Sunday, September 24, 2006

Nigard Glacier vid

This is from my second Hiking in Norway trip, through the University of Oslo special Events for international students. We spent a weekend in Fjaerland hiking 1000 meter hills and walking on the Nigard Glacier.

Enjoy the movie, it is one of my personal favorites:

More updates soon to come, just got back from Denmark, and still need to post the details of the Bergen/Stavanger trip, prepare for the trip to London with the Mom (next weekend already), fill out postcards and mail them, as well as continue to read and study.

So much to do and so little time,


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bergen and Stavanger

September 8th-11th 2006

This was our SUST groups’ first trip together on our own in Norway. We spent for days on the west coast of Norway, 2 days in Bergen and 2 days in Stavanger. Our Professor had given us the day off on Monday the 11th, and so we had plenty of time to plan.

Andrea cooked up a great and pretty affordable itinerary for us all to follow that got us to Bergen by train from Oslo, then flying to Stavanger and later to Oslo. Aviation will be discussed later in the blog.

Late Thursday evening, I got my backpack filled to the brim with clothes for the four-day trip along with some toiletries and spent the night looking through my lonely planet guide unable to sleep. I think I might have gotten an hour of sleep at the most, because I was up at around 4:30 AM taking care of last minute packing and eating some kind of breakfast before heading to Ulleval Stadion to catch the T-Bane to Oslo Central Station. Our train was scheduled to leave at 6:20 in the morning, meaning that we needed to catch the first T-Bane out of Ulleval.

It was cool to see Ulleval all light up in the early hours of the morning, and seeing the moon above Sogn was quite a sight. Suffice to say, I made it to Ulleval pretty early and waited for the T-Bane for a good half hour. While waiting, Maria and Jennifer arrived with their stuff and waited as well. They were able to get some sleep the night before, but weren’t up for much conversation. Around 5:45 AM, the T-Bane finally arrived and Heather came bolting down the steps to the station and got on just before the doors closed. I was impressed that she was able to make it, however, she had some trouble catching her breath afterwards but then so would I if I had to run down a flight of stairs with a huge pack in an attempt to catch a train.

We arrived at Oslo Central Station and identified our platform where our Train was waiting patiently for us.

From the platform, we identified our couch and seat numbers and proceeded to get settled and wait for Mark and Andrea that didn’t catch the first T-Bane. We got a frantic call from Andrea once we got in the train, saying they were on their way and concerned about their passports. We told them not to worry and they shortly arrived.

Mark had to call a flat mate of Andrea’s to find out his seat and confirmation number after forgetting to print them off earlier. Although it may seem early in this story that it was Mark and Andrea who were the ones who were left behind, it gets better (or should I say worse) for our author in the coming paragraphs.

Suffice to say, the train left without a hitch and with all of us present and accounted for. The others for the most part slept or listened to their Ipods, while I was wide awake and glued to the window, watching us being passed by other trains coming in and out of Oslo Central Station, and the changing scenery as we left Oslo and moved out along the Oslo-Bergen Railway named one of the most Scenic routs by National Geographic in 2004.
View 2
While the ride was very scenic and smooth (not too many bumps), the train or tog still took 6 hours. The delay was due in part because most of this line is single track in many stretches through the mountains, and trains must yield to other trains based upon who gets to use the ROW first. However, there is a German company that has plans of upgrading certain routes such as the Oslo-Bergen railway to “high-speed” rail standards and adding double track in certain parts to cut the overall trip from 6 hours, to 1-2 ½ hours. This is to increase competitiveness of the Norwegian Railways to compete with the Air Industry in Scandinavia. For those interested check it out: Norsk Bane

We got to Bergen Friday afternoon around 2:30 and were greeted with typical Bergen Weather, which is nothing but rain. We quickly found our hostel, Jacobs Apartments, centrally located in Bergen and highly recommended by the Lonely Planet Guide and other people who we had talked to before we left, and did the entire process of checking and getting settled before taking off for high adventure.

After we checked in, we all realized we were really hungry and headed to the Fish Market in the pouring rain for some food. All of us settled on fish and chips, freshly caught Cod covered in batter and then fried along with some French fries, and was my first time having fish in Norway. Wasn’t that bad, had a clean plate at the end, and was satisfied for the remainder of the day.

Because of the rain, Andrea got upset that her shoes were getting wet and so we set off on search for a pair of rain boots for Andrea. We walked to like 5-6 shoe stores all before they closed. Thankfully she was able to find a pair that was her size and a color that was a pretty snazzy red. With Andrea’s new boots taken care of and everything right with the world we started looking into nightlife. Suffice to say, I was ill prepared for nightlife with not packing my contacts and stuck with the glasses. We ended up going to this nightclub/bar that ended up later in the night turning into a crazy rave. Not that there is anything wrong with raves or dancing, but when you add drinks in glasses and then bodies moving to music, the result is not only drinks poured on other people but glasses being dropped and shattered all over the dance floor. While waiting to head out, I saw a guy come running down a set of stairs with blood running down his arm, I assume he had fallen on the floor and got cut up pretty bad.

