski slope, it's a pleasure just to look at.  We take a walk up round the outside of the building and back down the other side, a strange thing to do to a building, but positively encouraged with this Opera House.   Amazingly The Husband bags us a couple of tickets for the performance on this evening, the I Fokines Verden ballet (In The World Of Fokine).  
  This place gives me another spectacular work of Public Art, She Lies (Hun Ligger)by Monica Bonvicini, stainless steel and glass panels floating on the fjord water, it turns on its axis with the tides and winds.  Measuring approximately 12 x 17 x 16 metres, it doesn't float away because it's fixed to a concrete platform 12 metres above the water surface.  It's intended to be a three dimensional interpretation of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Das Eismeer, I think it succeeds beautifully.  Looking at the Opera House and She's all gorgeously Norway.  
  She Lies  
  Caspar David Friedrich  Das Eismeer  
  Next we take a walk along Karl Johans Gate, Oslo's busy main street full of shops, cafes, restaurants and lots of touristy stuff to spot.  We check out...from one end of the street to the other...The Royal Palace, The University, the National Theatre, Parliament, the bronze Reclining Woman sculpture by Fernando Botero outside The Grand Hotel/Cafe, promoting the Ekeberg Sculptural Park (Reclining Woman will be moved to the park next year), and the Cathedral, which of course had the obligatory beggar on the doorstep.  
  Reclining Woman  
  The Storting, the Norwegian Parliament building, looks to be having an evacuation when we arrive.  People are pouring a reasonable rate of about 5 every five minutes...these evacuees seem to be mostly chefs, there's others in suits, but it's mostly cooking in nature.  A fire engine arrives, we deduce there's been a false fire alarm...and that they were having a debate on national diet or that Norwegian MPs have far too many cooks spoiling their Fiskesuppe (cod & vegetable chowder). 
  We have cake at Steam Kaffebar Eger on Øvre Slottsgate then we're right there, on Holey ground.  Egertorget Square just off Karl Johans Gate is the site of a murder in Jo Nesbø's The Redeemer.  The Freia (Norwegian chocolate) neon sign and clock on the Thune (one of Norway’s leading goldsmiths) building above the square gets a mention in the book too. 
 One more thing before we head back to the hotel to prepare for this evening's ballet performance...we find Folketeateret (The People's Theater), and for some reason (to get to the street on the other side of the building I think) we go through the theater.  In the theater there's a sculpture of note.  At the time I didn't know what or who I was looking at, but now I know, it's a white painted bronze named Sphinx by Marc Quinn, and the sculpture is Kate Moss.  Extraordinary.  
  Sphinx by Marc Quinn  
  We put in a bit of an effort dressing up for a special evening out and head to the wonderful Den Norske Opera and Ballet.  We have a pre-show dinner in Argent, the Operahuset fine-dinging a la carte restaurant.  I had a starter of chili-roasted Frøya scallop with fennel royal, bacon powder and wheat pearls from Holli Mølle caraway crispbread and red beet vinaigrette, and a main of the sirloin of reindeer from Jotunheimen with nutmeg-infused potato cream Linie aquavit-cured celeriac served with vanilla-marinated blackberries, poached quail egg and cider sauce.  All so delicious.  
  Though I'm reluctant to accept it, I'm having problems with deteriorating eye-sight.  On this Operahuset night I knew there was something I needed from the Operahuset shop, a set of opera glasses.  
  opera glasses  
  And so...with sainthood-earning miraculous improvements to my ability to see the actual the ballet.    
  We have no idea what this is, we just know we're going to the ballet in Oslo.  We watch the first ballet then the curtain goes down and everyone leaves the auditorium, we have no idea what's going on, but following the rest of the audience, we fetch a glass of wine and stand around chatting, assuming there is more ballet to go back in for, because, for one, this is too short to be considered a night out, and for two, there was nothing that could be interpreted as a Firebird, we really were expecting a ballet dancer in a red frock.  I go visit the ladies toilet and turn to two ladies behind me in the queue, I ask if they speak English, they do, a bit, they inform me that there will be five ballets this evening and this is just the first of two breaks.  I thank them. 
  In The World Of Fokine is 3 hours and 15 minutes of ballet, with two breaks.  Afterwards I can't believe how long it was, it feels much shorter as each of the five iconic ballets to music by Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov and Igor Stravinsky are great, with my favourites, Cygne, Scheherazade and The Firebird being fabulous.  
  Michael Fokine (1880–1942) was one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century, a talented dancer and teacher.  He was a choreographer at Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris (this is a big deal in the world of ballet), and worked with a multitude of famous people, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Serge Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel.  
  The first ballet is Petrushka, by house choreographer Alan Lucien Øyen.  I'll be honest, I wasn't so taken with this one.  Something to do with a puppeteer, a puppet love triangle and too much moving scenery around. 
  After the first break (for a stretch of your legs, toilet visit and a glass of wine) we return to the first of three short ballets, Cygne.  This is beautiful, lone ballerina Camilla Spidsøe dancing to the Daniel Proitto choreographed version of Fokine's dying swan.  I'm not sure why the young boy walked on stage and watched, but it didn't detract from the captivating dying swan dancer, and as Fokine said "it appeals not merely to the eye but to the emotions and the imagination".  Wonderful. 
  This is followed immediately by Daphnes Et Chloé.  Again, not a big fan of this one.  Choreographer Ingun Bjørnsgaard gives us his interpretation.  Two couples, 2 women and 2 men move around the stage, I am totally oblivious of any story.  Apparently this is the story of poor sheep or goat peoples, a boy and a girl (both orphaned at birth and adopted by separate shepherd or goatherd type couples) suffer a bit then get together in the end, and the demi-god Pan features.  That's not exactly how I remember it.  I remember there was Daphnes Et Chloé and another man and another woman, end of.  
  It gets amazingly good with the next ballet, Scheherazade tells some 1001 Arabian Nights tale.  My interpretation is a young Arab girl is close to being brain-washed and subjugated by her upbringing, religion and a dominant male figure who must be either her father/brother/husband/lover...but breaks through and beats the system by being intelligent.  The books falling to the stage are copies of the Koran, it's terribly emotional and heartbreaking but she wins in the end.  It's brilliant.  
