Tuesday, July 31, 2012

174 Steps.

We allowed ourselves to have a relatively lazy morning, going down for breakfast at 09.30. There was a great range in the buffet. Besides the usual cereals, fruits, bread and jam, there was a hot buffet of sausage, chicken, potatoes and eggs. In addition to this there were several varieties of cold meats and well as fish and pickled herrings. I was restrained, I just had some scrambled eggs and bread, with lots of lovely fresh orange juice. That would fortify me for what was to come next.

We set out to see the catherdral. The town was still fairly quiet. We reached the market square where there were stalls selling fresh fruit, clothes and souveniers. I went to take a photo of Olaf on top of his pole, when I looked back Hubbie had bumped into Hubbie 2 and they were sitting down for a chat.

We could see the cathedral ahead of us. On our way I discovered they had put statues of Hubbie and I outside the tourist office! I don't know how they knew we were coming but there we were. We took a couple of snaps to show the folks back home because I'm sure they wouldn't believe us.

As we approached the cathedral I had an idea.  I wanted to get a good shot of the catherdral. Norwegian drivers, unlike the Turks, seem to be totally law abiding. If I stood in the middle of the pedestrian crossing the cars would stop and I could take my pictures, no problem!

Entering the cathedral grounds, I was captivated by the quietness under the trees. There were several graves here and I informed Hubbie I could easily rest in peace for eternity here.  "Don't tempt me," he replied.

 Nidaros Cathedral appears to be Anglican. We saw a sign that told us that we could go up the central tower, for a fee of course. While I baulked at the idea of climbing up a lot of steps I wanted to see Trondheim from a height. We paid the entrance fee for both the cathedral and the tower. The next tour to go up was in half an hour. We wandered around inside. There was very little decoration in the catherdral, but the stained glass windows were beautiful. Photos and video are not allowed inside as we were reminded it is a house of God.

The bishop as three heads in his arms!

Underground was a crypt where there are some very old tombstones on display. One was erected by a Scottish shipbuilder for his brother, also a shipbuilder who dies in Norway in the 1800’s.

Then it was time for the tour. There was a health warning for anyone who had heart problems or was claustrophobic.  Now I was beginning to worry! The guide called everyones attention and explained that the stairs was narrow. Anyone who might find it difficult should go last as there was no way to turn around and come back down if you got nervous or frightened halfway up. Myself and another lady immediately headed for the back of the queue. I wasn’t worried about the narrowness, I was hoping my knees and lungs wouldn’t give out.

174 steps. I didn’t realise when they said narrow, just how narrow the stairs was. I think if I was an inch wider I would have got stuck! To cut a long story short, with some puffing and panting I made it to the top. 

I definitely had the wrong settings on the camera, but believe me I was lucky to be just able to press the button. It also just started to rain when we got out on the roof. It actually wasn't the climb that had scared me s***less but I was wondering how in the name of God I was going to get back down.

 Well, as I’m here writing this post you can see I made it. I went down slowly, step by step, always leading with my right foot, my left hand holding the rope  so tightly I thought I’d have rope burn.(there was no room anywhere for a rail).

I got down, took a few steps and decided my left leg needed to sit and rest or someone would have pick me up off the floor. My legs had turned to jelly!  We sat on the nearest available seats and through the haze in front of my eyes I noticed lights come on in the organ loft.  Celestial music. Had I died of a heart attack and not realised it? 

Wow! We were really getting value for our money. There was a short organ recital. It was wonderful I didn’t know an organ could make so many different sounds. For the second piece two discs on the front of the organ began to spin and the music played was very light and whimsical. I have to confess to some naughtiness. Placing my finger over the lens (I didn't take any photos in the church) to  I recorded the music on my latest toy, my brand new iPhone.

After the recital we bumped into Emdee and Jaydee. They had been there too. They hadn't climbed the tower nor had any intention of doing so. I could tell by how steady they were on their legs. I was in need of a strong shot of caffeine, the music was an excellent relaxant, now I was in need of a stimulant. So it was time for coffee and cake. 

From there we went to the Stiftsgarden. It is the largest wooden building in Trondheim and is the official Royal Residence. Our tour guide was brimming with enthusiasm for her subject as she filled us in on the history of the building.  Once upon a time, whenever they had a party in the throne room they used to tear down the wall separating the room from the garden and add a marquee. Now they just put the marquee in the garden. The wall stays in situ.

It was the wall behind this flowerbed that used to be removed.

That evening we repaired to “The Steakhouse” for a meal. The menu arrived with a card for you to fill in with your choice of steak, the size, how you wanted it cooked, any sauce if required and what side orders you wanted. It was a very effective way to order. Later there could be no misunderstandings as to how you wanted it cooked. The steaks were delicious, juicy and tender, even those that were ordered “well done” They would want to have been. At over €40 for a 7oz steak it was the dearest steak I have ever eaten.

