Quark Antarctica Expedition – Day 3 Still Crossing the Drake Passage

“I now belong to a higher cult of mortals for I have seen the albatross”
~ Robert Cushman Murphy

Managed to sleep in again this morning which was fantastic and opted to skip breakfast in favour of sitting on a heat-pack and catching up on some writing… that and we can’t keep eating like this!

The schedule for this morning was pretty light – we had a photography lecture, “Capturing the Experience; Photography Basics” at 0930 which I thought I would go along to for shits and giggles. Many people in the room were there with their big DSLR camera equipment and many were there with little point and shoot cameras, and there is an equal portion of people using just their smartphones… and why not?  The image quality from many modern smartphones is excellent these days and they are so easy and convenient to use – great for landscapes and portraits, but of course, there are limitations in using a smartphone for wildlife or anything that requires zoom. It’s my opinion that the one truly spectacular image that you capture from your trip is far more likely to come from fortuitous timing than having the biggest and most expensive camera equipment, so it was great to hear Acacia, our photography guide open her talk by saying that, ‘the best camera, is the one you have’. She did a great job of explaining photography basics in 45 minutes and covered technical camera operations in laymen’s terms as well as the importance of composition and lighting.

Didn’t really learn anything new, except perhaps that I have not experimented enough with the various ‘scene’ settings on the point and shoot camera I chose to bring with me in favour of lugging my DLSR and lenses around every day.  Yes, I came to a photography mecca and one that is particularly known for its rugged landscapes and unique wildlife photography opportunities and I chose NOT to bring my DSLR and hefty professional lenses… why?  Well, because I wanted to immerse myself in the experience of being here, and allow my photography to capture my experiences rather than to have the photography take over the entire trip.  These days I am carrying a small Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V point and shoot digital camera with its pretty damn fancy 700mm equivalent, 30x zoom.  It was fantastic on my last Baltic trip with all the low light conditions in the museums and palaces, and I was equally impressed with how it functioned in freezing cold conditions at Whistler over the Christmas break.  So I’m pretty sure it will be up to the task here too.

After the lecture, I thought I’d avail myself of the invitation to go visit the bridge – have a look at the Drake Passage and see where we are going on the electronic charts that have been made available for us to view there.

The Bridge has many pairs of binoculars so guests can bird watch, or look for wildlife or even ice bergs.  There are also books in here for bird identification and maps of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The arrow marked our current position while I was on the Bridge, and the other dropped pin marks the Antarctic Circle, which we hope to cross at some point during the night.

Mid-morning we had another lecture, this time with Annie, one of the onboard marine biologists, on: “Pinnipeds of the Antarctic”. Which had most of us walking around the ship asking… ‘What on earth is a pinniped?’

It turns out for those marine biology challenged amongst us that a pinniped is a seal – or a finned, feather-footed marine mammal. Marine mammals are those that derive most of their nutrition from marine environments. For the sake of simplicity, they are effectively the eared and earless seals or Phocidae and Otariidae.

If you’re not interested in learning the ins and outs of a fat seal’s arse skip down to “HERE”!

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Quark Antarctica Expedition – Day 2 Crossing the Drake Passage

 

It seems we are going to get philosophical travel quotes with our daily program.  Nice!

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing .”

     ~ Helen Keller

Being extraordinarily overtired and having been rocked to sleep by the ship, I slept in uncustomarily late – an impressive 0730. We woke up to some very beautiful and moody foggy conditions over lovely calm sea.  The ‘fog bow’ picture below was taken by a fellow passenger, Shona.  It was not long afterwards that breakfast was announced over the ship’s public address system and we all dressed and filed downstairs for a fabulous buffet breakfast.

After breakfast, we had another briefing, this time about the delicate Antarctic environment and the IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) conventions – that would govern our visit to the Antarctic region, followed by a zodiac watercraft safety briefing.  We discussed the challenges we would find with our itinerary seeing we were going so far south.  Our itinerary was one of the few that Quark offers that actually goes south far enough to cross the Antarctic Circle… this is the last trip the Ocean Diamond will do this year, and this is only the second time our Expedition Team were going to cross the Circle this season.  Most people who journey to the Antarctic (tourists like us, I should say, not researchers and scientists) will take a trip that takes in the Falklands, the South Shetland Islands and/or the South Georgia Islands and then hit the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula before heading back across the Drake… our itinerary was basically to hightail it as far south as possible to come around Adelaide Island and into Marguerite Bay (at around 68° south) before slowly winding our way back up the Antarctic Peninsula, stopping where conditions permitted.

I chose this itinerary because it was the trip that offered the most time actually *in Antarctica* compared to other trips which spent more time at sea going to the Falklands (where we had already visited last year) and the South Georgia Islands which are sub-Antarctic environments (ie: more greenery, more rock, less dramatic glaciers, icebergs and snow).  So this trip was going to be all Antarctica, all the way – and even the Expedition Staff seemed excited about going this far south of the Circle this late in the season.

As it happens, Quark is one of the founding members of the IAATO organization whose goal is to have eco-responsible tourism occurring in the Antarctic and Arctic regions. They have a mission to leave the Antarctic pristine, ensuring visitors leave no rubbish, disturb no wildlife and take no plant or rock souvenirs home. There are strict guidelines and procedures in place for how tours can be conducted in Antarctica which includes stringent biosecurity measures – they do not want tourists unwittingly introducing exotic plant, animal or bacterial material to any of the delicate Antarctic ecosystems.

One of these measures involves getting passengers to have any garments or backpacks or walking poles that will be used on the Peninsula checked by the Expedition Team for seeds, soil or plant matter. Basically, anything that was not purchased brand new for this trip that we were planning on taking with us when we left the ship on excursions (particularly outer layer garments), had to be checked by staff. The staff had set up vacuuming stations on each level of the ship and passengers were called through to have their backpacks and garments inspected and vacuumed for minute particles. Additionally, a washing station was set up on the lower decks to have walking poles, tripods and monopods scrubbed in disinfectant. The Expedition Team impressed upon us how seriously they take this responsibility, and the biosecurity checking took a number of hours as they called passengers from each deck to vacuum and check our things.

