Continuing South

Today we continued south stopping at the sea side village of Oulu for sightseeing and lunch. John had selected this town as it had a harbour side market including food stalls and a pretty walk across bridges to different parts of the town.

After the constitutional we selected a tented restaurant and chose a plate of meat (elk meat balls and reindeer sausages) and a plate of seafood (salmon and local whitebait) with potatoes two ways to share.

On then to the Finish seaside resort of Hiekkasakrat, a long sandy beach with a newish holiday development: a 550 site caravan park + 98 cabins, indoor swimming, ropes course, golf course and around 1,000 very neat houses set among the pine and silver birch trees.

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I just had to take a picture of the town sign and a barn in a field all on its own.

 

 

Rovaniemi

Down the N4 towards Rovaniemi and Santa Clause (more on that later).

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First some more reindeer photos (last chance, no more south of here).

Our first stop was the town of Sodankyla to see two churches: why churches? Well, when the Nazis retreated in 1944 the commanders were issued with an order to destroy everything (scorched earth policy), however the commander in Sodankyla disobeyed the order (later he was shot) and did not destroy the wooden Vanha Kirkko and its newer stone church.

Vanha Kirkko is wooden and was built in 1689. It is now a little leaning, although various renovations and repairs keep it intact. It is still occasionally used for weddings and special services in summer.

The newer stone church was built in 1859 and is very large. In its heyday it could hold 500 people (not so many now with fire management etc).

While there we were delighted to meet Johi who was able to provide us with much information about the church and the town, plus some Finnish history:

  1. Finland only gained independence from Russia in 1917 (prior to Russia, Sweden controlled Finland)
  2. At the commencement of WWII Finland was targeted by Russia who wanted to regain the country plus build naval bases there. The so called 1939 Winter War between the two countries was bitter and eventually ended with Russia gaining a foot hold.
  3. To stop further Russian aggression Finland aligned with Germany as it was able to assist in keeping out the Russians.
  4. When the non aggression pact between Russia and Germany was broken, Finland now found itself on the same side as Russia and the local army was now informed that they must attack their previous allies the Germans!
  5. In some places the Fins and Germans had developed a close tie, so initially there was a phony war until Russia threatened to return again and ‘finish the job’.
  6. And so the Germans left, going west (ie into Norway to be evacuated by sea).

Following the war, Finland retained its contact with the Soviets and hence held a semi neutral position between the west and the east. Eg the government played both sides and hosted various east / west meetings. The Helsinki Olympics in 1952 helped to establish Finland as its own country and it finally turned west by joining the EU in 1995 and was one of the founding members of the Euro in 2002. However there is still a strong Russian influence in Finland (signs are now trilingual: Finish, English and Russian) and the two countries have strong trading ties as well.

Morning tea beside the river.

On then down the road to where the Artic Circle (66o 33’ 45”) runs through Napapiiri and welcome to Santa Clause Village, complete with a full time Santa for knee sitting, the Santa Clause Post Office (you can arrange for a letter from Santa to be sent just before Christmas) and the Christmas gift shop full of all the essentials for Christmas.

While we passed on knee sitting some considerable time was taken in the shop.

And setting up the car photo.

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The evening in Rovaniemi allowed us to walk to the river, where the locals were swimming on this blissfully warm day, have a drink in the main street and enjoy food and wine on a balcony over looking a car park (well we did try to find a prettier sight but that was all we could find!)

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So now back into the warm south!

It all about the Sami

Two days of emersion into Sami culture.

As we left our digs near Nord Kapp and needed to take a few more reindeer photos and we finally had the morning tea stop in the sun beside a fjord: after days of drizzly weather where road side stops were at a premium, today we enjoyed tea with a view (even if it was still only 8oC).

The Sami people are the original inhabitants above the Artic Circle of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and their lives revolved around the reindeer.

The Sami domesticated reindeer 1,000 years ago, however they still follow the annual migration of the reindeer into the highlands in spring, returning in early winter. Reindeer are now all owned by the Sami with children as young a 2 months owning their own reindeer! At the winter round up the reindeer are sorted into family ownership groups and new born ear tagged. Each person has an ear tag pattern involving a complex pattern of straight cuts, circles and loops with often a family resemblance down through generations.

The Sami have some help with modern aids: the skidoo has taken the place of reindeer drawn sleds, the outboard motor oars on the fishing boats and military size landing boats now transport the reindeer across fjords that previously they had to swim! However lassoing the reindeer still continues (to select a new born for ear tagging or moving into another herd) and we had plenty of opportunity to try our hand!

Along then to the Norwegian town of Karasjok to walk around the Norwegian Sami Parliament building (only meets 4 times a year and not open very often as a result) and visit the Sapmi Sami centre. Seeing traditional huts (a pointed tent with poles and covered with animal skins, a lavvu or turf covered huts, a gamme), lassoing lessons and reindeer feeding and feeding ourselves. Presentation on clothing and then a video on Sami culture, with the main take away being that they believe that the norther lights are their ancestors coming back!

On then to the delightful town (pop 550) of Inari in Finland (blink and you miss the border) set on Lake Inarijiarvi and a delightful AirBNB chosen by Ros with views over the lake and room inside and out to spread out.

Inari is the home to the Siida Museum, an excellent museum about the Sami plus the geology, topography and seasons of the land above the Artic Circle.

Ros and I spent 3 hours looking at the indoor displays before heading outdoors to an outstanding display of village and buildings.

The inside displays included a room with information about each month of the year, including the number of hours of daylight (June: 24, December: 2), the activities of various animals (bears hibernating in winter, birds flying south or small marsupials living under the snow), the changing flora plus then how the Sami live in each season. Also included is how the Sami have adapted to change while still keeping their old traditions.   A further display was about setting up the museum itself, founded in 1959 and opened in 1963 with the new building opened with much fanfare 20 years ago. Much of the objective of the museum was displaying the Sami traditions in order to keep them alive. It does.

Outside the buildings were all original, some still with the furnishings of the last inhabitants when they left 60 years ago. The larders were ingenious: small huts on top of a single pole so that the wolves etc could not access the food with a notched stick nearby for the people to use to climb up.

After a recuperative coffee and cake we then set out for the next sight, the Pielpajarven Kirkko, a wooden church 4.5 kms along a bush track erected in 1760. We wandered between lakes and glades with photogenic scenery of trees, rocks and many lakes.

The church is still open and used once or twice a year (eg midsummer) and was originally built as the summer church of the Sami population: ie this is where they brought the reindeer in summer and camped here as well.

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The area served as a market, however other than the church and a shelter shed, there is nothing but alpine fields of spring flowers there now. An outstanding walk with a great end.

So we have spoken about reindeer: they are all around. Fences in the middle of the walk with gaps for people covered with a tarpaulin for people to walk through. And of course along the roadside.

I should mention our dinners in Inari: first night at the Aanaar restaurant in the Kultahovi Hotel, rated (they say) as the 10th best restaurant in Finland. We dinned looking over the rushing waters of the Juutua River watching anglers bringing in trout as we ate reindeer and trout! My meal was a 5 course deal (Ros helped by eating the second entre) including a amuse bouche of lichen dusted with shredded reindeer (the reindeer eat lichen), a salmon and trout roulade, reindeer and its pasture (roasted reindeer smoked with pine needles, reindeer blood dumplings, lichen seasoned with lingonberry, Lappish potato purée and dried lingonberries) and bark boat (pine bark ice cream, cloudberry sorbet and cloudberry juice) served smoking for dessert! Oh yes, plus an angelica palate cleanser before dessert!

The second night we had a BBQ (the house had grounds) which Michael set up and cooked 3 varieties of sausages (reindeer, smoked reindeer and chorizo with cheese and something green). BBQed eggplant and mushrooms to complete the meal: so great to be outside in warmish weather with the sun shining.

And on the point, the sun did not stop shining. While Mike and Kay drove to a nearby hill to watch the sun not set, I walked outside to the lake and took the necessary midnight photo of the sun over the lake. Google has a bit of a problem as the phone was saying sun set at midnight and then the sun still up and then a sunrise immediately after. I guess the computer cannot handle not having a sunset each day.

A great town with everything coming together: accommodation, food, culture and a bush walk.

Nordkapp

Nordkapp is the northern most point of continental Europe and definitely the most northerly point of our journey through Scandinavia. Once we reached Nordkapp we would be turning south again.

We went a long way south on our South American journey, to Ushuaia at 54°48’7 S, however, Nordkapp is a long way further north at 71°10’21 N.

Leaving Alta we headed north, eventually leaving the trees behind and drove along winding, treeless mountain roads which stretched before us in the misty atmosphere.

However, there were reindeer! Our first close sighting of reindeer on the trip.

