Wednesday, 30 April 2014

For the first time – a little bit of rain!

This morning we arrived in the very pleasant town of Galway, having sailed southwards half-way along the west coast of Ireland in a very quiet sea. A happy situation for any passengers who doubted their sea legs, given that there was no land to shield us from the force of the Atlantic Ocean.

Fram could not enter the inner harbour, so transport ashore was with our PolarCircle tenderboats. For some that proved a wet experience, either from freak waves or from the occasional rain shower. But getting into the city of 70000 inhabitants was well worth the tendering, with its colourful streets and  – as usual in Ireland – an impressive cathedral.

Some of us also took a tour to the Burren and the Aillwee Caves. The Burren is the name of an expanse of limestone rocks, pleasant for walking and with special vegetation. It is one of Europe’s largest regions of karst phenomena. The cave itself was formed during the past 2 million years, at the end of ice age periods when huge amounts of meltwater dissolved the limestone underground. The underground river dried up 10 000 years ago which means that the caves are young, and there has not yet been time to develop spectacular stalactities and stalagmites of the kind seen in many other karst regions.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Wild Donegal under a mild sun

Around 8:00 we reached Killybegs, the largest and most important fishing port in Ireland. Killybegs is located next to Donegal town in the County Donegal. The weather was more than perfect again to start with our excursions to Killybegs and its surroundings.


One excursion started directly after our arrival and was called “Wild Donegal and Glencolmcille”. It was an impressive bus drive along the coastal road and we have been impressed how our bus driver could manage this more than small and twisting road.





We reached the open air museum “Glencolmcille Folk Village” after some spectacular photo stops next to the steep cliffs of the “wild” Donegal. The museum itself gave us a good impression of the live in Ireland in the 18th and 19th century. 

After the historical part of our visit we could have a nice rest with scones and Irish tea and the typical Irish live music.


Before we stepped in our bus again we went for shopping in the very small but extraordinary good museums shop. Nearly everything has been handmade from people and products out of the region nearby. Here we could get the typical souvenirs from the “Green Island”.

The other excursion stayed in the bay of Donegal. They explored the region by water bus and have been even able to watch some seals enjoying themselves on the sunny sandy beach.  

Tomasz Zadrozny

Tomasz Zadrozny
Killybegs is a very nice and small city. On our way from the pier to the city we had to pass the fish factories and the fishing fleet of this nice harbour town.


During the afternoon we have been invited into the “Harbour Bar” where we were greeted with Irish Live Music and where we had the opportunity to taste the Irish Beer and Whiskeys.


The day ended on board with a Scottish evening – even we have been in Ireland now – with our Scottish couple Bernie and Beasty. We had another whisky tasting, this time without the “e”, and Scottish folk songs which are very similar to the Irish ones.

Monday, 28 April 2014

A very pleasant day in Northern Ireland.

Our morning arrival at Londonderry was during high tide, which meant that we could travel well into the mouth of Foyle River and dock close to the city center. 

We were greeted by bag pipes, Irish dancing, and the major himself who gave us a warm welcome in the Observation lounge on 7th deck.

Grey skies today, but still another day of pleasant weather, with no wind or rain in this city which the locals prefer to call Derry. The prefix was added 400 years ago when London merchants invested heavily and carved up much of the land between them as plantations. 

Many from the ship visited the Guild hall which had an excellent exhibition of the development of Kerry all the way up to the present. The modern strife with the bombing IRA on one side and heavy-handed authorities on the other had as its worst event Bloody Sunday, 13 January 1972, when 13 persons in a civilian demonstration were killed by the police – some of them shot in the back. This was in many ways a turning point, with many non-involved taking the lead to reduce the violence and build understanding between the opposing groups of Protestants and Catholics. 

These positive developments are symbolized by the Peace Bridge opened just a few years ago, uniting both sides of the river. It is a beautiful multi-curved structure – giving rise to the local joke that we Irish always screw up – we could not even build a strait bridge!

The original part of the city is confined by a 1, 5 km long city wall which we could walk on all the way around. Apparently Derry is now the only remaining walled city in the whole of the UK.

The longer excursion of the day went to the Giant’s Causeway, a natural phenomenon resulting from solidifying lava, and which is Northern Island’s most famous landmark, and its only World Heritage Site. So the bus brought us through the coastal landscape to the visitor’s center where we could start our walk. 

We had two hours to explore the steep cliffs and to walk on the regular shaped column-bases at the shoreline, where the power of the waves had eroded the pillars over the ages to flat stepping-stones. Later we stopped at the well-known ruins of Dunluce Castle, also located directly at the cliffs of the Antrim coast.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Staffa and Iona – Places, where we were nearer to heaven!

