Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The country of my grandmother

Stanley - Thursday

Thanks to Michael for filling in for me at short notice last week.  He intimated that I was having connectivity problems due to being in the third-world country of Denmark.  Actually I was digging around for my roots on a boat in the Norwegian seas.  The ship was having connectivity problems - on and off, on and off.

Now I am back in my ancestral home of Bergen, internet access is stable.  (My grandmother, Alpha Hansen, was born here.)

Next week I will share a story from here in Bergen that I just love.  This week, however, I will share some of the sights I've just enjoyed on a ferry from Bergen to the Lofoten Islands inside the Arctic Circle, a couple of days on the islands, and another ferry trip to Tromsø on about the 70th parallel.

Mette and I and two longtime friends boarded the Hurtigruten ferry boat, the Richard With, in Bergen and headed north.  Contrary to all tourist-guide predictions, we had spectacular sunny, no-wind days for the entire trip to Svolvaer on the Lofoten islands.  Bergen rains about 240 days a year, as does most of the surrounding countryside, so were were very lucky.  I am writing this back in Bergen, and the weather is still perfect.  Lucky us.

Everything about the trip has been special: lovely companions, a low-key but comfortable boat, great weather, unbelievable scenery, and calm seas (important for me as I am prone to sea sickness).  The food has been very good - mainly fish of all sorts, prepared in many different ways - and the alcohol extremely expensive.  I had to call my bank manager every time I ordered a bottle of wine.  Based on his response, I never got to order any wine.  $8-$15 for an ordinary beer, $11 for a small glass of house wine, $50+ for ho-hum table wine.  Fortunately we anticipated this and sneaked in our own supply, which we consumed, huddled in one of our small cabins.

Probably the single best part of the trip was four nights of spectacular northern lights.  For those of you who haven't seen Aurora Borealis, I highly recommend trying to do so.  One night in particular was out of this world - huge bright arcs across the sky, changing from silver to green with tinges of orange.  Then morphing to dancing columns and spinning circles.  Then they would disappear, only to rush back with greater intensity.

So here is a small collection of what we saw.  Unfortunately my little point-and-shoot camera didn't do a good job of the lights, so I have borrowed one.

First and foremost, Norway is a land of water and mountains, and tens of thousands of skerries.  And tiny communities clinging between the sea and the mountains - hundreds of these villages, seemingly more houses than people.

Originally Norway was built on fishing and the export of dried fish.  This still happens, but it now a country thriving on the proceeds of oil.

Salmon farming 

Confusing view from the air

It is also a country filled with statues:

Unhappy lad!

And very ugly paintings - on our boat!  (They say the Norwegians are dour!)

It is a land of trolls - perhaps my father's family came from here too!

And, of course, dried fish.

And northern lights!

A cruise up the Norwegian coast is astonishingly beautiful!  Do it if you can.


  1. Holy Mackerel! What stunning vistas, thoughtful statues, powerful art, and gnebishy gnomes. EvKa should feel right at home, though personally I prefer the more SUNSHINE than NOIR haunts. :)

  2. Holy Mackerel! What stunning vistas, thoughtful statues, powerful art, and gnebishy gnomes. EvKa should feel right at home, though personally I prefer the more SUNSHINE than NOIR haunts. :)

  3. What a beautiful trip, Stan! But I can believe the 240 days of rain: look at all that rain gear and rain hats in those paintings. I was surprised, though, to see that Jeff had made it so far north from his usual Mediterranean haunts, and also surprised that he was able to balance so easily on that ball while posing for his statue. But, that just shows what a smart people the Norwegians are: they recognize and honor the great artists.

  4. The Northern lights is on my list. Along with the great pyramids and one day, the site of Donald Trump's political grave.

  5. Nigeria is a MAJOR importer of stockfish. Panla, in Yoruba, my native language. We consume so much of it across the country and I assumed it was made in Nigeria. Imagine my shock when I learnt where it's from. Stock fish is so much a part of the Nigerian culture now that certain 'traditional' recipes are centred around stock fish. The beauty of world trade.

  6. What Leye said. Except I have seen the great pyramids. Leye, don't fret. I was way older than you are now when I finally got to Giza. I celebrated my 60th birthday there!

  7. Okay, so Norway is a third world country.
    Stunning pictures!