Tag Archives: ScandiRAYvia

ScandiRAYvia #29: Me and Greig!

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I spent my final full day abroad in the beautiful town of Bergen.  The day was mostly devoted to Bergen’s most famous son, the composer Edvard Grieg.

Though his heritage was Scottish (“Grieg” was originally MacGregor a few steps back up the famlily tree), by the time young Edvard came along, the family was resolutely Norwegian.  I have always loved Grieg’s work, particularly his collaboration with Norway’s most famous playwright, Henrik Ibsen:  Peer Gynt.  I fell in love with the music as a kid and I love it to this day.

Even if you had no clue that Grieg was associated with Bergen, you could hardly miss it when come here, as you seem to trip over statues to the great man everywhere you go.  Here’s just two of them:

Grieg and Me
Grieg and Me

By the way, the statue is pretty much life sized.  He was a hobbit.  This statue is just outside the Grieg Hall, which is the premiere classical music venue in the city.  Seen from above, you can see that it’s shaped like a piano!

And then there’s this one:

Again with Grieg.
He’s not that tall.

The nice Swedish couple that took the first photo for me told me about a terrific tour they had just taken to the old Grieg summer house.  I signed up for it at the nifty visitor’s center down on the wharf.

Groovy Bergen Tourist Center (1 of 1)
The Bergen Visitors Center looks like a floating gay boxcar.

The tour started with a lovely bus drive out of the city, during which we learned about Grieg and his life with his wife Nina.  The only thing marring the trip was the clueless American mom who thought it was a good idea to bring an infant on a tour of Edvard Grieg’s home.  Was her precocious little tyke inordinately interested in Norwegian composers?  If so, then why was it so unhappy?  I tried to rise above the wretched noises emanating from its cryhole and concentrated on the tourguide’s words.

The Grieg Center, located on a small bluff over the fjord just a few miles outside of town, consists of three buildings:  A museum, a concert hall, and the old summer house.

The house is not a mansion, but a pleasant and rustic retreat from the city:

summer villa

 

Of course, the grounds have yet another statue of Mr. Grieg:

Second Grieg Statue (1 of 1)

The highlight of the day — indeed, one of the highlights of the trip — was a mini lunchtime piano recital of Grieg’s music in this lovely, turf-covered concert hall:

Turf Covered Concert Hall (1 of 1)

 

The performer was the very handsome and talented Håvard Gimse.  It was a “teaching” recital, so we also learned a lot about Grieg’s music between pieces.  I did not get a photo of him, but here’s one for your reference:

Havard Gimse
Håvard Gimse. (Not my photo; no copyright infringement is intended.)

At first I was worried, because Ms. Entitled American Parent Person fulfilled my darkest fears and brought her INFANT INTO THE CONCERT.  Who does that?  Luckily, my heroic tourguide nipped that shit in the bud within two minutes, and we adults were left free to enjoy the music.

Once the horrible baby was banished, I had a few minutes of near perfect happiness.  Enjoying a live concert of beautiful music, in this lovely hall, presented by such a dashing performer, with the gorgeous sun-dappled fjord in the background, felt like a perfect way to end my Scandinavian journey.

Troldsalen:  My new favorite miniature concert hall anywhere.
Troldsalen: My new favorite miniature concert hall anywhere.

Even more perfect:  The concert hall’s name is Troldsalen, which means, of course Troll Hall.  The summer villa is named Troldhaugen, or Troll Mound.  (LOVE.)

Edvard and Nina even have a troll grave, buried into the side of a hill:

No mere tombstone for Norway's greatest composer!!  The troll graves of Edvard and Nina Grieg.
No mere tombstone for Norway’s greatest composer!! The troll graves of Edvard and Nina Grieg.

 

After the concert, which I didn’t want to end, I personally thanked our tourguide.  “Much better for you to handle it than for me to…. which I would have,” I told him.  Then it was back to town and packing for home!  I was tired, chilly and ready to return to loud and sunny Los Angeles.

Next:  Obligatory Deep Thoughts on the Way Home!

