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Gustav's folly and reflections from Leith

I’m sitting at our hotel in Copenhagen, processing the last
few days. Tomorrow morning we fly back home, to house and cats and friends, and
full time job hunting. I’m ready to get back to my normal eating habits and
exercise schedule and resume some projects I’ve put on hold.

But at the same time, I’m not sure I’m ready to leave and
never return. I’m getting restless, and I think Kelly is too. I feel like I’m
in danger of stagnating; not in my work life, which is in a very dynamic place
right now, but socially, artistically, and in terms of my sense of self. I
remember the first time Kelly and I came to Europe together, we came back with
all these dreams of teaching overseas and becoming expats, but we weren’t
really ready, professionally or personally, and weren’t able to make it happen.
Coming back ten years later, in our 30s, we were too rooted and involved with
things back home and it just didn’t sound like a good idea anymore.

Now were not feeling as locked in as we used to in terms of
family and friends and hobbies, our kids will be starting college in four years
which could be anywhere in the English or French speaking world, and we’re in
striking range of being able to jump the pond without missing a beat in our
careers. I don’t know if we’ll end up making the jump in four years, but it’s
worth some serious consideration. All of Europe could be just a road trip away.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve said nothing about our
experiences in Stockholm since the first day we were there, and that doesn’t do
it justice. Not that I would want to live there – to crowded and chaotic, like
the New York of Scandinavia – but there were some worthy highlights.

First among those things is the Vasa Ship. Yes, it’s a
crowded, lemming experience getting in the door and moving round, but once I
was inside I didn’t care. All I could do was stare at the ship. I remember at
the Vikingskipshuset in Oslo marveling at the details and craftsmanship of the
preserved Viking ships, but the Vasa made them look like children’s toys. First
off, it is enormous – bigger than some hotels I’ve stayed at, with a troop
capacity in the hundreds. But beyond that, as a work of art, it was
unfathomable. Dozens of carved figures, some in relief but most fully three
dimensional. Caryatid columns, warriors, fantastical creatures, grotesques, even
some of the features on deck were ornamented with life sized busts. And on top
of that, every cannon door featured a carved lion head in relief. All in all
over a hundred sculptures. It was like the Notre Dame cathedral on the water,
and sadly, about as seaworthy.

When Sweden was at its heyday as a naval power, and probably
the strongest in Europe, the king (I forget which Gustav it was) commissioned
this ship to be built, intending it to be the most powerful thing on the water.
But he insisted on adding a second deck of cannons, despite the warnings of the
builders that they didn’t have enough room for ballast to balance them. They
build the ship to the king’s specifications anyway, and in the summer of 1628
it launched, sailed about three miles, tipped over, and sank. Most of the
people on board were rescued but about 30 went down with the ship, mostly those
who had been injured during the capsize. About a third of the skeletons were
recovered with the ship when they finally figured out how to recover it, and a
group of scientists have reconstructed from the bones and the DNA what the
people would have looked like, which is interesting in kind of creepy way. Tully in particular
seemed to get a lot out of this part, but I was too in awe of the craftsmanship
of the boat to care about anything else.

Next to the Vasa is the Nordisk Museet, which looks really
awesome on the outside but is more like a small museum on the inside. It turns
out it was constructed round the turn of the 20th century but done
in an older style so as to look grandiose and inspire nationalism. It houses a
sort of random selection of exhibits around fashion and culture, most of which
was either not stuff we were interested in or stuff we had already seen in
greater detail around Mora. But I did see cool exhibit of Sami artifacts on the
top floor just before it closed, and Kelly appreciated the textiles.

We saw other stuff too, but I think I’ll leave that for Shayla
to talk about.

We finished out our time in Sweden with family by visiting
Tomas for a leisurely BBQ at his waterfront condo on Lidingö island (one of the
many islands that comprise the city of Stockholm.) We had much pleasant
conversation, touching on family, education, politics, and other fine topics
over red wine on the porch, with blankets on our laps because one always wears
blankets one the lap when sitting outside in Sweden, even on a sunny day. At
one point, he gave the girls a little remote controlled helicopter, though no
one could really control it, including Tomas, because it seemed to only respond
to the controller about a third of the time, but the girls had fun chasing it
around and watching it crash into things.

