Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

In the Wake of the Vikings: Unexpected At Sea Day Instead of Lerwick

Today was actually a bonus for me. We were supposed to land in Lerwick, Scotland, and AdventureMan had been really pumped. He’s watched a mystery series set in the Shetlands, and has read up on some of the things we were going to see. The plan for the day was to be OK’d by British immigration to visit at 0700, all of us lining up through the Chef’s Kitchen, and then our trip would leave to visit ancient civilizations of the Shetlands.

As we stood in line, a rumor spread that the days outings were cancelled. Within a few minutes the captain made an announcement that with the angry seas, he and the pilot had decided it was too dangerous to take us into port and we would have an extra sea day en route to our next stop, the Faroe Islands and Torshavn.

Even AdventureMan was glad. It was really rainy and windy, and he needs another day of sauna and sleep to help him get rid of his terrible cough.

The photos I took ARE in color! The day was just a black and white day!

So we hit the spa at nine, when it opened, and with the pitching and yawing and rolling of the ship, the waters of the pool bubbled and rolled and swished, and it was very hot and great fun. We stayed there about an hour, visiting the snow room and the steam room and the sauna between romps in the pool. Around ten, more people started coming, so we vacated the area. I had a lecture on Viking history in the Shetlands I wanted to attend, and AdventureMan started sleeping.

For me, it was a chance to catch up with the blog. On the busy days, it’s so easy NOT to blog, so this day was a gift, a day I could upload my photos, choose some photos, put them in the blog, and write up the days, as best I could remember them.

AdventureMan went to a lecture on German wolf packs interrupting trade in WWII, and then came back and slept some more.

In the hallways are some very green and very unsteady people, who are more affected by the motion of the water than I am. I have been seasick, but only once, when it was hot and I felt like I needed fresh air. Once I got into the fresh air, I was OK. Mostly, motions sickness doesn’t affect me. One woman at the foot of a stairway was standing stock-still, looking petrified. I am guessing she was afraid she was going to throw up and didn’t want to be embarrassed. We’ve all been in similar situations, and the ship was full of similar situations today.

Our waiter told us a lot of the new crew are sick, and in bed resting; those who are not affected are taking on extra chores. Love that teamwork.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: The Fantoft Stave Church

People are irrational, or anyway I know I am irrational. I think I am logical and make decisions using my mind, but I know that I often make decisions based on an emotional tug, and I rationalize my decision to make it seem logical. Such is the Fantoft Stave Church just outside of Bergen.

I really wanted to see this church. I found a way to take a bus there, but it was a long way out and it was a Sunday and I wasn’t sure about buses running on Sunday. I signed us up for a tour.

I really like churches.

I really like being alone in a church, or being with other church-y people, people who respect churches as a place where people do their best to communicate with a God they can’t figure out.

This was not that kind of visit.

One group out, another group in. I never had a moment alone in this lovely church, built entirely of pegged wood. Imagine, putting an entire church together without a nail. Pretty amazing. The church is beautiful and unique. I just wish I had had time there to get to know it better.

 

The roof is stunning. They used the same technology they used to build Viking boats.

The tour was also listed as “moderate” walking, but several people were on the tour who had wheelchairs or walkers. The second part of the tour, visiting Grieg’s house, museum, studio, grave site, etc required hiking up and down rock paths and leaf strewn paths in wet, rainy conditions. There were places I just didn’t go; I didn’t want to take a chance on a slip-and-fall that could hold me up the rest of the trip. I did fine, but I felt really sorry for those who had signed on thinking it was ‘moderate’ walking and it was really some fairly dangerous turn for those with mobility impairments.

Back on the ship, we went straight to the safety muster, where we gather to be shown how to put on a life-jacket and to go to our life boat, when and if needed.