We were also informed of procedures that would occur after zodiac landing expeditions where we would have our boots hosed down and then we would be required to step through trays of disinfectant upon arrival back at the ship to stop any cross-pollination of bacteria, pollens, seeds or plant matter from site to site as we travel along the Peninsula… If it all sounds a bit full on or over the top – just do a Google image search for ‘Mt Everest rubbish dump’… climbers have been abandoning rubbish, excess food, spent oxygen cylinders and extraneous camping equipment at Mt Everest base came for about 80 years, and there is now literally tonnes of rubbish scattered about in one of the most remote environments on earth that environmentalists are working hard to bring back down for suitable disposal. I certainly appreciate the efforts being made to keep Antarctica a pristine environment, and for a change, not a single tourist here appeared to be complaining about these regulations being an inconvenience. I guess the type of person who is attracted to an Antarctic voyage with a company like Quark, already has a keen appreciation for the delicate nature of the remote environments we will be entering into and likewise, wants to see them preserved and protected.

The biosecurity measures took quite some time and while it was going on we were being called deck by deck to collect a pair of Muck boots. In another effort to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers, Quark lends their pax a pair of high quality insulated rubber boots for use during the expedition. These boots are designed to keep your feet warm and dry during zodiac excursions and it meant none of us had to go to the expense of buying expensive single-use footwear for the trip. The boots themselves are very heavy duty and finding the right size turned out to be kinda difficult – I have tiny feet and these are men’s boots; in men’s boots I would ordinarily be wearing a size 4, but there was no way I was going to fit my calf into boots that are designed for a ten-year-old boy.  So with some really thick socks, I opted for the size 5, but like many short chicks who aren’t the skinniest of minnies, they were still stupidly restrictive around the calf – like seriously, cutting off my circulation, restrictive. So I tried on a 6 but then my foot was slipping around inside the boot too much.  :/

Oh well, I was just going to have to take the size 5s, fold the boots over and hope we didn’t get into any water deeper than a few inches… I wasn’t alone on this one, plenty of women found the boots too tight around their calves tiny feet or not.  It will likely be doubly so once we put on our layers of warmth under our waterproof outer-pants. And if we thought trying them on was hard, taking them off was doubly difficult! Once your foot was securely into the boots, trying to lever them off was really hard. The easiest way to accomplish this unexpectedly difficult task is to have your roommate pull them off for you and then you can pull theirs off for them!  🙂

All of this preparation for our excursions took several hours and before we know it, it was suddenly lunchtime. Lunch was again served in the Dining Room and was quite an impressive buffet of salads and warm dishes, soups and stirfry, sandwiches and hamburgers were also on offer – they were obviously planning on totally over feeding us this trip. The sea had been getting rougher as the day wore on and there were noticeably fewer people attending lunch today than dinner last night.  Mind you – it didn’t look rough outside, just long rolling swells that didn’t seem all that agreeable to some people.

Our fearless Expedition Leader, David Wood (‘Woody’, yes of course he’s Australian) would come to call this sort of weather, ‘romantic’ or ‘dramatic’… with him there was no such things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ weather.

After lunch, we had two lectures, the first on ‘Birds of the Southern Ocean’s with the onboard ornithologist Liliana. Did I mention how incredibly qualified and overachieving the entire Expedition Team are?  There are more PhDs and professional qualifications among this lot than you see at your average academic conference – I certainly wasn’t expecting that.

It was very interesting, I learned that seabirds or sentinels are designated such due to spending most of their lives at sea and only returning to land to breed. Unfortunately populations of various seabirds have decreased by approximately 50% over the last 70 years, largely due to pollution and habitat and food source depletion. Seabirds generally have quite a long lifespan and can live up to 70 years – there is one Lazen Albatross, named Wisdom who was tagged as a chick and who has her own Facebook page so she is known to be 67 years old, and is apparently breeding again.  Incredible.

I also learned that most seabirds are ‘philopatric’ – which means they are attached to their place of origin to breed, whether it is to a certain colony or a certain island, or even as specific as a certain slope on a certain island within a certain colony. The come back to the exact same spot when they are mature enough to breed themselves. Philopatric animals are very sensitive to changes in their environments – for example, there is a colony of Atlantic Puffins that is suffering considerably from fishing depletion in their attachment area and they are unable to find fish small enough to be ingested by their chicks. The adult birds are currently okay, they can consume the larger fish, but they continue to breed in the same place and they repeatedly feed their chicks with fish that are too large for the chicks to eat.  As a result, the chicks are starving. The adult birds however, continue to return to the same rookery each year and try again to breed a chick. It’s really very sad.

Recently, as in the last week or so, an entirely new colony of Adelie penguins has been found on remote southern side of the Antarctic Peninsular where drone explorations found 1.5 million nesting pairs that were not known to inhabit the area. That is 3 million Adelie penguins and as many as 1.5million chicks that were previously unknown to researchers, and Liliana as an Antarctic ornithologist was very excited about this find because Adelies have a small clutch size and very slow chick growth rate, so it is very promising for the Adelies.  Most seabirds tend to breed in large colonies like this, as this gives the large group a better chance to survive predators, and it is easier for them to show each other where sources of food have been found.  The downside is that disease can spread through a colony very rapidly due to the close proximity.

It was at this lecture that I learned all about the Antarctic Convergence or the Polar Front, which basically affects all life in the Antarctic.  The Antarctic Convergence is where water masses up to 1000-2000m deep that circulate in the Southern Oceans meet warmer waters from ocean currents in the north and are lifted towards the surface as they approach Antarctica, bringing water to the surface that is rich in nutrients and krill. The Antarctic Convergence encircles the Antarctic continent and moves in latitude each year depending on currents and variations in water temperatures etc. However, between South America and Antarctica, there is not much room for the Front to move so it remains fairly consistent and predictable, so it makes for a good place to look for seabirds, whales and other sea mammals that survive on phytoplankton, zooplankton and krill etc.  I knew nothing about this phenomena – I feel like I’ve been living in ignorance.

There are many seabirds prevalent in these convergence regions from Great Albatross, Grey Albatross, Great Southern Royal Albatross (enormous birds with a wingspan of 3m) down to smaller petrels, cormorants and terns. Too many to list here. The most interesting thing I learned about any of these seabirds during this lecture is they tend to spend most of their life in flight – and that they actually expend more energy when being on the surface of the water than when gliding in the air over the water’s surface. It turns out that these birds (and some seals too) are capable of unihemispheric single wave sleep while sleeping – that is, they can shut down half their brain and let it go to sleep while the other half of their brain keeps the body functioning and in this case, flying, allowing them to remain flying for many more hours of the day.

