Friday, July 22, 2011

The Medieval town of Bergen

Today was spent exploring the town of Bergen. We had a lovely guide explain the ancient history of the town dating back to the 1100's. Apparently there were numerous fires and each time the homes/shops were repaired. What was so fascinating was the style of the homes built along the wharf called double tenement. They were used for sleeping, working, and storing their goods. Todaynthey contain shops, artist workshops, and preservation projects in process.Bergen was a big fishing town. We learned they had 23 different categories of cod. There was also a castle and tower we toured as well. The biggest surprise was the great weather we had. It is usually always raining but we had two good days. We took the funicular up the hill to see a clear fantastic view of the city. After recapping all the best moments of our awesome trip at dinner, we head home to Denver tomorrow.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cruising the Fjords

What is a fjord? Today was an amazing scenery day traveling down the Sognefjord (the longest at 127 miles in Norway). We left our mountain home in Elveseter early this morning to take a gorgeous drive through a national park at the highest point in Norway. We stopped several times to get some pictures of the vibrant green mosses, grass, and lichens. We had a bright sunny day-we could hardly believe it. We boarded our ferry to see the fjords which are Formed from glaciers. They are also shallow near the edge and very deep in the center. The water can be up to 4000 feet below sea level. At the end of our ride, the fjords narrowed and the walls looked so tall. We felt so fortunate to experience God's creation and to have the sun too.

Doug sits up front -click to view whole pic

The lodge we stayed in Elveseater in Norway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Moving Around in Scandinavia

Our coach is from a company in Belgium .RS uses Heidelberg buses exclusively.

There are bicycles everywhere in Copenhagen

Riding the T-bana subway in Stockholm
The public transportation is alive and well in Scandinavia. I have never seen so many bicycles than in Denmark. There are even lanes specifically for bikes and they stop at the stoplights. Each city we visited has a city bike program to borrow and return bikes at different locations. On the Island of Aero there are routes for bikes posted on the roads instead of interstate numbers. When we got to Oslo the bikes were less due to the extensive network of subways, buses, and trams. The hilly terrain added to the choice. Probably the most important and surprising reason besides the fact gas is $9 a gallon is the stringent requirements to drive a car. In order to get a license one must pay a $1800 fee for a license at the earliest age of 18 years. In order to buy a car a second charge of 180% tax the cost of the car you are going to purchase. These high fees discourage the use of a car for all but the older family who may have one car. The typical couple in their 20's will not own a car. We used many forms of transportation while in the cities. Our Oslo pass included boat, subway, tram and bus rides. It was a great deal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oslo- A Seafaring City

We spent the whole day in Oslo with our pass to get into practically everything. I think we hit 10 museums not counting subway and boat rides. It really is a good deal. There was a whole island with different boat museums like the Kon-tiki, maritime, Viking ship, and polar fram boat. We learned the Vikings buried the important leaders under their ship with things for the afterlife such as sleds, jewels, weapons,, animals, even a peacock. There were ornately carved sleds on display in the museum. Next I got my art fix with the National Museum and the Edvard Munch museum to see the scream under tight security. The only museum with a metal detector. Lastly we explored the roof of the opera house. Doug's fav was the maritime museum with a panoramic movie adventure through Norway. It was fun to watch the big and small ships come in and out the huge harbor. Baltimore's Harbor seems tiny compared to Oslo. The green parks in Norway are beautifully decorated with vibrant colored flowers everywhere you look. My favorite site was the sculpture park and the unusual sculptures of the famous sculptor of Oslo, Vigeland.

The Viking ship museum

The opera house appears to sink into the water. There were great views as we climbed to the top.Click to see the whole view.

Walking around Oslo- The hometown of our tour guide

Monday, July 18, 2011

CruIsing to Oslo Norway

This was an amazing park in Oslo with hundreds of sculptures of human forms and shapes, young and old

The Frogner sculpture park all the work of Gustaf Vigeland

A chair to sit in a museum exemplifying the fine design in Denmark

Last night we boarded the cruise ship Pearl Seaways for an overnight to Oslo. It took 18 hours to sail from Copenhagen to Oslo Norway.
I wasnt sure what to expect on our one night cruise that carried 2000 passengers but was pleasantly surprised. Everything was shiny and new just like a week long ship. There was the usual casino, cafes, buffet dinner, discos, and shops. Most of the passengers were Scandinavians on vacation as well as some tourists. Lots of families with small children were heading to the city. In Norway everyone gets 4 weeks paid vacation that they take out a little each week in their salary to get a lump sum in June to spend on their time off. In addition they get the week of Christmas, Easter as well as other Christian holidays. Doug and I made a reservation for the buffet dinner and enjoyed lots of fresh seafood and meats. We were allowed to use any currency of the three we have been using. We paid in Swedish and Danish kroner.

