Table of Contents:
Traveling to Helsinki
Helsinki and the Trip to Leningrad
June 26-27, 1986: fly to Copenhagen, Denmark
June 27, 1986: Denmark; Roskilde, Vikingskibshallen (Viking Ship Museum), Domkirke, Museum of Holography, Wax Museum ("Louis Tussaud's"), Tivoli Gardens
June 28, 1986: Resistance Museum (Freedom Museum, World War II Museum), Marble Church, Museum of Decorative Arts, city tour ("Allocation Plots", canals, "The Free State of Christiana", Amelienborg, "Little Mermaid" statue
June 29, 1986: train to Stockholm, Sweden; Silvia Regina (Silja Line)
June 30, 1986: Helsinki, Finland; city tour (Farmers' Market, Rock Church (Temppeliaukio), Sibelius Monument), train to Leningrad, USSR
July 1, 1986: city tour (Rostral victory columns, Peter the Great Monument, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Nevsky Prospect, Palace Square and the Alexander Column, Beryoska
July 2, 1986: Neva River hydrofoil tour, Petrodvorets (the Summer Palace), market, Hermitage, folklore show at Dvorets Molodezhi
July 3, 1986: train to Helsinki, Finland
July 4, 1986: Esplanade, open-air market, Hvittrask, Muurlanlasi glass factory, travel to Turku, Turku Castle, Svea
July 5, 1986: Skansen Open Air Museum, city tour (City Hall, Embassy Row, Wasa Museum), Gamla Stan (Old Town)
July 6, 1986: Maritime Museum (Sjohistoriska Museet), Historical Museum, Medieval Museum, Gamla Stan
July 7, 1986: travel to Uppsala, burial mounds and church at Gamla Uppsala, Uppsala Cathedral, travel to Mora and Siljan Lake)
July 8, 1986: Lillehammer, Maihaugen Open Air Museum, travel to Sjusjoen
July 9, 1986: travel to Fagernes, continental divide, Stave Church in Borglund, ferry up Sognefjord and Naeroyfjord, Stalheim Climb
July 10, 1986: travel to Oslo, Hardanger Vidda (Hardanger Heights), Voringfoss
July 11, 1986: city tour (Holmenkollen ski jump, Vigeland Park in Frogner Park, City Hall), Viking Ship Museum, Thor Heyerdahl Museum, Fram Museum
July 12, 1986: Akershus Festning (Akershus Fortress), Forsvarsmuseet (the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum), return to New Jersey
June 26, 1986 (Actually, it's June 27 already in Copenhagen.): They have closed the plane doors, so we should be taking off soon. Late, of course, but what else is new? First the limo driver had trouble finding our house (the sheet was written as "Breckridge"), and then we almost took a stranded Japanese businessman to the airport with us. His limo had broken down on the Belt Parkway and we stopped to help out, but another limo from that company showed up, so it took him instead.
Security has definitely been beefed up--Northwest Orient is now doing hand searches of all luggage (well, not all, but any that they want to, including luggage to be checked) and very thorough examination of hand luggage, including taking the lens cap off the camera and looking through the view-finder to be sure it is a camera.
We met some of the other people on our tour. Apparently there is a whole contingent from Muskegon, Michigan. As usual, we seem to be the youngest on the tour. Several of the other people have also been to China, so we'll probably end up talking about there at some point.
We took off about an hour late--on landing, another plane blew a tire on our runway, so we had to wait for them to tow the plane and pick up the pieces of the tire.
They gave us a snack of Ry-Krisp, cheese, and raisins, and then about an hour later, dinner. I had Seafood Newburg; Mark had turkey.
June 27, 1986: This seems as good a time as any to change dates. I got a couple of hours of not very restful sleep. There is a six-hour time difference between New York and Copenhagen, so I'll probably end up with jet lag.
Well, we landed and collected our luggage and cleared customs quickly. Our guide, Erik Borries, said we were still missing eight people, so there are about 43 people in our tour. For this morning's activities he suggested resting or shopping. No way, José! Our rooms weren't all ready at the Kong Frederik, but because we wanted to leave we got ours. There was a basket of fruit (with kiwi fruit and raspberries) that we snacked a bit on, then we left the hotel and walked to the train station. Copenhagen is a very pretty city, with beautiful old buildings and clean streets. The train station looked like train stations should look--large brick building with an arched facade, etc. We wandered around looking for the ticket office and finally had to ask one of the kiosk owners where it was. At this point we debated the wisdom of going off to another town in a country where we didn't speak the language, but we decided to go for it. The ticket seller pointed out that it was cheaper to get a "Copenhagen Card" than a round-trip ticket to Roskilde and admission to the museum, so we did.
The train was very comfortable. The seats recline and there are tray tables to write on. Someone even comes around selling refreshments. However, it also runs very promptly, so when we got off the door started to close on the person behind me and it was almost impossible to hold it open for him. When they're ready to leave, they leave!
We got on the 307 bus like the book said and checked with the driver that it did indeed go to the Vikingskibshallen (Viking Ship Museum). He even pointed out our stop for us. We walked over to a modern-looking building by a harbor like you'd see in New England. We were just in time for the English version of the film about the excavation--the ships were sunk about a thousand years ago to block the channel and had been submerged the whole interim. Excavating involved draining that whole section of the channel, but not entirely, since without further treatment the wood would crumble to dust when it dried. And the whole job had to be done in one summer.
We got a quick snack in the cafeteria (Jolly Cola for Mark and coffee for me--caffeine!), then saw the rest of the museum. The main feature is, of course, the ships. Five were excavated, though they originally thought the one "long ship" was two separate ships. There are a long ship, a deep-sea trader, a merchant ship, a warship, and a ferry or fishing boat. Even the long ship is small by today's ocean-going standards and when one considers the area explored by the Vikings in such small ships, it's amazing.
We left the museum about 1:00 PM and went back to where we had gotten off the bus. We couldn't see a stop on the other side, so we decided that maybe the bus looped around. When the bus showed up, the driver said the return bus stopped on the other side. When we walked over there we saw the bus stop sign hidden behind a bunch of trees. Meanwhile we had been joined by two women from India also looking for the bus back. We were trying to read the sign, but finally gave up and asked a pedestrian. It turned out that this stop wasn't even listed, and the bus showed up at 1:40 PM (it runs once an hour). We got back to the station and walked over to Domkirke, an eight-hundred-year-old church in which 38 kings and queens of Denmark are interred. The architecture was magnificent and the entire range of decoration was present--Baroque, neo-classical (Greek and Egyptian), modern,.... One chapel had some absolutely wonderful tromphe d'oeil work--you had to stand right against the wall and look up to see that it wasn't three-dimensional. There was also an ornate clockwork--on the hour St. George attacked the dragon, the dragon screamed, and a couple of bystanders rang the bell. Quite a crowd collects to watch this.
We walked back to the station getting some candy on the way. We were going to get something to eat, but decided to head back to Copenhagen and eat more of the fruit basket instead.
We took the local back. When we got into the station, we decided to take a look at Tivoli Gardens on our Copenhagen Card. But then we saw that there was a Museum of Holography and a Wax Museum that we could go to too.
The Holography Museum was much larger than the one in new York (although it was several years ago that we went to that one). The main problem with holograms is that you have to be at just the right angle to see them. Given that restriction, some of them were quite striking. (I should say that one reason this was a problem is that the Museum put many holograms on a child's-eye level rather than an adult's.) They also had holograms for sale at only slightly higher prices than in the United States. In one room, they had holograms of art objects side-by-side with real art objects and it was hard to tell the real from the image.
The Wax Museum ("Louis Tussaud's") was also quite large, with a wide range of verisimilitude. Some of the figures were very life-like, some were accurate, but hardly any were both. There was a section of world leaders, authors, artists, and so on, then a section of fairly mundane representations of fairy tales, then a section of show business people (actors, singers, etc.) which culminated in a copy of Rick's Place from Casablanca. Interesting, but not very well done--only Peter Lorre looked accurate. Then came the part that is most people's favorite--the Chamber of Horrors ("Raedsel's Cabinet"). This was dark and in the basement. It mixed folklore, film, and history, and included some exhibits where the action was triggered by the viewer passing a photoelectric detector.
This done, we walked through Tivoli itself for a while. Tivoli Gardens is basically an amusement park. It's open from May 1 to September 1 and has rides, games (including slot machines), shows, restaurants, and other diversions. I am not greatly thrilled by amusement parks; as I told Mark, I didn't come all this way to go on a throw-up ride.
About 6:00 PM we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at 6:45 PM at the Nimb. The hotel room was like an oven--there is no cross-ventilation.
Dinner was okay--roast beef, potatoes, peas, and strawberry tart for dessert--but not very Danish. We met another couple (from Washington DC) who seemed to be interested in museums more than shopping. We talked to them about travel and made plans to go to see the Resistance Museum Saturday. I just hope we can see the sorts of things we want to see rather than shopping all the time.
After dinner we walked around Tivoli some more, watched some acrobats, saw the Wax Museum again (mostly the Chamber of Horrors), and eventually went back to the hotel about 10:00 PM. It was still light out and didn't start getting dark until after 11:00 PM. We watched Some Like It Hot (in English with Danish subtitles) on TV and caught up on our logs until midnight, when we finally went to sleep.
June 28, 1986: Up at 8:00 AM. Breakfast was pumpernickel with ham, salami, and cheese, orange juice, chocolate nut yoghurt, and very strong coffee. We met Ruthellen and Fred and started out for the Resistance Museum, also known as the Freedom Museum, also known as the World War II Museum. This houses a collection covering all aspects of the Danish resistance to the Nazi occupation, including a special section on Danish assistance to the Jews. (According to our tour guide, the story of the King wearing the yellow star when the Jews were told to is false, but certainly the Danes did a lot besides that.) Well worth visiting, with explanations in English for all the displays.
On the way we had walked through the antiques section, passing the (Russian) Orthodox church with its onion-domed roof, and the Marble Church, which we went into. It was much less ornate than your average Catholic cathedral, being a Lutheran church (Domkirke in Roskilde started as a Catholic church), but still interesting, with the Twelve Apostles circling the walls just beneath the dome.
On the way back we stopped at the Museum of Decorative Arts. It had the expected Scandinavian Modern furniture, but it also had an amazing collection of Japanese sword guards--several hundred of them, mostly in the drawers of what looked like a library card catalog--and many other Chinese and Japanese pieces. The whole thing was quite unexpected. There was also a section of books illustrating book-binding. This included an unusual item--a Triptych formed by binding three books together such that the "outside" of the middle book forms one endpaper each for the first and third books. Sort of like:
__|||_______|||__ |||accordion-folded where the pages meet the bindings. (Pages are vertical; binding is horizontal.) Perhaps not the most practical method, since you have to carry all three books together all the time, but interesting.