Sorry if this is boring but I thought it was fascinating stuff… they were preparing us to better understand what we would likely be seeing over the coming weeks, but after this lecture, I was mostly just wishing humans were capable of unihemispheric sleep!  😀

After our bird lecture, there was an “Antarctica In the Imagination: Pre-History” with Justine our onboard historian, which I am told was very interesting, but unfortunately, I missed it and hope to catch up on this one later.

At 1800 we had our Daily Recap and Briefing in the Main Lounge which apparently will happen every day to go over the things we saw each day and to give a brief overview of what to expect the next day.

Then it was 1900 and a Welcome Cocktail party to meet Captain Oleg Klaptenko from Russia, and his staff – free champagne and canapés.  The Captain (yet another one who says his public speaking is terrible) issued an open invitation for passengers to visit the bridge whenever we wanted to.  We were then treated to a wonderful Welcome Dinner in the main Dining Room.

We had another delicious meal – this time of mushroom soup, beautifully cooked Argentinian tenderloin beef and vegetables, followed by cheese and crackers (obviously there were other choices, but this is what I chose for dinner), and of course, more complimentary wine with dinner.  I don’t know why, but I was expecting more rudimentary meals than we were used to on cruise ships, this being an expedition type voyage – but we were on a fabulous floating restaurant, with an Austrian chef named Gunter who had a wonderful habit (that I heartily endorse) of supplying an enormous wheel of blue cheese at every meal!

I did eventually remember to take some photos in the dining room… 

 

 

After dinner many of us met in The Club bar to have a casual talk with Woody on ‘Maritime Superstitions’.

Woody started off his informal chat about superstitions by explaining that superstitions are about belief – so if you believe it, it will be true (for you at least) and people will continually frame a narrative that reinforces their belief system. If this sounds like religion to you – well, yes.  It may as well be.

Anyway, he had a list as long as your arm of ‘Bad Luck’ superstitions:

  • No whistling on ships – Captains on many ships will insist on no whistling on their ships and have been known to put people ashore for continuing to whistle, it apparently brings bad weather and the association is likely with the whistling noise high winds make in the sails.
  • Woody asked us how many of us looked back to Ushuaia as we left port, to which about 80% of the room put up their hands, whereupon he informed us it was bad luck to be looking back – you must always be looking forward on a ship. It is extremely bad luck to be looking behind you from the bridge for very obvious reasons… on the bridge you need to be alert to hazards in front of you!
  • Black travel bags and luggage are also assocated with bad luck, merely because of black being the colour of death and darkness.
  • Another more modern ‘bad luck’ superstition is to never say the ‘T” word on a ship – and if you don’t know what I mean by the “T” word, it was the name of a movie made in 1997 staring Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio staring an enormous wrecked ship.
  • More unlucky words “Rabbit” and “Rat” – instead you can say “Bunny” or “Rodent with the Long Tail”. Woody had no concrete ideas on where this one is coming from but apparently, French sailors in particular, are very superstitious about rabbits and rats?!
  • Killing am albatross is bad luck – though many expeditions into the Southern Oceans found albatross a godsend when they had run out of supplies.
  • When drinking, you do not chink glasses as the ringing sound made from the glasses colliding means a sailor loses his soul. Instead sailors will salute one another by putting glasses together but ensuring that hands connect with hands instead of allowing glass to connect with glass. If glass accidentally connects with glass, sailors will often cover the glass to smother the ringing sound as soon as possible.
  • When cooking whole fish on a ship and the meat has been removed from the topside of the fish, the fish should not be turned over to gain access to the meat on the bottom of the fish. This action is believed to cause ships to capsize. Instead the meat on top should be eaten, the bones removed and the bottom meat then accessed.
  • It is apparently very bad luck to rename a ship. Shackleton bought a ship called ‘The Polaris’ and promptly renamed it ‘The Endurance’ which then turned around and sank (in sailing lore, this of course had nothing to do with the ice, but rather because the ship was renamed!). Another example of bad luck following a ship with a name change with the USS Phoenix which survived the bombing of Pearl Harbour only to later be sold to the Argentinian Navy where it was renamed. It promptly sank in 1982 (again, nothing to do with the Falklands War according to sailors, it was due to the name change!).
  • Oddly, the only good way to rename a ship was to do so on the day of a full moon…?  Apparently, the Ocean Diamond that we were currently in the middle of the Drake Passage on, has been renamed, but Woody promised us it was done correctly on a full moon… wtf?!
  • Priests on board are bad luck – they are dressed in black all the time, and of course priests are heavily associated with death and more darkness and whatnot.
  • Bananas! Who would have thought bananas onboard would be bad luck. But apparently Bananas are bad luck as they stop you catching fish. Cargoes of bananas were always run fast to get their produce to market before they went off, so Captains were often pressured by owners to sail faster and take dangerous shortcuts. In addition to that the bananas could quickly ripen and start fermenting in the hold making other stock (like slaves) sick, and they were also prone to carrying insects which then bit the crew. So that one at least kinda makes sense.

‘Good Luck’ superstitions seem somewhat thin on the ground in comparison:

  • Albatross and seabirds are considered good luck, as this meant land was hopefully nearby.
  • Dolphins were considered good luck, though why, Woody didn’t say
  • And THAT’S IT for good luck at sea.

On the balance of things… it seems going to sea is all bad and should be avoided at all costs!

Quark Antarctic Expedition – Day One Boarding in Ushuaia

As much as we were in desperate need of sleep, the bus taking us the Tierra del Fuego National Park and to see the End of the World was going to be picking us up at 0750 and we had to have our bags all packed in in reception, be checked out and had our breakfast by the time the bus arrived – which meant another stupid early start with not enough sleep.

But we got there. Dressed, packed, checked out, bags in reception, breakfasted and ready for exactly 0750 on the dot. We then pottered around town picking up passengers from other hotels before heading directly to the Tierra del Fuego train station. I wrote quite a lot about the history of the prison train that operates in the Park and how it is now used to ferry tourists around, last time I was here so instead of repeating myself… here’s a handy link for anyone who is interested in the history…   <cheeky re-used blog post>  😛

I decided to take the train in again – it was a beautiful trip last time and a beautiful day today, so why not. The train has a multilingual audio guide and we had a very noisy group of German tourists behind us last year when I was on the train, so I was hopeful of hearing more of the commentary this time. Alas, it was not to be, this time we had a bunch of inconsiderate Italians who wouldn’t shut the hell up when languages they didn’t need were coming across the PA system. Oh well… so be it. :/  Have I mentioned how much I hate tourists? Yes, I know, probably only every other post – but travel would be awesome without other tourists about.

