Danish Tulips – Weekly Travel Photo

Women Relaxing - Copenhagen, Denmark

It is currently winter here in Copenhagen.  The weather is floating between 0 and 6 degrees Celsius and has me dreaming of summer.  This week’s photo was taken this past spring in Copenhagen and showcases the gorgeous forms of a sea of tulips in the Danish national colors (red and white).  In spring the city’s parks are full of people relaxing and soaking up the warm afternoon sun. Looking at this photo reminds me of afternoons spent in the park, nostrils bombarded by the scent of freshly blooming flowers and the heavy aroma of fresh cut grass.

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

The Colors of Copenhagen – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Copenhagen-9753

As I round out my first year in Copenhagen I can now look back over my time here and reflect on each of the seasons.  The blustery rainstorms and beautiful days of late summer. The gorgeous golden hues of fall.  The stark but enchanting white dusting of snow on frozen lakes in winter.  However, one of my favorite times is late spring and early summer.  The days are finally growing longer, the weather is starting to get warmer, life is everywhere and the flowers are in bloom.

The photo above was taken in the heart of Copenhagen in the city park that surrounds and is connected to the Copenhagen Botanical Gardens.  It embodies the wonderful vibrancy of this city. A city which has a number of canals, a wealth of beautiful parks, and is awash in a surprising amount of color. In addition to Copenhagen’s wonderful parks, most of the buildings have small courtyards in their center.  As I sit here writing this the cherry trees in the middle of mine are in bloom.  Combine these wonderful natural colors with the multi-hued paint used to decorate many of the city’s buildings and you get a surprisingly vibrant and visually appealing city.  Not at all what you might expect from a northern city which spends half the year in quasi-darkness.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

Bergen, A Scenic Seafood Picnic and Local Fjords

The Old Warehouse District - Bergen, Norway

Still a bit giddy (silly but true) after the previous day’s spectacular adventure on the Flam Railway and through the Nærøyfjord I opted to spend my final day in Bergen and the nearby fjords. After a relatively late start Anna and I once again set out together to aimlessly wander the city.  As usual the first stop was back down along the harbor and the warehouse district, but that didn’t last long. We were eager to get into parts of the city we’d yet to explore.

Comedy and Tragedy - Bergen, Norway

The first stop was just off of the central square. Up a green boulevard and around a few statues we found the city’s opera house/theater. A fun building with a series of beautifully cast and carved figures. Some, like the flowing bronze in the image above, captured the classic imagery of theater. While others had a more unique/Scandinavian feel.

National Theater - Bergen, Norway

The building was decorated with a series of masks which took on the shape and appearance of animals, but done in an art-deco sort of powerful, but rudimentary form. The lamp posts each had extra metalwork which wrapped around them showcasing viking ships and marauders.  The whole venue had an air of character to it, which made me wish that I had time to catch a show.

A Cathedral - Bergen, Norway

From the theater we wound our way through back streets and quiet alleyways before eventually marching up a large flight of stairs. The stairs dumped us out in front of one of Bergen’s main cathedrals. A large, beautiful building that showcased a beautiful wooden roof, set with subtle but elegant wooden highlights and fine artwork.

Cathedral - Bergen, Norway

As we wound our way through the city we could not help but enjoy the skyline. Norwegian cities offer an interesting mixture of styles and a beautiful combination of greenery and ancient architecture.

An Old Lamp Post - Bergen, Norway

From the Cathedral we wound our way down the other side of the hill and over towards what we later found out was the local University.  There we paused briefly for a quick snack before winding back down towards the main lake – a large man-made rectangle which rests right in the heart of Bergen just off the central square.

Odd Art - Bergen, Norway

The  square featured a series of interesting sculptures. However, the one that I found most interesting was a large aluminum (or stainless steel) cube which looked as though its surface was cast out of water caught in the midst of a rainstorm.  It was odd, stood out, and ordinarily would have clashed with its setting.  For whatever reason though, perhaps the nature of the northern weather, it seemed to fit and in an odd way reflected and captured the region’s moody weather.

Child With Balloon - Bergen, Norway

The day was a gorgeous one.  Flowers in bloom, a few clouds in the sky, a slight northern crispness to the air, and the warmth of the sun all set to the backdrop of rich blue skies. As we wandered through the city’s streets and parks, I paused briefly and chuckled. I can’t fathom where the balloon came from, but the little girl pictured above was at play in the park with her younger brother, both with floating balloons in tow.  For some reason, set against the gazebo and blooming flowers they seemed to embody the spirit of late spring and early summer.  In truth, they embodied life, youthful energy and the essence of positive spirit.

Sunken Pink Boat - Bergen, Norway

From the park it was back to the harbor where Anna and I had decided we’d pick up some local seafood for lunch, then hop on the local fjord cruise which left twice a day, lasted 3 or so hours, and was fairly affordable. To our surprise there was a fair amount of commotion in the harbor.  Somehow, the cute pink fishing ship I’d observed and commented on the previous day had sprung a leak.  As the ship sat, partially submerged and resting on the harbor floor a large barge was brought in with a sizable winch.  The plan appeared to involve divers in dry-suits, the barge, and a large cargo winch.  From the general approach the locals were taking it must have been a somewhat common occurrence.

Seafood Lunch - Bergen, Norway

Hungry, Anna and I decided to splurge a bit and both went on a small buying spree, planning to pool what we picked up in a two-person potluck once we got on the boat.  The region is famous for its seafood, especially for its smoked salmon, fresh arctic shrimp and dare I say it – whale.  Anna went for the healthy route and picked up a carton of fresh strawberries and raspberries. It’s worth noting that I was surprised how many small fruit stands were selling strawberries and cherries in Stavanger and Bergen. They were everywhere, dirt cheap, and absolutely fantastic.  They were fresh, sweet, and a deep rich color with a strong strawberry scent.  The type of strawberries you only find in the US at local farmers markets.

