23 July 2005

overflowing with sketchiness

well, that's interesting. the room i was staying in had five beds; three singles and a bunk. ronnie and i were both in singles; one sketchy roommate was in the other single and the the other sketchy roommate was in the top bunk; other less sketchy roommate in bottom bunk. when i woke up i saw that two people were sleeping in the single next to me; one sketchy roommate and his equally sketchy new guy non.roommate friend. in summary, this room was overflowing with sketchiness.

i'd missed the national gallery on my previous trip to oslo. despite my general fatique, i was interested in seeing some paintings. a short walk and i was there. one token for the locker; no metal detector. as it turned out... i was completely wrong about munch's 'the scream'. the painting is _still missing_ along with 'the madonna'. another version of 'the scream' is on display, but it's not quite the same. a museum curator seemed somewhat embarrassed to give me this information.

back in the hostel, the sketchiness had died down. hung with ronnie for a while. he reminded me that tomorrow was sunday and that bus schedules might be different. good call. i walked downstairs and found bus information on the wall. all set to get to the airport.

another no picture day.

posted by paul at Sat 23 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

22 July 2005

again; arabic. out.

the bus to oslo left at 0900. an uneventful ride back to oslo, the draining feeling still with me. back to the same bus station. i'd decided to try a different hostel for these two days in oslo; much more central. i learned later from a roommate that best western runs the hostel. right there with my gps guide. ronnie, from scotland, a very nice down to earth guy who told me fun stories about prague. other roommates were quite sketchy [algerians, ronnie had learned; seemed they were conducting some elicit operation, using our hostel room as headquarters]. i went out and bought a pizza; brought it back to the room. sketchy roommates came in and out. one had two cell phones; phone 01 started ringing with some electro.beatbox ringtone; looked at the caller id and decided not to answer; kept ringing [udzte udzte]. phone 02 started ringing; lots of yelling in french. phone 01 again; arabic. out. ronnie and i went to sleep. sketchiness continued throughout the night; 0300 entry with lights and much noise. this was one of the few days when i hadn't taken any pictures. i hadn't felt like taking pictures. i felt like resting.

posted by paul at Fri 22 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

18 July 2005

the supreme counsel of the global reconnaissance organization


damn. what the hell was i going to do? this was the first time on the trip when i'd forgotten something in the hostel. two somethings in fact: 01. a large plastic envelope containing copies of my passport photo page, driver's license, and immunization records, as well as numerous informational brochures, ticket stubs, museum handouts, and city maps. 02. my new book, d-day by stephen ambrose. i was concerned about the copies of my personal documents; a little annoyed about the other documents and the book. i'd packed the night before to expedite my departure this morning; i'd forgotten that when i'd first arrived at the hostel, i'd temporary stored a few items in one of the cabinets. therein the items in question lay.

[+]: i'd remembered that i'd forgotten the envelope and book while i was still in tromso.

[-]: it was 0605 and my bus was leaving at 0620. it had taken me half an hour to walk down from the hostel fully loaded.

[+]: there was another bus leaving at 1030 which would get me to narvik in time to catch my overnight train to stockholm.

[-]: the 1030 bus arrived only ten minutes before the train departed, almost zero slack time for any type of transportational difficulty with the bus.

gentlemen, i need options and i need them now.

option 01: the overall global reconnaissancee mission will not be threatened. you still have all documents necessary to complete the objective. ask the hostel staff to properly dispose of the forgotten items.

option 01 response: i can't be sure that the staff will effectively destroy my personal documents. if copies of my passport, driver's license, and immunization records fall into the wrong hands, the overall mission may be affected. this option is not viable.

option 02: ask the hostel staff to store the forgotten items and return to tromso later in the trip to retrieve them.

option 02 response: i can say with 99% certainty that i won't be returning to tromso later in this mission. tromso is not on the way to any other global reconnaissance destination. this option is not viable.

option 03: ask the hostel staff to mail you the items.

option 03 response: possible. i'd first need to wire money to the staff for shipping costs. i'd then need to determine where i'll be in the upcoming days and remain in one location long enough to receive the package. this option would be onerous to the hostel staff and i couldn't be sure they would agree.

option 04: take the 1030 bus.

option 04 response: possible, but if anything affects the bus timing... traffic, flat tire, road construction... i won't catch my train. the train ticket fare was non-refundable. if i miss the train, i lose the money. this option is too risky.

option 05: run your ass back up to the hostel and get that shit.

option 05 response: are you kidding me? there's no way i'd make it in time. the bus leaves in fifteen minutes. it took me half an hour to walk that distance with my pack on. no time.

option 05.1: taxi, brainiac.

option 05.1 response: that would be expensive... and where would i find a taxi at 0606 in the morning?

option 05.2: if you have a better option, then please, by all means, go for it. otherwise, get your ass in that taxi right over there and tell the driver to step on it.

POW! and with that the supreme counsel of the global reconnaissance organization had selected option 05 and i was in the back of a taxi speeding back up the hill to the hostel. four minutes later i was at the hostel and had a new problem. i'd dropped my keys off in the dropbox when i'd left and the front door, as expected, was locked. reception didn't open for hours. it was currently 0610. knock knock. pound pound pound. someone hear me. no. i ran back to the taxi and asked if he could call the reception. he already had the number programmed in his phone. call. nice, someone was on their way to the reception. in the door, gigantic apology, ran up to my room, grabbed the envelope and book, back down, another gigantic apology and an even bigger thanks and handshake, out the door. back in the taxi speeding back down the hill to the bus station. got there _right_ as the bus was pulling in at 0620. perfect.

arrival in narvik at approximately 1030. fuoko introduced himself; he'd biked from copenhagen to the north cape and was now cruising around seeing other sites. very nice guy. cruise narvik and damn, what the hell are you doing here? it was nate from tromso who had departed the day before. i had about four hours to enjoy narvik with nate before my train departed. i think we agreed these rock carvings were four thousand years old. got some food at the supermarket and relaxed at the train station. [at some point in narvik, i lost the hat i'd bought on the nordlys to survive the arctic cold. this is the only picture i have of it. if you find it, please notify me.]

train; i said my second goodbyes to netanel and boarded. six person sleeper and i was the only one in the compartment [soaking in more fjord scenery and snapping pictures out the open train window] until five germans (my take: four somewhat boisterous and dare i say annoying children and one 'cool uncle who lets us get away with far more than our parents') crammed into the space with an excess of baggage in kiruna, sweden (approximately three and a half hours from narvik). lots of 'mein rucksack'... 'rucksack'... 'rucksack'. one backpack had a full set of antlers hanging out of it. they'd obviously been hiking that day; the smell factor increased significantly in the small compartment. i really wasn't in any type of interactive mode; they stuck to their loud non-stop annoyingness and i stuck to my own 'i want this compartment to myself againness'. soon they asked if they could set up the beds (converting the two three seat benches each to a bed); fine. i spent some time writing before laying down and falling asleep.

posted by paul at Mon 18 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

17 July 2005

on this day of nothings

today was sunday. tromso had died completely and i died along with it. beyond resuscitation, i sat and watched the water for a long while on this day of nothings. nate had departed this morning and i was again on my own.

i wandered to the polar museum, filled with exhibits of trapping and hunting. arctic foxes, seals, whales, bears. one bear trap incorporated a rifle in a long box; the bait was on a string attached to the trigger. bait -> trigger -> pow, right in the forehead. the exhibit descriptions were all in norwegian; a handout was provided in english, but not on the same level as the norwegian. a film entirely in norwegian, informationally void for me. back downstairs a video showed a boat rescue; i watched the entire thing. the storm prevented the small rescue boat from getting close enough to the mothership; fifteen minutes of trying before success. no language needed.