  The original ballet story is based on The Thousand and One Nights prologue which is narrated by legendary Persian Queen Scheherazade.  The story goes thus...The Sultan is enjoying his concubines and favorite wife Zobeide.  His brother suggests Zobeide is unfaithful and that they should go on a hunting trip, which they do.  While they're gone the concubines bribe the Chief Eunuch with gifts and flattery to unlock the gates and free the male slaves, an orgy ensues, Zobeide picks the Golden Slave and gets jiggy.  On his early return, the king is angry and has them all killed.  He then takes a new wife every night and has her beheaded the next morning.  After thousands of one-night-kills he meets Scheherazade.  This lady is intelligent and well read, she offers to tell him a story every night.  Her stories are so enthralling that he spares her life every morning wanting more.  Eventually she runs out of stories, by which time he's fell in love with her, regained faith in womanhood and makes her his new queen.  I prefer my version. 
  It's second break time, we go out again, another quick glass of wine, they don't let you take glasses of alcohol into the theatre, down it quickly, visit toilet again, and back in for the final ballet.  British star choreographer Liam Scarlett has created a truly magnificent Firebird.  
  I am so happy to have been in the right place/right time to experience this extravaganza of choreography, music and dance.  And here, nearly ends my Oslo trip, back to bed under the 410, and we're heading to the boat tomorrow, Copenhagen awaits. 


  Tuesday 8th October 2013 Crown Seaways to Copenhagen  
  After a final drive around Oslo and a visit to the Jeep wash and it's time to leave the boat.  The daily overnight cruise ferry service from Oslo to Copenhagen sets sail at 1700 every day.  The same happens in Copenhagen at the same time, these are ships that pass in the night, every night. 
  On board the Crown Seaways we have The Owners Suite, with access to the Commadore Class Lounge.  The best bit about paying the extra is the free stuff in the lounge, but The Husband's not Scottish so we only visit it the once, and he doesn't approve when I fill my pockets with stuff that belongs to me.  But obviously I do anyway.  Top tip...never leave anything in your mini fridge on a cruise ferry, you've paid for it it's yours.  Another top tip...never take anything from your hotel mini fridge, it isn't yours, you have to pay for it.   
  We have dinner in the á la carte Blue Riband Restaurant.  There's salty bread, bread which has been rolled in course salt giving it a lovely salty crust, scrummy.  I had the Nordic Sushi (Pearl Barley Sushi with Herb Skyr Cream served with Fennel Salad), the Cod (Butter-fried Kale and Jerusalem Artichokes in Lemon Risotto) and the Poached Pears (with Liquorice Crème Anglaise, Meringues and pickled Kumquats).  Delicious fare.  
  The cabin is on a corner up front so there's loads of windows and three rooms...loo/shower, sitting room with desk area and bedroom.  It's a comfy bed and we're sailing into the wind therefore it's a surprisingly smooth crossing despite the storm.   
  Denmark Gallery  
Wednesday 9th October 2013 - Copenhagen - Langelinie Park, Little Mermaid, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotekan and Kronborg Castle
 Hello Denmark.  I've been to Denmark before, but only to drive through from one boat to the next, on route from the UK to Norway, and the Denmark portion of that journey was pretty boring.  We spent most of the drive complaining that we couldn't see the necessary ingredients for their famous bacon and Lurpak butter...there's no pigs or cows to be seen.  That's still true, the animals are nowhere to be seen, but now I have a bit insight as to why.  Last night on the boat our waiter is Danish.  He's a lovely courteous professional young man.  I ask him about there being no animals in their fields, he reassures me the pigs are very well looked after, very very good conditions.  I'm thinking what most British people think that means, the pigs are free-range (in fields that must be away from the main roads, and therefore out of sight to us), he tells me, very high standards, very hygienic, very secure...they're kept in-doors.  Ahhh, not so big on the free-range then.  
 We go straight to our hotel, the Gentofte Hotel in the Gentofte suburb of Copenhagen.  Built in 1600 and originally called the Gjentofte Inn, this is a lovely place.  Rumour has it that back in the day the Royal Family used the inn for lunch breaks on their way to and from Fredensborg Castle.  We have one of the new Executive Rooms added in 2008.  The room is great and the hotel style and decor is quirky and stylish, the art work on the walls in the reception area is outstanding and brings the old building bang up to date as a boutique hotel.  
  Gentofte Hotel  
 After checking in we head the 8km into the centre of Copenhagen and start in the Langelinie Park area with The Kastellet, one of the best preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe.  We're really on our way to see the Little Mermaid but take a walk around this fortress first.  Past St Alban's Anglican Church, also known as the English Church and the largest monument in Copenhagen, the impressive Gefion Fountain, the Ivar Huitfeldt Column, Søfartsmonumentet and several other statues.  And there she is, the very little Little Mermaid.  
 Next we visit Ny Carlsberg Glyptotekan, an amazing sculpture and painting museum, crazy full of wonderful stuff.  Copenhagen owes a lot to the Jacobsen family and their Carlsberg beer, and this is one of the biggest debts.  Having visited Copenhagen and witnessed the benefits of beer, if I liked beer I'd only drink Carlsberg from now on.  Straight in the door and there's Carl and his lovely wife Ottilia.  
  Ottilia and Carl Jacobsen  
 Mostly we're there so see The Kiss by Auguste Rodin.  The first The Kiss is in Paris, this version was commissioned in marble in 1900 by Carl Jacobsen and completed in 1903.   
  The Kiss  
 There are over 40 Rodin pieces, the most important collection outside France, and over 10,000 exhibits in total, sculptures and paintings from nearly as far back (but not as far back as the cave drawings..they're still in caves) as human history has been making art.  Greece, Etruria, the Roman Empire, Ancient Egypt, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, Degas, van Gogh, a never-ending stream of treasures displayed on three floor levels.   
 I particularly like the marble Shooting Star by Felix Maurice Charpentier.  
  Shooting Star  
 We only manage level two and have to retire from fatigue.  If I ever go back to Copenhagen I'll complete the other two, and I have to go back, The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years by Edgar Degas was in temporary storage, much to my disappointment.  Between the French sculpture and the Ancient Egyptians we have lunch in Café Glyptoteket next to the indoor Winter Garden, with palm trees and tinkling fountain under a copper and wrought iron dome, wonderful.  
  the Winter Garden  
 Jacob Christian Jacobsen (1811–1887) founded the Carlsberg brewery, named after his son Carl (1842-1914) in 1844.  Carl founded the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in 1897 and between the two of them Copenhagen became more beautiful.  Carl also found time between collecting art, and acts of philanthropy, to transform Carlsberg from a local Copenhagen brewery into a multinational conglomerate.  Is anyone alive today doing anything this amazingly giving philanthropic?  
