Donning our foul weather gear complete with Norwegian rain hats, we left the home port of Max’s Norwegian family to begin our 310-mile sail back to the Netherlands.
There were no surprises. We realized the passage would be a rough ride, but the winds were in the right direction (NNW). Additionally, we might not have had another favorable weather window for a while. The result? The now-typical experience of jostling seas.
With flexible watch schedules each of us napped during the day but not without sustenance as I fed the captain crackers slathered with peanut butter.
The better meal was partaking of the freshly caught salmon Oddbjoern gave us the day before, which made for several delicious meals.
I’d like to say this crossing was no different than the one to Norway earlier this summer, but my stomach didn’t quite see it that way starting the morning of the second day. This shouldn’t last too long as it was only a three-day passage with the promise of still water at Vlieland’s marina. At least that’s what I kept reminding myself
Three days of this:
because of that:
With a second reef in the main sail and no jib we still managed to average over 6 knots as we continued our push south.
Finally sun greeted us on the third morning, and the seas slowly lessened as we neared the Netherlands’ outer barrier islands.
Upon sighting the welcome dune-scape of Vlieland we noted a coast guard boat patrolling the area. Whenever we spot one of those on our AIS (Automatic Identification System displaying boats within a certain radii from us) we keep watch to see if they slow down.
Sure enough, this one reduced speed, stopped and lowered an inflatable, which then zoomed over to us for further inspection. (FYI: This is our third boarding in two years not counting the questioning over the radio by the Norwegian coast guard last year.)
Similar to the other times, the Dutch border control treated us with professional courtesy while examining our ship’s papers and our passports.
With a quick peek below they thanked us and hopped back on their craft to return to the mother ship.
Soon we were turning the corner and heading for the marina from which we left two months ago. And, I predicted fresh bodies, clothes, and boat… and a lovely salmon dinner awaited us with no harnesses necessary :)
Our last day in Norway turned out to be another amazing adventure; and, it all began with a simple postcard….
To find out just how amazing, the story unfolds in a letter Max sent to his immediate and extended family…
Our Norwegian Family
Where do I start to describe how lovely is the family we met in Norway. Just spectacular folks.
To briefly recap the Geneology, our great-great-grandfather Peter Christian Assersen (PCA) was born on the island of Midbrod on the SW coast of Norway. The last of twelve children, he left home fairly young and made his way to the US. He eventually became a Rear Admiral in the US Navy. But he never forgot his roots, and anytime a friend from Norway visited him in the US, he always asked about his family back home, and about an old girlfriend he once had, and always asked whether a teetering rock they had tried to roll down the mountain was still there.
PCA’s parents were Malene Rasmusdatter and Asser Johannessen (hence Peter took the last name “Asser-son though it’s spelled -sen here in Norway. And Malene’s father was named Rasmus Christensen, hence her last name Rasmusdatter – Rasmus’ daughter. To add further context, people sometimes took the name of the farm or island where they lived). There is quite a story about Malene – an adopted daughter – not marrying her foster brother as was the wish of the significant people in her life. Instead she blazed her own trail. (A trait that seems to run in the family!) Malena lived to age 102.
A “Malena Midbrod” is portrayed in a 1998 magazine article standing on the seashore holding a rifle with an accompanying article describing her heroics in the Napoleanic Wars. It’s not clear if this is PCA’s mother or grandmother, but it is definitely one of the family according to the local historian who wrote the article. In the early 1800s Norway got dragged into these wars. The Norwegians captured a British ship which was full of valuable rope and tar, and hid it amongst the islands around Midbrod. The British sent a powerful gunship to rescue it, but the English ship was too big for the shallow channels. So they sent their troops ashore in smaller boats. Many of the Midbrod men were out fishing, but Malena rallied enough of a force to take on the British troops and send them packing. So there is a Joan of Arc in the family (The article is in Norwegian so hopefully we’ll get it translated one day).
PCA had a daughter also named Malene, who married William B. Fletcher (who also became a Rear Admiral). He is my great-grandfather; Lynnie and I live in the house he purchased in the 1920s; and we named our boat “Juanona” after the gaff-rigged sloop he sailed for 30 or 40 years and which I sailed on as a young boy. It makes PCA seem not that very distant.
Fast forward to the last few weeks. Lynnie and I have just sailed from Holland to Norway, making landfall at Egersund, a town on the SW coast. I knew PCA was born on the nearby island of Midbrod and nothing else. Lynnie and I go to the local town office to see what we could find out about his life. The woman there sends us to the old church, thinking they might have some records. Their records didn’t go back far enough, but the woman graciously prints out the names and addresses of the four Assersens in the phone book.
We send four postcards, and lo and behold got a nice email back from one of the four. They weren’t related to us, but their daughter married someone who was. By then Lynnie and I had sailed further north, but we started communicating with the cousins and made plans to meet on our way back through. It was with considerable excitement that we awaited the family last Tuesday (July 12).
They arrived aboard “Juanona” with a tray of gingerbread and within ten minutes it felt like we had known them well, pretty much forever.
Bjorn Skadberg is one generation younger than me. His wife Sylvie Assersen Skadberg (and oddly enough, Sylvie doesn’t think she’s related to us) and their children Antonia and Kelly are the nicest folks you will meet. Due to our uncertainly with weather we had only given them a couple days notice of our arrival, but they both took a day off from work and planned a most memorable day for us. (Incidentally, they told me Norwegian family members travel to the US from time to time and they’ve always wondered if there any relatives around, so they are excited to make these connections too!)
Our first stop was to see the Lundardviken beach, where Malena had gone to clear her head after being thrown out of the family for failing to marry her foster brother as was the wish of her foster parents (they were their only children, and marrying each other would have preserved the family house and given each child some economic security).
Next we met up with Bjorn’s father, 78 year old Oddbjorn Skadberg, a most wonderful gentleman who still fishes and occasionally tends the lighthouse, and who remembers a lot of the family history. Oddbjorn has done winter fishing in the Lofotens, north of the Arctic Circle, where he sometimes had to sleep in his boat with no heat, and otherwise impresses me as someone with a toughness that you don’t find much anymore – but with a very gentle soul. He and I share a common grandmother five generations back.
We drove to the lot where the PCA’s childhood house once stood.
And then to the house where PCA’s mother lived with her foster parents, and from which she was thrown out.
Incidentally, Midbrod Island is stunning, and it’s a Unesco geological park as it contains the same rock as is found on the moon. This hill, named Lunnarviken after the rock, was PCA’s childhood playground.
Next we went to a house now owned by Tonnes Tonnesen, who is another cousin. The house has been in the family since the 1600s and it could be a museum, with many original artifacts, as well as being chock full of maritime photos and memorabilia.
One picture shows one of our ancestors (in the lower right) and the crew from a rowing race. They had to row all the way from Midbrod to Bergen, a distance of about 130 miles, just to get to the starting line. They then proceeded to win the race, from Bergen to Haugesund, something like 65 miles. I don’t think they were rowing modern, lightweight shells. Like I said, people grow up tough around here!
Unbeknownst to us Bjorn and Sylvie and OddBjorn had planned a picnic. But first we took a trip in Oddbjorn’s fishing boat – the same one he had shipped on a freight train to the Lofoten fishing grounds.
We visited the lighthouse, completed in 1854, that young PCA had helped haul the bricks for. You can’t imagine how many bricks it would take to build this, and then the whole thing was encased in a protective cast iron frame. The winter storms are brutal around here, but it looks like this lighthouse will stand for many more years.
Oddbjorn has served as lighthouse keeper on occasion, and had a key to let us inside. Climbing the steps you pass by a small window with a long vertical shaft leading far below. Before electricity the lighthouse keeper had to manually wind up a mechanism to keep the light turning – like a giant grandfather clock. At the top we found not only magnificent views, but we got a ride on the turning light itself.
Next was a cookout with hot dogs, lamb, and salmon caught that day by Oddbjorn and finely seasoned by Sylvie. The two daughters are Antonia (L) and Kelly (R). Antonia is about to enter senior year and hopes to study geology. Kelly is a few years younger, and both are lovely young women.
We also learned that Oddbjorn was giving us another salmon for our upcoming passage to Holland.
We ended the day at their lovely home north of Egersund, where Bjorn has a couple antique cars in very good condition.
Finally, this area being blessed with fertile soil, fresh water, and easy access to the ocean, it became an important Viking stronghold. Right across the street from their house is a field still known as “Fighting Island.” Vikings sometimes settled disputes by tying the arms of two warriors together, giving them each a weapon in the other hand and letting them go at it.
There are Viking remnants all over the place, including a nearby site only recently discovered – with large fire pits suggesting an important gathering place for the Vikings.
I can’t begin to tell you how special it was to make this connection with our Norwegian family. Lynnie and I will almost certainly be sailing back to Norway next summer, so will be seeing them again. And we are hoping to host them in the US anytime they are there.
All I can say is thank you to everyone who has befriended two American sailors with such warmth. How can we not fall in love with your countries?
