A Once In A Lifetime Journey

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A Once In A Lifetime Journey

The National Geographic called the Norwegian Fjord cruise “The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage”. We began it in Kirkenes (I wrote about it last week) and ended in Bergen, six days later. Some travelers take the cruise in the opposite direction or both ways. There are a total 34 stops in small places along the way. Originally, this route was a local mail and passenger route in smaller and less comfortable ships. But even now some people just move from one place to the next. I met a young Russian couple with a child from Murmansk on the ship, who came on board with their own car and were planning to get off somewhere and slowly drive back while staying overnight in small fisherman villages. Our ship had 531 passengers being served by 80 crew members. Both travelers and service people were from all over Europe. We heard different languages spoken, but the main communication was in English. The majority of the passengers were young at heart, and some were young in age – who came on the trip together with their small children.

The journey was in the Norwegian Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean. We signed up for three excursions, which were quite costly. One of the excursions we decided not to go on was to visit the “Sea Eagle Safari”, which was $200.00 per person. On some of the stops we just ventured out on our own, like a place called Hammerfest, a town established in 1789 and is known as northernmost town in the world.

The area we passed on the way used to be mostly known for its fishing production, but today the area is more known for tourism, with the homes of fisherman now functioning as B&Bs. One of the islands with the population of only 1,500 people has 5 theaters. The area is so picturesque that we talked about coming back and staying overnight in one of those places and exploring islands by car on our own. The whole experience of being on the ship was very pleasurable. Every day we were surrounded on both sides with the ever-changing Fjords, with a few homes here and there painted in red and white along the shores. It felt as the ship was just gliding past them. Our small cabin was very comfortable and the food on the ship’s restaurant was superb. We rested, read, photographed and while writing my stories, I thought about how much you might enjoy this journey, as well. Feel free to call me for advice.

P.S. As it is typical in a situation like this, I had difficulty choosing four images out of close to three thousand images that I photographed along the way.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

When Was The Last Time You Visited Kirkenes?

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When Was The Last Time
You Visited Kirkenes?

Our trip to the Norwegian Fijord started in Kirkenes, where we flew in from Oslo. It is located in the Northern part of Norway, only fifteen miles from the Russian Border. What most surprised us when we got there were the signs written in Russian. Kirkenes is located close to Murmansk and there is a visa-free zone between Russia and Norway where people can visit each other. When we lived in Riga, Latvia was part of the former Soviet Union. We were taught in the Russian language in school and learned that Murmansk was a place where political prisoners were sent to camps. If we had more time in Kirkenes, we would take a bus ride to see Murmansk. But we came here just for a day.

The next morning, we boarded the ship belonging to the Hurtigruten Cruise Line, to begin our journey from Kirkenes to Bergen along the Norwegian Fjords. The same company can take you on Arctic and Antarctic Expeditions. In Wikipedia I found out that “Geologically, a fjord or fiord in English is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created by glacial erosion.” (I also learned that as a first name, Fjord translates to a very idealistic and generous person, with a strong desire to uplift humanity leading to the expression to serve others). Until 1926, Kirkenes was jointly occupied by Norway and Russia when the borders among Russia, Finland and Norway were set. It was the place that was most bombed by the Russians during World War Two. One of the local tourist attractions is a visit to the vast underground bunker built during World War Two, which provided shelters to the town’s residents.

Today the town is a tourist destination all year round, for those who want to take a cruise, see The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), or take a dog led sled drive in the winter, when you can visit the Kirkenes Snowhotel, the coolest hotel in the world. We stayed at the Thon Hotel Kirkenes, located on the bank of the river with very calming water and the view of the entrance into the Fjord. The food in town was very good. In our hotel’s restaurant there were two specials: jumbo crab, which is five times bigger than the one you can get in San Francisco (one of the local attractions is the “Jumbo Crab Safari” where you can catch your own crab monster) and reindeer meat. Reindeer are owned and herded by the local Sami people. Since I did not eat either of those local specialties, my choice was the Norwegian salmon, which for obvious reasons was much fresher and tastier than the ones we buy at Costco. In the next few weeks you will be able to read more stories about our journeys through Norway.

P.S. We were in Kirkenes during the “white nights”. The sunset started at about 8pm, and after 10pm it was still light out, as you can see from the gorgeous sunset I photographed through our hotel window. When I woke up at about 3am, the sky was already lit and covered with clouds. In the morning, the drizzling rain made the scenery look even more dramatic. Soon we bordered our ship, which you can see approaching Kirkenes. Five beautiful panoramic images, which I am sharing with you, were a good start for our journey.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Can We Live Without Our Smartphones?

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Can We Live Without Our Smartphones?

My story began three days before our trip to Berlin, which I wrote about last week. My wife’s cell phone was giving her problems, and she was procrastinating replacing it. I decided to get her one, as one of her presents for our 50th wedding anniversary. There was a new model of the Samsung 8 at the Verizon store that, according to the sales person, has a good camera. I also found out that I had only two more payments before I can replace my mobile phone, for the new iPhone 8, which is due to come out in September anyway. But my G4LG has everything I need, so why to replace it?

After we arrived in Berlin and I received a phone call in the middle of the night from San Francisco (there is a nine hour time difference), I decided to turn my phone off. Since my phone also served as my watch, I had no idea what time it was. I recalled the good old days before cell phones and emails. We would go away for three weeks and the only communication with the office was with landline phones. To get somewhere we had old-fashioned paper maps. At that time, I also wore a wristwatch. The thought crossed my mind – would it be possible to function like this now? The next day I suddenly felt that my phone, which I was carrying in my pocket, was unusually warm, and I could not turn it on or off. In the middle of the night, I thought to remove and return the battery, and the phone came to life, and I went back to sleep feeling relieved and proud of my accomplishment. The next morning however, it was dead again. My brother-in-law who lives in Berlin, was able to find a local repair shop for all types of mobile phones in the center of the city. After keeping my phone there for testing for the whole day, I was told that the problem is in the software. It can be reloaded but all the stored data would be lost. I decided to wait until we return to the States to find out how for the next three weeks I would do, phone free. Fortunately, I had my mini-iPad with me, where I could check and send emails, and my wife had her new phone.

Having gone three weeks without my smartphone, I came to a conclusion and have a recommendation. When you go on a trip, copy and duplicate everything. In the future, I plan to carry an extra phone or iPad or tablet with duplicate information; after all, phones can be lost, stolen, get damaged or drowned. And what if someone does not have those options? It means that you will not be able to make a call, text, use your calendar, GPS, access your contacts, know when are people’s birthdays and anniversaries, have a watch, alarm clock, search online, take photos and shoot videos, make photocopies, scan, access a dictionary, take or access your notes, look up books and other things on Amazon, access information about your credit cards and finances, have a copy of your driver’s license, order Uber/Lyft or car-sharing, play games, access entertainment, newspapers, social media, use a calculator, a flashlight, a step measure, make a parking meter payment (in Berlin this is the only way), use a medication reminder and a hotel door opener. I am sure you will come with other needs.

Please let me know.

P.S. Through the years I’ve encountered people with different phone situations. Do you remember flip phones? In Newport, Oregon I photographed a diver retrieving fallen phones from sea lions spectators. On a recent trip to Oslo, I noticed five Italians looking at five cell phones to find the entrance into the Fort which had two entrances/exits. On Market Street, a music lover was recording a street performer.

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Do Not Keep Me As A Secret!
Smile And Please SHARE It With A Friend!

Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature