Monthly Archives: September 2017

Norway — August 20-30, 2017

We flew from Amsterdam to Norway on August 20, and were met at the Kristiansand airport by Lars Helge and Tove in one car, and Rasmus and Kari in another, since we were four with luggage.   We all gathered for an official welcoming and dinner at the home of Rasmus and Kari, where we four Americans would stay during our time in Kristiansand.


The next day Rasmus took us all out for a sailing cruise through some of the waters around Kristiansand.  We stopped for a time at Bragdøya, an island in the archipelago in the Kristiansandsfjorden, just south of Kristiansand.  The island has been owned by the municipality of Kristiansand since 1969 when they bought it with a government grant as a public open space. It was purchased with the requirement that the islands would be a recreational space for the city. During the summer, the island is used as grazing land for sheep.

We saw the sheep, but we were especially interested in the works of Bragdøya Kystlag, a voluntary association which aims to preserve local maritime culture along the coast.The warehouse complex of the Bragdøya Coastal Heritage Centre contained many interesting examples of restoration and authentic reproduction using traditional tools and methods.

Ogge Gjesteheim

In anticipation of our visit, Lars Helge had arranged for a gathering of all of the Norwegian friends we have met in our visits to Norway.  We gathered some 38 km north of Kristiansand at the Ogge Gjesteheim, where we would spend the night in a set of yurts.

The Norwegian guests included Lars Helge & Tove Brunborg, Rasmus & Kari Morvik, Per & Ingunn Skretting, Mardon & Marie Meihack, Rune Teisrud & Bodil Fjelde, Terje With & Mika Andersen, and Harald Knudsen.

It was fun to see them all again.  We had some fantastic meals, competed in an improvised game of “toss the milk can”,  took a walk along a path that had posted questions, spent some time picking blueberries and lingonberries and a few cloud berries, and spent a lot of time just visiting.  And of course, we slept in the yurts!

In & Around Kristiansand

We went on several walks in the neighborhood.  One was along the scenic waterfront, where we had lunch and visited the sea food market.  We paused for photos at the Christiansholm Fortress. The fortress was finished in 1672 and formed a part of King Christian IV’s plan for defense of Kristiansand when the city was founded in 1641.   It was built on an islet, about 100 yards from shore. Today the fortress is connected to the mainland.

The only time the fortress has been in battle was against a British fleet force in 1807 during the Napoleonic Wars.  The fortress was decommissioned by royal decree during June 1872 as part of a major redevelopment of fortifications across the nation.

Today, Christiansholm is a tourist attraction by the Kristiansand Boardwalk and venue for a variety of cultural events and festivities. It is now owned by the municipality and is a site used principally for recreation and cultural events.

We also went to the nearby Kilden, the new (January 2012) performing arts centre for Southern Norway.  It  is used for concerts, theatre, opera, dance and entertainment.  The building itself is spectacular.

On another day we parked the cars and walked through woods to Ravnedalen, a nature park with scenic surroundings. In the park there is a grand outdoor stage for summer concerts.  We had lunch at the associated Café Generalen, known for its impressive hamburgers.  On the way back to the cars we took another route that took us to an overlook of Kristiansand.  Later that day we all visited Lars Helge’s and Tove’s son Erik Brunborg.

The Morviks were warm and gracious hosts that excelled at keeping us entertained and making us feel welcome, to say nothing about feeding us delicious meals.  On one occasion, Bill noticed a set of wooden blocks in their home.  An query revealed that they actually didn’t know what the blocks were for.  But Bill did.  And so we all competed in a contest to see who could remove a block without the structure collapsing — a task that became increasingly difficult as the structure became increasingly unstable.

Morvik Hytta

We spent the 26th & 27th at the Morvik’s hytta.  Our first walk was along a small river near their cabin, where we found blueberries.  On the second day, we parked the car and first visited a spectacular cliff and waterfall, and then took a much longer hike through the woods to the site of an old old cabin.  (A date carved into a door header reads “1660”.)  The cabin survives because the Government has paid the land owner to keep it sound.  Tools and bottles and old shoes can be seen inside.

We made a fire in a meadow near the old cabin and had a yummy lunch of pancakes and coffee.

Farewell Dinner

On our last day in Kristiansand we had dinner at the Brunborgs.  Tove served a dish that had us all swooning and asking for the recipe.  Now I just need to translate it into English.  And the dessert kept us coming back until it was all gone!




Next day we took a bus to Oslo, where we rented a car and spent a frantic two days absorbing as much of the sights as we could.

We visited the Fram Museum, which tells  the story of Norwegian polar exploration. It is located on the peninsula of Bygdøy,  an area with several other museums, including the Kon-Tiki Museum and the Norsk Folkemuseet (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History), as well as several others that we didn’t get to.

