Archive for July 2012

Molde, Unexpected

July 28, 2012

Somewhere, just out of sight on the horizon, is Djupivogur the Unpronounceable. Nah, actually, it’s pronounced roughly Yupivour, but we don’t know that from direct experience, because the storm that had been following us from Greenland prevented us from going ashore as scheduled. Boo, hiss, sniff, but to no avail.  However, we did get the benefit of an extra port in Norway, and it was a nice benefit indeed.

Molde, Norway, also known as the City of Roses, turns out to be a charming little place and an unexpected slice of Norwegian life.

Here’s where we first learned how expensive Norway is. These houses, between 3-5 million kroner, are just regular family houses. Divide by approximately 6 to get that in dollars, and wow, yikes! We talked to the realtor, who told us that they’re not at all luxury houses, just normally-priced dwellings.

We went into a small shopping mall seeking a non-tourist-priced lunch and ended up paying almost $50 for two portions of a chicken leg, a few salad leaves, and fries, with a glass of water. On the way out we passed this hair salon where a woman’s haircut is over $100, color is similarly priced, and even a man’s cut is about $75. Norway is beautiful but I don’t think we’ll be moving here anytime soon.

Speaking of beauty, here’s lovely Stine, our high school-aged guide at Molde’s fishing museum. Showing us boats that are made exactly as the Vikings made them, Stine says to us shyly “I am a Viking!” Later, though, when I gave her a tip, she asked if she could give me a hug

and told me it was the first tip she had ever gotten. “Norwegians are not very tippy” she said.

The museum is on a tranquil little island, reached by boat from downtown Molde. Inhabited until the 1970s, it’s now a museum-island that preserves the ancient Norwegian fishing and boating traditions.

Ever wonder what a whale’s stomach looked like? Here’s a dried one, and clearly Jonah never would have fit in there.

This is the fanciest, and most recent, of the island’s homes, all of which have the typical green and growing roofs.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the peace and calm, but we also wanted to see the on-shore museum, a similar preservation of land-based Norwegian history.

Molde is colorful, approaching from the island.

At the museum, though, we see that painted houses are a relatively new invention.

I love the way Scandinavians collect old houses and buildings and gather them into culture-preserving outdoor museums.

We finished the day in good company, at a delightful little outdoor cafe, where Shel had this perfectly Norwegian snack.

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Signs Of The Times

July 25, 2012

Signage tends to be pretty universal, but still I’m fascinated by signs everywhere we go. Here are a few from in and around Reykjavik. (this is the only puffin we’ve seen so far, alas)

It’s not clear to me whether the people need to be adopted, or only the kittens.

This looks like grafitti, but was actually an official tour company sign.

Icelanders are very fashion-forward.

Some things never change, although hamborgarar just doesn’t sound as appetizing as hamburger, at least to me.

The little corner store we went into had a shocking amount of instantly recognizable American food.

I don’t feel too confident about Monday’s offering. Perhaps it’s good?

We managed to avoid eating here, although, I have to confess, it was tempting.

Humor can also be universal.

And my personal favorite, discovered by Shel just as he was about to, uh, violate its injunction. And with that, signing off, for now.

Chilling In Iceland

July 24, 2012

Iceland is a beautifully relaxed place. We haven’t seen any actual ice, but the land itself is surreally lovely. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but the countryside is far more interesting than I’d imagined.

It’s a new land, raw, volcanic. Here’s a volcanic caldera, a sort of mini Crater Lake, only redder.

Thick mosses are the first things to grow over new lava flows.

It’s a land of water, and the power of water, as the mighty Gullfoss falls demonstrate. All cold water in the country is free, and hot water and electricity are very cheap. Homes and buildings are heated by geothermal power,

as the water comes out of the ground boiling hot.

In places it just boils up out of the ground gently,

whereas here at Geysir it bursts forth spectacularly every 8-10 minutes.

Much of the landscape is soft and soggy, in the most picturesque way possible.

