Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Queen Saves the Day

Blogs are deceptive; actually, most reporting is.  Because there is always a lot that's missing from the picture presented. I know our life in Norway as portrayed here appears idyllic, and some days it truly is.  On the other hand, in the interest of at least partial full disclosure, let me tell you about a recent day that was a little less than idyllic. You'll notice that there aren't nearly as many photos this time, and not all were taken on the day I'm describing. I think you'll understand why.

First let me say that public transportation in Norway is excellent -- clean, reliable, punctual, accommodating of prams and bikes. We've chosen to be without a car this year and to use public transportation on a regular basis. Most bus stops have these signs telling you when the next bus will come. I find that amazing.

Several times I've seen day care center groups with strollers that seat 6 toddlers each taking a field trip via the bus. Buses and the subway are convenient and used by everyone.

Because of this reliability, one recent weekend, we decided to take the bus a couple of hours south of Oslo, to Sandefjord, for a two-day weekend. Sten had found a wonderful place to stay with meals and amenities in plenty as part of the package. In order to attend church there, we got up early to catch our bus downtown.  It was  just barely getting light when we left our apartment, towing our rolling carryon suitcase. The weather included pouring rain, and there was a fairly unpleasant wind blowing -- not the sort of day one would choose to wait outside for very long. 

Our first bus was on time, taking us to just in front of the city hall. 

From there, we walked 5-7 minutes to where we would wait for our bus to Sandefjord. Did I mention that since we planned to stay overnight, we were pulling a  rolling carry-on suitcase? And because it was raining, we each had an umbrella. At this particular bus stop, there was no shelter from the elements.   Lots of bus stops have them, but not this one, so we attempted to take shelter under the eaves of a nearby business. Also, for the kind of bus we were taking out of town, there was no electronic sign telling when the next bus would arrive (as in the first photo above). 

We noticed that there weren't many other buses coming by, and that there weren't many people waiting, which made us a little suspicious, but it was still pretty early. We had maybe 15 minutes to wait yet until our bus was to come. Meanwhile, we dodged the wind with our umbrellas and attempted to keep ourselves and our luggage dry. Did I mention that we were in our dress clothes as we planned to go directly to church when we arrived?

The time we expected our bus to arrive came and went. "Must be running late," we thought (which is highly unusual).  After waiting 20 minutes past the anticipated time of departure (in the cold, blowing rain), we realized we had made a mistake in looking at the online bus schedule. There are different schedules for Monday - Friday, for Saturday, and for Sunday. That fact had not been noticed, obviously. (For anyone interested, that last sentence is in the truncated passive -- often used when one wishes not to lay blame.)

"Oh well," we decided, "we'll take the train.  It's more expensive, but we'll still get there."  Getting to the train station entailed walking 5-7 minutes to the subway station (It was still raining and blowing, and we still had our luggage to haul.), waiting for the next train, and then riding a few more stops. Once in the central train station, we maneuvered our way through the crowds to the ticket machines to buy our tickets for the next train that was to leave in just a few minutes. The cost was more than twice the price of the bus ticket (Yikes!). We noticed that, though we had tickets in hand, the number of the platform wasn't written on the ticket. Since our train goes farther than Sandefjord, it's not necessarily going to be on the arrivals/departures board. We caught sight of a woman in uniform giving assistance to passengers. We waited our turn, asked our question, and were directed  to the right place. Running as fast as we can through the station and down a ramp to the outdoor platform,  we arrived just in time to see our train pulling away from the station. Ouch! "Can we get a refund on these tickets? I sure hope so." Not quite as quickly as when we came down to the platform, we headed back upstairs to where we bought our tickets. Fortunately, the person who helped us find the right platform was still there and able to use her keys to get into a locked office to refund us our tickets.  We're thankful. What now?

