Skansen, the open air folk museum on Djargarden, Stockholm

This open-air museum is vast, very well supported by local talent, and thoroughly wonderful. It’s great for families. The steps have sections built for strollers, with smooth ramps surrounding narrow steps so the wheels roll smoothly while mom or dad walks down the steps. Speaking of steps, a lot of Skansen is on top of a big hill, but you don’t have to hike up there. Instead a huge escalator takes you to the top. From up there, you can look out over Stockholm for great views and wander around learning all kinds of things about Swedish history. People play traditional music throughout the park, so you may be strolling along and find a floutist settled by a tree playing an old folk song.

I wanted to see the exhibit about the Sami people. It’s great to have one exhibit on the far end of the park to focus on because it gives you some direction. On the way, we stopped by the glass blowing hut and watched an amazing demonstration. Then we stopped by a hundred year old furniture making shop that was moved to the park. We chatted with the wonderful man who was working there and discussed the cool equipment and the old furniture making techniques. Then we stopped by the machine making shop. Then we passed a rose garden and, getting a bit lost, passed a stage with folk dancing, a bake shop where we discussed the  making of Swedish flatbreads from barley with the person working there and tried a delicious sample, then passed a dance floor where people were whirling around in traditional attire.

Finally we sorted out how to read the map and found our way to the area showing examples of the homes, temporary structures, storage buildings and reindeer paddocks of the Sami people. Finally we wandered back, passing by more musicians…violinists gathered in trios and playing music along the way and a formal amphitheater where people had gathered for a concert.




View of Stockholm from Skansen


Remember these? In the machine shop.


Making glass

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Bergen, Norway on a sunny August day

We have started having gorgeous weather. When we arrived back in Bergen after spending a couple nights up in fjord country, the town looked washed and shiny in the sun. We arrived in the harbor right at lunch time. The fish market wasn’t overcrowded, so we had some fish soup and then we went to the Hanseatic Museum. The Hanseatic league was a group of merchants who dominated trade in the North and Baltic seas, providing order and defense to merchants. The museum was very interesting, if a bit creepy.

Here is the bowl of fish curry we shared. (Kidding,  but we did each have a normal-sized bowl of it. It was amazing.)


Look at these old wooden buildings. A bit crooked due to the area being build on landfill and settling. They are considering banning cars in this area as the weight adds to the settling, they think.


The funicular to the top is that cutout in the trees at the top of the hill. That’s where you go to get the great view. Tip: rather than waiting in line to buy the ticket, go in the little coffee shop there, I think it’s called something Brod, which means bread. You can get a sweet roll, coffee and the ticket, then skip part of the big lines. But I don’t recommend the custard filled cinnamon roll. Go for the simple raisin roll or one of the other choices. The cafe is right across from the church, and near the gate. The line stretched down the street a long way, well past the cafe.Bergen-Norway-3 Bergen-Norway-2

Oslo, Nobel, Munch, Maisel, peace, and inspiration

I’m going to give you a sample for each sight today, with a gallery at the end with lots more.

Oslo is optimally organized for tourists. Show up at the ticket counter conveniently located by the train station and buy an Oslo pass. (Everyone speaks excellent English.) Ask how to get to the Viking museum and be directed to get on Bus 20 across the street. Your Oslo pass covers all your public transport for the duration of the pass. You can even get part way back to the airport on the regional train with the pass, though you’ll need to add payment for 2 zones.

Bus 20 takes you out of Oslo past some pretty farms to the Folk Museum. The Folk Museum is really extensive. It is outdoors, but there are a couple of exhibit halls too. The displays show how people have lived in Norway over the centuries. We didn’t see the whole thing but loved what we saw. The stave church shown below was moved there by preservationists in the 1800s. There were historical preservationists in the 1800s. How cool is that?


An old stave church at the Folks Museum outside Oslo

After the Folks Museum you go back to the bus stop directly in front of the museum and regard this pretty produce stand until the bus shows up. The bus runs every 15 minutes so you never wait long. There is an electronic sign that tells you when it’s coming.


Next stop is the Viking Ship Museum. This is in the book A Thousand Places to See Before You Die. I have an old edition of this book and am slowly working through it, checking things off, though not obsessively. I don’t see every sight in each town, but I try to hit a few. We also check out TripAdvisor to make sure the sights are still good. I agree with the book 99 percent of the time, and the Viking Ship Museum was another winner.