 Next to the Glyptotek is the Tivoli Gardens, an apparent must-do when in Copenhagen.  A Disney-style park without the Disney, 100 years before Disney.  We're disappointed to be told it's closed for maintenance and the next two days are for staff only.  That's us shit out of Tivoli luck, I'm not a big theme park fan anyway so I don't s'pose I'm missing out all that badly.  
 We take a drive out of Copenhagen to Helsingør and take a walk around Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Very unfortunately this is when, after just one photograph, I run out of battery.  I've got 3 batteries for my Canon EOS M, but our first day in Copenhagen and especially the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotekan, have drained all my power.  This is the one photie I got.  It was later in the afternoon by this time too, and on our way in on a stroll of the grounds we passed the keepers of the castle with their rattling keys, on their way home for the day.  We have to visit Denmark again and come back to Kronborg Castle, this is  one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe, portrayed in Shakespeare's Hamlet under the name of Elsinore.  
Kronborg Castle at Helsingør
 Back for dinner at our Gentofte Hotel and a delicious meal in Le Patron, their à la carte restaurant with it's original beams and fireplace creating a charming and cosy atmosphere.  The dining room staff are friendly and happy, providing extemporary service.  There's salty bread again.  I choose a starter of Gravad Makrel with Havtorn, Sprod rugbrød and Æble (Marinated Mackerel with Sea buckthorn, crisp bread and apple), a main of Spinat, Svampeand Langtidsbagte blommetomater (a risotto of spinach mushrooms and long baked plum tomatoes), then the sweet of Græskar fudge Chokolade ganache, Hasselnødeis and Praline (Pumpkin Fudge Chocolate ganache, Hazelnuts and Praline.  Praline is praline or Pralin in a lot of languages, wherever you go in the world, chances are you will be able to obtain praline easily, even the Tamil Tigers know what a praline is (this is according to Google translation service).  The food is lovely, we're stuffed, time for bed.  
  Thursday 10th October - Amalienborg Palace, Marble Church, Amalie Garden, Opera House, Botanical Garden, Østervold Observatory, St Andrew's Church, Rosenborg Slot, Geological Museum and Agpalilik  
 Today we intend to see the Danish Changing Of The Royal Life Guard, for which we'll have to be at the royal Winter residence, Amalienborg Palace, by midday.  We get there more than an hour too early and do the tour.  Amalienborg consists of a central octagonal courtyard containing a statue of Frederik V by French sculptor J.F.J. Saly, and four palaces.  The Palaces are Christian VII's Palace, (originally known as Moltke's Palace), Christian VIII's Palace (originally known as Levetzau's Palace), Frederick VIII's Palace (originally known as Brockdorff's Palace) and Christian IX's Palace (originally known as Schack's Palace).  Only Christian VII and Christian VIII are open to the public.  We visit Christian VIII, there's only so much inhabitable palaces we can stomach, much preferring a good uninhabitable castle ruin.  The museum features private royal apartments from 1863-1947 including original fittings and furnishings, which, as you can imagine, isn't really all that exciting, just posh furniture, expensive trinkets, family portraits and aged opulence.  On top of the admission price they swap you Kr20 for photography privileges (I've never heard the like).  You get an official photography sticker, keep it as it can be used at Rosenborg Slot.  
  I want to point out a little detail about the guards before we get too carried away with all marching, the guns and big furry hats.  Them little red wooden boxes they stand in...have little heart cut-outs on the sides, awww sweet. 
  all heart  
  Out in time for the guard changing.  Quite a sizable crowd had gathered, police officers keeping people behind the lines, a bit of marching in, swapping around, marching out. 
  changing guard  
  With the guard changing still changing we grow bored, it does take an extremely long amount of marching up and down so we head along Frederiksgarde to Frederik's Church, known popularly as the Marble Church.  As can be obviously seen from the outside, it's one big dome inside.  It's an Evangelical Lutheran church, big gold letters on the front portico : HERRENS ORD BLIVER EVINDELIG, Danish for "the word of the Lord endureth for ever."  Here's hoping that isn't true, not for ever, please.  It's gorgeous inside. 
  the Marble Church dome  
  From the Marble Church we're heading back to the Jeep with a short stop off at Amaliehaven (The Amalie Garden) to admire the Copenhagen Opera House.  The Amalie Garden is a small park between the palace and the waterfront, established in 1983, it was a "gift" from the A.P. Møller and the Chastine McKinney Møller Foundation.  This section of Frederiksgarde from the Marble Church, through the Amalienborg courtyard, to the Opera House across the water at the other end, on the island of Holmen, is known as the Amalienborg Axis.  The Opera House was built at a cost of 500 million US$, another gift to Denmark from the A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation in August 2000 (A.P. Møller was a co-founder of the company now known as Mærsk).  Apparently, with the project being tax deductable, this effectively meant that the government paid for it in the tax they didn't collect.  Anyway, it's all rather splendid. 
  The Jeep is parked at the north end of Todbodgate next to this relief from the pediment of King Christian VI's Custom House.  The Custom House was built in 1733 and demolished in 1891 but the relief was saved and is installed on a wall at this place.  The relief depicts the King Christian VI with the Roman Gods of seafaring and trade, Neptune holding a double edged trident, and Mercury holding a Caduceus. 
  relief from the pediment of King Christian VI's Custom House  
  Next is a stroll around the Botanical Gardens, we're kinda looking for a meteorite but get a bit lost.  This getting a bit lost involves seeing a Red Squirrel, which I'm pleased about, and having to climb over a high locked security gate to get out of the Botanical Garden where there isn't an official exit, which makes me wary that I may be about to be in a bit of bother.  Over the gate like ninjas (there's no photographic evidence...if I say we were like ninjas, then we were like ninjas), and we still can't find the meteorite.  The Husband thinks he's got the direction and location knowledge and skills of a Native American Navaho scout.  Round the Botanical gardens, over the gate, round another wrong building, on to the street, ask a local man, follow his directions, find the Østervold Observatory, un-follow the local man's directions, past St Andrew's Church, visit Rosenborg Slot then we find the meteorite in the Geological Museum courtyard.  
  Rosenborg Castle gets a serious visit, because this is where the Danes keep their Crown Jewels.  Only after we purchase the admission tickets and the extra photograph-taking permit sticker do I realise it's the same sticker I already bought at Amalienborg Palace.  Being Scottish, that still rankles, they should've explained the extent of the camera-sticker use.  Before I'm permitted into the Treasury the lady insists I have to go back to the ticket building to leave my handbag in a locker.  I squeeze my blue Topshop Boxy Bag into her size-box, and it fits, she insists no it doesn't, yes it actually does, but she has the position of authority and I have to go back.  They let me up close to The Scream at the Munch Museum with this bag, everything in this Slot is either huge or behind glass, it's not like I could slip a crown in the bag. 
