Posts Tagged With: Norway

People Watching

Currently we are on the return journey back to Bergen after having made it all the way to Kirkenes. The boat we are on is essentially a fancy ferry that transports locals up and down the coast as well as tourists. We stop at a number of ports each day for people to embark and disembark and to allow other passengers to go on tours or meander through the local town.

The ship is small by cruise liner standards but has some of the same facilities. My wife describes the decor as “Upmarket Medical Centre”.

The main attraction for me is the amazing scenery we travel through but there is also time to observe my fellow passengers – at meals, in conversation, on tours and in the general activity of the ship. There are groups, couples, families and singles. There are Norwegians, Germans, French, Americans and a smattering of other nationalities. There are extreme introverts, and the far more annoying, extreme extroverts and every personality in between – and you are all stuck together for hours on end. Then you have drinkers for whom the bar is the focus of the ship, and the knitters who look for a quiet spot to click the needles and observe the amazing scenery. Crossword doodlers, shutterbugs, readers, board game players and jigsaw puzzlers round out the menagerie.


A game I play is to listen for the accents to guess where people are from and when an opportune moment arises I will ask them, to see how close I got.

On this particular trip we have had two very special encounters. The first was with a pastor and his wife who had been in a church in Melbourne for a few years and are now back in Sweden. Even more amazing, we knew the town they came from and I actually had a photo of a friend of his which I had taken when he gave us a tour of a museum. The second encounter was with an elderly retired German academic who shared with us some of his amazing life. This was a special privilege.

I shouldn’t forget the crew. They need to keep good order on the ship as well as keeping the passengers happy. Most are friendly and some officious. They all do their respective jobs well but don’t get back to the ship late! Then you see their dark side. After a week you become familiar with the waiting and cleaning staff. On our trip the real test came when there was a bomb scare. Suddenly the crew had to take on different roles in an unfamiliar environment. The threat happened just as people were returning to the ship in port. Shelter, water and food had to be found, frail people supported and information transmitted. This was a moment when some of the crew really stood up and showed leadership and others stood back and waited for orders – a microcosm of everyday life.

Anyway, people are coming back from their excursions so it is time to swatch again.

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War, what is it good for?

As an Australian, it is confronting to discover the impact that World War 2 has had on the myriad of communities throughout Norway. Although horrific, the attacks on Australian soil were minor in comparison to the relentless impact on civilians in this area during WW2.

Nearly every town has a memorial or museum recalling the trauma of the war. Each recounts the destruction of homes, businesses and individual lives.

An Ilyushin plane

The Borderland Museum in Kirkenes, just one example, recalls the impact of being caught between the Soviets and the Germans. Hitler wanted to cut off sea access to Murmansk, an all weather northern port, which meant that this area of Norway became the scene of heavy fortification and of intense battles. No person and no place was spared. Communities and lives were destroyed, and if not totally destroyed forced into a huge upheaval.

This makes the Russian encroachments on Ukraine all the more puzzling. Haven’t we seen enough mass graves and destroyed towns? Haven’t we learned the lessons of manic ideology and rampant nationalism? For countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Baltic states, current events in Ukraine are not hypothetical. There is a tangible history of what happens when tyrants are allowed to run loose.

An Enigma machine found in the Solvaer Police Station
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My Kind of Cruising

I have never been a fan of ocean cruising. So for the first time, excepting ferry crossings and my five week trip to Australia, we are taking a 12 day cruise. It is not , however, what one of my fellow passengers called “Heidi-land.” I didn’t ask for a definition but I got his drift. He was describing the modern cruise ship.

Our boat was built in 1965 but there is no flashy aluminium or gold. There are no pools, evening entertainment, bingo, pokies and the rest. There is plenty of wood and brass. It is a working vessel that loads and unloads by crane. None of this fancy “roll on roll off.” There are no stabilisers so it gets quite a roll on the open ocean. Although you aren’t allowed in the wheel house you can stand next to it and get a captain’s eye view.

The MS Lofoten is the last ship of an era and everybody on board knows it and is enjoying this nod to the past. The added benefit is the passing parade of spectacular Norwegian scenery and the regular stops at towns and cities.

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How I Unwind

Now for something a bit lighter!

Driving through clogged city traffic is not my idea of fun, but driving on country roads for hours is a delight.  There is nothing better than to have a full tank of fuel, nibbles, music and good companion (in my case, wife) and to head out.

A drive to Wilpena Pound in South Australia, 1800 kilometres to Queensland, a trip to the wineries in northern Victoria – are all ways to relax and unwind .  And it is even better if one can get a few nights in a tent along the way – especially on the bank of a river or lake. That is living! But let me start overseas.

