Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Try the Fresh Whale Meat at the Bergen Fish Market + Moose (Norway)

King crab, lobster, salmon, halibut, moose, and whale, all fish caught in the local fjords and sold here at the Bergen Fish Market.
Some of you who are more adroit are screaming, "Rich, there's a massive error in your previous statement!!"
fish- it's what's for dinner
Well thank you for pointing it out (though I wish you'd do it more quietly) and you're right, halibut is a deep water fish and thus not available for capture in your average fjord.
But one thing you certainly can purchase here, a slice of the world's largest fish- whale. Yes, the delectable and fresh local catch makes its way into the hands of consumers right here in the center of Bergen.
Minke whale
Business Idea: The nearly ubiquitous smiling whale mascot pictured above found in most of the world's top tier restaurants, the "classy pig" with a monocle, the plump chicken giving me the thumbs up to dig in; all designed to increase consumption of their flesh by making the animal "cute." As this bizarrely seems to work, does anyone want to open a Vietnamese restaurant with me? If so, I already have the logo.

High sales taxes react with Norway's vast oil revenues like rocket fuel, pushing prices into the stratosphere- " $11 for a baguette, $10 for a beer, $32 a pound for salmon.
Many of the employees are foreigners, drawn by wages far higher than they could dream of earning in their native countries, I walk from stall to stall meeting Spaniards, Chinese, and Russians, working long hours and living as frugally as possible in the world's most expensive country, hoping they'll be able to bring home substantial savings to start a business, to purchase a flat, etc.

I sample the available cuisine. The salmon is unbelievably tasty, fresh, spiced just a touch. I'm also offered Minke Whale meat. I'm rarely one to say no, and before you PETA types get all in a huff, I want to state I didn't contribute to the demand by purchasing.
The whale catch is limited to 500 a year, and carefully controlled by the government (as are all things in Scandinavia.)
trying Minke whale meat in Bergen

In an area where it rains the majority of the year, today's unblemished sun radiates smiles upon normally stoic Norwegian faces, the market's atmosphere warming in kind.
 I chew on the moose sausage I've purchased, watching the surrounding hustle in the busiest part of this touristy town, as I dream of my Vietnamese restaurant and the crowds that would gather-- WOOF WOOF!

As a seasoned traveler, if I could offer one piece of advice, embrace the reality of where ever you are, of whatever the moment offers. And if you come to my grand opening, and have something against tasting dog, here, try some whale; it's Norway after all.

Bergen, Norway- the Gorgeous Pictorial

Norway's second biggest city, Bergen, sits on its Western Coast with a population of a mere 270,000, Nestled snugly between mountains on three sides, the ocean on the other, and its city center sitting on the fjord (an inlet where fresh and salt water mix.)
Here is a pictorial of the town for a quick glance. It's an absolutely lovely town, and when visiting Norway, worth taking a day or two to visit :) Enjoy!
the very pretty center of Bergen
Flags remind you what country you're in

Norway in the summer is lush and gorgeous

these houses run up the mountain about as far as they can before it gets too steep

Bergen is on a fjord, which is the actual center. The town merely surrounds it. 

Norway has forever been a mariners life. 

I stayed way way up the hill in this area, Norway has amazing nature

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Train Ride from Oslo to Bergen, Norway (beautiful landscapes)

Norway has some of the most rugged, heavily forested landscapes on earth. The train ride from Olso to Bergen is deemed by most to be one the most beautiful in the world, and while it still is seven hours on a train, it certainly didn't disappoint in terms of vistas. 
Check out the photos below for what to get an idea idea of the beautiful landscapes that comprise Norway. 

a mountain river, snow capped peaks behind

rugged mountains

a stop on the way to Bergen

a lake, mountains behind

here's a video recap of the trip, little vignettes of the scenery

ultra clean and clear water from a mountain river below the train

heavily forested Norway

another mountain lake with snow capped peaks behind

Monday, September 22, 2014

Frogner Park, Oslo + Sexuality in Scandinavia

Frogner Park- 84 acres of public beauty in Oslo, Norway

In the middle of Oslo lies the most beautiful public park I have ever seen. It's massive size, immaculately kept grounds, small rivers bubbling through, and beautifully crafted statues make it a sight to behold.
a quick walk through Frogner Park

Gazing around at this beauty, available to all, no litter, no graffiti, the emerald green colors shining in the sun, I am filled with a deep sense of peace. I walk meditatively absorbing the magnificence of it all.
paths through the park

So lush! 
I note the statues throughout the park are nude-
beautifully crafted nude statues of Frogner Park

check out the gorgeous nude statues that reside throughout Frogner Park

it's enough to make one pull out their own hair
At the park's highest elevation grows the 14 meter tall Monolith. It's composed of 121 human figures rising towards the sky, meant to represent man’s desire to become closer with the spiritual and divine. It portrays a feeling of togetherness as the human figures embrace one another as they are carried toward salvation.
At least this is one explanation. One cannot help but notice the phallic shape, and the fact that all figures carved into the monument are nude.
The Monolith

