30 May 2018

The Norse and The Sun

Basking at the king's palace park where the public have full access.
We happened to visit Norway during what everyone told me was an unusual period of heat and sun.   The popular paper even saw fit to publish a full page story of the dangers of sun exposure and methods to prevent sun damage because the Norse were sun worshipping in droves.  And for good reason.  After a long, dark winter when children go to and return from school in the dark, the warm, long, sunny days of late spring and summer are enjoyed to the utmost.
A small island, 6 minutes away from Oslo city centre by ferry, where those who enjoyed natural surrounds bathed.

Any small patch of grass or even rock would do.

They are not just basking but actively enjoying the outdoors.  They bike, hike, SUP, kayak, sail, canoe, fish, hunt, pick blueberries, swim, mountain climb.  A five year old girl who we hiked with brought her mountain bike and managed a rocky, root-y trail with aplomb.  She chose when to walk and fell a few times but over a two hour hike she didn't give up and never stopped smiling.  Her brother, three, biking for the first time on training wheels managed the same trail.  An elderly man chatted with us while eating a snack, then climbed on his mountain bike and rode along a gravel path, uphill!
And then for those who enjoyed the city, the infrastructure was set up for public use with grassy patches and interesting sculptures.

On the main street downtown, children enjoy the decorative fountains while tourists watch.

These cement pads are not just taken over by sunbathers.  They are purpose built with swim ladders and even diving boards.  And this is in the middle of the city harbour which is clean enough to swim in and buoyed off for safety.  The beach is created.  Surrounded by the contemporary art museum, loads of restaurants where blankets and rugs are provided for outdoor patios in winter, condos, stores and offices.  

Same location: A fjord swimming pool.

On the river that flows through Oslo, a side pool is specially constructed for bathers use.  How cool is that!  And a river clean enough to swim in that runs through the downtown!

All with a sense of humour.
This is not to say the Norwegians huddle around the fire on those dark winter days.  The long ski trails through woods and up and down hills are groomed and lit.  The small lakes are ploughed for skating.  The Norwegians love the great outdoors and the government sets up the infrastructure to allow them access everywhere.  So impressive!  And healthy!
After long walks, this Norwegian chose the shade.  Wise!

29 May 2018

Oslo Wanderings

Oslo has an interesting juxtaposing of new and old, a recently modern city surrounded by sensational nature.  
We travelled by train to Oslo from Trondheim - a six hour gorgeous ride over old gently rounded and snow bound mountains, through green valleys with fields on incredibly steep slopes, beside swiftly moving rivers, and through small cities and towns.  White long rectangular farmhouses creating one side of a square with three red barns dotted the hillsides as did other cabins.
The king's palace.  When we walked by a marching band was performing in front of the statue.  Behind the palace is a large park with sunbathers galore.

The parliament buildings.

The blockhouse 1960's city hall

And the castle that held resistance members and tragically saw their execution during WWII.

A part of the city which was once circumspect is now part of a trendy arts scene and lovely city walk.

This was my sixth visit to Oslo, the first being on a European post-graduation backpacking tour before I even met my 50% Norwegian husband.  I remember being impressed with it then - an amazing park with a crowd doing an aerobics class, buskers lining the main street of lovely old buildings, a king's palace where the public were free to roam on the grounds, an impressive resistance museum with tragic stories, all on a beautiful fjord.  It was too expensive for our very limited budgets so we didn't stay long.  But it made an impression.

When I first came to Oslo in 1982, I was very taken with these statues - 100's of them - in a city park, Frogner Park.  Expressive life cycle scenes of humans in their basic form - no apologies, no excuses.  Fantastic.

A good belly laugh

An angry boy who many have tried to soothe.

The corridor is lined with dancing, stamping, sitting, hugging, fighting statues and so much more.  Pretty amazing.

Then I met and eventually happily married my 50% Norwegian husband.  I was lucky to visit Olso several more times and each time I loved it.  These were family visits with young children and wanderings out and about.  With each visit, Oslo became more sophisticated.

A rich country can afford great ingenuity.  There are no taxes, no parking fees, no tolls,  and free municipal charging for electric cars.  Norway has the greatest number of Teslas per capita over any other nation by far.  This street was lined with charging stations.  Wonderfully progressive!  Learn, Canada.

I hadn't returned for almost 20 years although Peter has visited and Em did an exchange term here.  Now Olso is a world class city with a trendy arts scene, several shopping areas with all the major names in fashion plus Scandinavian highlights, an intriguing and very well-used waterfront (Toronto should take note), interesting modern architecture with more promised.  All these additions but it hasn't lost it's small city feel.  It is surrounded by easily accessible green mountains and the fjord is dotted by lovely green islands.  The castle and 1960's city hall are still part of the low skyline and the king's palace still sits at the head of the main drag and, importantly, the grounds are used as a public park.

A lone cello going into work at the Opera Centre, a beautiful white marble building.

You are warned to climb to the roof at your own risk - slippery when wet - and bikes and skateboards are forbidden.  But sunbathers abound on these white marble slopes.  

Climbing the opera centre slope on a hot day.

We snuck in for a peek just before a performance.  Beautiful wood interior with sloping, shaped balcony railings.

Definitely a city to return to!  Loved it!!  Now the question is, how to get Milly here and when?

Norwegian special for dinner!  White bread, mayonnaise, unpeeled to peeled shrimp (must be fresh) with dill and a squeeze of lemon with a glass of white wine.  Ever since we were in Norway for Em's 5th birthday, she has chosen the meal as her birthday dinner.  Hard to get fresh shrimp in Toronto.

