Friday, December 11, 2009

Norway 2009

-08:50 12 October, 2009 Wilmington, Vermont

Began my day with an omelet and coffee while reading a textbook about the ancient world. The section I’m currently on deals with the near east and the Egyptian, Hittite, Assyrian, Persian, and Chaldean empires. A special emphasis is placed on the Hebrew bible as an historical document and its usefulness in piecing together the patchwork of modern archaeology. One interesting item I picked up is that the Hittites were considered a relatively minor culture as mentioned in the bible but recent discoveries indicate that they had a relatively significant empire at one time.
My trip to Norway begins when I finish here. Driving to Hartford airport then flying to Dulles then to Frankfurt then to Bergen. There is someone at the other end who will show me her city day after tomorrow.
Besides Bergen I hope to see Trondheim, the Viking capitol. As in many of my travels, a dream I had spurs me on. In this case I dreamt of a map of the known world similar to the one referred to as the “Vinland Map” and perhaps in travelling to Trondheim I can recapture some of the senses I experienced in my sleep.

-22:30 EST 12 October, 2009 Somewhere halfway over the Atlantic Ocean

There’s a person onboard my flight who’s having medical problems. The announcement over the PA system asked for assistance from any health care professionals. This would be a terrible place to need urgent attention, that’s for sure.
We are flying in a Boeing 747-400 and it is certainly spacious but nearly filled to capacity. As might be expected, this Lufthansa flight seems to be filled half with German and half with U.S citizens.
There’s an overhead monitor that shows the plane’s position relative to the North American and European continents. It seems like we have been stuck south of Iceland forever. The movie on this flight was “The Proposal” and I caught myself laughing quite a few times. I had seen the beginning someplace recently.
I guess I should put my laptop away because the person in front of me keeps placing their seat in a more reclined position forcing me to collapse the machine into nearly unusable angle. Maybe I should try and sleep but I’ve never been good at that while in a moving vehicle.

-03:57 14 October 2009 Bergen, Norway

I haven’t slept and my bags never showed. They must be in Frankfurt.

The area is very nice but it’s difficult to relax and enjoy it when I’m scrambling to get things in order. Being so tired doesn’t help either, of course.

Ok, I’ll stop whining now. Will send pictures when my camera arrives

-10:34 14 October 2009 Bergen, Norway

Marty in Adelaide writes back: Did you feel a slight change in air pressure on the atlantic flight, probably just the flight attendants getting rid of the body of the person who needed medical attention out a small cargo door.
Never pack your camera, you should always keep it with you just in case. Looking forward to some pictures.
-06:30 15 October 2009 Bergen
I was supposed to meet my lady friend at the tourist information office downtown near the fish market at noon yesterday. I was there for over an hour watching for a woman who resembled the one in the photos I’d seen. Eventually I decided that something had happened to prevent our rendezvous and had the people there to call about my missing luggage. They said that it had just arrived so I returned to the hotel where it was delivered from the airport. It was there! That was a happy moment to say the least.
In checking my email I found that Abby had been waiting from before noon and for over an hour at the tourist info place as well. She included her phone number and when we spoke we found out what had happened –she had been waiting outside and I had been inside. Of course, all one can do is laugh and we made arrangements to meet later and to be more specific regarding place and time.
Soon I contacted a fellow about a room for rent and met up at the place and paid him for two night’s accommodation. This is a place that Abby had learned about and suggested to me.
Abby and I finally met and had a wonderful evening with dinner at an Italian restaurant –both of us ordering the carbonara with bacon with a glass of red wine. It was delicious, we both agreed. The food, the conversation and the lady were all delightful.
We walked around town and admired the lights as she told me about places and events in her life that had special meaning. Eventually we settled into a little spot on the waterfront and had a drink. As we walked to where she needed to catch a bus home we made arrangements to meet again this evening and to also do some things tomorrow when she has the day off.
Ok, now that I have my camera I’ll send some pictures very soon.