 

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ScandiRAYvia #25: Weird No Photos Edition, Sort Of

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On July 7, I took the train ride I’d been so looking forward to.  The train ride that was one of the main reasons I created my ScandiRAYvia adventure.

The first the segment of the journey took me out of the urban bustle of Oslo and into the Norwegian countryside.  The scenery was gorgeous northern farm with endless postcard-ready red barns.

Then we began climbing.

And climbing!

Eventually we made our way to the town of Myrdal, where we changed trains and began our steep descent on the legendary Flamsbana.

The Flamsbana is one of the steepest train journeys in the world that runs on normal tracks.  It was gorgeous and a bit hair-raising.

Unfortunately, it was a terrible day for taking photos.  Try taking good pictures from a moving train.  Every now and then they’d stop at a particularly nice view to let us take photos, but the crush of the crowd really kept that from being a viable option.

So what was arguably the most beautiful day of my trip is the one I have no good visual recording of.  Sorry about that.

But trust me, it was FABulous.

However, at the end of the day, we arrived in beautiful Flåm, the tiny village at the bottom of the mountains and at the foot of a large branch of the Sognefjord, the largest fjord in Norway.

To compensate for the lack of photos for this beautiful rail journey, here’s two more shots from Oslo:

Groovy condo on the waterfront in Oslo.
Groovy condo on the waterfront in Oslo.
Where they decide who gets the Nobel Peace Prize. I think I'm nominated this year.
Where they decide who gets the Nobel Peace Prize. I think I’m nominated this year.

 

Next:  The Fjords, for realz!!

 

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ScandiRAYvia #24: One Last Day in Oslo

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I really enjoyed Oslo.  I could picture myself spending lots of time here.  It was easy to be comfortable in such a well-put-together city.

Of course, I’d have to be rich to spend much time here.

I realize I haven’t shown you the Oslo City Hall yet.  I love how severe it is:

The Oslo City Hall does NOT want to hear about any of your nonsense.
The Oslo City Hall does NOT want to hear about any of your nonsense.

Getting around the city was a snap, with the subways, buses, and trolleys.

I Do have to give a thumbs down to the TGI Fridays in the city center.  Despite having a charming hostess from San Diego, the service was ridiculously slow.  I was there on a Monday afternoon, hardly a rush time, and after waiting for a cheese quesadilla for an hour I gave up and left.

Straight Outta San Diego
Straight Outta San Diego

 

On my last day in the city I took everyone’s advice and did a quick tour of the remarkable Vigeland Sculpture Park.  This is a huge park dedicated to the unusual work of a single artist:  Gustav Vigeland.  I got lots of pictures on my visit, which was briefer than I wished because it was really starting to rain.

In  a perfect world I’d spend hours in this park with the camera, preferably RIGHT after it opens, so I wouldn’t have so many other gawkers to contend with.

But check out the strange and beautiful work of Gustav Vigeland!

Vigeland_1

Vigeland_2

Vigeland_3

Vigeland_4

Vigeland_6

Vigeland_7

Vigeland_8

Vigeland_9

Vigeland_10

Next:  ON TO THE FJORDS!

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ScandiRAYvia #23: We All Scream

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Had a Munch-themed day.  He’s the most famous artist from Norway, and the Munch museum is a lovely place.  Currently they have a fascinating exhibit comparing Munch with Van Gogh.

Why pair these two artists?  Well, it seems that in 2008 the curators of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam polled visitors about which Van Gogh paintings they were sorry were not on exhibit there in Amsterdam.  The winners were “Starry Night” (of course), the self-portraits…. and “The Scream.”

Yeah.  “The Scream.”

This gave them an idea.  If the public confused Van Gogh and Munch already, why not do an exhibit exploring their relationship?

It turns out there’s actually a lot to think about when comparing Munch and Van Gogh.  Even though Edvard Munch was ten years younger than his Dutch colleague, they both entered the art world the same year.  Van Gogh was a huge influence on Munch.

I had a great time at the exhibit, and was happy to see (one of) the original “Scream”s, as well as one of my favorite Van Gogh’s, “The Potato Eaters.”