Monday, July 16, 2012


We arrived into Trondheim to the rain. We had had cloudy, sunny and misty weather as we had travelled on our journey but this was the first rain. It must be following us, knowing we're Irish.
Luckily, our hotel, the Thon Gildevagen was only five minutes from the station. Emdee and Jaydee's hotel was also belonging to the Thon Group but was a little further away. Our room was small but perfectly formed. There were two comfy chairs in front of a large plasma screen TV. Hubbie was able to watch the men's singles final at Wimbledon, much to his pleasure.

Shortly after arriving in Trondheim, we went out to get a snack to keep us going until dinner time. It was still raining and Trondheim was deserted on this Sunday afternoon. It took us a while to find a coffee shop. But it was worth the wait. Hubbie had coffee and a sinful chocolate cake while I had a mixed fruit juice and cheesecake. 180kr for the pleasure, approximately €25. I should live here all the time. I would be wonderfully slim. I was full half way through my slice but at that price it would be a bigger sin to leave it. I won’t be indulging too often.

We went out to walk off the cake, but the drizzle had become rain. So we went back to the hotel. Hubbie, watched the match while I answered emails and tried to research somewhere to eat. We were meeting the others at 7pm.

Lonely Planet recommended a restaurant in the old town. Baklandet Skydsstasjon. Emdee had seen it earlier that afternoon and was happy enough to try it. We crossed the Gamle Brygge. It was wonderful to see the colourful buildings that lined the wharves.

 Then we were in the old town. It was full of crooked streets lined with colourful wooden houses. My camera was out again, even though it was a dull misty evening. People who like to take photos must be a real pain in the neck. I was slowing the whole process down.

We arrived at the restaurant and it was just as described. We were seated, given menus and told to come to the counter and order when we were ready. As soon as we ordered we had to pay. Hubbie and I both tried a local dish, Baccolo. It is salted and dried codfish with potatoes in a tomato and garlic sauce, Jaydee had herrings with three different marinades, while Emdee had salmon. This was slightly overcooked, but declared the carrot cake she later shared with Jaydee to be delicious.

order and pay!

We wandered home taking the scenic route, over the old red bridge, arranging to meet the next day for lunch.

The Dovre Railway

Saturday night I was not able to sleep. A combination of a nap on Saturday afternoon and coffee after  dinner.  Will I ever learn? I finally went to bed as the sky was beginning to lighten at 03.30, alas not to sleep. It was sometime after 04.30 that I finally dropped off. Not for long though. The alarm rang at 06.20.  It was time to pack the last few bits into the bags and head for the train station. Luckily for us, it wasn’t raining and we got there without incident
We were setting off on a six hour train journey to Trondheim,  the ancient capital of Norway, the city where “the Blessing” of new Norwegian kings takes place in Nidaros Cathedral. 

Due to work on the line we were bussed to Lillestrom to catch the train. Though the journey was long it was worth it. We had assigned seats, plenty of leg room and reclining seats.I decided to experiment and to try out the recliner. It went back without any difficulty. However it took me 10 minutes and the help of Hubbie and Jaydee to get it back to it's upright position. It required a "bum manoeuvre" as well as pulling a lever at the one time. Two movements at the one time......me, the co-ordination queen? Not a chance!! 
Comfortable train, recliner seats, wifi, sockets to plug in laptops etc...

Next came the camera challenge.  Yes, it was definitely a challenge. There were lots of photo opportunities.  The train was moving quite fast. The views flashed passed the window as I tried to frame the shot. They were gone before I could click, or as I clicked a tree would appear out of nowhere and loom large in my shot. This is not accounting for the reflection from the windows opposite. Frustrating is perhaps the best word to use. You'd think Norwegian Railways knowing I was on board with my camera, would have trimmed the trees, slowed the train and of course made sure the windows are spotless just so I could take photos. My brother text me and suggested I should pull the emergency brake every time I wanted to take a shot.

I snapped away deleting more than I kept. But I had met my match. Jaydee is as bad or worse than me. We must have driven our respective partners crazy.  At least I had the window seat. Jaydee was in the aisle seat and had to twist around Emdee to get the shot. 

We climbed to the highest point on the journey. The landscape changed from forest to low scrub and moss. In July there were still traces of snow on the mountains. The temperature had dropped from 20C to 14C.  Then we began our descent into Trondheim.

All the way, the land was dotted with pretty houses, painted either red, ochre, grey or white. What amazed me, probably because apart for our first day we've had rain since we’ve arrived, is that most all the houses had either balconies or a deck area with barbeques and seating.. I wonder if they ever get a chance to use them?

One of the pretty railway stations.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Rainy Day in Oslo.