The park was still beautiful and in spite of not being able to hear most of the commentary… again!

Okay – I can’t explain this, but when I went into my travel wallet to dig up some currency to pay for our train tickets, of all the pieces of paper and entry tickets to all the museums and attractions I have been over the last year (from Hong Kong to Moscow, from Rio to Stockholm, from Tokyo to Vancouver) for some reason, I seem to have kept my ticket for this very train trip from February last year…  😮  

After the train ride, we met back up with our guide, Mikaela and head to Lake Agamaco to the exact same spot I visited last year. This tour we walked from the lake through to the large Visitor’s Centre across the boggy peat around the lake. The walk was only about 20 mins long but we had a beautiful fresh breeze and gorgeous blue skies.

At the visitor’s centre, which was packed for some reason, we had *the* most amazing hot chocolates ever, and a quick look around the museum/gift shop before hopping back on the bus for the picturesque drive down to the boardwalk at the End of the World.

When I was here last year we arrived in this beautiful place and there was just our group of barely twelve people – today there were busloads of people here. Everyone was jostling to have their photo taken in front of the famous sign showing how far it is to Alaska, and then they were jostling for positions along the barriers to have their photos taken in front of the view. It’s still an amazingly beautiful place, but decidedly less serene than my last visit.

As a side note, I now quite strongly believe that whoever invented those Selfie Stick things should end up in Shepherd Book’s ‘Special Circle of Hell’, which as you all know is reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the cinema – and now the inventor of Selfie Sticks.  People, when you travel, stop waving those things around inconsiderately – be social and ask someone nearby to take your photo, most of the time people are only too happy to oblige. </rant>

I am kinda pinching myself a bit today; I distinctly remember being here last year and thinking, “I want to just drink this place all in, I don’t imagine I’ll ever be back here.”  The End of the World is singularly beautiful and I was so glad to be back here admiring the view again and looking at the gorgeous cloud formations, in spite of the crowds of pushy tourists.  Seriously – click on this picture, or right click and open it in a new tab or something to see it in a decent size, it is so beautiful here…

We head back into town after our walk around the End of the World and had about an hour before we had to head to our meeting point to embark the Ocean Diamond to begin our expedition. We decided to quickly find a few last minute supplies and then head back to the bar at the hotel we had stayed at last night because we knew they had reliable wifi and well… we already had the password. 🙂  The internet on the ship was a bit of a mystery – we had no idea how much it would cost or how reliable the access would be, so we figured we better say our goodbyes and send last-minute messages while we could.

So – what can you expect on a Quark Polar Expedition? We all still had absolutely no idea, but we were about to find out.

Eventually, 3:30 pm rolled around and we went down to the meeting point near the dock. We were filed onto buses and driven around the block into the commercial port area.   There waiting for us was our Quark Expeditions, Ocean Diamond expedition ship. The atmosphere was a mix of excitement and anticipation with a palpable sense of apprehension… see, no one of really knows what to expect from this trip – once we were on the ship we are entirely in the hands of the expedition staff and no one appeared to have had done this type of trip before.  Antarctica really is a once in a lifetime experience it would seem.

We were greeted by staff at the door and given our room keys and cruise cards, then escorted to our cabins to ensure our baggage had arrived. Our room is very cool – nice and larger than your average twin oceanview cabin.  It’s well appointed and tastefully decorated – complete with cool penguin photos on the walls.

After this, we had our first briefing, where we were introduced to the Expedition Crew, which is comprised of about 20 polar experts from all over the world – geologists, ornithologists, marine biologists, a historian and all sorts. I will post up all their bios on a separate page or I’ll get too distracted. They are an extremely well-qualified bunch and it was rapidly apparent that they seriously enjoyed their jobs and were full of enthusiasm for the expedition even though they have all done it many times before. We dispersed from our initial briefing to go unpack, check all our luggage items had arrived and to await a safety drill that would be happening in the early evening.

We stored all our stuff carefully in anticipation of the dreaded crossing of the Drake Passage, and explored the ship a little – it is a beautiful small ship, with the Main Lounge for lectures, a Club Bar for recreating, a Dining Room large enough to seat everyone on board at once, a small fitness centre, health and beauty Spa and a wee Gift Shop. With only seven floors, the gangways and Dining Room are on Deck 3 and our cabin on Deck 6, so I could foresee a lot of stairs in our immediate future. 🙂

Safety drill was simple and pretty much as per every other ship safety drill I had done. We drilled in the Main Lounge with our life jackets and listened carefully to instructions about our muster points and what to do in case of emergency.

We were then shepherded down to our designated lifeboats where we were waiting for the crew to do their drills before we would be given the ‘Okay’ to head back inside.

While we were standing around underneath a happily very well secured lifeboat, waiting in our lifejackets for the drill to finish and some typical traveller small talk type conversations were happening around us – and while the following conversation is remarkable, it is also increasingly commonplace if you are a travelling Australian.

It went something like this:
Polite Man: “So, where are you guys from*?”
Me: (noting his Austrailian accent, I answered more local) “We’re from Brisbane.”
Polite Man:  Really? (with a smile) “We are from just up the range, in Toowoomba.”
My Mum: (laughing) “I grew up in Toowoomba!”
Me: (also laughing) “And I was born in Toowoomba.”
Nearby Stranger, joining our conversation: “I’m from Toowoomba too!”
Me:  (grinning now) “No way!”
Polite Man: “Unbelievable!  We live in such-and-such-suburb.”
Stranger: “OMG, I grew up in SameSuburb too! And went to the SameSuburb School!”
Polite Man’s Wife (also laughing): “I used to teach at SameSuburb School!  But you are far too young for me to have taught you.”
Stranger: “My Dad used to teach at Same Suburb School too! Do you know Jeff H.?”
Polite Man & Polite Man’s wife: “Yes! We know Jeff and Kate H… so that must make you, Jessica H.! Oh my! You know, I was just talking to your father before Christmas and… etc.”

Talk about a ‘Small World’… Happens on nearly every trip – someone runs into someone they know from a past job or an old school friend or an SCA acquaintance. It was a lot of fun to see this interaction unfold, with everyone shaking their heads at the coincidence of running into someone they were so closely connected to, some13,000 kilometres from home.