People want to go to Nordkapp because of its position, and they have been going as tourists for centuries. However, now the busloads come and so facilities are needed. There is a huge centre here with a bar, café and restaurant and, of course, the gift shop! There are two cinemas, one, the Cave of Lights, like a surround sound experience through the four seasons at Nordkapp and one taking you on a journey through the countryside and the fantastic landscape here. There is also a post office so you can send your postcards with a special Nordkapp stamp and frank. Everything you need, in fact!

The Kong of Siam (Thailand) visited the Cape in 1907 and there is both a monument to t his and a Thai museum here. A tunnel in the facility connecting the main building to the Cave of Lights has dioramas of important events in the history of Nordkapp as well as a fabulously realistic display of the birds which live here. I was fascinated, particularly by the eider ducks and the puffins.

We also visited the northernmost chapel in the world, a rather simple but beautiful and peaceful retreat.

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Outside the building are two main structures: first, the globe under which you take the obligatory photo to show you have been here.

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The second is a beautiful sculpture installation, Children of the World was unveiled in 1089. Nordkapp has been the setting for the awarding of the annual Children of the World Prize which is presented to an organisation or project that works to improve the conditions of life for children. This is a very beautiful and moving sculpture which was started in 1988 when author Simon Flem Devold randomly selected seven children from seven countries – Tanzania, Brazil, USA, Japan, Thailand, Italy and Russia — to visit the North Cape to dream of “Peace on Earth“.

During their seven day visit, each of the 8-to12-year-old children made a clay relief symbolizing friendship, hope, joy and working together. In 1989 the reliefs were enlarged, cast in bronze and erected in a semi-circle outside the North Cape Hall.  A “Mother and Child “monument by sculptor Eva Rybakken points toward the seven disks.

The other obligatory photo is beside the 71° N sign.

The weather could have been kinder! It was kinda cold and kinda wet, as these photos show! However, all in all a fun experience and Goldie, Ros and John can now say, “We have been there”.

One legacy of Nordkapp was a flat tyre! We picked up a nail taking the above pictures, changed it in record time, all 4 of us were out and helping, and then had the tyre fixed in the nearest town, luckily we had a spare tube, while Mike and Kay shopped for the evening meal.

We were staying in Snefjord that night, a little out of the way with the closest restaurant 40kms away, so we had decided to cook for ourselves. Mike had bought what he though was fully prepared reindeer stew, though when he opened the bag it was simply chopped reindeer meant. Not deterred, Mike produced a fabulous reindeer stroganoff and we dined like royalty.

Snefjord was rather remote and the local people appeared to be reindeer hearders. Lots of reindeer roamed the village.

Alta

We are still driving north, today to Alta (70 degrees North) our last stop before we run out of land!  along the way there were magnificent views and it must get snowy up here with the number of snow fences and ploughs beside the road, left alone the possibility of wild life.

We had to leave early as we have two ferries to catch that only run hourly and then 3 hours to Alta

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and we wanted to be there in time for the 2 major attractions: the Northern Lights Cathedral and the Museum with prehistoric rock carvings.

The Cathedral is new, however covered in titanium in really glistened in the sunlight (yes we had some) and beautiful interior lit by the vertical lights and windows.

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The Museum is outdoor and highlights the rock carvings on the surfaces carved 2,000 to 7,000 years ago. There are about 6,000 figures discovered in 1970 under the protective covering of lichen. the oldest were further up the hill from the fjord – on the basis that originally they were made at water level however the land has risen since they were made and hence the ones closer to the shore are the more recent.

The early archaeologists cleaned the rocks with alcohol and then painted the carving red! Probably not something that would be done today, but certainly making it easier for the tourists to see. The more recently discovered carvings were not painted and needed a keen eyes to be seen.

Reindeer hearding 1,000s of years ago is much the same as today.

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Warm reindeer rugs that seem to generate heat.

Alta is a ‘nice’ little town. Only small (about 2,000) with trees and bush all around (plus the compulsory fjord). The main street is pedestrianised with the church at the end. We found a local restaurant and had yet again a smorgasbord style meal of lots of little tastes including reindeer, whale, prawns, stockfish and differing local vegetables.

Tomorrow’s forecast is looking better: rainy during the day with sunshine overnight!

Tromso

On the drive to Tromso we stopped at a Sami roadside stall: big tent, open fire, lots of things to buy and reindeer soup. The Samis are to original inhabitants of the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland. They have their own ‘parliament’ and like many indigenous people are allowed to life by some of their historical traditions. Reminded me a bit of the Inuit in Ontario, Canada who have their own stalls appeal to the travellers.

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Arriving in Tromso was a bit confusing as the city is on an island connected to the mainland by both a bridge and a tunnel – but the tunnel has a corkscrew at each end to get it deep enough which is quite disorientating when trying to keep one’s bearings. Further, 4 blocks back from the waterfront runs a parallel ridge below which is a tunnel the length of the city with 4 or 6 cross roads intersecting it with underground roundabouts. The GPS we have do a very good job when underground: they attempt to estimate where you are and give directions, but if you are a little slow the instruction for each roundabout tend to get confused. One day I spent 15 minutes in the tunnels popping up in may strange places before I gave up and followed the water front home!

A bit of a drive around and dinner together in the apartment (El Paso ingredients are available in many parts of the world!)

The morning saw John set off the play golf on the Tromso Golf Course, labelled as the northern most golf course in the world. When the GPS took him to an industrial estate he reverted to google maps and discovered that the course was actually 50 kms (about an hours drive) away and as it was raining, windy and only 6 degrees C I gave up!

Fortunately the next day we drove past the course and he was able to snap a few photos, even if he didn’t get to play on the northern most golf course. PS in Ushuaia he missed playing on the southern most course in the world because he only found it on the last day!

We then headed off to the Polaria, a presentation about artic animals and sea life. We watched the seal show where 2 bearded seals and 2 harbour seal preformed for their fish dinner.

We wandered through the aquariums of Artic fish and other marine life: starfish, seaweed, anemone and sea urchins.

This was followed by coffee out of the cold: we were not acclimatised yet, we couldn’t bring ourselves to sit outside with cushions and blankets!

Some sights, including the Rocket kiosk and church.

Next visit the Polar Museum about the exploration of the Artic and the ‘race’ to the pole. It included history of seal hunting with great diorama of 1800s practices and winter trapping (again with a diorama).

We completed the circle having seen the Fram in Oslo: details of Fridtjof Nansen who in 1893-1896 attempted to reach the north pole by taking the artic explorer vessel the Fram by freezing her into the artic ice and then waiting for the drifts to carry the vessel towards the pole. Didn’t work!

Unsurprisingly there was an outstanding presentation on Roald Amundsen and his expeditions to both the north and south poles plus his flights into the Artic.

A smorgasbord dinner by the fjord and then followed by a midnight concert Artic Cathedral.

It is midsummer, the sun never sets (if it can be seen at all behind the clouds) and we all rugged up to hear the concert. Leaving the Cathedral after midnight in daylight (no need for headlights driving home) needed our heavy jackets++ as it was 6 degrees C.

How can people actually live in this climate?

 

Lofoten Islands

An early start from Bodo in order to catch the 7am ferry for a 3.5 hour trip to the Lofoten Islands.

The Lofoten Islands are a string of islands offshore that owe their existence to cod fish! For over 1,000 years fishermen have caught cod during the January to March season when the fish migrate to spawn. It is not just the catching of the fish for which the Lofoten Islands are known but also the processing and drying of the fish into stockfish that is exported.

It is these stockfish that allowed the Vikings to make their extended voyages: the fish will last for years and can be eaten dry like biltong or soaked in water and reconstituted. The history of Bergen included stock fish, as the Hansiatic League was set up in Bergen for the purpose of trading goods for stockfish brought south from the Lofoten Islands. Currently 80% of the stock fish is exported to Italy and the rest elsewhere, plus the heads are exported to Nigeria and added to chilis and peppers to make a high protein food.

As a result of the dependence on fishing, the islands are a series of cutesy villages set out over the water with fishing boats set among the poles supporting the houses.

We started at A, the southernmost town on the island of Moskenesoy and discovered that we were not the only tourists out on this wet and windy day: the car park (yes a special car park for the visitors) already held 15 busses and numerous cars. Oh well, we knew it would be busy so make the most of it.

A highlight was the Torrjishmuseum, a privately run museum in a former fish warehouse that explains the processing of cod (or Torsk) into stock fish from landing to packaging.

 

Interestingly, it is run by Steinar Larsen who personally greeted us on arrival, issued us with an English guide and ensured we could find our way around and then upstairs for the included coffee and biscuit plus documentary on today’s fishing.

A film followed showing how fishing is still undertaken today, but with many controls following the almost decimation of the fish in the 1980s.  each boat is restricted in its area of fishing and the times of day it can fish.

Surrounding the village were many drying racks holding not just the fish bodies but also numerous heads. It only takes a few months for the fish to dry, the low humidity combined with the (almost constant) wind ensures that the regular sprinkles of rain are dried off quickly and the fish turned into stock fish.