The Scream (1 of 1)

Afterwards I took the streetcar to the Ekeberg Slope, a large wooded park that contains, among many other things, the spot depicted in Munch’s “The Scream.”  While at that spot working on my stupid Scream photo, I fell into a terrific extended conversation with a mountain biker.

He made an interesting observation about Americans.  “You are a much more mobile people than we are,” he said.  “In Norway, if the main business of a town closes, the people who worked there just stay put and go on public assistance.  In America they’d be much more likely to move somewhere else to look for work.”  I wonder if he’s right?

There were some lovely views from this high park.  This group of new office buildings are referred to as “The Bar Code.”

The_Barcode

 

And here’s a family enjoying the view.

 

Oslo_Fjord_1

 

And this gorgeous couple adding to the view:

Love at the Oslo Fjord
Love at the Oslo Fjord

I also had a great time taking a Segway tour of Oslo.  I had two tourguides, who for some reason were both named Andy.  “Our boss is also named Andy,” they admitted.  Some things are best left unexplained.

The Andys
The Andys

The only hitch to this particular Segway tour was when I fell.  My hands slipped off of the controls when I hit a bump and the device went forward and I fell straight back.  My foot was black and blue for nearly a month.  Worse, I might have jostled something in my spine, as a week later I began having nerve pain in the extremeties.  My doc and I are currently investigating.  The symptoms are gradually getting better, which I think is a combination of natural healing and the fact that I’ve been lifting weights for the last five weeks; surely getting a little stronger would help this sort of injury.

By the way, I saw this image on a wall in a hall in a mall in Oslo.  Does it remind anyone of a video game from last year?

Remind You of Any Video Game- (1 of 1)

 

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ScandiRAYvia #22: Oslo Intro

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My journey to Oslo didn’t bode well.  It was my first unpleasant train journey of the trip.  The train was extremely crowded and had, let’s just say, a compromised air conditioning system.  I was very glad to get off the train in Norway’s capital.  But I next made a mess of a very long walk to my hotel and was pretty grumpy by the time I got there.

The hotel, however, was fabulous.  Called The Thief after the traditional name of the island it sits on at the end of the Oslo Fjord, it’s Norway’s only 6-Star Hotel, and boy does it look and feel it.  My room was beautiful with more of that high-tech lighting I first experienced at Upper House in Goteborg.

Here’s some nice example of Norwegian design in a museum complex next door to my hotel:

Oslo Waterfront Design (1 of 1)

It was getting late in the day and I was tired from the train trip, but I freshened up and trundled out for a nice Saturday evening stroll through an extremely trendy, new area of the city.  It’s built on the bones of the old shipyard.  It’s right on the fjord and lined with overpriced restaurants filled with extremely attractive people.

Like this guy who was waiting for his date.

Hunk Waiting 2 (1 of 1)

Not that I’m a creepy stalker or anything, but hey, I did have the nice camera around my neck just waiting to be used, right?

Hunk Waiting 1 (1 of 1)

 

As I cast my gaze on the populace, I couldn’t help wondering if the socialist government of Norway provided free gym memberships to all of the men.  It certainly appeared to be so.  This is not a complaint.

I spent some time in the city enjoying its wonderful bookstores, which usually featured a great selection of books in English.  As my sole souvenir of the trip, I picked up a beautiful copy of Bill Bryson’s One Summer:  America 1927.

 

Terrific bookstore!
Terrific bookstore!

And while I was on my bookstore safari I met these adorable lions, who were using the poles in front of the building they were guarding as scratching posts.

Funny_Lions

 

Scandinavia seems to be a good place to be an opera house.  Here’s Oslo’s:

Oslo_Opera

I like an opera house the public is invited to walk all over.  Fun fact:  The construction of the site came in under schedule and under budget, so they took the extra money and time and hired an artist to create this interesting free-standing (floating) sculpture nearby in the fjord with leftover materials:

Oslo_Opera_Sculpture

 

In Oslo I went to my third of three movie theaters on the trip.  I have to say I was not impressed with them as a group.  Not one of them had a big screen, and the rows felt cramped compared to the nicer American theaters.  However, you’ve got to love the name of this cinema in Oslo:

I mean, what ELSE would you call a movie theater in this part of the world?
I mean, what ELSE would you call a movie theater in this part of the world?