*Without variation, every single conversation between travellers start like this, by the way – “So, where are you from?”  🙂

Then it was time to be returning our lifejackets to our cabins and before long we were being summoned back to the Main Lounge to be issued with our official Quark Expeditions Polar Parka. Quark have for many years now issued their passengers with a parka of their own design for passengers to for use during the voyage, and which passengers get to take home to keep. I dare say it has stemmed from a recurring problem of people turning up ill-equipped to deal with the conditions here, and then over time has resulted in a jacket that best suits the type of zodiac expeditions that passengers will be taking part in every day – it is waterproof, insulated, hooded, has a pocket for room keys and plenty of snaps, bells and whistles. Very fancy, very warm and very bright fucking yellow. I dare say I will be very grateful for it over the next couple of weeks, but it is unlikely to ever see the light of day once I get back to Australia – so I opted for a Men’s L size jacket which is long enough to keep my butt warm and will perhaps make a good ski jacket for Mr K down the track. Besides, yellow is so not my colour!  (NB:  That is Pato photobombing in the background, we will find out more about Pato later).

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. At 7:30 we were greeted personally by the Maitre D’Hotel (Alex from Ukraine) and shown to a table with a very friendly waiter named Paulo.  We were treated to a lovely five-course meal with complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks to accompany our meals.

The sea was obviously expected to get a little rougher later tonight and we found this out in the traditional manner of passenger ships – sick bags had been placed in the stairwells for any guests who unexpectedly started to feel green around the gills!  Ominously, an announcement also came over the PA system just after dinner that Dr Shannon, our onboard physician, would be in The Club after dinner handing our free seasickness medication for anyone who needed it…

All up an exhausting first day and we turned in fairly early being rocked to sleep in what turned out to be moderately rough seas overnight.  I love being at sea!

Kronborg Castle to Nyhavn

Woke up this morning, way too early, in fact, early enough to see the early morning sunrise reflected off the building outside my hotel room window.  We had asked the Forum for ideas on what to do today, and the consensus had come back… go to Kronborg Castle and make sure we add in a stop in Nyhavn to eat local food and drink local beer and watch the people go by.  So that’s exactly what we had on our agenda for the day. We took the train to Helsingor, which took about 40 minutes from Copenhagen Central Station.  The Copenhagen Pass has been great – covered all public transport costs and nearly all our musuem and attraction entry costs.

Today we had simply stunning weather to go out and visit, Kronborg Castle, also known as Hamlet’s Castle.

Kronborg is both a castle and a major stronghold in the town of Helsingor, it is considered one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe and has been UNESCO World Heritage listed since 2000.  It was also immortalised as Elsinore in Shakespeare’s epic saga, Hamlet.

The castle is located at the north-easternmost tip of the island of Zealand, which is also the narrowest point of the Oresund Sound – the body of water between modern day Denmark and Sweden, just as it was at the time the castle was built.  Here, it is barely 4 kilometers to Sweden.  The coastal fortification was of major strategic importance as it commanded one of the few outlets to the Baltic Sea. The castle is surrounded by garrisons and barrack buildings. Main entrance to the castle keep. The central courtyard and the Canon Tower. Love the old Medieval spiral staircases with their worn stone staris. The King’s apartments. See that land over there?  That’s Sweden.  Much closer than you’d expect. We were headed into ‘the King’s Tapestry Rooms’, which I have to admit I was entering with some trepidation after seeing the very very frightening, Queen’s tapestries made for Queen Margarethe II on the occasion of her 50th birthday at Christiansborg Palace.  Thankfully these were not so scary.
Tapestires, late period, possibly 17th-18th century.  There was no information on these ones, they are not the “King’s Tapestries” that we were looking for. Small apartments with primarily 17th century furnishings. Another later period tapestry… …with a chick riding a goat.  Gotta love it. The King’s bedchamber… which seems very modest compared to some of the grand bedchambers we have seen for monarchs in the last couple of weeks.  Older tapestries in the Little Gallery, though these too, are still not the “King’s Tapestries” that we were looking for. Detail:  Pelican or Pheonix?

Finally, we found “The Kings Tapestries”  Teh walls of the Little Hall are furnished with seven tapestries that were originally from a series of some forty tapestries each depicting the one hundred Danish Kings.. The walls of the Little Hall are furnished with seven tapestries originally from a series of forty tapestries portraying one hundred Danish kings. These Medieval textile masterpieces include the Tapestry depicting Oluf (reigned 1376-1387 and Tapestry depicting King Knud VI (reigned 1182-1202) and they were all commissioned in 1580.  There are another seven tapestries from this Medieval series hanging at the National Museum of Denmark, which we visited the other day – but at the time, we could not find any information on the tapestries we viewed there because the Medieval galleries were not so well labelled.  So, mystery solved!  Unfortunately, other than these fourteen surviving tapestries, the remainder have been lost.

Tapestry depicting Erik VII and Erick VIII – Erick VII was brutally murdered in a regicide at a barn at Finnerup, but his fate is scarcely mentioned in the verses at the top of the tapestry.  His son, Erick VIII, is acknowledged for having avenged his father’s murder as is proper. Tapestry of Knud VI – the king wears richly ornamented body armour with sword and shield, emphasizing his royal regalia.  He bears a breastplate with the imperial eagle referring to his opposition to the then GeEmperorperor.   Tapestry depciting Abel – a quiet and pleasant scene with a group of hunters (both mounted and on foot).  The setting sharply contrasts wit hthe ferocious acts spelled out in the verses:  “For kingship I did crave, thus my brother I sent to the grave”.   The symbolism of the falcon with its claws on a smaller bird, while a poisonous snake slips through the shrubbery is a classical theme of good fighting evil.  In this case, the evil slips away leaving the brother in the grips of his king, err the smaller bird in the grips of the falcon.  Eventually Abel was killed himself in an uprising only two years after this ruthless assassination. Tapestry of Oluf – son of Norwegian King Haakon VI and Margrete (daughter of Danish King Valdemar II), Oluf was considered a king by name but not by deed.  Oluf died before he came of age and his mother Margrete was left to defend the kingdom from Sweden and eventually unite her three Kingdoms. Tapestry of Erick VI – wearing a crown and wearing an outlandish non-period costume, it is supposed to signify that he was king ‘in distant times’.  He draws the viewer’s attention to the animal life to the left of the king, a wolf lurks (the incarnation of evil) sneaking up on its unsuspecting prey.  All is reference to his ill-fated destiny, he was assassinated by the aforementioned Abel, who envied his crown.   The wolf preying on the bird that is preying on the eel. Tapestry of Christoffer II – surrounded by noblemen’s pursuits of the hunt and the tournament, Christoffer is being mocked for his lack of jousting and warfare abilities.. “For the Kingdom’s dignity little cared, much land gave away with others shared, against the subjects I was also tough, so from my throne they pushed me off!” Tapestry depicting Valdemar II “the Victorious” – clad in shining armour, the king caries his crown as the symbol of his royalty and brandishing a sword ready for combat.  The verses give a full account of his many successful war campaigns, and it seems at least one king has been remembered kindly by history! These tapestries are fascinating – I wish there had been decent information on the other seven that we saw at the National Museum.As I was saying earlier, Kronborg is also famous as “Elsinore,” the setting of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Hamlet (though how a guy born in Stratford upon Avon with no formal/noble education knew anything about Danish history which is effectively the middle of nowhere to an Englishman from Stratford, is beyond me!?!)   Anyway, Hamlet was performed to mark the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1816, complete with a cast of soldiers from the castle garrison. The stage was in the telegraph tower in the southwest corner of the castle. The play has been repeatedly performed in the courtyard by such famous actors as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Christopher Plummer, Derek Jacobi, David Tennant, Jude Law, and of course my own personal hero, Sir Kenneth Branagh.