After our stop at Utstein Kloster, we leisurely motor-sailed down a beautiful waterway called the Mastrafjorden to meet up with Paul whom we had surprisingly connected with in Skudneshavn two weeks earlier. Approaching the harbor to Norway’s 4th-largest city we spotted the oil rig we’d seen walking across the water a few days prior. Yes, believe it or not (and, at first I didn’t when Max exclaimed it was moving) this behemoth mechanical contraption can self-propel by virtue of the two underwater pods it floats upon, and travels at a surprisingly high speed.
Not really a surprise to see it sitting in Stavanger’s waters considering this city became the base for Statoil, Norway’s ticket to prosperity beginning over four decades ago. And, there’s a stunning museum documenting this Norwegian fortune.
There’s actually a marina in front of the Norse Oljemueum Museum (Petroleum Museum); and, it was our rendezvous point with Paul;
but, checking out the docking we found it a bit too tight for JUANONA due to the holiday boaters. Paul said the Stavanger Sailing Club across the harbor was a good alternative, so we motored over and located a perfect spot for our weekend visit.
And, from that point forward we were in the hands of our gracious host. Whisking us to his house, we had a delicious dinner of sea trout (which I had mistakenly thought was salmon and was just as delectable), baked potatoes (a rarity for us due to amount of propane it takes to cook them) and asparagus. Then, a Maine campfire treat
marshmallows! The first of our summer season :)
Due to the hour we ended up staying at Paul’s where I had also been tempted to catch up on laundry after he suggested we bring it with us.
Saturday, July 9
The sun shined in a warm blue sky and we were off to a tour of Stavanger. Like many of the cities we’ve visited in Norway, Stavanger existed as a fishing village, eventually building a cathedral in the early 12th-century. In 1425 the king Eric III (1381/82-1459) made Stavanger a market town, a designation benefiting the local populace through monopolistic trading privileges and the government by providing an easy way to capture taxes on goods and services, while building a population center for defense. Yet, it wasn’t until herring flooded the offshore waters in the 19th-century that this town began its climb to wealth.
But the real ride to riches began with striking oil in 1969, prompted by the discovery of gas ten years earlier at Groningen. The Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) became the Fort Knox for this country as more oil was found in subsequent drilling, the first being Ekofisk, the largest offshore oil field at that time, discovered by Phillips Petroleum.
One of the smartest moves of Norway was proclaiming that the King – basically, the government – was in charge of the natural resources. In 1972 Statoil came into existence, with the country as its sole owner. Another strategy was the contractual agreement that Norway would own 50% of each production license awarded to individual companies.
But, it can be difficult to handle an explosion of immediate riches, and, not surprisingly, Norway suffered from this ‘boom’ mentality; yet, they learned from their mistakes, and in 1990 the country established the Government Pension Fund. In 1996 the fund’s first deposit ($200 million) was paid into its coffers, growing to what now is $870 billion, the world’s largest sovereign fund. The purpose is to provide financial security for current and future generations even when the oil runs dry. Such a wise decision that sadly, oh-so-few countries even contemplate. (Interestingly, this year Saudi Arabia announced a $2 trillion investment in a similar fund to wean its country off of oil dependence by 2020. I wonder how transparent management will be of that fund.)
To gain an overview of this vital Norwegian industry we began our tour at the Norse Oljemuseum. Paul, being a geologist, became our expert guide. He obviously was a frequent visitor to the Museum since he was greeted by name by the staff with one of them being his pupil in the Master’s program he teaches at the local university.
As we wove our way through numerous exhibits, we learned about the various drill bits used
(some looking like a sci-fi creature that chased Sigourney Weaver in ALIENS),
the coatings of pipes (one of Paul’s recommendations),
the various platforms pumping the oil – some sitting on the seabed
and some floating,
even seeing how men actually worked in a bubble waaaaay below the surface (no, thank you very much).
However, one of the more interesting exhibits featured the evolution of non-corrupt use of all this money pouring in, the sovereign fund mentioned earlier. Not only is it the world’s largest but also the most transparent. If only other governments would use this model. Dream on.
The fund may have seen its peak years because the government actually withdrew monies for the first time in 2016. And, thanks to pressure from environmental groups the directors also began divesting the fund of coal companies this year based on a 2014 strategy. Another decision was to use some of the fund for environmental investments.
After lunch we completed our tour with a walk-through of a simulated oil platform complete with a marvelous invention of an effective and low-cost escape tube, which I was tempted to try but didn’t want to get stuck in.
The next stop was another small harbor where the herring fishery dominated in the 1800s; and, we also spotted random imprints of some Noble Peace Prize-winners’ feet (this guy, a social activist, ‘pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance’). A bit more impressive than those of stars’ hands in Hollywood.
Right on this plaza stood the Domkirken or cathedral whose first bishop was an Englishman from Winchester in the 1100s.
A fire destroyed the cathedral in 1272 resulting in a rebuild with additions throughout the centuries
with a magnificently pulpit carved and painted in the North German baroque style by Andrew Smith, a Scottish immigrant in the 1658, reminding me of the one we saw at Utstien Kloster.
Along the walls were wealthy families’ memorials. The one below illustrates how the artist managed to portray each person as an individual, versus all having the same expressions; and, he had a lot of opportunity considering this guy and his wife had over 16 kids.
(I had to laugh when I clicked on this photo in my photo program… :)
A short trip up the hill took us to a street that could have been from a small country village yet existed in the middle of an urban landscape. This was where those involved in the herring industry had lived and worked, and now is part of Stavanger’s historical preservation.
We had been driving around in Paul’s electric car, which was fascinating to see how easy it was to plug in for recharging at parking spots.
There’s a huge incentive to drive these cars: no 100% excise tax on the purchase like other vehicles have; free parking regardless of where you’re parked in Norway; and, no tolls (although on ferries you pay for the passengers). Plus, there’s a good infrastructure of charging stations (Paul’s needs to do so every 100-150 miles). With a pledge to ban all gas-powered vehicles by 2025 this country already has managed to migrate 25% of drivers to Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs), which included hybrids (PHEVs).
Norway is also encouraging people to cycle more, and we saw evidence of that infrastructure off of a bike path. In the background behind the first tree you can just make out a digital sign that informs passing cyclists of his/her speed and other stats. In the foreground is a great little mechanical shop for emergency bike repairs.
But, the purpose of this stop wasn’t the biking but the 1983 monument honoring the Battle of Hafrsfjord fought and won by Hakon Harfagre (Harold the Fair Hair) in 890 (some say 872), uniting three different districts under one king. These bronze swords stood approximately 30-feet tall, which you can’t necessary tell from this photo; but, as Paul indicated, this was a much more dramatic view.
With a brief stop at an early settlement of Stavanger dating from the iron age we headed back to Paul’s for a meal Max cooked and an early bedtime in preparation for Sunday’s hike.
Sunday, July 10
Up and out we left for Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock, a hike we had been planning on doing since landing in this part of Norway. Along the way we stopped at the small dock where Paul keeps his boat (about 30-40 minutes from his home)
then continued via ferry where both Paul and I thought one of the attendants looked a heck of lot like Christopher Lloyd in the movie BACK TO THE FUTURE.
Arriving at our destination amidst the carloads and busloads of other hikers and visitors we found ourselves in a drenching rain storm. Thankfully a lodge served up excellent coffee as we waited out the deluge.
However, it never cleared up
so we decided to shelved the hiking plans and opted for a leisurely drive back to Stavanger. Fine by me considering the thought of being so high up with practically a 2,000-ft drop straight to the fjord below makes my palms sweat, especially with a bunch of other hikers crowding the path to/from and the ‘pulpit’ being a slab with no guard rails as one of the numerous tourist photos shows:
On our drive Paul introduced us to some beautiful lakes nestied in Norway’s mountain valleys, scenic and serene pools of water just begging for some quiet perusing via a small boat or, in today’s weather, sitting in a cabin with a cozy fire.
We also enjoyed hearing about the geological formation of this magnificent country. Bringing to mind our friend Joanne who’s also a geologist, Paul would recount the stories these rocks tell; and, like Joanne, being a natural teacher, Paul’s explanations were fascinating. I tried to retain as much as possible with Max, I believe, being the better student.
Regardless of the history in the rocks, the fjord and landscape were spectacular; and, Paul kindly took a picture of us enjoying the day and company.
Returning to Stavanger we invited Paul for a sleep-over aboard JUANONA as well as joining us for dinner with a fellow Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) member, Eoin Robson, who also served as the OCC port captain for Stavanger. (FYI: For anyone who’s planning on/doing/done some blue water boating OCC is a wonderful organization.)
Having met Eoin at the OCC annual meeting in England last spring we looked forward to having him aboard. His story of applying for the British Royal Navy made my stomach ache from so much laughing. Just as an example, during one of the initial interviews (there are numerous steps one has to go through in order to join this military branch) he was asked by the interviewer about his family household–how many, their ages and occupation.
Well, when Eoin got to the last family member, his over-100-year-old grandmother, he was a bit startled when the interviewer asked one of the absolutely stupidiest questions I’ve heard, and I realize no question is supposedly stupid, but I have to say this one comes might close: ‘And, what, may I ask, is her occupation?’