  We see the impressive Crown Jewels and tour the rest of the castle.  It is, as expected, full of the usual riches of art, interior design and furniture.  Particularly interesting are Christian IV's Toilet with it's glazed Delft tiles from 1705, the barrels of Rosenborg-wine and The Long Hall with the thrones and silver lions.  The most remarkable item is something I've never seen before, a trick chair.  The information sign calls it "Slapstick at 17th Century Court", describes the inner workings and explains how an unsuspecting guest would be clamped to the chair by concealed restraints in the armrests, then soaked by water running from a vessel in the back of the chair through channels in the seat.  When the victim had been released and jumping up from the chair, a trumpet concealed in the seat would toot.  So that's peeing your pants and farting at the royal court, how very embarrassing.  This chair is first recorded in the archives in 1673.  
  Last word from Rosenborg Slot goes to the strangely bendy-thighed horses they all had back then. 
  bendy thighs  
  This is the meteorite I was looking for...the 20 tonnes Agpalilik aka The Man.  The Cape York meteorite from which the Agpalilik is derived smashed into the Earth in Greenland almost 10,000 years ago and is one of the largest iron meteorites on the planet.  Vagn F. Buchwald found this, the fourth largest fragment of the Cape York meteorite, in 1963, same year I started breathing.  For centuries, Inuit living near the meteorites used them as a source of metal for tools and harpoons, more educated folks came on ships and I'm sure there was a bit of swapping and pleasantries, but essentially, they nicked them.  
  Lunch time.  We stop at Cafe Ciré on Valby Langgade and eat at a table outside.  I have the Quesadilla - Pandestegt tortilla fyldt med kylling og chedderost, serveres med guacamole, salsa, creme fraiche og salat.  Which is the closest I find on the Danish menu (with translation from our waitress) to a sandwich with my favourite fillings.  It's a Pan-fried tortilla filled with chicken and cheese served with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and lettuce. 
  Back to the hotel.  Dinner this evening is a light one, we both have Jordskokkesuppe, Ristet chorizo, Persille olie (Jerusalem artichoke soup with Grilled chorizo ​​and Parsley oil) and share a bowl of Hvidløgsstegte svampe (Garlic fried mushrooms), and there's that delicious salty bread again. 
  Germany Gallery 
  Friday 11th October - Germany  
 Time to go, goodbye wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.  We're off to Germany.  The drive from Copenhagen to the ferry at Rødbyhavn takes us over the Farø Bridges which connect the islands of Falster and Zealand by way of the small island of Farø.  Onward to the ferry, 45 minutes sailing on the Baltic Sea and we reach Puttgarden on the German island of Fehmarn.  From there we drive across the Fehmarn Sound Bridge to the German mainland near Großenbrode.  And on to our stop-over in Celle.  
 We've been to Germany's medieval Celle before and are booked into the same hotel again, the Althoff Hotel Fürstenhof, a very fancy pants hotel.  This is what they say..."Each floor is designed according to a different motto: golf, hunting, horses, romance, royalty, and the heathland, inspired by the majestic, nearby natural countryside: the Lüneburg heathlands".  Seems we were on the "sheep" floor, fitting.  
  room with a sheep motto  
 Not much time left this afternoon but we take a stroll around town and stop at Café Zeit for waffles.   
  Café Zeit waffles  
 Back at the hotel later that evening we go for dinner at Palio Taverna & Trattoria the Italian restaurant at the hotel.  I have the Panzanella - Tuscan tomato bread salad with fried king prawns then the Creamy white wine risotto with pumpkin, crispy fried pancetta and grated Pecorino cheese.  I remember it very fondly.  
  Belgium Gallery  
  Saturday 12th October 2013 to Brussels and In Brugges  
 Next morning I pick a conker up from the grass in the hotel garden, it joins the acorn I brought from Norway in the Jeep.  We're off again, to Bruges.  
 Down the road a good long way we pull into a service station.  I pick this time for a toilet visit.  Toilets are round the back, I step into the unisex lobby of the toilet block and am surprised to be loudly grunted at by a man sitting there with a saucer of coins on his small table.  He is rude and surly, indicating to me I have to pay 50 before going into the toilet.  No manners at all this man and I'm peed off while peeing.  Further down the road and more service station toilets are so secure they have you insert the coins and go through one of them secure swing round metal gate door things, them things I can't think of the name of, answers on a postcard.  
  toilet grunty man  
  secure service station toilets  
  Several hours on the autobahns and we cross the border into Belgium.  No sooner are we into Belgium then The Husband starts talking about how he can't wait to get some tasty Belgian frites, he goes on to muse out loud, wondering mostly to himself, why he suddenly thought about the frites.  I pointed out the bloody obvious...the vehicle ahead of us...  
  frites advert  
Demonstrating an hysterical amount of racism and hyper-paedophile-concern we both suffer from a syndrome that has us imagining that every house we see in Belgium could easily have a basement with kidnapped sexually-abused children in.  When we're in Germany it's the same but slightly different, everywhere you look in Germany it's very difficult to stop imagining Jews being shot in the head by Nazis.  Maybe it's just us.
  We find our hotel and it's more than a bit WOW!  Hotel Wilgenhof, 2km from the centre of Bruges, is a hotel with B&B level service.  This B&B level of service provision doesn't effect us in any big bad way, just takes us aback slightly at the start.  We were imagining we could come back to the hotel after a day out doing tourist stuff, have dinner then maybe sit in a lounge with a glass of wine.  There's no dinner and no bar, but we eat out and buy our own bottle of wine, though the hotel lady gets us one in and provides wine-glasses after we mention it.  We're in the Shaker Room, it's perfectly pleasant, nothing special, the chair has a bit of a rip and the large bathroom doesn't have a shower, but these aren't all that important.  We needed an affordable hotel with secure parking for the Jeep, we get that here and loads more besides.  It's a beautiful property, the building itself, the entrance hallway area with staircase up to the rooms is to a high standard and very much to my personal taste, the gardens, the orchard, the sound and sight of horses galloping by in the paddock, the people and the privacy all make it perfect.  This is a house where I would love to live, even if Belgium is flat.  I usually demand a country with mountains, but I'd maybe give up the uppy-downy countryside for this small place on earth.  Looking out the windows, the immediate surroundings are so delightful you could live without the bigger picture.  And Bruge is close by, absolutely gorgeous and interesting enough to offer a high quality of life.  This place is stunning, idyllic country-living.  I don't often wish to swap lives, but I would with the couple who own and run Hotel Wilgenhof.  
