Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Independant Study Project - ISP

This has been the main reason behind my selection of Norway and the SUST program.

ISP- Scandinavian Public Transport

After our class visit to Copenhagen, I became interested in studying the major public transport systems of the three major Scandinavian Countries in the order our class has interacted with them: Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. The analysis will follow a compare and contrast of the systems with the following guidelines:

• Population – the size of the three capitols varies, how has this shaped their transport systems and what challenges has it provided?
• Size of Geographic area – this can be linked to population and size can be measured in hectors or square miles. This section could also feature geographical challenges for example Oslo’s Fjords and difficulties with Tunneling or because of Copenhagen with no geographic boundaries and no hills and what challenges this has presented to planners.
• The Age of the System – age is important in determining popular support and continued improvements. If the system is associated with failure, it is likely that it could fall victim to privatization. Age also has factors in condition of lines and decisions behind infrastructure improvements such as tunneling underground important sites for Metro lines.
• Sources of funding – How much of their funding comes from fair box recovery, how much is Nationally subsidized, what political institutions control them, is their a Minister of transport that oversees these operations, etc.
• Modes of transport – this would include all rolling stock of metro lines, busses, trams etc. Some of the major manufactures that have contracted with these services could be mentioned.
• The future of these systems – this would be the final chapter, expressing challenges these systems face be it in expansion, waning political support for public subsidy as is the example in Norway from the Progress Party, pressures of privatization. How will Norway’s EU membership (if it occurs) affect public transport, how are Denmark’s and Swden’s already affected.

My motivation to switching to Scandinavia and its three major capitol is to try to tie closer into the goals of the program. Tim and I have talked about how there is continuing pressures of cooperation in the Nordic countries. One of these players is the Nordic Council Ministers, whom we met with a representative of while in Denmark. It would be interesting to find out how this organization plays a role in transport. The motivation for the selection of capitol cities, is because they have the largest concentrations of people and activity requiring transport. And lastly, I would like to take back what I learn from this analysis and apply them to transport policies and infrastructure development in the Twin Cities, which was one of the main anchors in my reason for coming to Norway.

I continue to face challenges with the Norwegian Language in terms of research. Progress is being made in the volunteer placement, though I feel time is continuing to slip away. This will be the last change of the ISP. The end result will be a 15-20 page paper as stated in the syllabus in the program, and as a benefit to future SUST students a power point presentation summarizing the three major systems will also be presented.

Snow at Sogn

Snow at Sogn

Today it snowed. Pretty amazing really, even though its just snow. I think the timing is pretty interesting, considering all of us who are from Minnesota and remember the 1991 Halloween Blizzard exactly 15 years ago, that was one of the largest blizzards Minnesota ever had. For those that don't know or don't remeber follow the link. I swear, what can't the Wikipedia find?

I wasn't sure when we were going to see snow in Oslo, from a lot of people I heard we weren't going to have snow until Mid-November, but I am not suprised by this snow storm considering that Minnesota and the majority of the midwest of the USA experience their first snows in Mid-to-Late October early November. Plus it made for a great picture.

Leaving for Stockholm tomorrow morning really early, so I will need to do some packing tonight. I might have one more post later on today, depending upon how I feel. Hopefully this isn't the last time it snows during our stay, I'd really like to get up to Holmenkollen and take some pictures from the Observation deck.

A Glimpse into what we do...

This is going to be a test to try and summerize some of the activities of the SUST program by posting one of my Praxis Refelction papers. The Praxis takes into consideration the past 3 weeks and then the student (me) finds an issue to focus on for further study. Let me know what people think of this and I can make the appropriate changes.
Date written: September 14th, 2006

Challenges of Globalization

For the past month I have been pondering to myself, why is there so much pizza in Norway? Before I came to Norway, I had the perception that all Norwegians ate was a lot of fresh fish and possibly some reindeer meat. Since Norway is on the sea and fish is a major export, it seemed like a reasonable assumption. Not being much of a fish lover, I was shocked and some what pleased when the first thing I ate in Oslo wasn’t salmon or reindeer for that matter, but instead cold pizza from Dolly Dimples, a large pizza chain found almost everywhere in Norway. And it’s not just pizza, but kebabs, hotdogs, and even burgers from McDonalds and Burger King!! I feel that the fast food from America has followed me here, however, it was already here before I got here. Is this all a product of globalization? Or a cause of globalization?