my last opportunity for a midnight sun. i spent some time in the hostel talking with john before heading out. i won't disclose john's secrets, but suffice it to say that he's been on the road a long time and i learned a few things from him. very interesting guy. [nice meeting you, john. send me an email.] twenty minute walk back to the city center, the sun was hiding behind the clouds. i waited for a long while to see my ship, the ms nordlys, return to tromso after reaching kirkenes.

posted by paul at Sun 17 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

16 July 2005

standing within the shadow


tromso, yet another town next to a mountain or hill. what is the deviation? this time, a cable car; a quick ride to the top with zero satisfaction. nate and i would hike.

slow and gradual, finally steep, i was feeling much better today. we made it to the top cable car station, but not the top of the mountain. when i asked nate if he wanted to continue climbing, he replied 'yeah, why not?' exactly, why not? on and on, these mountains are so deceptive. what appears close is always far. we kept walking upwards until the path disappeared, through the ice, past the water falling, past the miniature dolmens. [flashback to ireland: please do not build miniature dolmens.] at the flat rocks we decided we had reached 'the top' and that the next higher peak actually belonged to an entirely different mountain. the clouds closed in around us, preparing to swallow nate. fifteen minutes of the top, alone, we began the descent. for all of the mounds of feces we avoided we saw not one of the beasts. the ground was spongy, cushioning each step, but after fifteen minutes of descent with quads and knees burning i needed a hill to even out my legs. just one incline, please. finally back to the hostel for more spaghetti. i wasn't entirely steady, but the swaying wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday. i had no idea it would take this long for four days of oversea transportation to wear off.

john repaid my internet lesson the night before with a great lesson in photography. thanks john.

after a shower, i ventured out again with nate and sjourd. sjourd had yet to see the town and nate and i wanted to see if we could glimpse the midnight sun on this first clear night. sjourd broke off to take the cablecar to the peak where nate and i had climbed earlier in the day. nearing the tromso bridge, i saw the southbound hurtigrute on the water and tried to reach the pinnacle of the bridge before it passed beneath. another deceptively long span; running full speed [nate must have thought i was crazy]; i missed it and had to settle for a picture as it pulled into port on the other side of the bridge. at the top of the bridge, i realized i should have accompanied sjourd; the top of the hill was one of the few places in town being hit by the midnight sunlight. for one standing within the shadow, the sun hung low on the horizon; a short rest before beginning its daily climb.

i've seen these flowers all over norway. purple, pink, white. very beautiful.

posted by paul at Sat 16 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

15 July 2005

still less than zero

happy birthday jenn!

i was able to sleep until 1000 this morning, repairing, but upon waking i was still swaying. i wanted to make travel plans before i explored the city; best to plan at the arrival to avoid departure stress. my lovely girlfriend would be meeting me in the czech republic in ten days. i'd originally planned to be somewhere in germany at this time; i now found myself far above the arctic circle and needed to determine how i'd get to prague.

i'd heard one internet cafe was charging 2 kroner, roughly .30 usd, a minute for internet access. over 18 usd an hour to use the internet. blah. i would not be victimized; i'm an advocate of free internet. one day. it took me about thirty minutes to zero an open internet access point, outside, a bit cold, a few strange looks, but free. again, hours wading through websites. the plan drafted to be set in motion in four days: bus to narvik, norway; train to stockholm, sweden; [transport to oslo, norway, to be determined]; plane to prague, czech republic. it's a good feeling when plans are made. i'm not quite at the flexibility by day level; currently at flexibility by week. a potential evolution.

my body was still less than zero. i would overcome the sickness by eating and sleeping. i wandered the city a bit, crossing the tromso bridge to the arctic cathedral. watched the northbound hurtigrute enter the harbor. but not too much walking, i returned to the hostel and met john [australian], stephan [german], nate [israeli], noelle [french], and sjourd [dutch]. quite an international crew. after the spaghetti i felt like i was winning the battle. nate had climbed the mountain today; i asked him if he wanted to go out again at midnight. we resigned to climb tomorrow.

john said he had seen me on the computer earlier and wondered how i'd connected. i gave him a short lesson in the covert wifi operations of the global reconnaissance organization.

posted by paul at Fri 15 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

14 July 2005

in an effort to repair myself

the ending day of my great journey north along the norwegian coast, a beautiful time. an early morning call to harstad at 0645. my transformation into a morning person was not quite so complete. i didn't join many of the others on the shore, choosing to remain on the nordlys to repair my broken sleep. it was breaking more and more with each day.

a short while after departing harstad, many passengers gathered in the stern for an 'arctic circle ceremony' at 1030. my estimate was far off, but i attended to watch king neptune congratulate the winner and initiate her and others into his kingdom by pouring icey water on the backs of their necks. king neptune looked quite a bit like the lead troll who had climbed aboard while the nordlys explored the trollfjord the day before, but of course, i knew that was impossible. took a ten kroner shower and packed up my things for a rainy arrival in tromso. my feelings; a bit sad to be departing the ship. i asked someone to capture a last image.

i contemplated walking to the hostel, but the rain intensified and dictated i find the 26 bus; later i'm glad that i did as the road to the hostel was uphill and remote. met australians andrew and ryan who gave me many helpful tips regarding their homeland. visited the nearby grocery store for the staple and while i ate my spaghetti and salad that evening, i descended into sickness. i'd been on a ship for the past four days and now back on land i found i was still moving back and forth uncontrollably. concentrate on one point; overpower with the mind, this isn't happening. but i couldn't and finally needed to retire in an effort to repair myself. the curtains in the hostel room did little to defeat the light. i pulled my hat over my eyes, spinning, and eventually drifted back and forth to sleep. i wondered if the food i'd been keeping in the unrefridgerated locker on the ship was adding its own story to that of the broken sleep and land sickness. i hoped not.

posted by paul at Thu 14 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

13 July 2005

in place upon a stare, sustained


i'd set my alarm to go off at 0700; plenty of time to prepare for the arctic circle crossing, so i thought. i was awakened by the loud double tone which preceded a shipwide general announcement. looked at my watch: 0655. i listened intently to the announcement in norwegian (which preceded the english), trying desparately to pick out any semblance of the words 'arctic circle'; and _there they were_. before the english started, i'd already pulled the keys out of my pocket and was fumbling to unlock the pacsafe which contained my camera and gps. english: 'in a few minutes, we'll be crossing the arctic cirlce...' AH! no time. i managed to extract my camera, threw on my shoes, and ran down to deck five and outside to snap this picture of a globe on the small island of vikingen signifying the circle. we'd crossed at 0700:21, 18 minutes and 3 seconds before i'd predicted [blah!]. in my rush to get outside, i'd left my daypack, gps, sleeping bag, and other important articles lying on the couch in the lounge.

my mother keeps telling me that i should include myself in more of my pictures; here you go, mom. love you. [source: mulletsgalore.com]. really, contemplating the meaning of life with morning hair. i've decided this world trip is a dry run for global recon trip 2010. on that trip, i'll bring a trip photographer whose sole responsibility will be to capture pictures of me in interesting candid moments. i'll also seek endorsements from garmin, fujitsu, canon, palmone, kensington, and rayovac.

slight tech digression here: i'm using rayovac i-c3 nimh 2000mah aa batteries to power my camera (four batteries) and gps (two batteries). these batteries can be recharged in only fifteen minutes; rayovac makes both four and two battery chargers. the four battery charger has an external power source and bulky cable; i'm carrying the two battery charger which is lighter and much more compact. i could not have picked a better battery/charger system in the consumer price range. in addition to the six batteries always in use in my camera and gps, i'm carrying six spares which i charge whenever i have a free moment and see an open electrical outlet (in fact, i'm charging two batteries in one of the lounges on the ship as i type this). i also have two batteries in a portable razor; these are emergency spares (if you've seen the picture at the link above, you'll know that the razor isn't seeing much action these days). i've not run out of power once during my travels. amazing system. the global reconnaissance organization endorses the rayovac fifteen minute charger system. i recommend it to every traveler i meet who is still using the eight hour plus overnight chargers.