  Hotel Wilgenhof  
  We book in, drop the bags and head in to Bruges, I'm In Bruges, minus the Colin Farrell but plus The Husband, so I can't complain (not out loud anyway).  Inside the canals that surround the city, is an area of outstandingly beauty.  We have a stroll around getting our bearings and stop on the at Friterie 1900 in Markt, the main square.  Belgium is known for the best fries in the world, we'd better get started with the testing.  The frites at Frites 1900 are fine, all frites are nicer than the UK grease-sodden fish & chip shop chips.  The first ones we test in Bruges are no better than the German or Dutch versions, even so, looking at this photo is making my mouth water at the thought of them, they were tasty, but we do have even better ones on a later date in Bruges.  
  our chips from Friterie 1900  
  After the frites and more strolling we go for a ride in a horse drawn carriage, as you do in Bruges.  The 35 minute carriage ride around historic Bruges begins and ends on Markt.  Halfway through the ride we stop on Wijngaardplein for around 5 to 10 minutes to rest, feed and water the horse. The stop is alongside the Minnewater at a horse-head well where the coachpersons draw water for the horses.  The coach-woman gives a running commentary of the famous sites as we go clip-clopping over the cobblestones.  39€.  The carriage ride gives new arrivals like us an over-view and ideas for what you may wish to go back to visit more thoroughly.  The Husband likes it so much we will do this again before leaving Bruges.  
  Back at the Jeep and we've got ourselves a 30€ parking ticket.  We'd parked in a spacious area off the road, more like some parking in front of housing, no road markings or signs to indicate we couldn't park there.  
  our Bruges parking ticket  
  Sunday 13th October 2013 Basilica of the Holy Blood and Toyo Ito Pavillion  
  We've referred to our tourist guide book and use the main multi-storey car park next to the Bruges Opera House, it's just a five minute walk to the UNESCO World Heritage Site city centre.  It's raining water-sheets on the streets of Bruges today.  Coats and handbags becoming soaked through, rivulets running down hands and faces.  We nick into a tourist shop and I remerge in a blue plastic bag/poncho which is going to save my leather handbag and camera from destruction while keeping me mostly dry, on the top half anyway.  Close to the tourist shop is the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Burg Square, indoor tourist stuff is on the cards today.   
  In the upper chapel the Catholics have what they believe to be the venerated relic of the Holy Blood which they think was collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders after the Second Crusade.  Jesus blood on a piece of fabric, the pilgrimage trade at it's finest.  If it makes them happy.  
  I couldn't see the Phial of the Holy Blood so I assume it was in the Shrine of the Holy Blood, where it's kept when not out doing other holy and bloody stuff.  Historian expert types say the glass phial is a Byzantine perfume bottle from Constantinople made of rock crystal and dating back to the 11th or 12th century.  It was probably looted during the Sack of Constantinople in the 1202-1204 Fourth Crusade, the same bit of sacking that got the bronze horses for St Mark's Basilica in Venice.  
  Shrine of the Holy Blood  
  Inexplicably, just off Burg Square surrounded in historic architecture, an ugly aluminium and transparent polycarbonate structure, not unlike a honeycomb bus shelter.  Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, this pavilion sits in a stagnant puddle which we had to tip-toe through.  We were there at the same time as a dead bird which was face down in the murky water, I found this too disgusting and depressing.  It was originally meant to appear to float above an intentional pool, now it's flooded with dirty water inside too.  I'd rather pretend it isn't there, spoiling what is otherwise a pretty city.  
  And, now I don't need to pretend anymore.  A couple of weeks after we see the Car-wash, as the Bruges folks call it, the Pavilion has been cut into pieces and removed to a warehouse.  I was Googling for more information and found this article In Memoriam by Matthias Van Rossen on  It's for the best.  
  Bruges Pavilion  
  We take a walk around, visiting what we find as we go.  Bruges city centre has so many attractions at every turn it's difficult to remember, include and describe everything here...but I will try.  Next we're in Arentshof with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Rik Poot (1924-2006).  Over the Bonifacius Bridge (Lover's Bridge) to Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (the Church of Our Lady) with it's 122m high tower, the tallest in the city.  We note the whereabouts of this church because we'll be back to see Michelangelo’s world-famous Madonna and Child.  Round the back of the Church there's creepy baby sculptures and adjacent to the church is the Gruuthusemuseum (Gruuthuse Museum)...closed for refurbishment.  At some point on this walk-about the weather is so inclement that we go back to Steenstraat, the main shopping street, for The Husband to buy a new weatherproof parka and the biggest umbrella we can find in the Bruges branch of C&A.   
  The rain is still coming down relentlessly and we've just walked up a wind tunnel of a street in Bruges, we're wet, tired and coming to the end of tethers...nothing else for it...back to the Jeep.  We head out of Bruges and follow the Damse Vaart (Canal Bruges-Sluis) for 6 kilometres northeast to the equally medieval, much smaller and almost as picturesque, Damme.   We decide that Damme is ideal for independently mobile tourists looking for dinner, as parking is easy.  Back to the hotel and this evening we head back to Damme, we park at the Market Square.  There's several restaurants to choose from, we pick Restaurant Pallieter next to the very old Town Hall, originally constructed in 1241 and rebuilt in 1464.  We see a family group arrive with the kind of self-assurance that says "we own the place" and be seated at a near-by table, the teenage girl has a small dog in her handbag, the handbag/dog combination is given a seat.  More family or friends arrive and join them, there's now two late-teenager girls playing with their smart phones.  At some point in the evening the dog leaves his handbag, runs around the table and is picked up by the older mother woman.  People come to this group of diners, much shaking of hands, exaggerated grinning and kowtowing, it looks for all the world like we're watching the local mafia boss receiving homage.  Do they have a Flanders version of the Mafia?  
  I cooked my first ever fondue dinner, delicious it was too.  