Best part of the day was Sunday church services held in the Torshavn Bar. It’s a light interdenominational service with inspirational readings, but it soothes my grumpy soul and sets me right for the week to come.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Faith, Survival, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

In the Wake of the Vikings Aboard the Viking Sky

Boarding the Viking Sky is a piece of cake. There is a line, but with several stations to check you in, it goes quickly. We go straight to our stateroom; we know exactly where it is. It looks . . . almost exactly as the last time we stayed in it. But actually, we have never stayed in it, we stayed in the exact same room when we did Empires of the Mediterranean on the Viking Star. The boats are very similarly built, but have some differences in art work, and perhaps some changes to improve functionality in design. Some little things look different, but I am not sure whether they really are different, or maybe I am remembering wrongly.

View from the Explorer’s Lounge aboard the Viking Sky: a double rainbow!

And blue skies, even just for a moment!

 

While I am unpacking and putting things away, AdventureMan goes to the sauna to help clear his head. He has a wicked bad cold. I know just where everything goes. I love this ship, and I love the familiarity.

IW

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour and Embarkation

Here is what I so admire about Viking Ocean Cruises and their associates who have to deal with my demographic – they put up with us. The Viking company must be making a fortune, primarily on U.S. citizens, but also British, Canadian and Australians who travel. Viking Ocean ships are adult only, there are no casinos, no photographers, no annoyances, and almost everything is included. I don’t mind at all if they make a fortune, what I love about their model is that it seems to be mostly win-win-win. They do everything in their power to satisfy their customer, and they give great value for the money.

They are dealing with a group of spoiled big children, and I say that knowing I can be one of them. We are people who want what we pay for, and don’t hesitate to make a fuss if we think something could be better. The Viking staff is a good parent to the needy, whining, tired, confused and frustrated children we become when confronted with the strange, challenging or new situations.

I love how they treat their staff. When we ask how they came to Viking, most have been with other cruise lines. Our cabin steward, Hilda, told us on Carnival she had many more rooms and often four people in each cabin. She said “I work hard for Viking, and it is like a vacation.” She also mentioned, as do others, that Viking pays for her uniforms and provides the staff with free wi-fi so they can stay in touch with their families. What a very kind, very smart thing to do! To comfort your employees, to provide them with peace of mind, and to earn their loyalty through kindness. This is so civilized. They also offer opportunities for advancement.

What we marvel at is that they hire employees from many different nationalities, and teach a kind of team approach to customer service. One wine steward today told us he was handling more than one location because several of the staff are seasick (we have hit some heavy rolling) but that he can handle it, so he does. I’ve seen the senior staff bus a table where dishes have been left, without making a big deal about it. I am betting that they have a rule “If you see something that needs to be done, do it, don’t just tell someone else that it needs doing.” I am betting that, because that is what I see, and I like it. I see the employees looking out after one another, and that is a remarkable achievement.

Before we can board the ship, we have to take a tour of Oslo. Do I sound grumpy? Viking thinks through all the details, and has implemented wonderful procedures, but sometimes I am just tired of being funneled, and like a spoiled baby, I just want to rest, or sleep. But I am compliant, I board the bus, I tour the sites. I can’t really tell you much about what I saw because my attitude got in my way. Here are some photos:

This is like a King’s hall, called the Rosenkrantz, which cracks me up because I’m sure it has some meaning but I think it sounds funny.

This was a king’s residence, and can now be hired for social events.

 

 

 

 

 

I do know this one, it is the Starbucks building, built in the old city meat market.

A great old three masted sailing ship, used to train military and other sailors.

The kind of housing Norway used to have, dense, and all white.


September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: An Evening in Bergen

We arrive in Bergen around seven in the evening, and we don’t even bother unpacking our bags. They will be picked up the next morning to be transferred to the ship, the Viking Sky, while we are touring Bergen. Meanwhile, we are in the most wonderful location, in Bryggen, the old commercial center of Burgen, full of beautiful colored, crooked houses, and areas full of white houses, and all kinds of places which we can reach by walking, which we love to do.

 

 

 

Except that AdventureMan has a terrible cold, and my throat is sore. He is apologizing profusely, but who knows if I caught it from him, or from touching a chair somewhere? Sore throats happen, but we can treat the symptoms, and I saw just the place as we came into town.