Next up:  Munch screams and Segways tumble!

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ScandiRAYvia #21: Go Go Goteborg!

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Today’s post is sort of a snapshot album of my time in Goteborg.

I climbed this series of staircases to check out an old fort.
I climbed this series of staircases to check out an old fort.
And here it is!  Great views from up here.
And here it is! Great views from up here.

If you look closely this photograph, you’ll see a bit of smoke coming out of one of the chimneys.  This sight is always the cause of great celebration in Goteborg, as it signals the fact that the church fathers have settled on their new Sexiest Lutheran Minister Alive.

We have a winner!
We have a winner!

Tree_House

Old Vs. New.
Old Vs. New.

Double_Sign

I didn’t make it to the movies in Goteborg, but I did enjoy not one but two Mexican restaurants.  Next to one of them was a gelato place run by an Italian guy.  It was the best gelato I’ve had since the last time I was in Italy.

Burritos_and_Gelato


El_Paso_2_mole

Lutefish_AGAIN_

Meteren Maiden
Meteren Maiden

Apartment_Block_with_Obama_Chem_Trail

I searched for this guy in 7-Elevens all over Sweden, but I never found him:

7_11_Coffee_Viking

 

Next:  ON TO NORWAY!

 

 

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ScandiRAYvia #20: An Island Dreamscape

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Near Goteborg are two extensive archipelagos, artfully named The North Archipelago and the South Archipelago.  I only had time to check out one of them.  I chose the South, largely because none of its islands allow private motor vehicles.  Impressively, your metro day pass also worked on all of the ferries that scoot around between the islands, so all you need to see them is a bit of time and patience.  In half a day I got to see a small fraction of what the islands had to offer, but that included a wonderful cross-island hike.

Here's the Southern Archipelago.
Here’s the Southern Archipelago.

The islands seem to have a contest that I can really get behind.

Yes, please.
Yes, please.

There were lots of dreamy summer homes on Vargö, the main island I explored.

Island_Homes_2

 

Island_Homes_1

IG_Island_House

I shared the island with this very attractive couple and their adorable hounds.

Sexy_Backpacking_Couple

Backpackers_dogs

There were lots of picturesque sheep.

Fuzzy_Sheep

 

Not to mention a picturesque ferryman.

Adorable_Ferryman_is_AdorableI would have loved to have had more time to explore the islands!

Southern_Archipelago_1

 

Next up:  In and around Goteborg.

 

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ScandiRAYvia #19: Goteborg: Just Me and the Swedes

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My third destination was Goteborg, or Gothenburg. It’s Sweden’s Second City.  It’s a beautiful port and I liked it a lot.

Hat_bandFor the first thing, it was my first stop where I had a room booked in a non-Marriott hotel.  I used points for my stays in Stockholm and Copenhagen, and while both of those hotels were fine, Marriott is rarely the fun or sexy or jazzy hotel in any town.  Upper House was all three.  Perched on the top five floors of the tall black glass Gothia Towers, it was definitely swankier than I was used to.  This is not a complaint.

I tried to check in on the first floor and was gently informed that this was the check in for the regular hotel, and would I please take a seat while someone from Upper House came down to fetch me?  I was then escorted to the top floor of the building, handed a drink and placed in a comfy chair while they checked me in.

The room was super high tech with mysteriously automatic lighting throughout and a spectacular northwestern view of the city.

Goteborg itself charmed me immediately as I suspected it would.  It’s a terribly civilized place, and is more of a working modern European city than a tourist mecca like Copenhagen or Stockholm.  I felt like I was the only American tourist in town.

Goteborg has no subway; the ground is too muddy.  But they have a fantastic, extensive trolley system, which I used very successfully.

Nicest looking location for a Burger King that I have ever seen.
Nicest looking location for a Burger King that I have ever seen.

