I have made few trips alone. This was one. Colleen has been curious and asks often about my travels before we were together. On this occasion I was set up by a fellow neurosurgeon who asked if I would attend his birthday party. Of course! And, then, he told me it would be in Norway. I had an unplanned stay – in a farmhouse room – with a loom! Two looms! Who knew how much that would impact later on in my life! Traveling alone is no particular fun. I learned early on that dining alone was an issue. I soon carried a book to read while eating. More importantly there was no joy in being unable to share something picturesque without someone in the moment. That has changed permanently for me now. I shall be traveling with the one I love.
I’m a nice guy. I’m personable, friendly, fairly laid back. I’m shy. I like my privacy. I have a secret life. Well, it’s secret in that the rest of my family may never have seen some of the things I have seen or done. It’s the same for all of us, right? It just struck me that among the many pictures I take, there are few enough pictures of people. I don’t like to be confronted nor to confront. I may take pictures unawares and sideways. There have been times, Halloween parade NYC, and others where the object is to take pictures of people. Ok. But otherwise, I have to remind myself to take pictures of people. Shy? Reticent? Non-confrontational? It turns out that it is the pictures of people that are the most memorable now. I suppose it helps if you are related. It seems that everyone is interested no matter how badly the picture was taken. Fortunately, I have lots of above average shots of the family. Someone I know would be fascinated by the goods for sale. Me? I just wanted a picture of the costume. That was free!
Well, it’s funny to me. I was once accused of having a dry sense of humor. Was that good or bad? I suppose it’s not a good thing to have a woodpecker loving on your wooden church. I’m scanning slides. Not editing. So, I end up looking at each and every one I scan in order to label them. I have a database. Within reason I have lain my hands on a lot of images without too much pain. But the things that I have forgotten knows no bounds. Undoubtedly I saw this slide when I mounted it. But until now I would never tell you that I got a shot of a woodpecker on the steeple of a wooden church. He was gone by the next picture. A call from God?
Here’s a puzzle the internet did not solve instantly. Why are these haystacks covered? It’s not hay? Ok, but why are they covered? I’m sure I asked someone at the time. But, I’ve forgotten the answer. An internet search turns up Monet or haystack cookies. Geez! My attention span is short. It’s a mystery now. I took the picture because it was different. It has stood the test of time. Maybe they did it just for me to come along and take a picture. Hmmmm…nah!
Not. Kristina entertained me at Harald’s party. She’s Swedish. What fascinated me was she’s actually related to a famous Swedish neurosurgeon. Don’t ask. Hey! It was a party where the birthday boy was a neurosurgeon. I sat with her and she tested me on identifying Swedish, Finnish, or Norse women from their looks. I was a miserable failure. You can’t judge a book by its cover. We traveled from Unset back to Oslo and then I never saw her again. Like me, she lived in NY. She remembered me to some folks at Harald’s house some years later. I remember her too. Harald’s Norse. She’s Swedish. Can you tell? I will admit… nah… it would only give me grief.
Harald had his home custom built by farmers in his valley. It was made from logs that were carefully selected and then aged (three to five years). His roof was a green roof full of weeds. There were chains for down spouts to drain water. The house was built into the hillside and was economical and efficient since winter is bitter cold up near the Arctic circle. All in all it was quite and experience to have attended the party.
So, my trip to Norway was great. I met a fellow surgeon at JFK airport who happened to be going as well. We would have driven together but he met a woman at the rental counter and departed with her. Ha! Smooth? It turns out that his “date” meant I had no bed. Harald scrambled to get me a room. I never knew till much later. Meanwhile I was placed at a local farm in what I would call, ‘the loom room.’ Yup, two barn style looms. Now I know. The past few years has made me conversant with weaving. And that’s a winder in the window. I had a bed in the corner. It was charming. It was unique. And now as I look back I can say that I know someone who’d give her eye teeth to have been there with me. Back then, I knew nothing about weaving. It was an adventure. I like adventures. The view? The cows would walk past going to and from the barn for milking. I admit I would have liked a date too. But, the looms and no roommate was more than fine!
It’s in Norway. You are looking at the whole town. Yes! The whole town is captured in this picture. Not impressed? How about the sign entering has the leaving sign on its back? There’s no stop sign or stop light. The only store was closed at 5PM. I arrived and asked directions. A guy repairing his car motioned for me to follow. I went about a half mile further. There! I had arrived. I was there for a birthday party. A colleague had asked me to attend his 65th birthday. He then told me it was to be held in Norway. Gotcha! I left the airport in Oslo with the directions, “Go out the airport exit and drive north.” I was on a two-lane road for hours and arrived after 6PM. It was a long way. I cannot even say that it was a one-horse town. Hey, the joke’s on me!