When we discussed this earlier in class, someone pointed out just the sheer number of kinds of frozen pizza that one could purchase in the REMA or RIMI supermarkets. From there we went on a tangent on how “globalized” Norwegians are through food, mass media, and technology. I started with food because everyone, regardless of location, requires food to live and most often cultures have distinct food or meals that make them “traditional food” such as Norwegian Lesfa. I wonder however, the degrees to which these foods are available in Norway because Norwegians have traveled around the world, tried different foods, and now want to eat them at home. Or are these foods in Norway because Norwegians heard about them through the media and food companies marketed them as desirable alternatives to traditional fare. In this case the food becomes a source of globalization rather than an indicator that it has occurred. In regards to fish, I didn’t have my first piece of fish until I had Fish and Chips at the Fish Market in Bergen last weekend and again in a Cauliflower Soup with some Salmon for dinner at Preikestolen (which was quite good). My new appreciation for fish is due to my exposure to Norwegian culture, not marketing, and so when I eat it at home it will be a sign of globalization.

Another channel of globalization, television, surprised me as well. Whenever I have had a chance to do some channel “surfing” I have seen many programs from the U.S. and the U.K. with spoken English and captioned Bokmal. However, whenever the nightly news comes on the spoken language reflects the local dialect from which the news is being broadcasted. This has been (and will continue to be) very interesting to observe, although a little disappointing. I think I could learn more about Norwegian culture by watching Norwegian sitcoms or shows that are uniquely Norwegian. Maybe there are other channels out there in the void that I still need to stumble upon, but so far it strikes me as odd that Norwegians rely on other countries for their TV programming.

Globalization is defined by the Wikipedia (2006) as: An umbrella term for a complex series of economic, social, technological, cultural and political changes seen as increasing interdependence, integration and interaction between people and companies in disparate locations. The Wikipedia, which is created and modified by internet users, provides a common, non-technical, understanding of the term and is in turn an example of globalization as well.

With this definition in mind, it is reasonable to argue that globalization is not a new phenomenon. Rather globalization began occurring when the first human beings set sail across the seas and began interacting with other people through trade as seafaring peoples such as the Phoenicians traveled the ancient world. The Romans and the Vikings also spread their language and customs around the globe as they conquered other peoples and forced them to assimilate to the conquering culture. In more recent times the British, French and Dutch established large empires that included colonies that were exploited to increase the wealth of the colonial powers. For many years the Merchant Marine of Norway traveled all over the world delivering goods and exchanging people, ideas, and practices which all contributed to what Norway and the world are today. However, abuses that are associated with conquest and colonialism raise issues about modern globalization which is accelerating due to new communication technologies and economic policies such as the Washington Consensus. The issue of who wins and who loses through globalization has been brought to the front burner once again. Is globalization a new type of colonialism is disguise?

The readings we were assigned for this topic and the two guest lecturers, Peter Vilsted and Kirk Samson offered interesting insights into the benefits and problems of globalization. Vilsted and Samson described globalization in the context of social justice issues such as the need of fresh water in most of the developing world. They also described the tensions between the U.S. and Norway such as Norway's lack of support for current President George W. Bush and the general pendulum swing of US interest away from Europe to more contested areas of the middle east.

In the readings, Bhagwati (2004) painted a rather rosy image of globalization stating that in general globalizing policies that favor large transnational corporations or NGO/TNG’s do more good than they do harm. Bhagwati argued that globalization is central to solving the third world’s economic problems. On the opposing side, Susan George (2004) provided a great analysis of the failures of the Washington Consensus and described the increases of inequalities in the world that have resulted from neoliberal economic policy. However, she does not offer new solutions to the economic problems faced by third world countries unless these are brought up in other chapters.

An optional reading for that same week, that I feel should have been required and am disappointed to have not finished, was the article by Held (2005) who also attacks the failures of the Washington Consensus but suggests that these policies need to be amended and changed along with what is referred to as the Washington Security Agenda to a human one. I hope to finish this article, and that all are fully discussed soon in the course of this class.

Norway and Scandinavia have benefited much from globalization. Norway specifically has gone from being one of the poorest countries to being one of the richest countries after discovering oil in the North Sea. The sale of this oil on the world market was made possible by globalization. Norway also benefited from its relationship with NATO after the post-war years and during the Cold War when Norway was a crucial ally to the US. However, now that the Cold War has been over for almost three decades and the E.U. is increasingly becoming more responsible for its own security, NATO it seems is becoming less important. As Kirk Samson stated in his lecture, "if American interests are moving from Europe, who is going to come to the aid of Norway if it is ever threatened?" It will be interesting to see what changes occur in the next decades and if Norway becomes an active participant of the E.U. rather than a state that plays lip service for economic purposes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

This brings a smile to my face...

