Thursday, August 29, 2013

Northern Norway

So yup, went even farther north this last trip.  Couldn't stay away from the Arctic for very long...

This voyage wasn't supposed to happen this year.  Had my year's travels already planned and when the opportunity came up, D, of all people talked me into it.  He is usually the voice of "reason", pointing out how many trips I already had in the books.  And how adding another one might burn me out. 

Norway isn't known to be a frugal destination but costs seemed to be more "reasonable" as you ventured to its far north.  I don't have my receipts anymore to prove it, but it just felt that way.  Perhaps it was the lack of really "fancy" places to eat and shop compared to Stavanger and Oslo. 

What I appreciated more this time around is that shops and restaurants weren't pining for your business.  They are doing well, people are eating out and things are just normal and calm.  No ultra bubbly and fake personalities there.  Works for me.  I don't need my dining and shopping experiences to be all "Disney".  That's the introvert in me talking.

What I still wasn't used to was the intensity of the people there and in the Nordic countries as a whole.  When they look at you, they Look at you.  I wonder if I have that affect on people as I am one of the more intense people I know.  D says yes.  Having the tables turned on me made me blush a lot.  I also noticed how shaking hands with someone you've spent time with is done with both hands and held for much longer than I'm used to here. 

Once people know you are not new to their country, they seem to open up and literally embrace you.  My going around enthusiastically gushing about how much I love Norway to every Norwegian I met probably did it.  They are so fiercely proud of their country, it really pleases them that people appreciate it enough to return.  They are tired of hearing people complain of how Norway is "expensive" or "extortionate". 

I was really embarrassed in shops when other tourists would exclaim loudly "Can you believe what they want for those sweaters?!".  People please -- Norwegians in the larger cities speak great or perfect English!  To their credit, the shopkeepers didn't roll their eyes or sigh or shake their heads.  They must hear it so often that when I was trying on a sweater, the young lady working there told me it was 100% wool, that's why it is heavy and cost what it does. 

I replied with "Yes, they are so warm!  I come from Canada and own 2 of them.".  That brought a look of relief to her face, as if she was gearing up to further justify their value.  Nope, she was preaching to the converted.  I didn't buy that particular piece but did end up adding 3 more Dale of Norway sweaters to my collection.  Thank goodness for them as it got really cold out on the water.

One thing she said stuck with me.  She called Canada "The Scandinavia of North America".  Never heard of us referred to that way.  I like it.    

For better or worse I blurted out "Yes" to my hiking guide when he simply stated "See you next year".  Thought he was working his Jedi mind trick on me.  Seriously, a mere suggestion is all it would take for me to return.  Though there's something to be said for being straightforward and honest.   He is an interesting guy.  Spends summers at home (Voss) guiding in Norway and the rest of the year living in Grenada and teaching skiing in the Sierra Nevada.  His "slow" speed is my moderate. 

While in Bergen I was walking around the pond/lake by Christies Gate taking the scenic route to the bus stop when a man (think he might have been a fisherman as he was dressed like the other fisherman at the Fish Market) gestured something that resembled a salute.  So I just smiled and said Hello.  Then he completely threw me off with "I want to see your eyes". 

I was still walking and took me a few seconds to realize his gesture was "remove your sunglasses" but my first response was to laugh (not too loud) because that was a first.  Felt a bit rude afterwards because I didn't stop as I really didn't want to but I did turn back, then smiled once I saw I wasn't going to be followed.  Solo female traveller paranoia and quick flashback to Oslo.  No worries there.  Again, forgot what country I was in. 

That was after an earlier interaction where a young woman who was working for the Red Cross (name tag) started speaking Norwegian to me and once she saw the blank look on my face, quickly apologized in English.  All I could think was "Wow, I can pass for a local?!" and "What a cool way to start a trip".   I was happy to donate but don't believe that was what she was asking.

The 24hr daylight when I reached the far north didn't phase me at all.  It felt normal, as if I've been used to it all my life.  No idea where that came from.  I really want to experience 24hr of darkness one day.  Expecting that I just might be weird enough to love it too.  SAD (seasonal affective disorder) aside, I think there is something very romantic about the extremes of light and dark. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Finally, The Big Reveal

Oil Museum, Stavanger

Scaled model of off shore oil rig.  Had no idea it was truly a mini city.
There is one movie towards the end of the exhibits showing a day in the life of a deep sea diver that was fascinating.
A big part of their work week is spending 3 - 4 days in a decompression chamber post dives. 