We caught a ferry back to the apartment, finished packing,
and met my other cousin Per at the train station before catching our train to
Denmark thinnest morning. We found much to talk about, between Per’s addiction
to creating startups and the fact that like us, he had also put his daughter in
a French immersion school, and that she is now enrolled at the Sorbonne, which
is one of the colleges we are looking at. Apparently, he also has a soft spot
for Seattle because that’s where he bought his first skateboard before
embarking on the professional skateboarding career that eventually got him
involved in the fashion industry, so we may be seeing him again soon.


Downtime is good

Downtime is important. Especially after a day like yesterday.
We had a fine drive down to Stockholm, after a stop in Uppsala to meet one of the girls' school friends for lunch at a place called Lingon, which was possibly our best lunch of the trip so far. The food was great and the company better. The girls chatted like magpies and we always enjoy conversation with Leif, Ann-Sophie's dad.
But once we got into the city, nothing was easy. Heavy traffic, construction, by luck we managed to find the rental car garage for dropoff, but the self-serve kiosk wouldn't recognize our Norwegian license plate, so we had to find the rental office. The first thing we see coming out of the elevator in the train station is some guy sitting on the floor with a needle in his arm, not ten feet from the elevator, completely oblivious to us. I look over at the girls and see Shayla looking back at me with big eyes and an expression on her face that said "I'm not supposed to be seeing thing like that, am I?"
Kelly and I leave Judy and the girls and the luggage in a seating area by a Starbucks while we take care of checking in the rental car and getting the apartment keys. Between bad directions, confusing addressing, and moving storefronts, it takes at least a half hour to find each one, despite being all within three blocks of the station. Add to that the subliminal pressure of being in one of the most crowded cities in Europe at rush hour and we were pretty stressed by the time we got done.
Then there was the trek to the Gamla stan, with our luggage plus about 50 pounds of groceries through trains and stations and over about half a mile of cobblestone streets.
The apartment is beautiful, and almost as big as our house, with enough bedrooms for everyone, but we couldn't get the wifi to work, so we spent much of our evening struggling with that to no avail instead of appreciating the spacious layouts, comfy couches, and tile stoves.
I don't love Stockholm yet.
Kelly's uncles, Ron and Danny, got in too late last night to join us for dinner like we planned, so we are meeting them for lunch today instead. Their plane got in late, and then they had trouble finding their hotel. No surprise there, given our experience. Shayla has already come up with a selection of restaurants in the area, which will hopefully be agreeable to all concerned.
At the moment, mother and daughters are taking the hop on hop off bus tour to get oriented to the city, leaving me and Judy alone in the apartment. Good thing too. In a city this crowded we need the space.

The horse

Our last full day in Mora, the sun was out and the sky was
blue and the fields were green. Birds flew in the sky and the cows were lowing. We went to Orsa, the next village over to a lovely dairy farm with horses
and cows. We were greeted with a mama horse and her very cute foal. The main
house was an old hotel from a couple of centuries ago. Not yet restored but
yellow, not red! And very cool. The lady, Maria, and her son, Hovard, brought the
passel of horses around from the pasture. They were cute Norwegian Fjord
ponies. Think fat sausages with legs. We started petting some and making their
acquaintance. One horse was sweet and I enjoyed petting her. The big, fat one,
Silver, eyed me balefully. I should have known that it wouldn’t go well at that

When Maria came back, we arrayed ourselves by level of experience,
from Tully, our expert, to Leith, the person who had ridden the fewest. She put
Tully and Shayla on the two show ponies that jump and race. Well, Shayla’s kept
falling asleep. She put me on the suspicious one, Silver, who seemed none too

My next hint was that when we tried to lead Silver forward,
he refused to budge. We brought the step to him for me to get on. After
everyone was settled, we circled round and started walking down the driveway.
My horse nickered and flirted with the mare and foal, refusing to leave the
fence line. After some cajoling, with everyone else some bit away, Silver
reluctantly walked down the road, sliding along the electric fence and tree
trunks in the hope of knocking me off.

We eventually made it to the road, where I realized I had no
understanding with this horse. He would walk left, or right…refusing to just…follow
everyone. Sometimes, he would abruptly stop and try to nip at his own front
legs, throwing his head down…perhaps hoping I would somersault over the top.
The next test came when a car was trying to pass. As all the other horses lined
up along the side of the road, daintily picking their way along the road, MY
horse drifts towards the middle of the road, as if to challenge the wee cars.
Go ahead, I can take you, he defiantly nickers. The guide has to trot back at
one point and grab his halter, muttering at him in Swedish and drags him into
the line as number two.

Several times along the road, he stops for no apparent
reason and flings his head down, jerking the reigns out of my hands as I kick
him to no effect. He’s big and stubborn. Tully can sometimes cajole him to
follow, other times, the guide entices him along.

As others get to admire the countryside and the long awaited
sunshine, I wonder at the torture that next awaits me and pray we can get off the
road before more cars come. After about a year and half, we make it to the
trail where we dive onto a muddy, forested path. My horse, now second,
gleefully picks up the walking pace, almost trotting…at each turn, he sways
left or right to ensure I get a faceful of evergreen boughs or brush my legs
against trunks. He hops over tree trunks and gleefully stomps through the mud and
water as he trots after the guide.

Things are more free spirited now and I do get to pause
occasionally to enjoy the exhilaration of his crazy jaunt. In the background, I
hear more sounds of fun and terror from Judy, giggles from the girls, and
Leith. I worry about Judy. Must not break the grandma. My horse is happier in
the woods and the guide in front blocks him from really taking off.

We all slow down a bit as we go up hill and we do get a
moment to enjoy the lake. I do get to admire all the horse lessons in the form
of Tully’s calm serenity. She eventually took the last place in order to keep
my sordid and stubborn horse in line, taking good care of me.

As we turn the corner on the trail, it is evident that we
are on the last half of the trail. All the horses show an eagerness to be
turning towards home. Unfortunately for some of us, this enthusiasm takes the
form of trotting or maybe even cantering….leaping over obstacles as they head
towards THE FIELD. At one point, after a spurt of faster horse racing…I successfully
yank my reigns back and turn my horse, remembering all of Tara’s exhortations during
lessons to Tully about how to stop the evil midget pony from galloping. I
breathe a momentary sigh of relief, pleased that I managed to control my horse,
when suddenly, I hear thundering hooves and watch as Judy, the grandma, flies
past on wild horse. She gets her horse stopped near the guide who takes the halter
and checks in with Judy as we reign in at the edge of the field.

The guide carefully places Judy’s horse between hedge and
field, next to her own horse and Silver and I follow. The girls and Leith are
behind us. We take a few paces when suddenly, all hell breaks loose and the
horses, as one startle. Judy’s horse takes off and then veers wildly away from
the hedge. All our horses race forward and again, I manage to stay on and
tightly rein in and circle my horse. Judy has been thrown off the horse, who is
now calmly eating grass about twenty feet away. The guide, I believe, is
cursing roundly in Swedish, although I can only assume that.

We take stock. Judy is unbroken but sore. Her stirrup has
come off the saddle but is quickly refastened. After a brief discussion, Maria
calls her husband and son to meet us. Judy doesn’t want to get back on the
horse. While we wait for husband and son to arrive, my horse takes that moment
to act up.

Following Shayla’s horse to the end of the field, of course
Silver starts to munch on grass and bushes, trying to throw me over his head
some more. I gently hold the reigns and let him eat after Maria says to do so
only after a few minutes later, Silver starts to dig into the mud in front of
him. Maria, halfway across the field, yells, “No, no….don’t let him do that.”
At this point, I am, yet again, frantically trying to haul the reins and force
the ginormous horse head away from the grass but am stymied, perhaps because of
the cramping in my hands from previous attempts. The next thing I know, like
some trick pony, he starts to bend down in front. Next, the horse decides to
lay down and roll over on his side with the now panicked guide yelling and
running over. I do kick free and roll off unhurt. The guide looks…shocked and
frustrated at the horse. Silver stands back up, looking back at me balefully
like…”Ha! I showed you.”

The husband and son showed up. The husband solicitously
helps Judy to the car and drives her home to tea and an ice pack. The son takes
the free horse. I ask Leith to help me get back on the giant sausage equine and
he hops off his horse and lets me use his thigh as a mounting block. I get back
on and Silver heaves a sigh.

Our trip back was mostly uneventful. We were quite close to
the main road at that point. Silver mostly follows the line and drifts out to
threaten oncoming traffic only twice. Two more times, he starts to heave his
head down as if to shove me over his head and I stop being so nice. I spend
half my time trying to talk to him about how we don’t have to fight…we can have
a nice walk, and then alternate that with curses on his parentage and calling
him names. My friends at work would be proud of me. My cursing only came out
the last half mile of the ride as I finally lost patience with Silver and now
had vivid experience of what comes next if I let him throw his head down to the
ground. I did NOT want to be rolled off again, this time on the side of the

When we got back, we found Judy ensconced on the couch
inside the house. I bid a not so fond farewell to Silver, the horse that would
not go, and thanked my lucky stars I did not die on my relaxing trail ride
through the forested wilds of central Sweden.

After that, we stopped by Tomas and Agneta’s house for what
was going to be coffee but was changed up to wine and ibuprofen where we
enjoyed good company and gave Judy time to recover from her ordeal. We suffered a narrow escape in this adventure. We ALMOST broke the grandma but she has proven let again, that she bounces and does not break. Whew.

At home in Dalarna

This has been an intense time for me, being in the place of
my paternal roots. I feel at home in a way, yet I don’t speak the language
fluently. Thankfully, most Swedes of my age or younger speak English pretty

My 83 year old second cousin speaks only Swedish. On prior
visits, his wife was able to play interpreter so we could all converse.
Unfortunately, she passed away recently, so when I saw him the other day, all I
could do was sit with him and look at old photos. Occasionally, a younger
family member would translate something for one of us. I loved seeing them all,
but it was frustrating at times.

On the other hand, there are some cousins my own age, whom
I’ve known since my young adulthood and seen a few times in the intervening
years. We seem to really be bonding this time around, more so than in the past,
which will make it hard for me to say “Good-bye”, not knowing when we might
meet again.

There is also our “new” cousin, Helena, who found us in last year. She, along with her daughter and niece, came over to
our place for dinner the other evening. The adults looked at family photos and
added details to one another’s family trees, while the girls overcame the language
barrier over card games.

On Sunday, we visited Mora Kyrkan, the church my grandfather
attended 100+ years ago, before he emigrated. Parts of the building date back
to the 1300’s. We also looked at all the
gravestones in the church cemetery, photographing those of possible ancestors.

Then, there are the shopping and sightseeing trips, but
that’s another story. --Judy

Old Night

I just spent the night in a 16th century farmhouse! Squee!!!!
My relatives (I'm not entirely sure how I'm related to them, but it's complicated enough that I don't really want to know), Thomas and Agneta, offered to let me and Tully spend the night in one of their medieval farmhouses. Not the completely untouched one from the 16th century (that we ate dinner in- squee again!), but a different one, lightly used since then but still from way early.

It was incredible. The entire thing is made from wood, like all the other buildings around here. There are two beds next to each other against the wall, built out of wood, with cute little curtains around them to block out the light (remember, it doesn't really get dark) and keep the warmth in. Besides that, well, there was some old furniture, and the dusty windows. You can tell just walking in there how old it is.

Tully and I sang for a while, since we didn't want to go to bed yet, then got in bed and read for an hour or so before sleeping. I took photos of everything- I'll try and post them some time soon. Thomas and Agneta were great. It was an experience I'll remember for years.