Just writing this I have to laugh imaging Eoin’s expression hearing those words uttered by what should be an intelligent person. After realizing that, yes, he had heard correctly, Eoin responded ‘retired’. :)
Monday, July 11
Next morning Paul left saying he’d see us in Tanager, only a 25-minute drive from Stavanger and a wee bit longer by boat. We found a spot at the marina where another sailor helped us dock, did a quick provisioning stop, then had Paul stop in for dinner.
It was another early night for the next day we were off to another adventure with a hint given below… :)
With a fond farewell to Elisabeth and Gunnar and a photo he took from their deck over the weekend (JUANONA’s in the third slip from the end on the middle pontoon with the blue mainsail cover)
we left Os with a wee bit of rain (nothing our Norwegian rain hats couldn’t handle)
for an anchorage at a nearby island, a favorite of many cruisers, Norwegian and foreign alike. This would be our first anchorage in Norway this summer, actually our first anchorage in 2016. Unlike last year’s cruising when dropping the hook far outnumbered mooring at a town quay or in a marina, the majority of this spring and summer involved fenders and dock lines vs. anchor chain.
For me, there’s always a wee bit of anxiety attached to the first anchoring of a season. Thankfully, though, it is a bit like riding a bike: the procedure does come back handily once I stare at all the bits and pieces, mentally reviewing the steps.
And, all went well when three hours later we entered and plopped the anchor down in an idyllic cove at Lysoen. A small motorboat hanging off a buoy left soon after we arrived leaving us the sole occupant in this mini-paradise.
This island, though, offers more than a lovely spot for sitting at anchor. It also happens to be the former summer home of violinist Ole Bull (1810-1880). He along with Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)–whom Bull encouraged to attend the Leipzig Conservatory at age 15–are considered two of Norways most famous composers.
With a footpath leading from the water’s edge we easily found our way to Bull’s summer home, one he constructed in 1872 and named his ‘Little Alhambra’ with its own moorish tower.
There’s some discussion regarding Bull’s musical technique but there’s no question regarding this artist’s talent (he played solos with the Bergen Harmonic Society at age 9) and the love he felt for his country and its folk music. Touring extensively throughout Europe and the United States he entertained thousands. In one season (1836-37) he played 274 concerts in England and Iceland!
In addition to his music Bull experimented with establishing a Norwegian settlement, called Oleana, in Pennsylvania where he had purchased over 11,000 acres in 1852; the settlement didn’t last mostly due to his lack of business acumen.
However, he did end up spending many of his last winters in the States after marrying for a second time an American, Sara Chapman Torp (1815-1911), in 1868. She was devoted to him and was with him when he died at Lysoen, where they would return each summer.
Interestingly, I also discovered they had ties to Maine. They spent the summer of 1871 in West Lebanon, Maine, and it’s where their only child together, a daughter Olea Bull (1871-1911), was born and his grandaughter, Sylvia Bull Curtis (1907-1988) lived. Furthermore, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a friend and used Bull as the fictional narrator in Longfellow’s “The Saga of King Olaf” written in 1863.
The young tour guide did an excellent job conveying pertinent details about Bull as we walked through the several rooms open for display:
the main living area, where they still hold concerts,
and his small bedroom with a view to the mainland.
We easily could have spent more time peering at photographs and the artifacts Bull had collected over the years, but the guide ushered us through quite quickly and before we knew it we were being led to the exit; however, we did stop in the gift shop where another young guide, who also knew an amazing amount of information about Bull, graciously answered questions as we poked about.
Leaving the house we picked one of the many paths ribboning this small island returning for our fourth of July, celebratory meal: ribs and a bottle of red wine :) All at this gorgeous anchorage.
Tuesday, July 5
A beautiful, still morning and lilting birdsong greeted us as we rose causing us to ponder: to go or not to go?
To give you and idea of how perfect it was sitting at anchor, below is one photo, rightside up and upside down:
(The top one is the upside-down version :)
But, as tempting as it was, there were other places we wanted to explore. We turned on the thank-god-we-have-one windlass (a motor in the anchor locker), which began winching up the chain attached to our oversized, 55 lb Rocna anchor and where we found a surprise gift at the end.
We recognized it as one the little fishing nets used by children catching sea critters, such as crabs. Deciding it would be a nice gift for some little tyke, we hauled it out of the water and stowed it for a future give-away.
Our next island was Sotra where we planned to dock at Kleppavika in order to visit a museum we had read about in our guidebook.
For anyone who doesn’t know the history of the Shetland islands and Norway during WW II, I highly recommend the book THE SHETLAND BUS by David Howarth. Thanks to the recommendation of fellow cruisers Max and I read this book last summer, and both of us were amazed at what occurred along this coastline during those years.
The author, who oversaw the British side of the operations, tells of the heroic feats performed by many Norwegian fishermen in ferrying refuges out and resistance fighters in to Norway… during the fall/winter (!)/spring. With the Germans, including the SS, occupying the cities and towns, you can imagine how careful one had to be when trying to sabotage the enemies’ positions. And, the horrific consequences if caught.
Televag, a town on Sotra, did pay the price for a foiled resistance plot.
Briefly, Lauritz Telle, a 63-year-old fisherman, and his son Lars participated in the Shetland Bus operations beginning in 1940, just after Norway was invaded by the Germans. All worked well until April 26, 1942, when the Germans led by two officers arrived at the Telle’s home. They’d been alerted by an undercover agent for the Gestapo that the Telle residence was a safe house for people planning to escape/infiltrate the German occupation.
What the officers found were two secret agents, recently arrived, asleep upstairs.
A fire fight ensued with one of the agents and two of the Nazi officers being killed.
In retribution the Gestapo took Lauritz, his wife Marat and their 13-year-old son to Bergen. There they were interrogated and tortured. Lars and 18 other men thought to be involved with the clandestine activity were taken to a camp in Oslo. All other men from Televag between the ages of 16 and 60 were marched down to a ship for eventual transportation to Sachenhausen, a concentration camp outside of Berlin.
A prisoner’s camp outside of Bergen is where the remaining women and children were sent. (Of the 60-70 men transported to the concentration camp, approximately 50% died along with another 18 randomly executed at another camp.)
Then, Televag was destroyed. Completely. Similar to the burning of the town in France, Oradour-sur-Glane, which we visited with my sister Betsy in December 2014. Being so near to a connection with the history that had awed us when reading Howarth’s book, we felt we should see this village.
Arriving just an hour from Lysoen we found a spot along one of the quays in the small harbor then began looking for a way to reach the other side of the island where Televag’s North Sea Maritime Museum was located.
With no wifi and no one about to tell us of any public transportation we began walking to the main road where we hoped to either spot a bus stop or hitch a ride. We found one bus stop but no posted schedule.
Realizing we could be waiting for hours and knowing it was about seven miles, we started walking. Our strategy was to hop from one bus stop to the next with one person always standing at a stop while the other one caught up, giving us two opportunities to hail a passing bus while making our way on foot.
And, we lucked out by catching a bus, and then some: after telling us we needed to change buses to reach our final destination, the bus driver then said she was going off duty and would be happy to drive us to the museum since it’d be another two hours between buses!
Her name was Hildegunn Telle, and she was delightful. Once again we mentally shook our heads at the kindness shown to us, two strangers, by these warm Norwegian folk. Makes one believe the world can be okay if only we practiced such acts of acceptance. If only.
On the drive over Hildegunn told us her Grandfather had been sent to Sachenhausen and her father had been interned In Bergen. Other family members were also affected.
The museum was small but offered a detailed account of the event and the effect on the islanders. In addition to the Televag tragedy, the North Sea Maritime Museum also featured others who were part of the Shetland Bus resistance movement, such as Leif Larson. And, there was a room for anyone interested in researching this part of Norway’s history.
Later we also heard from the young museum receptionist that his grandfather had been executed by the Nazis. Stark memories and family history so immediate to this small island village.
As we stood outside the museum and looked out over the town of Televag (the Telle’s house was located on the other side of the harbor)
and later walked to sites where homes once existed, it was difficult to imagine the horror and sorrow that occurred in such a beautiful spot. And, in the event one forgot, a memorial listed the names of those men who were murdered . We noticed quite a few “Telles” who must have been related to Hildegunn. Another sobering jolt.
Timing our visit with the return bus schedule we headed back to JUANONA and an early night contemplating the courage of those who stood up to noxious bullies.
Wednesday, July 6
From horror to whimsical we continued our sail south, this time to an island noted for a different type of visitor… aliens.
We had a wonderful sail under bright sun, then threaded our way into a small harbor we found one of the few places to moor. With the wind behind us, the docking was a bit tricky; but, with the help of the other boat on the quay, we quickly tied up and hopped off to search for the UFO site.
Thirty minutes later we found ourselves in the opening where SUPPOSEDLY an alien spacecraft landed, marking a circle that EVIDENTLY never goes away.
Of course, a rumor has it that school children are marched out there during the spring and help keep the grass down.
As much as I believe in ETs, I think human feet tracing the circle is a wee bit more believable than aliens landing.
