A Travelogue

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kissin' Cousins

The cousins have gathered around us in Sarpsborg and this afternoon, we're off to a lake cottage where we're all going to party and have a great time. There should be 12 of us. We're all spending the night at the cottage and adjoining annex so we can drink with impunity. It is zero tolerance here and everyone takes that very seriously.

Vigdis has been busy this morning concocting a fabulous Norwegian cake which looks way too complicated for me to ever do. My only job was to grind almonds at which, thankfully, I excelled.

This will probably be our last post for awhile. No internet at the cottage, we're taking the cousins out for dinner Thursday night and we leave Friday morning for Hamburg where we will also be incommunicado. Then home on Sunday.

It's been a fabulous trip. Can't wait for the next one!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Vigeland

Vigeland is a park in Oslo with incredible sculptures

It is the life's work of one man and the pictures say it all.

Geiranger Fjord

Geiranger Fjord: Another spectacular road with a very, very steep climb and a breathtaking view of the 7 sisters
waterfalls.

Once again we zig zag across the mountain face. This time, an incredible 23 hairpins. In no time we're at the top and see a tiny cruise ship just coming into view. I love cruise ships, but I think this time I had the better view.

Trollstigen

Heading for Trollstigen, literally Troll Climb (but they call it the Troll Ladder), we crawled up a webbing of roads that include 11 hairpin curves snaking across the face of two mountains. I couldn't believe my eyes. But we have pictures!

The tops of the mountains along the Trollstigen have fraces. I see a jutting warty nose and bumpy brow pointing to the sky. Next is a Troll's profile with bulbous lips and misshapen nose. No doubt these craggy faces lent their name to this area.

But if the Norwegians ever had trolls intheir ancestry they've been bred out. Today, Virtually every one we've seen could have stepped right out of a magazine.

The Base of the Trollstigen is flanked left and right by huge pounding waterfalls. I stand and listen andhope their thunderous pounding isnæt secretly mining away the road on which we stand.

It's a 10% grade going uphill where another waterfall disappears under a bridge. From here there's an amaing view down the curved valley through which we came. The TS is so high we're into the clouds but from our aerie we see the 11 hairpin curves 700 metres below us. An utterly stunning view. I can only imagine the disbelief on the engineer's face who was told, "Let's build a road up here so everyone can enjoy this view." I bet he quit.

From the very top you can clearly see how narrow the road is. ther is NO WAY for 2 vehicles if one is a bus! There are pullouts where the landscape permits and you'd better find one quick if there's a bus coming your way.

For a long moment I stared at the road beneath me, faintly incredulous at the sight of it.

Atlantic Highway

We drove over a bridge that from certain angles looks like a ski jump. It's true. We have pictures.

It's part of the Atlantic Highway from Molde to Kristiansund. The bridge - and I have pictures - juts straight into the sky and then it swoops down to the sea in a delicate, graceful curve.

The Atlantic Highway connects rocky chunks that thrust up through the ocean to make a road between Molde and Kristiansund. Sailing under the bridge into Kristiansund on the ferry all the buildings we passed were painted in cheerful colours. It just looked exactly like Curacao!

41 Tunnels!

41 tunnels on our way to Flam. Unbelievable. We drove through the Hall of the Mountain Kings today, the 25 km tunnel referred to in an earlier posting. This was followed by another 6.5 km tunnel. We even drove through a 360 degree spiral tunnel winding upwards through a mountain and spitting us out on the top near Roldal on E134. These mountains have been punctured like Swiss cheese.

As a result of Wednesday's rain we're literally seeing hundreds of waterfalls pouring down the mountains. Some are long and slender, trailing down like delicate white ribbons. Others , swollen by yesterday's day-long rain, gush down in torrents.

Spectacular.

Good Deed

"I'm sorry, I don't understand" said the Norwegian receptionist to the German man, in English.

He was holding out E 50 to her and speaking in German, but she wouldnæt take it.

"Can I help you?" I said to him in German, pleased to be of assistance.

"Do you speak English?" the receptionist asked me. While we sorted out who spoke what, we got the story. Turns out the man owed 70 KR and his E 50 was the smallest bill he had, and he had no Norwegian KR at all. The desk was out of Euros but would get some around midnight so finally comforted that he could pay up in the morning, all ended well.

Friday, June 23, 2006

High life

Posting by proxy! This post brought to you by Favourite Dotter:

Omigod. This hotel is beautiful beyond words.

