02 December 2014

Norway: Day Seven, Trondheim

Last full day in Norway started off by sleeping in, since the museum we were going to see didn't open until 11am. I may have had a slice of pie for breakfast...when travelling, you need to indulge occasionally! After stopping off at a few stores, we made our way over to the NTNU Vitenskapmuseet, the Museum of Natural History at NTNU which is the main university in Trondheim (and where Sveii is getting his masters...which meant he got in for free, lucky duck!) I had jokingly said that I wanted to see a reindeer on my trip, and I was able to!
He was getting ready to pull Santa's sleigh in a few weeks! Speaking of Santa, in Norway they leave out porridge for him, which works out well because he gets dessert when he flies to the US later :) The museum reminded me at times of a cross between the section of the Museum of Science in Boston with the stuffed animals and a history museum. 
The specimens were rather historic themselves, many being from the early 1900s, with a well-worn giraffe who appeared to be coming apart at the seams. There was also a little tidal pool filled with sea stars, urchins, crabs, and scallop shells:
The museum filled four floors and we spent a few hours there and could've spent longer. They also had a really great amount of English signage for all the exhibits so I didn't feel left out. 

After the museum we split up for a little bit, so each of us could get a little shopping done. I had to stop in at the grocery store and get a box of pepperkakers which are delicious spiced cookies that taste like a hard version of a molasses cookie. 

Then we headed to the treat of the day - a visit to the revolving restaurant at the top of Tyholt tower. Sveii planned this, and it wasn't even in my guidebook and it was a perfect ending to the trip. The restaurant makes a full revolution in an hour, and the city was all lit up and looked like you were looking down at stars. It was fun to look down and see places that I'd been. 

Norway: Day Six, Trondheim

Today I was on my own to explore for the majority of day, since Sveii had plans, which really worked out well since I got to go play the tourist. With it being the offseason, everything had shorter hours, so I had to really plan my day. I do like to plan, but sometimes it is fun to just be spontaneous, which you can't do when museums are only open four hours a day. 

My first stop of the day was at the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, which translates to the National Museum of Decorative Arts. There were a few rooms set up in specific time periods, and then there was the main exhibit which traced decorative objects from the 1500s to present day. And there was a special fashion exhibit, which showed the high fashion designers who collaborated with H&M. I knew H&M was a European company, but what I didn't realize was that it was founded in Sweden so has Scandinavian ties. 

After spending time there, I hopped a bus to Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum. This was my first time taking the bus by myself, and I wasn't too worried because there were screens on the buses listing the next three stops, so I'd know when to push the stop request button, plus they announce the stops. Well...it figures that the bus I got on had the screen not working and no announcements! I thought about asking the driver or another passenger, but I knew the stop before the one I wanted so I just looked out the window and made there! 

The Folk Museum was mainly outdoors, and it contained about 70 historic buildings from Trondheim and the surrounding area that were moved there rather than knocked down for new contruction. I think this is a fabulous idea, and there are many throughout the entire country of Norway. I wish the US would do something like it, and we do have things like Plimouth Plantation, but these folk museums contain a range of years, and are a perfect way to preserve historic buildings while allowing space for new construction. These are buildings that were formerly in downtown Trondheim:
It was cute because even the Folk Museum was decorated for the holidays, with greenery and lights! In the summer, more houses are open; only ten were open to visitors now. And from what I was reading, in the summer there are reenactors throughout the villages. 
It was very common in rural Norway to have turf roofs on your house; it would be a great insulator in the cold winters!
The museum was centered around the first stone castle in Norway, which is really just ruins now but it had a commanding view of the city:
The view from the top:
The building I most wanted to see was the stave church, which was originally in Haltden and was built in 1170. Unfortunately, it was one of the buildings that wasn't open, but the sun was setting in just the right way and the light was beautiful on the church:

It was definitely a highlight of the trip seeing it! There are some very ornate stave churches, and this was just a sweet little one. They are called stave churches because of the way the walls are constructed, which is supposed to be a bit like ship construction if I'm remembering correctly. 

I stayed at the Folk Museum til it closed at 3pm; this is definitely on a list of things to do for a return visit in the summer!

At night, I met up with Sveii again and we went to see Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 in the movie theater. And yes, there is still delicious movie theater popcorn in Norway! The theaters are like those in England, that when you buy your tickets you pick a specific seat to sit in. The movie was in English, with Norwegian subtitles and it was really good, and followed the book very closely! 

28 November 2014

Norway: Day Five, Thanksgiving!

When I first planned my trip, I didn't really think about the possibility of trying to celebrate Thanksgiving abroad. Then a few weeks ago, I had the idea that maybe we could cook our own Thanksgiving meal over here and after talking about the logistics of it with Sveii, we decide to do it!

