Thursday, May 29, 2008

Swedish Beauty

I just returned from vacation with my visiting parents. It was great fun - full of many adventures, sites, and more family.

On the 17th of May, we enjoyed the Norwegian Independence Celebration. It was a rainy and cold day, but we survived. We waved to the King, Queen, Prince, and Princess at the Royal Palace while watching all the school kids and bands parade up to the palace to pay their respects to the royal family. On the 17th of May, everyone also wears their 'bunads' - traditional Norwegian costumes that originate from the different areas in Norway. It was so amazing to see all these people walking around looking like they got dressed in the wrong century.

We then took the 'Norway in a Nutshell' Tour on the train up through the mountains of Norway onto the ferry through the cold waters of the fjord and then a bus up 12 switchback turns and eventually arriving by train to Bergen. Amazing landscape. I don't think I've ever seen so many waterfalls and rocky cliffs. On the ferry fjord, we went through the area my mom thinks her family immigrated from - Aurland, on the Sogne fjord. Rough country with limited land for farming.

Over the valley and through the mountains we then went to Stockholm, where we met my 'cousin' (somewhat removed) for dinner and a tour around Stockholm. We spent the next couple days exploring the city. It was fascinating how much more cosmoplitan and lively Stockholm is than Oslo. I was told that this is partially because Norway gained independence not long ago and so tries to hold on to tradition more than Sweden. As a country, Norway has been more isolated in the past too. My mom and I got in some good shopping in Stockholm too!!

Then, our final leg of the journey was south to Småland, the home of my Swedish relatives and land my Great-Grandfather left for the United States. Also the home of IKEA, in case you are wondering. One of my 'cousins' works at their headquarters too! We rode only in Volvo's and Saab's, something my dad was proud of. I even rode in a trikked out Volvo with 20-inch rims. Soomehow a trikked out Volvo seems like an oxy-moron.

We also visited the Växjö Domkyrke (Central Cathedral) to see the amazing altarpiece. The Småland area is the glassmaking area of Sweden (think Orefors), so this altarpiece was made of glass and metal, and utterly amazing.

Sweden was gorgeous. Reminded me of northern Minnesota with maybe a bit of Holland thrown in (not that I have ever been to Holland)! It was strange to see the areas where my family is from and wonder what might have been if they had not emmigrated. We will never know.

More pics are posted on my Picassa site, if you want to see more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Early Morning

This morning the workers arrived at 7:15am to replace the front door of my apartment. I knew this was coming, so I got up mighty early, ate, showered, and dressed before they arrived. But, I wasn't sure what I would do with myself when they arrived. Yesterday, when they were working on the doors upstairs, it was quite noisy. But bearable, like living in a dentist's office.

So, after they had taken off my door, and received the keys that will open my new door when I return, I set off from my apt. It has been warm and sunny here in Oslo for the past week, so I set off for my local park, FrognerParkeren. Even while on my way to the park, I noticed that many many people were on their bikes going to work. Normally I leave my apt after most commuters have arrived at their offices, so I don't see this phenomenon.

But, as I found a bench at the park and started to read my book, I became amazed at the number of bicycles passing by. They just kept coming, and coming, and coming. I knew that many people biked, especially since there is a high toll to drive your car into the city of Oslo. But, goodness, the bikers never stopped! Such a fun site to see on a sunny morning.

Even if you don't own a bike in Oslo, you can join in the biking fun. All over town are stationed these kind of rent-a-bike stands. You just insert your bankcard, or special card (I can't remember). Rent a bike for the time you need (commuting to the office). And then replace the bike in the nearest stand to your destination. Cool, huh! I haven't done this yet since I don't have a bank card. But, I think I can get a special card. We'll see. My walking legs are working just fine for now.