Family from Norway exploring Cinque Terre in Italy

Family from Norway exploring Cinque Terre in Italy #1Cinque Terre (means five lands) consists of 5 tiny villages connected by footpaths and linked by boat, rail, and trail. At the Northwest coast of Italy, they date as far back as the 13th century and sit on the hillsides of that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea. Colorful houses seem to hang on the cliffs. Local churches sound their daily chimes. And the land is terrace farmed for food. Surrounding these five villages is an infinite mosaic of vineyards, olive and lemon groves, and fruited trees. These agricultural plots seem to hang onto the sheer cliffs above the sea. And from these marvelous fields, we receive tangy local wines such as Sciacchetra, purely extracted olive oils, and delightful herbed pesto.
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These five communities discourage auto traffic to preserve the tradition and ecological impact of the area – so they are best reached by train. It has now become a World Heritage Site and a UNESCO National Park. In fact, certain parts of the nearby sea are part of the National Park system as well. And it is the preservation of this area that makes for some clear water scuba diving and snorkeling.
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The agriculture is of main concern here in Cinque Terre. All of the 5 towns and other rural villages are tied to each other in their quest to keep local farming alive. The towns people, like their forefathers, preserve the terraced farms as a means of income and property stability. While some of the farmland has been abandoned and is scrub, most have been passed on from generation-to-generation. They farm mostly wine grapes, olives, pears, and herbs. Each family plot is divided by old, dry-rock, stonewalls, built hundreds of years ago.
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Monterosso al Mare is the most western of the 5 towns and the closest to being a classic beach town of the Italian Riviera. Vernazza, and Corniglia are just a few kilometers down the coastline.

The latter is different from the others because it is situated on a plateau, over 300 feet above sea level, while the others lie next to the Sea. Manarola and Riomaggiore lie on the eastern end. All of the villages are linked by charming cobblestone pathways that make home to local musicians.
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Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. The villages are not influenced by modern development, and that simple, original look, combined with pretty colorful houses, arranged one upon another like stairs gives this piece of Ligurian coast a unique charm:
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This is the fifth post from our big family trip; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and spouse from the USA. 14 people in all gathering in Pisa at the Park Hotel California, and having the time of our lives enjoying each other’s company, getting better acquainted and exploring this wonderful part of Italy. From my first post: Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy, you’ll get an introduction and then you’ll find information and links to my other posts from Pisa, Florence and Sierra.

Akerselva the vein of Oslo and industrial history of Norway

Akerselva is a beautiful river with 23 waterfalls running through Oslo’s most populated areas, ending in the Oslo Fjord after 8 km with a rich history of Norway’s cultural heritage and industrialization which started around 1850. The river is the “vein of the city” offering fishing, swimming, biking or walking to explore a rich animal and plant life in the most recreational part of the capital of Norway. It’s running from the lake Maridalsvannet, which is Oslo’s main supply of drinking water, to the city center and without a break: a couple of hours walk.
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Almost every meter of the 8km from the mountains to the fjords offers exciting adventures. Along the river you can take small detours into side streets you’ve never seen before and experience the history of the utmost importance to the capital and country: it was on the banks of Akerselva that Norway became a modern country and where the industrial revolution took place- It was here that Norway got its first factories and industrial workers!
I had a nice walk there last week, arranged by the Norwegian Parkinson Association and you’re welcome to join us and see a small collection of the highlights where I also shot some photos with my mobile phone:

Emigration and the Industrial Revolution:
From 1850 to 1900 the population of Christiania increased from 30,000 to 130,000 – the same period as when about half of the populations out of totality 1,500,000 emigrated to the US. For the most part farmhands came from the countryside and moved into settlements along the Akerselva banks to live near the factories they were working in. These houses were often some distance from the river and of very poor quality. Living conditions were crowded and up to 13-14 people could live in a single cramped room with an even smaller kitchen.
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Today there is a new wave of migrants to the river, but it’s a totally different standard in the new houses. The picture to the left shows an example of a new residential complex on the left and an old factory on the right.