We reached Staffa in the early morning. Those guests getting up early could enjoy a nice sun rise already. When we started our landing operation, the first time on this cruise with our little red PolarCircelBoats, the sun was shining out of a clear blue sky – not very typical for the Hebrides in Scotland.

Staffa is very well known for its natural beauty of basalt columns and the huge and very impressive sea cavern “Fingal’s Cave”. The basalt columns belong to a geological volcanic stone belt out of the Tertiary that spreads under the sea-level to the northern coast of Ireland. Here we will be able to see these columns on our excursion to the “Giant Causeway” again.

As the weather was unbelievable nice nearly all passengers tried to stay as long as possible on the island. Blue jackets could be seen all over the island’s plateau. Everybody had enough time to enjoy an incredible spring day with temperatures around 18 – 20 degrees Celsius. 

All over the island flowers, like Violets, started to open their blossoms. Small willows showed their little cats already. We could see many passengers only sitting in the grass, watching the nature, and listen to the marvelous songs of the singing birds. It has been a very special and peaceful morning for everybody.

It was hard to leave the island but there was only short time for a fast lunch as we reached our next destination, the Island of Iona, around 14:00pm already.

Iona is a small island that belongs like Staffa to the Inner Hebrides. It has been the center of Irish monasticism for hundreds of years.

Saint Columba founded a first monastery on the island in 563. During the Middle Ages the Hiberno Scottish mission spread Christianity in Great Britain and the continental Europe. 

After a guided tour over the island passengers had time enough to learn the island by themselves or to enjoy the very nice weather with a five o’clock tea in the garden of one of the nice hotels.

People on the island told us that they have still the feeling that the distance between heaven and earth is smaller on Iona than on other places on the world. And yes, we could understand Iona’s inhabitants when we had to leave this very special and peaceful place on earth. There has been something everybody could feel, and we took this impression with us back on board.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Yet another day of fine weather! The morning was quite windy, but it did not cause enough waves to affect the ship as we at lunchtime sailed into Storm way on the Isle of Lewis. We went in large numbers on an afternoon excursion to see the impressive Callanish Stones, a prehistoric site rated second only to Stonehenge. This was a mound with many tens of stones 2-3 times taller than man, placed in circular and rectangular patterns, the meaning of which is still not understood.

Many of us were perhaps even more fascinated to be inside a black house, which is the name of large houses where poor families lived until only a century ago or so. The houses were – as other houses on the island – heated by the burning of peat, but these had no windows, only a small opening in the thatched roof directly above the permanent-burning fire. Gave a new meaning to the expression “smoke gets in my eyes”. These one-story stone constructions were relatively large, to give space also for their animals, and had “central heating”.

This was our second day visiting an island with no native trees. We understood why when the locals informed us that they could have winds of up to 90 miles an hour. It was a regular occurrence for schools to be closed on such “wind days”. Such information made us even more appreciate our luck today of sunshine and near-calm. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

A good mixture of history and wildlife

An exceptionally quiet North Sea meant that sea sicknesses was not a large problem on the crossing from Bergen to Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands. The islands have a strong historical connection with Norway from Viking times, but even in modern times the link is strong. During the Second World War more than 200 sailings were made by mostly small fishing vessels transporting people escaping from Norway, and taking military equipment and personnel from the Shetlands. The most famous of the captains on this activity was nick-named Shetland-Larsen and he was one of the most decorated people of the whole allied marine forces.

The Shetland Islands are an archipelago of more than 100 islands. The islands – most are unsettled – have app. 22.000 inhabitants and they are famous for an abundance of wildlife - especially at this time of the year for sea birds.


Most of our passengers choose the opportunity to examine the older history of the islands. They went to the Jarlshof, a remarkable archaeological site, with Neolithic remains and settlements from the Bronze and Iron Ages and remains of an old Viking settlement.

Others left for a visit to the little island of Mousa. Mousa is very famous for its Iron Age Broch, a stone-built house that looks a bit like a round tower. These brochs can be found all over on the Shetland Islands and the rest of the Scottish country. They are at least 2000 years old, historians are still not sure about the real age. For us it was nice to climb up the inside stairs of this 43feet high building to have a good view over Mousa Island. But Mousa is not only famous for the Broch, it is especially well known for its amazing wildlife that we also could enjoy on our walk around the island.





All excursions came back so early that there was still time for everybody to learn the city of Lerwick.


The day ended with FRAM’s famous fashion show well presented by the captain, his officers and the expedition team.