Omreisende

Andy Meyer, Fulbright Roving Scholar in Norway

Month: August 2015

Nær til vannet

 

In many ways, adjusting to Oslo is a pretty natural transition for a Seattleite. It certainly helps that I have at least a foundation in Norwegian, and I’ve been swimming in the practice—even if, time to time, it leaves my head spinning (it’s a pleasant sort of dizzy exhaustion, at any rate). But beyond the language and the cultural practices and assumptions, which aren’t radically different from the ones I bring with me, there’re the geographical harmonies. Which is to say, proximity to fresh and salt water determine quite a lot of the public life. So two things occur to me: one, as cities go, Oslo is a particularly special one (and winter ain’t even come yit!); two, I feel continually lucky to be a Seattleite. Stillllllll, though, I spent the last week in absolute revelry (spoiled by a streak of perfect weather after weeks and weeks of an unseasonably poor summer, I’m told), exploring the city by foot, including its fabulous sjøbad (sea-baths or sea-pools; see below), its sleek & shiny T-bane (the subway—an area where Seattle falls flat on its evergreen nose), and, as fortune and friendship would have it, out on the Skagerrak.

Indeed, some days ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse (not quite true), and nothing particular (again, a lie; there’s an immeasurable plenty) to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

Ok, forgive me—a little indulgent & sloppy, but I’d never been sailing (properly, anyway) before this past weekend, and in the throes of a little excitement, one has, y’know, one’s favorite patterns.

My friend Ane, whom I met years ago on the bus in Seattle after overhearing her speaking Norwegian (she was studying architecture at UW at the time), invited me on a weekend seiltur (sailing trip) to & from a Swedish island called Ursholmen in a thirty-four foot Hanse called Coquimbo. I’m bit now—it takes but one bite!—and I suspect I’ll be out again before long. After all, there’s nothing surprising in this; if they but knew it, all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me. (Ok, I’ll stop. Apologies to Melville, but moreso to you, dear reader.)

Despite the look of things—and they do look luxurious—I’ve been carving out my presentations, and am itching to, well, rove! I have a slew of school visits in the works, ranging from Narvik to Nøtterøy (cf. my map and calendar nearby), and I’m looking out, as a sailor might (or might not) say, to meeting students & teachers, & there’s plenty of good work in the offing. Goodness, what am I doing here?!

Meanwhile, I’ll spare you a whole glut of images from these past couple weeks of “adjustment” & hold to a tender five . . .

 

Sørenga sjøbad, new to Oslo this June and just south of the Opera house. At this time of year, the water in Oslofjord is shockingly nice (much warmer than Puget Sound, I was surprised to discover).

 

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The sjøbad at Tjuvholmen.

 

Call me Ishmael. At the helm of Coquimbo for a spell.

 

Coquimbo heeling a bit.

 

Skagerrak sunset at Ursholmen.

 

Iceland is Impossible

As a Seattleite, I’m lucky to live in a remarkable place—one characterized by a striking relationship between the mountains and the sea, and by the consequences of volcanic and geothermal forces on the land. Iceland, where I’ve just spent a week on my way to Oslo, could be said to share those characteristics, but I found the island incomparable—and I only saw a fraction of it.

I rented a car, which became my castle, and (with the help of Scandinavia’s “allemannsretten,” or people’s right to public land, and the generosity of a few friends) I didn’t spend one króna on lodging. Much of my time was absorbed in driving Iceland’s stunning roads, many of which are rough gravel (car rental agencies offer various kinds of insurance extras to cover damage from gravel and other probabilities from driving in Iceland). I partook, gladly, of the gravel protection plan and added over 2000 gravelly, jaw-dropping kilometers to my car’s odometer.

Driving, in any case, was half the magic of my adventure. I get a little flabbergasted just remembering some of the roads I was on, Wile E. Coyote-style in some cases.

The first and larger part of my little adventure took me throughout the Westfjords. I looked at a map before I left, saw that hand-shaped, fjord-broken peninsula jutting out of the northwest corner (it seems I have a penchant for Northwests), and I said, “I have to go there.” So I did. And it was good. I can’t really describe it. So I won’t.

