I saw several new places while visiting Colorado in June, and enjoyed a couple of them quite a bit. And another favorite activity happened the day I left: I walked around the Union Station area of Denver for hours before my Amtrak train trip back to Ottumwa.
I live in such a remote area of Norway, it was nice to soak up the sounds and activity of a busy metropolitan city!
After dropping off my luggage at the Amtrak counter …
… and a 30 minutes stroll around the streets in front of Union Station, I decided it was time to sit outside with a bit of refreshment and absorb the sounds of the area. The Thirsty Lion suited that need quite well.
Refreshed, I headed out for a larger loop around the area. Even with only a few blocks of this busy city being explored, I saw plenty of planning that makes nature accessible, from walking paths using railroad bridges over the South Platte River …
… to a section of the 17.8 mile South Platte River Trail …
… to sculptures and greenery that add interest to the scenery …
There were historical buildings, shops and streets …
… and signs that require no additional comment 😉 …
… and finally, a stroll to Coors Field. It was so quiet, almost eerily so. In the quiet, the remembered sounds of the crack of a bat and a crowds’ roar echoed — the result of so many memories of baseball games seen at Wrigley Field, Citi Field, Turner Field Citizen Bank Park, and Camden Yards!
The weather was threatening all day (in fact, it rained so much that night my daughter’s basement flooded), and I stayed within a few blocks of Union Station and its protection from the elements. Through my loops through the area, the inside of Union Station was my place to sit, grab a cup of coffee, people watch, admire the architecture …
… and then go out and explore a little more.
All of this was with the faint backdrop of the Rocky Mountains blending with the cloudy sky of this Mile High city.
And then it was time to go out and wait for the arrival of my train back to Ottumwa. Standing on the platform, I admired the curves of the outside architecture one more time …
It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to Colorado … and I’ll be seeing it again soon! Details to come. 🙂
Refreshing rain. Brown dying branches. Fresh green growth. Sunshine through the water droplets. Opposites that blend and contrast. Invigorating!
All through my dirty window. The dirt adds texture, don’t you think? (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)
While sitting together over coffee this morning, we watched the interplay of sun, clouds, and rain across the fjord over Fanafjellet. I didn’t get up to get my camera; I just sat and absorbed the subtly changing scenery.
These photos aren’t from today, but they have cloud, sun, and rain patterns similar to what I saw.
We’ve lived in this little piece of paradise for almost two years now. Our views here are a different perspective compared to those we saw when we lived at a higher elevation on Løvstakken overlooking the southern Bergen valley.
The intermittent rain stopped a couple hours ago, and the sun and clouds have been playing hide and seek. It’s a little nippy to sit outside and enjoy it, but I did go out for a bit … just in time to catch this.
A magical moment.
And then, just as I was about to hit the “publish” button, my husband called me out to see this.
That sun and cloud glow: two magic moments in one hour. Thank you, Norway!
As many years as I’ve lived in this mountainous area, I’m still amazed at how people can move mountains to carve out a place for themselves. Whether from my “used to flat land before moving to the West Coast of Norway” perspective, or the reality of “how humans are able to literally carve a place for themselves out of a more inhospitable geographic area” perspective, it’s an important example of adapting to life in this country.
Need to get to the other side of a mountain? Small paths and narrow, winding roads were the norm for centuries. Whether a big or small car, truck, or train transport in our modern day, it’s not a problem; Norway has perfected the reality of tunneling *through* it.
Those small roads? Examples of them are still quite abundant! Narrow and winding, in many places they’re only wide enough for one car to pass at a time. Sometimes they’re closed because of an avalanche … which requires more innovation to clear the rocks and boulders safely.
Building a home? Dynamite a place out of the mountain rock for the foundation! Need a cement mixer to pour that foundation, but it’s too big and bulky to get close enough to the construction? Innovate with an extension!
No room for a building for construction and storage, with an adequate parking lot for big trucks to maneuver? Not a problem — blast away the rock.
