Turkey at Sunset and the Hoboroll – Weekly Travel Photo

A Ship at Sunset in Antalya

In celebration of my recent return from Turkey, here’s a flashback to last year’s trip.  I’m in the process of editing more than 20gb of photos from this year’s trip, so you can expect to see new shots later this week.

This photo was captured in the storied city of Antalya along Turkey’s southern coast as the last rays of sunset cast a golden shadow on the peaks across the bay.  As luck would have it, one of the local sailing ships was in the midst of a sunset cruise, and in so doing lent its silhouette to this photo.  The colors were incredible, especially as the rays of light cut between the mountain peaks and filled the valleys with a plethora of different colors, all filtered through the slight haze brought about by the cool ocean air mingling with the warm afternoon sun.

The Hoboroll – Product Review

Just before I left for my Austria and Turkey trip, the folks at Gobi Gear reached out to me and asked if I’d try out a complimentary version of their Hoboroll product after seeing a piece where I talked about using plastic bags to help organize and separate clothing inside my backpack.  Somewhat skeptical that it would be significantly better than my trash bags, I decided to give it a try on my most recent trip.  The Hoboroll is basically a lightweight fabric tube with cinch cords on both ends and which is divided into a series of interior compartments. It also has several straps around the outside and reminds me a bit of the bag you put a sleeping bag into.  In short, it’s a simple and clever idea and a great solution to the problem most of us have.  Especially those of us using backpacks that only open at the top.

After using the Hoboroll on my 23 day trip, I’m happy to say that it’s a great product.  I kept and used it throughout the trip, and found it made life easier.  Especially when it came to getting access to the bottom of my pack.  I was able to pull the Hoboroll out, and then access large and less used items such as my snowboarding pants,  sweater and spare jeans without needing to re-pack my entire bag.  It also made sorting and separating things like shirts, underwear and socks much easier.  I’ll definitely use it again on future trips, and the light weight nature of it and study construction makes it durable and backpack-friendly.

While it’s not a necessary purchase -you could, after all, continue to use plastic bags – it is a much cleaner and more efficient option.  Depending on how you use your backpack, it may make sense as an addition to your packing list.

You can find out more about the product on the GobiGear website.

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

Exploring Stavanger, Norway

Three Girls - Stavanger, Norway

The city of Stavanger is an interesting one.  Located at nearly the same latitude as the Orkney Islands in Scotland, it’s situated on the inward side of a large peninsula on the southwestern coast of Norway.  The city is the third largest in Norway, though still serves as a home to fewer than 300,000 people and is home to a large portion of the country’s oil fleet.

Tall Ship - Stavanger, Norway

Most of the city’s old town sits on one of two small hills which partially surround the old harbor – a picturesque area full of small cafes, parked ferry boats, and a few masted sailing vessels.  In addition to the cafes the harbor opens up on a large  square (which is on a bit of a hill), a small 4 or 5 station fish market, and the entrance to an old shopping mall.  From the harbor it’s easy to see the large suspension bridge which connects the city of Stavanger proper with a series of small islands which serve as home to some of the city’s more affluent population.  You can see part of the bridge as well as the masts of small sailboats, and the warehouse-turned-residential buildings in the photo above.

International Volleyball Tournament - Stavanger, Norway

To my surprise it turned out that Stavanger was hosting the Conoco Phillips world beach volleyball championships.  They’d brought in tons of sand and set up six full-sized beach volleyball courts along one side of the harbor, in addition to constructing a small free standing stadium around a final match beach/field.   I’m not much of a beach volleyball fan, but was excited to have stumbled onto the event.  In sharing some of the names in attendance with friends who play, it turned out that the event was actually fairly major and had a lot of the most well known women’s international players/teams in attendance.  What made the event that much better was the open (free) access which was available to the six practice/elimination courts which almost all had games going constantly throughout the day.   The events drew huge crowds which filled the harbor area and added to the level and sense of energy in the air.  Not to mention the general appeal of a bunch of attractive international volleyball players wandering around the city.

