A Travellerspoint blog

Of Rainbows and Waterfalls...

sunny 20 °C

Every weather forecast told a different story as we planned our boat trip to the Hardanger, Sor and Eid fjords until we decided that we might be in Bergen until next June if we waited for a sunny day. So, with raingear and umbrellas, we set off to make rainbows from the raindrops...
When the skies are grey
and the sun doesn't shine
When dark clouds scud
and wild winds whip the brine
All you need is a rainbow or two to brighten your day...

large_f97a14a0-bf4b-11e8-9daf-c357a831e8c9.JPG

All was not gloom. Three storms in as many days might have dampened our spirits, but it sent water cascading out of the mountains in a myriad of spectacular waterfalls. They cut silvery slashes through the forests and threatened to wash overboard the tiny villages of whitewashed wooden houses that cling precariously to the edge...
large_Waterfalls.JPG

It's only September, but snow is already blanketing the mountain tops and we caught glimpses through the clouds from time to time as we sailed deeper into the fjords...
4cc6b560-bf50-11e8-9c28-6b5c76b52e18.JPG

Every turn of the ship's wheel brought a different view, but the relentless rain washed out the colours and kept us inboard until we spotted a huddle of ancient huts that were weathering alongside birch trees in their autumnal mantles...
e589a3f0-bf4d-11e8-af6f-395fd4a061a1.JPG

And so, our fjord days are over and the pretty city of Bergen, and its persistent rain, was behind us as we travelled eastwards on the train to Oslo.
We have been bowled over by the helpfulness and friendliness of every Norwegian we have met so far and Christine made instant friends with this little chap on the train...
743370d0-bf4f-11e8-9c28-6b5c76b52e18.JPG
Blue skies were on the horizon as we climbed higher into the mountains on Norway's scenic railway from Bergen to Oslo...
large_e4762d90-bf4c-11e8-bf9f-01cc61f93422.JPG
The alpine railway took us alongside the swollen rivers that were dashing headlong to the fjords and out into the North Sea...
large_1a095bf0-bf50-11e8-9c28-6b5c76b52e18.JPG
The seven hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo took us through a picturesque gallery of landscape art rivalling any created by the great masters. Fjords, rivers, lakes and waterfalls streamed past us in a constant flow, while mountains, forests and picture-perfect villages flashed by like alpine postcards as we slipped from tunnel to tunnel, climbing higher and higher until the snow began to fall as we neared Myrdal...
large_ce696c90-bf4e-11e8-afdc-59b9aa94bcc1.JPG
And then we carried on upwards until we skimmed the very edge of winter at Finse...
Bleak_hillside.jpg
It's all downhill from Finse to Oslo but the skies cleared and there is sunshine in our future. However, we are not done with the storm-laden North Sea quite yet. We are just taking a respite as we head eastwards to Oslo and then to Sweden and the Baltic before slipping south to the westerly coast of Denmark.

Posted by Hawkson 12:23 Archived in Norway Comments (5)

A Rainy Day in Bergen

storm 12 °C

When we arrived at our Bergen hotel we were delighted to be upgraded to a harbour view - until we looked out of our window...
25d07db0-bd89-11e8-8801-ff9f3c9eeeca.JPG
We are not complaining: we did the research; we knew the odds. We had read the annual precipitation accounts from the Norwegian met office saying... “A lot of rain falls in Bergen in the months of: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December.”
With Hurricane Helene out of the way we hoped for smooth sailing, but severe storm Ali whipped over from Scotland during the night and stripped branches off the trees, slashed rain at our windows and knocked out the power... It reminded us of home. However, we woke to patches of blue and a good day to catch up on Bergen's history in the many museums. First stop – the Hanseatic Museum housed in some of the traditional warehouses that line Bergen's ancient quayside...
large_25189f60-bd89-11e8-b912-f91204a59b7e.JPG
Some of these imposing wooden buildings were erected in 1702 following a devastating fire, although many were destroyed by another inferno in 1955. Most are filled with touristy trinkets and reindeer hides today, but in earlier times they were stacked with enormous quantities of dried cod awaiting shipment in exchange for grains, textiles and other products controlled by the Hanseatic League. While many of the buildings have been reconstructed in the past 300 years the displays of dried cod in the museum are real enough...
257a9580-bd89-11e8-a081-ab441ad35c12.JPG
The Hanseatic League was a group of North German businessmen who, between the 12th and 17th centuries, hired a mercenary army and and seized exclusive control of all manner of trade in the Baltic and surrounding countries by treaties, agreements, (or sheer bloody force). The Hanseatic merchants dominated international trade and built great warehouses where their staff both lived and worked in an exclusively German environment. The owners kept tight reins on their businesses and men and the workers were forbidden from fraternizing with the locals. They had their own meeting rooms...
large_25a10940-bd89-11e8-9ad0-a5d5f1f1e311.JPG
and slept in cupboard bunks like this...
2538aa80-bd89-11e8-880d-79ba122b3751.JPG
The trading agreements were always in favour of the Hansa (an old German word applied to bands of merchants traveling between the Hanseatic cities), because they had the biggest guns and the most money...
large_25117370-bd89-11e8-95ba-012b21a7ffe0.JPG
These traditional wooden warehouses soaked in fish oils were fire hazards and were eventually replaced with robust brick buildings like this...
large_25747b00-bd89-11e8-9f73-1f0a61ec692a.JPG
...before the league eventually collapsed when sovereigns and parliaments got fed up by being pushed around by a rich and powerful neighbour. (Note to Donald – history always repeats itself).

