Helsingborg, Sweden is a very nice
town. In actuality, it is only 13 nautical miles from Copenhagen,
so the trip from one to the other is relatively short. My day
began at 4AM. Yes, for the first time in decades, I actually got
up before the sun. The reason? The island of Hven (now just
In 1576, the astronomer Tycho Brahe was given the island of Hven to
build Uraniborg Observatory. This was, and continues to be, the
single largest capital outlay for a scientific project, in terms of
Gross Domestic Product. Since we were passing it, and
since I talk about it in class, I decided to wake up and see it.
First, I went to the buffet (Conveniently open 24/7) and got myself a
cup of coffee. Then I stood at the rail in the pre-dawn glow and
watched as we approached.
This is Ven. It is not really all that impressive. In fact,
the story goes that Denmark and Sweden have fought over this island for
decades. Each wants the other to claim it! The history is
what makes it interesting. Tycho Brahe had convinced King
Christian IV of Denmark (which at the time controlled most of
Scandinavia) to support the building of the observatory/science
lab. Hven was chosen, and the observatory built. However,
Uraniborg soon proved inadequate to Tycho's needs and he built
Stjerneborg Observatory right next to Uraniborg. Because
Stjerneborg was underground, it was far more stable and better for the
precise observations Tycho wanted to make. When the king removed
his support, Tycho could no longer afford to operate the observatories
and he abandoned them. Both were destroyed shortly after Tycho's
I was hoping to get pictures of Stjerneborg, which has been restored,
but it was obscured by the trees that have grown nearby.
It should be in the distance, to the left of the picture, beyond the
So, I got some pictures of an island with no really distinctive marks,
so I could show my students the island where Tycho Brahe set up the
first scientific research institute since the Library at
Alexandria. What to do now?
First, how about looking around at the ship with nobody around?
This is the port side of the ship, looking aft. The red light you
see let folks know that this is the port side.
Starboard has green. The idea being that when you see a set of
lights, you can tell whether the ship is heading towards you, or away
from you... Aircraft use the same thing.
I looked around a bit, then noticed something odd. The quality of
the light was changing.
Yep, the sun was beginning to rise. This is the first sunrise I
had witnessed in probably two decades. It was pretty amazing.
What amazed me was the speed at which it happened. From the time
I noticed the first sliver of sun peeking over the horizon, to the time
it was fully up took just over five minutes. Pretty impressive.
Eventually I finished my coffee, stopped glorying in the Wonders Of
Nature and went back to the room. Sheila woke up and we got ready
to go ashore.
Here I am, standing in front of the island of Ven. (It is the slightly
denser bit of haze in the background.)
Arriving at Helsingborg was a bit different from the other ports.
Helsingborg is not a deep-water port, so the ship has to anchor
offshore and take you into port by tender.
When you need to abandon ship, you are taken off in a lifeboat.
When you go into port in a non-emergency situation, you go in a
tender. Amazingly, both are the same boat. They
lowered the lifeboats, brought them around to a port in the lower part
of the bow, and began ferrying passengers ashore.
This is our tender. We are now ashore.
The first thing we encountered was the tourist information desk,
specially set up for tourists like up. It was staffed by an
attractive young woman in traditional costume, and she cheerfully
presented us with a map to the area with the shopping and historic
At the other end of the plaza there was a statue. It was a
representation of the final scene of the play "Hamlet". I became
part of the audience.
I thought it was kind of funny that the tourist information lady
pointed out on the map where the Keep was located. The keep
pretty much dominates the town, looking down on it from the hill
above. This is the view of the Keep from town:
To get there, you have to walk down a lovely shopping street. We
were there before the shops opened, so it had a fewer people than later
in the day.
We walked up to the Keep, which was an impressive
structure. Here we pause by the fountain on the stairs to
And a bit further up, the Keep itself:
It is a 14th-century structure, officially named Karnen Tower (there
should be an umlaut over the "a", but my webpage editor can't do that).
Near the top of the stairs Sheila turned to take a picture of the way
The view from the top of the battlements, at the base of the keep is
impressive. Our ship is in the background.
And the view of the Keep from this point.
It is always helpful when the locals have signposts to help direct you
to your destination. It is even more helpful if you know the
And the Keep, as viewed from here:
Flags from Scandinavia, near the harbor entrance.
So, we went back down the shopping street and returned to the ship.
The ride back was rather dramatic...
Actually, the ride wasn't that bad, but I thought the picture was
cool. The pitching of the tender had thrown spray onto our
Once we were back on board, we took a moment to appreciate the ample
seating provided for us by Princess Cruises.
And once again, I take a moment to look at the water.
Those of you how know us are asking yourselves "So, you guys walked
down a shopping street in a foreign country. What did you buy?"
Best. Bread. Ever.
And how did we enjoy this?
Clockwise from left:
Bread and Butter from Sweden
Bread from Sweden with Gouda cheese from the Netherlands and Reindeer
Salami from Norway
Just bread from Sweden
Weinerbrod from the same shop in Sweden
And for dessert:
About this time we turned on the TV and learned that London had been
the victim of a terrorist attack. Four bombs had gone off, three
in the tube and one on a bus. It was a dark moment, and put a
shadow over the remainder of the trip.
After a rest, it was time to dress up for dinner. It was a formal
night again, which meant I had to put on a tie and coat for a second
time in a week. But this time, we had something extra special in
Yep, that's the Dom Perignon that Sheila ordered for
us. These two guys are our waiters, Adrian, on the
left, and Lagunas, with the bottle. They were a couple of
cut-ups. Sheila was trying to get a photo of Lagunas with the
bottle and Adrian jumped in, saying "You have to have me in the
Here, Lagunas pours the Champagne.
I strike a pose:
...And I drink...
So, how is Dom Perignon? Is it worth the expense? The short
answer is "yes." The long answer is "Hell, yes." I drink
wine from time to time, and sparkling wines occasionally, so I do not
have lots of experience with things like champagne. However, I
could tell instantly that this was head and shoulders above anything
else I had ever had. Amazingly smooth and drinkable it would be
remarkably easy to finish off a bottle of this stuff. Which is
exactly what we did.
Dom Perignon. Buy a bottle and share it with somebody special.
So what did we have to go along with the wonderful champagne?
Sheila had Pheasant.
I had Halibut.
Both were quite tasty. And for dessert, "Singing mouses",
according to Adrian.
Mmmmmm. Chocolate mousse.
All in all, a superb dinner, followed by another beautiful sunset
from the deck.
The following day was another "at sea" day, with no obligations.
So we had breakfast,
(we did not win)
...Walked around the ship...
And packed up all our belongings in preparation for our return to
We also tried to use the computers on the ship to email friends
and family. Sadly, internet access is unpredictable and amazingly
slow from onboard a ship, and they still charge you a huge amount per
minute, regardless of whether or not you actually get the page to fully
load... We did manage to get a message to a couple of people, but
that was it.
We disembarked at 9AM the next morning, returning to Southampton and