It’s a perfect setting for geese

and for the beautiful Icelandic horses. These guys were friendly and curious, two traits that are said to be characteristic of their breed, as well as a fifth gait possessed only by the horses of Iceland.

We heard a lot about the special horse-man relationship that exists here, and allows everyone to survive the brutal winters.

We also learned that Lutheranism is the state religion of Iceland, and that the ministers are state employees, supported by state taxes. That vertical rock face is the North American side of the Atlantic Ridge,

the only place in the world above water where the Euro-Asian and North American tectonic plates converge. So right here it’s possible to be in Iceland and in North America at the same time, in an abstract sort of way.

Lutheranism may prevail, but ancient superstitions are still alive, and many Icelanders apparently still believe in trolls,

elves, and fairies. I’ll let you decide about that, but a country where all health care is free and so is all education up through university is bound to be inhabited by good spirits of some description.

And thanks to my own personal troll for his striking photos of Gullfoss and Geysir, as well as the shot of my delightful new bonnet.

Nary An Iceberg

July 20, 2012

This cruise is called The Voyage of the Vikings, and as we travel we are learning all about Viking exploits in the region. A frequent theme is how they discovered new lands by being blown off course, and so bad weather should come as no surprise to us. Still, after missing our stop in Labrador because of fog and ice, we were all saddened to learn that we’d also be missing our only visit to Greenland on the eastbound part of this itinerary, because of terrible weather. Our captain called us together for a No No Nanortalik talk, and told us about 100 knot winds and 16 meter wave crests, after which I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a person on board who didn’t heave a sigh of relief to know that we’d be trying to outrun the storm by heading directly for Reykjavik.

Although we did have the kind of rough seas last night that had us weaving down the ship’s long corridors, we were fortunate in that sighs were the only thing we heaved, and this morning, the captain charmingly informed us that the “seas lay down” in the night, just as we had.

Yesterday, though, all the doors to the outside decks were locked because of wind and waves, so I thought I’d show you some of what one can do indoors on the Maasdam.

We spend a lot of time in the lovely dining room,

but although of course many more casual dining venues abound.

When you can’t work off your meals by walking the decks, which is my favorite form of shipboard exercise, you can go to the gym,

or play cards, for minimal exertion.

When the seas

and the pool are sloshing, many choose (naming no names)

to get sloshed.

There’s shopping for some,

duty-free stocking up for others. For us, there have been lots of truly excellent lectures, films, a couple of good live music shows, Scrabble, reading, and meeting all sorts of interesting people.

And of course, finding a lovely spot to look out at the fog and the sea is always in order, perchance to dream of blue skies. The weather in Iceland, alas, is predicted to be fairly crummy, so perhaps my next post will give you ideas for how to spend a rainy Icelandic day. Or maybe, just maybe, that storm will find some other Vikings to blow off course and give us a little reprieve.

Like A Rock

July 18, 2012

Even though I spent nearly five years living in Canada, I never made it to Newfoundland until yesterday. Corner Brook was the first stop on the cruise, and we heard that Maasdam was the first ship of the season to come into port here. Although we’d only been at sea for a bit over two days, we were glad to see and smell land.

Fortunately, and surprisingly, we were not able to smell the paper plant that’s right in the harbor. Even more surprising than that was the fact that this ship was loaded with paper destined for the New York Times, for those of us who don’t often think about exactly where our morning paper comes from.

The dock was partially covered with matching bags of we don’t know what, but they were picturesque, and so click, they’re yours.

With our friends Kathy and John we rented a car and set off into the Gros Morne Park, a National Heritage Site because of its extreme beauty and pristine diversity. Since they’d been here before, they showed us this lovely spot, a traditional fishing site since long before there were roads to reach it,

as these traditional facilities attest. Vestiges of the fishing life are everywhere here,

although apparently even the most devoted fisherman got tired of eating fish on occasion. We ourselves were determined to eat moose for lunch, and so we dined on moose burger, moose stew, and a sort of minced moose sandwich.  Perhaps that’s why we didn’t see a single moose all day long, although they’re reputed to be absolutely everywhere.