Myren’s machine maintenance and renovation factory:
Myhre’s factory became one of the leading and largest industrial companies in Norway with more than 1,000 employees in 1909 and also important for the rest of the industry along the river. Production started in this area in 1854 and their main production focused on industrial machinery – turbines and steam engines – and tools for rolling mills and sawmills, utilizing the river as source for power in the production.
The company was acquired by Kværner Brug (now a part of Aker Solution) in 1928 and the production naturally developed into supplying the pulp and paper industry. At one point, 85% of their production was exported.
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The premise of the old factory is preserved after the industrial production was terminated in 1988 and the area and its building were sold to what is now Myren’s Resorts and renovated into a small cluster for knowledge-based businesses in broadcasting, television production and advertising. The area also contains several apartment buildings

The Factory Girls at Beyer bridge:
Beyer bridge build in the 1700s and named after the owner, Anders Beyer, was a favorite gathering place after 10 to 12 work hours. In 1837, the old narrow wooden bridge was converted to ramps and restored as a pedestrian bridge in 1985, This bridge and the statue called “Factory Girls”, made by Ellen Jacobsen, show a merrier side of the flux at this industrial revolution period in Norway. It’s located in the old factory area and was described by the Norwegian writer Oskar Braaten as “factory girls’ bridge”. A group of sculpture in memory of the factory girls, conducted by Ellen Jacobsen, “shoulder to shoulder”, was set up on the bridge 1986:
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100 types of birds and 4 bats:
This continuous green corridor with water, grass, plants and trees that connect Oslomarka and the Oslo Fjord is also a paradise for animals. It is observed 100 different bird species at the river. Among them is our national bird: the Dipper, which people actually see quite often sitting on the pebbles in the middle of the falls. Even the Goldcrest, which is Norway’s smallest bird, is observed here.
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Akerselva can even offer four types of bats to be seen flying between trees when dark. As you can see in the photo however, the most common wildlife is seagulls and ducks.

“The Hen-Lovisa’s house”:
The rivers highest waterfall is next to an idyllic little house which is a great place to stop on your walk along the river Akerselva. The name “Hønse-Lovisas hus” comes from a literary character. It was built in 1800 as a saw miller’s house.
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Today it is a café and cultural meeting place, where the arts and crafts of today meet tradition and history of the past. They have handmade arts and crafts for sale and you can also get a cup of coffee and a delicious piece of cake or a little something for lunch.

A walk along the Akerselva, especially with such an excellent guide, is a good example of how you can combine an outdoor nature experience with learning about the local history. The area is easy to reach by public transportation, either Underground or Bus, and lies right in the heart of the compact city of Oslo. So don’t miss this trip the next time you visit the capital of Norway.

The Viking city Old Oslo Town in Norway

Old Oslo Town #11 by RennyBA, on FlickrThe old town of Oslo, the capital of Norway, where the Viking city was located contains the ruins of Oslo’s first cathedral: St. Hallvard’s as well as Clemen’s Church and St. Olav’s Monastery. In 1624, this medieval city was buried when the inhabitants had to move over to the new town Christiania, close to the Akershus Fortress. The medieval city was thus preserved for posterity and is therefore called the “Pompeii of the North“. My wife and I had a guided walk there a few weeks ago to get better acquainted with the city’s ruins and medieval heroes. It went from the church’s power region to the King’s domain: the Medieval Park (locally known as Ruins’ Park) and if you fancy a trip a thousand year back, you’re welcome to join us:

The St. Olav Monastery:
It was founded in 1239, when King Håkon gave the Dominicans a site just north of St. Halvard’s Church. It was already St. Olav’s Church, which had been built a few decades earlier. This would become the Abbey in the new facility, and it was rebuilt to fit the Dominicans specifications. The buildings were probably first constructed in wood and were eventually replaced by brick buildings.
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The Dominican Order had strict requirements for the design: ground floor and the interior were always the same in all the order’s monasteries as well as the abbey which was represented at the north wing of the facility. The problem was that there was room on the south side of St. Olav’s Church just a few feet over to St. Halvard’s Church, the city’s cathedral. The monastery had to be built north of the church and the Abby had to be in the south wing so in this way, the normal Dominicans concept was reversed here in Oslo.