Think of the sail hotel in Dubai. Then think of its baby. That's where we are.

The hotel is shaped like a sail, all glass and mirrors and we could see it glinting at us from the ferry. We asked ourselves, "What's the most we're willing to spend?" We agreed on 1500 Kr, having spent between 1200-1400 in the last hotels and they've been okay. We had a tub last time, which was a bonus.

However as we approached this gorgeousbuilding I nearly lost my nerve and thought, we can never afford to stay here. It looked so sumptuous.

"How much for a double room?"
"985 KR"
"Each?" Hans asked, nearly speechless
"No, together" she replied with a warm smile.

We're staying 2 nights.

Bonus: we'r on the 12th floor and our room overlooks the Molde Fjord. We see sailboats and ferries and across the narrow fjord we can see th mountains ,some still with snow.

bonus 2: Hans has a chaise lounge from which to view the World Cup soccer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lysefjord

Look at this. It's the stuff of nightmares!

We haven't been there and there is nothing in this world that could put me on that rock.

Police Stop

We and the car ahead of us were diverted into a layby where some police were waiting.

We ween't speeding. Hadn't been drinking, so no worries. But just in case I let the map fall open on my lap and put on my best tourist face.

"Snakke Norsk?" he asked as he was unwrapping a breathalyzer kit.

"No" replied hans, eyes wide and questioning. "We're Canadian." Almost true. We are Canadian, but he does "snakke" a little Norsk. However, anything the police had to tell us was better heard in English. I decided I suddenly also didn't speak any other languages.

"Ahh," replied the policeman, "but you rented the car in Germany, yes?"

"Yes, we're on a driving tour of Norway."

"In Norway it is the law to drive with lights on."

"Same in Canada" Hans replied "and our vehicles light up when you turn on the ignition."

"This is also the law in Norway but Germany doesn't have this law" he said, and waved us away. He never brought up the breathalizer.

Ironically, Hans had been turning on the headlights most days. Except today.

Trolls and Tolls

The trolls in Norway no longer live under the bridges. They have moved topside and dropped the "R".

I can't believe how many tolls we have paid! We're keeping all our receipts to see what they tally up to when we're back home.

Norwegian Roads

The highways are flanked by thousands of clumps of pink, purple and white lupines. Everywhere. Now and then a wisteria tree dangles its bright yellow grapelike flower clusters over the road adding a burst of colour.

Bridges, some old and ornate and others sleek and modern straddle narrow canyons. Many roads, even major highways, are narrow and twisty as they have to curl around the fjords. Sometimes they can't. Then the road bores a hole through the mountain and at the other end it's often spit out as another bridge fording another canyon. Amazing. Today we pased through 22 tunnels, none longer than a kilometre. But until recently, Norway was home to the longest tunnel: a startling 25 kilometres long. We went through it 5 years ago and I remember that to prevent claustrophobia several large caverns were spaced through the tunnel, filled with blue light. Apparently that helps. It didn't bother us in the least and we would hum Peer Gynt's Hall of the Mountain Kings. He should have named it the Holes of the mountain kings.

Bicycles and more Bicycles

Copenhagen is full of bicycles. Beautiful women in office clothes and equally good looking men dressed for work pedal down the streets. It's very efficient as traffic is heavy and the cyclists have their own paths so they are fairly safe. We even saw a dad one morning with his 2 blond toddlers, one in front and one in back in their bike seats, being taken to daycare.

Around the city you can pick up a bike for a small deposit, similar to taking a shopping cart at Safeway. You ride it around and when you return it you get your deposit back. Very slick.

Back to RI and the Viking Ship

I'm not writing in sequence, but so what? My notes are scrambled and sometimes it's easier to write about what we just saw than to go back a week. Thank God for notes! I would never remember half of what we did.

Which reminds me... back at the Bella Center we saw a huge 30' Viking ship on display. it was apparntly built in 1042 in Dublin! Who knew the Irish built Viking ships? Then it was rebuilt between 2000-2004. That's 4 years. I wonder how long the guys in 1042 took?

In 2007 a 70 man crew will sail it back to Dublin and then return with it to Copenhage in 2008.

The Pulpit Rock - conquered!

It was a perfect climbing day. Cloudy, but even as I was making notes earlier the cloud was lifting and the lake below the hostel cafe was completely calm.