We then started our drive north along the island chain. And a chain it certainly is. We crossed from one island to another along a series of 23 bridges and causeways plus 2 very deep tunnels. Most of the time we were driving along a road squeezed between the sea and soaring hills.

Next stop was the Krambua restaurant for lunch (well we did leave at 6:10am) where local seafood was the go. I (John) selected the smoked cod which took me back to Mum’s cooking when we used to have smoked haddock, I think. The same flavour with flaking flesh and sauces.

On northwards with many photos stops as the sun finally peaked out from the clouds and lit up and turned the water a deep blue and highlighted the red of the buildings (yes 90% of countryside buildings in Norway are really this colour red).

Next stop the village of Nusfjord, another village set around a tiny harbour with stilt houses built over the rocks and into the water. The village is now dominated by tourism with over 40 small cabins available for rent plus a few stores and cafes.  some of the foundations were a bit suspect, however the boat house did house an ancient fishing boat.

One more stop before we headed to our night’s accommodation, the Viking Museum built on the site where in 1981 a farmer’s plough hit the ruins of the 83 metre long dwelling of a Viking Chieftain. The recreated long dwelling contains the incidentals of daily life in a chieftain’s house. All explained by traditionally clothed guides and artisans who happily describe the areas of the house and daily life. One lady was weaving leggings, another weaving clothes while 2 men were making soft moose leather shoes and carving a 2 metre high entrance. We missed the chance to have a Viking meal, however the fire was still warming the main room of the building where the chieftain had his high chair.

In the main building were video presentations about the discovery and unearthing of the site plus background on who the chieftain might have been and more details about how Vikings lived.

A very difficult 3 hour drive followed in constant rain and driving wind. On these narrow winding Norwegian roads the top speed limit is 90 (but rarely seen) and 80 out of villages and 50 in villages. The locals appear to be very observant of the speed limit and also seem happy to trail along behind a car going slowly. Perhaps because there are few stretches of double lane (perhaps 5 km over the entire 200 km trip) and few lengths of straight roads between the curves along the fjords.

However, the destination was remarkable: the Sandtorgholmen Hotel, set on a narrow stretch of ocean over 4 buildings with the oldest (the dining room) dating from 1850, while the rest were built in the early 1900s after the 1906 fire! The main three storey accommodation building (pic below) was moved 200 mts in 1916 using greased logs, ropes and horses. Apparently it was still being lived in during the move!

The hotel boasts a delightful hostess, Madeline, (the owner’s daughter) who was receptionist, waitress, guide and breakfast check out. She is on duty from 7 till 11: the hotel is open for 10 months and in January and February the family decamps to Thailand! Dinner of cod (what else), elk stew, moose and home made meat patties and traditional fish soup all washed down with a really great local beer. Followed for John with another mum reminder: rice pudding!

Route 17 – the Coastal Road

From Trondheim we headed north to Route 17, the Coastal Road, or as it is known in Norwegian, Nasjonal Turistveg Helgelandskysten. This road was to take us through some 650 kms of spectacular scenery, though on this first morning it was, unfortunately, raining.

This route will take us, for the next three days, through offshore islands connected by ferries, tunnels and bridges and through small villages. We joined the road in the south at Hoylander and will finish the drive at Bodo in the north, where Route 17 finishes. As well as all the islands we travelled across, there was always another island just offshore – reputed 14,000 of them!

Driving this route is all about the scenery and what we saw along the way, so I am going to let the photographs pretty much speak for themselves.

The scenery along this route revolves around fjords, waterfalls, snow capped mountains, a glacier or two, bridges and ferries.

Route 17 exists as disconnected pieces of roadway are connected by ferries (we were to use 6 of them) and innumerable bridges. The ferries are incredibly efficient and always run to schedule. Unloading and loading including collecting the fare (which can be paid by credit card in even the remotest locations), even if there are fifty or more cars involved, usually only takes minutes. Many of the smaller ferries have bows which pivot up and then the loading ramp comes down. Once loaded, the ferry begins its journey while the loading ramp is raised and then the bow is lowered.

The fjords dominate the scenery, there is simply water everywhere, and waterfalls plummet down hillsides to the fjords below. We have also sighted glaciers along the way, huge sheets of ice ‘pouring’ down towards the fjord below. In some area the fjords are spanned by elegant and soaring bridges. And, so the journey continues, across water by ferry or bridge.

Tunnels also abound. On the trip from Foroy to Bodo a section of road led us through a tunnel 8 kilometres long. At the end of the 8 kms we surfaced for 50 metres before diving into another tunnel, this one 1.9 kms long. We surfaced again, this time for approximately 100 metres, to drive into yet another tunnel of 2.2 kms in length! Tunnels also run under fjords. Sometimes tunnels exit straight onto bridges. If it is raining the tunnels provide a respite from the rain!

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Wherever you have water, you have boats. I have no idea how many small craft exist in Norway but it must run into the hundreds of thousands. Every village and town has a harbour of some kind or size and this is filled with boats. Small villages, small boats. The harbours of towns, such as Bodo, berth substantial fishing fleets.

Wherever there are boats there are boatsheds. These dot the shores of the fjords and lakes and add a domestic note to the natural scenery.

I particularly liked these two with the sculpture of the fisherman if front of them.

We have passed through many small villages on this route. Many of the houses have grass roofs. This one has a resident goat who ’obviously’ keeps the grass mown. This same house had a beautiful flower filled letterbox.

Old barns and farm implements are a common and attractive feature of the landscape.

These villages all have a church and the architecture is very distinctive. All are white weatherboard and then they have a distinctive colour trim. One church investigated more closely by John while we were waiting for a ferry had a beautiful and extraordinarily neat graveyard. Then John discovered why, gardening tools are provided by the church and are there, hanging on the side of the shed, for anyone to use.

Road signs here are, of course, different to those we see at home. We have seen many, many ‘Look out for moose’ signs, though we are yet to see a moose. The other sign we have seen a couple of times is this: you can guess its meaning!

It is summer in Norway. The temperature is similar to Sydney’s winter temperatures, though is getting colder as we travel further north. 10° – 11°C seems to be the top day time temperature as we travel Route 17. However, the Norwegians act as if this is a 30° plus day. T-shirts are the order of the day for some, including our BnB host in Nesna, Dag. Summer brings with it fields of simple wild flowers.

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The sun did come out one morning and so Goldie’s top came down for a section of our journey. Lovely in one respect, but pretty cold! We were lucky that, as we crossed the Arctic Circle on the ferry between Kilboghamn and Jektvik, the sun shone!

Our most pleasant night’s stay on this route was with Dag and Rigmort in Nesna. They made us feel incredibly welcome and the apartment, which is the ground level of their home, was beautifully appointed and equipped. When we asked Dag where we could buy some fish to cook for dinner he promptly provided us with some beautiful cod he had caught himself. He unhooked then from the veranda lintel where he had been hanging them for a day or two before eating. He also showed us his dried fish, which he had caught and dried for later use. You can eat this, a bit like biltong, but like vegemite I think it is an acquired taste!

The fresh cod, which Michael, pictured in t he kitchen above, turned into a soup (starter), crumbed nibblets (entrée) and finally pan seared fillets was simply delicious and a reflection of Michael’s expertise in the kitchen. (He has been a chef in an earlier life). I got to engineer the accompaniments: fresh broccoli and snap peas with toasted pine nuts; roast vegetables (sweet potato, potatoes, yellow pepper, eschallots, tomotoes and fennel); and of course a dessert, apple crumble with sultanas and a topping made from toasted muesli mixed with Rigmort’s marvellous stewed fruits. A pretty fantastic meal.

While staying in Nesna, John captured the moment of sunset at 12.44am, followed some 16 minutes later by sunrise at 1.00am!

We were fascinated by the Norwegians enthusiasm for their gardens: flowery annuals sprout form the garden beds, vegetable patches full of seedlings (we are a bit early for the produce) and numerous automatous lawn mowers making their way around the grass. Each has its own ‘base station’ where they return for a charge when getting low before returning to trim the lawn day and night. So common are the mowers that the rabbits continue to nibble grass while they wander by.

On the road to Bodo we visited an old fort built by the Nazis during their occupation of Norway during WWII. There are still very visible remains of gun emplacements, old guns, old buildings of various kinds and a bunker which also housed the field hospital.

At the end of day 3 we finally reached Bodo with its huge fishing fleet and a harbour foreshore designed for strolling along.

 

 

Yet another great road + Trondheim

Despite the drizzle we set out undaunted for the next ‘National Tourist Route’: the Atlantic Road.

While only 12 kms long, The Atlantic Road connects the island of Averøy with the mainland via a series of small islands and islets spanned by a total of eight bridges over 8,274 meters.

