Monday, May 28, 2012

Homeward Bound

May 27:
Well it turns out we are both getting a tan. The Norwegians say this heat wave is very unusual this time of year. Summer has come early for them. We are back to our great hotel which provides food all day and night. Pancakes with lingonberries at 4:00! We went to the service at the cathedral, bells, organ and choir. Didn’t understand a word, but I could follow the mass. Was able to reach Iver Kleive. He is away on holiday, so sadly we couldn’t meet. However, he is most excited that I am interested in doing some of his music. This is the link to his performance at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

And this is the link to the “Lux Aeterna” that we will probably perform with ISing and with Hohnerklang.

After the Lutheran mass at the dom we went to two museums. Saw Munch’s “Scream.” I like the Norwegian title better “skrik,” pronounced skreek. We also admired some wonderful paintings by Monet, Van Gough, Picasso, and El Greco. In the other museum we saw Viking artifacts and treasures. There were a few entrances to stave churches (pic attached) and an exquisitely ornate coat made out of fish skins. We spent the evening on top of the opera house watching the boats in the bay. Tomorrow we start our way back home. Oslo to Berlin to Stuttgart to Atlanta then Portland. Then a McMennamin’s for a hamburger! 
BTW Skål is how they toast in Norway. The Vikings would raise their bowls of beer and say “Skål.” Not particularly imaginative. Skål means ….bowl.

Leaving on a Norse Train

May 26

We are taking the express train from Bergen to Oslo. We have just come out of the highest point all snow and glaciers. Temperature outside is 3 degrees Celsius. Yesterday Rebecca and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by doing a bus tour of Bergen, needed relief from all the walking we have been doing. The tour took us to Edvard Grieg’s home. We also saw his grave and a little comfortable one room cottage on the water, complete with piano, a quiet retreat for composing. We ended up the tour by going to another stave church, but it was not the same as the one before. It had been moved from a previous location due to the fact it was going to be torn down, it then burned down to the ground, only the altar cross survived. Now all that is left is a copy of the original stave house. We are glad that we got the chance to see the real thing in Borgund. We then went to the king’s church to hear a Russian choir from Georgia. Very impressive. However, I’m not sure we can do any of their music. Their music is based on the fifth instead of an octave and instead of 5 steps in the fifth, they have four. The place was packed and they started with a whisper of sound, bi-tonality over a ground bass. The choir was made up of 10 men and they concluded the concert with such force that I think they could overpower our organ if it were fully open. We went back to our favorite restaurant on the water. Our waiter reserved a table right by the window so we could see the sun set…10:00 at night! (pic attached) Had some of the best salmon ever. We went to another concert at 11:00pm at the cathedral. With exception if the chancel area, the church was lit by candlelight. Very magical. We were offered espresso when we entered and when we departed we were given chocolate. This concert was the highlight of the day. Just a single performer a gorgeous, young accordion player. For an hour see absolutely memorized by her playing. We walked back to our hotel at midnight, it was still light out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The King and I

May 24:
It has been a very, very warm day and the Norwegians are taking this opportunity to shed most of their clothes and get some sun. We went to several museums, but best was taking what turned out to be a private tour of the Rosenkrantz Tower. Apparently we just missed the king, we walked into the tower and asked for a tour. Two gals looked at each other in a bit of confusion and finally one volunteered. We spent a wonderful time with her and took in so much history. I’m glad I had finished the Hanseatic section of a great book entitled “Salt,” which is the world history of salt. All the pieces of the fish and salt trade are fitting together in my mind and now see the strong trade and religious connection with Bergen and Cologne (Köln). Even came across a medallion with the three kings in the Bergen Museum.

Rebecca and I went to our 1st concert which was a Swedish organist from Paris on the large pipe organ at the cathedral. (pic attached) The program had French contemporary music with some Bach interspersed. I enjoyed it, but French modern music leaves me just a little bit like their films..…REALLY? I told Rebecca we have a better organ in Beaverton. We took the funicular railway up one of Bergen’s seven mountains and watched the ships come in and out of the harbor.

