Thursday, October 23, 2014

Namsos - Rock City

Giving some courses in Namsos, about a 3-hour drive north from Trondheim. Namsos is famous for their music scene and gets the nickname "Rock City".

I stayed at a Rock City themed hotel.

My room had a big picture of Åge Aleksandersen. Åge got his start in Namsos.

... and the lyrics to Levva Livet on the carpet

And a big crazy rose on the wall. Not sure if there's an Åge connection there.

Åge was also in the restaurant.

Prudence's bus was parked outside. This was Åge's band from the early 70s.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hurtigrute cruise ship

Onward to Narvik

Back on the boat at Hammerfest, we continued our conference and our trip toward Harstad, where we would disembark and head to the airport while the cruise ship continued its route southward along the coast.

I enjoyed this trip very much, and would like to take the complete trip someday, without a conference so I could concentrate on doing absolutely nothing but watching the world go by.
Some great scenery off the back of the boat.

It was too cloudy to see Northern lights on the trip, but the sea and mountains were stunning.

The cabins are small but functional
Several lounges and comfy areas on the boat
With great views out all windows
Dance floor
The forward cabin as we glide into our final stop
An anarchist hall outside the boat terminal in Harstad
And finally, from the airplane on the way home

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nordkapp - the top of the world

On the second morning, we got up at 5 am and were off the boat very early. We would take a bus ride several hours up to the northernmost point in Norway, a point called Nordkapp, and have breakfast. We would then drive further, across the peninsula, and meet up with the boat on the other side.

On top of the world

Globe statue. We didn't think to climb on top of it. I wish I'd thought of that.
A world peace talisman artwork thing.
Gerd is pinching the point that is the actual northernmost point of Norway. We were only very close.
A troll looks to the north.
Many exhibits in the building - this cave of lights, many dioramas and stuffed birds, a fantastic chapel, and more.
We stopped to see a Sami herder with one of his reindeer. It was a very touristy set-up. Talk to a real Sami person, buy stuffed reindeer in the shop.

On the drive, we saw reindeer.
And more reindeer
And more
and more
and some gnarly trees
We stopped to look at this troll. Story is he was too late getting back to his cave when the sun came up and turned to stone.
Oh! More reindeer!
And even more!
Coming to Hammerfest
Giant polar bear in Hammerfest
And back to the boat!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vardø - witch burning memorial

The next morning the conference moved from the hotel to the cruise ship. The Hurtigrute (which means "speedy route") boat is a small cruise ship with a nightclub and hot tubs on the top deck and a good restaurant and modern conference facilities. The fleet of Hurtigrute boats travel from Kirkenes in the north to Bergen in the south, making a round trip in 11 days. Along the way the boat stops, sometimes just short stops to let people on and off, and sometime it makes longer stops to allow for sight-seeing.

Our first sight-seeing stop was Vardø, the easternmost city in Norway on a small island. Vardø is small, but features a very nice fortress, a radar installation that is supposedly for tracking space-junk but is probably spying on Russia, and a witch-burning memorial. I was not prepared to be so surprised by the memorial...
From inside the fortress at Vardø
The witch-burning memorial standing lonely on an isolated area of beach.
What the heck is it? A walkway leads to a canvas cocoon...
Inside is a long dark tunnel filled with glowing lights and signs.
Each sign gives the name, alleged crime of witchcraft, and other details for victims of the witch trials in Norway in 1621. 
It is an eerie and solemn walk down the hallwall.
Coming out of the other end is another walkway and a mysterious glass building.
Inside is an eternal flame and many large ellipical mirrors suspended from the ceiling.
The flame is coming from a chair. This place is weird and beautiful!
The story is pretty amazing. In winter 1617 a storm suddenly hit the area and 10 boats were sunk, killing 40 men. In 1620 Norway and Denmark made a new union and new anti-sorcery laws came into effect. It was believed that the northernmost lands practiced witchcraft (think "Game of Thrones"), and trials began in 1621.

A woman was alleged to be the ringleader of a great group of witches. The women all transformed into birds or foxes or other animals and flew to Bergen for a big Christmas party with Satan on top of a mountain, where they drank and fornicated with demons. Upon their return, they confessed to this sorcery, under extreme torture of course. They also confessed that they caused the storm in 1617 by tying three knots in a fishing rope and spitting on it.

In all, 150 people in northern Norway were executed for witchcraft. The momument is a way of apologizing for past injustices.

Here's the wikipedia article on the trials. Interesting stuff.

Tomorrow, we visit the top of the world!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Journey to the top of the world

I went to a conference on a cruise ship, one of the Hurtigruter boats that continuously tour around the entire coast of Norway. The conference started at a hotel in Kirkenes, at the very north-eastern tip of Norway. Along the way I visited the Russian border. Then Vardø, an island that is the easternmost point in Norway and home to a fantastic witch-burning monument. I had breakfast at Nordkapp, the northernmost point in Norway. And ended the trip at Harstad.

I toke a ridiculous number of pictures, and so I've split this trip into several entries.

Kirkenes and the Norway-Russia Border

Kirkenses lies right near the Russian border. I arrived to the conference early to take a tour out to the border. I was hoping I would get the chance to step inside Russia. You know those maps where you can color in the countries you've visited? Stepping inside Russia would let me color in a huge chunk of the map. No such luck. Security is whopping tight, with cameras along the whole border every few meters. Like anyone would seriously want to sneak into Russia.

Driving out from Kirkenes
Road signs in the area in both Norwegian and Russian
The border.
A souvenir and fish stand next to the border crossing
The shop sells Russian dolls and other Russian knick-knacks

Across the lake, the dip in the mountain separates Russia on the left with Norway on the right
Kirkenes' main industry is gravel. They have enough gravel to build a two-lane highway from Kirkenes to Oslo... six meters high. But that would be a little weird.