St. Hallvard’s Cathedral:
Also know as Oslo Cathedral Church was the city’s earliest cathedral. It was built during the 1100s at the height of the Old Town market square and was used as a church until about 1655. Besides being the bishop’s seat and religious center of eastern Norway for about 500 years, the cathedral was the coronation church, royal wedding church, chapel royal, and one of Scandinavia’s most visited places for pilgrims.
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Hallvard cemetery is located mainly south of the cathedral. It was the honorary cemetery in Oslo and eastern Norway from around 1130 to 1639. Here the bishops, chiefs and other prominent men and women were buried. The most prominent were interred in the church along with the kings.

The Clemens Church:
This was one of the parish churches of old Oslo and lay south of the Bishop’s Palace and Halvard’s Church. It was a stone church with a tower and it was one of the very few churches we know with the double-nave floor plan. Along the middle axis of the choir there were three powerful roof supporting pillars.
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The church went out of use after the Reformation and was probably in ruins shortly after. It was uncovered in the excavation by Gerhard Fischer in 1921 and remained that way for years. In 1970-71 the archaeologist Ole Egil Eide was given the opportunity to dig further into the ground under the church, and found traces of burials older than the stone church, 81 in all. His interpretation is that there have been at least two churches, presumably stave churches, on the spot where the stone church was built around 1100. The oldest of the tombs are radiological dated to 980-1030, and are some of the oldest Christian burials found in Norway.

The Kings Residence:
The main ruins were the Kings Residence from about the year 1000 to the 1300s and then the Canon’s residence up until the reformation in the 1500s. The oldest finds on this site are part of a simple, circular fort consisting of a moat and one or more wooden buildings. There was a treasure found consisting of German and English coins which place the construction of this fort to somewhere between 1040 and 1060, during the rule of Harald Hardråde (Harald the hard ruler). Construction of the stone fort whose ruins you see in the photo at the bottom of this post, began in the 1200s during the rule of Haakon Haakonsson (Haakon the IV). The main entrance was in the north-west corner and featured a gate tower.
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The great hall in the south-east corner was almost as large as The Haakon’s Hall in Bergen. The Kings residence was a citadel, dwelling and meeting place for the king and his men when they were in Oslo. Akershus fortress took over this function already in the 1300s and gradually became the administrative center for this part of Norway. Large parts of the ruins from the Kings residence were removed in 1890 when the locomotive workshop was built on the site.

The Oslo Blog Gathering:
You may wonder what this has to do with our Blog Gathering (OsloBG) in 2010, but as the matter of fact, the grand finale was held in these Medieval surroundings. So for you who participated and all who followed us during these three days of exploring Oslo and Norway: our culture, traditions and habits – here is the photo of Kings Residence more than a thousand years back:
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Hunting Easter Bunny Eggs outdoors in Norway

Hunting Easter Bunny Eggs outdoors in Norway #3The history of Easter Egg Hunting is linked to Pagan traditions, has nothing to do with Christianity, but is a beloved event for kids everywhere. In my family it’s for kids of all ages as we’ve done it since I a little boy and still do it – outdoors of course – so it’s also a way to greeting the spring, when winter is retiring and nature is coming out of hibernation. Spring means new life, and in Norway of course literary to be seen when the snow and ice are melting. There you also have the connection to rabbits or hare which have long been a symbol of spring and fertility. Since there will be no Easter Egg Hunt without the Bunny, we must first look at why rabbits are associated with Easter: Known for their prolific procreating, they were the sacred animal of the Saxon goddess of spring and fertility.
Before I reveal how a rabbit laid an egg, let me show and tell you how we do the outdoors hunting in my family. Since we do this every year and I have posted about it before of course, I have plenty of photos from this adventure, and here I’ve put them together to give you an overview:
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Outdoor recreation goes with my family – especially in weekends and holidays. At Easter every year, the feeling of anticipation and excitement takes me down the memory lane. You may say I’m a bit childish, but I’m just fine with that and it’s important to get in the right spirit – and of course: you have to love being outdoors – sometimes the snow hasn’t even melted yet and then it’s even more cozy to lite the bonfire and grill hotdogs on a stick:
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Beside the thrill of the Easter egg hunt, this is also about enjoying spring – outdoors – after a dark and cold season. Since settlement of mankind in Norway, thousands of years back, we take advantage of, are celebrating and enjoying the feeling of spring – a significant change in seasons – and therefore an important part of our rituals and habits.
I also once made a movee or a vid about this adventure – be inspired:

