April 28, 2019

Stockholm, revisited

by Steve Winogradsky

After leaving Oslo at the end of November, we decided to make another visit to Stockholm, a city we had been to in the summer, to see what it was like in colder weather. And colder weather is what we found, although not quite as cold as Oslo. In the summer, there was daylight for about 20 hours a day, but at this time of year, the sun was only out for about 6-7 hours, so we had to make the most of it while we could.

It's as if they knew she was coming!

Snow plowed in the Kungsgaten.
In and around Kungsgaten, there was permanent and temporary artwork besides the usual statues of past kings.

One of several lighted reindeer near the harbor.

Oh no, they've killed Kenny!
Being both brave and crazy, we took a walk through the King's Park, a long stretch of public land along the archipelago and inland. Among the interesting sights was Rosendahl Palace which, like so many buildings in Europe, had been burned down and rebuilt.

On the grounds of the palace is the Porphyry Vase, carved from a single 140-ton piece of granite, taking 3,500 man days spread out over two years and moved into its location with the help of 100 men.

That night, we had a traditional Swedish Christmas dinner with friends Raila and Anders. What a feast it was! A buffet table (below) with at least 8 different types of herring, 4 types of salmon, as well as sliced sausages and cheeses. Then came the hot entrees, which included (no surprise) meatballs in gravy, followed by the dessert table. Needless to say, no one leaves these dinners hungry!

The next day, we walked around the harbor, which has many beautiful buildings lining its banks, including the Grand Hotel (traveler's note: Every major city has a "Grand Hotel", some grander than others) and the National Museum.

The main attraction of the day was going to the King's Palace to see the changing of the guard. In better weather, the guards are accompanied by a full band, but on this day only a sole drummer and bugler. I felt sorry for the bugler, as I was afraid that, in the very cold weather, her lips would freeze and stick to the mouthpiece. But she managed to play all the cadences without injury.

Afterwards, we wandered over to a nearby Christmas marketplace set up in one of the town squares.

As beautiful as it was in the summer, Stockholm was equally beautiful in the winter. But we were cold, and decided to head South.

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March 31, 2019

Oslo, It's Cold Outside

By Rosemary West

The tiger in front of the Central Station symbolizes Oslo's spirit

In mid November, we flew to Oslo. From our hotel window we could see a sign that reported the temperature, which always hovered around zero degrees Celsius. Although it was about 30 degrees warmer than Utah had been the previous winter, it felt colder, probably because it was so damp.

Despite the cold, we saw these planters everywhere.
We took a self guided tour known as “Norway in a Nutshell”. This started with a seven-hour train trip to Bergen, where we spend the night. From Bergen, we returned to Oslo by boat and train, traveling through the Aurlandsfjord. Although this was not the ideal time of year for the trip (not yet fully white winter and not green spring), the scenery was terrific.


Steve waits for the ferry

Back in Oslo, we enjoyed walking around town, despite the weather. We visited the National Gallery, where we saw artwork by many outstanding European painters, invcding Van Gogh and Edvard Munch. At the Christmas market, I bought new gloves and Steve picked up a scarf.

Self portrait by Van Gogh
Edvard Munch
'The Scream" by Munch
Also by Munch

A highlight of the trip was our visit to a huge park devoted to the work of Gustav Vigeland, Norway’s favorite sculptor. These larger than life statues represent human beings at all stages of physical and psychological development. The art is presented without description or explanation, so it is up to the viewer - and the occasional tour guide - to interpret it.

We also enjoyed a visit to the Fram Museum, which documents the history of polar exploration, with an emphasis on Norwegian explorers, particularly the expedition led by Roald Amundsen, the first to reach the South Pole. The museum is centered around the ship Fram, which has been preserved intact, allowing visitors to walk inside.

The Fram, looking much as it did in the Arctic.

A recreation of an officer's cabin.

From Oslo, we returned to Stockholm.

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February 7, 2019

Temporarily grounded

Due to unexpected circumstances, we have been on a hiatus from blogging. We hope to return to writing soon. In the meantime, thanks for your patience.

January 3, 2019


by Rosemary West

Our hotel was right across the street from Cardiff castle. This was once the site of a Roman fort. In the 11th century, the Normans built a mound and topped it with a wooden stockade. Later rulers built a stone keep and surrounded the grounds with a wall. Over the centuries, there were battles, treachery, strategic marriages, murders, and all kinds of political twists. Buildings were added, remodeled, removed, replaced, and updated. Eventually, the lordship of the castle was held by the Bute family, who brought prosperity to Cardiff, primarily through the export of coal. In 1947, the 5th Marquess of Bute gave the castle to the people of Cardiff.

In the 1860s, John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the wealthiest men in the world at the time, hired architect William Burges to rebuild the castle and fill it with sumptuously decorated rooms. After Burges's death in 1881, the work was completed by other architects, most notably his pupil, William Frame.

The Gothic Revival clock tower, built in the 1860s, contains a suite of luxury rooms.

A big Welsh dragon with the royal apartments in the background.

Stained glass contributes to the Gothic Revival look.

The vaulted ceiling of the Arab room is so high that two upper floors were removed to make room for it. It is covered with pure gold leaf.

Many rooms have elaborate fireplaces.

During World War II, the passages inside the castle wall were used as bomb shelters. Posters from the period are on display there.

One of the most popular features of the castle is the Animal Wall. Along a section of the wall surrounding the castle grounds are perched carvings of 15 animals.

The 3rd Marquess is honored throughout the city for his philanthropy and architectural patronage.

We walked over to Alexandria Gardens, a lovely, green park, home to a number of war memorials. The biggest and most impressive is the Welsh National War Memorial, built in 1928 to honor servicemen who died during the First World War. A plaque for WWII was added in 1949.

This beautiful angel stands atop a monument to the Welshmen who fell in South Africa 1899-1902.

The Welsh dragon appears all over the city. This particularly fierce version sits atop City Hall.

One day we took a water taxi to Cardiff Bay.

The Pierhead building was designed in 1897 by Wiliam Frame as the headquarters for the Bute Dock Company. It now contains a Cardiff history museum.

Next to the waterfront walkway is a 10-meter-long sculpture of the Enormous Crocodile from the book by Welsh author Roald Dahl. Dahl is best known as a children's author, but I have trouble thinking of him that way, having first encountered him through his stories for adults.

In the 1800s, Cardiff was the main port for exporting Welsh coal. This history and importance of coal is described in an exhibit next to the walkway. Coal has gradually dwindled in Wales, and there are only a few mines left. Cardiff is now the main center of business and finance in Wales, and, as the capital, is also the seat of government.

One of the museums we visited was St. Fagans National Museum of History. This is a huge, open air exhibit, reminiscent of Skansen in Stockholm. There are over 40 buildings, representing the architecture and lifestyles of many centuries of Welsh history, collected from their original locations and rebuilt here. (A few of the older examples are reconstructions based on archaeological finds.) The museum is on the woodsy grounds of a castle that was donated by the Earl of Plymouth in 1946.

Moss grows on a thatched roof.

The interior of an Iron Age roundhouse is complete with a cooking/heating fire. It was a cold day, and we appreciated the chance to get warm.

This stone house is from the late 18th century.

Inside the castle, which was built in the 1500s, we got a glimpse of the ways its owners lived in the 19th century.

We were here at the end of October. It was bitterly cold, but the roses were still blooming.

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