Our hotel, the Radisson Blu, is wonderfully located. We walk a short distance and find an ATM where we can purchase Norwegian kroner, then, just past the fish market, we find the China Palace.

As we are going, we hear singing. Across the street, a group of men on bicycles are singing! They are three abreast on their bikes, holding hands, dressed in suits and ties, and singing. It is dusk and it is magical.

We have no idea what it was about. Is this a fraternity thing? Is this a gay group thing? We have no idea, we only know it was delightful.

The China Palace was nearly full, but they found a table for us. We ordered soup and egg rolls; even if the food was really good, we were too sick to enjoy it much. When it came, it was perfect for us, Pekingsuppe and large egg rolls. Exactly right, comfort food. We felt much better.

 

 

 

On our way back to the hotel, the light was that wonderful light just before dark fully falls. The streets are crowded with young people and old meeting up for an evening of visiting and drinking.

 

And here is what I really love, the Viking Sky is nearby, so near we can walk there, which we do, often, the next day. That’s the Sky in the background.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Bergenbahn from Oslo

Seven hours of the most beautiful train ride in the world!

The Bergenbahn is very comfortable, and we have nice seats. We are given vouchers so we can eat what we choose from the train restaurant, and AdventureMan braves the line and brings back a lovely smoked salmon salad, which exactly hits the spot.

AdventureMan slept. I took photos. Lucky you, I’ve edited out most of them. The following thousand or so photos (LOL) is the ones I chose to share with you.

The trip starts off rural, with lots of white houses and red barns, lots of fat wooly sheep and green pastures, and then gives way to mountain scenery. In seven short hours (the scenery is not unlike crossing the mountains in Washington State except for the lack of these deep red barns, every single barn is the same shade of red. How do they know what to paint their barns? Is there a rule? We are told Norway has a lot of rules for the good of the community, but I didn’t think to ask about the barn color.

The train car

 

Norwegian Wood ๐Ÿ™‚

(I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me . . . . )

This is the traditional type of tiles used on the roofs, reminiscent of fish scales

A local train stop; most of them were this mustard color, but some were the red-brick color

“Norwegians love quiet, and to be alone, ” the guide said. AdventureMan started looking at me oddly, and as people who have been married a long, long time do, I knew what he was thinking. He thinks I am Norwegian.

 

 

It might be hard to see, but the house in the center of the photo has a traditional roof with grass growing on it. I’ve seen this in Seattle; all things old become new again ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

Before leaving us in Bergen, our guide, Kathryn, donned her own precious traditional garb to show us. Everyone loved her for it, and took many many photos. With her intelligent commentary, and faithfulness in sharing all kinds of insights and lore, she was a great ambassador for her country.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Cultural, Customer Service, Living Conditions, Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

In the Wake of the Vikings: The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

I don’t have a bucket list. There are things I would like to do, and to the best of my ability, I just keep doing them, but I don’t worry about checking things off. If I don’t do it, I must not have cared enough. At the same time I am following in the Wake of the Vikings, my best friend from college is walking more than 100 miles on a trip. 100 miles! She showed me her Fit-bit readings, and she is doing like 38,000 steps a day!

You go, friend! (Not me!) There are days I do 10,000 steps, and once I even did 20,000 but I don’t expect those to happen often. I am proud for my friend to do this, and I have other challenges ๐Ÿ™‚

Having said that, I really wanted to see the Viking Ship Museum, oh yeh, me and ten thousand other visitors in Oslo, and how on earth do we all end up at the museum at the same time? By deserting my group, and waiting patiently, I was able to get some people-less shots. You can’t imagine how hard that is.

 

I really like this one, above, because of the parallel shadow; the influences of the early Norse culture live on.

 

 

Imagine the patience and artistry it took to carve this piece!

 

 

This is a wagon; sorry for the reflection but it is encased in plastic to protect it from all the people (like me) who might like to touch . . . It was interesting to me to see a wheel built out of sections held together with metal clips.