And, I think others feel the same way, especially when seeing some of the other sights here…
On a much more sobering note, we saw yet another reminder of the sacrifice these islanders made during WW II we we walked back to JUANONA.
Thursday, July 7
Sailing back through the Karmsundet (the “North Way” channel for which Norway is named) and our next, and last, Norwegian anchorage. And, yes, I love it :)
Max tried his hand at fishing (but with no luck),
so it was another boat meal (usually means part, if not all, comes from cans and dried goods… and, they’re pretty good. I just don’t look at the meat , if we’re adding it, when it comes out of the can…)
Friday, July 8
Another sunny morning, which meant I could partake of another one of my favorite activities: lounging in a quiet anchorage with a book and java :)
But, we wanted to get to Stavanger where we had arranged to meet up with Paul, our Maine friend whom we met serendipitously when first heading north two weeks earlier.
As we were hauling up the anchor a small skiff came by, and we started talking. We discovered he had befriended some American sailors a few summers ago who had also anchored here. Come to find out it was Ernest Godshalk whom we knew through sailing circles.
Dag, who had his summer cabin nearby and had been checking his crab pots, invited us up for coffee. We so would have loved to have joined him but had to leave. However, we said we’d most likely be back next summer and hoped to see him then. Yet, another reason to return to this marvelous country.
Before we reached Stavanger where Paul lived we stopped to visit another site, Utstein Kloster, a medieval abbey sited on a former royal residence of King Hakaon Harfagre (the Fairhair guy). (He was the one who united Norway after the Battle of Harsfjord in 872.)
We pulled into a harbor where we’d read we could dock in front of a hotel. After a bit of scratching our heads pondering exactly where we could dock (the place was completely empty of boats and people), we took our chances, tied up and then found someone who said we could stay there as the hotel was closed for the season.
Then, we began the one-mile walk to the abbey where it was primarily just us and the sheep. We also saw that sheep rule the road as one visitor slowed to a crawl behind an unperturbed sheep.
Coming up over a slight rise we saw the abbey, and it was as if we’d stepped back in time. Sitting in pastoral splendor, it looked out over green hills and the water.
The monks were of the Augustinian Order and most likely came from Britain and Denmark. Since the exact date of when Utstein Kloster became an abbey is unknown, historians think it may have been when another abbey, Halsnoy, was founded in the mid-12th century. Whatever the date, the place is beautiful.
Again, we were only one of five or so folk wandering around, which allowed us to absorb the peacefulness as we gazed at our surroundings. I wish I could express how taken I was with this site. I don’t know if it was the solitude in which we toured or just the loveliness of the buildings and setting, but imagine finding oneself at peace with the world and this is it.
Entering the church via the tower (which was centrally located), we looked to the east towards the Nave
and then west towards the Chancel.
A 17th-century, elaborately painted pulpit stood off to one side,
and from there we walked through the chapter house, the medieval kitchen and the two eating halls, one for monks and the other for the servants.
Of course there were holes in the ancient stone walls that required an inspection…
and then a more complete one.
They believe only 12 monks and 14 or so staff actually resided here, yet it was a very profitable estate. The monks made medicinal herbs as well as ink and colors for their manuscripts. The lay brethren handled the food crops (fruit and vegetables) along with hemp and flax. And, there must have been sheep from the looks of how they tend to roam the lands now.
The richness and subsequent power of the abbey created a rivalry between the abbot of Utstein and the Bishop of Stavanger (nearby town/city). This resulted in the abbot being seized and imprisoned by the Bishop’s soldiers while the abbey was robbed in 1515. Almost 50 years later the abbey was robbed again by “the Pirate”, Christoffer Tronsson Rustung.
Until 1700 Danish kings used the estate to reward various noblemen who rarely visited it. The abbey came back to life when Johan Frimann from Bergen purchased it, and his grandson, Christopher Garmann (1720-1779), modernized the building, converting the 2nd floor into elegant living quarters, which we also toured.
Eventually, the family had to sell land to maintain the property until the Depression after WWI when they sold the abbey buildings and the park within the abbey walls. However, a female descendent now owns one of the largest farms in SW Norway; and, we, as tourists, can walk where monks oh so long ago trod. Pretty neat, eh? Another reason to explore this part of Norway.
A look around the exterior to show the scale of these walls, my serving as the pencil,
we walked back to JUANONA for the sail down to Stavanger. But, not without an inner sigh of leaving such a peaceful oasis. A peace of heaven.
A repeat of the day before with catching the bus and heading back to Bergen for more exploring, this time the KODE.
Many of Bergen’s art museums are on the south side of Lille Lungegardsvann (a beautiful oasis in the town center, which the previous day we strolled by under blue skies).
Today, though, we quickly sprinted through rain after grabbing some fresh, scone-type pastries for breakfast (like road trips and passages, morning bus or train trips serve as my excuse to splurge on some food items… a life-long habit instilled, no doubt, as a toddler on our family’s 11-hour car rides north to Nana’s house and carefully nurtured over the years. And, yes, we had managed to feast on those pastries the day before :)
The Bergen Kunstmuseum, or KODE, houses three main collections in two buildings:
Vestlandets Nasjonalgalleri (Vestlandet’s National Gallery), a collection of 19th- and 20th-century Norwegian and European visual art;
the Stenerson Collection featuring modern art including work by Picasso, Miro, Klee, and, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (Rolf Stenerson was a personal friend of Munch’s);
the Rasmus Meyer Collection showcasing Scandinavian artists between 1760 and 1915.
With our 48-hour Bergen Card (good deal for visiting multiple sites) we entered the first building we came to, which featured the first two collections mentioned above. So began my immersion into some beautiful and interesting art.
And, I have to put a caveat here: If I have identified any of the following paintings incorrectly, please let me know. Honest! I won’t take offense!
In spite of my love of art, I’m a neophyte with regards to any formal education about it. The downside of this approach to perusing fine art museums is not having any background in which to understand the artist’s approach. However, the upside is there’s always the thrill of yet-undiscovered creativity awaiting me whenever I step into the art world. Walking into theses galleries of Scandinavian painters offered yet another opportunity to be entertained and intrigued. But, I’ll try to refrain from going on and on, like I can, when it comes to art museums…
Our first exploring took us to one of Norway’s most famous artists, Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928), who also happens to be a particular favorite of Elisabeth’s (of Elisabeth and Gunnar). We discovered later they had a personal connection to this artist since Gunnar grew up around Jolster, the artist’s native village.
But, before we explore Astrup’s work I’ll mention “The Big Three”, some Norwegian artists who influenced him along with many others during the late 1800s and early 1900s. (FYI: before I knew these as the big kahunas in Norwegian art, I had been drawn to their work, taking photos of their paintings and only later reading about who they were, so I understand why they earned that designation.)
Harriet Backer (1857-1914), a painting instructor…
Christian Krohg (1852-1925), a principal of the national art academy…
and, Eric Werenskiold (1855-1938), a popular illustrator of Norwegian folktales.
Now, back to Astup…
Unlike so many pretentious write-ups of museum art causing me to mutter under my breath while figuratively–sometimes literally–rolling my eyes skyward, this curator wrote refreshingly direct explanations of an artist’s work. The curator described Astrup as one who “positioned himself between two opposing art movements of the period: academic landscape painting and modernism’s focus on the artist’s individual impression of nature. His aim was to to create art that was genuinely felt–and imbued with human atmosphere”.
Astrup believed “an artist should see nature as a child would”. Interestingly, when gazing at Astrup’s paintings I noticed the landscape first and then spotted a human figure.
I particularly liked his woodblock prints.
His still-life interiors, not as much as the others.
But, art is subjective, and I only see it through my eyes.
Not many artists received recognition early in their careers or, for that matter, when living; but, Astrup did. Invited by Erik Werenskiold to participate at a Norwegian Art Exhibition in Copenhagen, Astrup was identified “as one of the most promising artists of the younger generation”.
This information along with other factual nuggets, such as his being a student of Harriet Backer’s, were featured in a timeline.
Another interesting tidbit was his trip to London to study John Constable’s art. Constable lived in the Ipswich area where we’ve been wintering the past two years; and, several times we had been to a local exhibit of his landscape paintings. Love that ‘world-is-a-small-ball’ discovery :)
Leaving Astrup, we each began exploring other rooms. I wandered into one featuring “Norway’s first world-class painter”, J.C. Dahl (1788-1857). His romantic view of his country’s landscapes are said to have influenced today’s current marketing of Norway as a tourist destination.
Conscious of an appointment Max and I had made, I fast-tracked through numerous other rooms, stopping here and there when a painting caught my eye, either due to the artwork or the artist’s name. I’ll run through some of these quickly stating the reason why I snapped the picture:
Because of her expression…. By the Swiss-born German painter Anton Graff (1736-1813) and purchased by J.C. Dahl in 1833. Evidently “in female portraits, Graff emphasized the woman’s decolletage, that is, her cleavage” [See what I mean about the museum’s curator(s) being plain-speaking? Got to love it :)]
Recognized the artist’s name… By the German painter Lucas van Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) who also did portraits of his friend Martin Luther and whose works we saw in Wittenberg, Germany, in Fall 2014 (another small-ball-world connection).