Photography by remolCador

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dining in Scandinavia

Danish SMØRREBRØD - open face sandwiches.
You can predict one food you will get with every Scandinavian meal. You will always see the mini potatos whether they are served plain or with different spices or a sauce. Our breakfasts have been very hardy. With a selection of three cheeses or more ,freshly baked bread, cold cuts of meat, fresh fruit, and boiled eggs are usual. Yogurt and the BEST coffee are looked forward to each morning. One hotel even had a juicer with quartered oranges to make ourself. Each time I asked the hotel, they had gluten free bread for me. The first night in Sweden we were treated to moose meatballs and elk kabobs. They were tasty but Doug said they were dry. Here are some pics of the SMØRREBRØD's we had. They are an open faced sandwich topped with anything but at the bottom is on piece of rye bread. Salmon was a popular yummy fish I had several times.

Ice cream was Eaten regularly in sweden and Stockholm. One shop had a merry-go-round of waffle machines where she would take out the thin waffle, roll it into a triangular cone, Pour more batter in the machine, rotate onto the next and do the same.
One night in Copenhagen we had dinner in the oldest restaurant that used to be an apothecary. They served the dinner on heated stones 300 degrees with a delicious cut of beef. We cooked it at the table. I was surprised to get beef.

Salad was not very prevalent but sometimes cut cukes, tomatoes, and thousand island dressing were served. Tonight on our overnight ship to Norway I got to try crayfish and marinated herring- popular with the folks here. Doug has been lunching on a hotdog that is stuffed in a French baguette.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Biking the Island of Ærø in Denmark

Because we were given the whole morning for free time, we decided to rent bikes and do the RS biking tour. It was described as 15 miles and our tour director cautioned us thatnit was too hard and hilly. We thought no problem as we unlocked our bikes from the hotel we had a nifty basket to put our camera and backpack and headed off. The road led us along the water and u shaped farmhouses. After making a wrong turn at the church in Bregninge, Doug began to think we wouldn't make it back for lunch at noon. We had to walk our bikes up the steep hills at times and coasted down the hills. the areas we rode by were quiet and peaceful as we didn't see many people moving about. The weather changed from sunny to cloudy to fog to sun again. We were so fortunate to have a day without rain. We found a shortcut back to Aeroscobing meaning we could only do half the biking tour in 3 hours. After our lunch we did the remaining bike tour with the bus. We visited a neolithic stone burial site and hiked down to a cliff to a beach with cows staring us down the whole way. I enjoyed the bike ride but my legs were tired the rest of the day. Later that night I biked down to the beach by the ferry stop to see the cute pastel colored cottages. They were the size of a playhouse that locals rent for picnics and changing. AEro island was a relaxing ,cute Danish island- a break from the busy city of Copenhagen.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Denmark- The land of many Islands

A beautiful sunset tonight on the Island of Aero (10 pm)  

Denmark is made up of 600 islands and we are on one tonight.  The town of Copenhagen is surrounded by canals since it was such an important trading city. Today we boarded our bus to leave Copenhagen to head for the town of Roskilde. We visited a Viking boat museum and a Cathedral where all the Royalty will be buried. It is a Romanesque style church with lots of gold , painting, and ornamentation inside.

In order to get to our Aero Island, we had to go over the longest suspension bridge in the world, twelve miles, Storken and then we took a ferry- bus and all. This island is only 6 miles by 22 miles long. Our group had to split up in three different accommodations. Some had shared bathrooms, but we lucked out because of Doug's height we got the only hotel instead of a B&B.
The small cottages are very brightly painted and cozy. Hollyhocks are growing everywhere out of holes in the cobblestone.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Rains of Copenhagen

One thing we found out about our RS tour. Everything goes on rain or shine. I don't think I have every been so wet in my life. From the beginning of our guided walking tour of Christianshavn and Christiana to the end the rains did not let up. Doug and I had our waterproof jackets and shoes-better off than some but I could of used my waterproof pants. It seemed every Dane had an umbrella and their wellies on today as we passed by searching for overhangs when we could. The most interesting part of Copenhagen today was the independently run area called Christiana. It is colorful counterculture squatters colony. The land is a former military base just a ten minute walk from the Danish parliament building. Our tour was given by a resident who has lived in christiania for 35 years.

He showed us around the cafe, general store, bicycle building ,metalworking, and other craft trade buildings. But most shocking was the walk along Pusher street as a sweet aroma filled the air. We were not permitted to take pics along this street of commerce. Apparently the police take a blind eye to the sales of drugs here. There was grafitti/painting all over the buildings, garbage trucks, and fences. After spending two days in Copenhagen, it was not what I expected. The people are interesting, the canals and building design are pretty, but it is a gritty city - a contrast to Stockholm. Things are not so neat and tidy as i was nearly accosted on the metro.I think I would like it more if the sun would shine. We head back here in a few days after our trip to Aero Island.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Art in the Castle