We stopped for sodas in a park and then walked back to the City Hall Square where we ate the Copenhagen Corner, a sidewalk cafe overlooking the Square. I had marinated Icelandic herring (with onions and capers) and a Carlsbad; Mark had sorbet and ice cream. The portions weren't huge, but they weren't unreasonably small either. The bill cames to 75 (Danish) krona, or $9.50 with tax and tip. (Krona are the units of currency in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, but their value is different in each place.)
After lunch we caught up on our logs until 2:00 PM, when we went on the city tour. (Having this at the end of our stay is not the best idea, I think.) I'm not going to be able to list everything we saw, and certainly not in the right order, but I'll hit the high points. We saw the "Allocation Plots," which are areas where people from the city can have gardens. Although they are not supposed to build houses on these plots, the garden sheds they started with have somehow mutated into more substantial buildings.
We saw the canals, with historic buildings on either side and lots of boats on them. One such area used to be the red-light district but that apparently moved to the other side of the train station.
Erik told us about Christiana as we drove by. Apparently the navy had vacated a large number of buildings and after a while a group moved in and started "The Free State of Christiana" (named after Christian IV for some reason), a commune-type community. Several years later it's still going, though the buildings are not in the best of repair and the drug trade seems to do well there.
We saw lots of government buildings (all from the outside) including Amelienborg, the Queen's residence.
After seeing some of the dock area, we saw the statue of a woman (I forgot her name) and the Gelfion bulls. Apparently the story if that the King of Sweden spent the night with her and in return offered her all the land she could plow in a day. But she was a goddess and so went home and got her four sons and turned them into bulls. She then plowed enough land in a day to form the island that Copenhagen is located on. The statue was actually part of a fountain, with water gushing up from the plow blade just the way earth would and jets of water spurting from the bulls' nostrils.
From here it was just a short walk to the "Little Mermaid" statue. This statue seems to represent Copenhagen but frankly, it doesn't compare to the Gelfion bulls. It's relatively small (only slightly larger than life-size as compared to something like three times lifesize for the bulls) and could best be called "sweet" or "wistful." Maybe seeing it after such a dramatic statue was a mistake. We also heard the story of the mermaid, who gave up her voice for legs to live on land, married a human, lived happily for many years, then was sent away by her husband. She regained her fins but not her voice.
We drove through a suburb of Copenhagen called Hellerup. This had an apartment complex for disabled and handicapped people, with special construction and with workshops and gymnasia on the lower floors. Whether this is a good idea, or the modern version of the ghetto, is not clear.
A few stray comments: Denmark is in the midst of a heat wave (around 80° Fahrenheit) and the hotel room and the bus were both uncomfortably warm, since neither was air-conditioned nor had any cross-ventilation. This may explain why the Danes seem to drink so much beer, but I think they do that anyway. You see them walking down the street drinking beer at 10 in the morning. The heat is good news to the sun-bathers, I imagine. You see them in all the parks. To the surprise of many on this tour, everyone sunbathes topless. Big deal.
When we got back to the hotel at 5:00 PM, we had our briefing on travel in the Soviet Union--customs, photography, etc. Then we went to dinner at the Brasserie on the Square in the Palace Hotel, where we got the buffet for 175 Danish krona. The appetizers included smoked fish, salmon, hard-boiled eggs with caviar, shrimp, and clams. The main dishes included carved beef or lamb, chicken, fish in cream sauce, leeks, and various other vegetables. There was a salad bar that we never even got to. For dessert I had a piece of brie and strawberry mousse; Mark had bleu cheese, a strawberry tart, and a peach. (We also had Coca-Colas.) Then back to the hotel to work on our logs, pack, and watch the end of Robin and Marian.
June 29, 1986: Up at 6:00 AM, breakfast at 6:45, for an early departure for the train. The train was about 10 minutes late, so it left about 8:30 AM. We were in a compartment of six, sort of like The Lady Vanishes. We started out by heading north to Elsinore. There they loaded the train cars directly onto the ferry and we got out for a good look at Kronberg (Hamlet's castle). Then we arrived in Hälsingborg, Sweden, and were unloaded. We then proceeded through Skåne, an agricultural province. The heat and motion combined to make me doze off a fair amount. Around lunchtime we passed into Småland, a forested province with a lot of lakes. Mark and I had a small lunch--pumpernickel, cheese, and orange juice (Mark had crackers instead of bread). Luckily they took U.S. dollars, since we had spent all our Danish money and hadn't yet gotten any Swedish money. We managed to finish eating and return to our car before the train left Nässjö--it's difficult to walk on a moving train. (The boy in front of me at lunch had kiwi-fruit yoghurt, but apparently took the last ones.)
Next was the agricultural province of Östergïtland, including Linköping and the Göta Canal, a construction project of the last century. Due to the availability of machines, it seems less impressive than the Grand Canal of China, but that's just my impression.
We arrived in Stockholm on time (about 5:00 PM). They unloaded the luggage the same way they loaded it--through the windows. On the way out of the station we had a mishap--someone tried to take a piece of wheeled luggage onto an escalator. The wheels got stuck and the person has his hand wrapped in the strap so he couldn't let go. Someone hit the stop button, but the man had been dragged down several steps already. Luckily, his only injury seems to be a cut finger.
Stockholm is less "story-book-looking" than Copenhagen. The buildings are modern, with some older ones interspersed. But I'll write more on this when we actually see Stockholm.
We boarded the Silvia Regina of the Silja Line and found our cabin. It has a small bathroom with shower, two side-by-side bunks, and two small tables. Larger than those on the Margarita (on the Amazon) but smaller than those on the Santa Cruz (in the Galapagos). We dropped our stuff off and went up to the deck to watch the sailing. You leave Stockholm through an archipelago of little islands, around which are many sail boats and other pleasure craft.
Dinner was a smorgasbord with more cold dishes (mostly fish) than I can remember. There were also some hot dishes, like roast beef and Swedish meatballs, but with all that smoked fish, pickled fish, and bowls of caviar, why bother? The desserts were fairly mundane, though. I went to sleep about 10:00 PM (11:00 PM Finnish time) even though the sun was still up.
June 30, 1986: Up at 6:00 AM, but the sun beat us by several hours. Breakfast at 7 was the usual breakfast buffet--I had two cups of coffee so as not to fall asleep today. I also took some bread, cheese, and yoghurt, since I don't think lunch is until 4:00 PM or so.
We landed at 9:00 AM, coming into the harbor past the fortifications (Suomelinna). There was a large cruise ship, the Royal Viking Sky, in the harbor, as well as another Silja Line ship and a Soviet ship (the Geogots) and lots of small boats. Our city tour started as soon as we all got loaded onto the bus. First we drove around the southern tip of Helsinki, where we saw people washing their carpets in the salt water. Then we cut back through the center of town, passing the Kansallisoopera (Opera House) and returning to the harbor area, where we stopped at the Framers' Market and got some strawberries (at least Mark and I did). Also in this area are Presidentinlinna (the President's Palace) and Uspenskikatedraali (the Orthodox Cathedral). Finnish architecture is much more stark and austere than other architecture--though it's also massive enough to avoid being truly Spartan. The favorite color seems to be a burnt orange. We also saw the Soviet embassy (built as part of the World War II reparations from Finland to the U.S.S.R.) and the United States embassy (which was in the process of building a more secure fence).
Then we drove north, past a Midsummer Tree (like a maypole) to the Senaatinori (the Senate Square) with the Tuomiorkirkko (Lutheran Church), Senate building, and Yliopisto (University) on three sides. Again, blocky architecture dominates, but often decorated with figures and gargoyles.
Our next stop was in the northern part of the city, called Töölö, at the Rock Church (Temppeliaukio), which had been built into the living rock there. Even the organ was very simple, in keeping with the general style.
We then went to the Sibelius Monument and returned via the Olympic Stadium and Finlandia Hall, arriving at the railway station about noon.
The train to Leningrad is a Russian train with compartments for six. We pulled down one of the two bunks to put some of the luggage on. Mark and I, since we were the first ones in, got the window seats. There was a little table between us that we used to write on. Unfortunately, the window wouldn't open so the compartment got a little stuffy.
We left a little late. Lunch was a box lunch of bread, cold cuts, cheese, cucumber salad, orange juice, and chocolate pudding. Not bad for a box lunch--certainly better than we got at the Great Wall.
We traveled first through farmland, but gradually forests and lakes took over. The ride was bumpier than yesterday's, but not unreasonable.
We crossed the border about 4:45 PM. First we cleared Finnish passport control at the last Finnish town (Vainikkala). Then we went a little ways further and the Soviet border control got on. First they collected the passports and visas and checked the compartment for any hidden persons. It was then we discovered that the seats lifted up and there was luggage space under them! Then we crossed the border while they began doing luggage checks. For this, everyone went into the corridor. Then the guard asked Mark to come back in and point out his luggage. He went through Mark's luggage asking about various items. When he got to Mark's copy of Footfall, he looked at it and said, "It is forbidden," and passed it to someone in the corridor. They passed it around, trying to figure out what it was, but had trouble knowing what to make of it. (Let's face it, most Americans wouldn't know what to make of a novel about elephants from outer space invading Kansas.) They were trying to decide if it was "pornographia." Eventually they decide it wasn't and returned it. What was notable was that their immediate reaction to something unknown was, "It is forbidden"--just like the Orwellian "Everything not required is forbidden." Then I was called in. They went over me with a metal detector, checked my pocket knife (no problem), glanced at my diary, and looked at my books. The Xeroxes of articles on the post-moderns in science fiction also got passed around and returned. They went through one other person's luggage from our compartment, and let the other three pass. None of the guards ever smiled or even ceased scowling. It was an interesting experience but not what I would call a pleasant one.
The border was after a frontier zone in Finland. The trees and shrubs had been cleared along the border strip and there was a barbed-wire fence, guard towers, and a guard pit from which they checked for people or objects riding under the train. As Erik said, a true "iron curtain."
This took a while, but eventually it was over and we reached Viipuri, the first stop inside the Soviet Union. After that it was pretty much straight through to Leningrad. We passed many more forests and lakes, along with farms and small towns. The houses we saw were all very run-down and in need of paint, a sharp contrast to the neatness and brightness of the Finnish houses just a few miles away. It had clouded over somewhat, but it was still quite light (sunset isn't till midnight or so).
We got to Leningrad about 9:00 PM and unloaded our luggage from the train (porters would only take it from the platform). Our Intourist guide is named Olga and she is a fourth-year student in English. Her English is passable though she has some problems. We drove along the Neva (I think) through a shopping area and then out to our hotel, the Pribaltiskaya on the Gulf of Finland. It seems a bit far off the beaten track for strolling, but we'll have a better idea tomorrow.
The apartment buildings are also run-down, even more so than in China, though most have curtains. They have balconies with panels over the railings, but the panels are bare metal and really need a coat of paint. In general the buildings are dilapidated, with broken windows and peeling facades. Only the museum buildings are really kept up well (or moderately well).