Meeting family

> The night before, we arrived at our stuga in Gesunda,.Sweden, unpacked, settled in, contacted all our local peeps, and grabbed dinner at Jurgen Jon, the local diner. Then yesterday morniing started with a sturdy breakfast (Swedish bacon is yummy by the way) and off to Nusnäs to visit the Dala Häste factory where they make the iconic painted wooden horses and the Mora knives for an unabashedly touristic shopping experience. Unbeknownst to us, the selection of cutlery had greatly expanded in the thirty years since I was there last, and the prices remained reassonable even by American standards, so we loaded up before we left.
> By the time we got out we were running late for our first engagement, and traffic was wierdly awful for such a small town -- think Front Street in Issaquah during rush hour - so we had to give up on going home for lunch and patronize the dreaded McDonalds on our way to Tomas and Agnetas place instead. Of course, in Sweden, even McDo's has gluten free buns available so even that was somewhat awesome in its own way.
> But all of this is just me stalling because I don't know where to start. When we get to Tomas and Agneta's place we discover that instead of just having an old farmhouse, they are on a farmstead of about five buildings all dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Moreover, with the exception of the big barn, all had been maintained in their original condition, down to the decorations and household implements.
> They received us in the original farmhouse, which was built in the mid 1600s I think, to chat before café/tea time. Apparently, the place had been in Tomas' extended family for hundreds of years, and until recently, in the posession of an aunt, who liked to keep it in its traditional state. The aunt sold it to Tomas' father Olle maybe ten years ago when she got too old to take care of it, and then Tomas bought it from Olle a couple years ago for the same reason. Now the stable is split into a duplex with one side for Olle and the other for Tomas and Agneta when they are in town.
> Agneta has taken up the hobby of restoring the rest of the buildings. It's kind of like antiqueing but instead of buying antiques, she's unburying them from all the accumulated layers of stored junk and putting them back in their original settings. The result is on par with the folk museum in Oslo.
> One thing that stood out in my mind from the original farmhouse was a row of four old books laid out on a bench. One of the books turned out to be a family bible with entries spanning from 1727 to 1799. It made a particular impression on me beyond the rest of the cabin, even though I knew it wasn't the oldest thing there, because the history was so explicitly spelled out for me. I mean, I knew intellectually that the building itself was older, but just looking around, it could have been made any time up until the 1920's. The bible on the other hand was owned and signed by someone in the early 1700's, and I am in some way related to that person. It gave me a dose of that sense of continuity that people look for when they visit the old country.
> What else? Agneta showed us the weaving shed, with a large loom still set up and various weaving tools laid out. And as evidence that the old equipment was still in use in the last century, there was a box of index cards with the names of dyestuffs on them, each with three sample strands of yarn showing the color the dye made on the different fibers.
> I don't remember much about the other buildings except that some were set up as habitations and some being used for storage, and one had an upstairs bedroom with a bunch of vintage toys from various parts of the 20th century.
> Amusingly, Tomas and Agneta hadn't realized how old the girls were until we arrived, and were all excited about showing them a clubhouse full of toys, which thought was instantly quashed when said girls unfolded themselves from the back of the car.
> But all of that was just gravy. The point was too spend time with Tomas and Agneta. They were great company and we found lots to talk about, long into the night.
> What a day!


Memorable food and design in Scandinavia

I find a strong correlation between the modern Scandinavian
design sensibility and the fancy food. While in Copenhagen, we hit a couple of
VERY posh restaurants where we enjoy what I would call designed food. We had
some other lovely food in Oslo.

At Amann’s, the smorgasbord was our first experience in
designed food. Apologetic, they took such time to compose each plate. I enjoyed
a meticulous three dimensional rectangle of smoked salmon. It’s a cold smoked
salmon – almost like gel, like it was not cooked. It was not flaky. It was
firm. You had to cut it. Apparently, it’s not cooked – more like brined and
maybe frozen previously. The wedge was decorated with fresh dill and an
assortment of edible flowers. My second course was, essentially, boiled
potatoes and not that exciting. Shayla had a single filet mackerel that was
served with a relish of tomatoes, pickled onions, capers, and more fresh
flowers and herbs. Judy had a mild herring with veggies. Soft texture but not
gelled. The winner for many of us was the chicken confit – pretty classic.

At the Fiskebar, I had the coolest crab salad. It was served
in a glass with a cucumber slice wrapped around it. I also had a tasty filet of
Hake, sautéed in oil. Let’s see…among the rest of the crew there was mussels in
cider, those in the know are aware of precisely WHO ordered the giant pile of
mussels, there was a sampler plate of raw oysters, and some scallops.

After three or so days of living like vagabonds, eating
airline food then hotel and restaurant fare, hitting Oslo was a relief. We
kicked it off with the BBQ at Arne’s house. Ann-Mariat and Arne served tasty
little burgers on the best gluten-free buns we’ve ever had. We’ve been tracking
those down everywhere since they introduced us to it. Turns out Arne’s son,
Hovard, is celiac so they knew the best things. I adored the salmon. I have no
idea what made it so tasty – he grilled it with some spices on it. She also
made a salad that was a mixture of fruit and veggies, greens, melon, mango. And
chicken satay. The next couple of meals were things we ate at home. Some
charcuterie, eggs, open-faced sandwiches.