The Harbor - Stavanger, Norway

A brief 5 minute walk from the old harbor, up a small hill, past a squat old cathedral and back down towards sea level takes you to a large pond which rests directly in front of the rail/bus station and is surrounded by a variety of shops, hotels, and other like-kind establishments. The pond is pretty, if not overly beautiful, and serves as a home to ducks, fountains and the occasional swan.

Street Scene - Stavanger, Norway

The city’s smaller side streets are typically beautiful cobblestone walkways lined by an odd assortment of heartily built structures.  The town’s wet climate is reflected in the green vegetation and moss which can be found everywhere – including growing between the cobblestones. I found myself pleasantly strolling through the city’s quiet side streets surrounded by flowers – some planted, some seemingly wild – which line the city’s streets and decorate the town’s residential buildings.

Main Bridge - Stavanger, Norway

From the rail/bus station I decided to brave one of the city’s hills.  While not a significant climb, I’ll confess to being a bit lazy. The walk left me somewhat winded and my shins burning as I wound up the steep cobblestone streets.  Despite a little huffing and puffing the climb was well worth it. When I finally reached the top I quickly found a small hole between two pitched slate rooftops and enjoyed the view: the bridge, bay and one of the nearby islands was about as picturesque as a highly urban landscape can be.

Downtown - Stavanger, Norway

As I meandered through the city streets I found myself continually drawn towards the bridge.  After all it was large, no doubt offered a unique view of the city and….well…it was there and let’s face it, that’s often more than enough reason in and of itself.  Before long my feet found their way to the ramp leading up to the pedestrian walkway across the bridge.  Dodging the occasional bicyclist I walked about 1/2 of the way out onto the bridge then paused and looked back at Stavanger.  The view was one of a prominent cathedral, pointy pitched roofs, a few converted warehouses, and brought to mind the mental image of an old city given life in an even older story – a city near slumber, late at night, lit by oil powered lamp light and echoing with the quiet rattle of wagon wheels bouncing across cobblestone streets.

An odd visual to have in the middle of the day on a bright sunny day?  Perhaps – but it brought a smile to my face and some how, some way, seemed to fit the city’s skyline.

Graffiti - Stavanger, Norway

From the bridge I continued my aimless meandering, wrapping back down towards the harbor, but not before winding my way through the city’s thriving shopping district which is full of middle-upper class shops and ritzy street cafes.  As I wound my way up side alleys and down main streets I was constantly entertained by the large number of odd murals that decorate walls and street corners throughout the city – most done in a graffiti style, but showing far more care, time, and artistry than random graffiti scribble.  Most were bizarre, but creative and fun in their quirkiness.

Tired, footsore, and feeling more than a little starved I eventually decided it was time to track down a supermarket, pick up some relatively cheap food (though still ridiculously priced) and then head home to the Hospihostelhotel.  Watch the clip above for a look at the meal (sorry about the image/color quality, I was having issues with a lens at the time).

Dinner: Crawfish, Caviar and Chicken - Stavanger, Norway

Let me just say, that shopping in foreign countries can be difficult.  Especially when you’re in a supermarket and the local language is anything but easily recognizable.  As I stood in front of the cooler I couldn’t help but shrug, sigh, and scratch my head as I grabbed what looked like pre-cooked and shelled shrimp tails and what I assumed was pre-cooked BBQ chicken.  The whole time I couldn’t help but wonder if I was going to poison myself by accidentally buying something that wasn’t completely cooked (like the chicken).  Luckily, the extent of my surprise came in the form of the “shrimp” I’d bought.  It was only after getting the container open, draining off the water and tasting a few that I google translated the words on the lid.  Shrimp?  Not so fast.  Turns out they were crawfish tails.  The good news was crawfish was equally acceptable and delicious as shrimp in my book.  Still, I couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh at myself.  It’s the little adventures that stick out…and this was no exception.

The final meal consisted of several small pieces of bread, a coke, diced barbecued chicken, arctic fish roe/caviar, and pre-cooked/salted crawfish tails. The end result was an odd, but strangely complimentary assortment of tastes that left me stuffed and content – even though I’d faced more than a few surprises.

