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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Fortress and the Opera

We started our second day with a visit to Akershus, the fortress that guards the fjord. For scale, the boys are standing next to the outer stone walls - you can barely see them, camouflaged in.

We were the only ones who signed up for the tour, so the guide spent some extra time telling the stories in a way that would appeal to the boys.

It's fun seeing the different types of stone and construction that they used over centuries of renovations.  Remember that darkened doorway, halfway up the tower - we'll be up there shortly.

You can see the bricked up doorways near the top of the building, and that the type of stone changes a few times from the ground up.

This later tower addition is round, which shows that it dates from the time after artillery became effective.  Earlier towers were square, which became too easy to batter on their vulnerable corners.

This doorway was added into the fortress after it expanded and new outer walls were built.

Now we're in that doorway that I mentioned earlier.  There was a stone path leading downwards, when it was originally built.

Check out how the wooden beam fits into the stone groove. Ignore the black metal rod  - that holds up the plexiglass barrier that keeps tourists from falling to their deaths. There's another stone groove directly above it, and the wooden beams in those positions would have barricaded the door from intruders.  (Like Grond, the legendary battering ram in The Lord of the Rings!)

The last part of the tour had us traversing down dark stairs and through a tunnel . . .

to a room that once held a cannon installation that would hit attackers right at the base of the fortress walls.  The guide told the boys that they were about the right size to operate the cannons, because larger boys and men would be outside fighting.

It's nice that Q-ster is a steady enough cameraman these days that we can get a few shots of SwingDaddy and me together.

After lunch and ice cream, we visited the gorgeous Opera House.  The photo above is borrowed from their website, since you can't get this perspective without being on a boat in the fjord.

In the short time since its construction in 2008, the architecture has become legendary.  In addition to the concerts inside, they have pop music events on the roof, and everyone is welcome to walk on the roof and admire the view.  This was Buster's favorite city site out of the whole trip.

Most of the visible white stone is imported marble, but the stone that touches the water is hardier local granite.

The interior is gorgeous too - lots of natural wood.

They even thought about accessibility.  The straight line between my three and the other two tourists is a series of metal studs that a blind person can follow with a cane to take him or herself to the entrance.

Sunlight on the water and another lovely day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Folk History and Vikings

Our first day in the capital city was action packed. We started off with a walk to the Palace, which for my personal experience of the town, is the starting point for any trip.  I always walked through the Palace grounds on the way to my hotel, straight from the airport.

We actually had tickets for a tour - the royal family goes on vacation in the summer, and while they're gone, they open the Palace for four weeks of guided tours - but there had been a terror threat earlier in the week, so they were closed for security reasons.

After that stroll, we took the ferry across the fjord and visited the folk museum with one of my friends/colleagues and his family.

This was the first boat ride of the trip, and the boys were pretty excited.

Old buildings from all over the country had been moved here in an open air museum.

Many were humble farm buildings.

There were a few that more more elaborate, like this guest house with elaborate paintings outside . . .

and inside.

Our friends' boys and ours went inside one building for a Demonstrasjon av Tradisjonsmat (sure looks like "Traditional Demonstration" to me.)

A woman was baking lefse, a sort of flatbread, and they were all able to sample a small piece.

In the next house, another woman was working on sewing crafts.

This is an iron, a wooden tool that smooths fabric without heat. They were traditionally made as courting gifts - the suitor could show his skills with elaborate carvings or pay someone else to do it.  Either way, he showed his ability to make things or make money.

A fiddler and dancers demonstrated a dance they called "old Rhinelander," which has the same roots as Schottische.

Horse-drawn wagon ride.  That's pretty much the same, world around.

We saw a beautiful stave church built 800 years ago.  When our friends took the picture, they pointed out that we couldn't prove it was different from the stave church replica that we saw at Epcot/Disney last summer, so you'll just have to take our word for it.

Gorgeous carvings.

Next, ice cream ( an important part of Norwegian summer,) and the Viking Ship museum. I remembered that the ships are about a thousand years old, and it was interesting to learn that they had been discovered and first restored 150 years ago. Since we often reconstruct dances from the mid-1800s, it's fun to know that the people of that era were busy learning about the past themselves

What a day!