The Easter Bunny legend, I’ve heard, started long ago in Germany with an egg-laying hare named “Osterhase”. German children made nests and left them outside for the hare to lay her eggs in. So in America, it was German immigrants who brought their Osterhase tradition to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. The festivity soon spread across the nation, and baskets replaced nests. Eventually, the game evolved into a treasure hunt, and the prizes expanded from just hard-boiled eggs to include chocolate, candy, toys and coins. In many families, the Easter Bunny leaves a basket filled with gifts, while in Norway we have large hallow eggs filled with treats instead.

We are soon on our way to my home town to meet my parents and sisters family for this adventurous tradition. When I post this in advance again this year, it is to give you all the chance to have fun the same way. Have you tried? Or would you like too? If so, here are some of my posts from earlier years:

* Traditional Easter Bunny Egg hunt in Norwegian woods
* Spring Equinox and an Easter Egg hunt
* Hunting Easter Bunny Eggs in snow
* Easter Bunny Eggs Hunt in Norwegian Woods

Skiing for all ages in Norway Winter Wonderland

Skiing for all ages in Norway Winter Wonderland #1 by RennyBASkiing in Norway is our national sport and the most striking feature of winter outdoor activities. We start learning at an early age. I remember as a child, winter never stopped us from playing outside; hat hair, wet behinds from slipping in the snow, rosy red noses, shivering cold hands and snow in my jacket were all just a part of the season. I am really thankful to my parents who encouraged us to take part in outdoor winter activities and become interested in natural conservation and understand its importance. At that time I just thought of it as fun, but now I understand it also helps to improve our physical and mental health – even a moderate level of activity has a positive effect.
In that way, I had a quality time with my oldest son last week and I gladly take you along. Talking about starting at an early age: Let me first show you what caught my eye – and really took me down memory lane – when we started our ski trip from the local clubhouse:
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If not born with skies on, Norwegians learn to ski at an early age :- )
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This scene brought back childhood memories and since I now struggle a bit with my Parkinson’s disease, I was so happy to experience that I had learn the basics from when I was a child too!

Fighting Parkinson’s on skies:
I would like to start the story of our ski trip with the most important result: The recreational part – to improve my physical and mental health. On a beautiful sunny day with fresh, crisp air, it was great to take a break at a lake after some kilometers up hill. With a snack I had in my pocket (an orange and two chocolate bars), we sat down for a rest and a nice chat. The view was breathtaking and I am glad I can share it with you as my Nokia Mobile phone is capable of capturing it all in panoramic mode:
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Around 11AM and the sun is low on the horizon since it’s winter time – the darkest time of the year (6 hours duration in Oslo, Norway). If this isn’t wonderful scenery and an atmosphere to charge your batteries – then I don’t know what is!

Like I said: I was glad I still had the basic ski skills from childhood. It’s two years since I was last on skis when I got the diagnoses Parkinson’s – in addition to that I had a knee replacement about four months ago – so I have to admit my form has been better : -) But you can compensate quite a bit for being in shape if you have good technique, both on flat areas, up hills and especially down hills in (almost *LoL*) full speed:
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Skiing: The most wonderful outdoors recreation I can think of : -)
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The impact of Parkinson’s however feels like driving with the parking brakes on: Picture yourself driving like that and the wire from the parking brake is your body muscles – and they are stiff and tight as guitar strings. The effect of your engine, even on full speed, is relatively small and you have to use quite a lot of fuel to get going.
Let me add; it was my physiotherapist, who trains me 3 times a week, who came up with the idea. He is very supportive and focuses on my mental training as well. We often talk about getting me out of the role of patient and believe me: it worked on this ski trip!

Anyhow; it was a wonderful trip, and an outdoor adventure and I wouldn’t be without for anything in the world. Despite the struggle, I proved to myself that even if I have an uninvited “guest” (Mr. Parkinson) in my body; I am in charge and capable of doing the things that I like. I can still enjoy outdoor life, nature and improve my physical and mental health – and even better: to share these adventures and magic moments with my son!