The Fram Museum is centered principally on the original exploration vessel Fram. The original interior of Fram is intact and visitors can go inside the ship to view it.  In May 2009 the museum also took over the exhibition of the Gjøa, the first ship to traverse the Northwest Passage. Roald Amundsen and a crew of six traversed the Northwest Passage aboard the Gjøa in a three-year journey which was finished in 1906.

The Kon-tiki Museum houses the Kon-Tiki, a raft of balsa wood of pre-Columbian model that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. Another boat in the museum is the Ra II, a vessel built of reeds according to Heyerdahl’s perception of an ancient Egyptian seagoing boat. Heyerdahl sailed the Ra II from North Africa to the Caribbean after a previous attempt with the reed boat Ra failed.

The Norsk Folkemuseet is dedicated to Folk art, Folk Dress, Sami culture and the viking culture. The outdoor museum contains 155 authentic old buildings from all parts of Norway, including a Stave Church.

On our way to Frogner Park, we stumbled upon the Oslo City Museum, which holds an interesting permanent exhibition about the people in Oslo and the history of the city.

We went to Frogner Park to see the well-known Vigeland installation, a permanent sculpture installation created by Gustav Vigeland between 1924 and 1943.  Although sometimes incorrectly referred to in English as the “Vigeland (Sculpture) Park,” the Vigeland installation is not a separate park, but the name of the sculptures within Frogner Park.  The sculpture park consists of 212 sculptures as well as larger structures such as bridges and fountains.

The Oslo Opera House is the home of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway.  The main auditorium seats 1,364 and two other performance spaces can seat 200 and 400.  The angled exterior surfaces of the building are covered with marble from Carrara, Italy and white granite.   Construction started in 2003 and was completed in 2007, ahead of schedule and 300 million NOK ( about US$52 million) under its budget of 4.4 billion NOK ( about US$760 million).  The roof of the building angles to ground level, creating a large plaza that invites pedestrians to walk up and enjoy the panoramic views of Oslo.

It had been a tremendous three weeks in Europe, made all the more special because of our companionable traveling mates, Bill and Colleen.  We flew back to the USA on August 31, arriving in Portland, OR to discover that the western United States was ablaze in wildfires.  But that is the subject of another blog post.


Gouda, Delft & Brussels — August 16, 18-19, 2017

On August 16 we drove Paulien’s car to Gouda and Delft.  (Paulien had earlier left the car with us when she returned by train to Amsterdam.)

Gouda is of course  known for its namesake cheese, and to a lesser extent, its seasonal cheese market, regularly held on the medieval Markt square.  Anchoring the square is the 15th-century Town Hall, a Gothic building with red and white shutters.

We also visited the Sint Janskerk, a large Gothic church, known especially for its stained glass windows, for which it has been placed on the UNESCO list of Dutch monuments.

And of course we did some walking through the streets, visiting cheese shops and admiring the boats along the canals.

In Delft we visited the factory where the famous blue and white pottery is made.  Not surprisingly, it is called Delft pottery, or Delft Blue.

 We also did some street walking in Delft, including the vicinity of the expansive Delft Market Square, bounded on one side by the City Hall and on the other by the Nieuwe Kerk, a Protestant Church where William of Orange, leader of a 16th century resistance against Spanish occupationis buried.

After Gouda and Delft, we took Paulien’s car back to The Hague.   Then we took a bus to Brussels, Belgium.

Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions  (the other administrative centres are Luxembourg and Strasbourg).  We spent some time in their large building housing displays explaining the mission and functioning of the European Union.

And we visited The Royal Palace of Brussels, the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of the nation’s capital. However it is not used as a royal residence, as the king and his family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels.

As we traversed the city, we noted in the distance a strange structure.  The Atomium  is a building in Brussels originally constructed for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. It stands 102 m (335 ft) tall. Its nine 18 m (60 ft) diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It is now a museum.

Tubes of 3 m (10 ft) diameter connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre. They enclose stairs, escalators and a lift (in the central, vertical tube) to allow access to the five habitable spheres which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere includes a restaurant which has a panoramic view of Brussels. In 2013 CNN named it Europe’s most bizarre building.  Upon approaching the structure we learned of its rather steep admission fee, so we contented ourselves with admiration of its exterior.

Once again we walked the streets, finding the famous Manneken Pis.  Designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder, Manneken Pis has been happily peeing in Brussels for more than 400 years. His name translates to “Little Man Pee” in Marols, a Dutch dialect spoken in Brussels. The little lad is usually naked, but he was inexplicably clothed in academic garb on the day we visited.  Soon after, in a nearby shop, Barb indulged in a Belgian waffle topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

And of course we could not spend time in Brussels without partaking of mussels.