  Restaurant Pallieter in Damme  
  Monday 14th October 2013 St Salvator's Cathedral, Oude Griffie, Gerechtshof Highlanders, Stadhuis, paper-cut The Husband, Picasso in Bruges, ‘t Zand, Orphan Anna  
The worst of the rain has passed, and I never have to wear my blue plastic bag/poncho again.  We like Bruges so much we decide we're staying here a couple more days, we extend our hotel booking and head back to Bruges.  On this day we start with a visit to St Salvator's Cathedral.  They have a Jesus on an outside wall and I have to say...he's ripped, I doubt they'd do a bare-chested female body in the same vein.
  ripped Jesus  
  Inside is the usual vastness of riches, treasures and works of art you expect to find in the coffers of a religion that doesn't believe it's own shtick...Bible says it's the poor that are the blessed, the rich aren't going to find it too easy to get to their heaven.  They have fancy colourful windows, paintings, nice candle holders, several of which I would give house-room to, it's predominantly silver with gold and stars...and a large organ.   
  starry Shrine of St Donation  
  There's an alabaster likeness of Jean II Carondelete (1469-1545), a bored looking Provost of St. Donatian's Cathedral, Chancellor of Flanders, Archbishop of Palermo and friend of Erasmus.  With all them titles and revenues, too rich to be in heaven now.   
  Jean II Carondelete mausoleum  
  There's also something I've never seen before and I'd never imagined I ever would.  The closest to a public apology for child abuse likely to be exhibited in a house of the god of Catholicism, it's a touchy subject.   The beautiful and vulnerable beaten glass Christening Dress sculpture symbolises the mental and often physically bruised Children and Adults victims of child sex abuse in the Catholic church.  Note the accompanying explanation states that the victims and their supporters are still..."looking forward to the recognition...of victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Chruch".  
  Christening Dress sculpture  
  Christening Gown sculpture info  
Out of the cathedral and a little way along Oude Burg is Simon Stevinplein with the statue of Flemish mathematician and military engineer Simon Stevin (1548–1620) by Eugène Simonis.  The horse carriage coachpeople like to tell you he invented the decimal point, he didn't, he took the decimal system that already existed then developed it further, then other mathematicians followed with the decimal point.  I read with interest that he is a bastard, conceived out of wedlock to wealthy parents, Antheunis Stevin and Cathelyne van der Poort.
  We walk across Markt (Market Square), along Breidelstraat, past the alley-sized Garre, one of the few remaining fire streets in Bruges.  Fire streets were exactly what their name suggests, used in the Middle Ages to quickly fecth water from the canals if fire broke out.  Another fire-precaution are the stepped edges on old houses, anyone trapped by a fire could escape to a neighbouring house.  We're in Burg (Castle Square), the most exquisite and majestic of the Bruges squares.  The impressive Provost's House is of Baroque architecture from the 17th C but we don't have time for everything and skip it in favour of the Museum Liberty of Bruges.  If I'm understanding my tourist information correctly, this is the Oude Griffie AKA The Chambers/Old Civil Registry/Old Court of Justice/Old Recorder's's served a few different purposes over the years...with the Coat of Arms above the door, gilt highlights and golden statuettes, it's an enticing building.   
  lion & bear detail on Old Court of Justice  
  We're the Renaissancezaal (the Renaissance Hall), the former aldermen’s room, we're treated to a splendid 16th C black marble and oak fireplace designed by Lanceloot Blondeel and executed by Guyot de Beaugrant.  The fireplace lintel is an alabaster frieze depicting the story of Suzanna and the Elders, and above that, oh my...codpieces so huge, bulbous and shiny, once spotted, it's near impossible to drag your eyes away, if they weren't out of reach, you just know every person who ever entered this room would cop a feel.  This intricate and magnificent oak carving, which extends up onto the ceiling, depicts Emperor Charles V (1500–1558), the eldest son of Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad.  Parents that must've been hilarious to live with, I'd have called them Mad and Handsome instead of Mum and Dad.  The first King of Spain (among his many other titles), he's seen here surrounded in the Coats of Arms of all his territories and his grandparents, Emperor Maximilian of Austria, Duchess Mary of Burgundy, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, and Queen Isabella I of Castile, on the side panels.  Take care looking at the next photie, could have an eye out with that. 
  codpiece XL  
  Phew, eyes back in sockets, we pay attention to the old assize court before exiting and going next door to the Palace (or maybe the Mansion) is the 18th-century administrative offices, the Gerechtshof...I think, it's quite difficult to determine what's what at this side of the Burg.  The information is not clear on The Google, I got my definitive information from Rough Guide, I hope they/I've got it right.  Inside there's a small courtyard, one part of the building houses a Tourist Office, another a small art gallery.  My eye is caught by a display of photographs by Alain Meessen called Highlandgamers.  Alain Meessen is a Belgian chef and restaurateur (Restaurant Alain Meessen at Bruggestraat 259)  with a passion for photography and these Highlandgamers are tattooed Belgian muscle-men in kilts, members of the Belgian Highland Games Federation.  Highland games in a country that can only just manage a rolling hillside, who'd of thought it.  I like that there's a load of bare-chested tartan-wearing strong-men in unexpected places and Mr Meessen's photographs are great.  
  Highlandgamers by Alain Meessen  
From the Celt-ish to the Gothic, we visit the Stadhuis (Town Hall) built in 1376, the oldest Town Hall in Belgium. First point of interest is the marble bust of Charles V, we head upstairs to the Gotische Zaal (Gothic Room), which is suitably WOW.  In 1464, the Estates General of the Low Countries, one of Europe's first parliaments, met in this room.  There's much splendour of a wood-carving, murals and vaulted oak ceiling nature and the 2nd most impressive fireplace in Bruges has the words "All the artisans, labourers and citizens of Bruges are free, all of them", or something like that.  In the room next door there's maps, books, paintings and a heavy chain...all very old, historic and important.
  fireplace in the Gothic Hall  
  On our walk, along canals and over a couple bridges, we find ourselves in the courtyard behind The Belfry Tower.  A strange man approaches The Husband, as he's talking to The Husband he's dextrously snipping away at a piece of paper with a tiny pair of sharp scissors.  In just a minute he's produced a cameo silhouette portrait that is instantly recognisable as The Husband with his woollen hat on.  Princely sum of €5. 
  The Husband gets cameoed  
  The Husband's not pleased about the chin area, but the guy is good and we're both impressed at the likeness, speed and simplicity capturing essence-of-The-Husband.  Is he as good as Picasso, Monet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin, Miro, Matisse, Chagall, Magritte and Braque?  To help us decide we visit the Picasso exhibition at Oud Sint-Jan with 300 original works of art by all of the above, apart from the scissor-happy street guy.  Paintings, lithographic prints, engravings, drawings, embossed prints, illustrations, letters and photos of the impressionist masters.  The 11th century Site Oud Sint-Jan (Old St John's Hospital) is Europe's oldest preserved hospital building.  Of course it no longer functions as a hospital but holds a congress and exhibition centre and the Hans Memling museum.  We'll visit the museum and church later, but first, to The Picasso in Bruges exhibition in the exhibition centre part of the complex. 
