Sunday, June 29, 2008

Final Fjording

More packing, packing, packing. This afternoon we went to Ingvill's house for a cookout, then walked down to the shores of Lade with a kayak. Ingvill swam, I skipped stones, and the kids took turns paddling out in the fjord. It was a beautiful evening, and it's hard to believe we now only have about 36 hours left in Norway. Tomorrow will be very busy, doing our final packing and cleaning the apartment.

Here's Peter trying to walk Zeta. That's quite a spirited dog!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mikrobryggeri og Den Gode Nabo

Spent most of the day on Saturday packing, deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to discard, what to store. We sent the hamsters off to their new home.

This evening we joined friends at the Trondheim Mikrobryggeri (microbrewery) downtown. I ordered the Tiger Wings, and finally had something spicy in Norway! We handed out presents to everyone wrapped in colorful foil with tiny bows. What could it be? It's... bacon!

Afterwards we headed over to Den Gode Nabo (the good neighbor), a pub in Bakklandet right next to pedestrian bridge. I love this neighborhood. Den Gode Nabo has a floating bar out on the river Nidelva. It was here we said final goodbyes to Mat, Simon, Luke, and Karin.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stop 4: Steinvikholmen

Inspired by a design by (stolen from?) Leonardo DaVinci, Steinvikholmen is a two-tower fortress on a small island. Once upon a time, you could walk out to the island during low tide, but these days you can walk across a bridge. Although the fortress is currently closed for renovation, the kids loved finding spiral sea shells on the beach and we loved the fabulous scenery, which includes cows. This was a beautiful end to a perfect day.

On the way back home, we managed for the very first time to avoid the toll road! The trick: drive to the main entrance of the airport and take the Hell Bridge into Hell. You've got to go through Hell before you get to Trondheim.

Stop 3: Forbordsfjellet

Forbordsfjellet means "before the foot of the mountain", which makes this an unusual choice of names for the mountain itself. It's an example of a place name changing over the years. Merete at the office recommended this drive. It's a bit tricky to find, if we hadn't had explicit directions we would've missed it. Driving north on E6 from Stjordal, you cross the railroad tracks and the road jogs to the right. Watch for this church:

Turn into the church parking lot, then down the driveway of a farmhouse. There's box to deposit 20 kr. which goes to the farmer who lives there. He maintains the road, aparently. Just like the drive to the rock carvings, there's a distinct feeling that you're not supposed to be driving on this road. Try to keep in mind that Norwegians are much more relaxed about private property than in the U.S. and keep driving.

Up, up, up, up. This road leads to the highest point in all Sør-Trøndelag. Finally, we reach the top of and it's yet another WOW! on this trip. We can see east to Sweden and west to Trondheim. We can see the entire route we'd driven to get here. Far in the distance we can make out Munkholmen, the island just off-shore from Trondheim. Nearby we can see Steinvikholmen, our next stop on our voyage, and beyond that we can see Tautra and the long long bridge leading out to this island.

We find a nice spot overlooking Åsenfjord and Trondheimsfjord to the east and light up the grills. Pølse, chicken, salmon with pesto... we eat like kings. Afterwards we walk all around the peak of this mountain taking in all the views. Glorious scenery, and we didn't even have to hike to get here. Not a bad deal.

Above: the small island to the left connected by a short bridge is Steinvikholmen, the next stop on our trip. Behind that is a landmass, and in the body of water behind that is a long very skinny island which is Tautra, home to a monastery.

Below: a dark dark mountain to the west, very mysterious. Two views to the south, including Værnes airport, and a mysterious UFO which landed on this mountain.

Stop 2: Hegra Festning

Pam and I had visited the Hegra festning on our trip to Sweden last month and decided we needed to come back with the kids. After visiting the runes, it was a short trip up the mountain to this fortress hidden in the woods. As anticipated, the kids loved it. Last time we were here, it was raining which gave the woods an otherworldly feel. This time not only was it sunny, but the tunnels beneath the festning were open, and... WOW!

The tunnels are extensive, room after room, stairs and ladders up and down, each of the five or six turrets linked by underground passages that make unexpected turns and lead to surprising places. There were sleeping rooms, common rooms, headquarters, fireplaces, a kitchen, a machine room, and even a half-dozen saunas in true Scandanavian style. We played and explored for over an hour, and for some members of our group this visit was not only the highlight of the trip, but the highlight of their Norway visit.

The pictures below just don't capture the sheer awesomeness of this place. If you're visiting Trondelag, put this on your must-see list. Here's the link to our last visit with a lot more pictures.

Stop 1: Stone Carvings at Leirfall

Past the airport, through Stjordal, and just a few kilometers past Hegra is the largest collection of Bronze Age rock carvings in Scandanavia. The road to the carving is a single lane track through a field that looks like someplace you shouldn't be driving. It ends in a parking lot with a nice information booth and a guide who was happy to show us around and tell us about the carvings.

Here's some of the carvings. This first on shows a rider on a horse and some footprints. The stones are covered with pictures of shoes, ovals with a line through them showing the strap that holds them to the foot. There are many theories about what the feet mean, from as simple as an individual leaving their mark (a permanent footprint) to as far-fetched as a representation of gods of the underworld walking on the other side of the stone and we can see only the bottoms of their feet. As appealing as that idea is, it's probably just the Bronze Age equivalent of carving your initials.