Since the central bus terminal is just across the street from the train station via an overpass, we decided to check on when the next bus would be leaving. After meandering through a maze of halls, escalators, and  finally the foot traffic overpass, we found the ticket counter for the bus station.  We're told there is no bus until the afternoon. Our cozy inn began disappearing from our future, and we realized that by now it's also too late for church in Oslo.

I'm sure you can image our state of mind by this time. Somehow there seemed to be a conspiracy keeping us from getting to Sandefjord for the weekend. We decided that we weren't meant to go  and headed back to where we catch the bus home.  

Something I haven't mentioned yet is that on our way going back and forth through the harbor area in front of city hall, Sten noted that a very large cruise ship was docked there.  He was sure it had to be something special because it was so much larger than the normal ones that come through every day. (If you have read my earlier post "Foggy Morning Walk," you'll recall that the boy in my husband is brought out by these ships.) Earlier, he was quite tempted to stop and see what the ship was, but he had resisted because of our tight schedule; however, now the day had no obligations. We got off the bus  and walked over to see the ship.

As Sten thought, it was indeed something special -- the Queen Mary 2. (Some lists of the biggest cruise ships place it 8th largest, others 7th largest in the world.  By length, it's the 4th longest. By weight, it is three times the weight of the Titanic.) My husband is thrilled. And I'm happy he's thrilled. He doesn't say so, but, I suspect that he might even think that missing our trip was somehow providential so we could see this ship. 

Does he look happy?  He was.

We learned from some passengers that they were in port just for the day, and they were to be back on the ship by 4:30 in the afternoon. I knew what to expect later in the day.  At 5:00, we walked to the waterfront by the Fram and Kon-Tiki museums.  It was dark now, and we hoped to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Queen Mary 2 leaving  Oslofjord.  In the distance, we saw the lights beginning to move. We watched in awe as this lighted city of a boat turned and headed out to the sea right in front of us. It's horn sounded deeper and longer than any we've heard before. Seeing her saved the day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vedbæk Visit -- Part 3: Events

It's amazing how much we fit into those days in and around Vedbæk.  Sten's mother and brother met us at the airport and we drove to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Our evening started with a wonderful multi-course dinner followed by a concert by the Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov playing Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin.  Though the composers are well-known, the repertoire was not familiar to any of us; however, the pieces were beautiful and were masterfully and sensitively performed.

My mother-in-law just delighted in seeing her two sons together.

The original impetus for the trip was to celebrate some family birthdays.  Our oldest son and Sten's brother share the same birth date, and a few days earlier my sister-in-law has her birthday. Everyone helped with the meal preparations. Our nephews set the table. The table cloth is one which was  hand-embroidered by the older of these two for his parents' anniversary. Isn't it beautiful! The color-selections used makes the flowers very life-like.

Our nieces were in charge of making the salad and putting the dessert together.  My sister-in-law planned and prepared (with a little help from the rest of us) the remainder of the delicious meal --  steamed artichokes with a creamy dipping sauce, roasted chestnuts, lamb, roasted root vegetables -- potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and Jerusalem artichokes, a vegetarian entree, and salad. The layered almond cake was filled with custard, whipping cream, raspberries, and blueberries. Everything was delicious and eaten slowly with lots of joyful celebration and great conversation in a mix of Danish, Norwegian, and English. Hot drinks and chocolates from both Norway and Denmark topped everything off.

The day we were to leave in the afternoon, Sten and I took a long walk to a neighboring town where Sten's brother and mother met us for an afternoon tea at a favorite historic restaurant next to a lake and in an interesting small village. It was a comfortable Fall day, so in good Nordic style, we sat outside with blankets over us.

We each enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa and what in Denmark is called "apple cake."  It's very popular and delicious, but not what we normally think of as "cake."  Rather, it's layers of sweetened crumbs (like you might use in a crust of a cheese cake), apple sauce, and whipped cream.  Its Danish name is   tilsløret bondepige which translates "veiled peasant girl." Here's the view from where we sat.