I should mention that I got a response from an email I sent to the leader of the Oslo Bach Choir. He is forwarding my request to get Iver Kleive’s music to the composer himself! I now also have his cell phone number. Wish me luck.

We had a wonderful meal at the same restaurant as yesterday, same wonderful waiter. Asked for the meal of the day, (they prepare authentic Norsk food), and got a huge plate of what I couldn’t tell. Even the waiter had to go back to the kitchen and ask. The meat was lamb, but it was somewhere between Irish corned beef and German Sauerbraten. It was delicious. Then there was this sausage of every type of meat, elk, moose, reindeer, pork, and beef? Then this mashed orange stuff that is from a root of something the size of an eggplant but for which no one could come up of the English word for. It tasted like fruity, sweet squash, but not like sweet potatoes or yams. Very hard to describe. Well if that wasn’t enough, there were two cannon balls of potato dumplings. Could only eat one. I wonder what they will have on the menu tomorrow. Skål

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

See Food Dinner

May 23:
I’m writing from the top floor of the Basic Bergen Hotel. It clean and very basic. Noise of the city filters into the windows, some pub below is being very boisterous probably watching football. Today started out with a boat trip through two fjords. The last one, the Naerøyfjord, is now a world heritage site. Pictures just do not capture the grandeur. From Gudvagen we took a bus that traversed the steepest road in Norway, hairpin turns at an 18% grade complete with waterfalls. At Voss we took a train to Bergen. The place is very busy with people from all over the world coming for the Bergen International Festival. We were able to book tickets to hear Rustavi, a Russian that I have been hoping to hear. We also got tickets for an organ concert at the cathedral and a 11:00pm concert on accordion! Finally found a music store and my hopes of finding some choral music were dashed. Apparently in Norway, with its deep tradition in choral music, has a serious problem of photo copying choral works without regard to copyrights. Publishers now hesitate to publish any choral music. We found a secluded restaurant on the waterfront. I had the fish special and Rebecca ordered shrimp (pic attached). What she got was a huge bowl of shrimp whole in the shell with their dark eyes staring blindly out. I’m glad I ordered the fish. Skål

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't go Chasing Waterfalls

May 22:
We are on our deck outside our room. A Spanish cruise ship is pulling out of the dock and moving up the fjord. I think I told you we could see the fjord and snow cap mountains, but I failed to mention we have also 16 waterfalls we can see and definitely hear. Today has been another adventure, a pilgrimage of sorts. Off the beaten path is a old stavkirke (stave church), all wood construction built around 1150 just outside of Borgund. This church is remarkably unique in that it has been unchanged since the middle ages. Where most of world’s stave churches have been reformed, burned or left in ruins this one has remained untouched, but also preserved. So I really, really wanted to see this church, but how to get there. We asked at the information place several times, but they were not much help. It is not on the normal bus route. So we hopped on the first bus which took us through a 15 mile long tunnel to Laerdalsøyri on the Sognefjorden, the longest fjord in Norway. The bus driver called in for us and got us information on how to get close to Borgund. We had almost 1 & ½ hours in Laerdal so we walked through the old fishing village of Laerdalsøyri, went to the grocery store and bought some weird cheese with ham, bread, Solo (a drink Rebecca likes), and Freia chocolate with hazelnuts. The other bus did arrive and inform us that yes he could get us close. On the way he also called in to make sure we were on the right and (holy?) path. He dropped us off at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere and said another bus would be back this way and could take us all the way back to Flåm, meet the bus across the street at 2:38 and to get to the Borgund Stavkirke was only a ten minute walk in that direction. (Well it was a ten minute Trossingen walk!) 20 minutes and we finally got there. What an awe inspiring place. Stepping through the threshold of time into another world, dragon heads aloft, St. Andrew crosses, a granite baptismal font at the door and still the old gods way up in the darkness. Oden to the left (we get Wednesday from (w)onden’s day) and Freya to the right (we get Friday from Freya’s day) way up above the altar. We were fortunate to be alone with a warden who had a flashlight to shine up and explain what we couldn’t see in the darkness. A few tourists finally arrived, but for a time we had the place to ourselves. We walked back to a lonely bus stop, nothing but green and snowcapped mountains and a tracker moving back and forth. Bus came at 2:39. Thanks be to God for bus drivers. Skål

