Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Norway in a Nutshell

This is one of the many waterfalls I saw on the "Norway in a Nutshell" tour of the Sognefjord area. The maiden in the red dress is supposed to be a huldra, a creature of Scandinavian folklore.

Unfortunately, I messed up a bit in my travel arrangements and had to backtrack from Bergen. If I had been smart, I would have gotten off the train from Oslo at Myrdal like 95% of the people on the train to catch the Flåmsbana or Flåm Railroad down to the town, then taken the bus to Voss, then the train onto Bergen. But, in my defense, I couldn't figure out the freakin' bus schedule from here and I didn't want to be dragging my luggage around while on tour. And, I booked a RIB or rigid inflatable boat tour (think rubber raft with a motor) to go out into the UNESCO World Heritage site Nœrøyfjord and it was a blast! I got off at Gudvangen and the tour had a van waiting to take us to Voss (something else I couldn't figure out from the States). However, some folks did go back to Flåm. This is the stave church in Voss.

As we had missed our scheduled train back to Bergen because of mechanical problems with the van, I had some time to photograph it while nervously waiting for the next one and trying to figure out just how much time I would have to get to the airport when we got back to Bergen. When I had tried to book a train ticket to Trondheim in Bergen, I was told there wasn't one. You get spoiled travelling in Europe. You just assume that there is a train going everywhere especially to the third largest city in a country. Wrong. (Actually, there is a train to Trondheim but I would have to go back to Oslo.) So I had my choice of getting to Trondheim by bus or plane. And, I had to get to Trondheim because I was flying out to Berlin from there and had already booked my ticket in Oslo. This is why I think the name "Norway in a Nutshell" is so appropriate for this part of Norway because a nutshell is hard to crack!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lovely, lovely Bergen

The view from the train.

So, I left on the early morning train for Bergen from Oslo. Just as a note for those who ever go to Norway. Norway is a land of rivers and fjords. What does this mean for a traveller? Lovely landscapes? Yes. Scenic vistas? Yes. Difficulty in getting from Point A to Point B? Yes. But, not quite yet. Here is old, downtown Bergen, a UNESCO world heritage site. At the top of the photo, you can just see where the scenic vista from Mount Fløyen is and the funicular.

Here is one of the quaint buildings.

Eventually, I rode up the funicular to look down on Bergen. They asked me when I purchased my ticket whether I wanted a round trip ticket or was I going to walk down? So, I asked how long it would take to walk down and they said about 45 minutes. Of course, if you ask a Norwegian, those are 45 Norwegian minutes. So, I figured, no problem, I would walk down even though it was about 7 ish pm in the evening.

Looking down at Bergen from one of the trails on Mount Fløyen.

It was quite a lovely walk down. Very wooded and peaceful, although I passed lots of people walking and running down, or rather, they passed me.

This pergola was quite lovely. This was taken about 10 pm in the evening. Due to the midnight sun, the days are long in the summer, and it doesn't really quite get dark at night. I could so live in Norway. In the summer.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oslo - good stuff for science nerds, too!

Argh!!! This sexy guy was at the University of Oslo Paleontological Museum.
He kind of has attitude, don't ya think?

I thought this guy was kinda cute with that smirky grin. He doesn't look nearly as frightening as the T-Rex above, but somehow I think that he had a pretty good bite, too, with his almost beak-like mouth and jaw...

And speaking of birds, here is a lovely fossil archaeopteryx, the evolutionary bridge between dinosaurs and birds, but I'm not sure if he isn't a cast of the original one in Berlin. But more so, I'm sure that birds definitely evolved from dinosaurs.

I love what this is called in Norwegian, glimmer!

Here is another mica called muscovite, in english.

It's good to be a science nerd in Norway! So, three days in Oslo (the first day was kind of a bust because that was the day I arrived and I didn't get much done). But, I made up for it on the second day and by the third I really came to love Oslo and hated to leave. But leave I did to head towards the beautiful town of Bergen and the fjords.

One last photo from the botanical garden near the Paleo Museum.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oslo Grand Prix or even more fun in Oslo

First of all, I don't relax on vacation. That doesn't happen when you're with me. I don't eat, I don't rest. I must see everything. I am obsessive. Obsessive compulsive. After spending all day walking, first to the Frogner Park, taking in the Historical Museum and Oslo Cathedral, then walking downtown to catch the ferry to the Viking Ship Museum, then going to the Akershus Festning (fortress and royal residence), walking around taking photos (i.e. being lost), I decided to see if I could squeeze in the National Gallery. They have lovely paintings of Norwegian landscapes and the Scream by Edvard Munch.

