July 21, 2014

musk oxen. gentle vegetarians.

During our recent road trip around some of Norway, we passed through an area where a small population of musk oxen live! MUSK OXEN!
Now, I'm not sure if y'all know it, but I am relatively anxious around large animals. 
In New Zealand, for example, we went horseback riding. And I had to be switched to the really passive, "boring" horse, because my first horse could sense my fear. Then when we rode camels in the outback, I was sore for days because I was squeezing the poor guy/gal so hard with my legs. Then in Thailand a while back, I was so scared on our elephant ride, that I didn't let any part of my body touch the elephant because I didn't want him to sense my fear…like the horse in New Zealand did. You get the pattern. 

Yet, despite this I decided a musk ox safari was a good idea.

And it was AWESOME. And tiring. But mostly AWESOME.

Musk oxen are ginormous. And they have really long hair. And they are vegetarians! Also, there are not so many left in Europe, even though there are heaps in Canada apparently. Our guide has studied these gentle giants for many years (I think), and assured us they were perfectly safe….if we stayed more than 200 meters away from them and didn't surprise them. Fair enough. Who likes surprises!?

Somewhat uncharacteristically though, Norway is having a crazy hot summer. Today it's near 30 (that's mid-eighties for you Americans)! Very understandably then, the musk oxen were trying to find some respite from this heat--remember, they have really long hair that is super insulating. So, it is perhaps unsurprising that we found them finally…on top of a mountain.

Eh. If we wanted to see them, that is where we had to go our guide said. So, we proceeded to hike 2 1/2 hours up the mountain. I was getting quite nervous as we approached, because I could just imagine us spooking one or all of them--giving them no choice but to head bash us off the side of the mountain.

However, our guide stayed true to his word. We stayed quite a distance away from them. I could tell that the musk oxen could see us, but that they just couldn't be bothered with us. It was too hot. They were taking a nap on the cool breezy mountain top.

See the one all alone on the far left in the photo? He is the leader, and I guess he wanted some me-time.

Here's a close up (with my not-so super zoom lens):

Musk oxen are my new heroes. 

July 16, 2014

a trip through Møre og Romsdal, Oppland, and Sør-Trøndelag.

A lot has been happening people. Above all else I guess-- vacation. They have that here in Norway. And lots of it! This is my first paid vacation, and it is pretty lovely, I must say. Those Norwegians are on to something.

To top it all off my mother is here! Hi Mom!

As part of her trip, we decided to take five days and meander our way south of Trondheim along the Atlantic Road, through to Åndalsnes, with a stop over in Dombås and then back up to Trondheim. A big circle really.

And it was lovely circle indeed. As a friend who recently made a similar trip said, "It's like ugh-not-another-crazy-beautiful-scene-that-we-must-stop-for-and-get-a-photo the entire way." He was right. Crazy gorgeous. The whole way.

The Atlantic road:
When you drive on that bridge it looks like you are driving into an abyss.

From the top of Bremsneshatten:
Oh so pretty!

Along a terrifying dirt road over a mountain range. (Google Maps does not always give the best advice.)
See the big rain storm behind?

The landscape in this part of Norway is stunning. All kinds of geography juxtaposed in a way that is never tiring. Yay!

But, we didn't just look at landscapes the whole time. We also visited two stave churches, hiked to the top of a mountain in search of a cave, and went on a musk ox safari!

For those of you who are interested, a selection of photos from the trip are available here for your viewing pleasure. Your welcome.

June 25, 2014

the midnight…ahem…"sun"

Did you know some of Norway lies above the Arctic Circle? Crazy, right? 

That means that during the summer, much of Norway has very, very long days. And in cities like Tromsø, the sun never actually goes below the horizon. The midnight sun! 

I was lucky enough to spend mid-summer there last week with my lovely linguist-colleagues. Before I left, more than one of you asked for a picture of the midnight sun. 

So. Here it is!

What's the matter? Isn't it SO sunny?!
This photo was taken at about 1:30 in the morning after a lovely evening at Rorbua, "Norges mest kjente pub."

It really was quite light outside, you just can't really tell, because it was extremely cloudy. Like my whole four days were (although sometimes there was also rain and fog).

So although I didn't get to really "see" the midnight sun in a perceptual sense, I could feel it there behind the cold and the clouds and the rain and the fog.

The scenery in Tromsø was quite lovely though apart from the weather. Lovely gardens, dramatic mountain landscapes, snow...

The arctic botanical garden.

I definitely cannot wait to visit again…maybe this winter?

May 19, 2014

happy 200th birthday to the norwegian constitution!

On this past Saturday, May 17th, Norway's constitution became 200 years old.
Gratulerer med dagen!
Norway's 17th of Mays are full of parades, champagne breakfasts, friends and family, BBQs and the drinking of beverages…kind of like the 4th of July or Australia Day, but with more fancy costumes! Our dear friends Erik and Lene invited us over to partake in these traditional festivities, and it was just so lovely! We started the day with a champagne breakfast which ended with a super tasty pavlova!

See! Champagne! Norwegian flags! Bunads!
Then we headed to watch the parade in town. Two featured groups: Trondheim's Mustache Club,

Yes. Trondheim is so awesome that it has a Mustache Club. 
and the Stormtroopers club.

There are a remarkable number of people who own Stormtroopers costumes here.
After the parade we headed back for a BBQ and enjoyed the afternoon away.

Yay Norway!

P.S. Thanks for the warm sunny weather. Nice touch.

April 18, 2014


Or, "the cabin" in English.

Last weekend I was finally introduced to the Norwegian concept of "hytte." Now, the English translation doesn't do this concept justice--after all, the word "cabin" is not so exciting, and it doesn't bring back an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and comfort that the word "hytte" does for Norwegians.

Norwegian cabins are memories from old. The best ones are the most rustic--extra points goes to those lacking water (hot or cold) and electricity. The more remote the better, with many being only accessible on foot or by skis.

Now, the first "hytta" we went to was in Åre with Erik and Lene. But that one was more like a house, and it had luxuries such as electricity, a driveway, and a sauna. That hytta was misleading in every sense of the term.

But last weekend Guri took me, Torill, and Anna-Lena to her hytta near Røros (about a kilometer from the Swedish border). This was the real deal y'all. It was in the woods. We had to ski to get there!

Do you see the cabin? Do you also see Torill pulling a sled with all our stuff? She's amazing. :)
It was a bit fancy because it had lights at night powered by a solar panel, and we could heat up water on the wood stove. But still--it is about as rustic as I am willing to get.

It was also so lovely!

We had a nice few days skiing, eating, and drinking craft beer. Good company and good conversation.

I can see why Norwegians like their cabins so much. Time away from the hustle and bustle is good for the soul.

And as a plus, I got to stock up on vegetarian food with a quick stop-over to a grocery store in Sweden. To keep things frozen Torill made me a snow-fridge!

Snow fridges keep Quorn tasty.

A nice memory of winter to take with me as we move into Spring.