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pining for the Fjords

May 21st
I’m writing to you from our room in Flåm which overlooks the mountains and waters of the Aurland Fjord. There are several waterfalls cascading down the snow capped mountains. Today we left Oslo early in the morning and took an express train to Myrdal (pic attached) high up in the mountains. From there we took the Flåmsbanen, one of the world’s most breathtaking train rides. It is only 12 miles long and takes a little under an hour the train drop some 2,835 feet. After checking in at our place we took a 3km hike up to an old farm church from the 1600s. Little tiny pipe organ and pews with doors (keep people in or out or both?)J Walked back an had a Norwegian smorgasbord. They had elk stew that was amazing. Oh, I should mentionfor you McMennamin folks, they have their own brewery which is housed in what looks like one of the medieval staves (wooden churches with dragons – clearly a Viking influence Good beer. Skål

Sunny Norwegian Nights

May 20th

Sunday and the day is sunny and bright.  Oslo gets two more hours of sunshine than Beaverton!  We started out this morning at the at Vigelandsparken,  Oslo’s largest park named after Gustav Vigeland Norway’s foremost sculptor.  There are 212 of his sculptures throughout the park, but probably the most impressive is the massive 56 ft. - 270 ton granite Monolith in the center of the park (pic attached).  The sculptures represent humanity in all its various forms.  We then toured the castle and palace Akershus Slott.  A delightful guide took us through the history of the fort  and of Norway, which is a relative young country only separating from Sweden in 1905.  We then went to the modern art museum and ended up the day by going to the cathedral for an evensong service…great acoustics and a young children’s choir kind of in the Anglican tradition, but all in Norwegian of course.


Exploring Oslo

May 19th

We are enjoying the last of a bottle of wine the Cistercian Abbey in Germany called Eilfingerberg (eleven fingers).   The story is that a barrel of wine was mounted on a stone pillar and because of a crack in the barrel and a winding channel down the pillar, the wine would collect in a small moat around the top of the base of the pillar.  The monks after their meal were allowed to dip their fingers in the wine.    One monk after savoring the wine from his fingers  was overheard to say “if only I had eleven fingers!”  The story is a total fabrication, but looking at the pillar one could see that could be true and the wine definitely worth an extra fingerJ
This morning we wandered over to the Oslo Opera House which is this massive stone complex right on the water.  There are large stone walkways that are actually the roofs of lower rooms.  They create this labyrinth of paths to the top of the building many story high and you can see people strolling up and down or camping out on these metal chairs that can be moved to a favorite spot.  Inside was a mob of people and we were wondering if a ballet or the opera was performing.  Nope, people were queuing up for season tickets!  From the Opera House we took a boat trip around some of the islands and ending up in Bygdøy, a peninsula west of central Oslo.  There we visited the Flam, Kon-Tiki, Norwegian Folk, and the Viking Ships Museums (pic attached).  Long day of walking and seeing wonderful sights.  At  Norsk Folkemuseum, where many different period buildings from over Norway were brought to this one location, we had homemade or should I say farm-made lefse hot from the fire with melted butter.


On to Norway

May 18th

This morning got off all wrong.  We had to be to the airport by 4:30am.  Our tickets were denied and we had to purchase tickets to Oslo.  There goes a $1,000 I was not planning on spending in the middle of this trip.  Sent an email to our travel agent to see if they can figure out what is going on.  Anyways we made it to Norway.  Took the express train in to Oslo and walked to our hotel.  Our room has  a slight view of the opera house if you look left and a slight view of the bay if you look right.  Forward is a huge building with a construction site in front of it.  LOVE our place though.  They allowed us to use their laundry for free.  Didn’t have to eat out all day.  Included in the room are drinks and fruit anytime of the day, waffles from 3:00-6:00, dinner from 6:00-9:00, late night sandwiches and snacks and a full breakfast in the morning.  Food is very expensive here, so this is wonderful.

