Written: August 2022
“Where are you?”, “Where are your e-briefs?”, “Are you Ok?”. I appreciated the emails. I decided to do something I have never done in 50+ years: defer any work-related emails and projects for the duration of a vacation. Next week, I will be back to articles about healthcare, crypto, space, tech, and other topics. This week, I will share the trip experience including links to photo albums. I will also include the regular “News from johnpatrick.com”. I am not much of a tour guide or photographer so I will just hit some of the highlights.
We could not find the right non-stop to Copenhagen for the start of the Silversea cruise. The first leg was JFK to London, Heathrow. The WSJ had numerous stories about delays, cancellations, and lost baggage there. We had only a slight delay after the captain said he wanted one of the tires changed. They jacked up the Boeing 777-300ER with all passengers aboard and changed the tire. This was a first for me. I would love to see the jack! Copenhagen does not allow Uber, so we took a taxi to the cruise terminal. Unfortunately, the over-confident driver went to the wrong terminal.
We got to the ship around 4 PM. Silversea had an elaborate process for medical screening. Every passenger and crew member had to show a vaccination record and a verified negative test taken within the prior 48 hours. Masks were only required on land excursions via shuttle bus and in the ship’s casino and theatre. All crew were masked throughout the cruise. During the cruise, there was one passenger and two crew testing positive. They were isolated and there were no further cases. We departed from the Copenhagen harbor at 7 p.m.
We arrived in Kristiansand, Norway at 1 p.m. for a six-hour visit. The city has nicely colored homes and buildings, bustling restaurants, and boats of every kind. From there it was fjord hopping from Kristiansand to Olden to Flåm to Bergen. The weather was not so great for this part of the trip as you will notice in the pictures, but the terrain and features were beautiful. In Olden, I saw a gas pump with the price at 24.73 kroners per liter. That converts to $9.69 per gallon.
Bergen, founded in 1070, is a beautiful city on Norway’s southwestern coast. It is surrounded by mountains and fjords, including Sognefjord, the country’s longest and deepest. Bryggen, is a series of buildings lining the eastern side of the Vågen harbor in the city of Bergen. The Fløibanen Funicular goes up Fløyen Mountain for panoramic views, hiking trails, and the Edvard Grieg House where the renowned composer once lived. We did not take the excursion as we have been to Bergen before. Leaving Bergen on the way to Oslo, we spent a day at sea and celebrated my 77th birthday in the Silver Moon’s La Dame restaurant on the ship.
Oslo, the capital of Norway, which I have visited many times is one of my favorite cities in the world. It sits on the country’s southern coast at the head of the Oslofjord. It’s known for its green spaces and museums and, most recently, a beautiful new library holding 450,000 books. You will see it in the Oslo photo album to the right of the famous opera house. The museums are very special including the waterside Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Viking Ship Museum, with Viking ships from the 9th century. Holmenkollen sits 1,500 feet above the fjord and is a famous Olympic ski-jumping hill. We left Oslo at 1 p.m. and arrived in Copenhagen where we started the next morning. This was now the beginning of the second leg of the cruise: Copenhagen, Denmark to Stockholm, Sweden.
Our first stop in Sweden was Karlskrona, known as Sweden’s only baroque city and host to Sweden’s largest naval base and the headquarters of the Swedish Coast Guard. The marine museum was quite impressive, especially the submarines. We were able to enter one of the submarines and try to imagine what it must have been like for the Swedish sailors to live under water. The next stop was Gdansk, Poland.
Gdansk was the most impressive city of the dozen stops we made. The crowds of people were significant, partly summer vacations and significantly the immigration of Ukrainians. I am quite impressed with the unwavering support for Ukraine by the president and the Polish people. I purchased a commemorative coin from a vending machine in Gdansk. All I had to do was wave my Apple watch and the coin dropped into a tray. I have never seen anything like this in the United States. During the entire 18 days of this trip, I never once had to open my leather wallet or use a credit card. All the countries we visited used wireless payment. It makes you wonder why the United States is so far behind. Sweden has a pilot underway for a CBDC (central bank digital coin). The United States is discussing it in Congress but making no progress.
The other noticeable aspect in all the countries we visited is the focus on climate. Many instances of “green”. Electric vehicles were prominent, especially in Norway where the Tesla Model 3 is not only the bestselling EV but the bestselling of all cars.
From Gdansk, we anchored off the coast of Gotland, a large Swedish island and province in the Baltic Sea. The biggest town, Visby, is distinguished by its cobblestone streets and well-preserved medieval city wall. A self-guided walking tour was quite impressive. From there, we headed to Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital. The most impressive part of the city was the ornate red-brick Uspenski Cathedral which overlooks the harbor. The Uspenski Cathedral is the largest Orthodox temple in Northern and Western Europe. The cathedral’s size dominates the view from the harbor. The central cupola of the cathedral is more than 100 feet high. All the cupolas are 22 karat gold. The cathedral was built from 700,000 bricks which were imported by sea. From Helsinki, it was a short cruise to Tallinn, Estonia.
Estonia is the poster child for the entire world when it comes to being an e-economy. The country has been using Internet voting for nearly 20 years. They have shown how e-voting can be done in a manner which is secure, private, convenient, easy, and verifiable. In addition to being an impressive old world beautiful city, they are showing the way to use the Internet for all aspects of business, government, healthcare, and much more. I will write a separate article about this. From Tallinn, we headed to Stockholm.
The flight from Stockholm to JFK on a brand-new Finnair Airbus 320N was a joy. There was a minor delay due to staffing and supply chain issues for catering and other services, but we made it to JFK nearly on time. Uber came to the rescue for a ride back to Connecticut and re-entry to reality.
I hope you enjoy the pictures from the trip. Here are the albums.