A trip to Vesterålen, Part One: The Train

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Morty grew up in a tiny village called Grytting, in a region of northern Norway called Vesterålen. I’ve visited there three times previously, all for Christmas visits, so I was very excited to know we’d be there for 10 days during the summer days of the midnight sun. We decided to take the long way up by train and coastal steamer (the Hurtigruten). We booked a sleeper train for the first leg of the journey, so we headed to the Oslo train station around 9 p.m. for our almost 11 p.m. departure. Shortly before the departure though, we received word that there were problems on the tracks (a freight train had derailed!), so we would have to stir from our sweet train-slumber at 3 a.m. to get on a bus to take us to another train without a sleeping compartment. (Insert grumpy face here.) But, these are the little moments that make travel memorable, so we found our way to the train, promptly set up our bunk beds and tried to get as much sleep as possible as the train left Oslo and winded its way up to Vinstre.

Here we are in our little cabin shortly before lights out:

Trip_trainSleep was hard to come by since the train made several stops and I was restless knowing it would be short sleep anyway. We eventually reached Vinstre, and a train-full of sleepy, bed-headed passengers exited onto the platform to await our bus. My lack of rest and general grumpiness were seriously challenged as two passengers next to us on the bus were crunching and smacking on their pistachios louder than I’ve ever heard anyone eat before. My passive-aggressive stares were met by Morty trying to convince me to look hear past it, and when we arrived at the next train, we both made sure we were nowhere near the crunch-happy couple. A pistachio-free three-hour train ride later, we arrived in Trondheim to board our final train that would take us to Bodø.

I’ve ridden on a few trains in my life – touristy excursions in small-town Texas, a day-long (but speedy!) trip from Paris to Nice, an otherworldly departure from the floating buildings of Venice to arrive a few hours later in the bustling and beautiful Florence. So when we boarded the train in Trondheim at 7:30 a.m., it wasn’t a novel experience – but when the conductor announced all of our upcoming stops and that we’d be arriving in Bodø at 5:30 p.m., I took an excited gasp. To know that we’d be in the same cozy nook for 10 hours with nothing but each other, our books, our music and the landscape creeping by (no high-speed trains for this mountainous country!), was one of the most comforting feelings I’ve ever had. We emptied our bags of our necessities (book, ipod, camera, CHOCOLATE), and put them on our little table. Then the train whistle blew and away we went into the bright, hopeful day.

Our cozy nookThe rest of the day was a mélange of reading, gazing, getting up for coffee, chatting, falling asleep on Morty’s shoulder, drooling on said shoulder, reading, snacking and gazing some more. We passed farms on rolling green hills, rocky lakes of crystal blue water, fields of fireweed and eventually wound our way up steep passages before leveling out as we crossed the Arctic Circle.

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Trip_view2Scenery from the day (click on the “HD” in upper right-corner for a clearer picture):

Passing the Arctic Circle (a stone pyramid in the field indicates the point):

Around 6 p.m. we said goodbye to our little home for the day and stumbled out onto the platform at Bodø. We walked up to the front of the train and I stopped to take a picture of it. Right before I snapped the picture though, a little girl about 5 years old walked up to the train and gave it a kiss goodbye. I wish I had been fast enough to snap a photo, but it was such a surprising and sweet moment, I’m glad to even have seen it.

Adieu to our 10-hour home!

Trip_trainEndFor Part 2 of the trip, I’ll post a few pictures from our night in Bodø, and the next day spent on the Hurtigruten. Thanks for reading this far!

Monday at the Botanical Gardens

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Morty’s vacation started today, so we decided to soak up as much of this Oslo heat-wave as possible and headed out to the Botanical Gardens (Botanisk hage). I’ve been once before, but that visit fell in September, so it was nice to see all of the colorful summer blooms and explore the fragrant (but humid!) greenhouses.

This greenhouse’s star attraction (for me) were these amazing water-lilies. They are fittingly called Victoria Amazonica – they looked cozy enough to curl up on with a cup of tea and a book, but I decided not to test their Amazonian strength.

Victoria AmazonicaLollipop Plant (Pachystachys lutea):

luteaAnthurium/Tailflower/Flamingo Flower:

I sadly didn’t notate the name of this plant, but Morty remarked that it looks like a face-hugger from the Alien films. Yikes!

face huggerIn the desert greenhouse we saw these rose-like succulents called Aeonium Manriqueorum. I read that “aeonium” means “ageless” in Greek, which is so fitting for these sturdy plants!

SucculentThe ever elusive bunny cactus, or Echinopsis Oxygona:

bunny cactusOutside of the greenhouses, we walked through paths of tall trees and little gardens of blooms:

flowerOrange flower

flowers 2My favorite sighting after the giant water-lilies: Umbrella Leaf (Diphylleia Cymosa)

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If you find yourself in Oslo, I highly recommend a visit to this gem on the east-side of town. The paths and greenhouses are free of charge and it’s the perfect spot to wind down and breathe in some unexpected inspiration.

Embarrassing behavior in foreign places

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One of my favorite spots in Oslo is Bare Jazz, a jazz record shop downstairs, a cafe/bar upstairs. It’s tucked into a cozy square off of a busy street. I’d like to think it’s my little secret, but in the long days of summer, it becomes a popular place to while away the hours for many a local or tourist. I pop in from time to time with a book or just my thoughts, and on one particular visit a few summers ago, I sat down to have tea and a pastry. The tea was presented in several pieces: a large glass was filled with hot water, an infuser was in the glass, and on top of the infuser hung a tiny cup. After a few minutes, I took the infuser out and laid it on my plate next to my pastry. I then pondered the tiny cup, and being that I’ve only ever drunk tea out of a cup, I decided that the cup must be for the tea. So, I proceeded (er, attempted) to pour the very hot tea from the large glass into the tiny cup. As you can imagine, it didn’t go well. Hot tea dripped down my arm and only filled the cup with enough for a sip or two. After doing this a few more times, I decided that I was just going to drink the tea from the large glass – forget that tiny cup! I then noticed someone else drinking tea, and on their table was the tiny cup…with the infuser nestled inside. [Insert head smack here.] The only thing to do was laugh. I don’t think anyone noticed, but if they did, hopefully it gave them a laugh too. Now I quite enjoy getting tea there just so I can have the pleasure of putting the infuser in the correct spot (and not getting my wrist and pastry soggy).

The correct way to have tea at Bare Jazz.