 

We went back down to the courtyard to find the chapel which is located on the ground floor in the south wing, having been consecrated in 1582.  In 1785 the castle was fitted out as an army barracks, and the chapel was temporarily repurposed as a fencing hall and gymnasium with all the furniture thankfully stored away.  In the mid-1800s, the chapel was restored and reinaugurated in 1843. The nave of the Kronborg Chapel. Just gorgeous medieval timberwork, and gilded leather walls.

Next, we ventured below the castle to the veritable rabbit warren that is the storage cellars of Krongborg.  Here, according to Arthurian myth, a Danish King known as Holger the Dane was taken to Avalon by Morgan le Fay.  Holger is said to have returned to rescue France from danger before traveling to Kronborg, where now he sleeps until he is needed to save his homeland.

 

Worn steps leading down the the dark cold cellars.
A statue of the sleeping Danish King, Holger, has been placed here, deep in the cellars of the castle… ever vigilant for his homeland.  On a less lyrical note – this statue was the most difficult thing to photograph ever!  They have him displayed in a pitch black cavern with lighting from several sides that slowly oscillates in brightness from very dim to overly bright.  I can think of no other reason for doing so, other than to make him hard to photograph!  Anyway, about twelve pics later and job done. The cellars penetrated even further under the castle than the chambers containing Holger’s sleeping statue to large storage areas.

We eventually popped back out into the bright sunlight to the battlements… with cannon pointing out over the Sound to… Sweden!
Interestingly, every ship that sailed through the Sound had to pay a toll.  These tolls were effectively a tax paid to the King of Denmark, calculated based on the value of the ship’s cargo.  The captain of any ship passing the sound had to estimate the value of his cargo and pay the taxes accordingly – to prevent captains from understating the value of their cargo and thereby reduce the toll payable, the King had the right to buy any cargo for the price stated by a ship’s captain… thus very cleverly dissuading the captains from undervaluing their cargo.  The Sound toll was only abolished in 1857. ALL our canon are for you, Sweden! Back into the main courtyard to access the Cannon Tower for views over the castle.  Another winding Medieval staircase. The views are amazing, you can see for miles, well at least 2.3 of them – to Sweden! And back to the town of Helsingor.

A quick turn around the castle’s gift shops and we were off to find some lunch at the nearby Maritime Museum.  The Maritime Museum may be one of the most unique buildings that I have ever encountered – it is built underground in what was a disused dry dock.  You could easily walk past it and not notice it at all, were it not for the signage.

Cafe in the base of the dry dock.

Lunch of fish cakes, seaweed salad, home made tartare and pumpernickel bread. The museum has mostly late period maritime exhibits. Cafe courtyard. Auditorium in the Maritime Museum.   After a quick jaunt through the Maritime Musuem, we head back into the city to partake of some typical ‘postcard’ Copenhagen. The weather was so lovely I took several photos and could not pick my favourite – so I have included a bunch here. Ann Weiwei, famous Beijing artist who is usually heavily represented at the Asia Pacific Triennial, has done a large installation work at the moment consisting of 3,500 salvaged life jackets that were used by refugees.  They have been placed in the window frames of the famous art museum, the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, for World Refugee Day.

Just beautiful!  We stopped for a waffle, and then whiled away the afternoon over beers and ciders.

Roskilde Vikingskibs Museet and Roskilde Cathedral

This morning Copenhagen turned on another delightful summer’s day – overcast and dreary, with the promise of patchy light rain all day.  So we jumped on a train for about 30 minutes, and head out of the city center to Roskilde to see the Vikingskibsmuseet.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde is Denmarks’ national museum for ships, boat building and seafaring in the prehistoric and Medieval periods.  The museum centers around a permanent exhibition of five extant Viking ships that were excavated not far from the museum site in the 1960s, and they conduct research and education in the fields of maritime archaeology.

The Viking Ship Museum is an active experimental archaeology research centre, with over thirty years experience in building and sailing, reconstructions of archaeological ship finds. It is a multi-disciplinary working environment with a strong focus on research and education, where experts from many different fields collaborate in several different workshops towards reconstructions.

ROPE MAKING WORKSHOP
The first, most noticeable, aspect of the rope makers workshop is the smell – it has a distinctively strong woods/organic aroma from the various rope making materials.  Flax hanging to dry. FInished rope lengths that will be used in Viking ship reconstructions. Rope making equipment. Ropes were made of many differing materials, from bull rushes and flax to elk and seal hides.  Most ropes were tarred to retard fungus and bacteria and to protect from weather and deterioration. The elk and seal hide ropes had a natural waxy waterproof texture.

SHIPBUILDING WORKSHOP
A little further into the complex is a ship building workshop where the master ship builders are constantly working on recreating and perfecting another Viking ship.  Clamps to hold timbers during construction.
The workshop may look reasonably modern with modern lighting in a modern building, but all the tools used are replicas of period tools that would have been used during the Viking age to build ships. Larger reconstructions are done in the outside part of the shipyard. 

 

TIMBER YARD
Nearby is a timber yard, where timbers are being dried cut into planks using traditional wedging techniques.  Large sections of tree are laying about earmarked for particular use in upcoming reconstruction projects.

These diagrams demonstration how a single ship was often made using many differing timbers, each chosen for their particular characteristics, whether that is for strength, flexibility, durability or structure.