We were able to get the Oslo Pass which covers transportation ,museum and attractions.  We went to the City Hall and walked through these ornate and elaborate chambers and then to  the Nobel Peace Prize Center where they had a very moving photo exhibit on the plight of women in Afghanistan.  In one room they had these glass squares of all the Nobel Peace Prize recipients that light up when you pass by them.  It hit me that I know two who have received the award.

We walked up the promenade of parks to the palace and watched the guards march and stand at attention while tourists snapped pictures (pic attached).  Then back to our hotel for asparagus soup, salad, fresh bread, beef stew and rice and a blue berry cake with cream.  Yum!


Hohnerklang in action

Day 2 in Tubingen

From Steve: May 17th
Today has been an exhausting day of walking mostly on cobblestone streets. Today is a feast day so the shops are closed and large trucks are forbidden from traveling on the roads. So traffic is light and few people are out an about. We met up with Inga and her boyfriend, Jochem. We went to the castle in Tübingen (pic attached) which is part of the archeological university (we could hear the bats in the cellar). It has one of the finest displays of early art, but of particular interest is the prehistoric art dating back 35,000 years. Then we went to a more modern Cistercian monastery, only 500 years old. Then we went to Stuttgart, had lunch at a beerhouse and walked around the center and visited a German history museum. Tomorrow we fly to Norway. Up at 3:30 L

From Tübingen

More from Steve on the road (sorry for the delay, I was away for a few days last week):

Had a wonderful Italian meal complete with a fabulous gelato dessert.  Rebecca and I had a wonderful adventure today getting here from Maulbronn, bus, then train, then another train.

We spent all morning at Maulbronn Abbey the best preserved Cistercian Abbey and a World Heritage Site.  Rebecca and I have been to other Cistercian sites namely Tintern Abbey in Whales and Fountains Abbey in England, but those sights are in ruins and it was moving to see what the monks actually worshiped and lived in.  Lots of pictures.

Yesterday we spent the day in Cologne, five hours at the Dom, (cathedral) (Pic attached).  I’ve always have had a fascination about the tale of the three wise men and this cathedral has a rich history about the three kings.  Paintings, relics and the three tiered coffin with the bones of the magi!  Climbed the steps up the two tallest twin spires in the world, “yes,” the tour guide says “Ulm has the tallest spire in the world, but we have the second tallest and more steps than Ulm, because we have two spires not one.”  That evening we bid a sad goodbye to Susan and her sister Madliene.

Tomorrow we hope to see the museum at the castle in Tübingen.  Being a feast day we hope it will be open.  We will spent the day with Inga, one of the Trossingen gals that spent time with us last summer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Return to Trossingen

Because of the tour ISing went on last summer, our Director Stephen Galván and his wife were invited back to Trossingen. They visited our friends Susan Sauter and Mayor Maier and shared some of our recent concert with Hohnerklang, the harmonica and accordion orchestra from Hohner Harmonicas in Trossingen.

Read what Stephen has to say about the trip so far:

Yesterday, Mother’s Day or Mutter Tag, was all about food.  We were given a huge breakfast with eggs, salmon lox, ham, fresh fruit and assortment of mystery cheeses and meats.  And my downfall, fresh baked bread.   Then off to Susan’s place for lunch with the whole family (pics Attached).  Then off to visit Hohnerklang for champagne and dessert.  Then out for dinner at a very small posh Italian restaurant run by Johnny for prima and secundo. I had lamb.  So much food!

We got a chance to go into the Rathaus, City hall, and see the Mayor Maier’s and Susan’s office.  We went to the Dinosaur Museum and it was great to walk around the music buildings and hear students practicing.  Susan’s mom showed an area where they live they experienced a weird and severe hail storm.  Hail as large as softballs destroyed windows, cars and roofs. Now all the houses have shiny new tile roofs.

We are so excited about the plans to have Hohnerklang com to Beaverton in August of 2013.  ISing may sing a few numbers with them.  They’ve been invited to play for a big harmonica convention in Saint Louis and looks like Hohner will fund part of their trip.  They will most likely come to Portland first and be with us for maybe 5 days.

See Hohnerklang in action in the video below.