while i'm on the subject of technology, a quick note about my photos. my camera, a canon powershot a95, uses compact flash memory cards; i have a 512 mb card. i've only filled this card up twice. my laptop, which i'm always carrying on my back when i'm taking photos, accepts compact flash cards and it takes only minutes to transfer all of the images from the card to the laptop hard drive. on the two occasions when i've filled up the card while out in the field [what a great expression. makes me feel like a real photographer; while i was out in the field], i simply transferred all of the images to my laptop hard drive.

finally, a note about my camera and photography. i bought my camera shortly before departing on my trip and didn't get a chance to read through the entire manual. in addition to being very new to 'semi.serious' photography (which i define as the level above 'snapshots' where i deliberately look for interesting subjects and take time to properly frame the image), i may be missing a feature which would help me correct the two problems i've been seeing in my pictures. the first, when taking a picture of a typical landscape (ground/sky), i've noticed that many times the blue of the sky has turned to white in the pictures. i've typically been using the camera in 'auto' mode and it often fails in its guess regarding how much light to allow in. i've tried other camera modes, including 'manual' which allows the specification of shutter speed and f-stop (i believe), but haven't been very successful in eliminating this problem. the second, occasionally when taking pictures in darker settings, i'll notice that the corners of the image are darker, creating a circle effect around the middle of the image. again, these issues may exist due to my ignorance of all of the camera features or my lack of experience with semi.serious photography. in any regard, i feel that i'm ready to progress to the next level of photography. whether that means purchasing a new camera, simply studying the manual in greater detail, or taking a photography class, i'm ready. i feel like i should take time now to bring myself to that next level so that my photos in the next phases of this trip are of higher quality; i'm just not sure how to proceed. end of tech digression.

i felt at home on the boat. stops at ornes and a rainy shore leave from 1230 to 1500 at bodo. tracked by a submarine (look closely). onward to the lofoten wall, the string of islands so called because from a distance they give the appearance of an impenetrable wall. calling at stamsund and passing the ms vardik before svolvaer. the most remote. beautiful skies, afternoon to evening. i'd been tracking our progress on my gps as the ship carved its way north through the islands, the channel narrowing gradually. the tour manager had made an announcement an hour before, warning the passengers not to go to sleep early as the ship would be passing through the trollfjord at approximately 2230.

2225, the ship made an abrupt turn to port, much to my surprise as my gps indicated this was a dead end. the double tone and the announcement. we were about to enter the realm of the norwegian troll.

slowly and steadily, the nordlys sailed into the impossibly narrow fjord, the steep rock rising, the darkest green of the plants which seemed to scurry amongst the rocks during a glance, freezing in place upon a stare, sustained by the sparkling of magic, all the while the glowing eyes of the trolls watching intently from beneath their rocks. the water fleeing the cliffs running to the ocean was forced to slow here, crawling; the fog surrounded and enveloped us, wondering. a calm fell on us beholding this place; a silence, as if anything more than a whisper would stir the monsters. into the widest at the end, the ship steered around. and i didn't want it to end, i wanted to be placed on the shore and sleep amongst them.

i was standing right in the middle of the deck with my full attention to the magic, everyone's was; the magic of that place demanded it. and for that reason we were oblivious; five trolls had made it aboard the ms nordlys and were wandering freely on deck five where most of the passengers had gathered and were watching the walls of the mountains. i'll repeat; five norwegian hill trolls had been disturbed by our presence and had climbed silently aboard and were wandering _freely_, no doubt searching for a meal. only when the pack of trolls was upon me did i take notice and i literally jumped in fright upon looking at the horrific visage of the lead troll. quickly my horror faded to laughter as he put his hand on the shoulder of an old woman facing in the opposite direction, intently focused on the scenery. she turned slowly and looked directly at the troll, confused but not frightened. i'm not sure how she did it; a stronger soul. the stocky man wearing the mask old and stodgy and wrinkled and troll-like with a long white beard lead four children trollings around wearing makeup; as the pack walked on i was still laughing. the absolute best; i couldn't have imagined better, truly. still laughing as i watched the pack part the crowd, jumping during the parting. the most gigantic smile on my face; the ms nordlys withdrew from the trollfjord as slowly as it had entered. even more than the amazing geirnanger fjord scenery yesterday, i was affected by this place, the highest of highlights.

the slowness of the water [avi movie file; 1.19mb]

posted by paul at Wed 13 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (1)

12 July 2005

an elegant simplicity, delicate


i slept in a bit longer this morning, surrounded by a chair enclosure i'd created the night before to shelter myself from the early morning people. shore leave at 0815 in trondheim where we docked behind the ms finnmarken. we wouldn't be departing until noon, so i had a few hours to explore the city. i headed for the green spire in the distance, passing along the way a parking enforcement officer and an interesting looking manhole cover.

the spire belonged to the nidaros cathedral. construction began on this magnificent building in 1077; fire, destruction, rebuild, repeat. scanning the walls, i found the biggest collection of graffiti on a single building yet [gallery]. stunning; these carvings so fascinated me that i spent most of the shore leave walking slowly around the building taking pictures. thinking about someone standing in that exact spot hundreds of years ago hits me somewhere deep inside. i came across many cryptic carvings which i initially thought were some type of runic writing; i later learned after talking with one of the cathedral attendants that the marks were carved by the stonecutters; a sort of branding identification mark.

time was running out on the shore leave. i ran to an internet cafe and typed this entry before returning to the nordlys.

the concrete bridges in northern norway, an elegant simplicity, delicate arches. more bridges than i would have expected connecting the remote islands. we received an excellent reception at this bridge in the afternoon shortly before passing through the narrow stokksund sound and a bend so sharp that the ship needed to blow the horn to warn oncoming traffic. at 2045 the nordlys called at rorvik, meeting the midnatsol on its southbound voyage. the water became choppy before the light rain. i wished i could properly categorize the waves [research]; i recalled reading about the different classes of waves which sailors use to describe the condition of the sea at the maritime museum in grenwich. for the first time i was somewhat affected by the swelling waves, but still i wanted their intensity to increase. how exciting to sail through a thrashing storm.

that night the nordlys was holding an arctic circle competition. the ship would be crossing the arctic circle between 0630 and 0800 tomorrow morning. all passengers were asked to submit their best guess as to when the crossing would take place. guess... ha. i spent about twenty minutes with my gps performing extensive navigational calculations. this competition would be mine. we were scheduled to depart nesna (below the arctic circle) at 0530 and arrive at ornes (above the arctic circle) at 0930; based on our average speed, the average windspeed, the terrain between those ports, and the age and estimated navigational experience of the captain, i determined we would cross 66 degrees 33' latitude at exactly 0718 and 23 seconds.

to the lounge; i built by chair cage, set my alarm for 0700, and went to sleep.

posted by paul at Tue 12 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

11 July 2005

clinging to the steep

i woke up at 0600 in the lounge surrounded by morning people germans. haben sie gut geschlafen? nein. bright sun. i was still incredibly tired. i didn't sleep well on the hard couch; my body sending all reserve power to repair my burned skin. i felt something i can only describe as 'pressure' surrounding me; this existed both inside and outside the vessel. still, i was excited for today. the ms nordlys would be traveling into the geiranger fjord. i applied some sunblock to my face, gathered my food from the locker (the unlocked locker; how far i've come), and headed outside to make myself a sandwich. first port of call was torvik at 0720; a short stop with no shore leave. next to alesund, with forty minutes of shore leave, barely enough time to buy some fruit to ward off the scurvy. i was a little concerned about the weather; the sky was a milky gray and white.