Hans took off around 10:15 and I settled down to wait, having been told it is a 2 hour trip each way. I was pretty sure Hans would be faster and the waitress in the cafe told me it can be done in 1 - 1.5 hours up, and somewhat less coming back.

Hans was back in just over 2.5 hours and that included a half hour at the top to eat his lunch and take photos. He told me later he passed 30 people on the way up and was damned if he was going to let some 80 year old Swede pass him! However, an 18 year old woman did... and near the top.

The climb starts out deceptively gentle for 200 metres. Then it gets steep (35% incline) and just when you think you can't take it anymore, it gets worse - 40-45%. He felt his heart thundering in his chest a few times but couldn't clutch his chest as he needed his hands balance on the rocks. The terrain is all thick boulders, nothing is even and you constantly have to watch your feet so you don't snap an ankle. That would be a very unfortunate accident as there's only one quick way down. It's not a recommended descent though apparently some have taken it.

Meanwhile, back at the cafe I'm all by myself until a young man walks in and orders 2 sandwiches. While he waits, I ask where he's from.

"Korea," he replies.

"Kamsamnida, " I say, one of two words I remember from our trips to Korea. I invited him to join me so I could tell him how much we loved his country, how we hosted some wonderful Koreans on a GSE team, and how Alethea had climbed Taebek mountain back in 1999.

After he leaves I try to make more notes but I feel my eyes slide sideways and lock on the water. I can't tear them away, it's so beautiful out there. From the cafe you can't see the pulpit rock but I try to imagine where Hans is in his journey, whether he's finished and on his way down. And then I drift away again letting my eyes float over the water far beneath me. There is no gentle descent here into the water. The cliffs plunge down vertically and most of what you see are huge granite outcroppings bursting through the trees. The landscape looks so old. Even the picnic tables fit in. They look like a short Stonehenge: one large slab of rock across 2 smaller ones and circled by seating rocks. They are perfect.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The 'Pulpit Rock' in Norway

We're off to the Pulpit Rock, a huge flatt bluff over one of the fjords, a shocking 4000' straight down.

Luckily, I suffer from vertigo and will be waiting in the car or down in the information center while Hans climbs it. It's a 2 hour hike each way. He can probably do it faster but if I drag along, it's easily going to take 3 hours each way.

We're off, so more on this later!

ITHF in Stathelle, Norway

We arrived in Stathelle and the home of our interin hostess, Edrund Olaisen, late Friday afternoon. It gave us just enough time to have a glass of wine before she introduced us to our 'bedroom' hosts, Per and Ingrid who live just down the road. Per and Ingrid live on Rotary Hill - ther are 3 Rotarians in a row and apparently up the hill are a few more. Rotary is very active in this area and Ingrid is currently an Assistant Governor. Edrund was Governor in 2000-2001 same year as Monty and knows him. It's such a small world!

Jan went to pick up his and Edrundæs house guests from Australia, Barbara and Peter and we all had supper together to get to know one another. Then off to our hosts for the evening for coffee and cake.

The night was so deliciously warm we sat on the deck overlooking the sound and watching container ships steam out to sea. Per tells us that in a 24 hour period they normally see up to 70 large ships. Despite the heavy sea traffic Ingrid goes out swimming each morning at 6:00 to invigorate herself.

The 8 of us emptied Peræs wine bottles nearly as fast as he could bring them out. There wsas clearly no time to let the wine breathe so he brough out an attractive wine decanter to aerate the wine and saving us valuable time...

Even though we are far south in Norway, we are still considerably north on the world map and consequently, at this time of year, it stays light until quite late. Even though the sun hasn't set, the evening air brought with it a cool chill. Ingrid brought out colourful fleece wraps to drape around each of us warding off the cold and from the sea we would have made a pretty picture.

Large glass cylinders partly filled with sand colour acquarium rock held white pillar candles on the deck table. We ate our way through bowls of chips, pretzels and peanuts-in-the-shell to fuel our conversation and absorb the wine.

"Are you driving?" asked Per, poised once again to fill my glass. Confused, I answered no. "Good" he said, and proceeded to top up my glass.

At 11:00 the Aussies headed back with Edrund and Jan while we moved the party indoors. Hans and Per discovered a common love of music and when the volume forced Ingrid and me downstairs, we discovered a common love of books. Ingrid was a librarian before she became Head of Culture for this region so we had lots to talk about until 12:30 when my eyes drooped and called it a night.

I have no idea when Hans and Per wrapped it up!