Dinner at 10:30 PM was an experience. First of all, it was at 10:30 PM. It was still light out. We were put in a dining room with a discoteque off it. We sat down and were served a slice of cold roast beef, another of cold pork, and two slices of cucumber. On the table was bread and butter. There was also beer to drink--one large (liter?) bottle for each two people. We ate this and waited. Oh, also on the table were some dessert cakes. Some of the people starting saying that this was it for dinner, because the dessert was already out. After a while we started nibbling at the dessert. Finally the main course arrived--beef stroganoff and rice. It was delicious, and that wasn't just because it had been eight hours since we last ate. They had coffee and tea, but no milk for the coffee. There may be a shortage because of recent events. After that, we had a quick run-down of Monday's schedule, wrote in our logs for a while, and went to bed.
July 1, 1986: We got up at 8:00 AM for breakfast at 9. The hotel room is better than the ones in China, with three classical music stations on the radio, twin beds (Scandinavian style, meaning a two-inch mattress on top of the box spring), television, and refrigerator.
Breakfast was cold pork, fried eggs (a bit runny for my taste), bread and butter, apple juice, and coffee. They had milk this time.
At 10 we left on our city tour. Our first stop was at two Rostral victory columns (following the Roman tradition) erected along the Neva River. These were put up some time in the 18th Century. Across the river we could see the Peter and Paul Cathedral and Fortress and a monument to Lenin. Then we crossed the Neva and drove past the Artillery Museum and the Fortress. Behind the Fortress was a small beach on which people were sunbathing and swimming, though it was only about 60° Fahrenheit. Crossing the Neva again, we got a good view of the buildings that Leningrad is known for--the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century homes and palaces of the aristocracy. Although the interiors have been completely changed in most of them (except for the museums), the exteriors are maintained in their original style, including being painted in pastel colors. The Hermitage, for example, is green; the Admiralty, yellow.
After we drove along the Neva, passing the Hermitage with its long lines of people waiting to see it, and the Admiralty, we passed the Peter the Great Monument. (Peter the Great "westernized" Russia in the Eighteenth Century, introducing scientific and technological advances from Western Europe. He also introduced a lot of repression and torture, so he wasn't an all-'round nice guy.) Then we drove up to St. Isaac's Cathedral on the same square as the Hotel Astoria, the Nicolas I Monument, and the local Soviet (council). We were going to visit the inside later in the afternoon, but this stop gave us a chance to walk around and take pictures of the exterior and surrounding area. It is no longer a church, but a Museum of Religion and Atheism. You can see the places on the exterior where the shells hit during the Siege of Leningrad.
I should mention that because next year is the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the October Revolution, many buildings are covered with scaffolding as restoration work is done. (Sound familiar?) St. Isaac's is partially covered, as is the Church of the Resurrection.
We also went past the Winter gardens to the Smolny Nunnery. Nearby we saw the Smolny Institute, where the Bolsheviks were headquartered during the Revolution.
We then drove along Nevsky Prospect, Leningrad's main street, passing many important buildings (most of which I can't recall). One was the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, also now a Museum of Religion and Atheism. This seems to be true of several of the churches, though there are still some "working" churches in Leningrad. We also saw many theaters, concert halls, opera houses, and literary or art museums.
It occurs to me that the low standard of living in the U.S.S.R. can be explained by the Three Laws of Thermodynamics. The First Law says you can't get more energy out of a system than you put in. So the Communists couldn't take the wealth of the aristocracy and hand it out so that everyone could live in opulence. The Second Law says there is always some energy that is lost. So when the wealth was re-distributed, some was lost in the process, lowering the total available. Actually, I suspect that a lot was lost. The Third Law says this is happening to the entire universe. So bringing in outside wealth won't help either. (The Three Laws were best summed up in, of all places, The Wiz, in a song: "You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game." This phrasing of the Third Law applies too--no one can get out of the U.S.S.R.)
We returned to the hotel about 1:00 PM. The Beryoska was just closing for lunch so we went back to our rooms and wrote in our logs until 1:30 when it was time for lunch: ham, beef and cabbage soup, pork cutlets, cabbage, and rice. And of course, the ubiquitous cucumber--apparently the cabbage and cucumber crops were good this year. To drink we had Pepsi-Cola. Dessert was orange slices with sugar.
I should explain about Beryoskas. There are two types of stores in the Soviet Union: those which accept rubles and those which accept "hard currency" (dollars, pounds, Finnmarks, etc.). You cannot spend dollars in a ruble store or rubles in a hard currency store. The hard currency stores are designed for tourists and are called Beryoskas. They carry a lot of items not available in ruble stores (the standard store for residents, like a grocery or bookstore). These items included imported cigarettes and liquor, as well as other imported goods which are unavailable in ruble stores. So many Russians would like to get hard currency to be able to shop there. This is where the black market comes in and why you can do much better than 0.7 rubles to the dollar. Of course, you can also land in prison.
After lunch, we left at 3:00 PM for St. Isaac's Cathedral. The interior is decorated in a mixture of neo-Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque. There are 110 columns, most of granite or marble, but some of malachite or lapis lazuli. There are also hundreds of paintings, frescoes, and mosaics, and right in the center is a Foucault Pendulum (currently under renovation). It seems a bit out of place, but perhaps it's the "Atheism" part of "Religion and Atheism."
I forgot to mention one other stop this morning--Palace Square. In the center of the Square stands the Alexander Column, the world's biggest standing piece of granite (155'). On the north is the Winter Palace, housing the Hermitage. This was built by Rastrelli in a style distinctive to St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and is the culmination of that style, with green facade, white contrasting columns and decorations, gilded statues and ornamentation, and a totally individual look. The south side of the Square is occupied by the classical curve of the General Staff headquarters with its ceremonial arch.
We didn't see the Aurora (it was being renovated). We did see the double windows that Leningrad has in all its windows to keep out the winter cold.
After St. Isaac's, we went to a Beryoska nearer the center of town where people did some shopping. We got some mineral water and a few souvenir pins. This was near one of Leningrad's newest bridges, decorated in the Egyptian style with sphinxes and obelisks. Leningrad is laced with rivers and canals and has many bridges. Traffic was unusually heavy because two of the main bridges were being renovated.
Dinner (at 6:00 PM) was sardines with hard-boiled egg, some sort of breaded meatball (it sounds strange, but wasn't bad), creamed peas and carrots, and tea. (There was also bread and mineral water.)
After dinner was the usual--do some laundry, write in our logs, then bed.
July 2, 1986: Breakfast at 8:00 AM was ham, bread, and "cheesecake" with what was either sour cream or yoghurt. The "cheesecake" was something like the inside of a cheese blintz. This was much better than the fried eggs.
We left at 9:00 AM and got to the hydrofoil station by 9:30 in spite of traffic. Our hydrofoil left at 10. We started out inside but soon decided to ride on the observation platform amidships. We got a good view of Leningrad from the Neva, including a lot of apartment buildings being built along it. It was very brisk, with white-caps on the water. We arrived in about a half-hour and walked up the avenue leading to Petrodvorets (the Summer Palace). This avenue had a canal down the center, used to drain the water from the Grand Cascade, a series of fountains in front of the Palace itself decorated with ornate gilt statues. There were also many statues and fountains along and on either side of the avenue. To one side we saw a crew of women working on the landscaping, much of which was still being restored from the damage it suffered during the War. The Palace itself had been used as a German barracks and nothing that hadn't been taken to safety in Siberia before the War survived except the shell of the building.
When we went in, they gave us felt slippers to wear over our shoes to protect the floors. We then went through a whole series of rooms which I will try to list and describe.
There was the Blue Reception Room with blue Russian silk wallcovering and blue and white tile stove. The Chesma Room had a dozen paintings depicting the Russian victory over the Turks at Chesma. For this the Russian navy blew up another ship in the Atlantic, since the artists had never seen that before and couldn't paint it. (This was Mark's favorite room.) Next was the Throne Room with turquoise walls and red curtains (and a throne, of course). The Audience Room was a small room for ladies-in-waiting, using mirrors to give the illusion of space. It was white with a lot of gold trim. The dining room was predominantly white with green trim. The dishes were Wedgewood with a lavender floral design (196 pieces--service for 30). Next was a Chinese room, which we couldn't stop in--a pity, since it was quite elaborate, though small. Then came the Italian Salon with 338 portraits done by one artists using only six models. This was followed by another Chinese Room, then the Partridges Room, called this because of the French silk wallcovering with its motif of partridges. The Divan Room had Chinese silk wallcovering and was dominated (not surprisingly) by a large Turkish divan. Then there was a dressing room and a study, the latter with satin wallcovering. (All these rooms are also filled with valuable paintings and furniture, of course.) The Green Silk Room was covered in green silk (surprise!) and the last of the living quarters was the Cavaliers' Room, also known as the Crimson Room, with crimson silk wallcovering, Chippendale furniture, and blue and white tile stove.
The rest of the rooms we saw (the far side of the Palace from the Grand Cascade) were done in the style of various Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Nicolas I, Catherine III, Elizabeth, Peter the Great, the Crown Room, and Peter the Great's Study (paneled entirely in carved oak). Unlike the living quarters, which were furnished as they were when they were in use, these are more "set pieces" for a museum, collecting furniture from the period represented.
The rooms in Petrodvorets were watched over by old women. I'm not sure how old they were, but they were certainly past what we would consider retirement age. It's possible they want to keep working so that they can be surrounded during the day at least by luxury and opulence. One of them saw me using my binoculars to see the ceiling better and thought I was trying to take a picture (not allowed). How do you say "binoculars" in Russian?
We did see more smiles from people in Petrodvorets than in Leningrad; I'm not sure why.
I mentioned that the "guards" and landscapers were women. We saw women working everywhere: driving streetcars, as Intourist guides (almost all are women), in the fields, on railroad construction crews.... Yet as in China, this "freedom" to work hasn't really brought equality. By all accounts in both countries, the vast majority of the housework is still done by women. Lena made a point of how half the local Soviet were women, but that doesn't really mean they're equal yet (second part is my comment, not hers). By the way, I didn't mention that we changed guides at St. Isaac's the first morning. Apparently Erik called and requested a new guide because of Olga's problems with English. Anyway, the move for equality for women seems to have given them the "freedom" to have a full-time job (actually more of an obligation, I suspect) without passing any domestic responsibilities to the men. This, I think, is considerably less true in the United States.
We left Petrodvorets and rode back to Leningrad by bus. There were other palaces along the way, but none you could really see well from the road. We also passed some summer cottages owned by people who live in Leningrad. These had gardens around then and seemed similar to the Danish "allocation plots" except that the land is still owned by the State rather than the individual.