over the next several hours, the white clouds were pulled aside like a sheet of paper and the ship traveled over 100km into the geiranger fjord through some of the most spectacular scenery i'd ever seen [gallery]. i've tried to include other ships in the photos whenever possible to give some sense of scale. simply stunning. the deck on which i'd been amongst only a few others the day before was now overrun with people. into the mountains, clouds delicately draped over the mountain tops, farmhouses clinging to the steep hillsides, through the spear fjord and past the waterfalls known as the seven sisters and the suitor. finally to the town of geiranger where many people boarded another boat to go on a fairly expensive geiranger excursion [i passed on all of the excursions in part for financial reasons but mostly because i was seeing everything i wanted to see from the boat. i also didn't particularly like the wording of the catchphrase in the book which outlined the details of the excursions: 'those who choose to go ashore will see so much more.' my translation: 'give us your cash. now.'.] once all of the geiranger excursioners were gone (we'd pick them up in molde), i had my deck to myself once again. back out of the fjord for a second look at all of the magnificent mountains to dock in alesund again; the weather had changed significantly from this morning. on to molde; where i found this exploded bang snap on the sidewalk. a beautiful sun. i relaxed on the deck at midnight before retiring from this spectacular day.

posted by paul at Mon 11 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

10 July 2005

wide awake for the burning

my fifth day in bergen and the weather had returned to rain, finally. it was nice to see bergen be bergen again. a very nice town, but relatively small. i'd enjoyed my stay there, but i was fully bergened out and ready to move on. my ship wasn't scheduled to depart until 2000, but i wanted to check in early in case there were any issues with my ticket. my credit card had already been charged and the two ships were operated by different companies; i wanted to make sure my card wasn't charged again. packed and checked out; milled around with ben, a physicist from hong kong studying in san francisco. slight rain and mist. ben was leaving tonight on a night train to oslo. down to the train station with him so he could store his luggage and then back later to buy his ticket. we ran into magnus and spent some time talking with him outside one of the many 7-11's in the city. said our goodbyes [thanks again, magnus] and walked down to the harbor to watch the ms nordlys arrive; amazing docking agility. back to the hostel, i met canut from norway and jeremy from oregon; spent a few hours talking with them, posting a picture of the ship on the site and making final preparations.

i knew food on the ship was going to be expensive. stopped by a supermarket on the way down to the harbor to buy some bread and sandwich meat; i had to navigate the extremely narrow isles with THE pack on. very tight. kalkun is norwegian for turkey. skinke is norwegian for ham.

down to check in. yes, that will be 3667 kroner please. i explained that i'd booked the ticket over the internet and had canceled my trip on the ms kong harold when i'd reserved a spot on the ms nordlys. my credit card had already been charged. call into the central office; code green. got my boarding pass [i make fake id's if you're interested]. boarding at 6pm. i had some time. i sat down in the reception area, made a sandwich, and watched as the other passengers arrived. from the looks of it, i was going to be one of the youngest onboard; the average passenger was 67 and german. up to the boarding area; stood outside and took some pictures of the ship.

at 6:15pm i noticed the herd begin to board. i waited for the initial 'we must be the first ones aboard' rush to die down [i don't have much experience with public transportation in the states; but i've noticed in europe that there is much frenzy associated with boarding and exiting any type of vehicle, some instinctive need to be the first one on or off]. while the herd took a left through a doorway, i took a right and walked along the port side to the stern, climbed a staircase to the next higher deck, and sat down in a comfortable chair. i had more than an hour to kill and so i began reading a book i'd purchased in bergen [d-day by stephen ambrose; i decided it might be best to use discretion when reading this on a boat filled with 67 year old germans].

the ship pulled away minutes after eight, right on schedule. giant swelling excitement to see bergen from this new angle; i imagined what it must have been like for ships traveling to and from bergen five hundred years ago. up to the bow, i couldn't get enough of the scenery, taking in the water and the mountains. it was at this moment that i felt like i was truly going on an adventure. although the hurtigruten fleet had been sailing the coast of norway for over 100 years transporting goods and people to the far reaches of the country, i imagined i was leaving on a ship sailing into the unknown, the unexplored, where anything could happen. this wasn't a cruise ship; it was an important part of norway's shipping system. i felt privileged to be aboard.

information and safety meeting at 2100. back outside. i stayed outside for the rest of the evening taking in the rugged coastline, countless jagged islands amongst the rising mountains. i'll try my best with my camera, but like many of the other amazing things i've seen while traveling, i don't think the photos will ever come close. when i went to the bathroom to brush my teeth at approximately 0100, i realized i'd been burned yet again today, this time by the evening sun. interesting the way a sunburn makes one tired; i imagine the body is expending energy to repair the skin. [?]

i was one of a handful of passengers who hadn't rented a cabin aboard; this meant i'd be spending my nights in one of the ship's lounges. i was preparing to go to sleep when the ship called at the first port on our journey, floro, at 0215. absolutely incredible docking agility. i'm always so impressed when watching one of these large ships slide flawlessly into the dock. i wanted to stay awake through the night but i knew the ship would be passing through the geiranger fjord tomorrow and i wanted to be wide awake for the burning.

posted by paul at Sun 10 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

09 July 2005

glancing briefly through my eyes


black sabbath was playing tonight and i needed to rearrange my travel plans to see them.

0900: call the hurtigruten office. the woman told me i'd need to call the individual ships and gave me the phone numbers; first the ship leaving tomorrow [ms nordlys] to make sure they had available room; second the ship leaving today [ms kong harold] to cancel my reservation. complete. complete. code green for metal. |m|/

0930: down to the post office to pick up the ticket. map; destination located; number 22. she didn't have the reservation number on file. called magnus to get his last name. reservation found. tiicket secured (above). complete. code green for metal. |m|/

1100: back to the hostel. across the street to pay and check into my new hostel. complete. no access to the room until 1200; i'd mill at the other hostel until then. code green for metal. |m|/

1110: email to the tromso hostel informing them i'd be arriving a day later than expected. complete. code green for metal. |m|/

1200: move into new hostel. no lockers. blah. elaborate locking system with pacsafe travel safe and two padlocks.

in three hours i'd rearranged all of my travel plans to stay in bergen one extra day, all in the name of metal. we were code green, devil horns locked and loaded for the show tonight. |m|/

unbelievably, it was the third consecutive sunny day in bergen, a city known for it's rainy weather. amazing. short walk into town, i found the location of the show and saw some 'no camera' signs. i'd seen many digital cameras at the nin and rammstein shows and was hoping to be able to take pictures at the concert tonight. code red, blah. back to the hostel to drop off my camera, grab my earplugs, and change into shorts. back into town.

my vip ticket gave me access to a pre-show performance by an ozzy tribute band. wow. WOW were those pants tight. i think the singer would have been arrested in the states; first by the fashion police for wearing skintight pleather and second by the local authorities for indecent exposure. in summary, he didn't look comfortable; they didn't look comfortable. i don't think even mid-80's big hair ozzy wore pants that tight. still, the guitarist was _tighter_; dead on, executing the solos perfectly, a metallic master. kick. the band sounded great and the vocals were excellent; ozzy would have appreciated the performance, if not the pants.