The possible story-telling found in each vignette… By Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634), a Dutch painter whose detailed capturing of little vignettes appears similar to the allegorical vignettes we’ve seen by the father-son painters, Pieter Brueghel the Elder and the Younger.
Thought we had seen his work in the Frans Hall Museum in Haarlem, but checking later, that painting was by Pieter Saenredam (1597-1665)… By Hendrik van Steenwijk the Elder (1580-1649 ), a Flemish Baroque painter of architectural interiors, and whose work we had seen in Haarlem.
The expressive tilt of her head… By Pietro Rotari (1701-1762), an Italian artist whose patrons included royalty such as Catherine II of Russia.
Intrigued by whatever event was unfolding here even though I couldn’t read the Norwegian… By Norwegian artist, Adolph Tidermann (1814-1876)
Two collections featured work by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Only knowing Munch’s famous “The Scream” painting, I enjoyed seeing more of his art and learning a bit about his background (such as taking instruction from Christian Krohg, one of those Big Three mentioned earlier in this post).
Like many artists he explored various techniques while his focus changed from “painting external reality to depicting moods and psychological depth.”
Both Max and I ended up selecting a favorite of what was exhibited.
Mine simply due to his choice of colors and reminding me of a picture I remembered from childhood
Max’s because the tree’s form reminded him of the hand’s holding the head in “The Scream”.
A few others artists’ work caught my eye in this collection:
I had read how this artist and his wife (Frieda Kahlo) were involved with the Leon Trotsky during his exile from Russia By Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
I was drawn, again, by the color, only this time due to the stormy strokes By Danish artist Asger Jorn (19114-1973)
At this point we needed to meet someone at one of the museum’s cafes several doors down; and, how this came about was due to our meeting Marit back in Rosendahl (she’s the one we said good-bye to on the pontoon when we left for Os).
In that post I had mentioned she and Even had some friends aboard, one of whom had written a book marrying poetry and knitting. In mentioning I was interested in seeing her book, Marit put me in touch via email with the author, who lived in Bergen. Which is how Max and I came to meet Irene Nygardsvik.
With a background and career in finance, Irene found herself questioning the role of creativity in successful businesses. During the next hour we discussed the evolution of her book, WORD BY WORD, ROW BY ROW.
In addition to her writing, her knitted throws are lovely in their blend of colors and simple elegance. She could sell those along with her book, as has been suggested by others as well!
Meeting her was yet another gift during our Norwegian summer, one we’ll fondly remember. Plus, her book is gorgeous (http://www.spekulatoriet.org).
After an hour we left, she for home and Max and I for one more quick dash into Munch’s world.
Knowing we could spend tons more time but aware, too, of needing to get back to JUANONA, we retraced our steps back to Os where we had a totally unexpected surprise.
We had kept in touch with Gunnar and Elisabeth with Gunnar stopping by later early evening. He arrived with a ribbon-tied bag, handing it to us as he stepped aboard.
As we unwrapped it, he said this was the most natural gift to give someone visiting Os.
And, we were stunned. It was one of those lovely, ceramic boats by the Scottish artist whose gallery we had visited several days before.
What could we say? I think I can speak for both Max and me in that we were speechless. All we could do was say they must come to Maine to see their gift hanging in our home.
And, it’s not that we have such a beautiful reminder of our time in Norway. It’s ever so much more. Our time here was magical, one we’ll never forget.
For yachties Bergen is a lovely harbor to sail into; however, we’d heard from several other cruisers that it’s also a huge party place, especially on the weekends. One boat said they had people stomping over their boat throughout the night and wee hours of the morning while blasting music in spite of quietly asking them to turn it down a bit at 3:00am. The response was even more galavanting across their deck and increasing the volume of their music.
So, we were extremely glad not to be experiencing that, especially since we never would have met Elisabeth and Gunnar in Os if we had continued sailing to Bergen.
The bus was an easy jaunt where we met a woman who had brought her dog aboard. When I said he looked a bit tired, she said he was missing his morning sleep. The pup just rolled his eyes at me then soon slumbered off.
We managed to get some sun when we first landed in Bergen (a rarity as we discovered it is true that you’ll get two days of rain for every one day of sun here). Immediately we walked to the Tourist Information (TI) office and became part of the crowd of tourists inquiring about sites, bus routes, and special events. We purchased the Bergen Pass, opting for the 48-hour one, which would cover our planned two-days sight-seeing.
Bergen was founded in 1070 c.e. by the King of Norway, Olav Kyrre, who happened to be the son of King Harold Hadrada who died in England at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. Nestled into an arm of a small fjord it was the largest town in the late 11th century and the capital of a region encompassing Iceland, Greenland, and parts of Scotland (the Shetland Islands use to be part of Norway, which is why some say it’s more Norwegian than Scottish).
Thanks to the exporting of the incredible resource of stockfish (what we saw drying and stacked in pile upon pile in Lofotens last summer)
Bergen continued to prosper even after Oslo became the capital in 1299. And, it was this rich trading period that became our focus during our first day in this city.
We made a beeline for the Bryggen (Wharf) Area across the harbor from the Tourist Office.
Here the medieval German enclave was built by and for the German traders representing the wealthy Hanseatic League (aka Hansa, which comes from the Gothic word for ‘gang’ or ‘band or men’). I was eager to learn more about this merchant guild after our spring touring of some of the Netherlands’ ports featuring the Dutch East India Company, the Hansa’s rival and later successor in monopolistic trade.
The Hanseatic League formed out of German merchants’ desire for safe shipping routes while negotiating favorable importing/exporting pacts with key towns and cities. Bruges, London, and Bergen became prominent trading posts or Kontors with local rulers agreeing to grant the Hansa special privileges.
For example, in 1266 Henry II allowed the Hansa to trade at fairs throughout England while giving those merchants toll-free access to London. Of course the favoritism shown to these foreign merchants irritated their English peers; and, in 1597 Elizabeth the First expelled the League from London; but, that’s after 300 years of surely a sizable profit for the Hansa guys.
With foreign rulers insisting on segregating the Hansa merchants, these German enclaves became their own little city-states with lodging, churches and warehouses all following strict guidelines established by the guild: the ‘Law of Lubeck’ (Lubeck, a German city, became the dominant player in the league by the late 13th century, overtaking the town of Visby located on the Gotland Peninsula.)
We wandered through Bergen’s Hanseatic neighborhood, where we saw their church, St. Mary’s,
and obtained a sense of how these ex-pats lived in Bergen, absorbing the medieval atmosphere.
We peered skyward as we walked through the narrow alleys separating the trading houses, all crammed together facing the harbor. Today they’ve been renovated and/or rebuilt, but even with a great coat of paint, I’d get claustrophobic.
Part of the trade pact with the city’s ruler prohibited the German traders from fraternizing with the locals except when negotiating deals. Additionally, they were prohibited from bringing their girlfriends, wives or families to live with them in this foreign outpost. Talk about a tough winter…
As an all-male population the schotstuene or assembly room became the focal point for all sorts of activities. Functioning as a gathering place, the schotstuene served as a dining hall, place of festivities, an office, a court, and a school for the apprentices.
In Bergen we toured one of these establishments comprised of original and reconstructed buildings where Germans congregated during the Hanseatic years for approximately 400 years beginning in 1360.
Yucky initiations occurred here as well with the poor newbies, i.e., apprentices, hazed by the older members during the “Games”. One of these initiations involved hanging the apprentices upside down over a smoking fire where tanning waste (from curing hides) were being burnt. Sounds horrific, but, there’s more: As these poor lads were suspended head down, the better to inhale the foul smoke, they had to answer questions while being beaten.
We saw the room where this occurred. Nice, huh?
The schotstuene was a popular place to congregate because it also was the only building where an open flame was allowed in the entire enclave (!). (Like most towns and cities in Norway, Bergen had a history of going up in flames multiple times over the centuries due to their timbered structures.) This meant the trading houses and warehouses where the merchants, their journeymen or overseers, and apprentices worked and slept did so without the benefit of candles or heat. And, no, they weren’t allowed to sleep at the schotstuene. And, this is in NORWAY where it can get mighty cold. AND, they weren’t allowed female companionship. Definitely, a tough winter.
But, money is money, and up to 2,000 Germans lived in Bryggen. Merchants, the top of the pecking order, were required to purchase a house here; yet, they usually returned home to Germany leaving a manager (a promoted journeyman) to carry on the business. Bergen’s Hanseatic Museum located in one of German merchant’s houses offered a fascinating look into this world.
We walked through the storerooms, offices
and living quarters,
one room showing the beds for the apprentices (no flash allowed so not the best pics).
The league remained a loose federation of merchants as opposed to becoming a centralized political alliance. Not to say they didn’t have power. Anyone familiar with US politics understands the relationship between money and decision-making. In short, you’re screwed if you don’t have money to throw at the feet of those in power; or, really, if you can’t toss it to those who are paid to influence those in power.