Saturday morning, the weather cleared and stayed warm and sunny for the rest of the entire weekend. We capitalized on the nice weather and took the Bergen Floibaner or funicular to the top of the hill, and got some good pictures of Sentrum Bergen and some good group shots.
Post Card Bergen:Forgive the quality of the photo, I think there was some condensation on my lens from the day before.
Post card Bergen...

SUST group minus 1 on the Funicular

From the top of the hill, we had a great hike back down, not too tough considering there was a gravel path and made our way back down to the city center. I split off on my own to check out a tower and former guard post of Bergen, hoping to climb to the top and get some sweet pictures, unfortunately they had closed about a half hour before I got there. However, I did see some kids mock fighting in full medieval battle gear (swords, axes, and shields) that provided some entertainment. From there, I wondered back to the main tourist drag near the fish market, found a place selling Pancakes for 10 Kroner and got one fresh off the pan vs. cooling on the plate, and then bought some postcards focusing on Bergen (that yesterday September 27th, I finally mailed).

Saturday night we ran into some German friends of ours from Sogn, who had drove from Oslo to Bergen for the weekend. We made plans to hang out later, and that night I became an honorary German through a couple of rounds of “Circle of Death” or “Kings”, from which we embarked to a crazy bar called….can’t remember the name but they had Guinness (which I love) and turned out to be a metal bar with tiny Norwegian girls with really really deep scary voices performing in the basement (lol). Suffice to say we didn’t stick around long considering in the morning we needed to be at the airport to catch a flight from Bergen to Stavanger and the next two days of our trip. I set my alarm for 7:45 AM and hoped I would wake up.

Sunday morning I woke up on time, and thought I had enough time to get to the airport considering my flight wasn’t until 9:20. However, to get to the airport I either needed to take a bus or a taxi. I checked out of the hostel by dropping off my keys and walked to the bus Terminal looking for the Flybussen. However, by the time I had gotten to the bus terminal the Bus had already left and wasn’t coming again until 9:00!!! Immediately I thought, what am I going to do? The flight is scheduled to leave at 9:20, how fast can this bus get me to the airport, is there a taxi? Not having a mobile phone or answers to any of these questions nor a taxi in proximity, I decided to take my chances with the Bus. What else could I do?

I got to the airport 5 MINUTES late, no baggage to be checked just needed to get on the plane and ran to the gate, tried to get through security as fast as I could, and the plane was already gone. My hope was this would be like a US airport where the plane doesn’t leave for another 10 minutes, boy was I wrong. Later I found out that my friends had gotten on the plane because they had taken a taxi and were expecting me to come running on the plane or running out to the runway, and no matter how much I wish that could have happen it didn’t.

I think I am cursed when it comes to air travel considering that the day I was traveling was the 10th, 1 month after my first chaos with planes and Norway. Suffice to say, I ended up being 2 hours behind my friends and had to book another flight with a different airline and then sit and wait for a 40 minute + flight. Flustered but enduring I pressed on and made it to Stavanger and through the use of the lonely planet guide found the ferry that would take me to Tau and onwards to Preikestolen of the Lysefjorden.

When I made it to the ferry I called Tim, my program director, who gave me the mobile numbers of a member of my group who I frantically called and caught up with. The first thing they said was “How r u, and more importantly where are u??” I explained that I had made it to Stavanger and would meet them in Tau.

When I got off the Ferry, there they all were as promised and I was never so happy to see them all. We hopped on the bus and took it to the hostel at the start of the hike to Preikestolen. We took care of checking in and then HIKED THE MOUNTAIN. Now, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but I had run out of cliff bars about a week earlier and hadn’t had anything to eat since arriving in Stavanger. But the weather was nice, and we were uncertain to the amount of time we would have on Monday, and so we hiked the path to Preikestolen, 2 hours up and 2 hours down.

Pulpit Rock/Preikestolen Stavangre Norway

And wouldn’t you know it, my camera decides to die right when we make it to the end of the hike, not die as in permanently dead, but the battery quite out on me because I didn’t bring a charger. The view from atop Preikestolen (604 Meters above the Fjord) was probably one of the coolest things I have experienced so far, and it is my hope that I can come back with Kristen or my brother and share the experience of the hike with others.

The shot (shown above) was taken by me using Mark’s camera, which he generously let me use for a few shots. When we reached the bottom, Mark and I got some food, enjoying a cauliflower soup with broiled Salmon and bread for about 70 Kroner which was one of the best meals I had enjoyed since my arrival.

All tired and fed, we relaxed by chatting and drinking tea and ever so often wondering outside into the cold air to look at the stars (which were not to be seen, too overcast) and reflect on the days events, particularly of the follies of the first time traveler, Me! I think the night after the hike, may have been the hardest I have slept in a long time, and I can assure you that my legs were trembling when I came down the mountain, and not too happy with me the next morning.

Monday we left Preikestolen, after a huge Norwegian breakfast and headed back to Stavanger. The plan was to dink around town before our scheduled flights. Most of the others went shopping and did some exploring, I did some of that myself and ate lunch at this neat Greek Restaurant, and then to pass the time went to the Norwegian Petroleum Museum to then take the Flybussen back to the airport. Little did I know that fate was against me again.

