Northern Europe Trip Page... (including photos)
Chris' Previous Journal
August 30, 2010, Trondheim, Norway Happy Birthday today to John! What a fabulous way to spend a birthday (and I get to join in the fun)!
We anchored off the shore of Trondheim around 8:30am and they began the disembarkation process at 9am.
This is our last port where we have to use the ship's tenders. Although the staff is very efficient and we never have to wait long, we prefer to be able to walk directly off the ship. Fortunately, it was a short ride to the pier.
We headed toward the city centre - about 10 minutes from the pier. The first part of the walk isn't too captivating, as there is a lot of construction taking place.
Trondheim is a very fertile city (more on that later).
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology is here - a major center of education for both technical and medical research. The enrollment is approximately 25,000 students.
Trondheim was established in 997 as a market place. It was the capital of Norway until 1217. Over the many years, Trondheim has experienced major fires. In 1651, 90% of the city was destroyed and in 1681, the Horneman Fire, led to the reconstruction of the city.
Nazi Germany occupied Trondheim during World War II from 1940 to 1945.
The old dry dock and ship buildings, in the mid to late 1990's, were renovated or torn down with high-rise condominiums in their place. It's very attractive, and I'm sure, a major improvement.
We strolled through the area of Old Town (Bakklandet), with its wooden houses painted in bright colors, quaint cafes, pubs and shops, and then headed up the hill to the Kristiansten Fortress. It's quite a climb, but well worth it, as the views of the city and surrounding area were spectacular.
The official resident for the Royals in Trondheim is Stiftsgarden. It has 140 rooms and is possibly the largest wooden building in Northern Europe. It's been used by the royal family and their guests since 1800.
From virtually anywhere in the city, the spire of the Nidaros Cathedral is visible. The Cathedral was built in 1070, over the grave of St. Olaf, and is the most important Gothic monument in Norway. It's absolutely stunning. There is a large cemetery on the grounds of the Cathedral, surrounded by trees and many of the graves had vibrant flowers blooming.
The Cathedral is the site for all the Norwegian coronations and the home of the crown jewels.
Our climb up the hill and subsequent exploration of the Cathedral and city centre caused us to be hungry. We found a delightful pub that wasn't too crowded and were lucky enough to secure a window seat.
The Krone to the Dollar remains high - my seafood salad was 129 Krone - or about $20.50 US. John's salmon dish with potatoes and vegetables was 184 Krone - about $29.00 US. Fortunately, we aren't eating all our meals out. The food was so fresh and absolutely delicious. One of the things making meals expensive is the 25% tax.
One of the interesting things we noticed during our walk and people watching during lunch, was the great number (and I do mean a lot) of parents pushing baby carriages - and we were surprised to see at least an equal number of men and women. (Remember the part about the city being fertile?)
In talking with some Norwegian residents, we learned they have an extremely liberal maternity leave policy. As long as the woman has worked in the same job for six of the last 10 months before giving birth, she is entitled to 53 weeks of leave at 80% pay or 46 weeks at 100% pay. And, the company must retain the position for her upon her return. The father must take at least 10 weeks of paternity leave.
Obviously, this benefit is not inexpensive - Norway spends over one percent of its gross domestic product on this program. However, in a UNICEF study of child well-being in 21 industrialized nations, Norway placed 7th over all, the USA was in 20th place - next to last. In the past decade, Norway's divorce rate has dropped 6%.
Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world. And, their tax rate would make us Americans shudder. They are taxed on their stated net worth, and many of them feel that this discourages savings.
In addition to the net worth taxes and the sales or value added taxes, (ranging from 15% to 25%) there are surcharges on cars, alcohol, tobacco and some benefits.
We are very thankful we don't smoke. A pack of cigarettes cost around 170 Krone, which would amount to about $27.00 US. (Like I said, the surcharges and taxes are very high).
A brisk walk back to the pier was in order after lunch and we lucked out as they were loading a tender, so we had no wait at all to return to the ship.
For John's birthday, we had dinner at the ship's Pinnacle Grill. The nominal charge for eating here is well worth it - the food is excellent and the service exemplary.
Tomorrow, we are onboard all day as we cross the Arctic Circle around 5:30am and then later in the morning, sail past the Lofoten Islands. I'm not sure if we'll get up for the crossing of the Circle - it's not like there's going to be a big welcome banner!