Monday, September 10, 2018

Reflections From Roma #08

Reflections From Roma #08
11 settembre 2018

Photo Update Alert:

Hello there… Rodger French here.

We’re back in Roma after a very nice week in Norway, where it’s cool and clean, easy to get around, and the plumbing is fully functional. A nice break from the Eternal City, where we have already resided, amazingly, for an entire year. The tempus, it does fugit. In any case, here’s the play-by play, as advertised.

Day 1 - Took a flight (at a rational hour) to Oslo on a low-cost Norwegian airline, a tolerably miserable, as opposed to comprehensively horrible, airline experience. Caught a very handy train from the airport to downtown Oslo, where we schlepped up the main drag, Karl Johans Gate (“gate” meaning “street”), through the ZOTA™ to our hotel. After settling in, we strolled to the waterfront for dinner.

Day 2 - After a delicious breakfast featuring smoked salmon and mackerel, as well as pickled herring (Yum!), we boarded a ferry for a short cruise to Bygdøy, where we visited five of the six museums conveniently located there. The sea, ships, and exploration figured prominently. Examples:

- The Viking Ship Museum features three Viking vessels dating as far back as 820 A.D. that have been recovered from the muck and restored as much as possible.

- The Norwegian Maritime Museum is pretty much what you would expect, but the highlight of the place was a film called “The Cape Horn Road,” featuring B&W footage of clipper ships making the passage around South America from 1929-36. Shot onboard by Alan Villiers, it documents sailing of the highest skill, danger, and adventure.

- The FRAM Museum houses The FRAM and The GJØA, two polar exploration vessels. This museum also contains all the information about the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen that one might likely ever need. 

- The Kon-Tiki Museum features the story of Thor Heyerdahl, who, since he had absolutely no sailing experience and did not know how to swim, thought it feasible to sail a balsa and bamboo raft across the Pacific Ocean. It is an incredible tale, made more so once you have a close up look at the Kon-Tiki itself.

Day 3 - Taking our leave of Oslo, we boarded a train for the 6.5-hour journey to Bergen, home of composer Edvard Grieg, homeport for ships servicing North Sea oil platforms, and gateway to the fjords. Norwegian trains are very comfortable and the ride was predictably scenic. And since The ZOTA™, especially the Asian version, is strong amongst the fjords, the passenger manifest included some Chinese tour groups.

The most noteworthy event of the journey occurred when the train made a brief stop at a particularly desolate but incredibly scenic high-altitude station. We saw an elderly lady get off the train and take some photoz. We heard the signal indicating that the train was departing the station. We observed the elderly lady running toward the train as it pulled away. We do not know if she managed to get back on.

[DumbAss Tourist Sidebar - No, not the nice Asian lady, although that wasa pretty dumbass move. I refer to myself. Here I am in one of the most scenic places on Earth and what do I do? I leave my camera at the hotel in Oslo. But I got lucky. Thanks to some very nice hotel staff in Bergen and Oslo, I am eventually reunited with my camera, sans photoz of Bergen and Trondheim, alas. Idiot check, my ass.]

We finally arrived in Bergen, where we checked in, reported the DumbAss Tourist Incident, then set off for a fine dinner at Enhjørningen Fiskerestaurant (The Unicorn Fish Restaurant), located in Bryggen, the historic wharf area that was once part of the German Hanseatic League trading empire. (The place reminds me of the shoppe houses in Singapore.) After dinner, a leisurely amble back to the hotel via the fish market, where I procured some excellent moose sausage.

Day 4 - We did not have the luxury of enough time to extensively explore the fjords, so we elected to take an express boat on Sognefjord, the “King of the Fjords,” the longest (206 km) and deepest (1308 km) - though not the most tragically scenic - in Norway. We cruised four hours (with scheduled stops) to Balestrand, where we spent five hours walking, eating, shopping, and taking mental snapshots. (It wasn’t nearly as boring as you might think.) Then, fours hours back to Bergen.

(Continued in Reflections From Roma #09)

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