Eventually over 100 municipalities were members of the Hansa with its first Diet or assembly held in 1356. As in Bergen and other Hansa ports, these German merchants established tariff agreements, including setting the prices of goods. The League used both the carrot-and-stick approach to business: guaranteeing a profitable market for a trading partner’s goods (stockfish in Bergen’s case) while threatening to withhold critical delivery of goods (such as grain) if there appeared an unfavorable glitch in the negotiations.
In the 15th century the forming or reviving of nation-states created an opposing force to the Hansa whose power was derived from alliances with much smaller and less powerful city-states. The Dutch exemplified this evolution with Bruges, Antwerp and Holland becoming one country, the Duchy of Burgundy. They were able to circumvent the trade routes of the Hansa by trading directly with non-Hansa towns, charging lower freight costs. Additionally, the Dutch began to poach the Hansa’s shipbuilding market, which Lubeck and Danzig had cornered over over the centuries.
By the 16th century the Hansa had weakened considerably and limped. By 1669 only three member cities remained (Lubeck, Hamburg and Bremen). Those three cities remained members until 1862 when the Hanseatic League ended.
The museum was fascinating and offered much more detail than I’ve shared here–the process of receiving, preparing, and sorting the stockfish for export, the lives of those sailing on the ships, the elaborate city seals used for official business, for example. Well-worth an extensive visit.
After immersing ourselves in the Hanseatic League we ventured out of this sub-city where we heard the sound of marching feet. Quickly we located the source as a group of uniforms past us in unison on their way to the main square.
We followed this rhythmic centipede to where this military group, the Hans Majestet Kongens Garde (His Majesty’s the King’s Guards) had set up for a noon concert.
The crowd loved it, as did we. The music added a greater element of festivity to our first day in Bergen. That, along with some hair I spotted. If I were a lot younger, I think I’d try out this color myself. It’s glorious!
After hearing the band and munching on our picnic lunch we returned to the waterfront where we scouted out a chandlery for a fuel additive (the same one the Coast Guard Organization gave Max in Egersund), then returned to the Bryggens area to visit the Bryggens Museum.
Here we saw the archaeological findings from early settlements including a cross-section with evidence of several fires, the first occurring 1170/71,
one of the largest collection of runic inscriptions in the world,
and a sobering exhibit on the great fire of Bergen on January 15, 1916, when a candle flame ignited a bale of oakum (tarred fibre used as ship caulking).
Exiting the museum we headed for the harbor entrance where we poked around Bergenhus (Bergen’s Castle). We stepped inside the royal apartments housed in a building constructed by King Haakon Hakonsson between 1247 and 1261.
Haakon’s Hall is the largest, secular medieval building still standing in Norway. Destroyed in 1944 by a German ammunition ship, which left only the outer walls standing, this beautiful hall was rebuilt and restored a second time. And, it is beautiful.
Next door is the 400-year-old Muren (Wall Gate) known as the Rosenkrantz Tower. Built in the 1560s by the governor, Erik Rosenkrantz, this stone structure existed as a fortress and residence. (FYI: He was an ancestor of Ludwig Rosenkrantz, who, with his Norwegian wife, built the only Barony in Norway, Rosendal, 100 years after Eric erected his tower.)
Several interesting stories are attached to this Renaissance building. One involves the Battle of Vagen on August 2, 1665. I won’t go into details but it’s a fascinating tale of how this city got stuck in the middle between two maritime powers, the Netherlands and England.
Another historical footnote is the trial of Anne Pedersdatter on March 21, 1590. Accused as a witch she was subsequently found guilty and executed by fire. Gruesomely, they tied witches to a ladder and placed it on the bonfire to ensure they died by the flames versus by smoke inhalation. The thought was the fire would cleanse the soul and improve the convicted’s chances in the afterlife. Frankly, I’d prefer death by smoke and to hell with the afterlife bit.
Finally, both her name and Rosenkrantz’s may sound familiar since both have been used by playwrights, one being William Shakespeare who paired Rosenkrantz with Guildenstern in “Hamlet”.
With our heads filled with the history of Bergen and bodies a bit soaked from some occasional bursts of rain
We left Rosendal and motored further north to Os via a narrow passage way
in the wispy, blue-gray morning light.
Speaking with Marit and Even at our last port we were still unsure about docking opportunities; yet, online information mentioned a new, guest mooring site so we decided to check it out. We knew we could always sail on to another harbor if Os’ was too exposed to the winds.
But, it seemed fine when we approached and hunted down a free slip. Now, though, we wanted to do our usual repositioning, which meant both of us getting off the boat and man-/woman-handling of lines to set up JUANONA for an easier departure out of a tight space.
While performing our rope gymnastics with JUANONA serving potentially as an unruly steed part of me was hoping that no one was watching this example of seamanship; yet, another thought was what a great photo op of a watery rodeo act :)
Well, there was someone seeing our docking technique as he appeared about ten minutes later on the pontoon. We started talking and invited him aboard.
And, that was the beginning of one of the most treasured times we’ve had in Norway.
Gunnar, a retired Fluid Mechanics Engineer, and his wife Elisabeth, a retired teacher and art historian, took us under their wings.
Mentioning that these pontoons actually belonged to the condominium complex looking over the harbor,
Gunnar assured us we were fine as the owner wasn’t using the slip we were in. So, not only did this kind Norwegian welcome us to his home port but also removed any anxiety we had leaving JUANONA in a private mooring.
Later that day we stopped in at their condo (second building from the left, top floor) where we met Elisabeth, who graciously ushered us into their light-filled home.
What a beautiful and inviting space it was, filled with stunning art, a lot of it being Elisabeth’s. She creates amazing fabric pieces including several that were quilted pillows featuring Cirque du Soleil performers, capturing their tumbling grace. Prints and paintings adorned the walls as well as some intricately woven baskets.
I only wish we had our camera with us to show here just how wonderful it was sitting amidst such enchanting surroundings.
After enjoying some coffee (nice and strong) and delicious treats such as some Norwegian strawberries (if a warm summer day could be tasted, it would be the sweetness of those berries), Gunnar offered to give us a tour of Os.
He drove us across the harbor to the Oselvarlaget, a workshop established to preserve the oselvar, a traditional vessel found on the west coast of Norway. (The name is derived from its origin–”Os” or river mouth–and the person–”Oselva”–who began building these traditional vessels 250 years ago.)
The oselvar, a rowboat one can sail, is built using a method from the 3rd or 4th century: the clinker technique where the edges of hull planks overlap, a type of construction the Vikings also used; so, there’s no question of how seaworthy these crafts are.
Gunnar volunteers here, and it was obvious he loves it. He helps keep these beautiful wooden boats in shape while also taking young people sailing, thus giving others the opportunity to appreciate this traditional craft.
After touring the workshop and the clubhouse, we drove around the city and then out to the countryside.
We soon realized Os was a magnet for artists as we passed by statues created by the Norwegian sculptor, Arne Maenad, a friend of Elisabeth and Gunnar’s, who thoughtfully places his artwork in public areas for all to enjoy.
Our final stop landed us on the island of Lepsoy at Vedholmen Galleri, a fine-art gallery owned by two artists, Vibeke Harild and Peter Marron.
And, what a delightful environment that gallery is! I immediately thought of all of my artistic friends knowing they’d be spellbound as much as I was perusing the art.
Recognizing some ceramic boats we had also seen in Elisabeth and Gunnar’s home, Vibeke explained how the popularity of those pieces of art (created by her husband) enabled them to open a gallery, earning a living exhibiting and selling unique work.
No surprise as all of the art was stunning.
But, soon it was time to return to Os and JUANONA–Gunnar, to get ready for a dinner engagement, Max and I, to prep for Saturday’s touring.
Saying good-bye to Gunnar we arranged to keep in touch over the weekend with him and Elisabeth as we bussed in and out of Os to explore Bergen, only 40 minutes away.
I’ve said it before and I’ll mention it again: the real gift of cruising isn’t the landscape with its flora and fauna, or the culture found in buildings and plazas. It’s the people one meets.
Here, we had sailed into Os in order to tour the historic port of Bergen, a destination we had been enthusiastically anticipating since landing in Norway two weeks prior.
Yet, the splendor of our travels lies in spontaneously connecting with folk like Elisabeth and Gunnar, strangers who became friends thanks to their hospitality to two salty cruisers.
Fortunately, we had several more days to enjoy their company, so more to come with Gunnar and Elisabeth!
We’ve felt the magic of Os and we are most definitely under its spell.
We left Moster the next morning to continue our cruising north; but first, we walked up the short hill with coffee and digital items in hand where we could check weather and email using the amphitheater’s wifi. All clear for sailing to Rosendal, a town noted for both a barony–the only one in Norway–and being an easy port to visit Norway’s third largest glacier.
Another easy water crossing to the mainland while passing a humorous head left by a creative soul.
And, another hammerhead (end of a pontoon) made it easy to dock (we love those types of docking). Soon we were in the local tourist office. The woman there gave us loads of information beginning with the must-see site–Baroniet Rosendal–and ending with the bus timetable for the glacier.