When we returned to Leningrad we went to the Sadko Restaurant. for lunch. We had appetizers (ham and some tehini-like mixture, along with tomatoes and cucumbers), something that was either thick cream of mushroom soup or hot salad dressing (but good), borscht or red cabbage soup (another disagreement), and spicy beef stew served in a pottery crock. There was also something like cheese danish for dessert and Pepsi and mineral water to drink with the meal, coffee or tea after. But just as the tea arrived, Erik said if we rushed we could see the market across the street. We went under the Nevsky prospect through a walkway to get to the other side.
The market was a series of indoor stalls--something like a cross between an indoor flea market and a mall. Most of the shops seemed to be selling shoes, though that was probably just concentrated in the section we saw, since the display windows outside had a variety of products. We had only about 5 minutes before we had to go back, but it was interesting to see.
On the way back we noticed a soda vending machine. These have regular glasses. After you deposit your money, you press one button to get water to rinse a glass out with, then another button to get your soda. This obviously wastes less in the way of paper cups, aluminum cans, and glass bottles than our own system. For the record, I drank the water in Leningrad and suffered no ill effects. Of course, I didn't try the soda machines which seem like a great way to catch something.
We got back to the bus and rushed off to the Hermitage. This art museum ranks with the Louvre, the Prado, or the Met. Unfortunately, we had only two hours. We began with the European art. There are 141 rooms of Western European art. I don't think we went through all of them (though my feet might disagree) but we saw Italian art (including two Da Vincis, two Raphaels, and eight Titians), Spanish art (including an El Greco), and Dutch art (including several Rembrandts). I can't remember the names of the paintings we saw, but most were religious in subject. There was one of St. Augustine, and another of Danae and the Golden Rain, which our guide described as being from the Bible. I think that the education they give the guides may be a little incomplete and the guides figure that any silly story depicted is from the Bible. St. Augustine at least comes from the same "mythology," though a couple of hundred years later. Danae isn't even close, being from Greek mythology. I don't think we saw any English paintings but I may have forgotten. We did see some French art, including some Limoges china.
After all of this we went upstairs to the Impressionist galleries--Monet, Seurat, Picasso, Matisse (including the famous circle of dancers), Van Gogh, Rousseau,.... I can't remember them all. We saw the Throne Room, containing Alexander Nevsky's Tomb (though he's actually buried elsewhere) and much, much more. (Go find a guidebook in the library if my memory isn't sufficient.) We took a quick look at a Goya on loan from the National Gallery in Washington DC (a Hermitage collection is touring the United States) and walked through the antiquities section (there were Roman and Egyptian statues, but I don't know if they were original or just done in that style at a later time). Then back to the bus, exhausted.
While walking through the Hermitage, I fell behind the group at one point and a boy in his late teens came up to me. "Pens?" he said. I shook my head no, because I needed them to write this. He followed along and tried again. "Chewing gum?" This I had so I pulled out a pack and gave it to him and he gave me a small pin in exchange. These pins are quite popular. They are usually about thumbnail-sized and enameled, showing a building, a person, or a scene, and the name of the town or whatever. They are very popular in China also, with the Chinese as well as with the foreign tourists. This was the extent of my black-market dealings.
No time to rest, though. Back to the hotel at 5:15 PM, we had to be at dinner at 6 and at the bus at 6:45 for our folklore show. Dinner started with pickled herring. It was very good, but most people were already thirsty and we had five Pepsis for nine people. This was typical--you could buy soda, beer, or mineral water at the bar, so they provide the minimum to maximize sales. Since many people didn't want the herring, I didn't feel guilty having two. There was also cole slaw. The main course was a piece of beef in gravy surrounded by whipped potatoes, then baked. The potatoes and gravy were good, but the steak was very tough. Dessert was some sort of cookie. (Oh, of course there was bread and butter. The dark bread has a sour taste and is very good.) WE had to gulp our coffee to make the bus in time for the show.
The folk show was at the Dvorets Molodezhi, about 25 minutes away. There was much less traffic and we didn't have any problem in getting there by 7:30 PM (show time). The show was of Georgian folk music (songs and dances) done in traditional costume. Unlike in Peru, this was professional-level entertainment. I can't describe most of the dances, but there were a couple that were notable. The last dance before the intermission was a re-creation of a sword battle. Dancers with shields and short swords "fenced" (for lack of a better word) with each other. When their swords met, sparks would fly off, making this a very dramatic and energetic performance.
The intermission was also different. There was a stand selling Pepsis (at one ruble, or $1.40 each--but only rubles, not hard currency) but also little squares of dark bread with butter and caviar, and some small pastries. No Snickers bars here!
Next to us in the theater was a Swedish group. Their tour leader was a student from Uppsala. We talked about how much older everything is in Europe. He said that Leningrad, being only 300 years old, was a young city. He also said that in the United States we put in museums things that people in Europe would have in their homes. (His example was his bicycle!)
The final dance was also dramatic, with leaping and twirling and flinging knives into the stage. Whenever someone landed on the stage after a leap, the boards seemed to sag about three inches. This, combined with the flinging of the knives into the boards, means they probably need to replace the boards fairly frequently.
July 3, 1986: We left the hotel at 9;30 AM and got to the train station at 10 for our 11:00 AM train. So we walked around for a half hour, took a few last pictures, and then proceeded to our track. When we got on the train we had to load our own luggage. At least our window opened this time.
The trip back was about the same up to Viborg (the last stop in the USSR). The Soviet border guards had already come through and collected our passports, but we could get out and walk around. Those who had rubles left had to change them here, resulting in lines and confusion. There were pigeons flying through the inside of the station and one girl was able to get them to eat from her hand. We collected some propaganda from the rack and got back on the train.
After we left Viborg, we made another stop just before the border, where they returned our passports (without stamping them), checked for unauthorized passengers in the ceiling (they even removed the ceiling panel in one compartment), and then let us go on. They didn't do any customs checking other than asking if we had any antiques or icons. One theory was that they intimidate you so much when you come in that you're too afraid to try anything illegal. The other was that we hadn't spent enough (based on our currency declarations) to warrant checking. But the first theory also explains why they trusts what you claim on your declaration.
Every time the Soviet guards finished in a compartment, they would go into the passageway, come to attention, salute us, and then close the compartment door. So when we crossed the border into Finland the door was closed and I snuck a couple of pictures of the barbed wire (it is, of course, forbidden to photograph anywhere near the border).
To say we were all happy to be out of the Soviet Union and into Finland would be an understatement. I think at this point we probably appreciated the Statue of Liberty celebrations more than 90% of the people who were going to be at the Statue. As we had heard, traveling in the Soviet Union isn't fun, but it is educational.
The man from Finnish passport control was quite a contrast. First of all, his uniform was less intimidating--blue pants, white short-sleeved shirt, and cap rather than the formal dark green Soviet uniforms. And he smiled, said hello, and said he was from Finnish passport control--no doubt on purpose to inform people that yes, they were indeed out.
I could spend many pages discussing life in the Soviet Union versus life in the United States, but I won't. (What a relief, right?) I will say why I think the Chinese are so friendly and the Russians not. The Chinese see their current conditions (one family, one child and so forth) as temporary. They expect a gradual swing towards a freer lifestyle. They may be right. In some ways they are freer than the Russians; in some ways not. The Russians, on the other hand, realize their lifestyle isn't going to change in the forseeable future and this, I believe, has a very depressing effect.
By the way, I realize that "Russia" is only a part of the Soviet Union, but it is the part we visited, so my use of the term is not entirely incorrect.
The rest of the train trip back was uneventful. I slept through some of it. Our lunch, packed by Intourist, consisted of bread, cheese, salami, three tomatoes, a chunk of cucumber, an orange, a Pepsi, a cookie, and a piece of something that looked like fudge but turned out to be roast beef. The tomatoes were excellent; the rest (except for the roast beef) was okay. We snacked on this throughout the trip.
At one point a woman came through with tea for 2.5 Finnmarks. One person in our compartment got some but only had a 50 Finnmark bill. So we gave the woman 3 Finnmarks and got 60 cents from him. When we tried to give him the .5 Finnmark change, he couldn't follow the transaction well enough to understand it was his. Someone else got 2 Deutchmarks change in a Beryoska because they didn't have 90 cents in change. A lot of people seem to be the type who pull out a handful of change from all the countries we've been in so far (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and the USSR), can't tell it apart, and try to buy things. Argghh!
We arrived in Helsinki and everyone said how nice it looked and how it had really improved since we had left it. We went to the hotel, the Ramada Presidentii, after people collected the luggage they had checked. Oh, of course we had to unload our own luggage--through the train windows, no less. I had expected people to check a small bag with questionable reading material or something, but some couples checked two or three suitcases. This was probably just as well, given the limited space on the train.
Dinner was at 6:30 PM, so we had a little time to walk around. The traffic signals are strange--when they're red ("don't walk") they emit a beeping; when they're green ("walk") they emit a steady tone. Obviously this is good for the blind, and also gets your attention if you're not looking at the light, but it also makes walking a bit noisier and gets on your nerves occasionally. The Scandinavians have a lot of odd traffic laws. The traffic lights turn red/amber between red and green (just like they turn amber/green between green and red everywhere). This lets you get ready to go when the light turns green; in the United States it also results in a lot of cars jumping the gun and going before the light turns green. Also, cars must use their headlights at all times, even in sunlight, and new drivers have an "80" sticker on their car, which means they can't go faster than 80 kilometers per hour.
We got back for dinner, which was a buffet. The appetizer was a shrimp, mushroom, and apple salad. It sounds strange, but tasted good. There were six kinds of meat: pork, lamb, roast beef, peppered steak, salmon, and reindeer. I had the reindeer (a trifle gamey) and the salmon, along with various vegetables. Dessert was cake with cloudberries on top. Cloudberries sound light and soft but are actually something like peppercorns.
We went out for a walk after dinner, looking in store windows and so on. But of course everything was closed.
July 4, 1986: We had this morning free so we checked out after breakfast and went out. We walked down a shopping street to the Esplanade (the Helsinki equivalent of Fifth Avenue) and down the Esplanade to the open-air market. We strolled around, bought a reindeer knife, and bought lunch--fresh peas and cherries. People in Helsinki (and other parts of Finland) eat peas the way we eat peanuts. We saw the women selling fish from the fishing boats and a lot of flowers for sale. One the way back we picked up some film and then spent a lot of time in--of course--a bookstore. We bought a copy of an "X-Man" comic in Finnish for a friend and saw a copy of the Kalevala that looked interesting. Unfortunately, the English translations of the Kalevala cost about twice what the other languages did (well, they were two different publishers) and $20 for a trade paperback seemed steep.
We were going to get Swedish money ahead of time like Erik suggested, but the bank said we'd do better on the boat, since they would have to change dollars to Finnmarks and then Finnmarks to krona, while on the boat it would be a single transaction. By the way, when you are changing money, change as much as you think you'll need in the country, since inflation won't affect the rates noticeably over a couple of weeks and there is usually a flat fee per transaction.