I want to mention that the pasta Bolognese that Leith and
Tully ordered at the Italian place on the following evening was the best I’ve
ever tested. It was made from Ox and was warm, tasty, and not overly strong on
the tomato flavor. I didn’t care as much for the dish Shayla and I ordered,
pasta with sausage. Shayla and I were disappointed because it was not a fresh
sausage, more like a salami. It didn’t fare as well in the dish – being chewy
and too intense. All the dishes there were decorated with fresh basil in a nod
to the Scandinavian love of design in food.

For the crazy train ride day, we made a humble tuna salad with
a careful set of ingredients we found. Two cans of tuna in oil from a nearby
country, some chopped red onion, cornichons, some mustard ancien, a little
oregano, salt, pepper, pickle juice. We served that on GF bread from the bakery
with an almond butter and jam toast as the second course. I got this crazy
enjoyment out of something so tasty and simple. We waited to compose the
sandwiches until the train, then discovered we had no utensils. Fortunately, we
had a bag of fresh peas. Sadly, we thought we bought snap peas but they were
English peas and the shells were not very tasty raw, too fibrous. We did,
however, determine that the PROFILE of the pea pads served well to scoop and
spread tuna salad and almond butter. It was amusing seeing the ticket agent on
the train, as he paused to stamp our ticket, and saw us using the pea pods

It was fun to revisit the joy of a simple meal that becomes
sublime because we are on an adventure, some place beautiful, and very hungry.
We decided it was the best lunch yet, although we didn’t have much to compare
it to. A brief walk back showed scant comparison seeing as we’d ended up
skipping lunch at least twice.

Other meals were not very memorable until we got to the open
air Folkemuseet in Oslo. The café there, Arkadia, was offering lunch. The girls
and I surveyed the menu with hang dog looks. Everything had gluten or dairy.
The fellow quietly offered to make us a salad with salmon, shrimp etc. The
result was something very special with mounds of cold smoked salmon, tasty
delicate shrimp, a hardboiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce. A handmade
tomato vinaigrette…. This tied with our homemade tuna salad – partly in delight
that someone took the time to really accommodate our food needs and partly that
everything was just so delicious.

Before we left Oslo, we found a GF/DF/SF cake mix. Tully
baked it, adding some soft dates to the mix and we spread an apricot jam across
the top. I forgot to mention that we found large jars of the St. Dalfour’s
fruit jam – which features only fruit concentrate. We bought four different
kinds: strawberry, Mirabelle plum, fig royale, and imperial pear. As Leith
said, fruit with delusions of grandeur. We brought that to Tomas and Agneta’s
house for dinner and we were all surprised by how tasty it was. The next cake
attempt did not work out so well. I could not find a mix here in Mora, so I
tried to make one from scratch. I couldn’t find just the right recipe though so
I made it up. THEN, we were having such a great time, we sorta forgot an
overcooked it. Alas, it came out like a dry, crumbly brick. I tried soaking it
in a sweetened coconut milk sauce but then it was just a giant wet brillo pad.
I suspected as much so I asked Shayla to
suck it up and bso I asked Shayla brick. I tried soaking it in a sweetened
coconut milk sauce but then it was just wet. crrryto be content with
strawberries while we bought a DF/GF chocolate brownie cake that we could all
have at our next family meal. That meal, turned out to be salmon as well. This time, Karin laid the salmon out on a cookie sheet that was half inch of salt - I think it was flaked. I MUST find this salt. It's so tasty...we keep nibbling on it. In any case, the salmon was laid skin side down on the salt. The salt sort of soaks in and adheres to the skin. They often top the salmon with butter, but left it off for our sake. We had riced potatoes and salad with it. Leith had apparently never had riced potatoes. We may need to pick up a ricer just so he can try it at home.

Tonight, we are hosting the third branch of cousins in Mora
at our stuga. Leith has been dicing many veggies for a sauce so tonight will be
a great meal, but one well within our own skills. We have another brownie cake.
I don’t think I’m ready to seek out another almond cake recipe. I’d rather
spend my time site seeing than baking.