afer the nin and rammstein shows, i'd returned to the hostel soaked in sweat from heavy pit activity. i wasn't planning a repeat for the black sabbath show; wanted to stand back and watch the band perform and didn't want to have to worry about fighting the pit monsters. velvet revolver had been scheduled to open the show but had pulled out for one reason or another. two norwegian bands were booked to open the show. the first band, not so much. i believe they were from bergen and despite their unmetal rem-esque music they still got a good crowd reaction. the second band was heavier, but after the vocalist/guitarist walked out, he planted himself firmly in the middle of the stage and did not move for the entire set; the band gardener came out halfway through the set to check the soil ph and add some fertilizer. i prefer more mobile performers.

set changes were quick; drum kits on rollable risers. i'd like to see time lapse footage taken from above the crowd area to follow individual movement during a heavy music general admission show. in this instance, my movement. i know i wasn't conciously trying to find a different location, but by the end of the second band's set, i found i had moved from the far side of the stage to about fifteen rows back and about five meters stage left of center and was standing in some type of hole. perfect. i'd need to change my position once sabbath started playing.

silence. ozzy screamed and sang the first part of a popular european sports chant; the crowd completed it. again; completed. he screamed again, declaring that he wasn't going to come out if the crowd wasn't 'crazy enough'. intro music began to play a medley of sabbath songs, mostly guitar riffs, some vocals. i didn't like this intro at all; why play recordings of songs that you're about to play live? still, forgivable. the band walked onstage and the crowd surged forward; me along with it. this was the first time i've seen a band walk onstage at the beginning of a large show and not immediately kick into a song. legends. the band looked great and ozzy was smiling widely, almost too widely, unflinchingly wide.

the band kicked into nativity in black and i forgot about ozzy's smile and became a part of the surging crowd, moving with and against the music. i soon found myself in the center of the stage, so close to the front that the sound i was hearing was coming mostly from the amps and monitors onstage rather than from the gigantic stacks of speakers on either side. ozzy ran frantically all over the stage, occasionally remembering that he was the vocalist at which points he would quickly run back to the microphone only to find that he'd forgotten the lyrics. i couldn't believe it. another first for me; i'd never before seen a band of that caliber come so closely to disintegrating midsong onstage. during the second song, after forever [which i was so incredibly psyched that they played; amazing riff, mr. iommi], ozzy actually completed a verse with mumbles and grunts rather than lyrics. all one hundred percent forgivable; legendary.

show highlights:

01. during the second song, after forever, i decided i didn't want to wear my ear plugs any longer. i was so close to the stage that the speaker stacks weren't hitting me at all, i was getting only the stage volume and i wanted to absorb the music at another level. shortly after i removed the earplugs, a giant norwegian leaned over to my ear and asked me [norwegian] very loudly. ouch. i'm sorry, i only speak english. [click] 'i'm right behind you. i'll look out for you.' [holds hand up. we lock hands, bonding in some type of metal moment that only occurs in the front five rows of a very loud metal show. stay evil, my giant norwegian friend.] problem: he'd screamed far too loudly into my ear, overcompensating for the loud music; i've experienced that situation before many times before. ouch. i knew later that night my sweet tone angels would visit me as i tried to fall asleep.

02. over the course of the next few songs, i was pushed forward into row three, center. there i encountered a large bald man, mid-20's, [i'll call him vigor, pronounced vee-gor] with an insensed expression on his face as if he didn't know where he was, pale blue eyes wide open, staring into a nothingness. vigor, along with the rest of us, was being crushed from all angles and it was unclear whether or not he was enjoying himself or wanted to extricate himself from the situation. i asked him if he was all right and he didn't answer, glancing briefly through my eyes, still staring into the void. apparently vigor had been causing a disruption earlier; the man one row in front of him was waving widely to the security personnel to try to get them to remove him from the crowd area. problem: the only way out was over the barrier in front of the stage and vigor was a large man. when security came over and asked him to move forward so that they could pull him out, vigor shook his head no. interestingly, later in the show, a man larger than vigor was willingly pulled out over the barrier by three security guards as everyone in the crowd looked on in awe. i looked at a random with a 'wow' expression on my face; he returned the expression.

03. the performance of war pigs. a level beyond, trans:incendiary. ozzy was in full zone. absolutely brilliant. war pigs is not close to my favorite sabbath song, but this performance made it magic.

04. i miss my combat boots. truly. these hiking boots i purchased in north carolina in order to disassociate myself with the military and to better blend into the average global society are not cutting it at metal shows. in addition to the distinctive non-metal exterior, the laces have come untied at both the rammstein and black sabbath shows. this is not a fun experience when one is in the midst of a franticly moving crowd; the untied laces are easily trampled and it's very hard to keep one's footing during the intense swaying. despite my best efforts to tie the laces tightly, the laces came untied three times during the black sabbath show. in all three occasions when i leaned down to tie them, kind people around me realized what i was doing and did their best to fend off the hordes and stabilize me as i balanced on one foot. i sensed the third unlacing at the beginning of ironman; the bass drum was pounding and i knew it was only a moment before mr. iommi began playing the main riff at which point the crowd would move and one of my boots would be anchored firmly to the ground, laces trampled, putting me in a precarious situation. i leaned down quickly and began the tying process and made it back to the surface one second before the riff. kick.

05. at some point during a particularly heavy moment when i was taken over by the music and wasn't thinking clearly, i reached over and grabbed the fist of a random [i'll call him olav], pulled it up into the air, and pried open his index and pinky fingers, forming the extended devil horns. once olav had realized what i had done, he looked at me and said 'no, double the evil.' and put both fists together, crossing his wrists so that the pinky fingers were touching, and extended both index fingers to form double the evil. olav had gone one level above; i'd been outdone.

the band ended with paranoid and left the stage. ozzy had completely destroyed his voice and was barely able to talk. i didn't think they'd be out for an encore, but sure enough, back out to end with children of the grave. amazing. ozzy basically talked the lyrics. at the end of the show, the four band members all walked to the middle of the stage and bowed, a perfect ending to a powerful show. thank you, gentlemen.

back to the hostel, soaked in sweat as before, so looking forward to a hot shower. i let the water run in the first shower for a full five minutes and the water remained a chilling cold. the second shower was the same, unfortunately, and i had to suffer through a very cold experience. i counted to three outloud before the final rinse. spent the rest of the night writing; met a bergen local who was hanging out at the hostel. when i asked why he'd be hanging out at a hostel bar, he told me it was part of the unknown bergen underground. i had my doubts.

posted by paul at Sat 09 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)

08 July 2005

the hole in the sky had devoured his voice

originally my day of departure; now my spare day of rest and relaxation. it was another of the few and far between, the sun shown brightly. i'd scheduled minor missions to replace my lost bandana, possibly purchase a hat for the potentially cold arctic weather, and maybe look for some music (i'd read about some norwegian music that had been inspired by the fjord areas through which i'd be traveling on the hurtigruten). in total, i didn't have much planned; walk, relax, prepare. in the morning i bought a bolling skilla (sugar roll) and a sprite (sprite) at the supermarket near my hostel and went down to this park to look through a bergen tourist guide to see if there was anything i'd want to do. the arboretum looked interesting, but i'd need to take a bus and i wasn't really in the mood to navigate local bus schedules. what i was really in the mood for was a nice leprosy museum.

centuries ago bergen had been a leprosy hotspot and st. jorgen's hospital was the biggest treatment facility for the disease in norway. written accounts date the first hospital building back to 1411. over the centuries: fire, demolition, inferno and devastation. i don't think i've been to a european city that has not burned down, in part or in whole. [this makes me wonder how giant stone cathedrals burn down. how does stone burn? comments requested.]