Last night, two of our friends arrived to join us on our Norwegian adventure. Emdee and I have known each other since our secondary school days. We also went to the same college and she was my bridesmaid 31 years ago. She also married and has two sons, We recently attended No.1 sons wedding. A wonderful day.

We remained friends over the years, meeting up whenever we have had a chance. Sometimes with life so busy, it has not been often enough. Now we have the chance to spend two weeks together. Unfortunately for Emdee, the day before coming ,she came down with a throat infection. They almost decided not to come but now the antibiotics have started to kick in and she is not quite so miserable.

So we had a late night last night waiting for them to arrive and naturally once they got here we began to chat. Her hubbie has recently retired. I am looking forward to finding out how he finds retirement and fills his days. I plan to retire this time next year. Just think, I have 183 more work days! My principal says he imagines I will have a calendar on the wall crossing off the days beginning in September.. I think it is more likely he will be the one crossing them off!!

Anyway, I digress. We woke up this morning to rain. Hubbie and I had planned to go to Vigeland Sculpture Park. We had deferred it yesterday due to aching feet. Alas,  today it was not to be either. I woke at 8.30but on hearing the rain I let Hubbie sleep on. By the time he woke an hour later it was raining  more heavily. He rolled over to get his second sleep.

So another late, chatty breakfast was on the menu for the morning. The rain had eased off, so we set out for the train station to pick up the tickets I had booked online three months earlier. NSB releases a certain number of discounted tickets three months in advance of departure so a ticket that would normally cost  €125 can be bought for €29-40

We picked up our tickets. There are works on the line so the first part of the journey to Lillehammer will be by bus and then we begin a six hour train journey on the Dovre Railway. According to the NSB website the train runs "through the stunning Norwegian scenery of the Dovrefjell. A new challenge for me and my camera. Can I take shots of the landscape from a moving train?

When I noticed we had five minutes to change from the bus to the train, I began to feel slightly anxious. If anything goes wrong not only be Hubbie and I  be seriously out of pocket but also Emdee and her hubbie too. The booking conditions say that unless you leave 60 minutes transfer time in case of delay your ticket will not be refunded!

 I began to tot up what had to be done in 5 minutes......get off the bus, gather the bags, find the platform. I broke out in a sweat. I mentioned it to the girl at the desk and she was unconcerned. She said it was no problem. The bus is to meet the train. Well, I'll breathe easy when I'm sitting on the train.

So with the tickets sorted for the moring , we checked from where the bus departs. Platform 19. We also got the number of Oslo taxis. There are thunder storms forcast for the morning. The station is only a 15 minute walk but that could be very unpleasant in the rain.

We emerged from the station to find ourselves beside the Opera House. The roof of the building angles to the ground, creating a large area, inviting people to walk up and admire the view out over Oslo. It is made of  white granite and Italian marble and amazingly was not slippy to walk upon in the wet. Some of the areas are skateboard friendly while others, near the performance areas are stepped to discourage this. Norwegians seem to have a wonderful relaxed attitude to their public spaces. A sunny days finds the locals skateboarding or sitting on the roof sunbathing. It is wonderful to see people being able to fully enjoy their surroundings. I have also noticed Norwwegians resemble us Irish in a particular way. (I know, we share some of those Viking genes) When crossing the road, they don't wait for the "little green man" If there is nothing coming, they cross. This is the complete opposite of our experience in Germany, where, even if there is no traffic at all, people always wait for the "green man."

The Opera House
Several interior and exterior artworks were commissioned with the building of the Opera House. One of the most notable is "She Lies." It is a sculpture made of stainless steel and glass, on a concrete platform in the fjord beside the Opera House. It floats there and with the winds and tides it shows an ever changing face to the public.

"She Lies"
This gives an idea of scale.

Unfortunately as we walked to the top of the roof it began to rain quite heavily again.We decided to abandon our plan to vist Akerhaus Fortress and to call it a day. It gives us good reason to return again. There are several places we planned to visit but did not have the time. We are paying for those long breakfasts now. We had a nun teaching us in our final years in primary school. She would have called us sugar lumps today (afraid of melting) for not wanting to walk around in the rain.

Oslo, seen from the roof of the Opera House.

So we had a long lazy afternoon. We decide to go out for something to eat and without realising, ended up in an Indian restaurant. We had a lovely meal and then returned to pack our bags for the morning. 06.30 seems like an indecent time to be getting up on holiday.  I hope the train journey will be worth it.

 Because I slept a little this afternoon I'm wide awake now and looking out at the bridge lit up at night. The following photos I took with my phone the night we arrived. It has been a relaxing few days. Oslo, in spite of a lot of construction going on around us is a beautiful city and I would certainly like to return sometime. Renting the apartment has worked out well, the location excellent, the price reasonable and I always love to have my own space.

View from our balcony, The green is part of the building, not a protective covering.
The bridge at night.
There is a lot of construction going on in this area. It will be the new financial district.