-18:34 15 October 2009 Bergen
Abby and I went to the old stave church at Fantoft –a place I’ve wanted to see first hand since I saw pictures of it as a child. When we got there the gate was locked and we could only see it from outside the protected area. Abby had me take a picture of her pretending to climb the fence. She is such a rebel!
I’m sending some shots I managed to get today although it was rather foggy and overcast.
My dad sent this: Thanks. Get some rest as soon as possible and get ready to enjoy yourself and to see some different country. I know you must be excited because you've been looking forward for a while. You'll be able to see where some of your ancestors have traveled but with different modes of transportation. Have fun and be careful.
And Shirley in Portland, Oregon sent this: How is the weather there? Are you in long johns! Sounds like a very nice young lady, and a great evening!
Well, the weather isn’t much different from what I’m used to in Ontario and Vermont. Yes, she is a very nice lady and I found out that when she was a child her father was the Norwegian ambassador to the U.S. She lived for four years in Washington, D.C. as a spoiled little princess.
-17:30 16 October 2009 Bergen
Abby and I took the rail car to the top of the hill overlooking the city –a place called Floyen. We took some pictures and walked about and took in the nice sunny day. I’ve been told that this is usually the rainy season but of the four days I’ve been here it has been sunny three of them and the other one-yesterday-was just misty and cloudy.
After our little excursion to Floyen we had lunch and coffee at an outdoor café and fed the little birds crumbs from our bread. One brave creature actually perched itself onto the edge of our table for a few seconds and another one onto the back of a chair. As we were leaving there was an outdoor fish market where I got to taste some caviar and was very tempted to buy some fresh salmon.
Plans were made to meet this evening for more walking and possibly drinks. It’s Friday night and it might be a good time because it was such a pleasant day that folks might want to celebrate a bit. By the way, I finally got some decent sleep last night. What a relief that is!
I inquired about taking the boat to Trondheim and found that it departs Bergen every night at 22:30 and takes two nights to reach the other end. So I’m considering leaving tomorrow evening and I might be without internet access during that time.

Fred in Richland, Washington writes: How are you man? Thanks for sharing your journal. I look forward to some pictures. I visited Trondheim during a North Atlantic cruise when I was in the Navy. I thought the people were great and the women were stunning. I was too young to appreciate it the way I would now though. You know...youth is wasted on the young!

-23:27 17 October 2009 Bergen but underway towards Trondheim
What a beautiful ship this is! It’s the MS Finnmarken if any of you feel like looking it up. The vessel started moving at precisely 22:30 and I mean to the second! That’s very impressive. We’ll be stopping at maybe a half dozen ports along the way. The internet access is available but very slow. They blame it on a satellite and the distance to it. If it is in a geosynchronous orbit then it’s about 24,000 miles from us –about 1/8 second travel time and another 1/8 second back. The lag is obviously in the processing.
Met folks from Bremerton, Washington and Portland, Oregon.
When Abby and I went to Floyen there were other Americans on our excursion there and she pointed out how we speak nasally in general –and she’s right. Last night while I was out with Abby and her daughter I got them laughing by imitating how Scandinavians sound to us –“Horda gorda horda.”
By the way, thanks, Fred, for sending the picture of you sailing. What a natural setting for you! I can barely remember when we sailed together because of the eventual inebriation. Why did you follow me so close on the way home with your headlights set to high anyway?

-07:00 18 October 2009 Maloy, Norway
The brochure says that this is a big fishing town. It’s still dark and, even though I plan on going for a little stroll, I don’t think I’ll see much.
-19:16 18 October 2009 Molde, Norway
The day was spent alternately relaxing on board ship and visiting the places where we stopped. I saw Torvik but it wasn’t much more than a place for us to moor to. Alesund is actually quite nice and you’ll see from one of the pictures that there are some substantial mountain peaks nearby that are snow-covered. Next was Molde and it was nice too. I visited shops in Alesund and Molde.
I spent about half an hour in one of the Jacuzzis. My plan was to be sitting in the hot tub when the ship left Alesund. It worked perfectly and I was reminded of how spoiled I’m getting.