Norway has the highest standard of living in the world, (hence the highest prices), and, while much of the revenue comes from oil, fish is still a major export. The Bergen Fishery Museum is housed in ancient fishing wharves where we learned a great deal about the industry's history and today's salmon farms. Norway exports more than a million tons of farmed salmon a year and fish is on every menu here. And so, to lunch at the quayside fishmarket where the seafood rolls are stacked high with crayfish, shrimps and smoked salmon, ...
2501bc00-bd89-11e8-8d01-87020391d000.JPG
And this giant monkfish didn't look at all happy...
259dfc00-bd89-11e8-ba94-ad37592d17c2.JPG
So far we have dodged the worst of two storms, but storm Bronagh is now on the horizon. Will we still be happy if the sun doesn't shine when we cruise the fjords again? Only time will tell.

Posted by Hawkson 03:36 Archived in Norway Comments (5)

Then Came the Sun...

sunny 22 °C

When we arrived in Stavanger we battened down the hatches and were preparing to spend the day watching Hurricane Helene's rain slashing against the hotel's windows, but we woke to a gloriously sunny morning. Helene was running late and the only clouds on the horizon were two giant cruise ships that had sailed into port before dawn...
large_6d917590-bc13-11e8-ae81-216a18bb19ab.JPG
So, after a typical Norwegian breakfast, we dashed down to the harbour and jumped aboard a boat heading for the fjords before the city became swamped with cruise passengers. And what an amazing day we had sailing the Hogsfjorden and Lysefjorden...
large_Islands.JPG
Norway is renowned for its fjords: long, narrow seawater inlets with near vertical rock walls that chop up the coastline and make road and rail travel virtually impossible. So, school buses are replaced with school boats and the happy kids gave us a wave as they sailed to class...
6ef04240-bc13-11e8-bce7-6d915cb4fc17.JPG
With a perfectly clear sky and unseasonably warm temperatures in the 20s it was smooth sailing all the way as we passed idyllic islands...
6ed5b560-bc13-11e8-9b35-517b49ea7767.JPG
...and marvelled at the magnificent formations in the cliffs high above us. This is known as 'Pulpit Rock' in English...
large_6ee6a550-bc13-11e8-9be3-69c4816ed73b.JPG
...while the heart-shaped pale patch in the centre of this cliff is, we were assured, the stone heart of a troll whose love for a human woman had been unrequited...
6eb07a20-bc13-11e8-8b3f-fb40532d1cfd.JPG
This is a troll...
6ddeab30-bc13-11e8-ae81-216a18bb19ab.JPG
We had seen many of these characters hanging about outside tourist shops in Stavanger but, unlike the Norwegians in general, none of them were particularly friendly or communicative. It turns out that since the 9th century trolls have lived in crevices and caves in isolated mountains and have never been very fond of humans. Apparently there are families of trolls living in the caves in the fjord cliffs and they drink from the many freshwater waterfalls like this one, named Hengiare, in the Lysefjorden...
large_6f03f150-bc13-11e8-bb8a-21bed54520c7.JPG
However, this is Norway, land of sagas, legends and myths, so we took our guide's stories with a pinch of salt. Also taken with a pinch of salt are canned Norwegian sardines, and Stavanger was at one time the country's canning capital. Some 80% of Stavanger's population worked in the fishing industry until oil was discovered in the North sea in the 1960s. Now the canneries have all closed. However, the last one standing has been turned into a museum. The museum is in the heart of the old town and is surrounded by narrow streets of quaint wooden houses, all painted white...
large_Gamle.JPG
The museum curator, an Englishman, was extremely informative and the first thing we learned was that we had been deceived all our lives. Canned Norwegian sardines are not sardines at all: they are humble sprats. When the industry began in the late 1800s the Norwegians guessed that people preferred the tasty little Mediterranean fish so they simply packed the plentiful local sprats in olive oil and called them sardines – and, seemingly, no one ever knew the difference. Here's an antique canning machine from 1908 that our guide was still able to operate...
6f0529d0-bc13-11e8-871f-d515c25d3dcc.JPG
Hurricane Helene eventually breezed past us in the night and left clear skies and warm airs for our morning cruise north to Bergen. However, severe storm Ali is currently lashing Scotland and is expected to hit us this evening. By then we will be safely tucked up ashore in our Bergen hotel and planning more excursions deep into Norway's stunning fjords.