With a full belly and tired legs I crawled into bed, checked my e-mail, and watched a bit of Norwegian TV which surprisingly was mostly in English with Norwegian subtitles.  The following day promised an adventure – it was time to say goodbye to Stavanger and hello to Bergen.

Exploring Oslo – Longships, Vikings and Stave Churches

Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

The sight that greeted my bleary eyes was a frustrating one. I silently cursed myself for not spending more time taking photos of the city the night before. The previous evening’s blue sky had been replaced by a solid, overcast gray.   I sighed. Oh well – nothing to be done about it.  I could only hope that it held to the usual coastal pattern:  Cloudy mornings burned away by the mid-day sun.

By 10:30 Sten and I were up and ready for our whirlwind tour of Oslo.  I’d singled out a few must see points (the Viking Museum and an old Wooden Stave Church) which Sten planned to complement with a local’s insights into the culture and city at large.  We set out from the house with a light spring to our step and quickly wound down towards the closest city tram stop. Along the way we paused briefly at a freestanding 7/11 so I could pick up a 1 day tram pass.

Viking Ship Museum - Oslo, Norway

Our first stop was the Viking Ship Museum. Located on a peninsula with several other museums, the facility houses three large ships (two of which are mostly intact) as well as several smaller artifacts (carriages, axes, clothing etc.).

Viking Ship Museum - Oslo, Norway

The museum houses artifacts from Tune, Gokstad (Sandefjord), Oseberg (Tønsberg) and the Borre mound cemetery.  The most obvious of which are the large viking vessels which dominate the museum.

Viking Ship Museum - Oslo, Norway

I was particular taken by the artistry evident in the ships’ woodwork.  The image above highlights the level of detail and craftsmanship which went into every square inch of the vessels.  The sweeping designs, inlaid nails, and carefully aligned planks made it easy to see why the Vikings developed such a powerful reputation as masters of the sea.

Viking Ship Museum - Oslo, Norway

I was also somewhat surprised by the ship’s size and openness. While still sizable vessels, it’s an amazing thought to consider that Nordic explorers found their way to the Americas in vessels similar to the one’s I was standing in front of. A trip that even on a modern cruise ship can seem arduous at times. Truly their curiosity, dedication, and toughness was the stuff of legends.

Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

Eventually we wrapped up our exploration of the Viking Ship Museum and set out to find the wooden stave church. The stave churches are a-typical in that their design is completely wooden and has a uniquely Scandinavian appearance.  Our search led us down a gorgeous country lane (most of the island is still affluent/residential), before we found a small side path which cut along a fence toward what looked to be a church tower.

Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

The tower itself ended up being a dud (just an odd, modern church) but it set us on the right path.  Before long we’d spotted the roof of the stave church, but found our path blocked by a fence.  A little more investigation revealed that the church itself sat within the Norsk Folklore Museum.  It turned out that the Museum was a sprawling facility with a wide assortment of buildings from Norway’s history which had been dismantled, re-located and re-constructed. In fact the Museum was founded in 1894 and claims over 150 buildings.

Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

We grudgingly paid the entrance fee, not sure what to expect, and then made our way into the compound.  It was alive with a wonderful assortment of old/modern buildings, people in period dress, music and small era-centered museum spaces.

Wooden Church at the Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

The church had originally been built in Gol, the Folklore Museum’s website notes, “The stave church at Gol was built in the 12th century. From the 1600s to early 1800s, the structure went through several renovations and alterations. In the 1870s, however, the congregation had become too large, so the old church was replaced by a new and bigger church.”

Wooden Church at the Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals over the years and while each one is unique in its own way, the Stave Church from Gol was one of the most unique ones I’ve seen in a long time.  From the wooden materials used to build it and the Nordic ornaments on the roof to the unique internal layout, the church stands apart as something that was completely new and different from what I’d seen before.  It was small, beautiful and definitely interesting.  If you find yourself in Norway, make sure not to miss it!

Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

As we explored the rest of the complex, I was constantly surprised by the a-typical architecture which marked many of the traditional buildings.  The stone chimneys were of course to be expected as were the sod/green/live rooftops, but the buildings themselves were often quite unique.  Most had the living quarters raised significantly up and off of the ground.  Some (like those pictured above) used ladders to gain entrance to tiny doorways, while others (as the building below) featured large earthen ramps met by miniature drawbridges.

Oslo Cultural Museum - Oslo, Norway

The design itself makes sense for a variety of reasons.   Small doors to preserve heat which doubled as a defensive measure.  A crawl space underneath to house livestock. The small draw bridge to keep the building up out of the snow while also providing an added level of defense/safety, etc. – and yet it was a fascinating design element.  One which I’m surprised was never regularly used in the colder regions here in the US.

The Harbor - Oslo, Norway

After an hour or two exploring the exhibits we set off to explore the city proper.  Though our route back into the city would be a bit different – Sten explained that our tram pass was also good on the local harbor ferry, which left from somewhere nearby.

The Harbor - Oslo, Norway

The ferry ride was great.  The weather was cooperating – the sun had returned – the temperature was perfect, and the view of downtown Oslo from the sea was gorgeous.  The City’s town hall is an odd building.  It is massive, intense looking and austere in a way which should be ugly, but ends up growing on you.  The end result is a memorable building which you can’t quite assign a time period or culture to.

The Harbor - Oslo, Norway

The harbor area itself is great.  An eclectic mixture of old and modern buildings with expensive yachts tied-up out front and a long waterfront promenade wrapping around 2/3 of the U-shaped harbor.  The walkway is alive with foot traffic, outdoor cafes and bustling restaurants.  Add a few outdoor musicians and the 10-15 tall ships (old sailing vessels) tied up nearby and you’re greeted with an absolutely delightful area full of life, history and a constant stream of eye candy.

Downtown - Oslo, Norway

We disembarked and poked around the old harbor before cutting in a few blocks towards Norway’s Parliament Building.   As was the case with the City Hall, the Parliament Building has its own unique feel and style.   The building had a very approachable feel, set as it was at the start of a long green which stretch down toward the old National Theater and which eventually ended at the Royal Palace.   As is the case with just about any patch of green grass in Norway during summer, the whole area was covered with people relaxing and enjoying the sun.  Sunbathers at rest, families eating and even, Sten informed me, a somewhat famous local girl recording a TV piece as she kicked a soccer ball around.

Downtown - Oslo, Norway

After a quick pause to enjoy the square, architecture and insights into Norwegian culture we began to make our way towards the main market street, pausing briefly along our way when we were approached and harassed by an American missionary.  Annoyed, embarrassed and disgusted I rattled off a few quick questions, before we continued or walk.

The main market street was teeming with life and traffic.  Every block or so a different street performer had set up shop.  From the usual jugglers and musicians to a puppet master, the streets were alive with activity.

Starving we cut down a side street before pausing for lunch at a hip little cafe Sten recommended. The food was good and the view great as we sat on the front patio and watched the locals wander by.

From there it was another quick walk down to the College/Immigrant district, which had an entirely different vibe.  Full of music and 2nd hand stores, the area was alive with fun little shops, students and a surprising number of muslim women in burka’s.  We interrupted our walk briefly to pause in one of the local park cafes where we grabbed a beer, surrounded by blooming roses, sunbathers, and wandering street musicians before striking off towards our last destination for the day.

The Opera House - Oslo, Norway

Our final stop was Oslo’s new Opera House.  The building, located on the harbor, is a beautiful creation.  Designed with maritime inspiration, the large blue glass and white marble facility is build on a sweeping angle which slides straight down and into the harbor in an unbroken line.   The building which is completely accessible by foot offers fantastic roof top views from the of the city. Its views of the harbor are particularly memorable.

Footsore and tired we decided to head back to the apartment.  It had been an incredible day.  Truly, Oslo is a delightful city – an experience made that much more memorable by a local’s insights into city culture and history. My thanks to  Sten for all he had shared with me throughout our walk.