A couple of lovely cafes in Stavanger. 
A cappuccino (or mocha in my case) and a dessert (hazelnut mousse) will cost about $23 Cdn.


When you get to the top of the Floyen (Bergen), there are numerous hiking trails.
Outside of the obvious sign back to the funicular, the other ones did not help at all.
Didn't match the map...So just retrace your way back if you don't think you are on a loop trail.

Considered one of the most scenic railway routes in the world.

Most people ride their mountain bikes down the Rallarvegen from Myrdal.
If you travel before the main season begins ie. June, you can hike it without worry of being run over. 

Where the goats live.

Flaam is quintessential Norway

Finally in Honningsvag!

Those dots are all birds.

More blurry Puffins!  A new camera is on my list.

Stockfish is the far North's main industry. 
Tourism is much further down in Honningsvag.

Polaria Museum, Tromso

Fantastic exhibit detailing Roald Amundsen's time with the Sami people and all he learned from them.

Such a compact and well detailed ship. 
Would love an opportunity to sail on one of these.
Felt like I was intruding upon someone's personal space when peering into the berths.

Cool hotel, Tromso

Moody Lofoten Islands

Low tide

Notice the animials on the roof, placed there to keep the grass trimmed...

On my way to Nusfjord -- No pictures as camera battery, drained from the cold temps
while on the Barents Sea earlier, gave me enough juice for this one last shot.
Look it up online.  You'll find better pictures than I could take anyways.
There is a great 2nd storey general store there.

And this special place?


The Sami people consider this a sacred area and used to perform ceremonies there.

Here's a gorgeous and informative video of the area.

Full Screen & Sound recommended.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Continued Thoughts

Regardless of whether we end up moving or not, our current level of initiative has been quite fruitful.  We've donated about 6 large bags worth of quality clothing, 1 banker's box worth of books and started with general decluttering.  That has felt really good.  Win-Win either way.

D got another job offer yesterday and we are gradually being convinced that contract might be the better way to go and the only way to go if I decide to head back to school.  He was offered more than he would get paid here but not enough to make up for not having a pension or me not working.  Work - Life balance is much better though. 

Here's what we would like/need to see for this to work on paper:
  • More income (D) to counter the increase cost of living and my potential reduced income.
  • Housing costs (purchase) need to be parallel to what we would be selling our house for.  The proceeds of the cottage sale is to be banked.  This will mean downsizing to condo/townhome.
  • The sale of my office assets will pay for my potential tuition and/or rent of new office.
  • Cost of housing rental no more than current running costs.
  • One of us to be self employed to maximize tax benefits.
  • Reduce to 1 car.  Not sure if we will sell existing, fly out and buy new one there or ship one out at a cost of around 1K.  Apparently trying to sell car from Ontario out west may not be the best idea because the impression is we use more salt in the winter and people out there are leery it will mean more rust.
  • Relocation package would be awesome but tends to come with full time positions, not contract from what we've seen.
Why so cautious?  Because I want to minimize financial stress and make this transition enjoyable.  There is no need at this stage of our lives to take undue risks when we don't need to.  I still believe we can get "ahead" if we shift expectations and build in enough leeway with our choices. 

But, there is no way to avoid the fact I will be putting in more hours a week whether it ends up being school or new work environment.  Still not sure how I feel about it.  Better than my initial reaction, that's for sure.  I'm in the "excited about a new challenge" phase of things.  Been requesting old transcripts and exam results from everywhere just in case.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Goal

For most of the people I met along the way the goal was to get to here.  Me?  I chose to see if from the water and opted to spend even more time on nearby waters instead.  Wasn't expected to be moved by this place but I was.  There was a palpable difference in energy even from this far away. 

 I've been wanting to see a Puffin for ages!  (Right up there with the Northern Lights)
They were so cute and smaller than I'd imagined.
Don't let my non existent bird photography skills fool you into thinking there weren't many birds.
At that time of year, there are at least 800000 - 1.2 million of them there. 
You need to have very fast shutter speed because the boat bobs up and down quite a bit and a great zoom lens.  Didn't have either so pictures are blurry.

The sound was incredible!  Extremely fortunate to not get pooped on.


Reindeer still with their winter coats (end of June). 
This was taken around 1:30 pm.  Not fog, but low lying cloud, typical of area.

Reindeer with more of their summer coats.