Because I am what I call a "transport groupie", articles like these peak my interest. I promise to write an update on my activities here in Oslo and the program hopefully before the trip to Stockholm. Enjoy the following article which aslo can be viewed here.

Intercity ICE 3
Now, while the USA may not be as developed as say Europe with rolling stock such as this, imagine if we did. This is not a new topic of discussion for me, but one of my favorites...

Resurgent rails
Popularity of going by train grows with discontent with other kinds of travel. Plus,
the Empire Builder appeals to tourists year-round.
Kevin Giles, Star Tribune
As the eastbound train glides into the emerging sunlight south of St. Paul, John Stopa aims his video camera at a panorama of silver lakes and quiet woods flashing past the windows. "You don't see this in a plane," said Stopa, a Minneapolis native returning home to Chicago. "You don't even see this in a car." This is the Empire Builder, making its twice-daily run through Minnesota on Amtrak's most popular overnight route in the nation. Travelers upset with gasoline prices, declining bus service and fears of flying are boarding the Empire Builder, named for St. Paul railroad pioneer James J. Hill, in record numbers. Nearly a half-million passengers rode the Chicago-to-Seattle line in the fiscal year that ended last month, up 4.3 percent over the previous year, said Marc Magliari, Amtrak's spokesman in Chicago.
In Minnesota, about 183,000 people boarded or exited the Empire Builder in 2005, say the most recent figures available. That's up 10,600 from 2004.
Proponents say escalating ridership -- on the Empire Builder and other routes -- is further evidence of a resurgence of train travel that one day will combine overnight trains with high-speed commuter rail, light rail and other means of moving people faster and more
"We are now moving toward a new era in rail," said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who's on the Minnesota House Transportation Committee.
"It doesn't matter if it's long-distance rail or Lake Street to downtown Minneapolis on light
rail -- people like this choice," Hornstein said.
Ridership in small cities
In Staples, one of six Amtrak stops in Minnesota, a growing Amish community inclined toward trains contributes to the upsurge in Empire Builder ridership, said Mayor Bruce Nelsen. He's also heard some of the city's 3,000 residents complain about airport delays and gasoline prices, and figures that even more people would board in Staples if the train didn't pass through at 3 a.m. in both directions. "It's an economical way to travel, no doubt about it," he said.
In Winona, the first Minnesota stop for the nightly westbound Empire Builder and the last for the morning train, many of the city's thousands of university students prefer Amtrak, said Mayor Jerry Miller. One of them is Atinuke Akinsanya, 20. "The bus really isn't convenient," she said. She rode Wednesday's train from St. Paul for about $30. Farther back in the coach, sisters Jeanne Burckhard and Rita Brossard stowed their blankets after riding from North Dakota the night before. It was their first train trip, they said, and they were going to Winona, where they would catch a bus to Rochester in time for their 75-year-old father's cancer surgery.
They also said that once they climbed aboard in north-central North Dakota, the train did the work, and they were relieved that they didn't have to drive in metro traffic. "We have no responsibilities," Brossard said, smiling. The Empire Builder, now in its fourth consecutive year of ridership growth, also is popular with summer tourists eager to see Glacier National Park, with winter travelers who want to avoid icy roads, and with people of all ages seeking regional connections. Lately, Amtrak has updated service on the Empire Builder, adding fresh-baked cookies and wine and cheese tastings in redecorated sleeper cars, and an at-seat food and beverage service in the coaches, among other perks. The upscale amenities are a
response to critics who thought Amtrak should be more profitable.
More trains, more riders?
In its annual report issued Thursday, Amtrak announced that ticket revenue stands at $1.37 billion, the highest ever. Nationwide, Amtrak carried 24.3 million passengers in the fiscal year that ended in September, an increase of 300,000 over the previous year. Minnesota railroad union leader Philip Qualey and other Amtrak proponents say that ridership would be higher yet if Amtrak had enough money to add coaches and sleepers to the Empire Builder. "Somebody needs to start talking about adding the second train along that route," said Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association. He and other Amtrak fans say that Minnesota also could sustain regional business routes linking larger cities like Rochester and Fargo with the Twin Cities. The planned Rush Line between St. Paul and Hinckley partly revives a route that until 1985 was Amtrak's North Star run. "With some really aggressive advertising, it would be scary how many people would get on this train," said Empire Builder conductor Cordt Rose, a Lakeville resident and a longtime Amtrak employee.
The federal government established Amtrak in 1970 after legendary passenger trains like the Northern Pacific Railway's North Coast Limited and the Milwaukee Road's Olympian Hiawatha, both of which served Minnesota, lost money and ridership to the point that they folded. Today, Amtrak provides intercity service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states. But despite three consecutive years of record national ridership -- more than 25 million last year -- Amtrak faces continuing threats of extinction.
The Bush administration proposed spending $900 million for Amtrak in 2007, which amounts to "a shutdown level," said Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn. The administration's proposal would eliminate overnight routes, such as the Empire Builder. The House is debating $1.2 billion and the Senate, $1.4 billion.
Amtrak's critics, including Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., say the Amtrak subsidy represents a ripe target for savings, contending that the amount is disproportionately large compared with ridership. David Strom, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, disputes that Minnesotans ride trains because they can't find other transportation. He thinks most of them are attracted to rail nostalgia, which he said is why he favors ending Amtrak service, including
the Empire Builder route, and preserving only Amtrak's heavy commuter routes on the East Coast.
"I'm not insensitive to people liking trains," he said. "The question becomes, 'Why is it that
a small group of people to whom the romance of trains is attractive is entitled to a subsidy
that the rest of the people pay?' "
Instead of trying to eliminate Amtrak, America should be building a network of high-speed
trains that rival those in France, Japan, China and other nations, said Oberstar, the
ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.
Oberstar pushed for a $50 million appropriation to revive St. Paul's Union Depot as a hub
for passenger rail traffic. Amtrak's popularity is "part of a resurgence in transit," which he
said is adding a million new riders a day nationwide in buses, trolley, light rail and the like.
He said the trend toward trains accelerated after the terrorist attacks with airplanes five
years ago:
"The surge was enormous and many of them never left," Oberstar said.
Kevin Giles • 612-673-7707 • kgiles@startribune.com
©2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Giles mentions a lot of important things in the increasing debate about regional transportation that has been taking place in Minnesota and other Midwestern states for the past decades. Norway enjoyes a very well developed local, regional, and international (at least Scandinavia and connections to Europe) railroad network. If the Midwest wants to make a statement to the rest of the country about our importance, instead of all this west and east coast envy, we should pursue improvments to the connectivity of the midwest. I would like to see higher speeds, however, 110 is making steps towards improvment. I hope everyone in Minnesota Votes yes for Transportation funding (helps make me finding a job in the next couple years better) and to make Minnesota regional transport projects a reality instead of just a pipe dream or a should have, would have, could have 25 years from now.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Now that’s what I call an Underground

