Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Munkholmen

We enjoyed a day of shopping and exploring downtown yesterday, taking it a little bit easy after several trips. In the evening we cracked up watching Galaxy Quest and playing Rock Band.

This morning, Hez and I went running on a path along the fjord and through the forest at Rotvoll. It was raining lightly, but that didn't stop us from getting a little exercise. Afterwards, we picked up the others and went downtown for lunch at the fish market and then a trip to Munkholmen.

Munkholmen is the fortress on the island directly in front of Trondheim. Its history goes back at least 1000 years. It has been used in turn as a fortress, monastery, prison, fortress again, and now as a recreation area, open only during the summer. This is the final week of the season that the island is open, and we take the boat to visit.

Because of the rain, we have the island and a tour of the tower to ourselves. The fortress is fascinating. We see cells, an acoustically amazing domed room, and the top of the tower where German anti-aircraft guns once stood. Munkholmen's most famous prison was Peder Schumacher Griffenfeld, who was prime minister of Denmark. He wrote the original Norwegian constitution and is hailed as the Father of the Constitution. Unfortunately, soon thereafter he began to talk of democracy, so the king had him arrested. He was imprisoned for 18 years, released the year before his death because of poor health. We heard other stories of prisoners here, like the 19 year old man who was arrested for insulting his mother-in-law, a Duchess. He lived in the prison until he died 50 years later. I was quite struck by how much people long ago were subject to the whims of the wealthy and the powerful.


Another thing of interest was a map of the tower made by the Germans during the Nazi occupation. The map lists the "new name" of Trondheim. They had planned to rename the city Drontheim, switching two letters to add psychological assault on the residents of the city. This is no longer your city of Trondheim, this is OUR city of Drontheim! Interesting tactic.

We spend a quiet evening at home watching Doctor Who and eating pizza, then off to bed for an early morning departure.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Asenfjord

Our friends Gerd and Kjell invited us to visit them at their hytte on Asenfjord, about a 1:45 drive to the west. Sunday forecast called for sunshine.

What a day! The forecast came through and we had beautiful weather at their lovely hytte. We enjoyed wine and coffee and played kongespill. We went on a boat tour of the fjord and the kids went fishing -- both Peter and Anna each caught a beautiful shiny mackerel that we took home to cook. And the crowning treat of the day was a fantastic meal of elk and vegetables with cloudberry cream for dessert. The elk was hunted by a neighbor and was fabulous. Cloudberries are a special kind of berry that grows only in this part of this world. It has an unusual flavor and is very expensive if bought in the store. The location of cloudberry patches in the wild, like the one where these cloudberries are from, is a guarded secret by those lucky to have found them.

Our friends have a truly beautiful slice of Norwegian paradise, and we were so pleased they shared it with us on this special day.

Dad and Dawn enjoy some Norwegian Aquavit. "The water of life"!
Above: Pam, Hez, and Dawn playing Kongespill
Below: Kjell took the kids out for a fjord adventure

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nord-Trøndelag tour

Rain is in the forecast. We've had consistently bad luck with the weather when visitors have come this past year. Actually, we've had consistently bad weather this year, so there's probably a connection there.

Regardless, we managed to dodge the raindrops on a tour east. Our plan: (1) photo opportunity at the train station in Hell, (2) explore the Hegra festning, (3) see the runes at Leirfall, (4) visit Steinvikholmen. I just love this trip, it's the perfect journey to take guests on. It takes about 4 hours and you get to see a lot of interesting places and a good variety at that. There are also options to (5) drive to the top of Forbordsfjellet and (6) continue to the ruins of a monastery at Tautra, though I've never made it Tautra myself.

Here's a few pics:

In Hell, we stop at the train station. We catch sight of this poster for an upcoming event: "Blues in Hell." It's important to get all the "Hell" jokes out of your system early on a visit to Trondheim. We of course drove through the Hell tunnel and over the Hell bridge and past the Hell Grill and Hell Hotel.