This is a carved sled – imagine all that trouble for an item of daily use. Must be the long, cold, dark winters gave them the time to imagine and bring to reality.

 

Another sled. So beautiful.

This is a small museum, but inspiring. There is also a movie, which I missed because I wanted to take photos without other people in them.

I find Oslo beautiful. I find their traditional buildings beautiful, even those with grass roofs. How practically beautiful! And the new buildings they are doing knock my socks off! Look at the “iceberg” and at their new Opera and Ballet center!

 

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This might look like the same photo as the above, but the above is to show some of the new high rises going up, where below is to highlight the statue called She Lies. I love this collection of statues. This is another one I would give to high school students and ask them to tell me the story. The body language is so ambivalent, I am sure that there are as many possibilities as there are viewers!

 

More traditional Oslo; less daring, equally beautiful.

 

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Lies, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour – Vigeland Park

In the last post, I told you AdventureMan and I are not very good about staying on track with a tour. Sometimes there is too much information, and too much time at a location about which I care little. VIgeland Park was just the opposite, for both AdventureMan and I. Vigeland Park was so extraordinary it made us want to come back to Oslo and to walk the streets and visit all the public art we can, and spend a lot more time with these lovely, terrifying, amazing sculptures.

This gutsy sculptor told the city of Oslo that he would do a series of sculptures for free if the city would pay for materials, provide a location, and provide help for the project. After lengthy debate, astonishingly, the city agreed. Vigeland created the statues, the park was completed and Oslo had a cultural treasure.

Vigeland’s sculptures deal with mankind, in all glory and in all despair, in all conditions. I will show you one of my favorites, because I am one of three sisters, and what I read into this statue is sisterhood:

 

Can you see why I like this statue? You can read so much into his statuary. If I were teaching high school art, I would put out a series of photos of his sculptures and ask each student to choose one and to write about what he or she sees in the sculpture.

There are mothers and fathers with their children:

 

What do you see? Some saw a man, overwhelmed, careless as he handled his children. I saw a metaphorical balancing act, and don’t children alway find their fathers the most fun because of the risks they take?

 

Some saw joy in this mother racing with her child. ย What do you see?

 

 

 

This column centers the exhibit. It is full of people and children, surrounded by people, men and women, all nude, all naked spiritually and open for our observation and interpretation:

 

 

This park is incredibly popular. I would love to go back when there aren’t a lot of people. This is a park where you can spend a lot of time speculating.

This is a separate pavilion with depictions of the stages of a life, and the transitions back and forth from the “other world” to this world.

I struggle with this series below – I’ve only shown two. It is a woman with a dragon – or is it a demon? Is she fighting with it, or dancing with it? And in the last picture, is he embracing her? Is he devouring her?

 

These sculptures are like a good book, you can think about them for a long time, and at different times in your life you may come to understand them in different ways.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Interconnected, Mating Behavior, Parenting, Public Art, Random Musings, Relationships, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour

If this is your first time visiting this blog, there are things you don’t know yet. One important thing would be that AdventureMan and I love to travel, and the other is that we are very independent. We are pretty awful about tours. We aren’t very good at following with a crowd, we sort of break off, and often disappear altogether. I have pity for the tour guides who get us; they have a job to do and we are not compliant. We ARE good at keeping the guide informed, like when we are dropping off, and assuring them that we will be able to meet up with them elsewhere.

Having said that, this tour of Oslo was very thorough. Much of it was “panoramic” which is travel industry code for drive-them-around-in-a-bus-and-show-them-things, stop-a-couple-times-to-let-them-take-photos. It did that. What I liked was that the guide really knew her stuff, and gave us a lot of cultural information, a lot of local lore along with the “this is the parliament building” kind of information. We got a lot of information, buildings, institutions, and we also got a lot of information about how the locals live and how the locals view things.