The internet available on this ferry exists just enough to be frustrating. It’s very slow and works intermittently. A German fellow and I were kind of joking about it. He was trying to keep up with a soccer game on the web. There’s a sign by the computers to remind people that they are under surveillance and we decided that it’s meant to prevent people from punching the monitors and keyboards.
-07:37 19 October 2009 Trondheim, Norway
My pilgrimage is complete except for actually setting foot ashore. I’m still on the ferry and it doesn’t depart until noon. I’ll have breakfast here and then decide what to do.
A series of events have occurred here in my cabin in the past seven hours that I am reluctant to convey for fear of appearing off my rocker. I actually did describe them but when I was closing the word document it told me that I was attempting to modify a “read only” file but that I could save it by changing the name. So the file is Called “Norway 2009 Trondheim”. I guess I’ll let it go at that.
-20:41 19 October 2009 Rorvik, Norway
This morning I was filled with indecision as I walked around Trondheim but I eventually decided to continue north with the M.S. Finnmarken. I’ve made a couple of friends among the fellow guests. They are Kathy and Alana, both from Portland, Oregon. I had initially met them during a meeting at the start of the trip while we were still docked in Bergen and since them we sometimes dine together in the restaurant or meet in the lounge. I’ve learned that Kathy was a nurse in the navy and station in Groton, Connecticut when I was there. I wonder if she was the nurse who castigated me for climbing the dunes on Block Island just a few days following my knee surgery. I’ll have to ask her.

This evening I’ve been watching a movie that I brought with me on my laptop. It’s called “In the Shadow of the Moon” and it’s a documentary produced by Ron Howard describing NASA’s Apollo program. One of the astronauts being interviewed mentioned that, of all the science fiction stories written up to that point describing man landing on the moon, none foresaw the world watching it on television. I saw it because I was playing in our front yard and my dad called for me to come watch something that I wouldn’t want to miss. I guess it’s typical for people to recall where they were for historic events in their lives. I want thank my father for that. Thanks, Dad!
Very early tomorrow morning we’ll pass the Arctic Circle and I plan on ending my shipboard travels at Bodo. From there I may decide to fly back to Bergen or take a train if one exists. My flight home isn’t for another week so I have some flexibility but Bergen definitely grows on you. Abby told me once that Oslo is really her hometown but she truly loves Bergen and she can’t imagine ever moving from there. I can understand why.

It has occurred to me that you may like to know the names of the places this vessel has stopped along the way. My dad says he’s been using Google Earth to look at the places. Maybe I should send along a map of Norway but I trust that all of you are capable of finding one yourselves. So, by the time we arrive in Bodo, here is the list of places.
Bergen, Floro, Maloy, Torvik, Alesund, Molde, Kristiansund, Trondheim, Rorvik, Bronnoysund, Sandnessjoen, Nesna, Ornes, and then Bodo. The trip continues, however, to Stamsund, Svolvaer, Stokmarknes, Sortland, Risoyhamn. Harstad, Finnsnes, Tromso, Skjervoy, Oksfjord, Hammerfest, Havoysund, Honningsvag, Kjollefjord, Mehamn, Berlevag, Batsfjord, Vardo, Vadso, and finally Kirkenes. Then the ship turns around and heads back south to visit all those places again in reverse order.
Keep in mind that there are about a dozen ships like this one in the Hurtigruten fleet that constantly ply the Norwegian coastline and in summer they reach even more places. Besides being a passenger transport I imagine they are an important part of the economy by moving goods from town to town.
By the way, we aren’t completely out of touch with the world. Each cabin has television including CNN and two or three channels that have entertainment –much of it American shows like “Americas’ Funniest Videos” as well as old episodes of “Scrubs, “Friends”, and “Dynasty” (believe it or not). Hey, what’s up with the “balloon boy”, anyway? Is it reality TV gone crazy or what? Not that I really care. Someday we’ll be amazed at our capacity to have paid so much attention to stupid stuff, I suspect.
-22:34 19 October 2009 underway between Rorvik and Bronnoysund
Something I learned as a lad about Christopher Columbus was that he visited Iceland with his merchant brother. Perhaps he ventured there because he’d heard of the land to the west that the Vikings called “Vinland” and wanted to do a bit of research.
Another thing I know about the Vikings is that they often had to stay away from Norway because they were in legal trouble or were otherwise out of favor with the king. This theme kept reoccurring because Eric the Red wasn’t allowed back in Iceland, either, so he and his fellows were forced to find a place that would keep them out of trouble.
Their dealings with Native Americans (well, Native Canadians or First Nations or whatever) led to hostility as well since they traded some milk to the lactose intolerant aboriginals. Apparently this is what prevented them from maintaining a presence in North America. They wore out their welcome in very short order. They literally made their newfound associates ill. I can imagine Eurasian diseases might have been passed as well –the ones the native Vinlanders wouldn’t have had immunity to.