The Monolith and surrounding statues

I stop and ask a couple Norweigens about the nudity, "Is this representative of a more relaxed attitude Scandinavians have towards sexuality than America?" I inquire.
"Well, it's definitely partly that. Without a doubt," they answer, "It's also the artist's (Gustav Vigeland) style."
I thank them with a smile, and meander slowly through the park, imagining how vociferously these stunning sculptures would be protested in America, as being "indecent" and "blasphemous," by the same puritanical factions who don't raise an eyebrow to the countless perpetrated murders on television,
As great as America is, there are still values that we'd be better off incorporating which exist in other societies, and as a guy, a more relaxed attitude towards sex, definitely one of them.
an ad in central Oslo, nudity far more accepted

Oslo, Norway- Immaculate and Stunning Beauty + the search for Lap Land

 "Your bus leaves in one minute," matter of factly drones the woman working Oslo's airport information center. I grab my bags, juggling them like water balloons filled with electronics I pray not drop, race outside and board with only seconds to spare. I perk up, a self satisfied smile spreading across my face; until the driver let's me know how much I owe him-
"$35?! Are you driving me to Lap Land?" (note- contrary to your assumption, "Lap Land" is Not a strip-club! Though it would make an excellent name for one ...)
I fork over the money and stew for the next 60km, wondering how long I can afford (literally) to spend in the world's most expensive country.
I'm dropped off at the very edge of town, the last stop. Greenery surrounds me. An adjacent mall and a few condo/apartment units all that exist here. Make a wrong turn, and you'll end up in the forest.

"Rolf Cola"- Norway= expensive!

The reddest moon I have seen, the photo takes away color sadly ..
maybe it was the sun, given how much light there is at 3 AM
The train takes a half hour to get back downtown. The locals are enjoying this rare warm Scandinavian summer day, I'm wowed by Oslo's architecture, its immaculate gardens, public parks, and cleanliness.
Pale Norweigen women sunbathing

I traverse the streets for hours, with little human interaction, admiring the city and taking in the atmosphere, doing all I can to avoid reaching into my pocket.
I'll stay quiet for the rest of this post, let you get a feel for Oslo via the photos and video. In the meantime, I'll be looking for Lap Land.

video of the immaculately kept ground in Oslo's city center

downtown Oslo is Lovely! The Grand Hotel 

video of the architecture surrounding the Grand Hotel 
interior of the "Grand Hotel"- Scandinavians use their words literally

Pan, I believe? One of the numerous statues in central Oslo

Norway's national theater

Beautifully maintained gardens by gorgeous buildings

Welcome to my garden
Note the bemused look of the guard at the Royal Palace as he silently poses with Scandinavian children.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Christiana- The Greenlight District- Copenhagen, Denmark

One of Copenhagen's great tourist "attractions"- Christiana. 
the entrance to Christiana is clearly marked

Established in 1971, it's Copenhagen's "greenlight district." The country's designated druggie zone. 

In Hollywood, "Green Lighting" has a much more positive connotation

The main street is appropriately named "Pusher." Men in sunglasses, often in large jackets, with tall collars pulled up, partially obscuring their faces sell marijuana and hash in the open. Those brown blocks below, hash of various grades, Moroccan at the top.  
Hash and pot straight up for sale- in the open

The area is downtrodden, a "hippyish" vibe to it, odd shaped buildings with more murals than upkeep. It feels dirty.
the type of hippyish, tie-die buildings you'll find inside

Not far from Pusher Street are bars where the local fare is consumed. I'm in favor of the legalization of drugs. Actually, make everything legal which doesn't do harm to others.
If people want something, they'll find a way to get it, better to legalize/ tax it. One only need to examine the deleterious effects of Prohibition in the United States in the 20th century, and the criminal syndicates in Mexico and Afghanistan growing in strength today (terrorism anyone) profiteering from laws intervening with the free market.
That said, you walk into these dingy bars and look into the worn faces of lifetime users, and your gut instantly fires up a message: "I'm in the presence of very stupid people."
Maybe it's that they're high in the moment, maybe it's the numbing effects of their continued use, but it's impossible for me to look at the evidence before me and deny there are negative consequences.

I explore further, I bend to examine a plant which looks marijuana. "No, no. Don't touch it!" yells a 60 year old woman who's watering her lawn nearby, one of the almost 1,000 local residents.
"Cannibis?" I inquire.
"No, no, it's a stinging plant, best to stay away from it. It just looks like marijuana."
I speak with her for 10 minutes. Her husband was one of the early members of Christiana. They've been living here almost 40 years. She extols the virtues of daily smoking. She's nice enough, but again, the effects of lifelong use are written in bold headlines all over her being.
no idea what "Foleaktie" is- but an added feel of the area
The 84 acre area is surprisingly green. Where nature exists it's quite lovely, where the druggies have built up, much less so.

Divergent paths rarely cross. and we're often completely unaware of others' reality when they're so dissimilar to our own, yet in Christiana, what's usually hidden in the shadows and corners of society, is on full open display.
If this what people choose, I'm okay with it, but as I walk down my path, I'm grateful it leads back outside.