Intarsia woodworking on the walls

The Kalmar Castle in Sweden
How is your Scandinavian History? Today we learned about the Kalmar Union and the Stockholm bloodbath when Denmark invaded Sweden during the time of the Kalmar Castle.Then same King Vasa that built the failed ship resided here with his two sons. We stopped in the city of Kalmar on our way to Copenhagen. I really loved the different art seen in the many rooms. Most impressive was the intarsia technique which is inlaid wood. Various types and sizes of wood were painstakingly cut and puzzled together to form different pictures all around the castle walls and ceiling. There were also the normal tapestries hanging in several rooms. An ornate woodcarved bed was found in the queens chamber. The length of the bed was short because they slept sitting up so not to disrupt the humors or fluids in the body.
There were also frescoes painted in many of the rooms.(can be seen above then dinner table). Frescoes are wet plaster that is painted on.
Some of the artwork was original while others had been restored. The wood panels had wormwood holes in the original pieces. The stairway was made from old tombstones laid down like tile on the steps and landing. We also saw this in the cathedral in Stockholm.
One of the most interesting displays was the dining table that displayed a swan, peacock, and pigeon that was stuffed. They were mostly for show on the table. The king usually ordered 50-100 dishes for the dinner. There were fish pies sometimes stuffed with live birds. The swan was hollowed out and served with a marzipan dessert. There were eggs displayed on the table that they added a leech to wriggle across the table for fun. The castle tour was very interesting and the best part of the simple town. The whole town attended a rock concert at night that was located outside our hotel front door. We were in the center of the action! Earplugs were supplied on our nightstand.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rick Steve Rookies

This is the gote canal where we took our rest stop. To go across the whole country in this man made canal it takes 5 days

Doug and I have been looking forward to our long awaited trip to Scandinavia. We decided to try a "Rick Steve" tour since I loved his books and philosophy. I have been following his humorous walking tours through Paris, London, and madrid on previous trips. I have listened faithfully to his weekly podcasts on my iPod. So this year we booked his best of Scandinavia that is organized but not guided by Rick.
Before we even left we had to sign an agreement that we would carry our Bags up to three flights of stairs, several blocks, be willing to share bathrooms, and survive without air conditioning.

I was hoping for some younger and more active participants. We were very curious about our fellow travelers. As we went around the table on initial introductions, we noticed 3 teenagers and a great variety of ages. But what surprised us most was that most had been on four, five and even seven other rs tours. This was a good sign from the start. The next day we were introduced to the name game and we each had to get with our buddy to interview and share with the group. Often Rick is quoted about that store or restaurant and that is mentioned in the book. I guess there is a good formula, otherwise what keeps people coming back? They learn so much and see a lot.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recovered Swedish Warship

The Scandinavians are known for their love of the sea. Yesterday we witnessed all the types water vessels in the city of Stockholm. Today we learned and saw one of the most amazing exhibits that is unique anywhere. Our group ended our day of sightseeing at the Vasa Museum. This is a huge museum built around a recovered warship that sunk to the bottom of the sea after sailing for 20 minutes. It is amazing how beautiful the ship was with 600 wooden sculptures that were brightly painted and 64 cannons. The story reveals how this ship was preserved and lost in the sea for 300 years and then brought up and painstakingly put together
Iike a puzzle. All the ornate detailed carvings were put in their original place. 95% of the wood is the original black oak and the procedure they used was by spraying polyethylene glycol on the wood to dry it out. The reason the ship sank was it's top heavy masts and weight. The ballasts used in the bottom of the boat were not secured rolling stones. This boat was a marvel of technology to preserve and other restorations seek their advice from stockholm's experts. After visiting the old town (gamastan) and the vasa on djurgarden, we had tired feet walking back to our hotel. Tomorrow we head for Kalmar to visit a castle.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sounds of Stockholm

After seeing a beautiful sunset departing the plane at 9:20, we arrived at our destination. Our hotel is located on a small street which made me aware of all the sounds of the city. Since there is no ac we threw back our window and doors to let in some air. The tinkling of dishes and wine glasses were heard as we dropped to sleep after our 21 hour travel stint. The next morning I awoke early. After a breakfast of various cheeses, hardboiled egg, and fresh fruit, I venturerd outside this Sunday morning. The sounds were very quiet and peaceful. The cars and voices of people were absent. I walked along the street of our hotel to discover the view to the harbor. From our boat ride later we found out it is actually the Baltic sea. There were two locks to pass through as we moved to the lake and back. The familiar sound of seagulls occasionally screeched overhead as I walked toward the water. The chime of a church could be heard in the distance. While walking to our boat tour, the sky began to cloud up. Soon it was raining heavily and we ran for cover under a large fat tree thick with leaves. As the rain splatted on the sidewalk, We used our umbrella for shelter. .Many different tour and cruise boats glided through the the water without a sound . Bicycles are a major mode of transportation for the locals They could be seen everywhere instead of the noisy, horn beeping cars and taxis. Stockholm is not a loud city and it felt a very peaceful place to live.