Friday, July 31, 2015

Stavenger, Norway

Some of the old wooden buildings still survive in old Stavenger. Most of Norway's population lives in the Southern region because its warmer. Its not warm at all as we are all still wearing jackets and its the end of July. The coast of Norway is rugged and jagged that building infrastructure is a huge feat. There is no train between Stavenger and Bergen, so the buses has to take over. It was an interesting 5 and 1/2 hours, we had 2 ferry crossings where the bus had to be loaded onto a ferry with other vehicles. We had to leave the bus and sit in the passengers' lounge then get on the bus again as we approached the end of the water. It was a beautiful and scenic ride. I'm glad there wasn't a train. I'm still trying to figure out how to fill my time here in Stavenger. My time in Norway is approaching he end.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ole Bull and Lysoen museum, Bergen

 Lysoen museum on Lysoen island was the summer home of famous Norwegian composer and violinist, Ole Bull. (pronounced oolah) It wasn't easy getting there because of the summer holidays, bus services are reduced. I had to take the light rail from Bergen to Lagunen, transfer to bus 62 for Buena quay and then a little ferry takes me across to the island.
 The transfers took hours. I waited 2.5 hours for bus 62. It was a good thing there was a nearby mall that I could hang out in because it was raining and I was freezing. A little waffles helped with cream and strawberry. I love their waffles and pancakes. They do make good ones.
 Towards the end of his life, Ole's first wife died, so has 4 of his 6 children. He married a second wife, an American who was 40 years younger and built this place on the island. He had become so successful that a single concert paid for this place including 174 acres of wilderness. He had another summer home that he gave to his remaining children by his first wife. This was left to his American child who later gave this property to the Norwegian government and is now a museum. Ole loved the USA, he tried unsuccessfully to establish a Norwegian colony in the US.
 The house is whimsical, both inside and out. Its an amalgamation of all the things he had seen abroad. He spent time in Paris and Italy before returning to live the rest of his life in Norway.
 Some of the decorative interiors evoke memories of the Alhambra. He called this place his little Alhambra. The windows were German in style, the front faces the bay and the back ones faces the wilderness in the back.

Even though it took me the whole day to get there and back, I'm still glad I went. It was well worth the trouble. I'm inspired again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Naeroyfjord, Flamsbana train and Bergen, all in one day

 Flam is the start or the end of Sognefjord. It is really pretty but very commercialized.Its crowded all the time because the whole world has found out about it. One of the girls I shared a dorm room with the night before, a Swedish girl said she's going on the Naeroyfjord cruise. Since I had hours to kill before I get on the Flamsbana train I decided to join her.
 The Naeroyfjord has just been added on to the UNESCO world heritage site list. It is supposed to be wild and rocky, its rock cliffs are so steep, it goes straight up. Hardly anyone lives along this fjord because the rocks and the steepness of it does not support human activity.
 Besides taking a slow ferry, one can also go in a very speedy hovercraft. Its freezing and these guys are given a special suit to wear.
 The only other activity were these kayakers.

 We saw some sheep. I don't know how they got here, they could be renegade sheep.
 We passed by some campers. I don't how they do it, its remote and its so cold.
 The ferry takes us through the fjord to the end at Gudvangen where we were dropped off to catch a bus back to Flam. Here at Gudvangen they were loading another batch of visitors for the trip back to Flam. The trip to Flam was fast. The terrain in Norway is steep and irregular that road building is a problem. The Norwegians seem to have solved this by building tunnels, burrowing into the rocks for miles. Their tunnels goes on for miles.
 Then I came back to Flam and I still have a few hours to kill. The Swedish took the next Flamsbana train and left. I took the 3pm. This is the famous and spectacular train the climbs out of the Flam valley to the top at Myrdal where it meets the Oslo-Bergen-Oslo train, another spectacular train journey. We passed some of the most beautiful view of steep rocky mountains, waterfalls and wild vegetation.
 We had to stop when the train coming from the opposite direction comes. It has a few trips a day and every trip is crowded. Everyone is there to ride that train, just 20Km long and took 40 years to build.
 There are lots of waterfalls but this is the biggest. We were let out of the train for 5 minutes to take pictures.

At Myrdal, the Oslo Bergen train was waiting and I jumped into it for the last 3 hours to get to Bergen. I'm in my hotel room now in Bergen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Flam, Norway

 I arrived in Flam this afternoon. It was a culture shock, the place is so crowded and so commercialized. Its so crazy. The endless lines of Asians everywhere and the numerous tour buses. My god, I've never seen anything like it. Otherwise it is a really pretty place. I'm staying at a hostel/camping site. This place is something else too, there are tents pitched everywhere under the apple trees. There are RV's all over the hillside. One can rent private cabins or sleep in a dorm. I'm sleeping in a girl's dorm tonight, just for one night. I leave to take the train to go back to Bergen tomorrow.
 The wild flowers are still all over the hillside. It makes this camp ground really pretty.

 The lines and lines of huge tour buses and huge cruise ships. I don't know how they can drive those huge cruise ships up here.
 There is famous train and the lines of Chinese tourists at every running is crazy scary.
 I did a short hike and ran into a raspberry farm. I trespassed and went in to pick some. Three Chinese tourists saw me do it and they followed.
I'm taking this train tomorrow.

Balestrand, Norway

 Last look at Balestrand. My ferry ride arrives in a few hours and I got to be heading down to the harbor quite soon.
 I did walk around this morning before breakfast. Some hotels faces the fjord and some lucky people do wake up with this view. Not me, my room faces the back but I can see mountain tops with snow at their peaks. Its so beautiful. How wonderful to be living here even though they have to face a long dark cold and wet winter. These few summer months sort of make up for it. The sun is out today and I think summer has finally arrived in these parts.

This is the sitting area of my hotel, it consists of an old house and a new and modern annex. Its the only place in town that has rooms left. There's this big hotel that is filled up, with huge busloads of Chinese visitors. If I post again today it will be from Flam.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sognefjord and Fjaerlandfjord, Norway

 I left Bergen at 8am, went on the ferry to Sognefjord. I was going to make a stop at Balestrand, stay the night, continue tomorrow up to Flam, stay the night at Flam and then take the train back to Bergen. As we approached Balestrand, the captain announced that what we're seeing up ahead is the 6,000 year old Jostedal glacier, the biggest in Europe. In fact there is a boat waiting at Balestrand to take people there right now. So a bunch of us jumped at the chance. I took my luggage and got on this little skiff and off we went up the Fjaerlandfjord and on to Fjaerland to see this glacier.

 All the way up the Sognefjord we passed remote farm houses.

 Fjaerland is a very prosperous town. The retreating glacier has left behind some of the most fertile soil in Norway. The Norwegians prefer the warmer South of Norway and that is why most of the population is concentrated in the warmer southern cities. The North is very sparsely populated.
 It's summer and the glacier has retreated.

 Then we came back to Balestrand and I'm in my hotel, showered and fed.

 This is the view from my bedroom which is at the back of the hotel. Balestrand is a cute place.
 This is St Olaf, an example of a stave church. This is stave architecture. I was surprised to read that the church of England runs this place.
 This is the view from this apartment when they look out their back! Imagine that. This is July and the snow stays all year round.
This was what I ate for dinner, Norwegian meatballs. They were really good. What a day it was. I was wondering how to travel up the Fjaerlandfjord to Fjaerland and by some quirk of fate, I did it!