And when the rock is removed, the streets and walkways set, the buildings constructed, and the people are settled … take any extra space available and plant beautiful flowers or tasty vegetables.
Nature does a good job of …
… innovating and adapting to a carved-out mountain, too, don’t you think?!
(I’ve lived in this amazing country for eight years. Buried in my blog’s Archives are many emotions and experiences from my first years as an expatriate. I’d like to let them see the light again! So, on occasional Fridays, I’ll share my favorites in a “Flashback Friday” type of reblog format.)
Spring. A time of renewal, rebirth, growth. The flowers have sent their tentative green shoots up from the earth. There are a few tiny buds on the trees. There’s a hint of warmth in the air (even with the mostly cloudy days). The birds’ songs have become a welcome musical symphony outside my home office window.
Spring has also brought a couple of new clients to my freelancing that have made blogging time — both posting mine and reading yours — very limited. (I love the work … but I miss you!)
With the growing energy from both outside my window and in front of my computer screen inspiring me, I thought I’d share a post that featured photos from a trip six years ago to one of the most beautiful places to welcome the energy of Spring in this part of the world: Hardanger.
May 2, 2009
Hardanger is about an hour from Bergen; it’s one of Norway’s main producers of fruit. Understandably, the spring visuals can be amazing with the blooming fruit trees – but planning when to drive to see them can be tricky, as the bloom times depend on the spring weather (similar to the Cherry Blossoms in D.C., which don’t always cooperate by blooming during the Cherry Blossom Festival!).
Jan had called and we knew we were about a week too early on this trip, but stopping to walk behind Steinsdalsfossen, driving along the Hardangerfjord, and finding a delightful stone shed more than made up for the lack of blooming fruit trees!
It’s Easter Sunday. Norway slows down the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday. Shops close. Businesses close. Many Norwegians take a trip to the mountains for days of winter skiing. Or they are on the coast, enjoying the hint and promise of spring. And many of them are at their hytte.
What the heck is a “hytte”? And what does it have to do with Norway, vacations, and especially culture?
Hytte is a difficult word to translate. From my American perspective it means vacation cabin. But it’s not just a physical building. The word represents generations of outdoor exploration and living, and the family hytte is at the center: it’s the place to return to after a day’s activities, and represents all that is cozy, warm, and relaxing with family. The more remote hyttes don’t have electricity or running water, require hours of hiking to reach, and then (in the winter) more hours of shoveling to get to the front door. There are also many hyttes closer to civilization; an hour or two of driving, and a family can have a relaxing weekend together.
At this stage of life, escaping to the mountains for days on end of hiking or skiing is something that is physically beyond my abilities. But I’m fascinated by this aspect of the culture, and enjoy listening to my husband’s stories of his experiences when he was a young boy and teenager, and father to young boys and teenagers. Experiencing “outside” was the backdrop for all their family activities, which is opposite mine as a girl, teenager, and Mom raising daughters.
In June of 2007, the first year I lived in Norway, a friend invited me out to her family’s hytte on the coast for an afternoon’s worth of girl time. Sotra, an island easily accessible from Bergen that has made several appearances in my blog before, is rocky and typical of the southern Norwegian coast. It reminds me of my trips to Monhegan Island, Maine.
My friend had fixed a lunch that we enjoyed on the deck overlooking the small harbor area looking out towards the Norwegian Sea. The sky was washed out and bright, and the landscape showed the effects of the strong winds that blow in off the ocean.
After lunch we took our dessert — a thermos of coffee and tin of sweet rolls — and went out in their small row boat, planning to get to one of the small outcroppings visible in those images above. My friend was rowing the boat, and I was supposed to offer steering guidance from my place at the bow. I was clueless; I’m sure it was a comical site, with strong winds pushing us in various directions and me offering useless suggestions. My friend wisely decided it wasn’t the safest activity! We returned to the dock and took our dessert to an area overlooking the ocean. Once there, we realized we’d forgotten coffee mugs … so used the aluminum containers that had held the sweets. More laughter for the two of us! The early June sun, approaching the longest day of the year, was glaring and hot. It was a peaceful time, all centered on my friend sharing her family hytte with me.