As a quick side note, those interested in learning more about the London Underground should read this article from Wikepedia . The person who worked on this really did their homework.

One of the great things about the Semester Break in London was that I was able to experience a true Metropolis with a transport system that is one of the oldest in the world and one of the most extensive. However, along with this experience came of course analysis and discussion between my mother and I comparing different approaches to transport and even different transport choices in other countries.

The London Underground in Action, at Marble Arch station

This gave me a great opportunity to compare and contrast London’s systems with that of Oslo, Norway. Now some may say that you can’t compare the two systems because of existing circumstances and factors including: Geography, Population, size of the Urban Area etc. I beg to differ. Due to these specific differences, it makes it interesting to see choices that have been made; such as the decision to go underground with metro systems, the techniques used to create tunnels, and the potential conflicts that those choices will mean.

Even simply comparing the maps of the two cities, one can notice the differences.

From Blog Photos

The London System, while expansive, relies on a very dispersed layout with multiple lines and many connections between lines and services providing opportunities to change between all modes as well. For example, at certain stations you can change between multiple underground lines and switch to State Rail connections.

From Blog Photos

Meanwhile, the Oslo system focuses on more of a hub-and-spoke layout with most lines converging at Jernbantorget with connections to Oslo Central Station and NSB service to other cities. There are a few stations to change lines, but not to the degree of complexity that I associate with the London Underground, and the processes behind changing lines.