Poetry. I found myself in Norway for a colleague’s birthday. I was hijacked into attending. First I enthusiastically agreed to attend and then he told me where. Can you beat that? He held me to my promise. Then my supposed roommate was another neurosurgery colleague. Except John was very smooth with the ladies and he picked up his own roommate, a rather good looking blonde at the airport in Oslo. Harald had to scramble to find me a place to stay and I was consigned to the loom room in a shack behind a farmhouse. I would add that he was compulsive and needed to guarantee enough rooms for guests coming in from around the world. So he bought a hotel for the weekend. The farmer had remorse about selling it to him, so Harald sold it right back at a profit. The room I had was view to the cows passing back and forth to the barn several times a day. It’s a bit of a different view from the Manhattan skyline.
And if you look, there are houses on the mountain. What beauty. With a good internet connection, you could let the world come to you. Otherwise you are a long way from civilization.
Fiords are what make Norway famous. I imagined deep glacial valleys with high cliffs on either side. This is not too bad. I can’t say that this is what I had imagined but it’s a pretty special view.
I imagine Norway to be a hardy land in the winter. The houses along the water and nestled against the mountain is like a contest of nature versus man. Yup, that’s snow up there, and it’s only September.
You drive and drive and look constantly for photo ops. With a little more time I could have seen so much more. But I didn’t have time. The map though small did not reflect the narrow roads and time it took to get from one point to another. I was too ambitious. Still I spent a lot of hours in the car passing from one memorable landscape to another.
So after the party… I’m on my own. I didn’t want to impose upon Harald with so many guests and family still about. My traveling companion south was Kristina (that blonde) and she filled me in on some of the Scandinavian life… like how to tell if a woman was Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish. I was wrong every guess. But I think she set me up. I dropped her in the airport in Oslo and continued west to Bergan. Without accurately knowing the km conversion from mph, I was driving way to fast on the narrow roads. Arriving late into Bergan, I took a likely room. My view to the water and early morning fog was priceless.
Norway is stupendously beautiful. Was that convincing enough to make you want to visit? For the birthday party, which was biggest thing in the valley, Harald purchased a hotel. The owner had been reluctant to guarantee all his rooms for the guests. Afterward, Harald casually mentioned that he was selling a (this) hotel. The owner had gotten second thoughts and wanted it back. So Harald made a small profit on the side to cover expenses for the party.
I caught this picture of Norwegian farm life somewhere north of Oslo on the road to Unset. Remember that town with the entering/leaving sign on the same post? The directions to Unset are easy. You leave the airport and drive due north on a two lane road. It’s not divided as I learned quickly swerving back to my side of the road when I found myself facing oncoming traffic. Arriving in Unset, I saw no town (stores, gas station, restaurant) but followed a bus figuring it would lead me there. The bus turned into a driveway, the bus driver having parked in his home driveway. I asked for directions in English and a nice man who didn’t speak English motioned me to follow him. We drove up the road two houses further on and I was at Harald’s place. Meanwhile, back at the haystacks, I saw the covering on the stacks, but never quite got an explanation of their meaning. It’s not something I have seen in the United States.
So my friend and colleague Harald asked, “I’m having my 60th birthday. Will you come to my party?” He’s much older than me, really! (wink)
I replied without hesitation and some enthusiasm, “Sure, I’d love to.”
“Great!” he continued, “It will be in September… in Norway.”
I believe that this is/was one of the best set up lines…ever! So here I am in Norway, never having planned to visit, but somewhere thinking it was on the list somewhere below the 50% point that I would visit. I’m not even in a known town. You can’t call it a town even. The entering and leaving message is on the same board. It saved money/firewood I guess. That’s Harald, the big Viking. He did eventually marry Hiromi. The blonde is Kristina who’s related to another rather famous neurosurgeon. Harald has been a true friend and I wish him the best.
Bergen, Norway. In the summer of 2000, a colleague, Harald Fodstadt asked if I would attend his 65th birthday party. My reply was, “I’d be delighted Harald. Anything for you.” He lived in Manhattan at the time but his response was, “Great! It’s in Norway in September.” So there I was on a plane to Norway in September 2000. Harald had a house in Unset in the north. Arriving at about 8AM I approached the Hertz rental counter and afterward asked for directions thinking Unset was a city. The agent said turn right and drive north. My first realization, that Norway was quaint, was upon exiting the airport and discovering the road was two ways and not divided. Unset was indeed to the north about seven hours drive. The back of the entering sign read leaving Unset. There was a single store that was closed by 5PM. I followed a passing bus and figured it would bring me to town. Alas the driver went 200 yards up the road and parked at his house. A motorist who spoke Norwegian finally understood and escorted me to Harald’s house. What an adventure! After leaving Unset, I drove to the coast to Bergen to explore the fiords. At dawn the fog had not yet lifted over the picturesque harbor.
The terrain is foreboding. It looks like civilization is wrested from nature. Driving along the fiords I could see many towns with their colorful palette of walls and similar architechture. You can see snow already in the mountains above.
Driving south from Unset I returned to this hay field that I had seen when I came from Oslo. I’m glad I went out of my way. Each region has its own style and I found this stacking to be worth a picture.