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We have just been to Bergen in Norway for the first time. There are many links between the UK and Norway. For example, the sharply defined wooded landscape and deep fjords are similar to the Scottish highlands and many Scots (I am one) share common ancestry. The traditions and passions of the UK and Norway are often derived from the long sea coasts and journeys of far flung exploration. The Vikings settled – eventually- in England and again were the Normans (the North men) who invaded in 1066.

The trip to Bergen was to follow a Viking boat (ship). It was not, however, the longboat of 1,000 years ago but a magnificent, very comfortable new cruise ship. It is apparently a small one, although I am not sure what earlier Vikings would have thought of that description! It is a ship in which to sail to and explore different cities and cultures.  We and other guests joined Torstein and Karine Hagen in Bergen as they christened this ocean ship which augments their river cruises. The celebration was May 17th, Norway’s national day, and so Bergen was full of marching children and bands, colourful traditional dresses, warmth and fun. It is a charming working port with wooden slatted houses and cobbled streets.

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Viking Cruises are firstly the sponsors of Downton Abbey in America. However, secondly, and more importantly, Karine and I are friends, writing children’s books together about our dogs (who actually are yellow Labradors as in Downton Abbey) whilst planning various tours to Highclere for her Viking Cruise guests. Our dogs, (Karine’s dog Finse, was born here at Highclere) are a joy: a reason for a walk, a great way to switch off and a calm focus in madly busy lives. Karine’s stories take Finse off on journeys round the world whilst mine bring her back home to tales of cream teas. Any proceeds go to an educational foundation.

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Bergen is the Hagens’ home town and we were lucky to be amongst many of their friends bought together to celebrate their achievement.  The ship was christened by Bergen’s mayor, Trude Drevland, a wonderful woman and a whirlwind of energy and accomplishment, referred to as  Bergen’s Boris Johnson. After the music, Trude pressed the handle, the champagne bottle crashed against the side of the Viking Star and the firework show started. A world apart from Highclere but one which brings people to the Castle. It was an amazing evening.

Bergen Sail In 6