Over the next few weeks I will reflect on some of our the best road-trips:

1. Driving to the Arctic Circle.


A Stave Church

It had always been a dream of mine to travel to the Arctic Circle. I can’t even tell you why. A few years ago I got my chance. My wife and I picked up a car in Gothenburg in Sweden – a Volvo of course, and headed north. We crossed the Oslofjord by ferry, the first of many delightful crossings, and headed to Drammen.  Misjudging our accommodation we spent the night “sleeping” in our car at a truck stop.  Our original intention had been to travel south to Kristiansand but the weather turned nasty so we headed directly north instead, visiting any and every stave church that we encountered. I would have to forgo my intended visit to Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen near Stavanger.

Our first night in a tent was at Roldal.  From Roldal we headed to Laerdal via the Hardanger Folk Museum which gives visitors a great picture of the Norway of old.  My wife loved this place because of the beautiful traditional craftwork(including Hardanger) on display.  The fjords in this part of Norway are amazing. From our camping spot in Laerdal we drove to Orsta, but on this evening the snow was too mushy to pitch a tent so we had to hire a cabin.  The valley was cloud bound but the next morning it was bathed in brilliant sunshine –  a different place!


The Atlantic Road

We made our way to Alesund famous for being one end of the “Shetland Bus” route during WW2  which transported agents and others between Nazi occuppied Norway, and alllied ports in Shetland and Scotland.  We continued northward to another place I had always wanted to see – the Atlantic Road – a stunning, even artistic,  8 kilometre section of road that island hops towards Kristiansund (not Kristiansand) where we camped.

Orsta after the sun came out

Orsta after the sun came out

All the while you can hear your wallet emptying because the Norwegians know how to do toll roads.  They also know how to do tunnels.  One near Laerdal, which we had travelled through earlier is about 25 kms in length. Emerging from a tunnel is nearly always spectacular. It is like being a mole for moment and popping out into another beautiful part of Norway. Then we made our way towards Trondheim, the old Viking capital, with its 800 year old Nidaros Cathedral and the C18th wooden palace.

But there was still further to go. Before we camped about 160 kms south of the Arctic Circle  we had an unexpected treat – we encountered a large herd of reindeer. The camping ground at Mosjoen had its own 6 lane bowling alley and mini golf course. What more could you want?  We used neither. That night we camped on a light sprinkling of snow. The following morning we travelled to the Arctic Circle via Mo I Rana – with my wife doing her “feet in the water” ritual in the harbour.  The further north you go the less mountainous it becomes and this is accentuated by the reduced height of the trees. For Norway it seems very falt. We arrived at the Polar Circle Centre on its first opening day for the season.  Two metres of snow had been carved out of the carpark but we were the only visitors at the time.  Two young men were setting things up but I think they were pleased to have some company. Inside there was a great display of the flora and fauna of the area. I had achieved my driving ambition!

Picture 118

We made it! The Arctic Circle

At this point we turned around and headed back the way we had come. At Mo I Rana we turned east and made our way into Sweden – the land of pine trees and lakes. If ever I visit Norway again I would still try to get to Pulpit Rock, Narvik and the Lofoten Islands.  Even if I don’t, which is more likely, I have great memories of the coolest road trip!


If you are really, really bored and want to pretend to sit in a car for 15 minutes from Kristiansund to the Arctic Circle, the following clip is for you:


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A Therapeutic Photo

While my better half is visiting family in the warmth of the northern Summer, I am tempering my jealousy by remembering our trip early last year.

Church Graveyard in Norway

A Beautiful Church Graveyard at Vartdal, south of Alesund, Norway

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A Year Ago Today


A year ago today we were camping in Norway and hunting for Stave churches … sigh!

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The Atlantic Road

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Norway was to travel the Atlantic Road. This relatively short stretch of highway hops from rock island to island just south of Kristiansund through a nature park. The road swerves and weaves over islands and along water for 8 kilomentres. Without too much hyperbole it could be suggested that this road with its bridges is a work of art.

People were fishing, having picnics and generally enjoying the sights on the day that we went. It was cool but sunny and the road looked magnificent. All this is, of course, set against the dramatic backdrop of Norwegian scenery.

We liked it so much that we made three separate journeys along this road before we finally took the (expensive) tunnel into Kristiansund.

There are great coastal highways in the world. The Pacific Coast Highway in California and the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia but this 8 km stretch is in a category of its own.

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Stave Churches – Wooden Churches That Have Survived For Centuries.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2Pe 3:8

The Uvdal Stavkirke (Stave Church) in Numedal district in central southern Norway. It dates from the end of the 1100s and was remodelled into a cruciform shape in 1720. It is one of about 30 that remain in Norway today.

Below is the more ornate Gol Stavkirke now found in the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo on the island of Bygdoy. This was built in about 1200 and moved to the present site in 1885.

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