In the morning I slept in a bit, and then headed out to the post office and popped into a few shops, just window shopping because everything is so expensive (And I'm starting to sound like a broken record saying that!) The past few days, workers have been hanging garlands across streets and wrapping trees in lights and I saw the big Christmas tree getting hoisted into place:
I'm hoping it will be lit either tonight or tomorrow so I can see the city all done up for the holidays. 

One nice benefit to renting a room in an apartment through Airbnb is that when the owner of the apartment is at work, it's like you have your own place. Sveii met me at the apartment bearing a gift of hot chocolate and we sat and planned our meal. I brought over with me Pepperidge Farm stuffing, gravy packets, and a graham cracker pie crust. The must-haves for me were: turkey, gravy, stuffing, and rice. To round it out, would be potatoes and cranberry sauce. 

On our way to the big grocery store, we made a few shopping stops, including at one of the many malls throughout the city. I don't think I've ever been somewhere with so many malls! It seems every other street corner has a little mall, and then on the bus to one of the big malls we also passed at least three others. Apparently, shopping is a Norwegian pasttime. The big mall we went to contained a grocery store just a little smaller than a US store. It was fun wandering the aisles, with Sveii pointing out traditional foods to me and seeing a few brands I recognize, like Sunmaid Raisins, Skippy peanut butter, and Knorr products. It was interesting seeing the differences too...like all mayo is sold in squeeze tubes like toothpaste, and some meat is sold in a box, like the turkey breast we picked out:
Everything on our list was in the store, except for cranberries/cranberry sauce/cranberry jam. As an alternate, Sveii picked up cranberry-blueberry jam. And there was one super Norwegian addition to the menu: surkål or in English, sour cabbage...I decided not to try that dish. We made our dinner at Sveii's apartment, which has all apartment-size appliances - two burner cooktop, mini fridge, and a convection-type oven. The hardest part was the timing and keeping things warm while we took them off the burner to make the next dish. 
While things were busy cooking, we did a Thanksgiving activity sent over from Mom which made decorations, and watched the snippets from the Macy's parade on snapchat:
I could pretend that I worked hard at making our meal...but actually the extremely American traditional meal was cooked almost entirely by Sveii - I was in charge of the gravy. 
About to dig in:
Everything turned out delicious, including our dessert, which didn't quite turn out exactly as planned...a chocolate pie, made with cream and chocolate chips. It didn't set for long enough, so it was more of a soupy pudding than a pie but it was so decadent and good:
I'm so thankful that I was able to spend my first Thanksgiving away from my family with a good friend. And I'm thankful for my loving family who understand this travel bug, and for the ability to take adventures around the world. 

27 November 2014

Norway: Day Four, Trondheim

Yesterday was a busy and full day, and it was so much fun. The view from the apartment I am staying in, looking out across the fjord at Munkholmen Island:

I started the day with a visit to NIdaros Cathedral (Nidarosdomen) and the Archbishop's Palace (Erkebispegården). The cathedral was started in the 12th century and was dedicated to St. Olav. Unfortunately, a lot of it burned down in a fire in the 18th century, but they did reconstruct it and it was done so well it was hard to decide what was original and what was reconstructed. 
It had a rather stark interior compared to other medieval cathedrals - just a few statues, no painting, no gravestones, a rather plain floor...everything was removed during the Reformation. And it was still stunning, because it gave the architecture a chance to shine. Unfortunately, there were no photos allowed inside, but I think looking at the outside makes up for it, just a little:
The Archbishop's Palace was formerly where the Archbishop lived (a bit obvious due to the name). Trondheim was the seat of the first archbishopric in Norway, and the diocese stretched over to Scotland and included the Orkney Islands - there were quite a few things with Norwegians ties in the church in Kirkwall, because it was once part of the Trondheim diocese. I love how things tie together from the places I have visited! Inside was a museum with one floor dedicated to stonework that had been discovered during the reconstruction, and one floor that showed all the archaelogical finds and everything was signed in English too! 

After the my visit, I met up with my friend Sveii for a little walking tour around Trondheim. The center of the city is very compact, and easily walkable. It is almost like a triangular island, nearly surrounded on all sides by a river, and probably takes less than 15 minutes to walk across. We went through some pedestrian-only shopping streets, and then headed over to the Old Town. 

Sveii made sure we stopped in at the library on our way so I could check out a Norwegian library! Inside the front door are ruins from an old church, including a few skeletons under glass - which was definitely a first for any library I've been in. They had some really great displays and everything appeared to be organized with the Dewey Decimal system!
Crossing the Old Town Bridge:

These are the backsides of the houses/shops - boats used to come right up the river and dock under or next to the shop to unload their goods. I would love to have an apartment in one! 