The road was opened in 1989 and includes a visitor centre and walk way out to a view point to admire one of the sweeping bridges. We could well image the road on a stormy day with the waves crashing over the bridges and road. We scored a calm day and really enjoyed the views and drive.

The road was opened in 1989 and includes a visitor centre and walk way out to a view point to admire one of the sweeping bridges.

Along the way we noticed the number of buildings / shelter sheds / bus stops with grass roves.

 

we stopped at a church and noticed that the graves were neat and tidy and then saw the gardening tools hanging on the nearby shed.

From here we drove to the third largest town in Norway, Trondheim (pop: 190,000) in time for a walk around the canals and old town. Set on an island (like every city we have visited in Norway so far, Trondheim has retained the 18th Century character (despite the WWII Allied bombing as the Germans made the city their northern naval force base). The old city is set along the banks of the Nidaros River with the buildings in different colours and once were warehouses with cranes extending out over the river.

We expect they are all now apartments, with many flower boxes in the windows.

We walked through the ‘trendy’ restaurant part of town (where we returned later for dinner) to the cathedral, which has a bit of a story: It is built over the burial site of Saint Olav, the King of Norway in the 11th century, who became the patron saint of the nation, and is the constitutional location for the consecration of the King of Norway. It was built from 1070 to 1300, and designated as the cathedral for the Diocese of Nidaros in 1152. After the Protestant Reformation, it was taken from the Catholic Church by the new Church of Norway in 1537. It once had a huge diocese, extending across Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and even the Orkney Islands and parts of Sweden! Further in 1708, the church burned down completely except for the stone walls. It was struck by lightning in 1719, and was again ravaged by fire. Major rebuilding and restoration of the cathedral started in 1869, initially led by architect Heinrich Ernst Schirmer, and nearly completed by Christian Christie. It was officially completed in 2001.

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Ros then visited the shops: a pair of HH wind proof / water proof pants were in need (well after all its been less than 9 degrees C for the past few days and we have a further 1,500 kms north to travel to Nor Kapp.

Dinner in a trendy local restaurant: Burger & sushi, mussels (Michael again!), duck tacos and fish (cod & salmon) and chips with local beer and (yet again) Italian Barbera.

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Driving in Norway

There is plenty to do in Norway, however it is the beautiful landscapes which are mesmerising. Norway has made driving through these landscapes a national tourist attraction and there is a government department which is responsible for developing these roads and the tourist industry which now flourishes around these roads.

Leaving Bergen we headed towards Loen in order to stay within reach of the next days excitement: Trollstigen. The landscape between Bergen and Loen is dominated by waterfalls, farmland and villages. And cruise ships, big cruise ships! Cruising seems to dominate the waters of Scandinavia and we are starting to see cruise ships where we did not expect to find them. Bergen, Oslo, certainly. The end of the fiord at Loen and Geiranger? Well, no, but yes! Only one ferry today before we arrived in Loen in the drizzling rain. Unfortunately we have not been successful with the weather with a little rain for the last few days turning the fjord side morning tea / lunch stops into café visits! however that has resulted in the waterfalls being very big!

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Our accommodation in Loen is in a camping ground, however Kay has upmarketed us into a 2 bedroom cabin with views over the lake. The water is aqua blue as it is melt from the glacier above the town, apparently quite a tourist highlight as we see many busses coming down (on the one lane road) in the afternoon. Despite the attraction, tiredness and apathy (after all we will did see some amazing glaciers in Chile!) meant we settled in for a glass of wine and a walk along the lake.

Ros cooked up a storm of pasta and trimmings. It was my turn to buy more wine, however we discovered that the town of Loen did not have a government controlled liquor outlet (called Vinmonopolet) so replenishments needed to wait until the next night when Mike made that the first stop. We had heard that wine is expensive in Norway, however we have found that while it might be a little more than in Australia it is not so pricey that you worry. Perhaps 20% more than Sydney. Likewise in restaurants we might be paying the equivalent of $50 for a standard bottle so certainty not the $100s of dollars we were lead to believe.

While looking for wine in Loen, I dropped into a restaurant / bar on the dock where a cruise ship was tied up. I got talking to some of the passengers: 2,500 guests and over 1,000 crew! And this was a small ship! The trip they are on sounds great – the ship cruises up different fjords each day – and when the cabins on level 10 are so high up, the views must be fantastic. We saw the same ship the next day in Geiranger and while drove 55 kms over the hills, the ship had sailed over 200 kms out of Nordfjord to the sea and then back into Geiranger Fjord.

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Now for the absolutely best day of the trip so far: winding along the side of fjords, climbing up over mountains with 15 switch back corners, across snow swept high plains (yes snow balls were thrown) until we arrived at a look out 600 metres above the town of Geiranger on the Geiranger Fjord.

An amazing view looking down on the town and at the three cruise ships anchored in the fjord below, looking like little toy ships.

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A cup of tea was called for while we admired the view. Eventually we had a 2 minute gap between the numerous tour busses to park the cars for the compulsory photo and even then we almost had 2 motor bikes as well.

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Down 7 hairpin turns into Geiranger and another 10 up the other side, with another look out on the way.

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Across the high plains again and then to the even more exciting highlight, the Trollstigen, 11 hairpin bends dropping 850 metres down the mountain side with a 1:12 gradient with two dramatic waterfalls cascading beside the road. The road literally disappears over the side of a cliff. Further the road is surrounded by mountains named: Kongen (“the King”), Dronningen (“the Queen”), Bispen (“the Bishop”)

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The road was opened on 31 July 1936, by King Haakon VII after eight years of construction by men using picks and horse drawn carts. Clearly since then improvements have been made including some widening, but even now passing oncoming traffic can be a squeeze.

John took Goldie for a drive down and back up. Unlike when Clarkson got to drive the road I had to content with sightseers slowing for a picture and the inevitable German motorhome. Despite this it was exhilarating to actually be on the road that we had heard so much about as one of the great ‘MG roads’ to be driven.

Norway has made an outstanding effort with its ‘National Tourist Routes’ where service centres are built with lookouts and excellent facilities. This one was built over the river with ponds of water in front of the floor to ceiling glass, a timber fire, warm food (read soup!), comfy chairs and cheerful staff. Outside the gift shop (!)a board walk to a lookout perched out over the cliff face from which the full magnificence of the road can be seen. Almost as impressive as the road is the lookout: attached to the rock face made from steel allowed to rust the colour of the hills and glass providing a view from the floor up of the road and valley winding away in the distance.

Back down again and Fraena for the night’s accommodation in a cottage looking out over the sea. Weirdly the lounge room had no furniture (I expect that the owner used for yoga classes) so I dragged the dining room chairs in a circle around the panoramic window and opened the wine. Into town to the recommended local student restaurant for hamburgers and beer.

 

 

To Bergen and Bergen

As we left the Fossli Hotel we drove to a viewing site opposite the two waterfalls which thunder down either side of the hotel. Together these falls are Voringsfossen and the Vorignfoss waterfall itself drops from the plateau 182 metres into the canyon below. and also to photograph the grassy roofs of houses which are so much part of this landscape.

Then it was a drive along yet more fjords and mountain sides to Bergen.

In some respects I am sorry I did not keep a record of the number of tunnels we have travelled through in Norway and the distances travelled. Most tunnels are kilometres in length, four to six plus kms is not uncommon. Often you come out of one tunnel to almost immediately dive into another. Also, tunnels contain intersections with roundabouts!

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And not only tunnels, but bridges galore, and sometimes bridges which fill the gap between tunnels. Often with on or two parallel to the road we are on. In a country with many fjords, rivers and steep hills, the only way to move goods and people is by building tunnels and bridges.

Or ferries. So far we have clocked up eight and we know in the next few days there are nine more to come.

Norway is a land of fjords and lakes and the trip to Bergen took us along lake and fiord edges and through pasture land. There is evidence everywhere of recent harvests with white plastic coated rolls of winter feed sitting in fields everywhere we travel.

Arriving in Bergen we headed straight to the Tourist Information centre for city maps and suggestions as to what we might see. We parked in the old town, Bryggen, and walked along the waterfront and through the fish markets. The fish markets are mentioned in every guide to Bergen. You can go here and choose your seafood and have it cooked for you while you wait. Each individual stall has its own seating area, some more upmarket than others. We had assumed we would eat here one night, however a local from Bergen who we had chatted to in Oslo was less than enthusiastic and when we had a close look it did appear that a relatively moderate serving of seafood was accompanied by a lot of lettuce and bread. A very interesting area to walk through, however, with some fascinating fish on display including giant crabs and a monkfish, which has to be the ugliest thing we have ever seen!

