Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 4 and 5: Trains, Buses, and Boats

Writing to you from the bed of the new hotel in which I am staying, a decided turn for the worse from the luxe spot I was staying the first couple of nights here, but these digs are fronted by the Norwegian Navy, and they don't have a lot of cash to spare.  Actually, they are just across the port from where I was, but there is no gym and there is no in room coffee.  I'll likely not work out at all today, though tomorrow is a free day and the hotel tells me they have an "agreement" with a healthclub where, for only $15, I can go and use the gym.

It is 0615 and  I leave in an hour and a half for the Norwegian Naval Academy where this shindig is going down.  I met my fellow presenters at a dinner last night, one of whom I knew, another of whom I knew by reputation, but the rest were new to me.  More on dinner later, but time to fill you in on yesterday.

Bergen Station
As I indicated, I decamped early from previous quarters, schlepping my gear with me for the partial circumnavigation of the port to the new hotel.  They did not have a room for me at 0800 (expected), so I stowed my gear and headed off on my "Norway in a Nutshell" tour.  I'll say from the start, that I really didn't know what to expect from this, so I entered it with an open mind and tried to forget that I have a crushing amount of work to do that I was blowing off by playing Joe Tourist.  The bottom line up from was that I'm glad I did it, but it was an awful lot of sitting around on one's behind.

At the hotel, I inquired as to a taxi to the train station, but the helpful woman behind the counter let
me know with a pruned up face and a shaking head that one should walk the 15 minutes to the station.  Capable of following orders, I did so and cut up through the heart of a quaint shopping and restaurant district, espying a possible Chinese option for dinner tomorrow night should my Norwegian eating spree lose steam.  Once at the station, I turned my internet receipt into a little ticket book to enable my day, and I was off.

First on the agenda was a train ride on The Bergen Railway to the town of Voss, about an hour away. The scenery was stunning and the train was serviceable, though no coffee/dining car.  The purpose of the stop at Voss was simply to transfer to a bus that would take us to the town of Gudvangen.  The bus ride was
A little fjord hamlet
also wonderful, with plenty of amazing scenery along the way.  Of interest, I sat next to a German woman who was delighted with my being able to speak German. I get this all the time from Germans, kind of a mix of happiness and pride that an American had chosen to learn their tongue, and kind of a backhanded slam on Americans about our propensity not to learn languages. A bit of the old, "soft bigotry of low expectations".  She was very complimentary about my pronunciation, and she told me not to worry too much about my mangling of verb tenses, noun cases, etc.

At the end of this one hour bus trip we exited at Gudvangen for a two-hour fjord cruise.  With
Quite the Valley
temperatures in the high fifties, we sorta lucked out weather-wise, especially in comparison to what the weather had been in the previous days.  The weather was so nice in fact, that I may be the only person in the Kingdom of Norway with a sunburn.  The cruise was a leisurely float through ancient geography, past little outcroppings of farm life and occasional small villages.  I sat on deck next to an aged Aussie couple who seemed amazed at my ability to predict the course of our voyage and the exact time the winds would abate and leave an even more pleasant experience (read the chart, understand apparent wind).  We concluded the voyage at the town of Flam, where a monstrous cruise ship was docked and a garish little tourist outpost awaited us.  A stopover of some forty minutes allowed my tour mates to relieve themselves of their cash on trinkets, while I walked about creating today's sunburn horror.

We then all hopped on a train from Flam to Myrdal which cut through even more beautiful scenery as we headed uphill all the way--more snow appeared as we went on.  After an hour, we got off at Myrdal, transferred to another train, and spent two hours traveling back to Bergen.  I think you get the point...great scenery, but a lot of just sitting.

When I reached the train station, I had an hour to get my act together, get to the hotel, change, and get to the Bergen Fortress for the dinner with the other speakers.  The dinner was held in a beautiful room in the Fortress Commandant's house.  We were in open collar, but everything else spoke formality.  Toasts, little speeches, champagne before dinner, cognac after--really well done.  And the lamb chops were wonderful.  I sat next to the host (his choice) and an instructor at the Norwegian Naval Academy. Both were amiable dinner companions and good conversationalists.


It is now 2008 hrs on the 17th, over 12 hours after I started this.  I had to put it down in order to get to breakfast and then off to the conference.  I will pick up where I left off.

As I've discussed, this new hotel has no gym, so I arose this morning at 0500 solely to catch up with the world and to get this now overly long post done.  No nescafe here in the room, but a quick elevator ride to the lobby resulted in the juice I needed to get my day started.  I sat down to breakfast after showering and changing into my superman suit (Blue Suit, light green tie), and was soon joined by another conference speaker, a retired Norwegian Rear Admiral.  He was a pretty good guy and we had a nice chat before piling into the van that took us and our comrades to the Naval Academy for the conference.
The symposium crowd

I won't bore you with the details of the conference, except to tell you that the Norwegians are great allies, and the Russians have them worried.  That is, they have the military folks worried, but their general population is still pretty clueless.  I gave them the red meat American view of Eurosloth, and they seemed to enjoy it.  One of the speakers was a Finnish Naval Officer who said, "you Americans are always the best speakers---and it wasn't fair that you got such an easy topic for an American"  ("Are the Europeans Up to It?").  I can't say he's wrong. Fact is, I sorta had them eating out of my hand when I pulled the old, "I'll be an old man someday, and I want my grandchildren to know that I addressed the Leadership of the Kingdom of Norway" trick and took a picture of them.

After the day was over, we had a dinner provided to us there at the Naval Academy, some damn good beef tenderloin, and then repaired to the bar for a few drinks--cognac seems to be a favorite round these parts.  I think if I were to start drinking again, it would be high on the list.  Has a nice bouquet.

That should do it for this edition--my plan tomorrow is to find the gym that this place is associated with and sweat a little, to eat nothing but authentic Norwegian food, and to do a lot of work.  Hop on a plane Friday AM.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoying your Norway discussion. It brings back memories of my 1st class midshipman cruise on the CVS Wasp (ship now long gone) which included an extended stay in Oslo,, in between several trips up along the Arctic Circle. I have many fine memories of Oslo, including hot dogs (now long gone from my diet) smothered in shrimp being sold by street vendors.

They have several viking boats in Oslo that have been excavated a and restored in a museum; that would be absolutely worth the trip if you ave room for any such excursion.


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