We stopped in at a cafe for a cinnamon twist thing and a hot drink before continuing on to the Kristianstenfestning fortress. The fortress was built in the 17 century but only used until 1816 when it began to be used as a place to watch for fires. And then sadly the Nazis did occupy it when they occupied Norway. It was hard to take a picture of the fortress itself, because we were walking up a huuuge steep hill (and said we'd never want to live there because it would be all ice in the winter and how would you get up and down it!?). The views of the city from the top were great, along with the setting sun. 
We stopped in at an antique store which was so neat - tons of rooms full of things from the 1800s to the 1970s. You could spend days in there, just poking around to discover everything. There was even a (very out of tune) piano, and Sveii played it a little bit. 

Then we picked up a few groceries and some ingredients needed to make chocolate chip cookies and we went back to the apartment. Now I brought with me light brown sugar, Nestle chocolate chips, and a Crisco shortning stick, because those ingredients I didn't think I'd find over here...I should've also thought about the vanilla extract! So we substituted vanilla sugar instead, and made due with no measuring cups, instead I used a mug to eyeball the measurements and Sveii was put in charge of using a whisk to mix everything together. And they turned out nearly the same as at home, just a slighty different taste but that is probably due to using the different flour, sugar, and butter...plus the vanilla sugar. 
And finally we ended the day with delicious burgers. It's really funny how quickly your idea of what is inexpensive changes when you are in an expensive country! $30 for a burger sounds like a lot at home, but here it was on the less expensive side, since a McDonald's burger is $10. 

Today I'm leaving shortly to prepare our Thanksgiving feast! Which means more adventures in cooking in Norway and should be another fun day. 

25 November 2014

Norway: Day Three, Bergen to Trondheim

The most important thing to consider when travelling during the offseason is whether the things you want to see will be open or not! The stave church I had wanted to visit, in the guidebook it said it was open daily...luckily I visited its website, because while it is open daily, that's only in the summer! Which meant it is now closed until May. So that began the search for plan B...which was to visit the fish market (that is supposed to have lots of other things other than just fish) but that is also only open in the summer months. Then onto Plan C - wandering Bergen, visiting a church, and visiting a museum. 

The morning started out rainy...again...though it was only sprinkling and then it stopped, and then right when I was getting on the bus to head to the airport, the sun came out! Pretty sure it was waiting until I left to make an appearance. 

I started the day by exploring a few streets that were mentioned in the guidebook as picturesque and they totally were:

The back of the Bryggen area:
Just a pretty street:
I went over to the University of Bergen to visit the Bergen Museum de Kulturhistoriske Samlinger (Norwegian likes to smush words together and not use spaces). It was a cultural history museum and it was absolutely fantastic. I only visited two floors, because I wanted to actually spend time reading things and not be rushed, and I had to get back to the hostel to formally check out. On the way there, I popped into one of the churches, and lit a candle for Papa. 

The museum did something very different that I haven't seen before, and that is saying something because I have been to many many many museums. This one put objects in the context which they would've been used, meaning that the arrow heads were attached to arrows, ax-heads on axes, etc. I know that this is probably anathema for an archivist to say, since 'original order' is so very important, but I really liked being able to see the objects "in use." It gives a whole context that was missing when you are just looking at some stone object. 

They also had a very well done exhibit on church artwork, and the whole section created a feeling of being inside a stave church. Plus...there were old doors. And I love old doors. 
After the museum, I headed back towards the other side of Bergen, and stumbled onto the most awesome cafe. If I lived in Bergen, I would spend so much time there. It was a cafe/used bookstore all in one, and it was just so cute and atmospheric and you could just sit and read for hours. 

There was a whole English section too, and I was tempted to make a purchase, but since I'm currently in the middle of reading about five different books, I just wrote the name down to get from the library. 

Then it was time to head over to the airport. Going to the airport in Europe is completely different than going to the airport in the US in terms of how early you should arrive. Here in Norway, they ask if you have baggage to be at the airport no later than 30 minutes before you flight, but with a carryon you can be there 15 minutes before because the flight doesn't board til 10 minutes prior to flight time! So while it was ingrained in me to be there two hours before your flight, I had to force myself to arrive later than I would back at home. 

After a quick one hour flight, I landed in Trondheim! Where I was met at the airport by my friend Sveii! It was perfect having him there, because not only did he corral my luggage, he navigated the bus for me (it turns out the stop I thought was perfect for where I was staying was actually five blocks away so we got off closer) and he is just all around the best. We grabbed a quick dinner before he went to a quiz night with students from his masters class, and I went to the apartment where I rented a room. And there my wicked nice host Nima served me a second dinner and dessert!