-07:32 20 October 2009 Underway between Nesna and Ornes
The TV indicates that we are at latitude 66 degrees 35.570 so we are very close to the Arctic Circle and it’s just starting to get light outside. Breakfast started at 07:30 so I’m headed for the restaurant.
-15:18 20 October 2009 Bodo, Norway
The ship will next stop in Svolvaer about six hours from now. Several people have suggested going there and have said it is a very nice place so I’ll get a hotel room for the night. Maybe there will be full internet access and I’ll be able to send this journal along with some pictures.
While In Bodo I visited a public library and was able to check my arcticmail. Thanks for the nice comments, Janet in Whitby, Ontario. Adriel in Zurich wrote and so did Dave in upstate New York –both asking questions about Abby. One asked how I met her and one requested information regarding her physical attributes. You know who you are. Here’s my reply, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
I’ve forgotten to mention a few things about life aboard the M.S. Finnmarken. For example, when an announcement is made over the public address system they begin in Norwegian, then in English, and then in German. The food is very good and I generally eat in the restaurant but sometimes I just grab something from the cafe –such as a sandwich.
-22:58 22 October 2009 Svolvaer, Norway
Ok, I officially love this place! Of course, there are negative aspects to it such as the isolation and the impending bad weather –of which I’ve been mercifully spared.
Let me try to recap some of what I’ve been up to. Two nights ago the “coastal steamer” , as I’ve learned that locals like to call it, arrived at around 9.PM and, as I had been told, finding a hotel room wasn’t a problem. There’s a brand new Thon hotel near the ferry landing and they took me in. I had stayed in a Thon hotel my first night in Norway near the airport in Bergen. They are a little expensive but also very nice –not a bad way to spend your first night in a foreign country and get accustom to things. The WiFi is good but you have to get little cards with username and passwords that you have to scratch to obtain and they are only good for four hours. So, of you really want to use the web for long periods you have to keep visiting the front desk for new cards.
My first day in Svolvaer was fairly eneventful but I did make it a priority to learn how I was to make my way back to Bergen for my eventual flight on the 26th back to Frankfurt, Washington D.C. and then Hartford. So I asked at the front desk at the hotel how I might do that. They pointed me towards the local travel agency –which I eventually found. It wasn’t well marked.
Of the three flights a day destined for places that might lead me to Bergen I learned that the one leaving just before noon –obviously the most desirable for the casual traveler such as myself was already full on Thursday (the day I was aiming for) but Friday’s flight was still available so I booked that.
Then we got into a discussion about immigrants in Norway and the potential threat they pose to western culture. This may seem unnecessarily alarmist until you look at statistics. For example, western democracies such as the U.S., Australia, the U.K., Norway, France, etc. have essentially zero population growth if you don’t count immigrants. But immigrants come from countries with sometimes vastly different cultures. Many of these people breed like rabbits (a slight exaggeration). And I learned that what really infuriates Norwegians is that immigrants coming as refugees aren’t even allowed to work.