the present st. jorgen's building dates to the eighteenth century and now houses the leprosy museum. really not much there; several informational displays in norwegian in the old patient rooms. english translations were provided on several laminated handouts. some interesting pictures, lancing equipment, one decaying foot, still decaying. i occasionally take notes at museums if i find the information interesting; research later; post some statistics on this site. as i was taking notes from the translation, the young museum attendant walked over and timidly suggested that if i was interested much of the information in the museum exhibits was also contained in a book about the history of st. jorgen's as a leprosy treatment facility; the book was for sale for forty kroner. i thanked her and scanned the book. there they were... the exhibit translations, word for word. it wasn't clear which had come first; the museum exhibits or the book. also not clear was the museum attendant's motivation; was she genuinely trying to help me or did the museum not want any of the patrons to record any of the information? i'd already paid thirty kroner to visit the museum; now i felt like it was inappropriate to take notes of the exhibits. blah. not sure of the protocol here... is it inappropriate to take notes at museums? is the material copyrighted? does norway have copyright laws?

i'll include only one bit of information here. one of the exhibitions contained a quote from an uncompleted letter by a former leprosy patient at st. jorgen's. in severe cases of the disease, the eyes of the sufferer fill with fluid and often swell shut. 'if the lord but was allowed to open up our eyes, we would surely have reason to complain of the state of our hearts. we would see how satan and our sins have mauled us [...]'. quite sad to think these poor people were often isolated and mistreated.

i returned to the hostel and met a new roommate, magnus from norway, who was in town as part of a job and had decided to stay an extra night to see black sabbath[and in the following instant infinitely short, the sky cracked open high above and all of the air of the world was withdrawn violently into that scar, wretching, gasping. and with it all sound was carried away, and i looked at magnus and saw his mouth moving slowly, but i heard no sound, the hole in the sky had devoured his voice. only silence remained. what did he just say?]

me: did you say... black sabbath?'

magnus: 'yes, they're playing here in bergen tomorrow.'

me: 'tomorrow??? at what time?'

magnus: 'i think around 7:30pm.'

not a month or a week or a day before as so often has happened before; no, the godfathers of all that was metal were playing merely _hours_ after i was scheduled to depart bergen on the hurtigruten. but i wasn't going to be departing on the hurtigruten tomorrow merely hours before. no. i was going to be in the crowd absorbing the godfathers of metal: bill ward, geezer butler, tony iommi, and the prince of fucking darkness himself, ozzy osbourne. the blackest sabbath.

switch into mission mode. [click]

01: a ticket. magnus said he could reserve a ticket for me via the internet using his account. no fee for making the reservation; if i didn't pick up the ticket i wouldn't be charged. only vip tickets were available; 850 kroner [cringe]. [reminder: black sabbath] magnus made the reservation. [thank you so much magnus! really appreciate your help.]

02: my boat. the hurtigruten ticket from bergen to tromso had cost significantly more than my unused plane ticket to trondheim. significantly. i wouldn't be able to justify staying for the show if i couldn't move the departure date back one day or get a refund for the ticket price. i called the main booking number; recording in norwegian. 2230; i forgot how late it was; if you recall, i'd lost it entirely. a woman who worked at the hostel, lena, offered to translate the recording; the office reopened at 0900 tomorrow; i'd need to call back. [thanks lena!]

03: accomodation in bergen. the hostel i'd been staying in, marken gesthjus, was full the night of the show; i'd need to move. lena suggested the jacob's dormitory across the street. i walked across the street and checked; they had space for me.

04: accomodation in tromso. i'd already reserved and paid for a hostel in tromso. i'd need to contact the hostel and push back my arrival date one day, but only if i could move by hurtigruten departure date. i'd need to wait until tomorrow.

the plan was in motion, all in the name of metal; i'd wake up tomorrow and call the hurtigruten office right at 0900. i spent the rest of the evening hanging out with magnus. my first night out in a while, and after two beers [hell, after one beer] i was static uncontrollably. we met kurt when we returned to the hostel. he convinced me that i had made the right decision rescheduling all of my travel arrangements. [watch kurt's redition of ironman; avi movie file; 6mb; 90 degree offset.]

posted by paul at Fri 08 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

07 July 2005

the few and far between

the days have been tremendously long in scandanavia; since copenhagen my internal clock has been thrown off by the long light days. here in bergen, there's a late afternoon light still at 2200; it's very easy to lose track of time. in fact, i've lost it entirely. in the mornings, the brightness begins at approximately 0430 and has been waking me up, my body programmed to respond to morning light. now that morning light kicks in at 0430, however, i'd like to reset the program; i've tried unsuccessfully at the moment when my conciousness takes control from autopilot at 0430. the system has locked me out. the shades in most hostels don't block much light, unfortunately; i think i'll be reduced to wearing those disturbing traveler eye shades. a reduction. on the first morning of my stay in copenhagen, the top tier of terror was positioned perfectly (designed by some malicious morning person no doubt; blah, morning people) so that the sunlight hit one end of the bed in early morning. the first night i slept with my head on that end and was awakened the next morning not by the light strangely enough but by the sensation of my skin burning; i was shocked awake burning and sweating. better my feet than my face the next two mornings. here in bergen, my bed was again positioned by a window and this morning the sunlight woke me up yet again. i looked outside and it looked like i was going to experience one of the few and far between sunny days in bergen.

i spent most of the day outside exploring the areas that i'd already explored in the rain the day before. the bryggen area is a popular german tourist destination; i saw and heard hordes of germans.

a funicular [funicular; interesting word] up the side of the mountain near the center of town. not for me, i'd make my way up under my own power. back and forth upward to the beautiful views of bergen, finally to the top. some delicious ice cream. back down into town, i waited for _five_ hours for a bird to fly directly over the spot i'd just been so that i could properly point out the area. wow, what a tremendous waste of time. no, not really, but the bird does make a nice pointer. not quite a bird, a pigeon, plague of the city.

while walking around, i noticed that all bergen parks were packed with people young and old sunning themselves on this few and far between.

hungry, i stopped by the supermarket near the hostel and picked up some more lettuce and tomatoes. i needed another delicious salad; giant salad cravings, take advantage of the kitchens. back at the hostel around 4pm. i really wanted to get back outside to the nice weather but i still had travel plans to make and so again i jumped on my computer and started digging through the websites for the hurtigruten, the buses, and hostels. hours, really.

in my research, i learned that the hurtigruten ships stop in geiranger on the northbound journey in the summer. samuel had told me that the geiranger fjord is one of the most beautiful; a 'textbook' fjord from something i read later. i spent much time investigating the north cape area (the northermost tip of norway (and of europe for that matter))... transportation and accomodation options and costs. after much deliberating, i decided to take the hurtigruten from bergen to tromso up the norwegian coast, passing through the geiranger fjord, past trondheim (my flight destination), into the arctic circle, through the lofoten islands (for more incredible scenery), finally to tromso, where the sun never sets. i figured i hadn't had enough sunlight in my life lately; why not completely destroy my sleep schedule with a nice midnight sunlit walk. i didn't think the opportunity would present itself again anytime soon; exploit my location. i'd stay in tromso for three nights and then work my way south and spend some time in the lofoten islands. this new plan of course meant that i wouldn't be using the plane ticket i'd booked to trondheim the night before; wasted money, but i was beyond excited about my new plans. my spontaneous norwegian adventure; from not at all to several weeks, the benefits of traveling without constraints and predetermined schedules. internet booking for the ship leaving tomorrow had closed, so i booked the saturday departure and then a hostel in tromso. this would put me in bergen an extra day; no problem, i'd use it to prepare for my journey at sea. booked another night at the hostel.

posted by paul at Thu 07 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

06 July 2005

long before was nothing

another rainy day in bergen. one statistic i read indicated it rains 275 days out of the year here. a mist, really, and nothing that was going to prevent me from exploring the new city.