Seafood Lunch - Bergen, Norway

In addition to the strawberries and raspberries, Anna picked up a lightly seasoned piece of smoked salmon and freshly cooked combo plate which had a few skewers of shrimp and a piece of whale meat.  I opted for a pound of fresh crawfish, cup of fresh cherries and a more heavily spiced/slightly dryer piece of Salmon.

Local Foods - Bergen, Norway

The meal was absolutely spectacular.  The salmon was delicious – well spiced, perfectly smoked and a great mixture of flavors. Mine was more like traditional smoked salmon while Anna’s rode the middle and was far closer to lox. The crawfish and shrimp were both extremely flavorful while the strawberries and raspberries were perfectly ripened and some of the most flavorful I’ve had in a long, long time.  I have no doubt I’ll take some flack for it, but I also opted to try whale.  While opposed to their hunting, curiosity and hunger for new culinary experiences won out.   It sounds silly, but i was quite surprised by the taste.  I was expecting something fishy, which given that whale is a mammal is a bit daft.  Instead the flavor was extremely gamy and almost had a liverish taste to it.  The liver taste was more pronounced in the smoked version I tried, while the thinly cut BBQ’d piece was fairly good, but nothing special.  Truth be told it was like a gamy carne asada.

Fjords Near Bergen, Norway

The cruise left Bergen Harbor and wound its way out towards the main bay/fjord. There we passed near a series of beautiful suspension bridges and motored past a number of sailboats out enjoying the nice weather.

Fjords Near Bergen, Norway

About an hour or so into the trip we started to leave the more densely populated coastline behind.  It was replaced by small lighthouses, boathouses, and the occasional home and small village.

Fjord Tour Near Bergen, Norway

The whole area is incredibly picturesque.  From the architecture, to the rich mixture of colors used on their buildings the small towns each have their own unique character. All set against a rich green backdrop.

Fjord Tour Near Bergen, Norway

The coast/fjord is also home to a series of small waterfalls and impressive cliffs.  However, in comparison to my previous day’s adventure, most seemed fairly small and plain.  Which is not to say that they were not gorgeous and incredibly beautiful.  Rather, the cruise from Bergen gave me the opportunity to enjoy architecture and human’s footprint set against a majestic backdrop.

Fjord Tour Near Bergen, Norway

Eventually the day wound to a close as we slowly completed our long loop and headed back towards Bergen.  Just in time, I might add, as the weather had slowly begun to change.  The clouds had thickened and spread and the temperature slowly dropped.  As a fresh sprinkle cleared the dust from the air, I took one final, deep breath, enjoyed the beauty of the fjords and prepared for my last night in Bergen.  The following day promised grand adventures and my first taste of Denmark.

Oslo Continued – Local Food and Playing in the Park

The Harbor - Oslo, Norway

When I last left you, Sten and I had just finished exploring a large portion of Oslo.  It was a fantastic insight into the city, Norse history and local culture. But, I wasn’t done.  In fact, my hosts still had  a few surprises left up their sleeves.

After a quick hello, and then a far longer nap (dare I cry jetlag?)  I eventually stumbled out of bed and wandered into the living room.  A bit groggy but generally feeling refreshed I settled into a stool and joined the others.  As it turned out, we’d all crashed for longer than anticipated. When the sun never sets, a nap here or there quickly turns into a great idea.

Local Food - Oslo, Norway

To my delight Hildur had picked up some pre-cooked whole shrimp on her way home from work, and had set to preparing a classic regional dish.  The ingredients were simple.  Boiled and well salted shrimp, sliced bread, mayo, sliced green onions and lemon.  Combine it all as pictured in the image above, and then enjoy.  It was delicious, and a meal I hope to replicate sometime in the near future.  The shrimp in particular caught my attention – the Norwegian shrimp are a different species than the ones I’m familiar with in the US. They’re a deeper orange-almost red when cooked, slightly smaller and have a saltier/stronger shrimp taste. Stuffed, we decided to enjoy the weather and set out towards the park.  Hildur grabbed a bag of blocks – which I later learned was a fun game to play in the park.

The 3 minute walk to the park was pleasant.  The weather perfect – riding that fine line between cool and warm.  The sun had started its ever so gradual descent leaving everything with the slight suggestion of Sunset despite the reality that it was still hours off.  As seems to be the case with most Scandinavian parks in summer, despite the late hour (it was perhaps 10PM), there were still lots of people out and about.  BBQing, lounging, drinking, chatting, and playing an assortment of park games.

For our part we set up shop next to one of the small ponds, then found a flat area to play our game.  To my surprise, it was one I’d never seen before.   Each team set up a series of rectangular blocks standing on end.  The blocks were spaced about a foot apart in a long line, parallel to your opposition’s blocks. Each team had 6 or 8.   Located in the middle – about 10 feet from either side – was a larger, taller rectangular block.

The goal?  Each individual used three foot long round, wooden, stakes which were lobbed straight at the opposing bricks.  The goal?  Knock as many down as you could, before eventually going after the central block.  The catch?  Distance, aim, and a few additional challenges which went with each block which you managed to knock down.

All in all the game was one of the more entertaining park games I’ve played in a long time (afraid I’m not a huge fan of Frisbee).  The company was great, and the setting…well…how often can you claim to have spent a relaxing evening playing in the park in the shadow of Norway’s Royal Palace?