At the Hegra festning, we found they have finished and opened a coffee and gift shop. It's very nice! We also found they had placed some exhibits inside, including a creepy one which has illuminated messages in many different languages. The message is "Should we, or not?" which I think is a reference to the night the Norwegian soldiers pondered whether or not they should surrender. They were holed up in this fortress surrounded and vastly outnumbered by Nazis, certain that the next morning would bring battle to the tunnels. After a night of debate, they decided they would fight and prepared themselves for what they thought would be their final day. The attack never came, and a few days later they received word that Norway had surrendered. The exhibit is to showcase the admirable bravery and patriotism of these soldiers.


Leirfall has the largest collection of bronze age stone carvings. It's always fun to see. My dad spotted this one I hadn't noticed before: a viking ship with a giraffe in it. Clearly this is a flood story, when the viking gathered up all of the giraffes in Norway and took them safely to Africa.


Steinvikholmen is a DaVinci-inspired fortress on a small island in Trondheimsfjorden. The rain stopped for a few minutes for us to get out and walk around on this interesting site. We decided to forego the extended trip to Tautra and head back home.

Once again, a good trip to Nord-Trøndelag!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The rest of the party

Hez and Dawn arrived. It will be a good week!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Family Visit ... bus tour

This week we were treated to a visit from my dad, stepmom, sister and her girlfriend. Dad and Sheila arrived first with a bag full of things we've missed from the US, like Cap'n Crunch cereal and Dinosaur Egg Oatmeal. After they rested we decided to take the bus tour of Trondheim. It operates every day, picking up in the center of town, and the guide narrates in Norwegian, German, and English. It was bit disconcerting at first hearing everything 3 times, but I soon got used to it.
 
The bus took us past the cathedral, along the old warehouse district, past the harbor, and up into the hills of Byåsen to the Sverresborg folk museum. Here we visiting a centuries-old stave church, one of only 29 remaining in Norway. We sat inside and they closed the doors. The only light came from small holes through the old wood walls. A woman lit a candle and by the glow of that small light she sang a beautiful and haunting hymn from long long ago. It gave me chills.

We loaded back on the bus and drove to a vantage point where we had a fine view of all of Trondheim. With the zoom on the camera out to the max, we could see our house on the other side of the valley. We then drove to Kristiansten festning, the fortress from the 1700s which famously protected Trondheim from an attack by the Swedes. We stopped for 20 minutes which was a good length of time for us to enjoy a cup of coffee and some cookies.


The tour lasted 3 hours, and I was pleased with it. I hadn't expected much, but the scope was very appropriate, we got a good overview of the major attractions in the city, and I learned a few things I never knew before.


Tomorrow, Hez and Dawn come.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kryss

My boss recommended I start doing crossword puzzles. So I bought my first book of puzzles. I asked the lady at the store whether Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck crossword puzzles are easier. She said to go with the Mickey Mouse. I bought a few scratch off lotto tickets at the same time. I had never bought Norwegian lottery tickets before. It turns out that I didn't win – just like in the U.S.!

Yesterday, I found a kids' puzzle in the newspaper and gave it a go. With the help of a dictionary on a couple of words, it became the first Norwegian crossword puzzle I solved myself. I'm very proud. And now I know that a grouse is called a 'rype' in Norwegian. My next challenge will be trying to slip this word into a conversation later.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ice cubes

It's hard to find ice cube trays in Norway. I remember the first time asking at a shop if they had any, and the woman thought the concept was foreign. Maybe Norwegians don't make ice inside because there's plenty outside? I finally did find some rubbery trays at IKEA, but they still weren't as good as the ones back in the states.

Well, this week we found out what Norwegians usually do for ice cubes. You can buy ice cube bags that have 20 little pockets in them. You fill them with water and watch the bubbles magically inflate, then tie the top and drop them in the freezer. The ice cube break out easily through the thin plastic. Very cool!

Monday, August 23, 2010

First day of school

School starts today for the kids. They are very excited! They'll be walking to school with neighborhood friends. Nice!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Garnets

School starts tomorrow, and Peter begged and begged to spend his last day of summer hunting for garnets. Finally I relented and we headed off to Trolla where my geologist friend Allan had sent us a couple of years ago to find these interesting crystals.