The journey finished with a wonderful day meeting up with Seattle friends Lily and Laurie. We took a drive along the south coast from Reykjavik to Vík and back, stopping to explore several waterfalls, including the majestic Skógafoss (google it for images), where trolls and huldufólk most certainly live, and convening with magical Icelandic horses.

There’s so much more I can hardly begin. I’ve painstakingly chosen a bunch of images from the hundreds I made, so enjoy these few, and imagine the rest! If you think your imagination has gone too far, it likely hasn’t. Best to let it go a little further . . .

Really, I didn’t want to leave Iceland. My only consolation was that I had to go to Norway.

I’m settling in nicely to my lovely apartment in Oslo. I can see Holmenkollen, the famous ski jump outside of Oslo, if I hang my head a bit over my balcony (!). It’s good to be here.

I picked up some hitchhikers my first day and we visited a strawberry farm near Reykholt.

I picked up some lovely hitchhikers my first day and we visited a strawberry farm near Reykholt.

The "Children's Waterfall," also near Reykholt.

Barnafoss, the “Children’s Waterfall,” also near Reykholt.

My first day ended with a hike up an escarpment and a moonrise over another.

My first day ended with new friends, a hike up one escarpment and a moonrise over another. (From the former we could see Langjökull and Ok, the ice-mass formerly known as Okjökull.)

Here's a(n a)typical view from the driver's seat while driving.

Here’s a(n a)typical view from the driver’s seat while driving.

Across  Áulfta fjord to the town of Súðavík in the Westfjords.

Across Áulfta fjord to the town of Súðavík in the Westfjords.

My first night ended by chasing the almost-midnight sunset to the bucolic hamlet of Skálavik at the edge of the world.

My first night ended by chasing the almost-midnight sun to the bucolic hamlet of Skálavik at the edge of the world . . .

. . . where I saw the sun set over the Greenland Sea.

. . . where the sun set over the Greenland Sea.

My campsite at Skálavik.

My campsite at Skálavik. I did not want to leave.

Some of the Icelandic roads I mentioned.

Some of the Icelandic roads I mentioned.

The wide waterfall at Dynjandi, Westfjords.

The wide waterfall at Dynjandi, Westfjords.

Låtrabjarg, the westernmost point in Europe, and home to well over a million seabirds, including a host of precocious Puffins.

Látrabjarg, the westernmost point in Europe, and home to well over a million seabirds, including a host of precocious Puffins.

Like this one.

Like this one.

Or this one.

Or these two.

Or, say, this one.

Or, say, this one.

The Cliffs of Insanity are indeed at Látrabjarg.

It turns out the Cliffs of Insanity are at Látrabjarg.

Where the sun also sets.

Where the sun also sets.

Rauðasandur, Iceland's only red sand beach, and a gorgeous one. I swam here in the North Atlantic.

Rauðasandur is Iceland’s only red sand beach, and a gorgeous one. I swam here.

An abandoned farmstead sits at the bottom of one of the several falls near Seljalandsfoss.

An abandoned farmstead sits at the bottom of one of the several falls near Seljalandsfoss.

I met up for my last full day with Seattle friends Lily and Laurie, who were also stopping over in Iceland. Here is Skógafoss.

Here is Skógafoss.

A bit of the river above Skógafoss.

A bit of the river gorge above Skógafoss.

Here is Lily just strolling through magical fairy lands and the impossible home of the Huldufólk above Skógafoss.

Just a casual stroll through impossibly magical fairy lands and the likely home of the Huldufólk above Skógafoss.

The town of Vík in the south.

The town of Vík in the south.

Part-magical horses live at Petúrsey.

Half-magical horses live beneath the rocks at Petúrsey.

The plane wreck on the moon—er, rather, near Skógafoss, a destination for photographers.

The plane wreck on the moon—er, rather, near Skógafoss, a destination for photographers.

The adventure closed with the second blue moon rising over the surface of the moon.

My preparatory adventure closed with the blue moon rising . . . over the surface of the moon.

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