For example, to change to the Central Line to another line such as the Bakerloo or Piccadilly line, one must get to an appropriate station to change, exit the train, and then follow the signs and almost catacomb like tunnels of the underground, to either an escalator or sometimes an elevator to take one to lines either above or below another. A complaint that I am sure a lot of Londoners have is the heat associated with the Underground, in fact it something that I began to notice with the Oslo T-Bane when I got back from London.

A common thing my Mother and I mentioned was the inaccessibility of a many of the lines and platforms to those with disabilities such as those with Wheel Chairs or even women with carriages for there babies, you didn’t see many of those people in the underground. We often joked to take the underground you had to be in good shape to be constantly running from platform to platform and constantly going up and down stairs. There are stations that have level loading, but they are few and far between from looking at the maps yet is highly concentrated along the Eastern portions in zones 2 and onward to 6 as well as some large concentrations out in the West in zones 3 and onward.

As far as I can tell with the Oslo T-Bane and modes of Public Transport, almost all are in some way shape or form handicapped accessible and most have level loading with platforms and can accommodate the huge carriages that often accompany Norwegian mothers and their babies.

All of these discussions almost related back to Public Transport in Minneapolis. After looking over a lot of maps and articles I feel that Minneapolis and St. Paul could apply lessons learned from the Oslo system and eventually apply them with some underground lines in the future as pressures on development increase. Meanwhile for Oslo, planners should look to Copenhagen and Stockholm for influence due to Oslo’s population size being that of 600,000 (I think) with Copenhagen being slightly larger at 1.5 Million people.

However, Oslo could see another wave of centralization and urbanization in the next coming years especially with the prospects of EU membership. Oslo has a long way to go before it becomes a Metropolis to the degree that London is, but when and if the time ever comes they have plenty of cities to look too for applying practices, as do we in the Twin Cities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The British Museum Experience

Analysis by Cathrine Wambach

From 5 Days in the...

The British Museum contains uncountable artifacts from all over the world, including the famous Parthenon marbles and the Rosetta stone. However, despite the incredible artifacts that I viewed there, aspect of the museum experience left me dissatisfied and puzzled about the museum’s mission. My first source of dissatisfaction was the organization of the Ancient Near East Wing. The displays appeared to be new, and organized to tell the story of the Levant, Iran and Iraq in chronological order, but it was difficult to know where the display started, which made the story unfold in a disjointed way. The story also moved back and forth across the rooms rather than around the rooms, which made it tempting to skip one side of the displays. It is also never clear why these objects are in a “British” museum.

The second puzzle came with the display of the Enlightenment library. This recreation of the library of Charles II included scientific instruments from the era, busts of famous people, as well as shelves full of books, ancient artifacts from around the world, fossils, gems, coins, minerals – personal collections of all kinds. Here the artifacts are not organized historically, and many are not labeled; yet this gallery makes more sense than the historically oriented Ancient Near East Gallery because it tells us something about the British. More could be done in this gallery to describe the philosophy and way of life that led to the assemblage of these objects during the Enlightenment. Why were they valued? What does this say about Britain in the age of Empire?

The third puzzle came in the British history wing. First, the early Britain display is undergoing renovation, so only the medieval to modern sections were accessible. The displays were not very impressive compared to the medieval wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. For example, very little medieval armor is displayed – nothing compared to the fully armored horses and knights at the Met. One reason might be that the British armor is on display at the Tower of London, but it was disappointing to not see more of it at the Museum. Once the displays reached the 17th century the artifacts included many objects from other parts of Europe – without an explanation for why they are in a “British” museum.
The most satisfying display in the museum was the Elgin or Parthenon marbles. The entry to the display included information about how the marbles came to Britain and the controversy about their continued presence in London. The marbles themselves were arranged around a rectangular room in the way they would have appeared on the building.

After viewing just a portion of the museum it struck me that the museum is in search of a mission. It could be an Art museum and focus on the artifacts as works of art from different eras and places around the world. Or, it could focus on Britain – its history as an island, its age of Empire, its relationships with other nations and empires. The Age of Enlightenment room seems headed in the direction. It could also focus on great ideas – the current display on Living and Dying is an example of this direction. The renovation of the early Britain room may give us a signal about the direction the museum plans to go in the future.

As a side note- for those who want to see a great preview of the British Museum, check out this article from Wikipedia.