Tomorrow the only definite plan I have is Sveii taking me on a tour of a Norwegian grocery store, so we can purchase things for our Thanksgiving dinner. This will be interesting and helpful, because the other day when I went to a grocery store in Bergen I came out with only two items: lefse and chocolate cookies, because they were among the few things I could understand. Lefse is this delicious bread with a creamy cinnamon spread between the pieces. 

24 November 2014

Norway: Day Two, Norway in a Nutshell

Today was one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip: the Norway in a Nutshell tour. It's supposed to give you a taste of everything for people on really fast trips, hence the name. It's a very ingenious idea: put together a "tour" on regular public transportation, and hand the tourists a guidebook and that's that! You shuffle yourself off to different places and you see amazing scenery. And I took so many pictures, it's going to be hard to decide what to post!

Here is a map of the route...it went Bergen - Voss - Gudvangen - Flam - Myrdal - Bergen
The day started off drizzling again. I read in the guidebook that it rains at least 260 days a year in Bergen...but I was really hoping I'd be lucky and have a non-rainy day! It did stop on and off throughout the day, and turned into snow up on the mountains. Sadly though it means that most of pictures taken on the train and bus have water droplets in them:
The first part of the day was taking the train from Bergen to Voss. I was being a total tourist and changed seats multiple times; of course I would first pick the side that runs against the side of a mountain and you only see rock. So I had to move to a seat on the other side, but that window wasn't clear, and then when someone else got off, I grabbed their seat! I started thinking it would be nice if they mentioned in the guide what side to sit on for best views, but then that would be crazy in the summer with people pushing to get on the train first. This route is extremely popular in the summer, especially with tourists on cruise ships who only have a day to explore. We started with about 20 of us, and some people got off along the way to spend an overnight at one of the stops, and ended with about 10. 

The next part of the journey was to take a bus from Voss to Gudvangen. This was the start of the best part. As the bus drove on, deeper in the mountains, the world gradually turned into a magical fairy winter land. It wasn't snowing at the time, but it looked like you had just stepped onto the set of Frozen, everything was perfect from the fresh snow to the most perfect Christmasy trees:
It was a grey and white landscape, dotted with yellow and red houses. 

The bus (side note because I think its funny: I keep typing buss which is the Norweigan word!) dropped us off at the ferry terminal at Gudvangen. This was the part I was most looking forward to - traveling through a fjord. And it didn't disappoint:
This little village used to not be accessible by road, and then when it was, the road frequently was blocked until a tunnel was built. Speaking of tunnels, I have never been through so many tunnels in buses and trains in my life until today! One train trip went through 20 tunnels!
While Iceland had the most stunning waterfalls, I think Norway might have the most; it seemed every mile or less there was a long, skinny waterfall emerging from the mountaintops. 
While I would love to come in the summer, I don't think it would have the same atmosphere, with the low clouds concealing the mountaintops and the snow coming further down from the top. Plus, then there would've been a completely full ferry to contend with, and it was perfect being able to sit outside for a bit, then go in and warm out, to go back out to an empty deck. 

The ferry stopped at Flam, which is where we got on the Flamsbana, the third most visited attraction in Norway and has been called the prettiest railway journey. It starts down at the base of a mountain, and climbs up the mountain to Myrdal. It's pretty much only used for tourists now, but at one station the train dropped off a delivery of something. I can't imagine living in those remote villages, you would really have to plan out your life, because going anywhere was a journey. In Flam, there was no snow on the ground. Half way up, we stopped at a "waterfall" which wasn't flowing today, and there were 6 inches of snow on the ground. At Myrdal, it was a foot! 
The "waterfall". You can see the Australians in the background having fun with the snow, they were fascinated by it! They kept saying they'd never seen so much snow...I wanted to tell them to go to New England after a storm, there's plenty there!
So many of my pictures have reflections from the lights of train, it was hard to pick out good ones! The last part of the trip was another train, from Myrdal to Bergen. This one was less scenic, going through many, very long tunnels. Just one last picture of the winter fairy land:
I got back into Bergen at 6pm, which was perfect timing to grab dinner - I had to go to the pizza place called "Dolly Dimples" (someone tell Nana I took a picture of the sign for her!) It was good pizza too!

Tomorrow I'm going to explore a little more around Bergen, and if it isn't raining too much I might try to visit a stave church. Then in the afternoon, I fly to Trondheim, which is more north of Bergen, kind of in the middle of the country. And the weather forecast is looking sunny! I won't even mind the cold as long as its sun.