Last evening was more of a good pub outing than what I’ve had in quite some time. Everything is within staggering distance here. And there’s no real worry about getting hit by a car but I suppose a person could fall in the water and die from exposure. None of that happened and I survived more or less.
I was having some dinner at a pub –but just washing it down with water at that point when I struck up a conversation with a local dude sitting by the fireplace. He ended up being a fine fellow named Thor. Then one of his friends showed up and I soon ordered a beer and sat with them. I then left to go back to my hotel when I met a guy getting off the elevator who asked me if I knew of a good place to eat (speaking English straight away although he is Norwegian –I must be a dead give away with my ball cap and jeans). So I told him about the place where I’d just eaten but he said he knew about that place already.
I was looking for my next pint so we walked bit until we found ourselves in a Turkish restaurant and we both ordered some beer while my friend ordered his dinner. I found out that he lives near Tromso, that he is 34 and his girlfriend is pregnant and when he calls her on the phone he never knows what to expect from her exposure to her frenzied hormones. He’s selling and overseeing the installation of heat pumps in homes and businesses. At one point he pointed to a building that’s currently under construction and told me that one of his systems is being installed in it.
He had ordered filet mignon but it looked like what we would call roast beef in the states. He said that it was disappointing to him as well and it also made him wonder what animal it actually was that he was eating.
We decided to go to the pub where I had been earlier. The two dudes who I’d left had turned into five and I learned that they were all local taxi drivers along with the owner of the business. They were having a meeting at the pub. Brilliant!
It was a great night out with the boys and the conversations took all sorts of twists and turns.
Today I had to move from the Thon hotel and I found refuge in the very lovely and well situated Rica Hotel. It is located on an island in the harbor. My little room has its own deck just a few feet over the water. The pub where I had such a good time is a thirty second walk if I want it.
Oh, earlier today I went to the travel agency where we had worked ourselves up in veiled anti-immigration and hinted racist views the day before to ask them about a bus that might be available to see the local area. They said it might be somewhat late in the day (I think it was about a quarter to four). Then it occurred to me that I should just get one of my taxi buddies to show me around. Sure, it would be a little expensive but I came here to see the place and I’d have my own private driver and tour guide. His name was Rolff and he showed me Kabelvag and Henningsvaer.
I really wish I could send all the pictures I’ve taken. Some are better than others, depending on what you are looking for and I have to compact the pictures to make them a more reasonable size –especially when sending several.
The country here is extreme in so many ways. The flat sea crashes against mountains thousands of meters high –and it’s not just in one place but for thousands of miles of coastline.
Voyages to places are often voyages of self discovery. I personally seek quiet and out-of-the-way places but some seek a crowded beach and the hustle-bustle of cities. The way I have come to think is that this might be the only life you have and even if there is a spirit world following this one, wouldn’t you still long for the touches and the smells and the emotions of being alive?
-09:33 23 October 2009 Svolvaer, Norway
I got to see the northern lights last night.
-16:50 23 October 2009 Bergen, Norway
Flew from Svolvaer to Bodo to Trondheim to Bergen.
Thanks for writing Frances in the Shetlands, PJ in northern Florida, and Laura Lynne in southeastern Nebraska.