After chatting with the girl in the tourist centre we set off for our accommodation, rather a feat to find it as the Garmin wanted to take us up one way streets or through pedestrian plazas or wanted us to make left hand turns where no left hand turn was permitted. Pretty frustrating, but eventually we got there. The apartment was great with very plentiful and generous breakfast provisions, but it was up three flights of narrow twisting stairs, great fun with suitcases. The young man who let us in did, however, help with this which was very kind of him. He also recommended a restaurant for dinner, rather than the fish market and only 2 mins walk from the apartment.

The colourful wooden houses of the Bryggen old town make one of the iconic photographs of Norway and they are certainly very attractive.

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After settling into the apartment we wandered back into the harbour area to view these old buildings and caught the funicular up to the top of the hill which dominates that area of the city.

The area around the restaurant and funicular station is ‘maintained’ by eight goats. They have electronic collars which vibrate then finally give them a small electric shock if they go too far beyond their designated boundaries. They learn quickly not to stray.

The views were spectacular, with the city stretching away along the fjord in one direction and up a large valley in the other.

There are huge parklands at the top of the funicular with walks and children’s playgrounds and a restaurant in a beautiful old building. We were a little perplexed by one particular sign we saw in the park.

We enjoyed a drink in the sun in front of the beautiful old restaurant building with a view of the city laid out before us.

Then we took the funicular back down into the old town. Here we wandered along the waterfront looking at the old buildings and exploring some of the twisting and narrow alleys which are part of this area. Most of these buildings date back to the fire of 1702, although the building pattern is from the 12th century. The levels of these buildings are quite fascinating: you can see when walking down the alleys, that the levels inside the buildings are quite irregular. This becomes more evident when you visit the Hanseatic League building which has been concerned in virtually a totally original state.

Also along the waterfront during our visit were this year’s entries into the Norwegian International Wood Festival where 17 teams from 14 countries, having been given 11,000 metres of wood and 24,000 screws, spent 5 days constructing a ‘sculpture’ reflecting the theme Climate Change. These sculptures were fascinating and we spent some time strolling among them. My favourite (Ros) was titled, Whale Bones. (far left, below)

That first night we went to the very local restaurant recommended by our host. Great decor, very friendly waiter and very good food and a most enjoyable evening.

The next day we set off for the Hanseatic League museum. This is housed in the original building, dating back to 1704, one of the old wooden buildings in the Bryggen district and probably the most authentically preserved both inside and out. The Hanseatic League was a trading association which covered much of Northern Europe from 1100 to 1450. The building showed how a trading house such as this worked, with rooms for apprentices (8 to a room and 2 to each single bunk bed), journey men and master as well as offices, reception area and sorting and storage rooms.

The main trading commodity was wind dried fish which would last for up to 15 months. Interestingly, dried fish in these times is equal in GDP terms as oil and gas is today to the Norwegian economy! Below are the scales used to weigh the fish as well as examples of wind dried fish which were hanging in the museum: absolutely no smell.

 

A fascinating and remarkably informative museum and one well worth visiting, especially as it was Bergen’s position as the most northern Hanseatic League trading centre which ensured its prosperity.

We then walked along the harbour front admiring some of the beautiful sailing ships dock here, along to the old fort, though this was closed for a function, then back along the water front and through bergen’s beautiful plazas and parks to the KODE museum.

KODE is a series of four museums each focusing on specific collections. John visited two of the museums while I opted for one which focused on the Rasmussen Meyer collection, with the houses period rooms used to display furniture and artworks as well as the works of various Norwegian artists including an extensive collection of the works of Edvard Munch which Meyer collected throughout his lifetime.

John particularly enjoyed the paintings by Nikolai Astrup.

We both, individually, took a picture of the ‘Troll sitting, wondering how old he was’!

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Dinner that night was a real treat. The restaurant Cornelius is famous for its setting as well, cantilevered over the sea, as its use of locally caught and sourced seafood. What is caught that day is cooked that night. You are picked up by the restaurant ferry at a pier in Bergen Harbour and then a 25 minute scenic ferry ride late you arrive at the restaurant.

The restaurant does a five course degustation menu including crab, white fish and other various fishes with names we could not convert to English. With matched wines and part of the night is a tour of their extensive cellar which stretches back into the bedrock behind the building. The meal was excellent, with courses of delicious seafood, as were the wines which were interesting as well as we were unfamiliar with most of them. An unforgettable night.

As the return ferry docked, Bergen harbour side provided an absolutely dramatic and fitting backdrop to our night.

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Three days in southern Norway: Part 2

After a refreshing sleep we headed off on one of the many amazing drives in Norway, Hardander Route along route 13 beside fjords and mountainsides.

Cool, but despite this Ros agreed to lower the roof so we could take in all the fantastic views along the way.

Morning tea was beside a fjord on a jetty chatting to locals and lunch in Odda, again beside a fjord. Get the message: amazing scenery and we are just starting to touch the fjord region.

The area also has many waterfalls, we are lucky to be here in Spring wham all the snow melt cascades down the mountain sides.

 

A couple of ferry rides plus visiting an old water driven mill and a stone bridge.

 

Our night’s accommodation is in the Fossli Hotel, originally built in 1881 when there was no roads up to the high plateau (horses dragged the materials needed to build the hotel). Even now the road up is amazing: many tunnels, one a complete cork screw winding 360 deg as it climbed up 120 metres followed by a higher tunnel that then overlapped the lower one.

The hotel is situated at the innermost end of the Hardanger Fiord in the beautiful Hardanger mountains. The hotel overlooks the highest waterfalls in Europe. The magnificent Vøringsfoss waterfall has attracted the Kings and Queens and, writers and musicians of Norway and Europe to stay at the Fossli hotel for almost 120 years. Edvard Grieg wrote his Opus 66 at the Fossli Hotel.

Although now a bit shabby, the hotel had its own class: ball room, snug, dining room, lounge room, games room and creaking floors and rattling doors. Currently set up with 1960s furniture there is a certain ‘occasion’ to staying there!

Magnificent view from the hotel over the two waterfalls: a delight to be there in the evening after the tourist busses left and we could sit outside in the evening sunlight (ie anytime until 10:30pm) with a quite ale enjoying the view and listening to the gallons of water thundering over the falls.

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Dinner in the hotel (no where else!) with local salmon, lamb and trout server by super friendly staff. Indeed the gentleman that checked us in, then became the bell boy, then the matre d’ and then the server.

We parked in front of the hotel and were again fascinating how many people stopped to take photos, leaning on the cars and stopping us to ask if we had really driven all the trips shown.

 

 

 

 

Three days in southern Norway: Part 1

From Oslo we headed south towards the ‘Norwegian Riviera’ a variety of towns on the Baltic Sea favoured by the Norwegians for the climate and beaches. Mike found the delightful town of Arendal for a lunch stop were we huddled into a restaurant overlooking the bay as the rain gently fell in the balmy 14 deg C! We couldn’t sit in the outdoor seating as the gentle breeze resulted in a wind chill of even lower temperature. Inside however we had a local meal of fish soup and open prawn sandwiches.

Time then to move on to the supermarket as tonight we will be spending in a cabin by Lygen Lake and 10 kms from any civilisation.

Mike surprised us all with his shopping and prepared a 3 course meal of restaurant quality, all prepared over a wood burning stove and gas hotplates.

The cabin is ‘off the network’: no power and no water or sewerage and certainly no internet. Mike cranked up the generator, turned on the gas heater and lit the wood stove to keep us warm. Over night it dropped to about 5 deg C: and this is summer.

I have spoken tongue in cheek about the weather: really it has been quite warm when the sun is out, but when clouds appear, the temperature immediately drops. Everyone walks around in shirt sleeves with a parka or fleece at hand. It gets quite busy with jacket on / jacket off! We have been told that last week the temperatures were up to 35 deg C, although that was exceptional. The days can be warm, but nights are always cool – without the sun it all goes chilly.

A beautiful drive up into the mountains to get to the cabin. There are a lot of trees in Norway. They seem to sprout anywhere: on the rooves of houses and bus stops, at the entrance to road tunnels, beside the road.

I expect that there is so much wood that even when timber is clear felled, the land is just left bare and new trees grow with no encouragement.

Next day we had a drive to Preikestolen (or Puplit Rock) to walk out for 2 hours to the amazing rock standing 600 metres above the fjord below.

No safety railings, no rangers and seeing people sit on the edge with their feet dangling over was scary.

We took pictures of each other on the edge: John crawled to the spot and barely moved while Ros was gamer and even did a little jump. With the wind blowing one felt that a stiff breeze could roll you over. Apparently only one person has dropped off and that was 30 years ago.

 

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The walk was hard: we climbed over 400 metres and the path was pebbles and laid rocks. That night we were too tired to cook and too tired to eat out, so pizzas it was.

To Oslo and Oslo

We only had on stop on the drive from Stockholm to Oslo and that was to visit the castle in Orebro. This was a very pretty town with cobbled streets and some interesting buildings. However, the main feature of the town was its castle, medieval in inception but added to over succeeding generations until its present configuration which dates back to the 1900. The castle provided a wonderful excuse for a morning coffee and cake stop!