Yes, I have seen the Scream! I have felt the Scream deeply in my soul, particularly in the winter time here in the Central Valley when it is possible to not see the sun for weeks on end because it is foggy and you are forced to paint something in an extremely bright color or lose your mind, but, I digress. So, I came out of the National Gallery to find a bike race going on. At first, it was leetle kids, so cute. Then they seemed to grow a bit with each lap. I couldn't believe how seriously Norwegians take sport activities because there were camera crews and big screen TV's set up.

Then, I decided the races might be over and I should start walking to my hotel in time to get lost and eat dinner. Much to my surprise, I asked a Norwegian if the little kids bike races were over and he said yes but now it was the adults who would be racing. In fact, a professional bike race with no less than riders from the Tour de France was up next! So, I found myself a spot and I had a great time even though I didn't know a soul here. And, the crowd was fantastic! They clapped and sang to music, they did the wave (and everyone did it). They were having a blast, me included! And, that was before the race even started. Oh, and here they are,

Edvald Boasson Hagen, the Norwegian National Time Trial Champion, riding for Team Sky

Andy Schleck, the White Jersey winner and second place from the Tour de France riding for Saxo Bank but next year they will be riding for a team from Luxembourg and who was recently kicked out of the Tour of Spain for drinking, naughty boy.

Here are the main protagonists, front row from left to right, Thor (i.e., the God of Thunder) Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team and the Norwegian National Road Race Champion), Andy Schleck, Kurt Asle Arvesen (Team Sky) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (he has the yellow shoes). Okay 3 of the 4 guys are Norwegians so maybe it isn't a surprise that they are riding in the Oslo Grand Prix.

And then they were off!

They went round and round ...

My camera (or was it the photographer?) was having difficulty capturing the fast action. My new girlfriend (no, not that kind of girlfriend) standing next to me and I decided that we had somehow gotten the best spot in the whole race to take pictures of the riders. In fact, a very tall professional photographer (waaay bigger camera than my Nikon D70) was taking shots over my head of the action.

Somehow, near the end of the race, the main protagonist were back together. Who would win?

EBH won! I think that Andy was a little dizzy from doing all of those short laps and he was second. The God of Thunder was third. A fairy tale ending for cycling fans. (Post TDF races are kind of like this, the favs tend to win.)

They were all smiles and congratulations at the end! And me? I was blissfully happy in my own dreamy Norwegian landscape! End of day two of vacation.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oslo, part two

Here is another lovely island of landscaping in Oslo.

It is hard to believe that current day norwegians are descended from the guys who terrorized northern Europe in these.

You can see a bit of carving in the longboat as well as the doorway of this stave church.

A closer detail of the beautiful carving.

A beautiful concert poster. Hm, I may try to work this into a quilt design.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Frogner Park Oslo, Norway

So, I am back from my European sojourn. It was a bit more territory than I usually cover in a vacation, but since I hadn't been in a while, I think I just bit off as much as I could. I landed in Oslo,Norway, one of the 2 places I had been to before of all the places I went, if I don't count the airport in Amsterdam. I think that I could take up residence in Schipol Airport. They have a meditation area in the airport where I gravitated to as I had a bit of a layover before my connecting flight to Oslo. Some guy got the last comfortable seat before me but I found another chair near the massage station to listen to the young man playing the baby grand piano there. They also had a mini-museum of art from the Reichsmuseum that was the beginning of all the art was I going to soon be seeing...

So, to begin in the beginning, I got up in the morning early before anything was open to go for a walk, because I could. I knew I was near the Frogner Park so, I just took off down the street from my residence. Eventually, I had to ask someone waiting for a bus for directions. He pointed to a dirt path just a few hundred meters up the road and said to take that and I would get there. So, I followed this path up a trail along and over a stream through a canopy of forest tree cover till I came up into a flat area of rose gardens and eventually made my way here. I wished I had taken photos of the trail but it was probably too dark anyway.

The park was very peaceful and relaxing until a bus load of giggling, tourists showed up to the Vigeland Sculpture Park to take photos of the sculptures in various stages of life without clothes.

I think the Norwegians are among the top flower landscapers in all of the cities I visited (except with the possibility of Versailles).