1971 South Benfleet School Cruise to Norway & Denmark

Aboard the SS Nevasa

SS Nevasa
SS Uganda Trust

I’ve had to cheat a bit by looking online, to find the correct names of places we saw while on the SS Nevasa trip because, after almost 50 years, memory has packed in (I probably never knew the names in the first place).

We started off by arriving at Stavanger after a couple of days at sea. I remember it being quite flat, but some people were seasick. Disembarking at Stavanger, I remember the large square close to the docks, and the Town Hall. I’m sure there was a fish market too, with live fish in water staring at you. I remember it was all very clean! Then, back on board and we sailed up the Hardanger Fjord, and what I remember as the Eidfjord, where glaciation was explained to us, and we were shown hanging valleys as we sailed past. I remember we had a coach excursion and were taken to see a glacier, and very tall waterfall, located above the snow line. We also had a picnic lunch somewhere on the sides of the fjord in lovely sunny weather, and in the woods we found brass gunshot cases dated 1948. We were disappointed to be told these weren’t old enough to have belonged to the war! We weren’t allowed to take these home with us, another disappointment.

Then we must have set sail for Oslo, because my next memories are of the overwhelming smell of exhaust fumes in the air as we sailed into port. I think we were here for a few days. There was a sculpture park in the city where we were taken. I remember a version of the Manneken Pis, which seemed very naughty to an eleven-year-old! We were told the original was in Brussels. Then there was an immense monolith that was intricately carved, and looking online this appears in Frognor / Vigeland Park. Lots of limbs and body parts winding around and around a pole set in a large plinth you could walk around! Very white, and everything very clean. The online pictures bring back memories of the strangest place I had ever seen at that point in my life.

We also went to the Viking Museum. They had real Viking longboats preserved inside buildings, rather than floating outside in water – a disappointment to a child educated in the Battle of Benfleet of 893 AD. I also remember going to see the Fram, Edmunsen’s ship, in which he beat Scott to the North Pole. And the Kontiki, which I only knew about because of Jacques Cousteau being on the telly. Then there was the 1952 Oslo Olympic Ski Slope, which seemed enormous without any snow. You could climb up it, if you crawled under the fence around it, and there was a steep drop off the sides. I was soon dragged back to safety by a teacher.

Then on to Copenhagen. Tivoli Park, the Little Mermaid, Frederiksborg Castle, the city itself with the green copper roofs, and a reconstructed Viking Village. Where Southend had the Kursaal and Peter Pan’s Playground, Copenhagen had / has Tivoli Gardens. All I remember is the funfair rides, roller coaster, candy floss and French fries with mayonnaise. Very odd – where was the vinegar? The ‘little mermaid’ was tiny, and a bit disappointing, and someone had spray-painted a bra on her. We were told it had only just come back from the repairers as someone had cut her head off! We got to walk about the city and visit various attractions, but I don’t remember any names. I do remember being up somewhere high being shown the Verdigris (green) copper roofs, as well as newer roofs that had discoloured due to air pollution, the copper failing to form the Verdigris. Frederiksborg Castle was fascinating, and a lot more impressive than the Tower of London I had seen with my parents the year before. All I remember is very ornate decorations and gilding in all the rooms. Also, ornate gardens.

The Viking Village was a reconstruction housed with actors, pretending to be Vikings. We got rushed through this somewhat fast, so I guess we were running out of time, or it wasn’t deemed educational enough, but I found the village fascinating, much more so than the boring old boats and castles we’d seen earlier! I was eleven at the time.   The ship also had its attractions. I can remember being shown the Railway Children (then a new film) in the ship’s cinema and going to a disco, dancing to T Rex (Metal Guru?) and Slade. Lessons of course – the ship had classrooms, and we were made to write to our parents about what we’d seen. Glaciation, glaciers and fjords were a large part of the lessons, and being taught about the kroner – Norwegian and Danish – very confusing when you’d just got used to decimal currency (new pence), after years of imperial currency (old pennies). Ten kroners to the pound as I recall.

And then home. I don’t remember much of this as it was all classroom stuff. I do remember not being seasick, so we must have been lucky with the weather and the state of the North Sea. I did make a highly illegal excursion out of the children’s part of the ship into the passenger’s section where our teachers were staying. The kids part was somewhat basic and plain. The passengers had carpets, wooden panel walls and posh lights! I soon scarpered back to where I belonged when I saw one of our teachers (Mr Stanton – in a very large dressing gown) sailing towards me!
That I still remember it almost 50 years later says what an impact it had. Does anyone else remember?

Click here to view Stephen’s mementoes of the cruise.

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