Turns out I had booked my flight for the morning instead of the evening, not taking into account military time, and ended up having to buy a ticket on the last flight to Oslo that evening which was delayed several times. By the end of the weekend, I didn’t want to step foot on another god damn plane. Suffice to say I landed in Oslo around 8:30 (Maybe) then got set to take the Flytoget (Airport Express Train) back to Oslo Central Station, costing me 160 Kroner then finding out afterwards that there was a student rate, but too late, and then getting off at the wrong station. When I figured this out, I quickly jumped on board the next regional NSB tog (or train) and grabbed a seat and sat nervously waiting for Oslo S to be the next station. I began to see people move towards the front of the train, and then out of the corner of my eye I turned and saw a ticket inspector coming my way. Not having a valid ticket for the regional NSB tog, I grabbed all my things and walked as fast as I could to the front where the other people were gathering, and as soon as the doors opened I was gone like the wind making my way to the T-Bane.

So that sums up my weekend in Bergen and Stavanger, been really tough to write all of this down, but hopefully I can post it later tonight and add in the photos I want from the flickr pages to make it better.

Stay tuned for new videos (maybe) and summaries of other trips in the land of the midnight sun that is Norway.

Until next time,

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Updates and Weekend Plans

Andrew's first decent. See more at my flickr site.

Hello everyone,

I have just recently updated the aint Nothin but a Drew thing page. If you look to the right on your screen, you will see a recently added link titled Drew's Homepage this will take you to my .mac account where I have posted two videos and also links back to the blog and flickr photos which have also been updated.

This weekend, the six of us SUST people are making our first trip on our own to Bergen and then onto Stavanger, both cities that are on the West Coast of Norway. Tomorrow morning very early, we are catching an NSB train from Oslo Central Station to Bergen. The trip will take approximatly 6-7 hours total, but is one of the most scenic routes in all of Norway. When we arrive, we will spend two days in Bergen and then fly Norwegian Air to Stavanger where we plan to spend two more days and return home on Monday the 11th in the evening. It should be a very exciting trip and I am looking forward to it, minus the 6:20 AM train (ouch).

I hope to post more next week and hopefully post a video on my .mac of my first hiking trip, which happened yesterday afternoon at Kolsastoppen about a half hour outside of Oslo.

Until next time, wish me luck on the Bergen trip and the hiking in Stavanger, I hope to come back with some great photos!!


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Building Community…One Kitchen at a Time

The first three weeks of the Scandinavian Urban Studies Term have passed. The common topic: Identity. The factors that create national identity, importance of identity in the future of the Welfare State, etc. All of this was very interesting, looking at how the Norwegian identity was created relatively recently due to Norway’s independence only 100 years ago.

In a way, we have all been building community and identity on our floor of building 48. A couple of nights ago, about 5 of us were all in the kitchen. We were all cooking, eating, chatting, and cleaning up together. It was great when all of a sudden the Norwegians would just start having full fledged conversations in Norsk. I would try to listen as close as I could, but still not get anything.

Anyway, after we all had finished eating and cleaning up after one another, a few of us Eliza, Mari, and myself all started talking about rearranging the kitchen into something more inviting. We also discussed the situation with the garbage can and its existing location. Right now it sits on the balcony outside of the kitchen. All of us would prefer to have a smaller one to put under the sink. That way we could take the garbage out in smaller bags, instead of one big bag that has to be dragged down the hill to the large garbage bins.

So, around midnight Mari and Eliza started rearranging the kitchen, set up a bunch of candles and turned the room into a kitchen and study room including music!! We were listening to a particular Norwegian artist, and I asked Mari if I could import the music onto my lappy. She said yes and now I have some Norwegian music on the lappy!!

Back to the title of the post, all of these interactions has helped build community in building 48 floor 2. Similar to interaction in the dorms of colleges in the state of sharing a floor, eating together, and interacting with other students on other floors of the building as well as your own. The difference between this student living community and the dormitories is that there is no cafeteria, that’s on campus, and instead everyone cooks for themselves and has their own room. In a way, this is more like Riverbend Commons and the newer student housing buildings on the University of Minnesota.

I’ll try to get some pictures of all the members of the floor together, and when the kitchen is cleaned and nicely organized (my week to do it wish me luck) I’ll snap some pictures of that too.

This is another post along the lines of the People you meet in the laundry room, another place is the kitchen, common communal places where human interaction is inevitable. So to those still loyal readers of Ain’t Nothing but a Drew Thing, send me some recipes so that I can share them with my fellow flatmates and SUST group. This goes double for family members :-D

The past three days have been beautiful weather here in Oslo, Norway. Not sure what I have planned for the rest of the day, but it will probably end with me falling in a heap as has been the case. Need to do some laundry, eat some breakfast, and possibly do some shopping, see if I can find a Norwegian flag and pick up some postcards for those in Minnesota.

Take care for now, and until next time, work on those kitchens you never know who you are going to meet or what you will make :-D