We did see a lovely black fox sitting by the side of the road, who declined to be photographed, but you can imagine him, sitting up straight and shiny, turning to watch us as we drove past, one of the most beautiful things we saw all day.

Around the Gros Morne visitor center there were gorgeous birch trees, although most of the forest we saw in the park was of the short and scrubby Arctic variety, lots of wind-swept and low-lying conifers, and deciduous trees gnawed clean by the omnipresent (except for our eyes) moose.

Newfoundland is often called The Rock, and we soon learned why. I could show you fantastic rocks for hours, but here are just a few, to entice you rockhounds to go and see them for yourselves.

Pretty cool, eh?  Our brief seven hours ashore came to an end all too soon, and we returned to the ship for the evening,

where we learned, to our dismay, that heavy fog and the chance of small icebergs floating under the radar would prevent us from stopping today in Red Bay, Labrador. We’re all quite disappointed, of course, as Labrador sounds so interesting. But I have to say that sneaky icebergs and pea soup fog are immediately understandable out here at sea, so no one’s complaining. Next stop, weather permitting, so pray to the Norse gods, Nanortalik, Greenland.

Boston When It Sizzles

July 13, 2012

Oooh baby, it’s hot in Boston. Being wussy Pacific Northwesterners, we’ve been wilting. But as you can see, even proper Bostonians have developed coping mechanisms, including near-Godiva motorcycling strategies. I don’t think biking in flip flops is a good idea, personally, but our alternative might seem equally dubious to many: duck riding.

Yes indeed, what we did today was Ride The Duck, through lots of central Boston and down the Charles River. I have a hard time looking at what is manifestly a Dunkin’ Donuts today and hearing that John Hancock stabled his horse there in times past, or seeing a place that witnessed the signing of historic documents that have served as the foundation of our democracy and now operates as a hotel. Must be a lack of imagination on my part. But really it also reveals the truth of Boston, which is that it’s a mixture of the old and the new, scrunched up more or less comfortably side by side, and the fact that Ducks drive where once Paul Revere rode, well that’s just progress. Or that’s just what time hath wrought, or that’s just what urban renewal gets you, depending on your perspective.

Taking pictures with a little point and shoot camera from a moving Duck doesn’t exactly produce art photos, but here, just so you can get the flavor of our day, well inflected with delicious seafood and lovely architecture, is a Duck’s-eye view of Boston.

And while the real thing to do in Boston, the responsible adult thing to do, is to walk the Freedom Trail, the prospect of a couple of miles of scorching pavement just couldn’t catch our interest.

Instead, happily, Shel (and a couple of other little kids) got a chance to drive the Duck on the cool, green river. And that was our Boston.

Bon Voyage

July 9, 2012

 

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If you’re going to give yourself a going away party, or really any sort of party, and if your garden is like mine and overflowing with nasturtiums, you can’t do better than this beautiful little nibble. Make up a smooth mixture of equal parts smoked salmon and cream cheese, spike it with chives, capers, lemon zest, a little hot sauce, salt and pepper, and stuff it into freshly-picked blossoms. Surprisingly delicious!  Be sure to make these just before serving, as the petals will wilt faster than you can pack a small suitcase.

Packing is what we’re up to, suitcases both large and small, now that Beppo and Zazou have gone off to their kitty camp and the departure clock is ticking loudly. It’s ironic that it’s finally summer here and we won’t be here to see it. We’re off, tra-la, to the Frozen North, and will be cruising to Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands,  Norway, the Netherlands, England, and Ireland. You’re coming along, right? We’ll start and end in Boston, and in between we hope to have many fabulous adventures in the lands of Too Cold For Nasturtiums. So eat a few bright blossoms for me, stay tuned, and wish us smooth seas and a following wind.