Norway - Sognefjord and Glaciers - Friday, August 29, 2003

Our next stop was Balestrand, a small town on the Sognefjord (the worlds largest fjord!). We took a 5 hour "express boat" trip from Bergen through the Sognefjord to the idyllic little town of Balestrand. A fjord (pronounced fi-ord in English, and F-jord if your a Norwegian) is an ocean inlet or sound surrounded by mountains and step terrain leading directly to the waters edge. The boat ride was amazingly beautiful as we passed through the narrow straits and looked over the hundreds of small islands that mark the way to the entrance to Sognefjord. During the rest of the journey to our stop we saw lots of waterfalls cascading from the walls of fjord.

We used Balestrand as a base to explore the surrounding area. Hiking, rowing, bicycling, and glacier walking were all activities during our stay here. Marisa fell in love with the Fiske Soup (fish soup) from the community Akvarium cafe (one of the cheapest meals in town). It was lots of fun jumping on loaner bikes from the hotel and buzzing around town and exploring the side roads. The hotel also had a loaner rowboat that we were able to take out for a spin. The highlight of our time in this area was a glacier hiking trip on the Nigardsbreen Glacier an arm of the massive Jostedalsbreen Glacier (450 square kilometers). Let's just say it's a whole bunch bigger than Liechtenstein.

Our day started early, as we had to travel about 2.5 hrs to get the guides hut at the base of the glacier. Once we met our guide and retrieved our crampons, ice axe, and safety harness, we jumped on a boat for a trip across the lake at the base of the glacier. A quick hike under our belts put us staring up at the face of a huge glacier! How cool! We geared up and started the trek up and onto the blue ice. This was blast using the crampons to walk, jump over crevasses, and climb up the glacier. Our guide explained many things about the characteristics of the glaciers and the all important question of - why the ice is blue? - because of the way the light refracts in the deep ice crystals - think deep blue ocean water. The rivers and lakes of the area are milky from the dust and debris, mainly clay particles in the water that is constantly cascading out of the glacier.

After 4 hours hiking up and back down the glacier we returned to Balestrand, tired but happy that we made the long trek up to the Nigardsbreen to experience the fun of glacier hiking.

The next day we returned to Oslo via a boat ride and the beautiful Flam railway. We left Balestrand and headed to the little tourist town of Flam on another "express boat trip". After having a pretty lame lunch we hopped on the Flam Railway which is the steepest railway in the world not using cables or gears to power the cars. Thank goodness it has five sets of brakes!

We took this journey up to Myrdal high in the mountains to catch our train back to Oslo and from there we head off to Copenhagen, Denmark.

 Norway - Oslo & Bergen - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

We spent ten days in Norway to return to Dave's Norwegian (& German) roots... We began our jet lag/head cold recovery in the beautiful, modern town of Oslo. A harbor city with ferries, trams, and modern buildings mixed with those from the 19th century, Oslo was a great place to play tourist for a few days. And were we ever quite the tourists.... Here are some of the places we stopped:

Our first touristy stop was Akershus Castle from 1200's - This ancient castle guarding the Oslo harbor was taken over by the Nazi's when the King fled to London during WWII. After touring the castle, we listened to a sympony playing on the grounds and visited the Nazi Resistance Museum. It was pretty amazing how the Norwegians, with their small population and virtually non-existant military forces, became a big thorn in the German's side.

After a quick water taxi ride across the harbor we visited the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki Museum. It was interesting to learn about this explorer's exploits in the South Pacific and other places around the world with his balsa wood and reed boats. We the took a quick walk to the Viking Ship Museum to see some of the ancient boats the crazy marauding red heads used to put fear into the hearts of Europe. To continue our day of tourism, we went to the Norwegian Heritage Museum and learned of the history and culture of this beautiful country. They have recreated an old village by relocating old buildings as well as a Stave Church, and all the people are dressed in period costumes.

On our way to dinner we made a stop at Frogner Park, which is like a Central Park of Oslo. Besides the beautiful layout and grounds, the main feature is a display of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, Norway's most well known sculpture artist. Too bad our camera batteries decided to die after one shot while looking at the sculptures. You can see a few in the one photo we did take.