At 12:30 PM we left for Turku. Mark and I ate our peas and cherries on the bus. We took an expressway most of the way, making a couple of stops as we went. The first was at Hvitträsk, home of the three architects Saarinen, Gesellius, and Lindgren. We saw Saarinen's house, now a museum. It was built on six levels and very interesting architecturally, but had more stairs than I'd like. Saarinen didn't like meetings and designed very uncomfortable chairs for his meeting room so that the meetings would be short. All the nursery furniture had rounded corners. There were lots more touches like this and the design was certainly unique. Saarinen, along with other Finnish architects and sculptors, came to the United States to Cranbrook Academy (north of Detroit). Saarinen's son, also an architect, designed the AT&T building in Holmdel.
Our other stop was at a glass factory (Muurlanlasi) and coffee shop. They had lots of beautiful glass to sell; their soda glasses were Duralite, made in France. Everybody went through the money shuffle, including the clerk, who short-changed us a Finnmark until I pointed it out. We got sodas and a bar of milk chocolate.
For the remainder of the trip Erik told us about saunas and the recent history of Finland. About saunas there isn't much to say except that public saunas are not mixed (both sexes) although family saunas are mixed. Apparently when the Germans discovered saunas they saw only family saunas, so that's what the world heard about. We saw farmsteads with saunas as separate buildings, apparently the standard construction method.
As for recent history, the Finns gained independence in 1917. In 1939, the Soviet Union seized some of their territory outside Leningrad and bombed Helsinki. So the Finns let the Germans march through Finland to attack the USSR. But Finland occupied only their own territory and didn't participate in the Siege of Leningrad. When the war was over, Finland again lost that territory and had to pay an enormous war debt to both the USSR and the United States. This was in addition to repaying the World War I loans from the United States. Eventually, they paid all this off and had a thriving economy that they had built up to pay this off. And the USSR realized that a good trading partner like Finland could give them the hard currency they need. So it's an uneasy peace, but for now it works.
Turku was the capital of Finland until 1812. A fire in 1827 destroyed much of the town, but a few brick or stone buildings remained. One was the Cathedral, in front of which we picked up our guide, Carmilla (at least that's what I think she said her name was). Our first stop was the medieval castle, first built in the 13th Century and added onto over the years. Along with a description of the castle Carmilla gave us a description of medieval life--what the banquets were like, how the dresses were too elaborate to wash and could only be aired out, why the spiral staircases always ascended clockwise (it's easier for a right-handed person to defend with a sword), and so on. The chapel in it is still in use for weddings; as we left we saw a bridal party coming in. The chapel had two votive ships hanging from the ceiling--these are models built by sailors who had survived a rough trip or shipwreck and made the model to give thanks to God. Like most churches in Scandinavia, this was a Lutheran church. Finland has two official state religions, the Lutheran and the Russian Orthodox (probably better termed Eastern Orthodox here). The other Scandinavian countries are Lutheran, with about 97% of the population claiming to be Lutheran, but a much smaller percentage actually practicing it.
We drove through the town along the river Aura. We saw the open-air market and the City Theater built in the 19th Century which overlooked it. We saw the two universities, one Swedish and one Finnish. We saw many buildings along the river painted in pastels (the City Hall, for example, is pink). Unfortunately, there were many sights we could only drive by that would have been interesting to stop at: the Wäinö Aaltonen Sculpture Museum (Aaltonen also worked at Cranbrook) and the Cathedral itself, among others. But we had arrived in Turku too late, so didn't have time.
We had dinner at the Taurus Restaurant: smoked beef and avocado (not entirely ripe), followed by salmon (which was excellent), strawberries and raspberries with whipped cream, and coffee. After dinner we walked around the block for a last look at Turku (and Finland). Here also we saw a lot of pea pods, indicating the popularity of the snack.
We boarded the Svea at 9:00 PM. It was quite a mob to get on. One reason might have been the "sleep-in" section, which I didn't see on the Silvia Regina. This is a large room with bunks and lockers for people who want a bed but don't want to pay for a cabin. The bunks are surrounded on three sides by partitions, but the fourth is open to the aisle, so the interior ones are more desirable than those near the door.
Leaving Turku, we had a good view of the Castle. Unfortunately, it was grey and overcast.
We dropped into the bar to make a brief appearance at the Fourth of July "party" someone else in out group had organized, stopped in the shop to spend our last Finnmarks, changed some dollars to Swedish krona, and went to sleep.
July 5, 1986: We got up at 5:30 AM for breakfast since we were scheduled to land at 7. This wasn't quite as bad as it sounds--we had gained an hour overnight by changing time zones. After docking, we disembarked and boarded the bus for our trip to the Sheraton Stockholm.
To our surprise, our rooms were ready in spite of the early hour. So we dropped off our bags (actually we just had our day bags with us--the suitcases were being unloaded from the bus--and went out to see Stockholm. Not much was open, it being 8:30 on a Saturday morning, but we wandered around just looking at store windows and such. After a while we decided to go to Skansen, an open-air museum like Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts or the old part of Smithville in New Jersey. There are a couple of differences though: Skansen also includes a zoo and it contains buildings from all over Sweden from a range of time periods.
On our way to Skansen we passed the theater where Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, and Ingmar Bergman (no relation) got their start. (Ingmar Bergman was born in the house across the side street from the theater.) We walked along the waterfront, passing many small boats (one boat for every five people in Stockholm, so that's almost 300,000 private boats). Skansen is on Djurgården, one of the many islands that make up Stockholm. The bridge to Djurgården is guarded by the statues of four Viking gods; one is said to blow his horn every time a virgin passes. There's a statue of a lute player in Copenhagen that's said to play every time a virgin passes. At the University of Massachusetts they said the statue of Metawampe would fall over if a virgin ever graduated. I suspect that not of these stories are true.
We also passed the Biological Museum (stuffed animals mostly, and it has no electricity so it probably isn't very well lit) and the Nordic Museum (a history of Scandinavia of the last five hundred years--it includes a punk rocker so as to be up-to-date). There is also an amusement park called Tivoli.
Finally we reached Skansen about 10:00 AM. Since the buildings didn't open until 11, we decided to see the zoo first. The main zoo has only Scandinavian animals (another one has "exotic" animals). These include the fallow-deer, red deer, brown bear, grey seal, wolf, arctic fox, European bison, wild boar, European elk (moose), and, of course, reindeer. By this time the buildings were open, so we started on those. After a soldier's cottage and an Ekshärad Farmhouse (1920) we stopped for a snack (tea for me, ice cream for Mark), then continued with an ironmaster's farmstead and the Seglora Kyrka (1730). We also saw a Lapp camp and the Vastveit Storehouse from the Telemark region. The latter is the oldest building in Skansen, dating from the early 1300's, and is built on stilts to protect the contents from water or rodents. We went through Delsbo and Mora farmsteads, the latter with a maypole, also known as a midsummer's tree, though it is called "majstangen." On our way to the Town Quarter we saw Hazeliushuset, the top floor of which contains a few relics of John Ericsson, who designed the Monitor (as in "the Monitor and the Merrimac"). Artur Hazelius founded Skansen.
The Town Quarter had a lot of buildings where you saw craftsmen making glassware, pottery, etc., with the old (or old-style) equipment.
At this point it was about 1:10 PM and we had to be back at the hotel by 2, so we started back. It was a nice walk along the waterfront, but we had to walk very briskly to be back by 1:45 (we needed time to go up to the room and get film). Lunch was some yoghurt from the breakfast buffet we had set aside for just such an eventuality.
Our guide, Madeleine, had sprained her back in the morning, so was limping around for our city tour. We started with the City Hall, built in the medieval style in 1923. The Blue Room, where the Nobel Prize banquet is held, has nothing blue in it. Originally, the architect planned to paint the brick walls and the ceiling blue, but somehow that never happened. Everything in the room (except the organ with over a thousand pipes) is Swedish--the bricks, the marble, the granite, and so on.
We then saw some of the working areas, including the City Council chambers, whose ceiling is designed to look like an inverted Viking ship. Madeleine told us something of the political system, including the social insurance system. One statue, showing a man with his foot on a crouching man originally represented Christian Sweden conquering and subduing heathen Finland, but now people say it represents the State standing on the backs of the taxpayers, since Swedes are the most highly taxed people in the world.
We finished up in the Gold Room, whose walls are covered with mosaics using millions of pieces of gold and glass tile. The walls depict incidents in the history of Sweden. One end shows a beautiful woman, representing Stockholm of course, being looked to by the rest of the world (with symbols such as the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and so on). What an ego trip! (Of course, we would never do anything like that. :-) )
We then drove around up to a lookout point for an overview of the city, then down past the old and new Houses of Parliament (when they were excavating for the new one a few years ago, they found a medieval ship, parts of the old city wall, and other artifacts from medieval times which they made into a museum), the old Palace (the Royal Family has moved to Drottningholm), the Opera House, and many museums. We also drove down Embassy Row and past the United States Embassy where, with some prodding by Madeleine, everyone sang the "Star-Spangled Banner." We also drove down the main shopping street (big surprise) and saw an overpass where "the pretty ladies walk slow and earn money fast." (If anyone cares, it's just south of the glass obelisk on Hamngaten.) I guess the era of the old-fashioned red-light district complete with picture windows for those who like to window-shop first is over.
We ended up at the Wasa Museum. The Wasa was a warship commissioned and built in 1628. It also sank in 1628, ninety minutes after its launching and lay at the bottom of the harbor for three hundred years. Apparently it was designed with one gun-deck and partially built that way. After the ballast had been loaded, the king decided he wanted a second gun-deck. This made the ship top-heavy, especially give its narrow width. It turns out that loading more ballast wouldn't have helped either, because that would have put the lower gun-ports below the water-line. The engineers realized this but no one wanted to tell the king he was wrong. Several people in our group commented on the similarity between the Wasa and the Challenger.
The Wasa itself was covered with elaborate carvings, many of monsters designed to frighten the enemy. Another poor design feature was that the galley had no chimney, so the smoke would have filled the gun-decks. All in all, it seems ill-fated from start to finish. But it certainly was interesting to see.
We got back to the hotel and went over to the exchange office in the railroad station to change some money. Then we went to dinner with most of the other tour members at Stortogskällaren in Gamla Stan (Old Town). This restaurant is in a medieval cellar and has an interesting decor. Unfortunately, the size of our group meant a limited number of choices and the service was slow and at times surly. These restaurants are obviously touristy (there are several of this sort in Gamla Stan), so don't expect a great restaurant. The food was not bad, but not great either.
July 6, 1986: Up at 7:30 AM, breakfast (with caviar!) at 8. We had been planning to go by boat to Drottningholm, but it was drizzling so we decided to hit the museums instead. We started by taking the bus along the waterfront to the island Skansen was on, then walking down Embassy Row and on a ways to the Maritime Museum (Sjöhistoriska Museet). It was empty, since we arrived at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, but more people arrived while we were there. The main floor has a history of fighting ships from medieval times to the present (Swedish ships of course) with special emphasis on the Escape from Viipuri (and associated battles) in 1790. This was done with drawings, paintings, and many models, a large number of which were done by John Erik Chapman, Sweden's most famous shipbuilder (I think that's the right first names). Many of the exhibits were labeled in English but many were not. Luckily we could pick out many of the pertinent words ("linjeskepp"--or something like that--is obviously "ship of the line") and we had a history of Scandinavia for the details of the battle.