I may get tired of salmon. It's difficult to say. Each salmon has been prepared differently and is very tasty. But I would enjoy trying other fish. I loved the hake and I even liked Shayla's mackerel. But the irony is not lost that we traveled halfway across the world to stare at evergreen forests, walk around in cold rain, and eat salmon. And right now, we could be lodged in a scout house at Camp River Ranch. --Kelly

Crazy day

Tuesday the 24th. Norway in a nutshell.

No really, that's the name of the tour. I think we took at least three different types of transportation that crazy 18 hour day. We left the apartment at about 5:30 after frantic, sleepy preparations, and got on a train to western Norway.
It was a beautiful ride. I got lots of great photos of trees, water, snow, mountains, and rocks.
I kept being thwarted by poles. A significant percentage of my photos feature a pole, lamppost, or other random showcases of civilization. Considering that the combined width of all the poles (& other) that we passed represent a miniscule fraction of the total distance we passed, that is quite an astonishing result.
Still. The landscape was beautiful. First it was like driving through Western Washington, then through Kelowna, then Alaska, then northern Alaska.
Around noon, we switched to another train, where Dad's Deli opened again, now featuring tuna, almond butter, and jam sandwiches (that's tuna sandwiches and almond butter & jam sandwiches). We stayed on that for an hour of two, then switched again to a cruise ship going through the fjords.

The cruise ship may have been the most scenic thing we did. We say lots, I mean LOTS, of trees. Like home. And cute little villages with that type of architecture I'm learned to classify as Scandinavian country cottages: bright colors, mostly barn red; very slanted roofs, to keep the snow off; and made out of wood, like Linkin Logs. They're super common here: they're the only buildings you see in the country, and they're pretty common in the cities as well.

After the boat ride we switched to a tiny bus that took us on an insane switchback trail that literally changed direction every thirty feet. It totally freaked Mom out, and she wasn't the only one. It was all too easy to imagine the driver getting distracted and us all plummeting off the cliff...
Then we took one last train that took us back to Oslo. That one was ridiculously frustrating for me: the landscape was spectacular, but every time I took my camera out we were enveloped by a tunnel. We would stay in the tunnel for a good minute, then burst out again only to rush into another tunnel three seconds later. I was unfairly teased about my frustrated whimpering as we went from one tunnel to another.

When we finally got back to Oslo, it was about eleven. We took public transit back to the apartment and conked out the moment we got to bed, around midnight.

Now I should be congratulated for remembering all of this in such detail almost a week later. :) And for actually managing to work despite being curled up with a blanket with my book in easy reach. Can't... seem... to type... Book!


Sent from my Windows Phone

Judy loves Oslo too

For having only been here briefly, 30 years ago, I feel
strangely at home here in Scandinavia. More so in Oslo than in Copenhaven, but
even there. I expect the feeling will be even stronger when we get to Sweden.

I concur with Kelly in not having fallen in love with
Copenhagen. I did fall in love with a little coffee shop that Leith and I
found, just an hour before our departure. We had not seen it earlier, thanks to
the oh so so helpful cabbie who had advised us strongly to only turn to the
right when leaving the hotel. Coffee shop was to the left. At least, I will have
another chance to visit there on our way home.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Kelly's friend Arne’s family. It was
fun touring the garden and trading plant names, Norwegian and English. The
dinner was awesome, and having kaffe afterward took me right back to my Sweden
visit in 1985 (although kaffe then was usually served at about 4pm). I felt
very at home with them, as fellow Scandinavians.

The Norway in a Nutshell tour yesterday was mostly very
enjoyable. Took lots of pictures – well, not nearly as many as Shayla took, but
enough to use up the charge on one battery. It was a long day (6:30am – 11pm),
but most of it sitting on train, boat, or bus and all connections were waiting
for us when we arrived. The downside of that was that there was no time to shop
for snacks or souvenirs.

