Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nuts in Norway part deux

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel on Friday morning we packed sandwiches for the road. Three complimentary meals is a deal that can’t be beat. Another bonus of staying at this hotel was the tower. The front desk encourages people to get a key to a mini-museum and spiral staircase that leads to the top of the main tower of the old building, from which we had a full view of Bergen and vicinity since the hotel was right on the fjord in the Bryggen area.
Should have taken the boat back to France
The Norwegian name for wharf, Bryggen is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings lining the eastern side of the fjord. The wooden buildings are the only remaining group of their kind; they are of the famous kontorer architecture built all over Europe by the Hanseatic League. The city of Bergen was founded in 1070, and the area of the present Bryggen constitutes the oldest part of the city.

The wooden kontorer buildings

We crossed the street to the waterfront fish market at Torget to sample their fares, and in the end were convinced to buy some river salmon to take back home. There was salmon marinated with garlic, smoked salmon, ocean salmon and river salmon, and the choice which to purchase was hard, as all the samples were delicious. But our wanderings had to end, as a glance at the clock showed we were cutting it close to catching our train back to Oslo.

Free samples pay off for the fishmongers
The train ride back was as fascinating as the trip west; although we were seeing the scenery for the second time, it gave us the opportunity to notice details we had missed, and catch up on some sleep. This train also had a different set-up, there was a family car with a playground for children, as well as a bigger café car which provided more room for exploration by Lauris. We were happy to be back in Oslo, and even happier to see our waiting hosts. They had prepared a delicious dinner and we enjoyed their company late into the night.

Saturday morning brought another wonderful meal; Brigita had prepared pancakes. This may have been the reason we got a little bit of a late start up to Frognerseteren, a 19th-century eatery perched on a mountain-side overlooking the city. The building is in Viking style architecture with the “dragon-style ornamentation.” We sampled the famous apple cake, and took a table out on the patio with a view over Oslo. The sun was warm on our shoulders, and it was reluctantly that we left for our hike down the mountain to Holmenkollen.

A sunny 29 degrees C in Oslo
There has been a ski jump on the hill overlooking Oslofjord since 1892, but this particular one is famous from the Olympics. Modernised several times, it continues to be used for international competitions and from the top there is a 360 degree view of Oslo and the surrounding countryside. Although beautiful, there was a long wait for the elevator up and back down, and in retrospect we might have been satisfied with watching a skier practice on another jump on our hike down; when there is no snow, the jump is covered in turf, and with sprinklers they are able to simulate winter conditions. Snow or no snow, after seeing the size of the jump as well as how steep it is, even in the landing area, I believe ski jumpers have to have to at least be a little nuts.

France has rugby, Norway has ski-jumping
Returning to the city, we stocked up on supplies for our evening’s barbecue in Vigelandsparken. One of the most visited sights in Oslo, the park was designed by Gustav Vigeland, a sculptor who worked on it for almost forty years but died one year before its completion. It contains 227 granite and bronze sculptures… of life-sized naked human forms. From the famous screaming pot-bellied baby to entwined lovers to the giant monolith of writhing bodies, it was really… something. The sunny grassy areas were filled with families barbecuing, playing soccer and rugby and enjoying the wonderful summer weather. We had a delicious dinner, sitting outside on blankets in the evening light. Back at home it was the Norway-Portugal soccer match and another evening of great conversation and company. 

Lauris admiring the Vigeland sculptures
Sunday morning we were fed another wonderful meal before being escorted to the train station to catch the train that would take us out to the airport. Although the trip home was difficult (see the post on CDG and ORLY airports), I look back at our trip with satisfaction:  happy with what we were able to accomplish, and with a better idea of what I would like to visit and see in the future.

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