The second floor had a history of the merchant marine from early Viking trading ships to the present. The basement had a history of ship-building and some working models of various engines.
We finished here about 12:30 PM after walking around the outside to see the many cannon and anchors there. We walked back along the same route to the bridge that would take us to the Nordic Museum. But while we were sitting there eating ice cream cones (mine was "peccänot/kola," which seemed to be caramel swirl with candied pecans; Mark's was chocolate), we noticed a poster advertising a special exhibit at the Historical Museum called "Vikings Again." Since we were only two blocks from this museum we decided to change our plans and go there instead.
We had a similar problem in the Historic Museum to that in the Maritime Museum--not all the exhibits were in English. We got an English guide-pamphlet (it wasn't large enough to be called a book), but had some difficulty orienting ourselves by it at first. The first exhibit had no English labels and no unifying theme, with items from many different periods that didn't seem to have anything in common with each other. After passing through a couple of rooms like this we arrived at a well-defined place on the map--the bookstore. We got three books, which cost about what they would have in the United States, a nice change from the high cost of books in Finland.
After this, we could follow the map a little better. The next room was a Stone Age through Bronze Age exhibit, similar to such exhibits all over the world. There were some exhibits that were different, like a slide presentation (in Swedish) on primitive rock paintings.
Next was supposed to be "1000 Years of Sweden" but it turned out this had been displaced by the Viking exhibit. This included many artifacts from Viking boat-graves, such as jewelry and daily implements, as well as larger objects such as boat sections and runestones. (Skansen also had several runestones.) The runestones were exceptionally fine though the inscriptions were fairly repetitive: "So-and-so raised this stone to such-and-such." Many had interesting illustrations though, of eight-legged horses and sailing ships and warriors entering Valhalla.
The second floor had Gothic and medieval art (most church-related). Some of the decorative motifs were mythological in nature, though, with dragons and other fantastic creatures. There was one room of finds from the excavation at Wisby (site of the 14th Century massacre of the defenders of that city). The third floor, which we skipped, was medals and coins.
We rested a few minutes on the benches outside the museum while we decided what to do next. Since it was about 2:30 PM we figured we had time for only one more museum, so we decided to skip the Nordic Museum altogether and go on the Medieval Museum. This museum is located in a cave under one of the bridges and is the one I mentioned earlier as being based on artifacts found when they excavated the new Riksdaghuset. We had to stand in a line here, but the line was short and moved quickly. We entered through an old tunnel and after passing a couple of small rooms, we got to the main hall. The major exhibits here were a section of the old city wall and the remains of a ship of that era. There was also a room constructed in one corner showing the construction methods of that time, a few wooden huts representing the old harbor and containing artifacts, a reconstruction of a town house of the era (also with artifacts), and an area where they were renovating old ships using old methods.
After this we went back to the hotel and worked frantically to catch up on our logs. At 6:45 PM we gathered for dinner. Since it was raining, Erik had gotten a bus. He also changed the restaurant from one in Gamla Stan to one near Skansen called Bellman's Ro.
Dinner was a shrimp and caviar salad, excellent salmon, potatoes, and cherry swirl ice cream. Service was much better than the previous night, with wine and coffee included and seconds offered to those who finished early. The piano player did a lot of American songs, including a George M. Cohan medley. All in all, a very nice time.
Because it had stopped raining, many of us elected to walk through Gamla Stan with Erik. We started with the market square, on one side of which is the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prizes. Many of the facades here were inspired by the German style. Then we walked through narrow winding streets, passing a statue of St. George along the way. According to Erik, in Greece St. George is rescuing a princess who was captured and forced to serve coffee to Turks. So the icons often show her behind him on the horse still waving a coffeepot.
We followed more winding streets, observing the shops and the architecture. At one point we saw a runestone which had been used as part of a building's foundation. Unfortunately, it started to rain and we didn't make too many more stops before returning to the hotel.
The hotel, by the way, has a casino. Gambling is very common in Scandinavia. In Finland there were slot machines in the hotel lobby, on the boat, and in restaurants.
July 7, 1986: After breakfast we boarded the bus for Mora. But of course Mark and I had to kill time before the bus somehow, so we bought three pieces of Swedish crystal. We resisted up to practically the last minute, but then we caved in. We did have the stuff shipped so we wouldn't have to carry it (or hassle the VAT refund at the airport). The shipping cost $20 or so (if you care), which included insurance, and the VAT was deducted there on the spot.
The sun had come out so we had a nice ride to Uppsala. We first went to the burial mounds and church at Gamla Uppsala. The three mounds date from 500 to 600 A.D. and were those of Arild, Anun, and someone else (father, son, and grandson). Sacrifices were also carried out here, consisting of hanging nine males each of nine animals, including men. The church was built at this spot to combat these practices. The missionaries also spoke out against the eating of horseflesh, a practice with religious overtones.
Erik also told us about Viking burial practices as observed by an Arab in the Byzantine Empire. The dead Viking's ship was hauled onto land and he was placed inside. Then one of his concubines (apparently chosen by pre-arrangement) would go in after him. Each of the warriors would then go in and have intercourse with her, then she was either stabbed or strangled and the ship set on fire. It was not set on fire on the water. After the fire died out, the ship was covered with clay and then turf, forming the burial mound. Implements and ornaments were also buried, as well as the Viking's horse and/or dog.
Anyway, they eventually moved the church to Uppsala itself and that was our next stop. The Uppsala Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Scandinavia (391 feet tall) and quite elegant inside. The central part of the interior is surrounded by tall, undecorated stone pillars (carved with vertical decorative lines). The ceiling is painted, though not garishly, and the rest of the decoration if not overly gaudy. The scale is reminiscent of Salisbury Cathedral. Among the many people buried here are Carl Linnaeus and Gustav Wasa.
We also saw the castle in which Queen Christina abdicated and Dag Hammarsjkold grew up (as the son of a government official), but we didn't go in. Apparently there isn't much of interest to see inside.
On the way to Uppsala, Erik told us about the change-over Sweden made in October 1967 from left-hand driving to right-hand driving. There was a decade of preparation. Towards the end they did things like paint all the new traffic lines in white (the old ones were in yellow) and put up new signs with sacking over them. At 3:00 AM on a Sunday everyone stopped for ten minutes, then slowly changed sides and sat for another twenty minutes. In this half-hour an army of volunteers took the sacking off the new signs and put it over the old signs, moved barricades, and in general made the whole switch-over. When everyone started up again the speed limit was 35 miles per hour, gradually raised back to normal over a couple of weeks. The headlight law was enacted as a side effect--people were encouraged to drive with their headlights on to remind other drivers of the change and this seemed to increase safety.
He also talked about standards of living. In spite of the high standard of living in Sweden, the quality of life is rated fairly low. Why? Well, that's not entirely clear, but the fact that everyone works so hard means families have very little time together. Also, Erik says, the Swedes are much more serious than, say, the Danes and as a result worry more, making themselves less happy.
We stopped just out of Uppsala for lunch--pancakes with strawberry jam and vanilla ice cream. And coffee, of course. Mark had what turned out to be banana soda. After waiting for a sudden rain to end, we proceeded on our way.
Though we had started through agricultural lands, they had gradually given way to forest with only the occasional farm. There were many lakes, though. The farms all seemed to have the separate sauna Erik talked about. The forest were mostly tall pine with minimal undergrowth. The thickness of the tops combined with the cloud cover that had been with us since lunch to give the forests a dim and mysterious look. One can understand how a pagan religion such as the Vikings had would arise under such conditions.
We stopped at a factory where they make Dalecarlian horses. These are brightly painted wooden horses that apparently are used to represent Sweden. I have no idea why.
We arrived at our hotel (the Mora Hotell) at 5:30 PM. The foreign exchange in the Post Office was open only until 6, so everyone who hadn't gotten Norwegian money yet rushed off to do so. This horde of people trying to change U.S. dollars to Norwegian krona in Sweden caused a lot of confusion, especially since some people had travelers' cheques but not their passport, the post office had very few small Norwegian bills, and it was almost closing time. Eventually I got $60 changed into 410 Norwegian krona and 8.10 Swedish krona.
Dinner was cream of asparagus soup (we think), salad (no dressing), potato puffs, and moose and mushroom stew. Very gamey, very gristly. Most people didn't eat very much of it. I had my usual portion; with the cranberry-like sauce it came with, it wasn't too bad. There was also ice cream cake and coffee or tea.
The Mora Hotell is the worst hotel so far. The room is not air-conditioned, but if you open the window, the mosquitoes come in. The bathroom is oddly arranged--the toilet faces the sink, which means you can't stand in front of the toilet, only to one side. (Well, I don't care, but Mark has a different opinion.) There is no separate shower; the floor justs tilts to that end and the drain is in the floor.
After dinner we went walking, down to the lake (Mora is on Siljan Lake) and then through the town. There was a double rainbow over the lake in a dramatic sky and a village on the other side of the lake--very scenic. The town is fairly small and almost everything was closed except for one ice cream stand.
July 8, 1986: Breakfast was four kinds of herring. There was other stuff but I stuck to the herring. We left at 8:00 AM for the day's drive.
After stopping at a maypole for pictures we continued through more forests to Sälen, where we took a coffee break. Though the day had started clear, it had clouded up and eventually began to drizzle on and off. The gloominess of the day just added to the mysterious atmosphere of the forest.
We crossed the border from Sweden into Norway at Støa. What a difference from crossing the Soviet border! There were no guards, no passport checks, no customs--the only thing necessary was some papers for the bus. The same was true of out other intra-Scandinavian crossings.
We continued on, lunching in the market town of Elverum. Mark and I decided to put together a lunch from the grocery store instead of eating in the cafeteria, so we got Port Salut cheese, some crackers called "Fiber-Rik (Helsebrød av kli)," cherry yoghurt drink and candy bars. All this came to 42.80 Norwegian krona, or about $6, better than we would have done in the cafeteria.
We continued and so did the rain. One odd sight: a billboard to combats AIDS. I don't know what the caption was, but the illustration was a penis straightening its bow tie while inside a condom.
We were traveling through farmland now. There wasn't much of particular note, so Erik entertained us by playing Norwegian music on the bus's tape player and telling us stories about trolls and nissens. He also told us about famous skiers (we were apparently traveling along the Wasaloppet, a world-famous cross-country ski race) and authors such as Sigrid Undset, whose novel Kristin Lavransdatter I read twenty years ago and enjoyed immensely at the time, but now can't remember at all.