Tour of Norway

We spent Sunday in the company of Edrund and Jan Olaison and Peter and Barbara. All are members of ITHF and Edrund and Jan already had the other two (from Australia) as houseguests and so they arranged for us to stay with another Rotarian couple just down the road from them: Ingrid and Per.

What great people they all are!

Edrund has a large passenger van so the 6 of us headed up towards some fjords and mountains. 15 minutes south of the summit we stopped for lunch at another couple's house where they served us traditional Norwegian pancakes with cream and jam followed by cake and chocolates. All this while we watched the river flowing next to their house and listened to songbirds serenade us. They live in a paradise here. The river has cut a charming pond into a section of their property where it pools and where they catch fish. The local beavers have been discouraged from feeding on the silver birches by chicken wire wound around the trunks. Birhouses abound and we were told they've had mockingbirds visit.

Next stop was the summit. As promised, there was still snow on the ground and the wind was fierce with a biting chill. the Aussie's enjoyed the snow but you know, we're pretty familiar with it so it wasn't a huge thrill. Even so, i took a break on a stone bench sitting nearby and looked out on the panorama spread before me. It was gorgeous.

On our way down, we stopped to let a yearling moose cross the road before us and disappear into the forest on the other side.

We stopped for coffee by the side of fjord which was near an important WW2 site. During the war, the Norwegians had a heavy water plant and heavy water is a moderator for nuclear reaction (or something like that). Anyway, it's a necessary component. To prevent it from falling into enemy hands, the Norwegian Resistance disabled the plant but first had to send men down one side of the fjord, across and up the other side. today you can cross on a bridge. If you saw the vertical granite walls of this fjord, and the treacherous water at the bottom, well, you would realize what an incredible feat this was.

Yikes. Norway is expensive!

Just checked into our hotel in Sandness, slightly south of Stavanger. Holy cow it's expensive here! We got the last room in the hotel and in town as we had already checked out 2 other hotels. Our room is next to the elevator, no tub only shower... and it's a whopping $280 per night. I don't even want to think about it.

At least the internet is free.

So is breakfast, and boy, am I going to eat!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rotary Wine Cruise

As we were wandering through the Houseof Friendship at the convention, lo and behold the words Wine Fellowship beckoned to us from one of the booths. Naturally, we stopped.

Turns out this particular fellowship had a wine cruise arranged for that very evening and this sounded delightfully promising so we joined up. Dinner was $75 each and we figured this was a terrific deal.

Too terrific, in fact.

While it was a cruise through Copenhagen waters arranged by the Wine Fellowship, it in fact included.... no wine!

Friday, June 16, 2006

RI President Nominee Wilf Wilkinson and P-E Bill Boyd

Bill Boyd is a humble and genuine man, very gentle and not pretentious in any way. Wilf Wilkinson appears cut from the same cloth. We are very lucky to have two such wonderful men leading Rotary in the next two years. Wilf said, "Rotary is about friendship. Rotary is about helping others. Rotary is about ordinary people doing our best in our own way. Through Rotary the ordinary becomes extraordinary."

Bill Boyd was asked one time why he is a Rotarian.

"I am a Rotarian because it changes lives. I know this to be true because it changed mine."

Voting Issue

There was indeed a major issue smacking RI between the eyes going back to last November. There was a quorum of voting delegates present at the Convention and we were asked to vote on it Tuesday morning. It's too long to get into here but I have details and I will be happy to share them with any club members who wish to know about it.

Suffice it to say that the RI Board's decision was resoundingly sustained by the membership. Bill Boyd then finished by asking all Rotarians to put this issue behind them and look forward.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Host Hospitality Night in Sweden

What a great evening! It was too short and we didn't even get back to our hotel before 12:30 am.

A thick line of people 2 deep and endlessly long was gathering as the buses got ready to drive us over the famous Malmo-Copenhagen bridge into Sweden. Despite the huge crowds, which we later estimated at nearly 3,000, boarding went smoothly and quickly and off we went to the other side. The bridge is quite long, 4 km, and is preceded and ended by a fairly long tunnel.

I had to wonder at the occasional car occupants thought that were caught between the line of 50 buses.

We were taken to the outskirts of a huge shopping centre parking lot. Strangely, there was no IKEA though we were in its birthplace.

The logistics of moving 3000 people from one country to another, changing buses in Sweden and then getting all of us to the proper host home is something that's hard to imagine. It didn't go perfectly and as luck would have it, Hans and I were the last dropped off and therefore the first picked up. Our hosts and additional guests were so charming we all longed for more time but it wasn't possible.