  It's a great exhibition, though to be honest, much of what we see, I could've done myself, if only I'd thought of it first.  It's all so enjoyable we purchase Picasso prints in the shop to take back to Starry Towers.  We also take away a sculpture we unexpectedly find in the shop, Rodin's The Kiss that we saw in Copenhagen.  I'm so taken by The Kiss that I have a quality 5.5 inch Parastone Mouseion 3D Collection version for The Guest Bedroom. 
  could do better  
  After all this art we're heading back to the Jeep, stopping off for drinks and apple pie at the New Laurent tea-room on Steenstraat. 
  The car parking, which is mostly underground and out of sight, is next to ‘t Zand, the largest square in Bruges with a magnificent fountain comprising four separate sculptures by Stefaan De Puydt and Livia Canestraro, the husband and wife sculptors who's The Lovers sculpture we'd seen next to Burg Square.  The sculptures are : a mermaid on a polder, cyclists including local folklore characters Nele and Till Eulenspiegel to symbolise the local culture, fishermen from Zeebrugge and four naked ladies representing the cities of Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Kotriejk.  The mermaid is spouting water from her mouth, but more extraordinary is the water jet shooting from her left nipple.  Not from both nipples, or from none nipples, but from just the left, for some strange reason. 
  mermaid nipple  
  On our way out to Damme for food, we have a drive around Bruges, it is possible to drive around Bruges, but not all that many people do, most are walking, on bicycles, or horse and carriages, but it isn't against the law, just be careful where you park.  We do quick-stops for a few photos of things that have caught my eye.  At every turn here in Bruges, the exterior walls of ordinary houses and shops have quirky stonemasonry details, gargoyles, Madonnas, paintings, plaques and shrines.  
  On a wall of a building on Korte Speelmanstraa at the corner with Carmersstraat there's a large calvary (an open-air representation of the crucifixion of Jesus, in this case a rather barrel-chested Jesus).  The crucifix stands on a representation of what looks like dirt, or rock, with human bones, while a woman in traditional costume is indicating kinda "ta-da" with her arms, and there's a Catholic-looking thing in a box.  On top of all this is an All-Seeing Eye which serves to remind me of David Icke, but I'm sure it means something else to most other people.  This, this, erm, thing, an outdoor chapel? is called Annaatje van 't Pitje and was created in 1760 and marks the spot where legend has it, in the 16th c, a young orphan girl named Anna was attacked, robbed and thrown down a well by villains.  If you're robbing, physically abusing and attempting to drown Little Orphan Annie you are very very bad villains.  Lovers of happy endings will be pleased to know Anna was rescued, no information on how long her poverty-stricken, starving orphan life lasted after that.  
  There's four windmills on the old city walls, where once there were 25.  Two are original Bruges windmills while the other two where obtained from elsewhere in Belgium and brought to their current sites. Sint-Janshuis Mill from 1770 still stands on it's original site, still grinding grain in a museum fashion. 
  Out front the Stadsschouwburg Theatre stands a delicate metal sculpture, we'd glimpsed him, passing by several times already and I was intrigued, wanting a right good look and to discover more.  The statue is Papageno by Belgian artist Jef Claerhout.  Papageno is a bird catcher in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, and this one has a prudently placed belt.  Reminded me of The Dad, when I was a young woman in perhaps a mini dress, and him asking if I was going to put a skirt on with that belt I was wearing.  
  Papageno and his prudently placed belt  
  Another metal sculpture by Jef Claerhout is the dancing Marieke on Predikherenrei, she's almost wearing a frock. 
  Marieke by Jef Claerhout  
  On to Damme and Ter Kloeffe on Jacob van Maerlantstraat, a teahouse specialising in sweet and savoury pancakes.  We ordered some chicken thing which I imagined would be like a toasty roasty melty cheesey onion and lettucey type thing but was more like a stew and a pancake.  It's been a long day, with a belly full of pancake it's back to the hotel.  
  Tuesday 15th October 2013 Salvador Dali, Sint-Janshospitaal, Apotek, Godshuis  
  Today's our last day in Bruges and we're heading from the car park to Markt.  
  In Eiermarkt (the Egg Market) we spot the bear and lion emblem again, this time on a very old water pump by Pieter Peppers (1730-1785).  
  bear and lion in Eiermarkt  
  On Markt we decide we haven't seen near enough art as yet and visit the Salvador Dali Exhibition in the Belfry.  Oh my, it's a fantastic display of surrealism and utter kookiness.  Some would say OTT and mad, some like The Husband, he managed ten minutes then left to wait for me outside.  I walked around the entire exhibition, all sorts of graphic art, water colours, drawings and sculptures from the mind of Mr Dali (1904-1989) in spaces designed in magnificent Daliesque style, all shocking pink, gold, brilliant blue, leopard print, mother-of-pearl, peacocks, neon floor lights, foil and mirrors.  My honest opinion...I wouldn't give any of it house room on it's own merits (but it's worth a fortune now, so I would, till I sold it), he spent his life creating, living it large, getting away with it.  In a time when this was all inconceivable, he conceived it, making him a genius in his own time, wish I'd thought of it first. 
  Salvador Dali exhibition  
  Now seems like a good time to mention the denim horse.  Out front the Men At Work clothing store at Mariastraat 10, there's a denim horse, and a denim man...novel. 
  the denim horse  
  We head back to the Church of Our Lady to see Michelangelo’s Madonna and's closed till December.  What if I was in need of some sanctuary?  No Madonna and Child for us then, this is a bit of a nuisance.  We go round the corner to the Gruuthuse Museum, it's closed till December, okay, we're not as disappointed about this one being closed, but bit inconsiderate of them.  
  On to the Old St. John's Hospital, the Sint-Janshospitaal museum.  It's open, hurrraaahhh!  This is a very impressive place, founded around 1150 this is well worth a lengthy visit.  The museum has works of art of a hospital, medical and religious nature, surgical instruments, sedan-chair ambulances, tombstones, there's a chapel and don't miss the hall upstairs which has a wonderful wooden ceiling and a copy of the Portal of the Virgin Mary from the main entrance door.  The most important attractions work-of-art-wise are the Hans Memling (1430–1494) exhibits, the gilded-oak Shrine of Ursula (Ursulaschrijn), and the Triptychs.  I'm putting a painting of the working hospital in the 18th c here, could've went for the 16 c vaginal speculum which looks more like an implement of torture than a medical device, but didn't...too grown-up...but it's on the Belgium Gallery page.  
  painting inside Old St. John's Hospital  
  This painting of an over-dressed man having a boy's eye out with a scalpel while he gazes towards the artist (to capture his best side) instead of concentrating on his young patient is particularly appealing to me.  