We arrived in Lillehammer about 3:00 PM. Since our tour of Maihaugen wasn't until 4:00 PM, we were given 45 minutes in the downtown area. There were some tourist shops--somewhat high-priced, I thought--and a couple of newsstands, but nothing special. We did get film. Film is more expensive in Scandinavia, so if you are going, be sure to bring enough. Our walking around was also hampered by the rain. It was pretty much always drizzling and every half hour or so, it would really pour for five or ten minutes. I was glad I had pulled my sweater out of the suitcase so I'd have it on the bus. My rain hat was still in the suitcase (it had been sunny when we left Mora) but I did have my jacket also.
Anyway, we got back on the bus and proceeded to Maihaugen. This is an open-air museum like Skansen, so naturally it was still raining. Several of the tour members decided not to walk around, so they went into the small museum by the entrance which contained articles such as farm implements and jewelry.
Those of us who decided to brave the rain were split into two groups. Our group got an older women (Margareta) for a guide; she was very interesting to listen to, so we were glad we had ignored the rain. We went first to a large farmstead where we saw the interiors of two of the buildings. One was an older farmhouse with no windows except for small holes in the walls (about 1' x 1') closed by means of wooden blocks inserted in them. The center of the room was an open fireplace--just the hearth, really--and the smoke would escape through an opening above it in the roof. This opening was covered by means of a panel on a stick, so that rain or snow could be kept out. This panel was of glass, but the original would have been wood, making the room even darker. There was not very much furniture, just a few chairs and benches formed from tree roots, and a couple of beds.
The other building was a newer farmhouse (from the 1800's, I believe) with three rooms and much more furniture, though still spartan. One item that no one recognized was a mangle. This consisted of a piece of wood shaped like a long rolling pin and another piece of wood which was flattened and slightly bowed. The cloth to be "ironed" was wrapping around the rolling pin while still wet, then the other piece was placed on top perpendicular to it. By moving the flat piece back and forth, you rolled the rolling pin, pressing the cloth between them. The rolling pin was plain of course, but the other piece was carved or painted and was a traditional engagement gift from a boy to a girl.
We saw the outsides of many other buildings, but the only other one we went into was a stave church. This stave construction consists of driving pillars into the ground for the four corners and then forming the walls from vertical planks held in place by an upper and a lower crosspiece. Margareta also showed us some counterfeiting equipment; I'm not sure why it was in the museum.
In the church Mark noticed an inscription on the chandelier that apparently had never been asked about before; Margareta had no idea what it said.
We left Lillehammer and drove on to our hotel in Sjusjoen. Sjusjoen seems to be a ski resort that has some summer guests, but not much to do. One thing we could do was observe the snow in the roof gutters that had fallen earlier that day (July 8!). (The snow had fallen, not the gutters.) The hotel was quite nice, with a view of a small lake and the surrounding forest. The temperature outside was about 40° Fahrenheit. I walked over to the local store; it was closed. I think the gas station may have been open.
Dinner was vegetable soup, boiled beef with onion gravy, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots. Dessert was some sort of pastry filled with strawberry mousse. After dinner we went down to the lounge for coffee. Several people were dancing to the music there, but we left early.
July 9, 1986: Breakfast was herring and cheese. They had gjetost, a goat cheese that tastes something like caramel. I hadn't had it for years, so I had some of that with some crackers and herring. The crackers here are heartier than those in the United States, though Scandinavian crackers are starting to show up in gourmet sections in the US.
We drove back through Lillehammer and across Lake Mjosa, through Dokka to Fagernes. This was obviously the start of the scenic part of the tour with vast forests on the mountainsides interspersed with lakes and farms in the valleys. We were climbing toward Norway's "continental divide." The mountains in the distance had snow on them and when we stopped in Fagernes it was still fairly brisk.
Lunch was again from a supermarket: cheddar cheese, crackers, cloudberry yoghurt, and gingersnaps. Most people bought sweaters at a store by the cafeteria, and not because of the cold. Every place seems to have its obligatory souvenir, though it's not clear that 100-dollar sweaters or 300- dollar pieces of crystal can be called souvenirs.
After lunch we continued up to the continental divide, with more magnificent scenery. Norway seems the most beautiful of all the Scandinavian countries, though we didn't get this far north in any of the others. We were now starting to see fosses--cascading waterfalls.
I forgot to mention a stop before Fagernes to see prehistoric rock carvings. These were in limestone by the side of a rushing stream and are so hard to see that they are outlined in red paint.
We reached the divide at about 1:00 PM and stopped at a cafe there. Mark and I and another couple (the Luhmens) went out to a picnic table overlooking the lake there, but the wind was too strong so we moved to the side of the building.
After lunch, we drove down the other side of the divide to Borglund to see Norway's oldest stave church there. We didn't get to see the interior; Erik said they were trying to limit visitors for some reason. So we got to Laedalsøyri in plenty of time for the ferry.
The Sandøy, however, was having problems docking. It was a small ferry and the wind kept spinning it away from the dock. After about four tries, it apparently gave up and started away. At that point we noticed a much larger ferry, the Eid Adøy, pulling in. This, it turned out, was our ferry and the other was just a cross-fjord ferry that was trying to get in and out before the regular ferry.
The Eid Adøy had an enclosed salon, but all the window seats were taken so in spite of the wind< Mark and I went out on deck. Mark sat up in front, but I stayed in the back out of the wind for most of the beginning of the trip, moving forward later when the wind died down.
The Sognefjord is the longest fjord in the world (113 miles) and the deepest (4000 feet). The scenery is much as it is pictured, except that the walls of the fjords are not always as vertical or as barren as they are often pictured. Along the sides of the fjords one sees occasional farms and even villages. We started out westward, into the wind, then turned south after a half-hour. This cut the wind down considerably and I moved to the front. You get a much better view from the front, snow-capped and cloud-shrouded peaks towering over the clear cold waters of the fjord.
After another hour we again turned westward into Naerøyfjord, the most dramatic section. Maybe because of the weather or maybe for other reasons, we didn't see any seals or whales or any of the unidentified submarines that are occasionally spotted in this area. The wind picked up again and naturally it also began to rain. As Mark expressed it, he's like to do this again in the summertime. No wonder people buy sweaters, scarves, hats, and gloves here.
We docked at Gudvagen about 5:30 PM and climbed the Stalheim Climb (by bus) to our hotel, named (not surprisingly) the Stalheim Hotel. The Stalheim Climb has 13 hairpin turns and a grade of up to 20%. When we reached the top there was a rainbow stretching over the valley below so we all piled out of the bus to photograph it. The view, needless to say, was magnificent. The hotel itself has a good collection of antiques in the lobby, as well as a non-antique souvenir shop which attracted considerably more attention than the antiques. Maybe they should put price-tags on them. There were also a couple of World War II German cannon (outside, not in the lobby) left over after the Germans had placed them there because of the absolute control that gave them over the valley and the fjord.
Dinner was noodle salad, prince fish, potatoes, vegetable, apple pie, and coffee. As in Sjusjoen there was no TV or radio, so we turned in early again.
July 10, 1986: After breakfast we started the long drive to Oslo. One of the first sights was a lake with a perfectly smooth surface, reflecting the whole panorama. It was probably such lakes as this that gave rise to tales of the huldre--the people who lived in a world under the surface and upside down. Huldre women are very beautiful and seductive but dangerous and it's also dangerous to dig in the ground or fish in the lakes without first appeasing the huldre.
While we were riding, Erik also told us about "Uff da!", an old Norwegian expression of disgust, sort of like "Yuck!" As the Norwegians tell it (or maybe not the Norwegians), on the seventh day God saw how perfect Norway was and decided to make a Norwegian. He mixed all the ingredients together and when they formed into a Norwegian, he took one look and said, "Uff da!" Most of the stories Erik tells are negative to one or the other Scandinavian countries, but which one seems fairly arbitrary. Erik is Danish and most of the stories are negative on the Swedes.
We went through Voss (birthplace of Knute Rockne). All along the way we saw ski slopes, as we had the day before. We also saw more fosses and Erik told us how a nokker, or water sprite, lives at the bottom of each one. If you throw it a leg of lamb on a Thursday with a full moon, it will teach you to play the violin. A statue of Olav Bull, the great violinist, shows him with a nokker.
In addition to all these stories, Erik had been playing Norwegian music on the bus's tape player, all of which adds to the atmosphere (although he played Grieg's Piano Concerto instead of his Peer Gynt Suite).
We climbed to the Hardanger Vidda (Hardanger Heights) with the aid of several tunnels and one hairpin road, this one with considerably more of a visible drop at the side. At the top of this was Vøringfoss, a waterfall plunging over 500 feet from the Hardanger Vidda to the valley below. A trail leads to an overlook point from which you can see the water tumble down the foss into the churning pool at the base. There are actually two fosses and there was a rainbow created by all the spray.
The Hardanger Vidda itself is a bleak landscape, a stark contrast to the fjords of yesterday or earlier today (we had also crossed the Hardanger Fjord on the way). There is only low vegetation and a lot of boulders. Some sheep graze here and in the colder weather herds of wild reindeer come down from the north. Other than a few huts used by Lapps in an earlier experiment to raise reindeer on the Heights, there wasn't much to see except for Hardanger Jokulen, the Hardanger Glacier. It was off in the distance so we didn't get to hike on it or anything. In any case I don't think many of our group would have been up to it. There were patches of snow by the side of the road, but of course that's not the same.
Now that we were in Norway, Erik told us more about the Vikings. They had been as successful as they were because their ships had a shallow draught and could be brought right up to shore. In Ireland they would plunder the monasteries every other year to give them time to build their gold and silver up again. In France they discovered that towns would pay them to leave them alone. Some of them settled in France and were called the "North-men," or Normans. Some also settled in England and the Battle of Hastings was fought between two Viking chieftains.
We also heard about Eric the Red, who killed a man and was expelled from Norway for two years. He went to Iceland and killed a man there. He couldn't return to Norway yet--the expulsion period had not yet expired--so he sailed to Greenland. Of course it wasn't called that, but he named it that to convince people to go there. Norse settlers remained until the 12th Century when the native inhabitants killed them all. The Danes returned a couple of hundred years later as missionaries and retained Greenland as a territory until it achieved independence (or what Erik called "home rule") three years ago. The Norwegians had tried to reclaim Greenland through the International Court some years ago, but had been turned down.
The Vikings had also explored North America (Vinland, which means "meadowland," not "vine-land"). I believe that the map "discovered" a few years ago showing Viking settlements in Minnesota has been proven to be a fake, but it is established that they did get to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Having crossed the Vidda, we lunched in Gol. Mark and I finished our cheese with crackers and oranges. We also changed some money in the bank and bought a "Tarzan" comic in Norwegian.
After lunch we continued on towards Oslo. The countryside for this stretch was mostly farms and small towns, a lot like what we saw in southern Sweden. By now, people were inured to the beautiful scenery and starting to complain about the bus and the length of the bus ride, although it's not clear what one can do about the latter. At our afternoon coffee stop we got Cokes® in a grocery store. They were chilled and cheaper than those in the cafeteria next door.