Different sections of these tree species have varying natural tensile properties, and the traditional Viking shipbuilders utilized these characteristics to good effect – choosing certain timber for certain ship parts, and certain sections from certain trees for their inherent natural properties that were most suitable for those parts.

BLACKSMITH WORKSHOP
Next, we saw the blacksmithy.  There was not supposed to be anyone working the smithy today, but happily, there was a guy there working the bellows and bashing away at some piece of iron while we were there, with a range of various period items made of iron in his forge.

Nails.  While it must be boring for the smith to make so many nails, they were integral to the ship building process.

SAILMAKING
Flax has been used to produce textiles in Scandinavia since the Iron Age.  Transforming the plant into fiber that can be spun, and then woven, is quite a long and complex process though.  Sails on the reproduction ships have so far been made of linen and wool, which archeological evidence also demonstrates were used for sailmaking, but no flax sails have been made at the Roskilde shipyard yet.  Sails are created of up to five long panels which are sewn together and then impregnated with fats, oils, tar or pitch to help prevent rot and to make them more windproof.

The Sea Stallion of Glendalough is the largest reconstruction ship made at the shipyard to date.  In the summer of 2007 and 2008, the Sea Stallion from Glendalough sailed from Roskilde to Dublin and back.  The Sea Stallion is a reconstruction of the 30 meter long warship, Skuldelev 2, which was originally built in Ireland in 1042 and which is on display in the Viking Ship Museum hall.   It traversed the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the English Channel.  During the voyage, the ship passed through the very same landscapes which were part of Viking history 1000 years ago. (Photos by Werner Karrasch – photographer at the Viking Ship Museum). The summer 2007-2008 voyage:The Sea Stallion today.

There are plenty of other replica ships about based on the other Skuldelev ships that are in the museum.

Replica of a 3-sail smack 
This replica was built by Tom Nicolajsen and his students in 1995 as a practice vessel for the students.  The original smack was built of pin on oak in Assens for fishing in the southern Little Belt for eel, and cod and sometimes porpoises.  The smack is rigged with tow or three spritsails on removalbe masts and is typical of south and west Funen.
Oars: 4
Length:   6.3m  Breadth:  2.2m  Draught:  0.8m
Total sail area:  25 sq m
Crew: 2 men
Max speed:  at sail 6 knots, at oars, 3 knots.

Attamannafar from the Faroe Islands (centre in the picture)
Built by Niclas i Koltri of pine construction.  The turbulent and unforeseeable weather and strong currents between the islands required especially seaworthy boats that were also light enough to be hauled up onto the beach as required.  The Attammanafar carries a lug mainsail and a small mizzen mast, both of which are easy to rig down and store in the bottom of the boat.  The oars are the main source of propulsion in all kinds of weather.
Oars: 8
Length 7.8m   Breadth 1.9m   Draught:  0.3m
Sail area: 10sqm
Crew: 9 men
Max speed:  sail 6 knots, oars: 5 knots.  (pictured centre)

Oselver Faering, Norway, 1970.
Built of pine by Einar Killveit, at Hardanger in Norway.  The very broad planking, only three strakes in each side, distinguishes this type of boat.  Thanks to its particularly good rowing characteristics, it was used for traveling along the Norwegian skerries.  It was also used as a ‘trader’ for transporting light cargo of farm produce and made an ideal fishing boat.
Oars: 4
Length: 5.5m   Breadth:  1.55m  Draught:  0.2m
Crew: 2-3 men
Max speed:  5 knots.

There are many other replica boats around also, most of which are based on the Skuldelev finds in the museum proper.

On the lawn outside the Viking Ship Museum is a recreation of a 9th century labyrinth that was found close to the ruins of the monastic settlement of Glendalough in Ireland.  The site of Glendalough was an important place of pilgrimage for more than 1500 years.  The labyrinth and the movement through its paths are often used as a form of meditation – it is apparently considered very bad luck to step through and cheat your way out! Some other Viking games were also set out for visitors to try:

Thor’s Hammer Throw:
Thor, the God of War and Thunder, used his hammer Mjolner in the battle against the giants. The hammer was the perfect weapon; always returning to Thor’s hand once it hit its target.  Vikings didn’t actually use hammers as a combat weapon – they preferred swords, spears, axes and bows/arrows, but the myth about Thor and his hammer endures.

The aim of the Hammer Throw Game is to ‘hit a giant’.  The statues (giants) are positioned on the ground at different distances, each player gets only three throws of a hammer attached to a rope, with a view to knocking over the giants.  Whoever knocks over the most giants wins.  Can be played with many giants at different distances.
The ‘giants’ are around 45-60cm tall and have different weights and varying degrees of ugly.

Casting the Mooring Line
Ships and seamanship were important aspects of Viking life.  Good seamanship required robustness, nimble fingers and precision.  Ability to gauge distances and good throwing technique were essential for casting mooring lines for ships.

The aim of Casting the Mooring Line is to hit the targets with the stone.  Six stanchions (timber pegs) are sunk into the ground at varying distances apart, and mark the mooring posts you must hit.  The thrower stands behind a marked point and gets three throws with a stone attached to a rope.  Only the stone end should be thrown, while the other end of the rope (the ship end) must stay with the thrower (being held under the throwers foot, or pegged down).  The best throws hit the space in between the stanchions on the course.   Each thrower gets four throws for maximum points.

1pt         3pts       5pts      3pts        1pt
O————-O———O—–O———O————-O

The Troll’s Head
There are many different versions of tug-of-war.  In a saga from the Middle Ages, Hasti has a tug-of-war competition against Hord.  The contest takes place over a fire and the two contestants pull opposite ends of a skin.  In ‘The Troll’s Head’ game, the aim is to force your opponent to step into the troll’s ferocious mouth.

A circle of rope or painted cloth is laid on the ground and forms the ‘troll’s head’.  The players hold hands and form a circle around the troll’s head (remove any finger rings that might get in the way).  Now you must run, pull and push to try and get others into/onto the troll’s head without losing your grip on one another.  Those who step into the troll’s head are out of the game. The last man standing is the winner.

Also popular is a traditional coits game with a cross bar target and rope coits of varying ropes (which have different weights).
After playing around on the green for a while, it was time to go sailing on a historically accurate Viking ship that had been built by hand, using traditional techniques and tools, right here in the Roskilde Viking shipyard.