  The ticket to the Sint-Janshospitaal museum includes entry to the 17th-century Apotek, the old hospital pharmacy.  Pharmacy opening hours leave us time to kill so we head back to Markt and take another horse carriage ride around before meandering back to the pharmacy.  We get a bit lost in the meandering, I think we were in the back of St John's but we were truly lost so I can't tell you where we were, even now as I analyse the photos trying to figure it out. 
  The Husband and I and a horse  
  The Pharmacy museum doesn't disappoint either, what I wouldn't give for just one (or two) of the old jars, bottles, paintings or pestle and mortars.  
On a stroll we find the De Meulenaere and Sint-Jozef (Nieuwe Gentweg) Godshuis.  These almshouses in the walled complex with a pretty central garden were precursors to sheltered housing, established in the 14th century by the wealthy.  The poor elderly people given a roof over their heads in exchange for the requirement of praying for the wealthy funders. 
On the corner of Nieuwe Gentweg and Groeninge a tall building housing Groenhighe Art Gallery, has first...a stone Madonna and child, then down the Groeninge side we find several acrylic signs of quirky quotes then the Wees Gegroet Maria Catholic-statue-street-shrine.  The Husband translates the inscription...O.L.V. Van euwig durende bijstand ann al wie hier passeert te voet of tee peerd zeg Wees Gegroet Maria...all who pass should say hi to Mary, but I refuse, out of Atheist principle.  I do spend a few minutes wondering if Hail Mary is breast feeding or sticking her thumb in baby Jesus's mouth, still not a hundred per cent sure.
  Hail Mary  
  Groeninge has the old worker's houses that the horse and carriage people tell of in their tour talk.  Stating that the poor lived in them all them years ago, but that they're now so expensive that only the rich can afford them.  
  Our last drive around Bruges takes in a tour round town then back to the hotel for our last night in Belgium.  Every day you spend in Bruges is another day of learning to appreciate what you're looking at.  First time you set eyes on a certain statue or building you're not necessarily aware of it's importance, it's history and beauty, there's so much to see.  Bruges reminds me of being in Rome, every time you turn around there's something else, everywhere you look, too much to take in with a mere human set of senses, it goes on and on.  Places like that are deserving of another visit.  I write up my holiday blogs and educate myself as I work through my photographs, often there's a bit of puzzling, Googling, Google maps, Google street view, Google images, figuring out what each photograph, many of them snaps taken in a brief 10 seconds before walking on, portrays.  I always figure it out, don't think there's been a single photograph I came home with that I haven't got the gen on back at Starry Towers.  
  Holland Gallery  
  Wednesday 16th October 2013 to Holland, Zuiderzee Museum and family  
  Today we head to Holland and the first matter of interest is at a service station.  The oxymoron of a cannabis energy drink, how can that even be?  
  Cannabis energy drinks? energy? Cannabis?  
  To the Noord-Holland area and we book into Van der Valk Hotel Wieringermeer, and the Champagne Suite, the hotel's newest theme suite.  Gold bubble wallpaper and giant photographs of Champagne bottles, not the classiest of decor, but a beautiful large bath and shower room.  
  the Champagne Suite  
  We're here to take The Husband's daughter to dinner this evening before catching the ship back to the UK tomorrow.  The Daughter (his)/Step-Daughter (mine) is at work still so we have an afternoon and I'm after meeting up with The Husband's first wife, we've become acquaintances on The Facebook what with having her daughter and my step-daughter in common.  The Ex-Wife does a little voluntary work at Zuiderzee Museum, we reckon this is a good afternoon out and if we get lucky she may be there.  
  The Zuiderzee Museum is across the water and involves a boat ride, I like tourist attractions which involve a sail.  Dedicated to preserving Enkhuizen's cultural heritage and the maritime history of the Zuiderzee and the IJsselmeer, with exhibits, activities for children recreating old stuff and authentic buildings brought from all over the IJsselmeer region, representing how people lived in the 19th C and at the start of the 20th C.  Most of the houses, shop and work buildings are inside and out.  A workforce, of some employed and some voluntary staff, dress and role-play 19th C village life.   
  Zuiderzee housewives  
  Some people take this more seriously than others with two people let the side down, the cheese-seller selling cheese in the cheese shop was on her mobile phone, as was a man sitting at a table in the front room of a middle-class house.  It's very interesting, I wish we'd had longer to see everything, though a couple hours gave us a good impression of the outside museum of the site, we didn't have time to get to the inside museum.  We did have time to transfer ourselves back a couple hundred years in uncannily realistic fashion.  
  us transported back to the 19th C  
  That evening we meet up with The Daughter/Step-Daughter and her new boyfriend in Andijk and go to dinner in Enkhuizen.  Afterwards we head over to nearby Bovenkarspel and meet The Ex-Wife and her partner.  Now's a good time to mention my ailment.  For the two weeks of holiday I've been dosing myself with painkillers and generally suffering in brave little soldier mode.  The pain in my left shoulder blade area which originated in Oslo had spread to my left front chest approximately a week afterwards.  With persuasion from The Ex-Wife I decide I need to visit a doctor. 
  Thursday 17th October 2013 Netherlands to Scotland 
  It's boat home day.  But first a local Dutch GP sees me as an emergency at his clinic, because I have chest pain.  An ECG reassures him I probably have a chest infection.  Long story short, he gives me antibiotics that don't work and later back in Scotland with a chest xray and Scottish antibiotics I'm diagnosed with a deep-seated chest infection and a pulled muscle. 
 Back to The Star-Euro-Trek...almost at an end...The Husband and I head to the port of IJmuiden.  Time for a stroll to see the Vissersmonument with the DFDS Princess Seaways sitting in dock behind the statue, we go for pie at Kop van de Haven, a harbour restaurant.  A bit later we have patat with mayo and them funny Dutch krokets, this cafe has our IKEA world map canvas on the wall!  This crossing is IJmuiden to Newcastle.  This is never one of our favourite routes, the ambience is...missing.  Best to just have a quick meal and an early night.  A chill night is what's needed though, it's been a great trip, a long trip, time to take our memories and go home happy.  
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