A Viking ship

Then you get back on the bus to go to two more ship museums, which are on the water. The inspiring Kon Tiki Museum showcases the extraordinary courage and accomplishment of Thor Heyerdahl. He not only withstood massive negativity, he rose to meet the challenges with greater and greater efforts, building a better team, networking, reaching higher and higher up the ladder to get support, going to different countries, including talking to the president of the United States and of Peru. Suddenly my own obstacles and the occasional negativity I receive for my efforts don’t seem even worthy of attention.

As a writer I live with the doubts typical of creative people, probably like all of you bloggers who look at my blog and are reading this now. It is very easy to invalidate oneself and one’s creative efforts. Add to that the occasional negative feedback, and it’s easy to give in to the blues and stop writing, blogging, photographing, singing, whatever is important to you. Reading about Thor Heyerdahl’s completely individual decision to set about proving the viability of his anthropological theory and about his prolonged, sustained, and courageous effort to carry out his idea, inspired me to carry on in my own efforts to create. His story inspired me to toughen up and believe in my work.


Kon Tiki

Interestingly, at the same time that I have been touring Scandinavia, I have been reading Eric Maisel’s book The Van Gogh Blues. I did not dare leave home without an ebook copy of his book Coaching the Artist Within loaded on my Nook, but I also decided to purchase The Van Gogh Blues after reading the sample. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for creative people, including bloggers! Leanne Cole wrote an  interesting post about being called “just a blogger.” Leanne did a wonderful job combating this negative idea. Who is anyone to judge a person’s form of meaning creation? If you think what you create has meaning, then it does. My blog is important to me on many levels. I don’t need to extol the joys of blogging, but just wanted to share a thought to encourage my fellow bloggers to keep up your work here in the blogosphere, and in the art that you bring yourself forth to create. And if you are not a blogger, whatever you do in your life that has value to you, embrace it, especially if it’s “just” being a good person.

The last ship museum, which is the Fram museum, the first ship specially built in Norway for polar research, is pretty awesome:


It’s a great museum for kids, including the inner child in all of us. You get to do goofy stuff like this:


and this,


though the last one was educational. I couldn’t pull the adult-sized sled through snow, just the child-sized one. So now I know not to go on a polar expedition.

The pier for the ferry to take you back to the city center is just beyond the Fram museum. There are these neat old wooden boats down there, but don’t worry, they aren’t  what you will be riding on to get back to the city.


The ferry didn’t drop us off near the central train station like we expected. Instead we stumbled upon the Nobel Peace Center. The sights are so well organized in Oslo, it’s a brilliant city for tourists. We didn’t have plans to see the Center because I wanted to see the Munch Museum. The museums in Oslo don’t stay open late, and we had a late start, but here we came off the ferry and found ourselves staring at the Nobel Peace Center.



So, in we went. Here is another example of a man with a vision. He turned his negative experience, his guilt over having invented dynamite, which was used in war, into an enduring institution in support of peace. Keep in mind that Alfred Nobel created the peace prize out of nothing more than his own decision. Well, his money too, of course. But money without the idea, or the idea without the will, would not have invented this annual award which makes such a huge positive difference in the world.

The news lately has been bleak, emphasizing more atrocities and injustices that you don’t need me to enumerate. It is all certainly enough to make one feel that we are not making progress and to feel hopeless. Well the Nobel Peace Center will infuse you with hope. While I only made it through 3 stations of the guided tour, I left transformed by hope and a feeling of human progress. In the gallery are some interesting statistics about social media and freedom. Here’s one example of a woman who used Facebook to effect change.

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We also were shown information about the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a recent recipient of the award. OPCW is amazing. The have destroyed an estimated 95% of the chemical weapons in the world.

Finally, the Munch museum was a must for me. While his more famous paintings are in the National Gallery, I always like to go to the artist’s museum to see his or her minor works, sketches, and experiments. In addition to The Scream, which was amazing to see up close, but which I couldn’t photograph, I discovered Munch painted some pretty ones too.

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He was into death and “crystallization,” the relationship between death and life (with lots of Grim Reaper type figures hovering right next to the living, and bones, anatomy, and also came up with a myth about the creation of man and woman. A rather depressing one. But it was interesting to see the range of his skills, his thought processes, his interest in science and to learn about his friendship with the anatomy teacher.

I leave you with one little quote from The Van Gogh Blues, which is actually a quote from Gandhi. “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” What you do to create meaning is significant to you. And what you do might make a much bigger impact than you realize, even if it’s “just a blog post.”