At the moment, I am alone at the apartment while everyone
else is checking out the Viking Museum and the Folk Museum. Both sounded
interesting to me, but I felt funky and in need of down time this morning, so I
stayed in and played my Laundry Fairy role. I appreciate that my family understands
– or at least accepts – my greater need for downtime. We will connect later for
a visit to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, aka Frogner Park. I’ve been looking forward
to that.
I have come to be very grateful for the fact that Scandinavians all learn English in school these days and that the Norwegians we met were so kind and helpful. --Judy

Tully's view of Oslo

I had been confused. Pretty confused, anyway. Mom had
insisted on going to Oslo Central Station and I didn’t know why, and nobody was
actually willing to explain the reasons for our unexpected detour. I thought we
were just going to take the hop-on hop-off bus to Akershus. It was not so. At
Oslo Central Station, Shayla, Dad, and I sat and waited on the benches outside
for what seemed like the better part of an hour while Mom picked up the tickets
for the Norway in a Nutshell tomorrow. We would have started to get worried if
it weren’t for Mom keeping Dad up to date via text. Finally, Mom came out of
the station and handed the day to me, promising not to make any more little side
trips. We waited a few more minutes before the hop-on hop-off bus arrived and
discovered that we had left the tickets for the bus ride at the apartment.
Fortunately Mom had the receipt and we managed to get on anyway. That was when
we texted Grandma Judy to come meet us outside the park around the Royal Palace
and promptly got a lack of response. We were almost there when Dad gave in and
called her and spent a couple minutes outside the stop, watching while half a
dozen different couples raced up at the very last second and got on. Dad ran
over and grabbed Grandma Judy. We were finally all together again.

We spent a couple of hours there on the bus, taking the tour
around Oslo. The city hall and Frogner park were both favorites of ours.
Eventually, we got to Akershus and went to look at the visitor information
center for the fortress, mostly detailing how the castle had been used over the
years. At one time, it was deemed structurally unsound because some idiots had
decided to use the entire castle for storing grain! Apparently at the time
there was grain spilling out of the broken windows and at one point a large
section of the attic fell down because of mildly hard weather. Next we visited
the Resistance museum, which was in the same complex. It’s always quite a
wake-up call for us in the US to see remains and expositions of that kind in
Europe. The States have a knack for almost always managing to fight their wars
far away from home. We don’t see that kind of devastation firsthand most of the
time and so we seem to forget how horrible war is. It seems like that makes it
easier for America to decide to go to war, the fact that we never have to watch
the carnage ourselves. It makes me sad. Mostly it makes me angry. Unfortunately,
there is no ready target for that anger so it mostly settles back down to being
a fiery little snake of fury wrapped in coils beside my heart.

By the time we got out of said museum, we discovered that it
was too late to explore the fortress itself. We debated going and hanging out
in Frogner park for a little bit, but changed our minds when we discovered that
the nearest bus stop that was useful for our purposes was closer to
Microsoft Oslo than it was to Akershus.
Nevertheless, we walked to said bus stop and took the bus to the National
Theater stop (ish) and started trying to walk to dinner at Peppe’s pizza. That
was a colossal fail. First we thought we walked past it, then we thought it was
farther on, and eventually we sat down outside an office building and figured
out that we were in a completely different area than the pizza place. Tired and
thirsty, we gave up and started trying to go back home via bus. That was when
we found our dinner. We were outside the bus stop where we were going to catch
the 21. Mom saw the menu of an Italian restaurant and wandered over to read it.
The menu had a little footnote that read: We have gluten-free pizza.

Being quite footsore, of course we walked in. The food was
fairly expensive, but we got plenty. As it turned out, though they were out of
gluten-free pizza, the restaurant did still have gluten-free pasta and Mom and
I ignored the fact that we had Thai pasta for lunch and devoured various forms
of spaghetti along with Shayla and Dad. Grandma Judy had a pizza.

Fed, watered, and rested, we took the tram back to the apartment.
Or rather, most of us did. Grandma Judy decided to walk. When we got there,
first Shayla couldn’t figure out how to close the gate, .then she decided to
stay outside a while and take pictures. Since Mom declared that she had to get
off her feet, I was the designated person to let Shayla and Grandma Judy in. I
had a fun time trying to open the main door but eventually I succeeded and let
Shayla in. After that, letting Grandma Judy in was a lot simpler. Mom and I
watched some Torchwood and some Doctor Who while Shayla took a shower. Then I took
a shower. At last, we went to bed and conked out fairly early. --Tully