Since the Baroniet was only a 15-minute walk we opted to explore that site before it closed. Under a sprinkly sky we headed up the road eventually following a beautiful winding drive surrounded by well-tended gardens, the most spectacular being the Renaissance one laden with roses perfuming the air. The estate (and subsequent town) was called Rosendal, which made perfect sense considering the choice of floral cultivation.
I stuck my nose into a lot of them where, fortunately, no bumblebee was gathering its daily nectar. I tend to do that often, inhaling wonderful scents; and, if you live/lived on a boat, you would appreciate something other than ‘boat smell’ as well.
Being a bit early for the guided tour we wandered around the grounds, all very green (the beneficial aspect of lots of rain, something we’ve gotten fairly use to this summer), and circumnavigated this gem of a home.
Constructed in 1665, this Renaissance Palace was the home of a power couple: Danish aristocrat Ludvig Rosenkrantz, the highest-ranking administrator in the fiefdom of Stavanger and Norway’s war commissioner; and, Karen Mowatt, one of Norway’s wealthiest heiress. They married in 1658 and were given the farm Hatteberg, then proceeded to build a house out of stone due to Rosenkrantz’s preference for that over the traditional wooden structures.
The King made Rosenkrantz a baron in 1678, hence the name Baroniet Rosendal, which is displayed over the gate guarding the small courtyard and entrance. You can see a pretend lord of the manor below. Alas, he didn’t actually have the title (or keys) of ownership…
The tour lasted roughly 25 minutes and was given by a young man who led a group of us, both Norwegians and non-Norwegians, into the stairwell and up to the second floor.
During his walk-and-talk he’d provide a long-winded description in Norwegian then a short, staccato explanation in English (by the way, his English, like so many Norwegians we’ve met, is almost better than ours).
After 15 minutes of trying to gleam what he was saying so spectacularly in his native tongue, one of the non-Norwegians diplomatically asked him to give us the same amount of information in English. This amounted to at least five more words tacked on to the two-sentences.
To be fair this was close to the last tour of the day, and he must have been quite tired of giving the same spiel over and over. It just would have been nice to hear more descriptions, not only about the few rooms we saw and the decor but also about the families who inhabited this lovely dwelling.
One interesting tidbit we did receive was the Londeman family, who purchased this in 1743, appeared to be aware of the social strata separating the wealthy from the not-so-wealthy. They treated their servants well and even had portraits made of them, which lined the walls outside one of the main rooms. This family lived here until 1927 when they donated the estate to Oslo University.
One of the elements that made this house so unique was the family respected the history enclosed in these walls, thus keeping certain rooms ‘as is’. No photos were allowed but we did remember some key components such as pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte of whom at least one family member was enamored and one room decorated with Roman statues due to another’s fascination with Pompeii.
Ushering us quickly outside to end his tour we took a few moments to snap more photos of the greenery
and to pose for photos with a friendly Dutch couple we had met while waiting to go into the house (the wife was the one who graciously asked our guide to give us non-Norwegians equal time on the descriptions).
The barony was a lovely destination and one definitely worth visiting. With a wistful last glance at this fairy tale setting and a final sniff or two of the roses, we strolled back down the driveway towards the town.
On the way back to the marina we decided to take the high road to pass by another of Norway’s spectacular stone churches, Kevinherad Kirke. This Gothic church from 1250 could have been the wedding site of the original Rosendal owners. It was certainly large enough and probably splendid inside (no, we didn’t get in but did try a few doors).
And, just look at the view! Makes one just want to sit on a rock and gaze upwards.
Looking down we could spot JUANONA (last boat on the left)
and realized if we had only looked up from JUANONA we could have spotted this church (which we did before we left for another port).
But, that was two days after our tour so let me go back to the day after the Baroniet Rosendal.
Wednesday, June 29
Another bus stop–only this time we made sure we knew its location–where we caught the bus to a small town an hour north.
From there we’d be able to take the 1.5-hour walk up to a lake where the Folgefonna glacier offered a view of its icy magnificence. If you look up from the center of the National Park to where it says “Sunndahl” on one arm of the fjord, that’s where we started, ending up a the lake just below a wee bit of the glacier.
As promised it was an non-challenging stroll up a well-marked road, wide enough to walk side-by-side. As we climbed up rushing water boiled down, accompanying us most of the way up
with Max testing out the temperature.
With sheep mowing the grass all around us there were signs on gates with instructions for visitors. I had to take a snapshot of one of them for the illustration is from the British, clay-animation comedy series, WALLACE AND GROMIT, which is a great show our friend Robbie introduced me to a long time ago.
Pretty soon we were at Lake Bondhus (Bondhusvatnet) located at the edge of Folgefonna National Park, inaugurated in May 2005 by Queen Sonja. Looking across and up the mountains we saw where the glacier was sticking out its icy tongue.
It reminded us of the one we saw last summer, the Svartisen glacier, only this time we didn’t get that close except with the zoom lens.
The road up to the lake was known as the “ice road”. In the mid-1800s locals use to carry ice from the glacier down to be exported. It was then exported to parts of Europe, the first time in 1822 when the ice was carried down on the harvesters’ backs (!) before the road existed. At that time the glacier extended almost all the way to the lake.
In the late 1800s the glacier attracted tourists and, since then, this trek up to the lake has been a popular way to see one of Mother Nature’s magnificent creations. And, what a view.
A sign documented some history with photos of some ice-gatherers and tourists
as well as the retreat of the ice (top taken in 1997, bottom in 2004).
Scary to realize how quickly the ice is melting.
We pulled out our packed lunch at one of the convenient granite picnic table and benches,
while ensuring Dolly Doughnut (for Gracie :), also enjoyed the view.
As we were munching away (I always perk up around food) a mother and her daugther strode by. A conversation was started about the glacier and other sites; and the mom shared some information about the dangers of getting too close to glaciers. Evidently it’s fairly common for people unfamiliar with ice behavior to not heed the warnings resulting in horrible endings. Such as falling ice crushing two parents in 2014 with their children nearby.
They then showed us a picture on the mother’s phone from their hike yesterday with the daughter posing with a friend at Keragsbolten, a famous rock suspended between two cliffs. They mentioned another famous landmark, Pulpit Rock (Prekestolen). Tragically, a young Australian woman fell off last summer when trying to step around some posing tourists.
Holy moly. Stuff from horror stories.
Both are located along Lysefjorden, one of the prettiest in Norway and one where we’re planning on going. Now, all I can think about are the poor souls who lost their lives up there and if I’ll be able to tamp down my fear of heights to claw my way up to those famous landmarks.
However, all were good reminders of giving Mother Nature and Norway’s beauty full respect, and I appreciated the woman’s advice, which we fully intended to heed.
We did go part way around the lake but then turned around to make sure we caught one of the very few buses back to Rosendal.
Which we finally did after waiting for an hour or so entertaining ourselves with crossword puzzles.
Well, somewhat entertaining ourselves.
And, yes, he’s alive. I poked him.
On the ride back we were treated to the careful maneuverability of sharing the roads around here with the bus backing up to give a tractor-trailer space enough to pass (there’s a good reason why seatbelts are supplied on these buses for most times you are jerked to upright due to sudden braking; no fault of the driver, just necessary when navigating one-lane roads for two-way traffic).
We The bus also passed a company that produces those bullet-shaped life boats we see on ships.
Testing them must be exhilarating. I don’t know if I’d have my eyes open or closed. But, I do know I’d be hollering all the way down. At an extremely loud volume.
Thursday-Friday, June 30-July 1
With Thursday being a rain day with wind in the wrong direction we stayed for another 24 hours and were rewarded with an arching rainbow that evening.
as we prepared the next morning for leaving.
I said goodbye to Marit, who with her husband Even shared with us local information. We’re only sorry we weren’t able to spend more time with them but they had friends aboard, one who was launching a book at a local gallery.
We untied, pushed off,
then looked back at Rosendal,
yet another lovely port for exploring more of this beautiful country.
A sunny day and we were off to catch the bus north to Avaldsnes, home of a royal estate from 870 to 1450 c.e.
We played our usual ‘where is the bus stop?’ game; and, after asking three different people, we finally located it down the road apiece. We always assume we’ll be able to find a bus stop easily, and so leave little time for actually doing so. Thus the necessity to play the game since it adds excitement and sweaty bodies when running to the actual location. Then we can relax and strike the pose of a leisurely tourist while quietly wondering if the bus might have already come and gone.
The bus arrived, we jumped on, then played the next game: “Can you help me pick out the correct change?’ Luckily all bus drivers know this game because they deftly start selecting the coins from our upturned palms. That settled we had an easy hour ride up to the NE corner of the island.
Five minutes after disembarking from the bus we walked over a rise and spotted St. Olav’s Church constructed by King Hakon Hakonssen around 1250 c.e. This was actually the third church on the site. Previously, King Olav Tryggvason built the first church between 995 and 1000 c.e. Soon after, King Olav Haraldsson (aka St. Olav) built the second church.
Standing alone, this impressive site served as a beacon for pilgrims who arrived from the east by foot and from the south by boats. Those with money got rooms in Avaldsnes and those with not so much stayed in a hostel, which, by the way the Hanseatics burnt to the ground in 1368 (more on those guys when we visit Bergen).