As we drove through posh neighborhoods, the guide told us about how the housing costs in Oslo have forced most Norwegians out of the city; that old buildings and new have spaces rented by foreigners and corporations. For the same price as a small apartment, Norwegians can buy a house out of town. The commute is horrible, but many get up at five and are at their desks by seven to avoid the traffic.

She took us to see a famous ski-jump. Now this is one of those things I would have said “I don’t care,” but when I got there, I could see that it was like a DESIGNER ski-jump, curvy and futuristic looking. I also loved it that there were kids roller-skiing (roller-skiing ? ! ?) and adults doing all kinds of fitness running, jumping – it has become a space where people go for exercise and experiencing the outdoors.

 

I have to stop a minute here – look at the design of this ski-jump. Is that not thrilling, so perfectly functional and so simply beautiful?

 

 

 

At the foot of the ski jump is a forest troll – can you spot him?

People living in the vicinity of the ski jump have a wonderful view of the city and bay:

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Social Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo – Bristol Hotel and Surroundings

A quick ride from the airport to downtown Oslo, where we find The Bristol Hotel, and inside a table with Viking local guides, armed with key sets with each passengers name. So easy, so well thought through – no waiting, just pick up your keys and an information sheet (like what time to meet up with your guide the next morning – critical information) and up to our room. Smooth. Efficient. Well done.

 

The room is charming and welcoming. You would think we would drop all our bags and hit the town, but you would be wrong. We dropped all our bags and hit the sack; slept like the dead for two hours and forced ourselves to wake up and get morning. It works for us.

 

I loved the spaciousness of this room, and oh, YES, wooden floors. I am such a sucker for wooden floors.

 

The bathroom was nice enough; I took a photo to show you the teeny tiny shower. I estimated it was about two feet by maybe two and a half feet at the longest, but a door cut across at a 45 degree angle, slicing space out of the shower. The controls were interesting; you control hot and cold with the right lever, and volume with the left. Well, it got the job done, it just felt cramped.

A storage rack and a pay bar in the entry hall.

 

We ate dinner in the Bristol Library Bar; the most fun was watching the locals gather in groups to have a drink on the way home. It was a busy, happy place, and we decided to eat dinner there and then go for a walk.

 

 

Our dinner was a bowl of Norwegian fish soup and an Autumn salad. The fish soup was delicious; we don’t put peas in fish soup in the Pacific Northwest, nor in the South, so it was a lovely addition that surprised me and delighted me. The Herbstsalad had roast duck pieces, and roasted beet, on a bed of mixed greens. The whole meal was lovely.

 

After dinner, we walked around the shopping area near our hotel, it was a beautiful night and the streets were crowded with a festive crowd. I thought the below was a church, and perhaps it was at one time, but I was told it is no longer a functioning church.

 

Some public art – Oslo is full of lovely statuary, and beautiful parks.

Oslo is also peopled by these trolls, in infinite variety. I sort of like them, I think of Father Richard Rohr and his message that our dark side is sometimes the way we find our path to God, in our brokenness.

 

As we walked, more and more people were gathering along the pedestrian way. We would ask, but no one we asked seemed to know what was happening, but all suggested it was probably a political rally with elections coming up soon. It was a very festive rally, not hostile or threatening in any way. Ah, to have such civil politics . . . .

 

Near our hotel was a store which sold what we called in Germany, “trachten” which means traditional folk-clothing. This traditional folk clothing is still made and is increasingly worn on high social occasions – weddings, important political occasions, National day, etc and is very expensive. One guide told us an outfit might start at $2,000. and then for special occasions, your husband might buy you the traditional jewelry which goes with the clothing.

 

 

This is actually my favorite, below. The Norwegian traditional clothing seems to me to have some Middle Eastern influence in the trims and buttons and modesty. No, I am not the least bit tempted; it would not work in Pensacola. It would be too hot and too heavy, and the heat and humidity would harm the valuable wool fabrics.

We slept wonderfully at the Bristol Hotel, and were up bright and shiny the next morning for our tour of Oslo and train trip over the mountains to Bergen.

 

 

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Public Art, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment