Scenes from Bergen, Norway – Part 2

Flying into Bergen reminded me of flying into Seattle, except all those hills and islands were bare and green instead of peppered with houses over every square inch. There is no practical way to get to all of those islands during a short stay, but I was still invigorated this morning.

I got up before everyone, it seems, on this sunny Monday morning. I took another walk by the listing Bryggen buildings and then explored some other little nooks and crannies in Bergen.

Bryggen

Bryggen

Bryggen

I promise that’s the last picture of the friggin’ Bryggen!

Here is Den Norsk Kirke (Johanneskirken), the Lutheran Church of Norway, first framed by the lower square (Bohrs Gate) and then all on its own.

Johanneskirken

Johanneskirken

This is Wilhelm Frimann Koren Christie, standing in front of the Bergen Museum. Christie founded the museum in 1825 near the end of his run in parliament, and later served on the city council.

Wilhelm Christie

And this is Christian Michelsen, Norway’s first prime minister.

Christian Michelsen

I walked through Nygårdsparken and came across this statue of a girl and a goat:

Nygårdsparken

And I spotted this touching memorial in the sidewalk in front of an otherwise normal house:

Auschwitz

Then I wandered aimlessly in the general direction of the train station, so I could start the epic trek back to Oslo.

Scenes from Bergen, Norway – Part 1

This week I was in Oslo for SQLSaturday #667 – I gave a pre-con on Friday, then two regular sessions and a vendor spotlight on Saturday. I posted my regular session slide decks and demos here.

It was my first time to Oslo – I had a lot of fun with friends, both new and old; I also managed to get away to do some of my own sightseeing. One of my first ideas was to go to Helsinki, but I am glad I chose to come to Bergen instead. I hopped on a quick 50-minute flight from Oslo this morning.

Flying into Bergen reminded me of flying into Seattle, except all those hills and islands were bare and green instead of peppered with houses over every square inch. There is no practical way to get to all of those islands during a short stay, but I was still invigorated when I arrived.

Bergen?
The rock formation outside the little airport poses a rather bold, 12,000pt question. I felt like it was asking me if I was sure I was in the right place.

Nonetheless, I continued. And in a little more than half a day I have walked around endless centuries-old alleys, gone up both the Fløibanen funicular and the cable cars at Mount Ulriken, and stared at the Bryggen in various levels of light. These buildings are so unbelievably stoic, and their listing is hypnotic – it makes them look as though they might all topple over, like dominoes. Here’s a panorama:

Bryggen panorama

I also re-discovered that Bergen is the real place that inspired the fictional backdrop of the Disney movie Frozen. If you have kids, I think you can picture exactly what this town is like. Here’s one, close up:

Walking around in search of my hotel, I came across Mariakirken (St. Mary’s Church), which dates back to the mid 12th century:

Mariakirken

Mariakirken

I took a couple more pictures of some old buildings…

…then I dumped my backpack at the hotel and headed up the Fløibanen funicular up to Mount Fløyen (320 meters):

Fløyen panorama

From inside the funicular

Bishop Johan Nordahl Brun

Above right is a plaque of Bishop Johan Nordahl Brun, from my next stop, Mount Ulriken, which has cable cars to reach its 643 meter peak (Brun wrote Bergen’s city song, “Sing to Bergen”).

Panorama of Bergen

Panorama toward the North Sea

Next I headed back toward the center of town, taking an indirect way back toward Bryggen. First I came across the Sailor’s Monument:

Sailor's Monument

Then I’m not sure if this is just an ad or if it is the office building for the Bergens Tidende, Norway’s largest newspaper outside of Oslo:

Bergens Tidende

And then this status of Ludvig Holberg near the center:

Ludvig Holberg

Which brought me right back to the Bryggen strip:

Bryggen

Bryggen

Bryggen

Bryggen

Bryggen

At the end of the day, I had a fantastic meal at a nice little restaurant called Bryggeloftet & Stuene. Here is the local reindeer and beets:

Reindeer

And here is the fresh rhubarb with strawberries:

Rhubarb

(Not pictured: the delicious smoked salmon starter.)

Funny story about dinner, but background first. In my Saturday morning session, I chatted with the very first person to sit down. He asked where are you from? (Maybe he detected my accent?) I said Canada. What part? 3 hours north of Toronto. WHERE 3 hours north of Toronto? Turns out he’s from Ottawa.

Now at dinner, there’s an older woman beside me, from Calgary, and we chatted for a bit. Then a couple sat down on the other side of me, and they were from Hamilton. At this point I’m sure I’m getting punk’d by some pathetic “let’s see what happens when we put Canadians together in foreign places, eh!?” reality show. 