I asked my husband to share his experience both as a boy/teenager, and in the family hytte in northern Norway as his boys were growing up. It’s the typical Norwegian experience of his generation.
My whole life I have been roaming the mountains. Skiing in the winter and hiking the rest of the year. Every week-end, no matter what weather it was, we packed our rucksacks and went skiing or hiking. We never thought about the WHY; it was part of our culture.
As I grew older, we started getting bolder, walking and tenting in the mountains (the real high and dangerous ones) for days and even crossing glaciers. Properly equipped, if the weather got really bad, we dug ourselves a snow hole and waited for the weather to get better.
When my boys grew up, we had a hytte way up in the high mountains of the north. Summertime it was fairly easy living, despite no electricity, no tap water and no toilets. It was marvelous! Walking to the creek to get water, fire up the fireplace and fry dried reindeer meat, light the kerosene lamps, watching the field mice and squirrels hopping around in the fire wood. And long hikes in the deserted mountains, coffee making on a fire beside a lake or a creek, watching the reindeer, the occasional wolverine or even a brown bear and numerous birds. The boys learned very early to walk in the mountains, that is, keep a steady pace and get into a rhythm and make enough noise to alert any predators. It was a wonderful time…
Winter is very different. First of all, we had to get there. In foul weather, the road was closed. If we got there it was very cold, down to around minus 30 degrees centigrade ( and fantastic polar light!), a lot of snow, 5 to 7 yards, and we had to get to the hytte. It was quite a stretch to either ski or trample in the snow and the last hill was very steep, so I had to carry food and sometimes kids up a little at a time…
Once we were there, we could only see the top of the pipe of the hytte, so I actually had to dig a tunnel into the door, and once inside, fire up the stove and the fireplace and get some food and drink into our bodies. It took two days for the hytte to thaw, and in the meantime we had to stay winter clothed at all times, even when we slept.
If this sounds exhausting, we actually never thought about it. It was as it should be…
No photos to show of the family hytte, but his description does it justice, doesn’t it? Here’s one found online that’s in the same area … but missing the final steep hill to get there!
Click the photo to see others similar to it, as well as photos of families enjoying summer and winter activities during their time at their hytte.
How about one more photo? This one from the 1960’s is my husband, 17 years old, out for a hike in Sogndal with his friends (referenced in his second paragraph up there). I say “hike” — but this trek was part of a fourteen hour day: hours up a steep ascent from a hytte to get there, hours exploring the area, hours back down. The glacier is one we took my oldest daughter to see when we visited Sogndal in 2010 … although we didn’t get as close as Jan is in this photo, and — to make it easier for this American — our “hytte” was a comfortable hotel . 😉
For this comparison in my occasional “paintings and photographs” series, I’ve found a painting by William West featuring something that is frequently seen in a mountainous country: waterfalls. Paraphrasing from Bonhams’ page on the sale of this painting:
I remember seeing waterfalls the first time I visited Norway in 2006 and just staring at the power. If I’d known of Mr. West then, I would have felt a kinship with his emotions. Having not lived in the mountains before — or even traveled very often to a mountainous area — I was mesmerized.
Waterfall photos appear often throughout my blog, either shots of a grand and final cascade of water flying over a ledge, or a trickle closer to the source. I’ve also shared a video of a walk behind one of them.
Here are a few others of the hundreds of waterfall photos I’ve taken in the nine years since I’ve first visited and then moved to this dazzling country.
And here is William West’s painting that inspired me to revisit my waterfall images; it looks as if it’s sunset, doesn’t it?
Ahhhh, waterfalls. I’m still mesmerized by you.