Here are some highlights:

The bus in front of us was serving wine to its guests! Not a highlight for us, but certainly for them. They were off to a castle as guests of a Rotary Club that was celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Our bus headed for Helsingborg, about 1 hour's drive north of Malmo. Along the way our Rotary host in the bus gave us running commentary on the countryside as well as a history lesson on Sweden and Denmark, who have now been free of strife for 300 years. It wasn't always so. In fact when our host Anders picked us up in Viken, we walked to his house and along the way he showed us some rocks which date back to 2600 BC which still have deep groove in them. It turns out these grooves were made by the people of the time to sharpen their stone implements. As weaponry became more sophisticated, these huge boulders were used to sharpen swords.

Anders house was very close and we were greeted by his wife Gunillin who welcomed us to their sunroom with a refreshing glass of chilled white wine. Dave Erdman from Hawaii was accompanied by his wife and 12 year old daughter so Anders thoughtfully invited a young niece of 14 to join us so Mahri would also have someone to talk to.

Dinner was salmon marinated according to an old family recipe which remains a secret despite my not-so-subtle hints that I would like to share it. However, while he wouldn't part with the recipe, Anders has offered to come to our house to prepare it and we hope to see this happen. For the first time, I had smoked salmon served with a sweet gravlax sauce made with brown sugar. No idea what else is in there but wow, was it tasty!

The main course was baked salmon with cheese and tiny new potatoes. To our horror we learned that new potatoes are highly prized in Sweden and sell for the shocking price of $150 per kilo!!!

The entire evening was a pleasure but much too short. We were the last dropped off and first picked up so our time was the shortest but even those who were dropped off first said the same thing. The fellowship is so special and the intimacy of a small group gathered over a delicious meal enhances all your senses. We left with regret just before 10:00 to catch the first of 2 buses taking us back to the hotel and finally crashed at 12:30.

Snowboarding vs Cross Country skiing at RI

On Monday the Plenary Session (now called General Session) began with an introduction by Carl Wilhelm Stenhammar about the new road Rotary needs to take, mainly by inviting younger members to join our agining clubs.

I nearly tuned out since this is of course not at all the case with our own club! Okay, I'm just kidding, but his point was well made, comparing us to the recent winter Olympics where the 'old guard' was involved in cross country skiing. This is a difficult and labour intensive activity, not unlike projects in which Rotary Clubs become involved. However, virtually no one was watching. Maybe just a few at the finish line.

On the other hand, there were the snowboarders. Their events were sold out. He challenged us to become more like snowboarders and less like cross country skiiers.

The next hour would grab my heart and squeeze it dry.

Sister Ethel Normoyle spoke to us about Missionvale in Africa, where she is the current director and where she has worked "since arriving at the young age of 43, 19 years ago". She is a tiny and very beautiful Irish woman who still charms with the lilt in her voice and her impeccably coiffured grey hair. She told us of how she gathered children to teach when she arrived and having nowhere to meet, they met under the shade of large leafy tree. The tree is still standing and many of her students have blossomed under her tutelage. A nurse by profession, they would let her treat their maggot-infested cuts after she gained their trust.

Today, while many have benefitted from her teaching and nurturing, the need is just as dire as it was 19 years ago. Literacy remains her main focus and she spoke passionately about how literacy is the ticket out of poverty.

I was too involved in listening to her to take notes, but more than once I caught glimpses of other people wiping their eyes so I know I wasn't the only one touched. She received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her presentation which I hope warmed her heard as much as thed $10,000 cheque from Mr. Stenhammar.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tivoli Dinner

We were in line behind Milt and Alice Jones from Florida, both very charming people and we sat together during a delicious dinner. Milt is an incoming Director and throughout the dinner several other Directors stopped by and said hello so we got to meet several, including one from Japan and another from Istanbul, Turkey. A place we long to visit but not for a few years.

Dinner was sit-down service and went off without a hitch. The wine flowed freely, which is always a pleasure for me as you all know. Tiny parsley potatoes and rarely cooked veal with snow peas followed a salmon terrine with mesculun salad. Lovely! No dessert, so I made up for it with 2 cups of coffee.

Following dinner we strolled outside and managed to see the Tivoli Boys Band march through the grounds for their evening performance. Perfect timing! Then we chatted with a German couple and glancing off to the side I spotted a tall head in the crowd. There was DG Steve Rickard and Marie, so I excused myself and went over for a big hug. In a crowd like this what are the odds that we'd run into the current and incoming Governors? It was great.

On the way out a couple from Maryland stopped us to say hello. Turns out he just finished leading a GSE team to Norway and went to all the places we plan to visit following the convention.

We've met so many friendly Rotarians, which is really a redundant comment. It's been great and convention hasn't even started yet. The opening ceremonies are tomorrow and I can't wait.

Impressions of Copenhagen

We are so lucky. Our hotel's in the heart of the city, maybe a 10 minute walk to Tivoli. We are on Studiestraede which mjeans exatly what you might think - study street. The university is here and we walked past the stately and elegant university library. It's such an old and dignified building that it looks slightly forbidding, though I want to explore it before I leave here.

Between our hotel and City Hall is a huge square, the Radhus Pladsen, which is lively with activity all day long and probably mucyh of the night. We stopped to enjoy the sun (and a glass of wine) and to people-watch for awhile and it confirmed what we had already noticed. The Danes are exceptionally attractive people. Don't move here unless you think you're hot stuff!!

Most of the downtown featurese old but well maintained red brick buildings, many with white lattice windows. No screens anywhere but they arenøt needed. We havenøt seen one mosquito since we got here.

The trade-off for having a hotel centrally located is that thereøs no escaping the noise. They like to party here and party late! No air conditioning means we open the windows and while that lets in cool night air it also lets in very late night laughter and loud voices.

As you might expect in a city this size, the popular downtown is dirty. There's a lot of loose litter, mostly just paper, but lots of cigarette stubs and the occasional piece of doggie poo. So you walk at your peril if youøre captivated by the tall church spires.

We attended an orientation for first-time convention goers this mornig and I was disappointed to hear the first question was why this wasn't done or that wasn't done. Organizing an event of this size requires tremendous volunteer effort and logistical coordination and if things don't come off quite as planned, I think it's rude to whine about it in a public forum. Hans and I also got on a wrong train and off at the wrong spot and had to walk further than exptected. So what? We asked and happened to get wrong information but no one misdirected us maliciously. Anyway, once one person complained it seemed many had a transit problem and they all wanted to vent. it was irritating and more than anything I wanted to stand up and say so but...

Tivoli

Our hotel has free internet access, which is great. But to ensure you don't hog the computer, it's situated at a stand up shelf in the lobby, so I have to either type fast or write short.

We spent the afternoon at Tivoli. It's world famous and I believe that is because it's over 150 years old and located in the heart of a huge city. That alone would make it noteworthy. We walked around and discovered that it's the place to be if you are a grandparent and want to take the youngsters out for a day. There are lots of amusement rides from the traditional merry-to-round to a loop-de-loop roller coaster. We also walked by one restaurant after another. 37 in fact. We stopped to have a beverage but the S 10 price tag scared me off. We ended up paying the same when we had a glass of wine in the town square later. It's expensive here.

Tonight at 6:00 weøll be dining at a beautiful castle-like restaurant in Tivoli as part of our Rotary tour.

Speaking of Rotary, it's visible everywhere. There are many volunteer Rotarians at meeting places around Copenhagen, available behind the well-recognized "Bridging the World" banners and they are eager and delighted to assist you with anything. Around town visiting Rotarians are easily spotted because we all carry the grey and blue bag in which we were given our convention gifts. They make a great carrying bag and you see them everywhere.

So, off for a rest and more fun tonight!

House of Friendship Grand Opening

For the first time in the history of Rotary, they had a grand opening for the House of Friendship where everyone meets and mingles, and where you can find all kinds of information on Rotary projects, products, and people.

Quite by chance we ran into Raju and Asha along with 2 friends of theirs from Spruce Grove, so the 6 of us went to the opening together. Not wanting to miss anything (and also because we got there early enough) we managed to get 6 eats in the third row center. In fact, if I wasn's busy looking at the stage, I was looking at the back of Carl-Wilhelm's head. He turned around periodically and I choose to think he was looking at me... though Raju was probably in his line of sight.