i broke out my jacket; the first time in more than a month. bergen is a port city on the west coast of norway surrounded by mountains; i decided to head to the southern side of the city to look for a mist filled scenic walk along the water. at the water, i found the industrial side of bergen, less than scenic, cranes and construction, barriers and boxes, stone and cement. i walked as close to the water as i could get, but the industrial metal on my left kept pace with me with each step and so i decided to cut back inside away from the edge, over to the 'pretty' harbor. on my way, i found the work of the bergen jedi club and evidence of the dark side. the rain thickened, clouds clinging closely to the mountain, low and heavy; i eventually broke out my umbrella. down some stairs to the harbor and a bustling fish market. i saw a very flat fish, but not like a flounder, this rightside up, dark almost black, with a very wide flat mouth filled with small sharp spiny teeth. a man behind the counter asked me something in norwegian; i told him i only spoke english; he asked me where i was from. he'd never been to the states, but knew boston was by the sea, asked me if there was a big fish market there. i told him i thought so, but that i didn't eat much fish unfortunately.

i walked on along the harbor near the bryggen area, to st. mary's church, the oldest building in bergen. it was here that someone stole my shot; i spent a few minutes taking various shots of this tree because i liked the way the trunk twisted. i was conscious that someone was watching me on my right; when i walked away he moved in quickly and took a picture of the same tree.

to the bryggen museum where i learned about that small area, a few centuries ago the main center of trade in bergen with a strong german presence. the city has burned several times and in the 1950's the area was at risk of being completely demolished, many norwegians felt that the area controlled by the germans long before was nothing of historical significance, nothing to keep. excavations later uncovered the oldest buildings in the area were truly norwegian, and in the 1960's the decision was made to conserve the area. efforts continue today. the buildings listing dramatically, the foundations rotting and crumbling. narrow alleys. excavations also uncovered pieces of a large norwegian boat, reconstructed in the museum.

still the light rain, i ventured up the hill on the way back to the hostel, hoping i'd be lucky enough to experience one of the 90 clear days tomorrow. i really enjoy taking photos and the rain makes it difficult.

in my room at the hostel, i spoke with two americans and felt the traveler competion feeling; then spoke with samuel, from france, and the feeling went away. he'd studied in trondheim and was very interested in my trip; hoped to travel extensively one day. we spoke briefly about travel in asia and he gave me some advice. thanks samuel! nice to meet you.

in the kitchen; the staple traveler food: spaghetti. most importantly, another fresh crispy salad with lots of balsamic vinegar. salt.

i found an open internet access point and spent the entire evening researching travel plans, sitting in the same spot for hours on the computer as room mates came and went. i definitely wanted to head further north, but wasn't exactly sure how i was going to get there. there are no rails up the west coast from bergen to trondheim (a fact i didn't realize until i got here), so the train wasn't an option. samuel was on his way to trondheim and told me that he had found a cheap fare on scandanavian airlines. i checked their website and found a 45 usd flight that left on friday. i'd delayed in this type of situation before and when i went to book the ticket later, the price had gone up, so i fired quickly; even if i decided to change my plans, i was losing at most 60 usd (with taxes); not trivial, but it wasn't going to kill my budget. so, fly to trondheim and then hurtigruten ship farther north, perhaps to the north cape. it was late by the time i'd found and booked the flight; i'd do more research into transportation tomorrow. sleep.

posted by paul at Wed 06 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (3)

05 July 2005

a chilling cold, burning

i was TRUCKING, hammer down in the hammer lane in my shiny black 1979 kenworth hauling 23 ton of ASS down the hill, blowing the doors off of dead pedal four wheelers in the granny lane... i had somewhere to be.


train to oslo today, 10:35am departure. when i'd purchased my ticket online, i'd selected the option to pick it up on the train ('hentig i tog' in norwegian) and had selected the 'minipris' fare option which was substantially cheaper than the other tickets. i wanted to get to the train station with enough time to ask a ticketing agent if there were any special stipulations (under 26, student, etc.) for the minipris fare and just wanted to confirm receipt of the ticket on the train.

woke up at 8:45am, later than i'd intended. franz asked me if i'd be joining him to the national gallery; i think he had misunderstood an earlier conversation when i told him i'd be departing today. sorry, sir, i'm leaving for bergen today; train leaves at 10:35am. despite the time, i didn't want to pass up the free breakfast. into the dining area; franz joined me five minutes later and told me he'd accompany me to the train station. very nice guy full of smiles. i excused myself from the table and told him i was going to pack.

9:05am. my level of comfort with hostel living has increased significantly over the past three months; i've become lax in maintaining my belongings in a neat orderly pile in the hostel rooms. pack pack, things spread all over. franz came into the room and asked if he could help me carry anything. no, i think i'm fine, thank you. he insisted however, and i gave him my daypack (containing computer, guidebook, train ticket reference number printout, and various other important things) to carry. the hostel was a five minute walk from the nearest tram stop; a ten minute tram ride from the city center and the train station. the tram came every twenty minutes; next at 9:20am. franz said he was going to start walking down to the tram stop. 'i'm slower than you.' and with that he left the room with my daypack. i stared at the closed door for about 10 seconds with mouth wide open before continuing to assemble my belongings. wow, i just entrusted my pack to an almost complete stranger. i imagined franz laughing maniacally while running quickly to his getaway car, a black bmw with tinted windows. he'd successfully hustled me and now had my confidential data. impressive. [for those of you who missed yesterday's entry; this is franz.]

9:15am. still packing. okay, franz had my daypack with computer and train ticket reference number printout and was most likely down at the tram stop. the tram was due in five minutes and it was going to take me five minutes to walk down to the hill. i need to move. everything in THE pack, still straining. strap it on, click click. quick survey of the room. looks good, nothing forgotten.

9:18am. outside, walking. in the distance, i saw franz standing at the tram stop. what a nice guy, he hadn't stolen my daypack. plenty of time, no problem, the tram wouldn't arrive right at 9:20am. i was walking briskly.

9:19am. i see the tram coming down the track to the tram station. [internal scream: noooooo!] wow, i don't think i'm going to make this tram. wondered if franz would board and wait for me at the train station or if he'd just wait for me at the stop.

it is at this point that the flashback ends and i promptly boarded my truck, a shiny black 1979 kenworth triaxle, and started hauling ass down the hill, my pack bouncing up and down on my back. three months on the road has done much to improve my load bearing capabilities and i was _running_ full speed down the hill... i had somewhere to be, copy? and damn if i didn't make that tram thanks to franz. he was up at the front obviously delaying the driver from departing; i cruised around the back of the tram and he saw me and smiled. onoard. sweating from the one minute burst of speed and adrenaline. i shook franz' hand and thanked him for doing whatever he did to hold the train. kick. i spend the next few minutes recovering.

at the train station i checked in with a ticket agent; no problem with my ticket. all was good. i said my goodbyes to franz and asked him for his address. thank you, sir. it's been a pleasure.

stocked up on some snapple refreshment. been into the fruit punch flavor lately. very tasty. refreshing and tasty.

i'd read that the train from oslo to bergen went through some amazing landscapes. while i was tired from the night before, i don't think i slept more than a minute. utterly beautiful snow capped mountains dropping down into icey blue lakes, gently pouring, flowing rivers narrowing to explosive rapids. if only i hadn't been on the train, i'd have stood until i became a chilling cold, burning the scenery into. pictures out of train windows are not worthy; pictures altogether are not worthy; they can't ever. i was going to extend my norwegian adventure.

the hostel is amazing and the rain gives me a chance to do some writing.

posted by paul at Tue 05 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)