In Oslo Kay had selected an apartment in the ‘high class’ end of town, just behind the palace and within walking (or a short tram ride) distance of the city highlights. Dinner downstairs, outside in the evening twilight while enjoying the local beer. Kay and Ros enjoyed delicious crab salads.

The next day we walked towards town via the Royal Palace. Talk about relaxed! Yes, there were guards at each entrance but they would talk to you if you wanted some information or directions. And you could wander around the perimeter of the building with impunity. No fence at the front of the palace, though there was a fenced garden at the rear of the building, facing the very public park. A far cry from Buckingham Palace.

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We then walked down the length of the main street and finally found our way to the harbour. The day was threatening rain, so we decided to the indoor museums first and hopefully the rain would clear.

At the harbour we bought ferry tickets which would take us to the Bygdoy Peninsula where both the Viking Ship and the Kon Tiki Museum were located.

The Viking Ship Museum houses three Viking ships which were originally used as burial ships. People of importance, men and women, were buried in a ship and sent on their farewell journey accompanied by accessories for the afterlife. The museum is most famous for the completely whole Oseberg ship, excavated from the largest known ship burial in the world.

Other main attractions at the Viking Ship Museum are the Gokstad ship and Tune ship. Although the Gokstad ship had been looted, when it was finally excavated the following were found accompanying the deceased: a gaming board with counters of horn, fish-hooks and harness fittings made of iron, lead and gilded bronze, sixty four shields, kitchen utensils, six beds, one tent, a sleigh and three small boats. Also found in the grave were twelve horses, eight dogs, two goshawks and two peacocks.

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Additionally, the Viking Age display at the museum includes sledges, beds, a horse cart, wood carving, tent components, buckets and other grave goods.

The three boats on display were significant in size and gave you a good appreciation of just exactly how a Viking ship looked.

From there we visited the Kon-Tiki Museum which mainly focuses on the successful voyage from Peru to Polynesia of Thor Heyedah and his crew on the Kon-Tiki raft. Ost people know the story or have seen the movie as this was an amazing voyage and one which has been well documented in various genres. However, visiting the museum, seeing the balsa wood raft and looking closely at how this amazing feat was accomplished was truly fascinating.

Also on display in the museum is the reed boat Ra II, built by the Amyara people of Lake Titicara, which Heyedahl used to cross the Atlantic in in 1970. As we had visited the Amyara people of Lake Titicara on our South American odyssey in 2015, this was an especially interesting display, especially as we had visited the Amyara people in 2015 and ridden in a reed boat.

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Then back on the ferry to visit the Renzo Piano designed Astrup Fearnley Museum of modern art. We visited this museum principally because of the building itself and the surrounding sculpture park, but we also enjoyed many of the exhibits in the museum. I was a little bemused by an artwork which looked like clumped brown and black blobs. It turned out to be thousands of flies which had been all just stuck together. (Though I might well have missed something here!) First, catch a few thousand flies!

My favourite was the enormous book case filled with books made mainly from copper and lead. Not bed time reading material!

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The building itself is beautiful, made mostly of wood with huge sail-like glass arching rooves. There are three building which make up the museum and the glass rooves act as a connecting and unifying structure.

From here we caught a tram to Viegland Park, the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. It is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions.

The unique sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland’s lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland was also in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park. The Vigeland Park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949.

Most of the sculptures are placed in five units along an 850 meter long axis: The Main gate, the Bridge with the Children’s playground, the Fountain, the Monolith plateau and the Wheel of Life.

The whole display is fascinating, however the monolith dominating the highest point in the path and the sculptures depicting the various stages of life which surround it are by far the most compelling. The monolith rising to the sky and writhing with figures of people of all ages struggling to reach the top is mind blowing. How, prior to the age of digital 3D did someone produce the designs which allowed a team of sculptures to produce this extraordinary work. This sculpture was carved in one piece (hence the name Monolith), but it was first modelled in clay, and then cast in plaster in three parts before the final statue was actually carved.

Then we headed back into the city to visit the Opera House. This building is amazing approachable and accessible. Long sloping foreshores slope down and into the water, like a sloping beach, allowing Olso residents to come here to sunbake and swim. The roof, also, is totally accessible with carefully graded slopes leading you up onto the highest section of flat roof from where you can take in the vista of Oslo city and admire the floating sculpture She Lies, made from sheets of glass and metal, which turns with the tide and reflects the sun from its myriad facets and faces.

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Inside the Opera house you are faced by a beautiful waving wall of wood which takes the eye from ground level all the way to the ceiling high above you. Exceedingly dramatic in its simplicity.

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I was fascinated by the cloak ‘room’. Hundreds of coat stands, all with multiple arms fill a huge space off to one side of the foyer. This space does indicate just how cold this city does get when it is not summer. This picture is of only half the room!

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From the Opera House I walked back along the waterfront to near the Astrup Fearnley Museum where we had arranged to meet Kay and Mike for dinner. John piked and caught the tram!! This was an interesting walk as it took me through the Akershus Fortress and grounds.

While having a drink before dinner we were entertained by a fabulous brass band.

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Then we got talking to a couple of locals who solved one of the questions which was intriguing me. As soon as we entered Norway we began to see a huge number of electric car and these were even more noticeable in Oslo. Teslas abound! The Norwegian government offers incredible incentives to encourage people to buy electric cars. There are considerable tax and registration incentives firstly, plus other incentives such as being able to use the bus lanes in Oslo. This information did partially explain the huge number of electric cars we were seeing here.

We ate dinner in a restaurant over the water of the harbour. Mike thoroughly enjoyed his mussels, as did John, though he did not get to drain the bowl.

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The kayaking sculpture was part of the structure of this restaurant. A good meal and a good day was had by all four of us.

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To Stockholm and Stockholm

From Copenhagen we crossed the border into Sweden crossing the Baltic Strait via the tunnel and bridge between the countries. On the Sweden side we were welcomed by border control: ‘Enjoy yourself in Sweden’.

We stopped overnight in the town of Jönköping. It looked a little uninteresting as we approached but another side was to be revealed. The hotel suggested some restaurants on the pier would be suitable for dinner so off we set. The walk to the pier was interesting as it took us through some old, restored buildings now used for offices and restaurants and, surprisingly, a matchstick museum! The only one in the world, housed in an old matchstick factory. Then we walked the length of the railway station on our way to the waterfront.

The pier had plenty of restaurants to choose from and a bar with live music. We settled on a restaurant and, although the food was slow to come, the food was good, the waiter very friendly and the extra glasses of wine to compensate for the slow service greatly appreciated.

We stopped to listen briefly to the music then headed back to the hotel. I left John at the bar as he wanted to continue to listen to the music and, so he tells me, dance with the locals!

The next day we drove to Stockholm along the shores of Lake Vattern stopping in Hjo (pronounced U!) for morning tea and then in a lakeside village, Askersund, for a picnic lunch. We noticed that there were many locals out in their own classic cars: American 1960s Cadillacs, Thunderbirds, Bonnevilles, and Chevy convertibles. Quite a cruising class.

In Stockholm, Kay had booked an apartment which was situated on the lower level of a house in the suburbs. This was a five minute walk to the station and then 6 stops into the city: very convenient as the train service was frequent and quick.

There was also a very large shopping centre and supermarket close to the apartment. After settling in we walked to the ‘beach’ and park on the nearby lake then headed off to the supermarket for dinner supplies. John had found this earlier on when he went for a walk and was initially disappointed that the village looked so ‘worn’ and then he discovered an huge shopping mall, 2 levels many shops of all sorts plus an enormous supermarket.

John set up tables in the garden and Mike cooked a BBQ salmon accompanied by Ros and Kay’s salads, a glass or two of wine, eaten in the twilight, made for a very pleasant evening. Which brings us to daylight: sunrise at 4am and sunset at 10am with still a glow in the sky in between.

Mike simply loves jumping on the technology and working out the best option in terms of the cost of transport and entry fees to the sights. We have discovered that the city passes which combine both are generally good value, as are the ‘Hop on Hop off’ bus/ferry/sights tickets. In Stockholm we opted for a city pass and, because of where the apartment was situated, a two day travel pass.

Over the two days we were in Stockholm we visited the Vassa Museum, the Royal Palace, walked through and had dinner in the old town, visited the Cathedral, the Vikingaliv museum, the ABBA museum, and Skansen, an open air museum come family park, a bit like Old Sydney Town or Swan Hill in Victoria.

The hardware shop and bakery at Skansen, both in operation.

As well we did a lot of boating. Stockholm is a city built on islands with water and canals wherever you look. Catching ferries is simply part of life and we did a lot of this. John and I took advantage of two of the water sightseeing tours, one more harbour focused and one which circled one of the larger islands and which was focused on the history of the city. Both were really interesting, with good commentaries, as well as relaxing, with some great views of the city from the water. Seeing vegetable gardens on the water edge plus the 1,000s of boats along every canal made for a picturesque trip.

