28 December 2010

Jana kahaan tha, pahunch gaye kahan!

We had about half a day in Åndalsnes and the visitor center had several leaflets outlining the best hiking trails through the Romsdalen Alps, a string of mountains enveloping Åndalsnes. It seems there are 200 hiking trails there, unfortunately not very well marked! I guess Finland had spoilt me as in Rukka the variants of the trails were so well marked.

The peak we wanted to climb!There was a “city peak” …the Nesaksla (715m above sea level) which starts in the center of town and has spectacular views over the Romsdals fjord and is supposed to peak after only one hour hiking. As I looked up to the peak, I was like this is going to be very steep since they say it peaks quite fast. I was a little hesitant, but my friend was we’ll go till we can. This is a picture of the peak we climbed…or at least attempted to climb!!!

Norway 730Every time we go for hikes or in the forests my friend is is looking for trees to climb on. We jokingly call her ‘Jane’. And this trail was her fantasy…we would stop every few minutes to climb trees. The blue berries on the way too kept us occupied. I think we would have easily eaten 1/2 kg each that day!

After about 2.5 hrs of trekking, the peak still didn’t seem to be in sight.  And the trail also didn’t seem very steep. An old couple with their son had crossed us on the way when we were on top of a tree.

When we caught up with them again, we asked how far till the trail finishes. Norway 761And he was like another 30 mins…but when we mentioned Nesaksla, he couldn’t stop his smile. We were on the wrong trail!!!!

We wanted to go to trail no 7….and we were on 8…not much difference in number but….:-)

We decided to return from there…while going we were so occupied climbing trees and eating berries that we didn’t keep any landmarks. So while returning there was this V and we didn’t know which way to go. And we had a train to catch at 4:00!!! We tried the right side…after few minutes I was like, this doesn’t seem to be where we came from. So back we went and started walking on the left side of the V. Again I felt that this was not where we came from!!!!

Confusion….when suddenly P noticed the orange mushroom that we had seen on the way. Whew…relief! But its so funny, when returning we just seemed to think that we hadn't crossed that place before…it looked different and we couldn’t seem to find many of the things that we had stopped to look at earlier….like my HIDEOUT!

As we returned I had no regret that we were on the were trail, we enjoyed this one quite a lot! And it wasn’t steep at all so we didn’t tire out also. And imagine if we had got lost on the steeper trail, going back and forth wouldn’t have been very nice when one has a train to catch!

So for once I was glad we lost our way!

23 December 2010

Trollstigen Mountain Road and Geirangerfjord- Norway

For search, I am a Google fan. But I definitely visit Bing once a day…to check out the beautiful home page. They do pick up the most tempting pictures!!! The Trollstigen Mountain Road was added to our Norway itinerary thanks to Bing…it had the most awesome picture, coincidentally when I was planning this trip!

Hurtigruten cruises are another very popular way to experience the Norway fjords. They have a several day cruise from Bergen in the South all the way up to Kirkenes in the North. Though we didn’t have the time (and money!) for that, there is an option to join the cruise for a day in between.

So the plan was to get from Molde to Geiranger via the Trollstigen, from where we could join the cruise and experience the Geirangerfjord, which is famous for ‘The seven sisters’ waterfalls and the fact that is is on UNESCO’s world heritage sites list. From there cruise goes to Ålesund and back to Molde.

Trollstigen Mountain RoadThe Molde tourism office runs a bus trip from Molde to Geiranger and you can get an all inclusive trip which would includes the Hurtigruten leg also. Purrrfect!

What is Trollstigen and what is so special about it. You have to see it to believe it… its steep…very steep with an incline of 9% and 11 hair pin bends up a mountain side!!! And encircling this are the mountains I mentioned earlier also -The King(Kongen), the Queen(Dronningen) and the Bishop(Bispen), now easier to recognize from the bus. The road winds all the way up to Stigrøra (858 metres above sea level).