-18:40 25 October 2009 Bergen, Norway
I’m staying at a hotel near the airport so that I won’t miss my very early flight tomorrow to Frankfurt.
When I was still in Svolvaer I sent some emails requesting a room for the three evenings I would spend in Bergen prior to my departure. I highly recommend this approach to travel because you get a nice clean room in a guest house for about a third of what you’d pay in a hotel. There are other advantages because it’s an excellent way to meet other travelers and you get to know the destination more intimately by actually being forced to find the address. Friday night I stayed at Anne Helen’s and last night I stayed at Sylvi’s. Many times the owners of the guest houses will network and help you find a place. For example, Kristian sent me a list of places to try after letting me know that his place was full.
After I got settled into Anne Helen’s I called Abby to set up a time to meet for more carbonara and red wine. Afterwards we went to Scruffy Murphy’s for another drink or two.
I wasn’t sure of the location of the place I had booked for Saturday night so I stopped by Kristian’s house to see if he knew the street. I had left Anne Helene’s and Kristian lives nearby. He recognized the street right away and pointed me in the right direction.
The evening before I had spoken with Sylvi on the phone and since I had nothing to write with, I made arrangements to call for direction at noon the next day. Kristian’s great sense of things in his city and the use of my handy-dandy Bergen map I was actually ringing the doorbell at noon. Let me tell you, though, you can get quite a workout sometimes –especially in a steep hilly place like Bergen.
At 1PM I met with Abby for some pleasant conversation and coffee. I gave her my Boston Red Sox hat as a souvenir from the USA and told her of the despicable and greatly despised New York Yankees. She had to return to her place for at least a little while so I suggested we get together a little later.
When I rang her later she told me that she felt like resting at home for the evening so I returned Sylvi’s. I was surprised to find that another guest was staying in the room across from mine. Her name is Natalya and she is from the Ukraine. She is working with NATO in Brussels and that provided us with some interesting conversation –given that Ukraine is one of the newest members of NATO and that it is a former Soviet republic.
I had resigned myself to accepting that I wouldn’t be able to use the internet at Sylvi’s even though I counted about eight good strong local signals. All but one were security-enabled and that meant I needed a “network key” to access them. The one that was open-access proved to allow connection but I still couldn’t connect to the internet. Natalya pointed out that just such a code for the WiFi where were staying was written on a piece of paper and thumbtacked to the wall by the dining room table.

When I got online I found that Abby was concerned about her daughter –who has been diagnosed with having swine flu and has been ill for two weeks with it. Abby tried to call her daughter but got no answer. So, she was taking the bus back into town, after all to check on her daughter. So I told her that I’d call her in an hour so that she’d have enough time to get into town and find things out.
When I called I learned that her daughter had slept through the ringing of the phone. We arranged to meet again in twenty minutes. We eventually walked to her bus stop and I told her that I’d call her at 11AM today.
Today was the day that we were supposed to set the clocks back. Abby had reminded me of the fact yesterday but it still took me a while to figure it out. I walked by McDonald’s and noticed that they weren’t open yet even though the sign said that they would open at 11AM on Sundays but my watch said 11:41. Hmmmmm!?!?
Ok, so I had actually called Abby at 10AM and not 11 and had agreed to meet her at the infamous Tourist Info office at 1:10PM where we had originally missed each other by me waiting inside while she waited outside. And now we would be an hour off in our rendezvous time. Obviously, I had to call her back to let her know that I knew what the real time was. It was good for a laugh, anyway.
We met and went through an art gallery that had plenty of silver items –some dating back to Viking times. There was an exhibit of furniture design –of which, of course, Scandinavians are famous for. There was a section devoted to Chinese sculpture and porcelain.
Eventually it came time for us to say farewell and go our separate ways. It wasn’t a sad occasion as much as it was a mutual understanding that we enjoy each other’s company.
Thanks for writing Kate and Bruce in Vermont. I’m glad you liked traveling with me.
-18:13 28 October 2009 Wilmington, Vermont
My return to where I started was fairly uneventful. I got to see a movie I had been looking forward to, “Moon.” It’s not a movie about The Who’s former drummer nor is it about the leader of the Unification Church. I liked the flick.
It’s always strange to return to see the same place and the same people and nothing much has seemed to change while so much adventure filled my life in the past two weeks. I guess a good vacation to a distant land is supposed to do that –wake you up and make you see things from a new perspective.
Thanks to all of you who wrote. It was important to know that people enjoyed my journal and the pictures I took along the way.

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