The Gamla Stan Old Town, originally an island but now connected to the rest of the city by many bridges, is full of narrow and often winding cobbled streets. This area attracts a large number of tourists, so tourist shops, cafes and restaurants abound.

Located in this area is the Royal Palace. Perhaps the highlight of this visit was the Treasury with its exhibition of the Norwegian orders and the regalia and dress which accompany the awarding of these orders.

There was also a fabulous display of Meissen figurines and crockery, and a most beautiful cabinet designed and made by Meissen, all belonging to the Royal Family.

The Royal Family can trace itself back for over 1,000 years with every king and queen known to today – except for in 1818 when the then king had no decedents and so Sweden did a search for an ‘appropriate’ successor and came up with a French nobleman, Bernadotte! He was chosen partly because Sweden wanted to align itself with Napoleon and use his help to reclaim Finland back from Russia. This didn’t work, so they went an annexed Norway instead! We are, again, learning so much more history: Scandinavia and Finland have each owned some / parts / all of each other over the years making the actual history eye watering!

The Vassa museum was amazing. The museum contains the Vassa, a warship built by the King in 1628. The ship was the biggest warship of its type ever built. However it is most famous for the fact that it sank twenty minutes into its maiden voyage. Look at the stern of the ship below. (This is a scale model of the ship.) The waterline was just below the windows on the very bottom level of the ship. You can immediately see how too top heavy she was.

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On the day the ship was launched, with the King, Swedish and visiting nobility and all of Stockholm watching, and with all the cannon hatches open , all the boat painted gold and red and all cannons on display, the ship set sail. However, under sail, the ship caught a stiff breeze and heeled over. The water rushed into the open cannon hatches filling the ship with water and sending her to the bottom. Rather embarrassing for the king!

The ship was located in 1956 and raised in the early 60s, 333 years after it sank. Then followed an extensive restoration program. What you see on display today is 92% original. Obviously ropes and rigging etc have been replaced but because of the nature of the water in which it sank, the timbers were preserved. This was an absolutely fascinating visit.

Vikingaliv is s museum devoted to the life of Norsemen. It was interesting in that it is aimed at portraying an accurate picture of ‘vikings’. You were only a Viking when you set out on a voyage of discovery, raiding or warring. When you returned home you went back to being a farmer, or whatever. And Vikings did not wear horned helmets! This is fiction instituted by the movie industry and opera and perpetuated by souvenir shops! A very interesting look into the lives of ancient Norse civilizations. Mike was some what chastised when he asked the gift shop for a helmet with horns!

I can’t say I was ever a rabid ABBA fan, though I did, and still do, enjoy their music. A visit to the ABBA museum was fun and interesting with opportunities to sing along to the sound track of one of their songs in a recording box, or go on stage and perform with the group. Ros auditioned as the fifth member of the band for singing and John for dancing!

A section of the museum dealt with their costumes, why they adopted these and how each one related to the particular song/tour and who was involved in making them. The group themselves had a significant input into each and every costume. Many of the original costumes were on display. Other sections of the museum recreated important rooms/areas, e.g. the recording studio, of their time together

Our dinners were exceptionally good: first night in the garden, second night in Gamla Stan Old Town where Mike had herring  three ways, and smoked reindeer, Kay Swedish meatballs, John chopped meat and seafood pasta with local Aquavit and beer (a perfect meal) and the third night in a local restaurant near where we were staying where we had Plankor: loads of potatoes with something on top: like pork, fish or reindeer or trout.

Stockholm is both an interesting and beautiful city, with its location on various islands in and around canals and its fjord making it a very picturesque destination. On one of our boat trips we motored along a canal which was lined with very beautiful old wooden boats moored one beside the other in a remarkable display of classic boats.

 

 

Copenhagen

Wounderful, wounderful Copenhagen sung by Dick Van Dyke acting as Hans Christian Andersen and now, many years after watching the movie, we arrived in Copenhagen.

Kay had arranged a great apartment overlooking the river with a ferry stop just below, so we could arrive in the city by water each day we went exploring. We were met by the owner’s son who showed us over the apartment and welcomed by opening a bottle of bubbly! Although we had enjoyed a picnic on the beach we could not resist having a cheese and wine supper on the balcony overlooking the river and the distant views of the city in the evening twilight, which lasted until 11pm. So, a bit late to bed: followed by a 4.00am sunrise on the bedroom side of the apartment. [After 5 more days we are learning to be a bit circumspect about bunking down while the day is still light.]

We have had fantastic weather: the day time temperature ranges from 23 to 30 and it has really brought out the locals. All along the river bank are jetties and parks covered in people sun baking, swimming or just having a picnic. I (John) even had a swim: the water temperature was like dipping into a cool spring surf, chilly at first but you soon get used to it.

Our two days in Copenhagen saw us visit the sights you would expect:

The Tivoli Gardens: a fantastic mixture of gut wrenching rides, numerous restaurants and bars, gardens in bloom, recreations of Chinese buildings and millions of kids.

The Little Mermaid, with accompanying Chinese tourists all taking selfies.

The Royal Palace for the changing of the guards. ‘Our Mary’ was, unfortunately not to be seen.

A canal cruise admiring the houses and water craft all through the city.

 

Coffee in the sun on the Nyhaven, the road beside the busy canal.

c coffee

Plus a bicycle ride along the river and canals for me.

We were also amazed at the variety of old and new architecture, both in the city and along the canals.

Another picnic dinner, again on the balcony, watching the sun sink and then, on our final night, at a restaurant in a boat moored on the river.

On the way to Copenhagen Ros had noticed that it was getting hard to engage gears. A worn clutch? On inspection we found that the clutch fluid reservoir was empty and looking underneath we discovered that the  clutch sleeve cylinder rubber hose was split! Amazingly Mike had a spare and we were able to replace it and all is now well. Saying we replaced it actually meant Mike spending 2 hours under the car as both ends of the hose were in impossible places to reach with spanners, especially with the sump plate in the way. It must have taken 1.75 hours to remove and then 10 minutes to put the new one on! Thanks, Mike!

We then needed to pump through fluid which involved Mike underneath the car bleeding the system and me depressing the clutch, and every so often checking the reservoir: a friendly local happened by and starting chatting, so he got the job of watching the reservoir. Very kind of him as well as the many others who had stopped for a chat.

And when I say chat, I mean in perfectly good English. It seems everyone can speak English exceptionally well and have no trouble switching form Danish to English when they hear us speak.

A great couple of days and a lovey city with friendly and helpful inhabitants.

 

On the Road at Last

After enjoying MG Live we set off for Harwich on the English coast to catch an overnight ferry to the Hook of Holland. We would rather have caught the ferry to Kristiansand in Norway, but in the last few years the route has stopped. So we had a 1,000 km drive through Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden first up, which did allow for some fascinating stops along the way.

Rolling off the ferry we headed for the Dutch town of Giethoorn, a small town with no roads. Suggestions of ‘small Venice’ were imprecise, it’s rather a residential village with no roads, with each house having a jetty or a footpath to their door. Quaint certainly and very pretty with a surprising number of battery powered boats gliding peacefully along the small canals either full of tourist or locals out for the shopping.

Our first European lunch of pancakes and salmon with local beer!

Off then to the night’s stop over in Heiligenhafen on the German Baltic coast. A real ‘beach bum’ (modern) hotel on the beach with a great view of the sea and wind sweep beaches. The hotel reminded me of a snowborders inn: graffiti on the walls (very neat and tidy) steal lockers in the rooms, a bed on a platform to see the view better and a peek hole into the bathroom. Lots of surf, ski, skate magazines and Ros and I felt right at home!

The next day and another country, into Denmark.

Along the way another great stop: Odense, the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen! A well set up museum with lost of references to his stories plus a much as we know about HCA himself.

Two princes complaining about the pea in the bed

The ‘nominated’ birth place of HCA was selected as it was his grandmother’s place of residence and there is a lack of knowledge about an alternative birth house. Delightful details about his life; and of course his wonderful fairy stories which were not just for children: he commented that they were both for children and adults and could be read on many levels.

The house plus Ros considering a purchase for the dogs!

We also learnt about his drawings and cut outs, plus there were pictures and statues of him as he was very popular even during his life time. Fascinating as well was the virtual reality mask that allowed you to look around HCA study where he wrote many of his stories.

Our day finished in true MG fashion: a picnic on the beach with the Copenhagen MG Car Club. About 30 people with tables on the beach welcomed us to their party overlooking the Baltic Sea, where we shared wines (unbelievably from Australia) and beer while discussing the mechanical issues of MGs!