We only scratched the surface of Brussels, but it was time to move on.  Specifically, we took a train back to Amsterdam, where we caught an airline to Kristiansand, Norway, via Oslo.  But our Norway visit is another topic for another post.  See you there?

The Hague — August 14-15 & 17, 2017

On August 14 we took a bus up to The Hague, where Paulien has a home.  We visited two interesting sites in the area.  The first was Madurodam,  a miniature park and tourist attraction in the Scheveningen district.  It is home to a range of 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch landmarks, historical cities and large developments.

The second attraction was the Beach and Pier in the Dutch resort town of Scheveningen near The Hague. Opened in 1959, the Pier is on an expansive beach that is lined with a multitude of open air restaurants, bars, and snack stands.  We couldn’t resist an “all you can eat” offer of spare ribs.  As we walked along the beach at the end of the day toward our car, we stopped and asked a pair of young waitresses about how the many shops could survive the winters.  We were told that ALL of the businesses are crated up and taken away to be stored for the winter, only to be re-erected the following Spring.

The Pier itself hosts two features that persist year-round.  A huge high tower topped by a crane from which deranged thrill-seekers bungee-jump, plunging to a point just a few meters above the cold sea, and then bouncing back almost to the starting platform.  The tower is also the attachment point of two zip lines that run all the way back to the shore.  The other feature is a gigantic Ferris wheel constructed in 2016 — Europe‘s first Ferris wheel constructed over the sea. The Ferris wheel is over forty meters high and has 36 closed gondolas with air conditioning.  Each gondola offers room for up to six people. Adults pay €9.00 and children under twelve pay €7.00 for a ride that lasts about 20 minutes.

On August 16 we used Paulien’s car and drove up to Delft and Gouda.  I will cover that visit in the next edition of this blog.

On August 17, back in The Hague, Barb and Bill and Colleen ventured out to see a third site.  They visited Binnenhof, a cluster of buildings that houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. , and Mauritshuis, an art museum that houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings which consists of 841 objects, mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings.   Suffering from a severe cold, I stayed back at Paulien’s home.

Amsterdam — August 8-13, 2017

Paulien Wijnvoord, who shepherded us to the appropriate bus so that we could get to her son’s finely appointed and spacious condo in the heart of Amsterdam, met us at Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport. Paulien, who has homes in Bonaire and in The Hague, was house-sitting in Amsterdam while her son was away, and we had been invited to join her. We took full advantage, and saw a lot of the vibrant city. We walked a bunch, and immediately were struck by the ascendancy of the bicycle. They were everywhere! Almost all streets had a bicycle lane, often adjacent to the pedestrian sidewalk. After several near misses we learned to look both ways before crossing a bicycle lane, because they had the right of way. Most sidewalks were cluttered with parked bikes. But what was really mind blowing were the huge – nay, giagantic – bike parking spaces near public attractions and more traditional transportation centers, such as train, bus or ferry centers. Some of these were actually multi-story! We have no idea how an owner could relocate his or her bike after returning.  The other striking, but actually concomitant, feature was the level of fitness of the average person in Amsterdam.  Almost everyone was slim and trim.  Quite a contrast to what we see in America.

We also used extensively the enlightened public transportation system that utilizes electronic cards that can be loaded with a sum and then is appropriately deducted by being held next to sensors as one boards and leaves trams and/or buses.

And we took a ride on a canal boat that was piloted by a congenial and informative fellow from New Zealand who at one point asked if anyone wanted to take the controls for a bit. Barb and Bill each had turns that were undoubtedly extended when he learned of their boating experience.

We visited the Anne Frank Museum, where we avoided the long long lines of would-be ticket buyers by having pre-purchases made by Paulien. The experience was as moving as one would expect, even though the attendees were packed in elbow-to-elbow.

We spent a lot of time in the Rijks Museum, where I think we were all especially impressed by the works of Vermeer and Rembrandt and Van Gogh.  But the best Van Gogh experience was at the Van Gogh Museum itself, dedicated to the artist and his contemporaries.

We took a (daytime) stroll through the Red Light District, where scantily-clad ladies were indeed to be found in doorways and behind large windows.  Many of them were surprisingly good looking.

On the recommendation of the New Zealander, we spent some time in the architecturally spectacular Nemo Science Museum. He gave warning that it was slanted toward youth but we decided to go anyway. We found some interesting displays but eventually fled from the crowded chaos of too many parents and children seeking not only stimulation but also respite from crummy weekend weather. One section of the museum warrants comment. As many readers probably already know, the Dutch are not particularly squeamish about sex. The purpose of the section was to inform teens and pre-teens about social, psychological and physical aspects of sex, and this was done via a large number of frank and detailed illustrated posters. Perhaps the most striking example of the difference between Dutch and American attitudes was the inclusion of a large collection of actual flexible stick figures posed in the (labeled) positions of the Kama Sutra.