The next day we took off for Bergen, a beautiful harbor town on the west coast, and where Dave's Great Great Grandfather was a lighthouse keeper (Right Mom??). The best part of the journey was the amazing 7 hour train ride over the mountains. It is considered Europes highest rail journey and it didn't dissapoint. We saw much beautiful countryside, lakes, rivers, glaciers, and houses with grass roofs. On arrival into Oslo, we did a long walking tour of the beautiful town. High on our list were the amazing area called "The Bryggen" which is a UNESCO World Heritage listed collection of some of the original buildings the town was founded on.

After getting the lay of the city, we took a Funicular Railway up to a mountain overlooking the town and harbor. We caught a beautiful late summer sunset over the harbor followed by a great downhill hike back into town. Other highlights of Bergen - the fish market with all the smoked salmon Marisa could ever want (we also had reindeer and elk sausage and could have had smoked whale too!). Oh, by the way the Norwegian folk tales are laced with stories about Trolls and hobbit type creatures. They are statues everywhere.

 Congrats to E.J. & Gideon.... - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Congrats's to E.J. & Gideon on the birth of their 1st child on August 26th...a boy! Now we are a pround Aunt & Uncle to both a new niece and nephew!!! No name for Posner boy until the bris ---coming soon!

 The Blackout of 2003 - Sunday, August 17, 2003

Yes, we were still in the US.

Over a late lunch, the power went out in New York City. People gathered on the street around a man playing his car radio at full tilt. We were all wondering if there was a terrorist attack. Thank goodness no. Mayor Bloomberg said the power would be out for several hours and maybe even the night. We grabbed flashlights from our hotel and decided to leave a bit early for our dinner date with friends Julie & Brent.

The walk from Midtown to Greenwich Village (~25 blocks) was quite interesting. People were pouring out of buildings to start the long walk home in the hot, humid, Texas-like weather. Buses were free and packed with people desperate for a ride and air conditioning since Subway power was out. Every taxi was full...lots of ride sharing. Smart shopkeepers put coolers on the street with ice, cold beverages, and ice cream. Do you think they broke even? Think how many cartons of milk, yogurt, and packages of meat went bad!

Enterprising street vendors were selling "I LOVE NY" t-shirts for only $2.50 for the overdressed workers on their long trek home in the heat. Waiting for the police to be deployed around the city, we witnessed many volunteers at various intersections directing traffic. Of course being NY, everyone was yelling at the overly enthusiastic volunteers to do their job better!

Pizza joints had lines around the corner, as well as restaurants with gas ovens....the only hot food available in the city! Not surprisingly, the bars were PACKED. Wall to wall people. Dave and I debated whether or not to stop for a cold one since he was sick and I was getting sick. How could we NOT stop for a cold beer? It was the best $12 spent on 2 beers in a long time... mmmm... NY prices are a bit over the top. It's not like we ordered Chimay (fancy Belgian beer)...just Pacifico!

Not surprisingly, Julie & Brent had figured out how to make Margaritas without a blender or ice. Love them. They have a gas stove, so we ate gourmet from the corner store - Mac and Cheese. MMMMMMM..... It was fun hanging out with candles, beer, and good friends.

The long walk home was a bit eerie. No lights in NYC means very dark streets. At first it felt a bit unsafe, but after a while, we realize that their were cops and army reservists on almost every corner. Also, everyone was just trying to get home and make the best of the situation. It was still very hot out, even at 10pm. We came upon Union Square on the way home where a full scale party was in effect - music, drinks, sleeping in the park. FUN! We also noticed many locked out of their hotel rooms b/c of the electronic card locks. What a bummer!

Our flight to Europe was scheduled to leave Friday night. The car service never came to pick us up, nor was there a cab to be found. Our flight ended up being cancelled anyway. Glad we didn't end up stranded at JFK!! Next flight available was Sunday, but M caught D's bad head cold. We ended up staying at Chez Gruber (Aunt Edie & Uncle Marty's house) on Lido Beach. Too bad we were both sick or the beach would've been good fun! After a few days rest, we are now roaming around Oslo, Norway kicking the last of our colds. It is GORGEOUS here... no more humidity!!! We go to the fjord region this weekend.

  Hanging in NYC - Saturday, August 09, 2003

Dave studied for the GMAT, while M walked the entire city many times over. We managed to fit in visits with just about every relative in M's family and had a great time catching up. Visits with family are usually quick and over Thanksgiving. It was great to spend quality time with everyone!

We saw "Rent" together and M saw "Matt & Ben" with her cousin Pete. Too bad we couldn't see a show every night! We have been eating entirely too much excellent food. Bagels, Italian, Chinese. It's just so good in NY!

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