Posted by Hawkson 06:57 Archived in Norway Comments (6)

A First Taste of Norway

rain 20 °C

It's raining in Stavanger today but we're not surprised. Although we usually try to follow the sun there is never a guarantee of good weather in these Nordic climes. We are hoping for better weather tomorrow but the old city of Stavanger is a maze of narrow cobblestoned lanes full of quaint wooden houses and warehouses that have been converted into shops, cafes and restaurants. We can therefore find plenty of places in the dry and masses of food to keep us going...
large_b883f5f0-baab-11e8-8536-0388dd27f636.JPG
The dreary weather has given us an excellent reason to sample the Norwegian cuisine. First stop – a bakery offering all manner of delicious breads and pastries...
Bakery.JPG
You may have heard that Scandinavia is expensive so, for starters: 3 teas and three sweet buns, (because our friend Christine is travelling with us throughout the North European part of our trip), cost us $37 Cdn. While this delicious, though fairly basic, plate of farmed salmon and boiled potatoes...
large_b89ef800-baab-11e8-bdbc-9df397253394.JPG
...set us back $40.00 each.
Hotels, taxis and excursions are equally expensive but one good thing about the prices is that almost no one uses cash in Norway. Everything is paid for on credit card – even for the smallest bar of chocolate - so you simply don't notice how much you are spending.

While Stavanger is the capital of the Norwegian's North Sea oil enterprise it still retains some charming old buildings along its waterfront. The ancient beams of the Skagen restaurant are a reminder of the skills of the shipwrights of olden days...
large_b7b422d0-baab-11e8-814a-f5d0ce47ff16.JPG
The remnants of Hurricane Helene seem to be headed our way in the coming days so it looks like we will be sending more time checking out the interior of the many quayside restaurants...
large_b7fa2c80-baab-11e8-814a-f5d0ce47ff16.JPG

It's a hard life on the docks in Stavanger!

Posted by Hawkson 12:08 Archived in Norway Comments (5)

On the Trail of Odin and Athena

overcast 15 °C

It’s mid September and the changing colours tell us that it’s time to start packing up our island home and setting off on another adventure. Although we live on the edge of one of the world’s most expansive rainforests, and look out over the cerulean Salish Sea towards the permanently snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, this summer’s perpetual sun was sometimes dimmed by smoke from more than 600 forest fires. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and we were rewarded with some magnificent sunrises from our kitchen window....
large_P1020039.JPG
We also had many sightings of whales, sea-lions, seals, otters, vultures and eagles, and this morning, as we prepared to leave, a huge school of dolphins swam right past our front windows. This is one of the many eagle-eyed raptors that we saw on a daily basis as they surveyed the beach below us hunting for prey...
large_P1020008.JPG
Thanks to the wonders of laser surgery James now has eagle-eyes and was able to create this colourful ratatouille dish for one of our summer parties...
large_P1010960.JPG
But, when it comes to colour, Sheila surely took the prize for creating this beautiful quilt for a very special person...
large_P1020045.JPG
Summer was a busy time with several family visitors from the U.K. along with trips to Vancouver, Victoria and Campbell River. One trip to Government House in the provincial capital of Victoria was especially memorable as we went to witness long-time friend, Joyce, receiving an award from the Lieutenant Governor for forty years of community service. Here is Sheila and Joyce at Government House following the award ceremony...
P1010904.JPG
Our garden suffered this summer through four months of drought with temperatures close to 30 degrees but James, with the aid of members of his woodworkers guild, was able to add a colourful addition to the Japanese Garden...
large_P1010923.JPG
And here is the finished Torii gate...
large_P1010951.JPG
Now the rains have come to our little Pacific island and it is already snowing in the mountain passes, so we are taking off to explore lands steeped in ancient mythology. We will start in Scandinavia, the land of Vikings, smorgasbord and wooden longships. From there we will wend our way south to the Aegean sea in search of some late autumnal sunshine and the home of Athena. But first a quick stop in our native England. Come with us as we go in search of Odin, and his Greek cousin, Athena.

Posted by Hawkson 12:44 Archived in Canada Comments (4)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 589) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 .. »