London Calling and the Mother & Child Reunion

October 1st thru October 7th 2006

Sunday October 1st, 2006, both my mother and I arrived in London . She had flown out the night before out of Minnesota and had arrived earlier in the day. I left Sogn around 2:00 PM and caught the T-Bane to Oslo Central Station and onward to a Flytoget to get to the airport. My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:25 PM and I was to arrive at Stansted Airport outside of London at 7:30 PM (1 hour time difference).

I was glad that I arrived early considering the queue at the Oslo Airport was quite long, however, I eventually made it to my correct gate and eventually my flight took off after about a half-hour of waiting, followed by a short bus ride to our plane and a quick walk from the bus and right onto the plane. A part of me felt like a celebrity, however, I realized then how cold it really was outside and wasn’t too happy about walking out to the plane vs. walking down a gantry.

I landed at Stansted at 8:00 PM, collected my luggage, and then made my way to catch a train from the Stansted Express line to Liverpool station and onward to Marble Arch station near Hyde Park home to the Parkwood Hotel , our base of operations for the 5 days in London. The trains had other plans. That evening, the Stansted Express train was canceled between the airport and Liverpool Street Station for “Engineering Improvements”, where I needed to go. So instead of taking a train, I bought a ticket with a bus line called National Express and bought a ticket to Marble Arch in London.

I and what felt like hundreds of others, had to buy bus tickets as well, and spent a long time standing in the cold with all of our luggage waiting for the next available bus to wherever in London we needed to go. After about a half-hour I hoped on a bus that would take me to Victoria and Marble Arch. Riding on the bus for close to an hour it put me near Marble Arch around 11:00 PM, meaning that it took me close to 3 hours just to get from the airport to even the vicinity of the hotel. However, the fun didn’t stop there. Eventually I found the hotel simply by wandering and asking for help and it turns out I was rather close, but since it was a Sunday night the reception desk was closed and I had to ring the night bell once I found the place. Funny thing is, that my Mom heard my suitcase rolling down the street and my conversation with the night manager and greeted me as I came in.

Monday we woke up just in time for breakfast consisting of many cups of coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage very British and very satisfying. We decided that for Monday our goal would be to tackle the overwhelming British Museum and then to see how we felt after that. My Mom has written an analysis of the museum which is not entirely a representation of Britain nor a museum but instead a display of the spoils from conquered countries from Colonialism that were once colonies of the vast British Empire. Most of these artifacts were stolen, bought, or acquired by other means. For example, the recent controversy over the Greek Statues from the Parthenon that are currently on display in the British Museum. I will post my Mother’s analysis after this one.

After the museum we ate at a local pub and had Fish and Chips and a brew. We also talked to a local Brit who had recently been to Minnesota visiting a friend, he recommend some activities for the rest of our stay. After lunch/dinner it started to rain, so we headed back to the hotel to grab a nap and talk about the British Museum. Later, we walked from the hotel along Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria’s Monument.

From 5 Days in the...

From 5 Days in the...

Tuesday, we had a very early start, waking up at 7:30 AM, and enjoying a good breakfast before heading out for another day of adventure. Our destination was the London Eye followed by a trip to Trafalgar Square home of the National Gallery, which we toured for a long time and got pretty burned out. After a coffee from the café at the square, we walked to Covent Garden to see the London Transport Museum, however, the museum is currently closed until 2007. You can read more about the Museum here:

Trafalger Square London
Trafalger Square
Post Card London
Post Card London

Disappointed over the closure of the museum, we stopped at the souvenir shop for the museum and picked up a few things including a Mind The Gap T-shirt for myself (which I wore today to class). However, I am a little worried that I should have gotten a XXL rather than a single XL considering how tight it felt when I put it on today :(

In regards to Public Transport, I was very impressed by the London Underground and glad to have the opportunity to ride and analyze the system. More on that in a later post that I will write hopefully soon.

From 5 Days in the...

The London Transport Museum

With still some strength in us, we made the trip from Covent Garden to the next tourist trap: The Tower of London. This contained most of the historical items we were hoping to see at the British Museum…Weapons from Medieval times including the collection of Henry the VIII’s armor, other royal armaments, and vast amounts of all kinds of instruments of combat. As one of the guides described to us “This was a fortress and a place of war, and still is today”, which is true, soldiers of the British Military still reside in the Tower of London as well as the Yeomen Wards who give great tours. Oh, as a side note the Crown Jewels are there as well!!!

We were both very impressed on how the Tower of London was laid out though in where we started and then where we ended, unlike the British Museum where you could start anywhere much to our frustration.