England and MG Live

MG Live

Silverstone, the venue for MG Live, must be one of the best known raceways in the world as it hosts the British Grand Prix. So, it was exciting to attend MG Live for two reasons: to participate in the biggest MG meeting in the world and to visit Silverstone.

We picked up Goldie from Malcolm Beer (MG specialist in Houghton) and then visited Charlie, Annette, Benjie and Freddie, who had kindly looked after Goldie for us, in Wiltshire. We always enjoy visiting Charlie and Annette, seeing what is happening on the farm, seeing how the boys are growing and having a pat and some walks with Tufty and Nelson. Then we set off for Silverstone.

Saturday saw us meet up with Mike and Kay (Shiraz) at breakfast at the hotel at Stoney Stratford. They had arrived late the night before after picking up Shiraz in Holland and driving across to England. So begins our next adventure and it is great to share another MG drive with Mike, Kay and Shiraz. GoldieShiraz

We arrived quite early at Silverstone to find acres and acres of campers. Obviously a feature of this event is the camping with people set up with huge tents, tables and chairs and BBQs. clearly this is a huge social event with MG owners from across the country and beyond her to meet up again, socialise, admire the thousands of MGs present and enjoy themselves.

Goldie and Shiraz had specially reserved parking spaces right outside the MG Car Club main tent and they attracted a great deal of attention. If we had not moved away from the cars we could have spent the day there simply answering questions and talking to people interested in the trips the cars had done.

However, we were there to see what there was to see so we finally extricated ourselves and set off to explore. Certainly we will probably never again see so many thousands of MGs all in one place. MGs stretched as far as there could see and I would have needed a drone to capture the entirety of the scene. Interestingly, MG Live is not a Concours, nor a race meeting, though both these are a feature of the event, rather it is a huge gathering of MG cars. Cars arrive and are directed to a section of the venue where their Register is parked. Hence there are hundreds of MGBs all in one area and likewise modern TFs, of which there were also hundreds.

There were also lots of stalls selling spares and automobile related goods of all kinds. No new bumper bar for Goldie, however, or car mats which we desperately need.

There were a few very special cars there and many prewar cars of which we had seen others in various locations around the world previously. Some cars were in pretty much original condition while others had been totally restored to pristine perfection.

                      1932 M Type                                      19339 K3

One rarity was the MG 18/80 Tourer. The MG Six, as it was first known, was introduced at the 1928 Motor Show and accompanied the 14/40 that was now in its fourth year of production. It was becoming apparent that if public interest was to be maintained in the new MG marque that a new model was needed, hence the launch of the 18/80 model. The significance of the 18/80 was that it was the first ‘real’ MG because the earlier flat radiator and bull nosed cars held such close ties with the Morris equivalents and Cecil Kimber MGs General Maanger had up till then been charged with upgrading the Morris’s to give them wider appeal. The new 18/80 was a car that could be described as a marque on its own as the vast majority of the mechanical components were totally different to those of the current Morris.

1880

Over the two days of MG Live we were to talk with many interesting MG owners. When we arrived in Stony Stratford on Friday evening we went for a walk around the town and while doing so met a gentleman, Colin Butchers, who had driven into the shops for some milk; he was driving a PA (early 1930s) exactly as if it was a modern daily driver. We had a quick chat then and on the Sunday at MG Live Ros met Colin again and he gave her a potted history of his car as well as a run down on some of the pre war cars assembled for display. Colin had owned his PA since 1959 and, as well, he owned a NA which he had owned since in 1957. His PA was in immaculate condition and was obviously his pride and joy. I didn’t even ask him if he owned a modern car, it would have spoilt the image! Chatting to Colin was definitely a highlight of the event for me.

Other highlights included watching some of the racing, especially the Bs and As as these races seemed the most competitive and closely matched. Dave Godwin, leader of both the Africa and South America trips, was there with Birdcage, his MGA race car, and on the Sunday we watched his race. Good fun and quite exciting to see Dave gain three places in the first three rounds and finally finish in 8th position.

Meeting up with Dave Godwin           Dave on the race track

racingBs_2

Mike acts as Clerk of the Course for race meetings in Australia and was keen to see how a race meeting was run in the UK. So, we fluked an entry to the control tower and stayed there for two races watching how things were run. Race control is in a totally enclosed room where the race unfolds across 40 monitors. No distractions here, just total focus on the race. There was an incident during the first race and a car left the track, ending up buried in the safety fence. The driver was, thankfully, fine. This did provide us with the opportunity to see how the recovery of a vehicle during a race was handled. Although the control room is totally enclosed we did find a room which looked out over the starting grid and the finish line. This provided us with an excellent vantage point for another race.

Part of the entertainment was a stunt drive, Russ Swift, going through his paces. He was driving a stock standard MG3 and a GS. It is hard to describe stunts when all you have is words and still pictures as these stunts relied on speed mad movement. These stunts started with a very fast approach to a curb followed by a quick handbrake turn which left the car facing the opposite direction and parked neatly within inches of the curb and at a exact 90 deg angle. The piece de resistance for me was when, again using a handbrake turn, Ross parallel parked the MG3 between two other MGs with little more than 30cm back and front. He performed this once with the parked cars relatively well spaced, but over three successive movements the space became tighter and tighter. Very impressive. Also included in the display was driving the GS around the arena on two wheels with five people in the car and doing a choreographed ‘ballet’ to music where the car wove in one out other parked cars etc in a very intricate and impressive display.

On the Saturday night we were invited to join the other international participants at a dinner hosted by the MGCC Overseas Director, Peter Cook. Present were Americans, New Zealanders, Canadians and Australians. This was a very pleasant event, though interestingly the menu was all Mexicaan although the venue was an English Pub! Internationals

All in all this was a very interesting and enjoyable couple of days and a great chance to extend our knowledge of MGs.

 

 

 

A new trip

Before we detail our next trip in Goldie, we never quite finished last year’s posts – we uploaded quite a few ‘On the Road to Goodwood’ entries, but never our actual time at the Goodwood Revival.

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The Goodwood Revival is held each September at Lord Marsh’s (who is also the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) estate in West Sussex. Other motor events held at the Estate include the Festival of Speed, plus horse racing and numerous other social activities. Plus a working farm.

The Goodwood Revival is a three day event based on the decades of 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Started many years ago to recreate the racing originally started in WWII when the Estate was home to a RAF airfield and then airmen raced their cars around the edges of the airfield. The track continued to be used for the next 20 years, however when cars became too powerful racing was abandoned in 1966. Not until the 1990s did Lord Marsh hit on the idea of a themed revival event.

Not only are the cars from the 1940s to 1960s but also the attendees dress to the period.

Each day there are a variety of speed events, including saloon events featuring Austin A40s through to Jaguar Mk1s, open wheelers, F1 cars of the era and the heavy weights of the 60s: E Type Jaguars, Ferraris and Aston Martin DB4s. Plus many other events relating to the period including the Settrington Cup for Austin J40 Pedal Cars driven by younger drivers (ie around 10 years old!). Apparently the Austin Wales factory produced 32,000 examples of the pedal car which was styled on the Austin Devon saloon!

A walk through the pits was exciting

This year also featured the Fiat Bambino, in its 60th year and each morning the program started with a parade of 100s of these tiny cars on the track.

Overhead there are aeroplane displays, all around are period food and beer tents and ‘over the road’ numerous stores selling everything from revival clothes, restored cars: anything you would like from Mk1 Land Rovers, MGs, Jaguars and Rollers.

And even more exciting was the car park, full of classic cars from pre war to the 1960s (anything newer had to park in the next paddock).

Overall an amazing event. We found families that make an annual pilgrimage, couples with a classic car fascination, kids dressed like grandpas as kids, and a swage of Australians on holidays!

We especially like the pace car!

Some details of Goldie’s next adventure.  Starting with MG Live at Silverstone we are driving through Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Poland, Germany and finish with the MG Car Club of Switzerland’s 70 anniversary weekend.

MG Live is the UK MG Car Club’s annual showcase: concourse, racing and swap and sell with over 3,000 MGs on display. Goldie and Shiraz (from our Silk Road and South America trips) have been granted special privileges and will be on display outside the main marquee!

We then ferry across to Holland and drive through Germany, Denmark and Sweden on our way to Norway. For the next 2 weeks we drive up the west coast, using both roads and ferries (I estimate that we will have 12 ferry crossings of fjords and to islands). After visiting Nord Kapp, the northern most point in Europe, we turn south and drive to Helsinki in Finland for a BBQ with the MG Car Club of Finland.

Another ferry across to Tallinn in Estonia for a drive through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany before spending time in the Black Forrest, the Dolomites and Switzerland Alps.

MGs_Arctic_to_Alps

 

While it will be a long drive we will be on good roads and always within contact with Moss Brothers suppliers of MG parts! Hopefully all will be well for a relaxing drive through picturesque locations.

We will try to load up the blog, but perhaps less often than in the past…