04 July 2005

there are other places that sparkle

the hostel provides free breakfast. i've filled up both days and intend to do the same tomorrow. sandwiches. ham and cheese. my roommate, franz, is an older gentleman, austrian, 80. he speaks mostly in german and translates into broken english when i give him confused 'i don't understand' looks. we spoke for a while last night about our plans today; this morning when i woke at 8:30am it seemed he was waiting for me. he commented on the weather and said we would have a good day; that it was 8:30 and that we still had a lot of time. i wondered if i'd committed to spending the day with him, the language barrier perhaps creating a misunderstanding. i leaned to the side by myself, but not hard, thinking it would be interesting to spend the day with him. he joined me at breakfast and asked what i'd be doing today. ah, no misunderstanding. i told him i'd be visiting the viking ship museum and then planned to go to the national gallery and finally to the vigeland park. he asked if i wanted to meet at the national gallery at twelve o'clock. 'how about one?' i asked. 'ok, one o'clock.'

hmm, i was on a schedule. 9:30 by the time i got out of the hostel... this gave me only a couple hours to see the museum. constrained. i didn't like that feeling. i looked at a map. blah, the museum was on the opposite side of oslo, across the harbor. guide number one gave no transport recommendations; guide number two gave ferry details. arrival at the ferry dock at 10:30; onboard, i spoke with americans and wished them a happy fourth of july. i liked them even before they told me they'd been farther north and overflowed with recommendations for the hurtigruten. no time for sleep, they said, as you don't want to miss any of the scenery. i'd been on the edge and they pushed me in.

at the museum by 11. two beautiful ships and a third, incomplete, all three burial vessels. a sled isolated for conservation. one of the most interesting were the pictures of the excavations taken in the late 1800's. i was finished with the museum truly by 12, glad that i didn't have the rushed still wanting more feeling.

ferry back and a walk to the national gallery. i saw franz standing outside reading a guide. no others around. the national gallery was closed on mondays [the wasteland, desolate; the wind picks up and carries with it a faint scream growing glowing black to red]. many museums close on mondays in europe and for that reason i had consulted _both_ guides (lonely planet and use it's streetwise guide to oslo) which _both_ indicated the gallery was open on monday. damn. edvard munch's the scream was inside. waiting, screaming, and me along with it.

we decided to visit the edvard munch museum. franz had the transport details. we found the stop with a bit of effort; the museum a short walk away. airport security metal detector; two paintings, the scream and madonna, were stolen from this museum last august [one story]. the vampire. many self portraits. beautiful use of color, the purples pulling me in for a closer look and i imagined the paint being applied to the canvas. interesting paintings and titles:

inside us are worlds
the splitting of faust
self portrait during the eye disease
the artist with skull: optical illusion during the eye disease

i'll need to do a bit of munch research to see exactly what this eye disease is all about.

to vigeland park and its central hellraising phallic symbol. writhing. crawling. if i'd been by myself, i'd have spent hours in this park examining all of the sculptures, wandering and relaxing. i didn't mind franz' company however, and i think he enjoyed spending the day with me. it seemed he felt honored that i'd want to take his picture. we sat on a bench for half an hour before leaving. i wanted to ask him about wwii but decided that might be inappropriate.

i'll be leaving oslo tomorrow and i feel that it's too soon. i haven't fully explored the city. i think two days more would be best, but i'd already booked my non-refundable train ticket over to bergen, leaving tomorrow morning. i feel like i don't know the lay of the oslo land, never took the new city walk. for this new city i had read guidebooks the night before and created a list of sites that i wanted to see; yesterday i took public transportation to those sites. while this new approach did give me an unforgettable experience the brightest and darkest which i would have otherwise missed, the lack of the walk left me wanting more, wondering if there are other places that sparkle, unexplored and waiting for me. waiting. i'm leaving her before we're both ready.

posted by paul at Mon 04 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

03 July 2005

undying fading and then gone


for all of the times i've arrived a day after;

for all of the times i'd be departing a day before;

for all of the times the place was closed for the day;

for all of the times the weather prevented;

for all of those times:

i have _this_ day. _THIS DAY_.

the emmanuel vigeland museum in oslo, norway, only opens for four hours a week, on sunday between 12pm and 4pm. today was sunday and i arrived at 1pm after the tram and a walk down streets which do not seem like they lead to a museum, houses and children. the brick building, she tells me i must put these socklike covers over my shoes [what is this place?], that photography is not allowed, and that cell phones must be turned off.

i motion to the small door, 'through here?'

'yes,' she replies with a smile.

i pull the door open, heavy. through, bending, into darkness, one room. i turn around and pull the door shut. turn around.

through the darkness of the one room, i barely see two others against the far wall, whispering soft whispers, all around. unbeliever, is this truly happening naturally? and as i try to absorb, i must accept that it is. soft whispers, all around. believer, one second is ten seconds in this one room, and here within, the walls allow the whispers to live longer than i have _EVER in my life_ heard before. [listen] i have never before, and filled with the newness of this one room i click my tongue to hear a sound live like it could never live outside of these walls. on my left i see the forms, in reddish brown, monotone, on the walls dimly illuminated, but my eyes are still not entirely ready to see through the darkness. truly magical, if ever a place were. the whispers stop, and the others stop moving, and i stop, and there is nothing, and through it all i hear the familiar tone in my head, there always during absolute silence, i imagine it will speak nothings to me during silence until i die. while the walls are absolute. seconds later the whispers make me forget. and finally my eyes are ready, able to see the people on the walls, tangled together, on my left women and children, and a sculpture of birth, and i walk softly around. slowly. moments. and i'm aware that the two others have walked to the door

and i shut my eyes tightly as they open it. and then i'm alone and i open my eyes.

silence and darkness and magic and the smallest walking sound gigantic undying fading and then gone. i continue walking softly around, men and women twisted together on the walls and in two sculptures, and further above the door, highlighted, two skeletons, one upon the other. dimly lit from the floor to the curving ceiling. and i'm alone in this magic room and i am so lucky. so.

i stand with back against the door and look up and do nothing but let my eyes be burned with this. and moments drift by and i'm alone in this magic.



i hear voices muffled beyond and i know that others are coming, and soon they do, with voices and laughter and all those things which carve away at the magic. i politely inform one that photography is not permitted here, her scanning each five feet of the wall with a camera shot, the light flashing, the click echoing. some things i believe are too powerful to be photographed, and if ever one, this; this is one which must be experienced _here_, how could a picture _!EVER!_?

as i'm writing this, i'm listening to music that was recorded within the walls, a beautiful and clear voice singing haunting norwegian folk songs, and i'm reminded of the one room earlier today. the memory burned.

[all else is nothing compared: i spent ninety minutes in the morning updating the site, i walked along some trails at the highest point in oslo on a ski mountain near a television tower, desperately trying to find some type of clear view of the city which never really came. a picture can sometimes capture a building or a person well, but never really a spreading view, and never the magic of anything. the walk along the trail was a small taste of what i needed. oslo is what i needed, a place to get farther away, and i'm going farther still. i took the tram down from the mountain and got off at a random stop where it seemed others were getting off; i figured there must be something worthwhile there. the national gallery, but it was closed by that time, i'll see it tomorrow. i walked more to the water, the port of oslo and finally up to an embankment overlooking the port, sitting down and watching, and here i put on the cd for the first time, and as i watched the ships in the water and as the first song played the haunting melody pulled back memories of the one room and my head felt like it would if at the end of the best long movie a character who i'd grown to love (and who other characters in the movie had also loved) died. i sat there for two hours listening and watching. so amazing the way music brings back memories and emotions. _so_. inconsequentially, i lost my bandana somewhere today. i'm glad i came to norway. i'll add that sometimes i think i don't realize how much i walk in a day. at the end of this one, i was very tired. i feel my schedule shifting from night to day; i now wake up at 8am and i'm tired by midnight, with sleep soon after. i wonder how my body will deal with an unsetting sun if i make it that far north.]

posted by paul at Sun 03 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (5)