We arrived in Oslo about 6:30 PM. Oslo is about half a million people but covers 175,000 square miles. There is a ski jump, Holmenkollen, in the center of the city limits. And of course, the city is built on Oslo Fjord. It was built in 1050 by Harold (the Anglo-Saxon king at Hastings?) and destroyed by fire in 1624, then rebuilt slightly west as Christiania. In 1905, it regained its old name.
After checking into the Hotel Scandinavia, we joined the Luhmens for dinner at the Theater Cafe (Theatercafeen--the 'en' at the end is the definite article). This is the local hangout for artists and intellectuals and it certainly had a diverse clientele. I was worried I wouldn't be dressed up enough, but it wasn't clear what "dressed up" would be at this place. Though somewhat expensive--vichyssoise and grilled salmon with potatoes was about $24--it's an interesting place to go and the food was excellent and in good-sized portions. Alcohol is very expensive (in an attempt in cut down alcoholism), but ice water is available. Right now the liquor stores are on strike, so there may be more drinking in restaurants than usual. (Fans of Diet Coke® will be pleased to discover it's available throughout Scandinavia as "Coca-Cola Light"®.")
By the time we finished eating it had stopped raining so we walked up past the Houses of Parliament and down the main street (Karl Johans Gate). There were a surprising number of people around for 10:00 PM, but of course it was still light. We passed a bookstore with a science fiction display--the first of that sort we had seen on this trip.
July 11, 1986: Since our tour of Oslo wasn't until 9:00 AM, we could take a later-than-normal breakfast. Breakfast was pretty standard--three kinds of herring, two kinds of cheese, cold cuts, eggs, etc. The coffee was not very good.
Our guide's name was Aud. She was an older woman; most of our guides have been young. The first thing she did was thank us for ignoring all the paranoia about terrorism and for coming to Norway. We started with a long drive up to a look-out point from which one could see Oslo and Oslofjord. Our guide said she liked to bring people up there away from all the tour buses and guides shouting in different languages. Of course, another bus arrived right after we did.
Then we made a quick stop at the Holmenkollen in case the weather was bad when we returned for dinner. The Holmenkollen is used for a famous competition every March.
Next we went to the Vigeland Park, a subset of Frogner Park. Gustav Vigeland was a sculptor in the first half of this century. He apparently worked out a deal that Oslo would give him a park for his sculptures if he gave the sculptures to Oslo. There are 192 sculptures in the park in several groupings. We started at the back of the park with "The Wheel of Life," seven human figures in bronze forming a wheel. Next was "The Sundial" in bronze and granite.
Next was the major work in the park, "The Monolith Plateau." "The Monolith" itself, 17.3 meters (about 54') high, contains 121 human figures symbolizing the struggle for existence. Surrounding it are 36 granite groups again depicting the wheel of life from birth to youth to adult to age to death. There are also eight wrought-iron doors whose bars form figures.
The next piece was the other major work, "The Fountain." This consists of a central fountain surrounded by 20 bronze tree groups, and whose base contains 60 bronze reliefs, all again depicting the wheel of life--a constant theme in Vigeland's work.
Then came "The Bridge" with 58 bronze figures along the span and one granite figure at each corner. Below it was "The Children's Garden" with eight bronze sculptures of small children around a central sculpture of an embryo.
Last (or first, depending on which way you walk) are the main gates, also of elaborate wrought iron.
I'm not sure how to describe the style of the sculptures. They are strong and forceful, yet can also show great emotion. This park is a definite must if you have any interest in art.
Our last stop was the City Hall with its elaborate murals. The most detailed, or at least the most narrative, of them details the history of Norway during World War II. It starts with people anticipating the attack, then the bombing, the Gestapo, the executions, the Resistance, the concentration camps, and finally the liberation. Other murals depict everyday life in Norway.
Even though we were only a few blocks from our hotel, it took almost a half hour to get back. Someone wanted Aud to show them where some crafts store was, so she had the driver try to do that. But they're tearing up a lot of the streets and traffic was really bad. Eventually she gave up and we got back to the hotel at noon. Since we had to leave at 1:00 PM for our afternoon tour this didn't give us much time for lunch. So we snacked in the room.
Our afternoon excursion was to the Viking Ship Museum, the Thor Heyerdahl Museum, and the Fram Museum. (It was described by Erik as being the Viking Ship Museum, the Thor Heyerdahl Museum, and Maritime Museum.) We had planned on doing this on our own, but Erik offered it as an optional tour and said (to the group) that it was really necessary to have the guide and a bus.
The Viking Ship Museum has three ships, the Gokstad, the Oseberg, and the Tune. These are burial ships from 800 to 1000 A.D. The Oseberg is the most elaborate, with ornately carved stern and bow. Given that the ship is symmetrical around the amidships, it's not always clear which is stern and which is bow except by where the rudder is. Anyway, some of the carving had been destroyed and was replaced by reconstructions. The reconstructions were not nearly as detailed. Unlike the Roskilde ships, which were underwater and flattened by stones, these were buried in clay and so were better preserved. Only nine Viking ships have been found altogether: these three here in Oslo, the five in Roskilde, and one further south in Norway.
The Gokstad is comparable to the Oseberg, though without all the carving. The Tune is in considerably worse condition, retaining its hull but little of its sides. There are also two smaller boats found with the Gokstad, a burial chamber, and many utensils and wooden items (the jewelry had been plundered, apparently). The items shows a great deal more carving and showed human figures and snakes as well as other fantastic creatures. There were several dragons' heads which were apparently not used on the fronts of boats but were ceremonial objects.
Next was the Thor Heyerdahl Museum, which houses the Kon-Tiki and the Ra II. The Kon-Tiki was sailed from the Peruvian coast to the South Seas islands to prove that natives from South America could have colonized the South Pacific. The Ra II was sailed from Morocco to the Caribbean (the Ra I didn't make it, due to errors on the part of the 20th Century builders rather than design flaws).
Last was the Fram Museum, the Fram being the ship that Amundsen sailed to the South Pole (or most of the way) on. This was interesting because we actually got to climb aboard the Fram and walk through the cabin and hull area. Inside were clothing, equipment, and relics from the voyage.
We returned home (well, back to the hotel) at 3:45 PM without having been rained on at all. I guess this makes up for being sleeted on on the Heights. We decided to hit the main bookstore so we walked over to Karl Johans Gate to Tanum's. This was the biggest bookstore we had seen in Norway and similar in size to the store in Helsinki. They had a major science fiction display, with banners with pictures of astronauts and the Shuttle talking about space as the next frontier, a large selection of science fiction and fantasy books in English, and a VCR/TV running Star Wars in English with Norwegian subtitles. Amazing!
We then returned to the hotel. I stayed in the room and caught up on my log while Mark walked around some more. Oh, I forgot to mention there's some Nastassja Kinski film called Marguerite's something-or-other playing here.
We gathered at 6:45 PM for our final dinner ("the last supper," as Mark called it). We took the bus up to the Holmenkollen Restaurant. Since we had been to the Holmenkollen earlier we didn't bother to stop this time.
Our tables had a view of Oslo and Oslofjord. One of the group from Muskegon (even at this point I don't know everyone's name) presented Erik with the "Three-bel Prize" (a set of three cowbells on a ribbon) and the "Croix de Troll" (a troll keychain on a ribbon). Erik gave us some statistics on our trip: we traveled 968 miles by train, 420 miles by boat, and 1200 miles by bus. Add to that about 7500 miles by air from New York and back and you have a 10,000-mile trip.
Dinner was cream of cauliflower soup, salmon, potatoes, cucumber salad, ice cream cake, and coffee. There was also wine (white or red--a choice for a change).
Before returning to the hotel we took all sorts of group pictures, much to the amusement of the other restaurant patrons. Then back to pack our bags and prepare for departure.
July 12, 1986: Our last breakfast in Scandinavia was the usual. No gamleost (a very strong cheese aged for 92 weeks--I had a taste in Stalheim), but plenty of gjetost. Standard breakfast herring seems to come in three varieties: in a wine sauce, in a mustard, and in a spicy tomato sauce.
I forgot to mention my conclusion on the afternoon tour of yesterday. Neither mark nor I felt that the guide added much more than the English-language guide books in each museum. If we had done the museums on our own, we would have had to walk to the pier, take the ferry, and walk a fair distance to the Viking Ship Museum (and then the same to go back). Most of the people would have felt that was too much walking, but I don't think we would have found it a problem. My conclusion is that if you know something about what you're going to see, you're better off on your own. Our trip to Roskilde was at least as good (and informative) as this one.
After breakfast we checked out. We still had three hours so of course we headed out for some museums. We walked over to the Akershus Festning (the Akershus Fortress). This is a large fortress with many buildings, some old and some new. It contains the Forsvarsmuseet (the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum), the Hjemmefrontmuseum (the Norwegian Resistance Museum), and the castle itself. We started with the Forsvarsmuseet, a good choice as it was the furthest out and we had arrived early (even with a stop on the Palace grounds to see Vigeland's monument to the mathematician Abel).
The exhibits in the Forsvarsmuseet cover two floors. You start on the second floor with Viking times and follow the history of the Norwegian armed forces up to the present. There is a large collection of 18th Century swords and a very large section on World War II, but the other periods are well covered also. There are several airplanes and tanks (small ones) and a V-1. The museum took about an hour and fifteen minutes to go through, including the special exhibit on "Fifty Years of the Civil Air Patrol," which included a section on fallout shelters. Unfortunately, this section, like almost all the rest of the museum, was entirely in Norwegian. This museum had no English guidebook either, but we could pick out enough from the signs to figure out most of it.
By now it was almost 11:30 and we had to be back by 12:15 so we decided to skip the other museums. We did have time to do one last browse in Tanum's (we didn't buy anything), then back to the hotel. After spending our remaining krona on a cheese slicer and some candy, we boarded the bus.
The international airport for Oslo is a military one and some ways out of the city. On the way we saw many more of the AIDS billboards with various cartoons on them, all of penises. This sort of thing just wouldn't do in the United States of course, just as most statues in the U.S. wear at least a fig leaf. All the openness about sex and public nudity (or semi-nudity) does not seem to have sent crime rates soaring in Scandinavia.
After about a half-hour or 45-minute drive we arrived at the airport. The seat assignments had been all changed around, and Mark and I weren't even sitting together. Luckily the plane wasn't full and we were able to move to be together.
The flight was delayed--of course--and smooth except when food was served, when it was bumpy.
We got to JFK late. We circled. We circled some more. We landed (bumpily). We taxied. We debarked into a skybus. We rode. We debarked into the terminal. We walked. We waited for our luggage. We cleared customs. We got stuck in Belt traffic and ended up short-cutting through Brooklyn. We got home.