 

Canal_Sitting

 

peppy_girls

 

Alien mechs took over Goteborg while I was there.  So inconvenient.
Alien mechs took over Goteborg while I was there. So inconvenient.
One of the only known victims of Zodiac ever found in Western Sweden.
One of the only known victims of Zodiac ever found in Western Sweden.
Work sometimes follows you wherever you go!!
Work sometimes follows you wherever you go!!
Midnight
Midnight

 

Next:  Exploring Goteborg’s islands!

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ScandiRAYvia #18: Copenhagen Sights!

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Scandinavia is full of examples of great modern design, and Copenhagen is no exception.

Here’s the epic Opera House, which opened in 2005.

The Opera House that Maersk built.
The Opera House that Maersk built.

You can’t tell from here, but its physical position is part of its design.  It’s directly across the canal from and in line with the Royal Palace.  The city didn’t want it built there.  But the Chairman of Maersk (which is headquartered in Copenhagen) said, “I’m paying for it.  I get to say where it is.”

Opera_Close

It was closed; I was sorry I didn’t get to go inside.

 

Then there was this very elegant office block duo near my hotel.

Nykredit_1

 

I saw lots of other nice things in the city.  Following is a random sampling.

I learned of this new pastime the Danish people had invented, known as “Smokebathing.”

Smokebathing

Few people realize the yucca plant is actually Danish in origin.

Danish_Yucca

The Church of our Savior, in addition to featuring the corkscrew steeple I climbed, has this out-of-control pipe organ supported by dressed-up elephants!

Elephant_Pipe_Organ

 

Group_Hug

Nyhaven (1 of 1)

 

Canal

 

 

Old_Boat

 

Statue

 

Statue_Family

 

The streets were full of dashing Danes.


Hunk_Cafe_2

Dashing_Danes

Park_Hunk_1

 

You should have seen him from the front.
You should have seen him from the front.

 

Parkgays

 

And so…

Thumbs-up to Copenhagen, which turns out to be pretty wonderful, wonderful after all.

Plus, the grocery store checkers look like this:

Checker_2

 

 

Coming next:  Back to Sweden, this time to Gothenburg!

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ScandiRAYvia #15: Ray Meets Copenhagen at Last

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First Impressions

Copenhagen Train Station (1 of 1)

Note:  All of the photos in this edition, except for the title shot at the top, were taken with my phone, not my real camera.  The management regrets any inconvenience to the reader.

So.  After my big love affair with Stockholm, could my next port of call, Copenhagen, possibly compete?  This is what I was wondering as I lumbered off of the train.

Tivoli_GateOutside:  Iron gray skies and lots and lots of grim, drab, reddish brown brick.  And across the street?  The famous Tivoli Gardens, which I’d read about all my life, was not the glittering fantasy garden I’d always imagined.  It’s a hundred years old, and it feels much more like Coney Island than Epcot.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little hard on Tivoli.  But it wasn’t the glittering, shimmering fantasy land that I’d always imagined it would be.

 


Some of the attractions at Tivoli Gardens were renovated and modernized.  In about 1923.
Some of the attractions at Tivoli Gardens were renovated and modernized. In about 1923.

Then there was this guy.  I realize we Americans dress like slobs, but really?  A tie at an amusement park?

Tie at an Amusement Park (1 of 1)

Visually, Copenhagen, with its brown brick and flat, ancient fortress-town feel, simply cannot compete with fairy-tale, hilly, island-sprinkled Stockholm.  Frankly, very few cities could.

The park had the usual unlikely claims outside food shops:

Original?  I do not think that word means what you think it means.
Original? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

 

Outside the park, Copenhagen wasn’t winning my heart yet, either.

Of course, they went there:

Yeah, They Went There (1 of 1)

And why is there a statue of Danny Kaye in the middle of Copenhagen?

Danny Kaye (1 of 1)

And all that dreary brown red brick.

So was this to be my lasting impression of Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen?  It turns out all it took was a little Segway tour to begin turning me around on the Danish capital…

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