This second one shows a procession to a line of boats. The carvings are reddish because at one point they had been painted, but they found this makes them erode faster. Also on the site was a replica of a Bronze Age building. We were very pleased with this visit – we hadn't expected much and were very surprised with how much this area offered.

Road Trip!

Just a few days left in Norway, time to see some sights in Trøndelag we hadn't seen. On the agenda for today, from right to left on on the map below, stone carvings at Leirfall, the festning at Hegra, Forbordsfjellen, Steinvikholmen, and Tautra (time permitting).

I told Anna we'd be going to a very cool fortress today.
"Fortress? What's a fortress?" she asked.
"It's a festning," I told her.
"Oh! A festning! Yay, we're going to a festning!" Bit by bit, the English slips away.

Mat's parents and his friend Simon are in town, and they decide to follow us out on our grand tour. Simon has just returned from China doing conservation work on a Panda reserve. How cool is that?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stina and Petter

These are our neighbors Stina and Petter. We share an entranceway with them. They had us over for dinner tonight. Stina is a 6th grade teacher and Petter is in the math department at NTNU, which is funny because Pam is a 5th grade teacher and I'm at the mathematics center at NTNU. Stina teaches at Eberg, which is the school I taught at also for a week. Connections...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

End Days

Tuesday was an exciting day at work as we wrapped up our projects and talked about future collaborations. I packed up most of my office.

In the evening, we had dinner at Martin and Elisabeth's. It was a traditional meal of kjøttkake (meat cakes) and cabbage soup. Absolutely delicious! Maggie stayed overnight with Frøy for one last hurrah.

Wednesday morning, we started by picking up Pam's passport. She FINALLY got her work permit, 6 days before leaving. (My permit I arranged through the Norwegian consulate in the U.S. before we left, Pam arranged hers locally here in Trondheim. I got my permit in 3 weeks, she got hers in 10 months. Hmmm...)

On Wednesday, we went to Martnan, a special open air market downtown, this week only. The weather's been dodgy the past couple of days, raining one minute, sunny the next. We dodged raindrops as we navigated endless booths of cheap junk and food vendors. As one of our friends described it, "It's crap that is made to look like gold by all the crap around it." We did have a good find as we were walking back to our car: a kebab restaurant downtown called Mona Lisa Kebab. We got a very tasty kebab roll, which had an incredible amount of meat in it, enough to feed the whole family.

Afterwards, we went to Evelina and Daniel's for dinner. We had spaghetti, and feeling adventurous, Evelina and I grated brunost on top of our pasta. A dangerous move – brunost, or brown cheese, is a sweet caramelly weird substance that is not cheese at all. Surprisingly, spaghetti, tomato sauce, and brunost is actually very good. We said another round of goodbyes to our very good friends. Anna decided to stay overnight for one last visit with Sophia.

At 8:30 we picked up Maggie. A lot of tears were shed as the girls said their final farewells. They have been best friends all year. Frøy is leaving on vacation so they won't see each other again for a long time.

We also picked up Lise and Soniva and brought them back to our place. We played games, ate cookies, and watched Eddy Izzard, an English comedian that Lisa is particularly fond of and insisted we see. I don't often watch stand-up comics, but he was very very funny. It was a delight to get to know these two, even though we'll soon be gone.

Our neighbors Stina and Petter have invited us to dinner this evening to say goodbye.

This past week has been a series of goodbyes and we are feeling more and more empty. Five days remaining in Norway... time to get packing I suppose.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Romeo og Julie på Munkholmen

Pam went with Patrick tonight to see "Romeo og Julie" on the isle of Munkholmen in the fjord very near Trondheim. They caught the 6:00 ferry (55 kr. round trip, about $11) for the 6:30 showing. Munkholmen was settled in 1105 and in the mid-1600s a fortress was built on the small island. Today it hosts a museum, sunbathers in the summer, and Shakespeare plays.

Tonight it was cold and raining, but the play was indoors so far as that went. Inside the old fortress it was cold and drafty, and patrons huddled beneath wool blankets to watch the performance. The plays in Munkholmen are put on by an amateur troop composed largely of young performers under the supervision of a brilliant director who has been doing this for 25 years. Pam says that it was just wonderful. It was entirely in Norwegian of course ("Romeo, Romeo, hvor er du, Romeo?")

Here's some Munkholmen pictures from Wikipedia, showing Munkholmen on a sunnier day.

The lights!

In my building on campus there are several interesting sculptures. Hanging in three different areas on the main level are boxes containing neon lights. In response to the movement of people in the areas, they light up and make pleasant and mysterious noises. The lights haven't been working all year, but last week they fixed them and we now have light to accompany the sounds.

The Last Viking

This statue near the fish market in downtown Trondheim is called "Den Siste Viking", or "The Last Viking". It stands next to the dock where you can catch a boat to Monkholmen every hour on the hour. We will be sure to visit Monkholmen this week.

We met Erik and Patrick here Sunday evening to go to an Indian restaurant. It was fun to eat Indian food, but I am still trying to find a decent curry in Norway. I asked them to make sure the curry was spicy, but they made it Norwegian spicy, not English spicy.

Erik left from the restaurant to go directly to the airport. Patrick leaves in a couple of days, and it unlikely we will see these two again anytime soon. Our list of friends still in town is growing smaller and smaller!