Rather than hunt for the stones near the road (dangerous) we headed down to the beach, and this little voyage turned into an adventure. First we met moon jellies and a fish head. Then we had to cross a seaweedy section of beach and risk meeting sea monsters. Past the seaweed were countless snails. Finally, we were rewarded with big boulders of garnet rich rock.

Oh, the happy mining that followed. We broke open stones with hammers and the small red crystals popped right out. Some of the pieces of stone were soft enough that we could break them with our fingers. And we found a few pockets of pulverized stone that we could sift through and find loose garnets just waiting to be collected. Most of the stones were tiny, but we found about a dozen that were about the size of baked beans.

These stones are mathematically very interesting. The shape is called a rhombic dodecahedron because it has 12 identical faces that are rhombuses. The diagonals of each rhombus measure in the ratio of 1:√2. If draw lines to highlight the shorter diagonals, you'll see the lines form a cube. If you draw lines to highlight the longer diagonals, they'll form a regular octahedron. Mmmm... a yummy shape. And rhombic dodecahedrons pack together tightly to fill space. Not many polyhedra will do that.

We got out of there just before it started raining, and brought several rocks back home with us. The kids continued smashing rocks on the porch for about an hour when we got home. It was the perfect way to spend the last few hours of summer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Berry-picking at Anoya and Jonsvannet

Late summer in Norway is berry-picking time. The forests fill with blueberries, more than could possibly be harvested even if every Norwegian tried.

We've been on two berry-picking trips this week. First we went to Grønesen beach on Anoya lake, about a 30 minute drive south of Trondheim. It's a really lovely beach area. The kids went rafting and later dared swimming. The water was surprisingly warm for Norway, and by 'warm' I mean 'cold'. But it wasn't 'ohmygoditsfreezingouchouchouchithurts' kind of cold.

Berry picking in this area was a little sparse -- there were plenty of blueberry plants but they'd been pretty well picked over. We managed to get maybe a liter of berries, which was okay.

The next weekend we drove out to Jonsvannet, a big lake just 10 or 15 minutes away. Here we drove and drove looking for berries, finally pulling off the road in the woods and heading downhill towards a clearing. We were rewarded with lots and lots of berries! Mmmmm... tonight, we shall have pie.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Atlanterhavsveien, Kristiansund, and home

It was irresistible. We made all kinds of "moldy" jokes in Molde. Our favorite was probably the Molde bakery, where of course you can get molde bread. We saw molde antique shops, molde statues, and plenty of molde people. Ahhh... good times.

After our two-day mini-vacation in Molde, we headed back to Trondheim. But this time we took a different route home, opting for Atlanterhavsveien, the Atlantic Ocean route.

Driving north out of town we stopped after 15 minutes at Skaret. This is a little vacation spot with hyttes to rent, a lake with canoes, animals, and a candle shop. The kids had fun feeding grass to horses and playing in the giant teepee.

Here's a cool picture from the restaurant there, showing a troll stirring the fire with her nose.



Next we continued to Atlanterhavsveien. It had a cool bridge, and is one of the most photographed things in Norway, but we didn't find it all that interesting. After all the great fjords and roads we'd driven on already, this didn't excite us all that much. But I found a great aerial photo online, and it sure looks interesting from the air!

We drove through two VERY long tunnels, the longest being the Atlanterhavsveien tunnel at 5.7 km (3.5 miles). It went under a fjord, and it was dark, wet, and scary. I expected to see trolls come for us at any moment, but we got lucky.

We stopped in Kristiansund for lunch (not to be confused with Kristiansand, which is on the south coast). This harbor town was extremely cute. We got lunch to-go and ate it out on the waterfront.


This town looks like a lovely place to spend a couple of days, but we were ready to get home. A few more tunnels, a few more ferries, and a few more hours, and we were there. Back to our house and ready to continue unpacking.