Storing the RV in Preparation for Europe Trip — Hood River, OR, August 4-6, 2017

We weren’t taking the RV to Europe, so what to do with it while we were gone?  A very welcome answer appeared in the persons of John and Shirley Nesbitt.  John is the brother of Mike Nesbitt, for whom Bill Bouchard had previously worked, and for whom Bill had done a whole series of fixes on Mike’s huge camping bus.  As a consequence of this relationship, Mike asked John if we could park our RVs on his spacious property in Hood River, OR.  John not only said yes, but he insisted on taking us to Seattle for our flight.

We spent several days getting our RVs settled in, during which John took us to several interesting venues.  The Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum has one of the largest collections of still-flying antique aeroplanes and still-driving antique automobiles in the country.  The airplane collection is mainly focused on aircraft in the period 1903–1941, but also includes light World War II Army, Army Air Corps, and naval aircraft.  The antique cars were built between 1909 and the 1960s, and are still in running condition. There are over 175 autos on display. Most are from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The oldest car on display is an 1909 Franklin Model D.

The second experience that John gave us began with a trip south of Hood River to a community called Dee. Specifically, to an area which had in the past been the site of a lumber mill. Most of the buildings are now gone with the exception of one huge structure, constructed in 1958. That structure had been most recently employed for storage, but much of the roof had collapsed in Feb. 2017 from too much weight of snow. The contents? Parts of carousels.

But let me back up a bit.

Carol Jackson Perron graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School in 1954. As a youngster, she often visited Playland Pier, Coeur d’Alene’s waterfront amusement park. Later, Jackson spent summers working there.

When she married Duane Perron, she began urging that they do something to save the nation’s historic carousels. Starting with the restoration and operation of a 1914 carousel in Portland, Oregon in 1978, they have restored and placed into operation seven antique carousels at various locations around America, including the Playland Pier carousel, which they bought at an auction in Puyallup, Washington. For a time it resided in a shopping mall in Reading, PA. Some years later they were able to see it placed back at Coeur d’Alene.

They opened a carousel museum in Portland in 1983, but moved it to up the Columbia Gorge to Hood River in 1999. In a newspaper interview that I found on the web, Perron said “We bought a bank (building), put it there, and became almost too successful. We were part of the Gray Line tour, but we were located in the middle of downtown. If you had three or four buses trying to drop off passengers, you jammed up the whole town.” The city, he said, banned buses from parking downtown. Gray Line dropped the museum from its tour. And so, in late 2010, the International Museum of Carousel Art closed. The collection went back into storage. However, the passion for carousels lived on.

The Perrons are now in their eighties, and Carol is in ill health. But their son Brad has continued the effort, operating nine historic carousels across the country, owning the Dee building and pushing forward with plans for the Dee area. The Perron collection now has about 1,100 carved carousel horses and 21 working carousel mechanisms, seven in pristine condition, taking up two large buildings. Well, it was two, until the roof collapsed in Dee. When we visited, construction of a new roof was underway, and lots of carousel parts were covered with tarps. Other parts and been removed to be stored and dried elsewhere. John explained that the Perrons’ plan was to eventually turn the building into a new museum that would contain six operating carousels as well as a display of the collection. And if that doesn’t seem ambitious enough, the Perrons consider the museum to be a mere amenity to go along with a DeeTour hotel and concert venue to be built adjacently.

When we left the Dee building we went to the second large storage building on the elder Perrons’ farm, where we took the pictures that appear below. As we left the second building, John showed us the site of an intended additional storage building, presumably to house the surplus after the Dee building is used as a museum.

The magnitude of the collection and of the effort to save the carousel tradition left us dumbstruck.  And heartsick, because we had learned of the ill health of Carol and of the age of Duane.  It was only while doing web research about their efforts that I learned about the existence and important role son Brad now plays.  We hope to, one day not too distant in the future, be able to visit a thriving center at Dee, Oregon.

Oregon Coast — July 31-August 3, 2017

On July 31 the members of the “pod” (Shipleys, Hilbruners, Bill Bouchard and Colleen Wright) took their RVs west of Portland to the Oregon shore.  We spent time at Cannon Beach, visited the Cape Mears Lighthouse, visited the Tillamook Cheese factory, ate seafood at a number of venues, camped in the Barview Jetty County Park, and browsed in a number of art galleries.  The Oregon coast is spectacular, and our day on Cannon Beach was exceptional.  But by August 3 it was time to return back to Hood River.  The Hilbruners would soon be departing for Alaska, and the rest of us of us had to get ready for an exciting trip to Europe!