Not too much imagination needed on this trip as we have been lucky enough to visit the beautiful country of Norway as part of my European Capital City Guinness challenge. Admittedly we only saw a small part of the country, Oslo, Bergen and Flam, so it was good to go there on an ‘imagication’ and explore some aspects we missed.
A little bit of Norway in Cardiff
We visited to the Norwegian church in Cardiff Bay. It is restored Lutheran church built in 1868 to accommodate the worshiping and social needs of the large number of Norwegian sailors calling into Cardiff docks at the time. It has had a varied history, even being moved at one stage within the bay area. It has now been tastefully restored and opened as an arts centre and café.
Very much enjoyed watching the Norwegian series ‘Occupied’. Made back in 2015 but hauntingly poignant with what’s happening in Ukraine. In ‘Occupied’ the Russians occupy Norway in order to help guarantee oil production with is under threat because of Norway’s green members of parliament. Well worth a watch.
A lighter read for me this month. I read the first of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole books called ‘The Bat’. I found it a good read. I expected for some reason for it to be set in Norway but it was set in Sydney, Australia. But there were some cultural references to Norwegian life scattered through it.
I suppose I should also read some Roald Dahl was a Cardiff-born novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter, and wartime fighter pilot of Norwegian descent.
I thought I was going to struggle to find any Norwegian sport to follow with it being summer and them being famous for their winter sports but I was wrong. The Norwegian women’s football team was in the Euros and in the same group as England but got soundly beaten 8-0 by the English. There are some decent Norwegian cyclists in the Tour de France too which fared well in the very early stages but seem to tail off somewhat and I never spotted them again. But then there was someone new to cheer on. The golfer Viktor Hovland finished the third day of the Open in the lead with Rory McIlroy but both failed to clinch it on the fourth and final day with Viktor finishing joint 4th.
I also thought it would be a good opportunity to research and write about someone I’ve been meaning to for ages, the Cardiff-born boxer Jack Petersen. His paternal-grandfather was Albert Petersen, a ship’s carpenter, originally from Stavanger, Norway. The output of that research is published in the form of a blog post – Jack Petersen – Boxing Clever.
Lunch one day came from Norway via Wally’s Deli here in Cardiff. Started with the Jarlsburg, a mild cheese originating from about 100km SW of Oslo. We followed it with some brown Norwegian Gjetost, regarded as one of the country’s most iconic foodstuffs – a sweet cheese with a consistency not unlike something from a DIY job. Both good.
I was hoping for more from the Norske Cafe at the Norwegian Church and Arts centre in Cardiff Bay but our choice was pretty limited when we visited. I had Norwegian tomato sauce with our toastie followed by a Norwegian kit-kat.
I was pleased to find some Norwegian beer available locally at The Bottle Shop. I had can of Loudspeaker beer from the Lervig Brewery in Stavanger, Norway. Marketed as a session beer. Includes oats. Pretty tasty. From the same brewery I also had a can of Modern Antique. A stronger 7% IPA brew.
My friend recommended that I should listen to some of the saxophone music of Trygve Seim and described him as having the best beard in jazz. Norway does indeed have some good jazz music. I played this album a few times: The Nordic Notes.
There are limits you know as to how much I will spend on this silly project. I wasn’t prepared to fork out over £100 to go and see ‘A-ha’ play at Cardiff Castle but I did pop down town and eavesdrop on a few numbers from outside the castle walls. I then came home and listened to them on Spotify. I don’t know what I was doing in the 80s but it wasn’t listening to ‘A-ha’!
Unfortunately, Norway was another shape which didn’t appear too conducive to making a clock of. Too many fjords. . I may not have included each and every fjord but it does look like Norway I hope. Instead I used the scroll saw to make a Norway shape and then practiced some framing skills.
The highest point in Norway, and indeed in Northern Europe, is Galdhøpiggen at 2,469-metre (8,100 ft). Two things surprised me when I started looking at it. Firstly is it in southern Norway. For some reason I expected the high peaks to be in the north. The second thing is that it is strangely accessible. Hundreds of people climb it on a fine summers day. I’m not saying it’s an easy stroll and from one popular direction there is a glacier to cross. Some reports say there’s hut at the top selling refreshments – bet those aren’t cheap. I happen to know a couple of people who have climbed and here are links to their reports: Rob Woodall and Martin Richardson.
I chose to give a small donation to the Norwegian Church Arts Centre here in Cardiff. Yes, I was left disappointed by the lack of Norwegian food when we visited a few times but I support the principle of the importance of preserving this landmark here in Cardiff Bay and of bringing art of various forms to this location. And thinking further back it preserves the memories of Norwegian seafarers that contributed so much to the establishment of Cardiff as a port.
For less than the price of a cappuccino in a coffee shop I bought some 1984 Norwegian stamps. Whoever would have thought that the centenary of the Norwegian bee-keeping and poultry breeding societies would happen to fall in the same year. 1984 was also the centenary of the parliament. Looking pretty in pink is playwright Ludvig Holberg. EUROPA stamps underlines cooperation in the postal areas and versions were issued in many countries including UK. The last two commemorate children’s writer Thorbjørn Egner. How come the flower pot doesn’t fall off the tram roof?
The first country to appear in this ‘adventure’ where I’ve actually previously been on a train. We visited in 2010 and travelled from Oslo to Bergen by train. The six hour six hour journey is recognised as being one of the most scenic in the world. The smooth electric train pulled us up to 4000 feet above sea level – higher than Ben Nevis. The scenery does indeed get spectacular. We look out on lakes, tumbling rivers and wild scenery. There are collective gasps from the train passengers when at the highest point we pass glaciers. We also took a series of trains from Bergen to Flåm including the famous Myrdal to Flåm train. Famous because of its steepness and sheer feat of engineering. The line was only completed in 1940. Construction of the railway started in 1923 and was completed in 1940. It is said to be one of the greatest engineering feats in Norway. The 20-km long railway line is one of the steepest standard gauge lines in the world, with 80% of the journey running on a gradient of 5.5%.
There were plots of Puzzle Caches in Norway for me to have a go at solving from my armchair. I chose one called Arktisk-Kultursenter all about the northern town of Hammerfest, home of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society. It is said to be the most northerly town in the world. It provided an interesting insight into the region.
Meeting someone from Norway
I’ve been in contact with a Norwegian living in Cardiff via a mutual friend. With a bit of luck we’ll be able to meet up in person after the summer.
And so its time for us to bid farewell to the beautiful country of Norway. We leave with the sound of Norwegian jazz in our heads and memories of looking at some lovely images from our virtual tour. There are some here on the Hand Luggage Only website.
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