And we have perfect Viking weather for such things – grey, dismal, and constant light drizzly rain.
Getting instructions on the various oar commands we needed to use. Captain never said, “Row ya bastards!”… not even once!  🙂  He just encouraged people to listen for the slap of the oars in the water and to try and get them in time.  Have to admit we were pretty terrible rowers but we managed to manouevre our craft into the open harbour. From here the sail was hoisted and we moved along with relative ease. Ballast in the bottom of the boat. Nearly getting knocked in the head as we tacked.After our bracing sail around the Roskilde harbour, we went over the Vikingskib Museet to see the remnants of some extant Viking ships that had been found in the Roskilde Fjord, and to hopefully warm up!

The Viking Age (arguably) covers approximately from 750 to 1100AD and was characterized by large-scale trading and raiding expeditions, national unification, some urbanization and a wide scale conversion to Christianity.  Around the year 1000, the power of the Danish realm was concentrated in Roskilde, as the new monarchical and ecclesiastical capital.  The town was unfortified but naturally protected at the base of Roskilde Fjord.  The town center was situated on a hilltop overlooking a wide landing place where ships could lay at anchor.

The towns primary protection from invaders relied on a system of signal fires (beacons) placed strategically down the fjord from the mouth of the fjord at Kattegat into Isefjord.  Beacons would have been set on high ground with good visibility to the next beacon.  The town’s secondary defense consisted of unseen sunken ships, piles of stone, driven posts and floating palisades near the island of Kolholm which allowed the three sailing channels to be blocked off when under attack.  Five sunk ships have been recovered from the Peberrenden channel that was used for this purposes.  They have been labeled Skuldelev 1 through to 5.  Skuldelev 1, 3 and 5 were filled with stones and scuttled between 1060 and 1070.  A few years later the barriers had partially disintegrated and two more ships Skuldelev 2 and 4 were also scuttled.  The channel was still navigable but required local knowledge.

The town’s secondary defense consisted of unseen sunken ships, piles of stone, driven posts and floating palisades near the island of Kolholm which allowed the three sailing channels to be blocked off when under attack.  Five sunk ships have been recovered from the Peberrenden channel that was used for this purposes.  They have been labeled Skuldelev 1 through to 5.  Skuldelev 1, 3 and 5 were filled with stones and scuttled between 1060 and 1070.  A few years later the barriers had partially disintegrated and two more ships Skuldelev 2 and 4 were also scuttled.  The channel was still navigable but required local knowledge.

The ships were initially investigated underwater in the 1950s and not long after a cofferdam barrier was built in 1962 allowing the area to be drained and hundreds of thousands of ship parts to be excavated.  There followed the worlds biggest jigsaw puzzle that took 25 years to complete, as the five Skuldelev collections of different ships, used for fishing, trading, defense, and warfare,  were painstakingly pieced back together.

They provide a unique perspective on Viking Age maritime culture; shipbuilding, seamanship and the ability to journey far from their homes.

Coastal Trader ship – small elegant trading and transport vessel, of the byrding type.  Made of Danish oak, it has decks of loose plans and an open hold for about 4 tons of cargo.  The ship would have been crewed by 5-8 men.

Wreck 5 is a small warship possibly of the snekke type.  Built of Danish oak, ash and pine party by reusing timber from other ships.  With 13 pairs of oars, and about 30 warriors, it is one of the smallest longships in a war fleet.  Along the sheerstrake are remnants of a shield rack.

The Longship was an ocean going warship, possibly of the skeid type.  With a crew of 65-70 warriors, it must have been the ship of a magnate, a vessel like those whose praises were sung in ancient skaldic verse and sagas.  The ship was built of oak, and tree-ring analysis of the timber revels the ship was built in the Dublin area around 1042.  Vikings had settled Ireland as early as 800AD and established several fortified bases along the Irish coast.  The long narrow shape of the ship allowed for great speed and the manning of 60 oars would have allowed the ship to keep moving even without wind.  The Sea Stallion from Glendalough is a reconstruction of this ship, and under sail, it has a top speed of 12 knots.

Small Fishing vessel – this ship is a combined rowing and sailing vessel probably built for fishing or seal hunting.  It was built of pine planks near Sognefjord in Norway.  Later an extra plank was added to increase the height of the side in order to transport more efficiently cargoes of livestock, trading goods or people.  During the alterations, the rowlocks were removed and the number of oars reduced.  The conversion suggests that the ship was probably used more for transport and less fishing, sailing with a smaller crew.

After the museum we stopped for a bite to eat at the shipyard’s cafe – New Nordic Viking Food as it was touted on the menu, so we thought we’d give it a crack.  A flatbread plate with a beer, some red wine and some mead… it was so good!
Beer-braised pork with crunchy crackling on flat bread with cabbage, grated carrot, pickled red onion, watercress and sea buckthorn salad with herbed crime fraiche dressing.

After lunch, we walked into Roskilde to see the famous Roskilde Cathedral.  Roskilde Cathedral is the first gothic cathedral to be built of brick – its success encouraged the brick gothic style throughout Northern Europe.  Originally constructed during the 12th to 13th centuries, the cathedral has many gothic and romanesque architectural features.  It was Zealand’s only cathedral until the early 20th century.

It’s beautiful twin spires dominate the skyline of the city of Roskilde. Towards the altar and the nave of the church. Pulpit, c.1610 AD. Gorgeous carved timber pews worn with age. Organ. Stalls leading towards the altar. I have no idea what this guy with the club is doing to that baby… but it could be a representation of the Slaughter of the Innocents. The magnificent altarpiece, c.1555 AD, was a gift from Christian IV of Denmark. The cathedral has been the primary burial site for Danish monarchs since the 15th century – to accommodate an increasing number of royals over the centuries, it has been extended and altered to contain a considerable number of burial chapels. Burial tomb of Margarethe I of Denmark. The crypt directly under the altar. Looking down on the crypts behind the altar from the choir balconies. Monument of Frederick II, in the Chapel of the Magi. Amusing tourist bus directly outside the cathedral!
Roskilde pedestrian shopping street – it’s a lovely quiet part of the city.  Roskilde Cathedral attracts barely 125,000 visitors each year and as such there is relatively little tourism hustle and bustle here, which makes a nice change from the Copenhagen CBD. Interesting juxtaposition of street art and period building techniques.After Roskilde, we head back to Copenhagen to rest our feets before finding somewhere funky and local to have dinner… Sadly, in our quest to avoid another Irish pub, (this area is just littered with them) we ended up at a Hard Rock Cafe !  😛