Thursday, March 29, 2012

NORWAY: AURLANDFJORD

At the end of our ride on the Flam Railway was the beautiful and truly magnificent Aurlandfjord. Our group hopped on a little cruising boat and started on our next adventure.

We had a very friendly escort for much of our journey:
Where the cliffs didn't drop straight down into the water, there were lush green valleys with scattered homes and buildings.  I had to wonder where the residents of these homes shop--no Costco or Target in sight--and what is it like in winter?

But the really spectacular part of this mini-cruise was the waterfalls.  I think we snapped about 500 pictures of one waterfall after another, from long thin streams of water to torrential cataracts.  It was pretty hard not to post them all, but I'm not sure this blog has enough memory, so here is just a sampling:



  Sometimes they even came in triplicate:
It was hard work being surrounded by such a magnificent, glorious landscape, but we found our ways to deal with it:

After three hours or so on the boat, we reluctantly disembarked and climbed onto our bus for the long ride back to Oslo. That vista wasn't too shabby either:


I think in the short time we were there, we really came to love the beautiful mountains and fjords of Norway:



NORWAY: FLAM RAILWAY

I STILL have a three or four posts to go to finish off our trip to Scandinavia last summer.  Yeah, I know that's not relevant to most of you, but since I have stopped scrapbooking, this is the only record I have.

At the end of our cruise we booked an extension that included a trip to the Norwegian fjords.  It began with a train trip, which provided a smooth, relaxing ride through some incredible scenery that I think can pretty much speak for itself:

Train station.  Yeah, they look just like this in California, too.  (Not.)

The suburbs--also like California, right?








These houses gave me a different way of thinking about a rooftop garden.
We started leaving the farmland and pleasant mountain villages behind and gaining what seemed like quite a bit of elevation, although at it's highest point, the railway is only about 3,000 feet above sea level.  However, even though it was June, there was plenty of snow and ice. I guess that's what living "in the North" means.

These people were all part of our group. (Can you see Bob in the back?)  This was a pretty typical scene as we rushed from side to side in the car, trying to capture the gorgeous scenery on our cameras:



 We changed trains at the Myrdal Station and boarded the famous Flam Railway, but not before we spent some time outside oohing and aahing at the pristine beauty all around us.  I was intrigued by the thought of renting one of these bicycles and pedaling up and down mountain roads.
The very THOUGHT of it seems to have exhausted Bob:


That's a lovely swimming hole behind us, don't you think?
To get me to put one toe into this liquid ice lake, there would would have to be a sauna one step away from the water.






All of these wooden snowbreaks indicate that winters up here must involve a LOT of the white stuff, but I wonder how well the wood holds up with tons of snow bearing down on it?

The Flam Railway, one of the world's steepest rail lines, took us on a 20-km long journey through some of Norway's most beautiful scenery. One of the most spectacular sites was the Kjosfossen Waterfall, 738 feet tall:

The train stopped here for a Kodak Moment (Does the younger generation even know what that is?), and we were also treated to a "show" performed by an actress dressed as a seductive forest creature from Scandinavian folklore, trying to lure all the tourists into the water. 
She almost convinced us to go for a swim.

Monday, March 26, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROBERT FROST!

Robert Frost has always seemed to me to be a poet of the modern age.  When I looked up his birthday, however, it shocked me to learn that he was born 138 years ago today!  Not so  modern, I guess. Ancient though he may be, he is one of my favorite poets.

That is why on a trip to New Hampshire last fall, Bob and I made a pilgrimage to Frost Place, the full-time home of Robert Frost and his wife and children from 1915 to 1920 and their summer home for nineteen additional summers.

The family first rented a home in the area in the summer of 1907, and Frost wrote in a letter to his editor: "Our summer was one of the pleasantest we have had in years. . . . There is a pang there that makes poetry."  He felt drawn to New Hampshire, and he finally purchased this house and eight acres of farmland outside of Franconia for about $1,000.  Apparently his new home was even better at "making poetry," for in the five years he and his family lived here, Frost published three volumes of poetry, which included the well-known poems "The Road Not Taken" and "Mending Wall."
Frost home
Front porch

Poetry-inspiring view from the front porch
The original furnace

A fireplace that could heat two rooms

A card on the bed notes that this was Frost's actual bed and quilt


In  1997 a non-profit organization created the "Poetry and Nature Trail" that weaves through the property. 
Engraved placards of Frost poems are placed on posts alongside the path. We were there on a rainy day, and we walked the route in complete solitude, much as Frost would have done almost 100 years ago.  It was a moving experience to read Frost's poems while looking around at the scenery that inspired him.






Returning to the house from behind
It is difficult to reconcile this idyllic landscape with the tragic realities of Frost's life. His father died of tuberculosis when Robert was 11, leaving the family with almost nothing. His mother died of cancer when he was 26. In 1920, Frost had to commit his sister to a mental institution, where she eventually died, and then in 1947 he had to commit his own daughter to an institution. Frost and his wife had six children, and only two outlived their father.  Their oldest son died of cholera at age 8.Their third child committed suicide at age 38. Their fifth child died of fever after she gave birth, and the youngest died at three days old.  Frost's wife Elinor died of breast cancer and heart failure in 1938.  Frost himself suffered from serious bouts of depression, as did his mother, wife, and some of his children.

"Nothing gold can stay," said Frost in one of his famous poems. I guess he knew what he was talking about.

And yet, Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry, in 1924, 1931, 1937, and 1943. He never graduated from college, but he held forty-four honorary degrees.  He was the poet laureate of the United States from 1958 to 1959 and read a poem at JFK's inauguration in 1961. Many consider him to be the greatest American poet of the 20th Century.  I am always impressed by men and women who can rise above deep personal tragedy. Frost certainly did that.

My mom had a favorite Robert Frost quote that seems especially appropro: "In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: It goes on."
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