At the top of the mountain, there is a viewpoint. On the way to the viewpoint and all over in Norway we noticed these piles of stone…(even in my earlier trip to Nordkapp I had noticed and wondered what they were). It seems that this is Local Graffiti….’WE WERE HERE!!!’. Honestly we didn’t make one of our own…there were already so many and some were really artistic!

Stigrøra We were there!

There is a wired mesh…strong one on which can walk above a gushing Stigfossen waterfall. As you stand on it and look below, it feels you are going to get swept with the water, Nice effect!

Children selling berriesFrom there the bus goes through Valldal, know as the strawberry village. Strawberry farms on both sides of the road and it was peak season so we caught many people picking strawberries. At several places, children were selling these fresh strawberries and cherries.

Children will be the same all over the world. They love getting their snap clicked, whether they get the snap in the end or not. So as I was about to click a snap of one boy selling the berries,  and suddenly a girl from the other site, just dumped her basket and came charging to get into the snap!

Geirangerfjord from Eagle RoadA wild river runs through the Valldal valley creating several nice waterfalls, many of which are next to the road, so that we could stop and see them close. Though small, the force of the water was too much and it’s a very quiet place, so that one can actually enjoy the sound of water.

We follow the Eagle road, which has the most awesome views of the Geirangerfjord before we reach Geiranger and get on to the Hurtigruten.

We had just settled down and the cruise people were announcing some names…when we said, “what if our names are announced?”. And next thing…’Ms Daxini and Ms Nurpuri….please report to the reception immediately!’.

:-) False alarm…they just wanted to give us the boarding cards.

The Seven Sisters Geirangerfjord

The Seven Sisters was a bit of a let down. It seemed not enough rainfall this year and so there were not the 7 distinguishable waterfalls. But the overall beauty of the fjord more than made up for it.

17 December 2010

Molde - Norway

Next destination – Molde …an overnight train journey from Bergen to Oslo and then another train journey from Oslo to Åndalsnes. The latter was divided into 2 parts…Oslo to Dombås, which was beautiful…as expected of Norway. But the Dombås to Åndalsnes journey on what is called the Rauma Railway was breathtakingly, mind-blowingly beautiful. Not only for the sights but also because it was like a guided tour with a recorded voice in the train pointing out sights and providing information. The train actually slows down at some places for us to enjoy the sights. So much so that we did same journey on the way back but there was no sense of boredom. As if that was not enough, they also handout these very pretty brochures with the highlights of the journey.

River RaumaDombås is at the highest point on the railway line so very soon into the journey we experienced such sheer mountain precipices. The River Rauma runs along the railway line and train crosses the river on quaint wooden,granite and stone bridges several times in order to cope with the huge change in altitude. At one place its like hair pin bends using both sides of the valley…now the river on your left and now on your right and me as usual jumping from one side to the other! The Kylling Bridge is quite spectacular in its height especially considering was built by the local people with only the help of bridge experts.

The whole line was quite impressive – especially the Stavem Turning Tunnel which is really an engineering feat. The train almost completes a circle inside the mountain within this1340 mt tunnel. Trolltindene It emerges out of the tunnel pointing in the other direction only 19 mts over the place from where it entered the tunnel!

And finally in the last leg of the journey…the impressive Troll peaks. Trolls are creatures from Norwegian fairy tales. Said to live in the forests and mountains, they are enormously large, ugly and stupid and turn to stone if they are exposed to sunlight. Trolltindene (Troll Peaks) are massive at 1800 mts above sea level and legend is that these are actually trolls that were turned to stone when caught in sunlight and so many of these peaks are named after Trolls. Bishop, King and QueenTrollveggen is next…Europe’s highest perpendicular mountain wall …total drop is 1800 mts and 1000 mts is a sheer precipice.

At Åndalsnes which is surrounded by peaks, we are asked to look for the Bishop, the Queen and the King! I honestly could not make out the King or Queen, though the Bishop was easily identifiable.

From there to Molde by bus - the town of Jazz and Roses. Guess we were visiting at the end of the season, so we didn't see as many Roses blooming everywhere as expected. But we did see the famous Rose Maiden – a bronze statue of a girl with a basket of roses!

The town itself was quite beautiful and we decided to just walk around using the map which showed 2 trails to follow to cover the sites of the town. Eating berries, playing on swings and posing among roses, we finally reached the Romsdal Open Museum…even though it was past closing hours a gentlemen said we were welcome to explore around inside!!!

Molde Panaroma Molde Panaroma
From there we climbed up to the Varden…initially we couldn’t find the way to go up, and nearly decided to give up…but eventually we went and it was so worth it  - the Molde panorama was awesome.What Glee! There are 222 mountain peaks in this panaroma…and using this map like thing one can point to and see each one. 

As we returned to town we saw this really nice statue. The sculptor had captured the glee on the child’s face so well. From there to the pier where I felt one can see one of the best  panorama-views in Norway… a large bay with hundreds of high mountains and various islands.

To end our day was ‘an eat all you can Pizza time’. Because we ordered vegetarian and I guess we were the only ones…so we didn’t get slices…just one HUGE pizza. We were so wrong when we thought we wouldn’t be able to finish even half. That’s what fresh, mountain air does to you…we cleaned it all up!

05 December 2010

Swami and Friends

An adaptation of R.K. Narayan’s Swami and Friends – I knew I had to go for this. I know not one Indian who is not a fan of Swami made particularly famous by the DD serial ‘Malgudi Days’. I can hear many of you humming ’taa na na nana ta na’

The brochure said…’faithful to the novel but adapted and directed with a fresh perspective’. I would so agree with that for this one time many will come out as fans of Mani.

Mani, with his curly hair and idiotic smile just stole the show. As the ‘sutradhar’, when he was telling the anecdotes to Rajam, the faraway, dreamy look in his eyes was so natural.

“What is the holy trinity?” Swami’s ‘Vishnu, Brahma and Shive’ bought out laughs in the audience, but Mani’s ‘Swami, Rajam and Mani’ along with that idiotic laugh, had the audience roaring.

This is not to say that Swami was not good. The helplessness and ‘I can’t understand the logic of the Arithmetic teacher’ came out brilliantly.

For the history teacher all I can say is my biggest regret is why I didn’t have him as my teacher - with his enacting classed would have been very interesting!!!

A well spent Saturday evening!

03 December 2010

Our Destiny, Life and Prayers

From Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Overall, an OK book, a one time read. But there were these 2 or 3 bits that I just loved …Simple words…but so profound.

Coincidentally, all are from the Pray section of the book….surprising because I wear this badge of being a very unspiritual person!!!


Better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody’s life with perfection. So now I have started living  my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly.

God dwells within you as you yourself, exactly the way you are. God isn't interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some notion….


Richard found himself praying all the time. His prayer was always the same. He kept begging God, “Please, please, please open my heart.” That was all he wanted – an open heart. And he would always finish the prayer for an open heart by asking God, “And please send me a sign when the event has occurred.” After a few months of praying constantly for an open heart, what do you think Richard got?That’s right – emergency open-heart surgery. His chest was literally cracked open, his ribs cleaved away from each other to allow some daylight to finally reach into his heart, as though God were saying, “How’s that for a sign?” So now Richard is always cautious with his prayers, he tells me. “Whenever I pray for anything these days, I always wrap it up by saying, ‘Oh, and God? Please be gentle with me, OK?”

Of course God already knows what I need. The question is – do I know? Casting yourself at God’s feet in helpless desperation is all well and good – heaven knows, I’ve done it myself plenty of times – but ultimately you're likely to get more out of the experience  if you can take some action on your end. There’s a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint – please, please, please ….give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son – please, please, please…buy a ticket

01 December 2010

A Wedding Album

Maybe it would be unfair if I said that this play didn't meet my expectations, probably because  I had recently seen Miss Meena - a creative masterpiece and this set the benchmark quite high.

Moreover, just by virtue of it being a Girish Karnad play, directed by Lillete Dubey, boasting a star cast with Lillete Dubey, Ira Dubey, Suchitra Pillai, Utkarsh Mazumdar, Amar Talwar one really has some high expectations.