The church, like most from oh so long ago, stands on grounds held sacred by earlier pagan believers. Some of the remnants were standing stone pillars erected in the third century. One standing over 23 ft. and called Virgin Mary’s Sewing Needle (supposedly based on a story that she dropped a needle from heaven…) leans pretty close to the north wall of the St. Olav’s as you can see below:
And, now me as the pencil for scale…
Carved on the Needle are runes spelling out ’Michael next after Mary’. The inscription relates to Archangel Michael sounding his trumpet to signal the end of the world, aka Doomsday. King Hakon Hakonsson had great respect for Doomsday so he built his church ensuring that the wall was angled away from that threatening needle.
Legend has it that doomsday will occur if it touches the church. Considering how close the pillar is (less than 4 in.) it’s said precautions were taken by some priests who cut off some of the stone just in case. There are visible marks on the top, which fits the tale nicely.
It was a beautiful church on the outside. We couldn’t get inside (not for a lack of trying several doors, one with a unique knocker).
Several excavations around the church have turned up Iron Age artifacts, a Viking coin and in July 2012 an entire royal manor from the Middle Ages, built between 1240 and 1320. They’ve since covered any dig sites back up to protect them.
However, just down the walkway is the Viking Museum cleverly situated underground so as not to detract from the site views surrounding St. Olav’s Church.
There we met two young people, one extremely knowledgeable about the Viking period (she grew up around here and feels quite a kinship to the history) while the other guide had studied Christianity and its role during Norway’s early history.
Being the only two people there we attracted all of their attention and they were only too willing to answer questions we had. A short film and an audio guide helped explain most of the displays.
Now bear with me because with the help of other resources I’m going to whip through some of Norway’s early history, and, since it was in Norwegian (no English on the signage) coupled with a lot of kings running around named ‘Hakon’, I may get it a bit mucked up.
Stone Age and Iron Age artifacts, such as the ones close to the church, point to early settlers in this area of Norway. Where Norway’s history becomes a wee bit familiar to me is when the guys with those horned helmets start showing up, those hunkie Vikings. Their phase of notoriety begins with the documented raid in 793 c.e. on the island of Lindisfarne, home to one of England’s earliest monasteries.
The usual pillaging and slaughtering occurred resulting in no one wanting to see those ships on the horizon other than the Vikings’ wives. Well, most of them I imagine.
Some monks weren’t killed but were brought back as slaves, resulting in a Christian influence on their owners. And, if anyone has seen the HBO series “The Vikings”, that storyline reflects a pretty accurate accounting of those times (I asked the young woman and, trust me, if anyone would know, she would).
In addition to their pillage-and-plunder routine the Norse women seemed to be better off than in other parts of Europe. That’s not saying much as they were still subjegated to men’s authority; so, for some, it must have been a joyous occasion to stand on the shore waving to their men as the latter sailed off to raid, trade, and invade.
9th & 10th centuries
And, the Vikings did sail all over, reaching from the Americas to Greenland to Spain to the Caspian Sea. In short, they got around. Documented evidence shows they overwintered in Dublin (841), sacked Hamburg and Paris (845), colonized Iceland (870), settled in England (876), founded Normandy by Chieftan Rollo (911), and reached the Caspian Sea (912). Not too shabby for guys running around in ships shaped like dragons and wearing horns on their heads.
During this time the Battle of Hafrsfjord was fought in Stavanger in 872. And, our first Hakon appears: Hakon Harfagre or Hakon (aka Harold) the Fair-hair. He had been one of the many kings, each having their own little kingdoms. Hakon won the Battle, crushing several kings who opposed him. Thus, Hakon the Fair-Hair is said to have united Norway.
Back to Norway… All seemed to be fine as Hakon the Good, the younger son of Hakon with the hair, took over. But, boys will be boys, and fighting broke out resulting in the king who, in late 10th ce./early 11th ce., ushered in Christianity, Olav Tryggvason, coming to power. And, it’s this dude who built the initial church on the pagan sites (and also dug up old pagan burials to place Christian symbols in them). He, in the gentle name of Christianity, killed any one who refused to convert.
Just a sidetrack to mention some supposedly dissidents during Olav Tryggvason’s rule: Erik the Red left in a huff and settled in Iceland, then tried his hand at Greenland (995). Exploring ran in the family for his son, Leif Ericsson, landed in America five years later, which is how a Viking settlement was discovered in northern Newfoundland.
After King Olav T. we get Olav Haraldsson who was declared king in 1015. But, due to his avid Christian beliefs and efforts to convert all of the populace he made enemies, who decided to side with King Canute of Denmark. Long story short, he fled when Canute showed up 1028 only to return in 1030 to fight and lose his life at the Battle of Stiklestad.
However, he had the last laugh for when (and why they did, who knows) they exhumed his body after a year, it wasn’t decayed and, voila, a saint was born. Hence the name of the church on the hill here.
And, another sidetrack: at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 the Vikings were defeated by King Harold of England who then had to march from York to Hastings (on the southern coast) to fight William the Bastard who became William the Conqueror. Just think, if the Vikings had won, who knows who’d be sitting on the English throne today?
12th, 13th and 14th centuries
Fast forward to 1130 with civil war resulting in Sverre Sigurdsson winning and whose son, (yes, another Hakon…) Hakon Hakonsson (1217-63) was crowned king in 1247. Fast forward again to 1319 when the death of Hakon V Magnusson (1270-1319) started weakening the lineage. His grandson’s, Hakon VI Magnusson’s, death in 1380 meant the end of Norway as an independent nation (Hakon VI had married the Danish Princess Magrete, and their son Olav became King of Denmakr in 1375 and inherited the Norwegian throne when his dad died.).
I have to mention one really interesting story involving King Hakon Hakonsson. We have friends with the surname of Birkinbine; and, their ancestors, the birkebeiner party or the Birchlegs (they used this bark as part of their stockings) saved this king when, as a baby, the birkebeiners carried him through a winter storm from eastern Norway to safety in the west. Love it.
During the 14th ce. the Black Death decimated Norway’s population in 1349 by half, which makes it easy for the Hanseatic League (a powerful merchant trading guild originating in Germany) to set up its monopoly over Norway’s stockfish trade (more of that when we’re in Bergen).
From then you have a mix of Norway, Denmark and Sweden until Norway declared its independence on May 17, 1814.
Before I move on from this history another really interesting fact is the similarity between a grave uncovered here (possibly Hjorleif the woman-lover’s, so called due to marring multiple times… god knows what happened to all the wives) and the one in Sutton Hoo in England; however this ship-burial grave is dated around 790-95 while Sutton Hoo’s is thought to be 100 or 200 years earlier.
With that we finished our walk through early Norwegian history and began the pilgrimage to a lunch spot
and a Viking Village with replicas of Viking structures…
Monday, June 26
After a rainy Sunday we left for another historical site, Mosterhamm. Passing under the bridge connecting Karmoy to the mainland at Haugesund we spotted another legendary site involving more standing pillars. These were also erected around 300 c.e. forming a star-shaped burial site representing the world tree Yggdrasil.
The tale here is that five women waved at St. Olav as he was retuning to Avaldsnes from a trip up north. Evidently he wasn’t in the mood and cursed them, crying out ‘Now stand there and turn to stone until I come back again.’ Hence, the ‘Five Foolish Virgins’ who were turned to stone.
Our next destination involved another stone church, this one constructed in 1050 at a site where King Olav Tyrggvason held an assembly in 995 or 998 establishing Christianity as the national religion.
We made it just in time to have a wonderful guided tour by another young woman.
With a key to unlock the ‘new’ door (from the 1600s),
We entered the church and Max snapped a photo only to be told no photos allowed.
But, what amazing decor. I did pull one off of the Internet. It was taken looking east towards the altar from the loft, which was added to accommodate more parishoners:
What really set off our visit here was the young woman who unexpectantly sang a lovely haunting chant as she walked up the aisle to begin our guided tour. Now that would have been spectacular if I could have captured it via video.
In the early 1600s some murals depicting four phases of the bible beginning with Adam and Eve and ending with Christ on the cross were added, and we could still see most of the outlines of the original paintings. These had been covered with chalk, which had been removed with bread (!) when renovating the church.
At the entrance there were two small enclosures on the left-hand side. Our guide explained they were for women who had just given birth and, therefore, considered unclean (of course…) and for baptizing babies, also needing purification before entering the sanctity of the church (goddesses give me strength).
Outdoors she led us to a stone with a hole in it. Because most folk were illiterate, deals were agreed upon verbally and physically when witnessed at this stone.
After the church we crossed back to the reception area where she then led us through some history of the pagan religion involving Odin, the God of Wisdom and Magic, and ending with Christianity. Finally we descended to an old limestone mine that had been converted to a small outdoor amphitheater.
One last connection: another person joined us on mid-tour who turned out to be from Woodbridge. She and a group of her friends had taught in Ipswich, which is where we wintered on JUANONA the past two years. Small, small ball is our world as our friend Steve K. says.
And, with that we were saturated with Hakons and Olavs and were ready for some playing, which we did by heading to Rosendal the next morning :)