Thursday, September 18, 2014

Catching Up

I'll be filling in posts from our summer vacation and back to school over the next few days. :)

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Animals of the North - Crabs

After a morning learning about bears, we spent the afternoon fishing for crab.  The Russians brought the Alaskan king crab over here from the Bering sea a few decades ago, so they are the same type of crabs that they fish in the TV series Deadliest Catch - where ships brace against the rough seas and lives are at risk in great drama.

In contrast, we went out in a little boat in the lovely sunshine and pulled up a few traps at our leisure. Our hosts said that there are some shallow areas where you can catch king crabs by stabbing them with a sharp stick.

I still can't believe how big they are.

Once Buster got some protective gloves, he was willing to help fetch the wriggling crabs from the boat too.

He was quite delighted that the hillsides were covered with wild blueberry plants.

With no natural predators, the crabs have been taking over the local ecosystem.  So we're just doing our part to restore balance by eating crab legs.

Where was our other child?  Still gathering and eating blueberries.

Our host broke off a branch to take, so he could continue picking blueberries in the car!

Animals of the North - Bears

Our hosts brought us to a wildlife research center that focuses on the study of brown bears.

The center was filled with interactive exhibits, like this bear model on which you could use wands to trigger information.

A brown bear will eat up to 90 liters of blueberries each day during autumn. I liked this bucket depiction, to show how much that is!

There was also an exhibit on the Sami, the indigenous nomads who follow their herds across the north.  I pointed out the sled to the boys, and told them that it would be pulled by reindeer.

Our host hastened to add, "Yes, reindeer, but they do not fly."

There was a dark stone "cave" that the children were encouraged to investigate.  Buster choose to observe as the older ones went in, instinctively using their iPhones to light the way.  Some things are a little different these days, even when checking out nature.

We had lunch (reindeer stew) at the bear center and then headed off to become crab fishermen! (next post.)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The High North

We were up early the next day and flew to the high north, 250 miles above the Arctic Circle near the Russian-Finnish border, to stay with a work friend and his family. After a stroll through the town festival, we headed to the harbor.

His twelve-year old son was quite the boatman, and we noticed the little inflatable motorboat tied to the main boat - more on that later.

Lifejackets are really important here.  The water is so cold that if you fall overboard, you'll soon be too chilled to swim.

 We puttered around the fjord for a while, and then the twelve year old took our boys out for a joyride while we kept pace in the larger boat.

 They all had a really good time.

We went back to their house, where the adults admired the view.

And the children admired the trampoline.

Sunset, sometime before 11pm.  We had just missed the midnight sun, but it seemed like mostly a technicality, since it was still so light.  They get two months of continuous sun in the summer and two months of continuous dark in the winter.


Friday, August 01, 2014

By the Seaside

After a long travel day previous, we enjoyed a more relaxed time in Bergen on the west coast.  Famous as a Hanseatic trading town, Bergen is known for beautiful views, fish and rain.

Flags in the sea air.

Even the maintenance covers were decorative.

We took the Floibanen funicular up to see the view of the city.

And contrary to all the rain warnings we were given, it was actually sunny and warm.

The children's playground featured some old components from the funicular.

The boys were really happy to run around for a while.

After multiple days of trying new foods (Elk sausage! Cloudberry jam!), we stopped at the most tastefully housed McDonald's ever.  You can just barely see the little yellow "M"s in the first floor windows.

We also shared some skillingsbolle, a cinnamon roll specialty of the town.

Buster selected the first souvenir of the trip - Moosey!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Train, Train, Train, Boat, Bus, Train

One of our longest travel days took us through spectacular views.  First we walked to the train station close to our hotel, took a quick hop to the central station, and waited for the line that goes to the west coast.

It was running late, so we had time to photograph our new waterproof shoes.  It was a drizzly day, but they kept our feet nice and dry.  The train finally came, almost an hour late.  I was worried about our connection to our next train leg, but figured that we were on the feeder train that probably supplied most if not all the passengers, so they'd probably hold it if necessary.  We got there with five minutes to spare, so I think it's a well practiced exchange.

The next leg is marketed as the Most Beautiful Railway in the World.  (Apparently, every railway is marketed this way, if you do any internet research.)  The first twenty minutes had everyone glancing out the windows for a spectacular view and then immediately plunging into another tunnel before you could say, "Oh!"  We joked that yes, this is the Most Beautiful Railway in the World if you're in a helicopter flying overhead, which is how all the publicity photos are taken.

Just as the frustration level among the passengers was hitting a breaking point, the train stopped at a platform and allowed everyone to get out and photograph the stunning waterfall. The train operators, they know what they're doing.

We had a moment for lunch after we disembarked and boarded a ferry that would take us through Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord.

Not sure why I have this fondness for narrow fjords, but they are really cool.

Even the most spectacular view is better with ice cream, of course.

It starting raining harder partway through the cruise, sending most of the passengers inside and leaving us lots of room on the deck.

A bus took us from the ferry to yet another train, and finally we arrived on the west coast.

We walked across to the park and arrived at our hotel - still light out at 10pm.  As the boys were fond of chanting - walk, train, train, train, boat, bus, train, walk!  We made it.