Peter and I took a city bus/ferry to an island a 6-minute ride from the city.  We circumnavigated.  This view was looking down the fjord away from the city.

And this toward the city and opera house.  The mountains are a walk away.

The contemporary arts museum is another modern building on the waterfront.  Better close up, made of glass and wood, it's shape is striking.  It's grounds are swarmed with sunbathers.

There are statues all over Oslo from the traditional male figures  to the fun and modern.

We had such fun touring with these two.  Couldn't have been better.

I think Em thought so too!
And there was more family time!  Family dinners, exploring family.  So fun.  We are grateful!!

Trondheim Birthday Celebrations

Trondheim city centre.  A winding river flows through the small but busy old city.  Colourful wooden houses line the river and pedestrian cobbled streets.
We have just returned to Milly after a wonderful ten day family (minus a few important characters) holiday in Norway to celebrate Ake's 90th birthday.  First in Trondheim, latitude approximately 63 degrees north, where it never really gets dark.  Even between the late sunset and early sunrise there is a twilight zone.

We were hosted by Ake's family who we met for the first time and who were extremely generous and kind. They hosted dinners, toured us about town, led us on a nature hike, and hosted a delightful birthday celebration at an old restored farmhouse/estate.

I was told that Trondheim experiences two seasons: white winter and green winter.  We, however, enjoyed mainly blue skies and temperatures in the 20's.  It was so lovely that I thought we should sail across the Bay of Biscay, through the English Channel and over the North Sea to get there...maybe not.  Chartering might be the answer.

It's always a treat for us to spend time with family.

A group of seven of our kind hosts toured 8 of us through the city centre.  At a comfortable amble, we covered the whole thing in it's spring glory.  Flowers, new fresh green leaves.

Almost 45 years ago, Peter spent a year at this middle school in Trondheim.  We searched for the house he lived in to no avail.

The next day we walked a very short distance - about 10 minutes - out of the city.  The houses in Norway, even in Oslo, are surrounded by wild.  Tended gardens surround the houses but the edge along the streets are natural which gives the impression, to me anyway, of being more wild than just a city suburb.  Love it!  This building with the sodded roof - no goats feasting on the grass, though - was a hospital school in the woods where one of our hosts worked.

The area was dotted with small lakes.  People sunbathed at the edge, swam, hiked, biked, canoed, kayaked.  Norwegian people enjoy the outdoors!

From a hilltop we enjoyed a view of the city and the fjord in the distance.  Our hosts home is on the closer hillside.  All easily accessible.  Mountains in the distance are in Sweden.

Ake was a ski jumper in his athletic youth.  These jumps were new since he lived here.

The birthday boy!  So wonderful to be able to celebrate with him.  Thank you, Anne and Per!

12 May 2018

Coastal Hop Along the Italian Sole

Saturday, May 12, 2018
Le Castella town wall
Calabria, Italy
Early morning start from our anchorage in Taormina.  Wow!

Didn't get to climb Etna but we'll be back on our way out of the Med.  It'll still be there...hopefully.

We are on a schedule - we need to get to Crotone, Italy, where we will leave the boat for a short trip to Norway.  Crotone is a city at the metatarsal of the boot.  The coast on the sole of the toe of the boot is one very long beach and, hence, there are few protected anchorages to stop along the way.  In opposition to the scads of tourists in Taormina, this part of Italy, cut off from the rest by a mountain range is not on the general tourist route.  Apparently, most of the international tourists who come are looking for Italian ancestors.  The very few tourists we have seen are Italian.
Milly all alone in the first stop, Roccella Ionica.  That beach extended for tens of miles!  Roccella was a sleepy town as all seem to be.  We keep thinking that we are walking through these towns during siesta but no matter when we explore most stores and homes seem shut.  We did have the "best pizza in Italy" at a pizzeria in the marina at 7:00 when it finally opened and it was fantastic.  It was laden with stuff in North American fashion instead of the simple traditional Italian fare.

From a ruined tower at Roccella Ionica on a dramatic hunk of rock to a slightly lower also ruined castle, both quite high above the town.  Made for a dramatic town skyline.

We like being off the beaten track and so have enjoyed being the only boat in the harbour but the unfortunate part for the area is that the souvenir shops, many bars and restaurants are empty.  The resort complexes, obviously recently built, are also large abandoned with little care of the property, at least at this time of year.  We were the only ones on the enormous beach where we walked yesterday. And yet this is an area with authentic towns, rugged green mountains and spectacular beaches for sunbathers and walkers.  We have been delighted by it.

Next stop:  Le Castella. It's namesake castle is huge, built on a tiny island to house the villagers during attacks from the so-called Barbarians.  

 A view of Milly in the fishing harbour.

Milly with her fishing neighbours on the town wall.  We have learned that many towns have free town walls available for docking.  We, luckily, had the only remaining spot on a weekend when the fishermen stay at dock.  Saturday a.m. it was a hive of activity - engines being repaired, diesel delivered, nets repaired and piled very neatly.  By afternoon, it was deserted - all the men had gone home for their all-important lunch, siesta and hard earned day of rest.  During the week, boats left at 4:45 a.m. - we heard them - and returned around 6 p.m.  Refrigerated vans hustled to the dock, fish, shrimp, squid, neatly arranged in styrofoam boxes were packed into the vans and then those tired fishermen tidied their boats and went home for a short night of rest.  They work hard!