After leaving the restaurant, we drove to a neighboring town where a gallery was hosting an exhibit of one of my favorite painters, Carl Larsson.  In all fairness, I think the exhibit ought to include the names of both Carl and Karin Larsson since much of her weaving and design was featured as well as Carl's wondering paintings.  The title of the exhibit, "Det gode liv," translates as "The Good Life" and features Carl's paintings and decor from their family home in Sundborn in the Swedish province of Dalarna. I didn't take a lot of photos but thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm not sure if this is Carl's actual bed, or if it's a replica, but I think it's very cozy. Karin designed and made the curtains for the bed.  She also designed and made the table runner and designed the clever plant stand.  I wouldn't mind to have a similar one filled with plants framing one of my windows at home. 

Tusen takk, Tormod og Jette, for et hyggelig besøk.  
Thank you, Tormod and Jette, for a wonderful visit.

Vedbæk Visit -- Part 2: The Joy of Walks

Walks around Vedbæk are fun because there are endless paths to explore.  We try to get in at least one long walk every day we're there, rain or shine.  Let me take you along and show you some of what we saw along the way. I just had to photograph the fleeting beauty of these leaves.  I'm guessing by now, they're gone for this year.

Usually the area in front of the train station looks like this, but every so often it's the site of a local flea market and looks like the following photo.  We had fun looking at what was up for sale -- much the same as flea markets at home, though with a Danish twist.  Tempting price, so I had to remind myself that we pay for overweight in luggage when we fly home, which quickly adds up.

Turning left at the train station, we quickly come to one of the wonderful walking paths.  Many are paved and go through beautiful wooded areas or along agricultural lands.

One walking path leads by the local church yard cemetery.  I'm not sure how typical this is of Denmark, but here the plots are divided by hedges.  It appears that a lot of individuality is permitted in how the little "gardens" are developed.  Some are very simple with a grave marker; others are more  cultivated and planted with trees and shrubs.

Aren't they beautiful? The chapel is next to the cemetery as are watering cans for keeping up the gardens.  We found the place very peaceful, and we liked the idea of a small private garden as a burial plot.

Around the corner from the church and cemetery is this burial mound.  It's obviously a crypt for some rather important people, but there aren't any signs or markings to identify it.  Interesting what one sees when exploring on foot, isn't it?

The entrance and the view inside.

I'd say it's a pretty ostentatious burial to be unmarked, wouldn't you?  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Vedbæk Visit -- Part 1: The town

Sten and I visited the community of Vedbæk, just north of Copenhagen recently.  We were able to spend time with family, celebrate some birthdays, eat delicious food, take some long walks, and enjoy the delights of Denmark. Let me share some photos of this charming area. Vedbæk is right along the coast of the North Sea.

Here's Sten with Lady, our canine niece, walking along the coastal road.

The marina is filled with boats of many varieties.

This time of year, many are being removed for the winter.  Just left of the green mast in the center of this photo, you'll see a boat hoisted by a crane on its way to dry docking.

The houses are charming -- some with thatched roofs, others with tile. Most homes have a 
walled, fenced, or hedged yard that gives privacy from the street.

I particularly like the natural stick/twig fences.  They look hand made, 
but I'm not sure they are as they're just too perfect.

Maybe this one is hand made. Notice the uneven top edge.  Sorry for the blur.

The main street has a wonderful bakery,  a grocer with fresh produce visible from the street, 
and the train station. I like how there are hooks outside of shops for you to leave your dog on its leash while you shop for the day's groceries.

As everywhere in Denmark, bicycles are frequently used for transportation.  The trains have space for you to bring your bike along with you, and stairs accommodate your bike on the incline.

Even the mail carrier uses a bike for transportation.  Her vehicle has motor assist, though she told us she'd prefer to only pedal for the exercise.  She has a pocketful of dog treats to befriend any canines she meets along her way.  Lady was charmed by her, as you can imagine.