The ceremony was excellent! The Tivoli Boys' Band marched in and played "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" to which we were encouraged to sing, having been given the lyrics as we entered. They were rounded out by a wonderfully harmonic young girls' choir which lent some pizazz and harmony to the melody. They followed this with some lovely Swedish and Danish folk tunes. The Emcee gave us a wildly embellished version of the story they were singing which just added to our enjoyment. The choir even sang an African song a capella, and another in English. These young kids over here think nothing of learning multiple languages and appear to be proficient in all of them. And a final note, every single one of the boys and girls was strikingly good looking.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Copenhagen, Day 1

Here we are!

After an uneventful check-in, we headed for the Bella Center to register, eager to beat the anticipated crowds. That's when we had the first bit of trouble. Nothing serious. We got instructions from our hotel on how to take the subway which turned out to be a fair walk from the hotel but the day was glorious and there was lots to see along the way. We walked near a university library and through a pedestrial mall, though that sounds way too modern. It was, however, strictly for pedestrians and cyclists and had lots of little shops.

We got to the underground and as instructed, bought our tickets. No problem here. We were told to look for a train that said *woieurope* or something like it - we had it written down and looked for it. Didn't see it. Asked a nice looking fellow if this was the train to Bella. He indicated we should take the next one, which we did even though it didn's say *woeiure*.

Hans watched his map and the readout inside the train, which gave the name of the next stop. We were heading in the right direction but suddenly, the train seemed to skip a stop and we were now at Orestad, which appeared to be one stop past Bella. Concerned, we decided to get off and ask someone outside where to go and what to do. Our seat mate spoke up then for the first time, probably because my face was lined with stress fractures, and said we were indeed at the right stop and to just take the stairs up. So we did.

There was a big building there which said Field's. But there were more big buildings around so we checked them all out as there were no pedestrians to ask. Finally we approached a little kiosk and the lady kindly told us to take the metro one more stop.

"We just got off the metro" I said. "Can we walk?"

"Sure" she said maliciously. "It's just down thataway." And it was. It was a fair hike and we'd already hustled quite a bit, not to mention all the stairs we climbed so I was relieved to see it and finally, to get there.

And then, all was well.

We were greeted with huge smiles by a Rotarian standing outside the main doors who all but hugged us in delight. She was very helpful and even told us that our train ticket was good for 1 hour. Yes, we took the wrong train. We should have taken the metro which would have dropped us off right at the doorstep but the hotel clerk said the "underground" and we took the first one we saw... Tomorrow we get to take the free shuttle, so no more long hikes and endless stairs!

Registratian went very smoothly. We picked up our guest bags with goodies, including tea (which may even taste good with a dollop of wine) and we'll be back early tomorrow to attend the introduction to first time convention goers.

Our hotel is nice. Older. We have an apartment - including a kitchenette which I don't plan to use, but the fridge is coming in handy!

Tomorrow afternoon and evening we spend and Tivoli and we're eager to see it. Weather is gorgeous, sunny and not too hot, about 22.

Life is great!

The 'Denkmal' in Kiel

If you've ever visited a war memorial you'll know the atmosphere is heavy with the echo of long dead voices. The 'Denkmal' (literally 'think about it') for the fallen U-boat seamen of the First and Second World Wars was such a place. On the sea side, the memorial grounds are shaped like the curve of an anchor. You walk up the centre of the anchor, turn right and follow path that takes you down 10' into a remembrance room where there is a small collection of wreaths honouring the dead.

As you step outside, you follow a semi-circular path. The wall on your left is lined in bronze and list the U-boats and names of those lost on them during WWI. On the right is the same for WWII. We followed the path to U-boat 307, Hans's dad's submarine. He should have been on it when it went down but through one of those quirky twists of fate, he was sent to finish some schooling on that fateful trip. On such tenuous threads lives are forged for without it, Hans wouldn't be here nor would I be writing this today.

The most touching moment of the day for me came when a German naval ship steamed past the memorial. We were on the grounds when a whistle blew, drawing our attention. All the seamen were lined up facing the memorial and saluting. Later I read that passing submarines also dip their flag. Maybe this naval vessel did the same but I didn't see it. My eyes were too blurry.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Welcome to Soccer!

Willkommen zum Fussball!

These signs are all over Hamburg as they gear up for the World Cup. Everywhere you look up on tall buildings or cranes, there are neon blue goal posts lit up. Apparentlz when the games begin, all these blue goal will be connected by lazer. Should look great! We'll miss it as we'll be on our way to Copenhagen.

The other really cool thing are the 'dba' planes: Deutsche-British Airway. They have the nose of their planes painted like a soccer ball!

In other news, well, there is no other news just yet. Stay tuned.