Completely wore out from our travels of the day, we hopped on the “Tube” back to Marble Arch and grabbed dinner at a Lebanese Restaurant and had a wonderful meal before relaxing and reflecting in the hotel before heading to bed ready to tackle the next day.

Wednesday, we woke up early again and enjoyed the full English breakfast routine provided by the hotel staff, which btw was very odd how they played techno or pop radio instead of the news in the morning, but oh well. The big breakfast paid off, because Wednesday was one of our longest in London. We spent a majority of the day (4 hours) at Kew Gardens also known as the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew meandering through the gardens, admiring trees, walking up Pagodas, watching old ladies being harassed by birds, and enjoying the gardens on a beautiful fall sunny day. Kew Gardens was probably one of the best places that we visited and definitely a stop I would make again.

From 5 Days in the...

From 5 Days in the...

After seeing Kew Gardens we enjoyed Burgers and a pint of beer at this restaurant outside of the Kew Station, which was really satisfying after four hours of walking around. When we got home we both took a very long nap and thought about the rest of the night. When I had landed, I met this older British Woman who helped me get to the hotel but also recommended a great and cheap Chinese restaurant called Wan Ku (I think), so we ventured to Soho and China Town looking for this restaurant and instead found Lee Ho Fook’s from Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London. We had to grab something to eat from there, however, we didn’t have a camera.

It started to get pretty crazy around that area of town when we started to leave and I think there were delays on the underground, so we were ready to head home and call it a night.

Thursday morning, we again had the full English breakfast and hiked to Leicester’s Square and searched for discount tickets to a show. We decided on Guys and Dolls staring Patrick Swayze for Thursday evening. Having got the tickets we took the underground to Lambeth North Station and then walked to the Imperial War Museum. This was an amazing museum with the main focus of war, mostly on Britain in World War I and World War II. One of the best pieces of the Museum was a section of the World War I and a recreation of what life would have been like battling in the Trenches that made World War I the war that the world would never forget. Another good recreation section was the blitz on London; however, it did not deliver or was as well thought out compared to the Trenches piece. The museum also possessed a great amount of military hardware including tanks from both WWI and WWII of both the Allied and Axis forces, artillery batteries, aircraft, and a very large inventory of things from all sectors of the world wars. Lastly, we walked through the Holocaust exhibit and then the exhibit on continued conflicts since the end of World War II.

After the museum, we grabbed some dinner at Navajo Joes’s, a restaurant recommended by Karena Johnson, who had worked in London over the summer. The food was pretty good and afterwards we walked to Piccadilly Circus and were able to eventually find the Piccadilly Theater where the performance was held. However, when we arrived, we found out that Patrick Swayze would not be performing that evening as a result of an injury. We were a little disappointed but still where excited to see a musical in London, especially a musical neither of us had seen. The play was great, however, we didn’t know who Patrick Swayze’s character was supposed to be so we quickly checked the website (which I have linked) when we got home and he was supposed to play the character Nick Detroit. What was funny was that we though that the person who played that character the night we saw the performance was perfect! Oh well.

Friday was another busy day of running around for our last full day in London. We started at the London Museum, which chronicled London as an ever-changing area of human civilization all the way from ancient times to Modern times, and the challenges that London needed to face to become the Metropolis of 7 Million people that it is today. Probably another one of the places that was of high interest to me (being an Urban Studies Major) and a museum I’d like to tour again.

The rest of the day was spent touring two famous churches St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Temple Church of the Knight’s Templar. At St. Paul’s we climbed a lot of stairs to the top of the dome and I went even farther up to the stone gallery on the outside of the church but was greeted by the heavy London rain. After that, we descended down into one of the largest underground crypts in Europe and saw some famous tombs. The Temple Church we had to see since being fans of the great book The Da Vinci Code that now more than half the world has read and seen as a major motion picture. Lastly, we visited the National Portrait Gallery and then called it a day.

For dinner, we enjoyed some delicious Italian food, however, the service was the slowest I have experienced so far in Europe. That night, I packed and went to bed early.

Saturday morning I was up at 5:30 AM, and out the door to catch a train to Liverpool Street Station and back to the Airport to get back to Oslo. Thus ended the semester break and the much-needed visit with my mom.

After this post, I plan on posting my Mom's review of the British Museum (as stated above) and then hopefully later on in the week writing a summary of some of the big events that have taken place here in Oslo over the course of the program.

Stay tuned for more updates from Oslo