Part 2 will feature some more of Bergen, and then I will post photos from the 7+ hour train ride back to Oslo tomorrow, which is supposed to be gorgeous. Sad that I won’t make it to Flåm or any of the real fjords, but I guess that just means we’ll have to come back!

Where I was on 9/11

Luke & I - September 9, 2001
Luke & I – September 2001

About a week before that fateful day 15 years ago, I landed at MSP to meet with my good friend Luke Magnus. We were in a group of five who would head out for some canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters, using an outfitter out of Ely, Minnesota.

I do not possess many good photos from the trip, because one of the five struggled with simple sentences, such as, “be careful, there’s a camera in that pocket.” The memory card was partially salvageable, but I was camera-less for the remainder of the trip.

Anyway, the bulk of the trip is not what’s interesting today, as I look back, but rather the last half hour or so, and then the dramatic days to follow.

As we were paddling in to the shore to meet the outfitters, who would drive our canoes back to camp, we passed some new paddlers just starting their journey. They told us that a plane had just hit one of the towers in New York City.

Now, having been in the woods for a week, with absolutely no contact of any kind except for a couple of run-ins with park rangers, we all looked at each other and muttered, uh, ok.

For they may as well have told us that, while we were off the grid, a nuclear war had broken out, or the zombie apocalypse had finally become a reality. We really thought they were just effing with us, as you can do with people who can’t possibly know for sure you’re effing with them.

It was when we collapsed into the outfitter van, exhausted, that he confirmed the other party’s story. We listened to the news, incredulous, for the entire ride back to base camp. And we spent much of that morning glued to the TV – watching those first impact videos over and over again, learning about the Pentagon, seeing the crash site in Pennsylvania, reeling from the glimpses of people choosing to jump, and watching the towers collapse live.

We didn’t speak much. We spent most of the time with our jaws on the floor, full of shock, disbelief, and sorrow. It was a very sad morning, and a very quiet four-hour drive to Minneapolis.

I had a flight scheduled back to Logan that night, but as you can imagine, I wasn’t on it. Not only were all flights canceled, Logan ended up being the second-last airport to re-open (only beating Reagan). Not knowing that at the time, I showed up at MSP every morning for a week, hoping to get on a flight. I didn’t have any kind of status back then, as it was before I started traveling a lot for work, so I was on a constant standby shuffle for flights to anywhere else reasonable – Providence, Hartford, Manchester, NYC, Newark, I didn’t care. Just get me on a plane. I finally made it home on the 20th IIRC, and would have rented a car earlier if I wasn’t convincing myself every morning that “this will be the day.”

I got off pretty easy, being very far away from everything. My wife has a friend who was actually in one of the towers that morning. She made it out and home to Connecticut, but I can only imagine…

Looking back on those days is hard. When I wasn’t in a long snaking line at the airport getting turned down yet again, we were glued to a television set, still full of shock, disbelief, and sorrow. I still feel that way, and catching Osama has not made a dent in my emotions in any way at all.

A Week in Poland, Part 4 : Kraków / Warsaw

After the emotional roller coaster of visiting Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau), Grant and I were both very glad to be on to brighter and happier places. We stopped in Kraków but our time here was very short because we wanted to be in Warsaw by dusk. We parked near the famous Wawel Castle (this picture is obviously not mine):

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A Week in Poland, Part 3 : Auschwitz II (Birkenau)

The main Auschwitz I camp (I blogged about earlier) gets all the attention. It has most of the iconic imagery everyone associates with the Holocaust, most notably the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate (“Work Sets You Free”). While horrific things definitely happened there, and in fact nobody that entered was able to exchange work for their freedom (perhaps only delayed their death by some number of days or weeks), it was a much smaller place than I expected. A few rows of buildings, some of which we went inside, some of which we skipped only to avoid more mental exhaustion.

Head over to Auschwitz II (Birkenau), only a couple of kilometers away, and a sledge hammer hits you over the head with the phenomenal scale of the operation. This was a large work death camp that was obviously the result of a very intricate plan.

birk-gate_thumb

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A Week in Poland, Part 2 : Auschwitz I

I feel all kinds of different emotions for all kinds of different people – sorrow, envy, pity, joy. But nothing is as breathtaking as stepping inside a concentration camp, and the inevitable and involuntary feelings those steps can stir about the people involved on both sides. You can read about the Holocaust all day long, and I have, but I don’t think anything can really prepare you for actually being here.

No I did not take this picture

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