The acting was brilliant – no doubts about that. Guess the story line was not very intelligent and that’s why we didn't see  any of the expected sharp and witty humor one associates with Girish Karnad. In fact I think the story was more appropriate for a  B-class Bollywood movie than a play with such a brilliant cast!

It reminded me of one of those Govinda-Karisma Kapoor movies, which were a rage in the 90s. There were several of them, but I am sure no one remembers which one was which. There will definitely be confusions on which scene / dialog / song was in which movie. The movie made you laugh for a bit, but nothing that stayed with you for even a minute after the movie was over.

The theme is how the traditional Indian Wedding has changed in today's globalized, technologically advanced world…a subject which maybe could have been handled more innovatively. But the characters where stereotypes.

So we have this EDUCATED, LIBERAL, MODERN urban middle-class family – an elder daughter who lives abroad with her professional husband, a son who is a software designer BUT the younger daughter is willing to marry a suitable boy from the US whom she has never met. The play starts with the brother making a video of his younger sister to showcase her to the prospective groom. Not theatre material…I say… Bollywood material!

But not to take everything from the play …it does have some charming moments and witty dialogues. Utkarsh Mazumdar was brilliant – his portrayal as Appa who still lives in the past had everyone laughing, especially when he would repeat the dialog about ‘had his brother been alive…’

The prospective groom from the United States (not sure of his name) was super….his American twang was just out of the world. His talk, his body language, accent… everything was just so USA returned!

Maybe if the play stayed in this one theme, it would have done better…but me no expert. This is just my personal view, but the play tried to raise too many questions and in the end leaving some of them unanswered…as in what was with the dead uncle. And the most ominous one…did she find happiness getting married to that obnoxious creature or as advised by her siblings..that if things didn't work out, she could always come back, did she return?

30 November 2010


Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.

An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.

     ~Will Rogers

29 November 2010


We reached Bergen quite late in the evening and were trying to find our way about and asked directions from this really sweet Chinese girl. She offered to show us the correct bus stop and we started chatting, asking her what according to her as a local (she was born there), are the must see sights in Bergen etc. She just hoped for us that the weather would hold up…then quizzically looked at us…’You have heard about the Bergen weather, haven't you?’.

Few conversations later with locals and guides, and we come to know about the famous (or should I say infamous?) Bergen weather. Bergen gets an average of 80 inches of rain per year and boasts only 60 days of sunshine in a good year. Typical days are the ones with an all-day downpour!!! In fact there is a famous saying in this part of the world… “There’s no such thing as bad weather – just inappropriate clothing.” And we were inappropriately dressed…no umbrellas, no rain jackets!!!

Bryggen Small wooden houses characterize this city and the no 1 touristy thing to do is visit the part of the city called Old Bergen.  So that is where we headed the next morning. Old Bergen has been reconstructed along the harbor with wooden houses from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Dating back almost 900 years, these old wooden buildings along the harbor front in Bergen are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

A short walk and we reached Bryggen’s Museum. They have a 90 minutes guided walk that starts at the Bryggen’s Museum, then walks through Bryggen and ends at the Hanseatic Museum.

The guide was very informative but what we realized here is that unlike some other places where the guides tend to have a great sense of humor and make the guided tour very interesting with anecdotes and just some off the top of their head comments and have you giggling all the time, here they take their guiding very, very seriously. It was like one big monotone. I wouldn't say he had mugged it all up and didn't have any knowledge apart from his script because he was able to answer all the questions that we asked.

Viking ShipViking land…it finally hit me as I saw a huge Viking Ship the moment we entered the display section of this museum. Bryggen’s Museum has been built on the site of the archeological excavations or the remains of the first settlement at Bryggen. The oldest buildings are from the 12th century, and the various finds have been left in the ground where they were found by the archaeologists. Bergen has been ravaged by fires and they have used the layers of housing to determine the age of the buildings. in spite of many fires over the centuries, Bergen still has one of the largest collections of wooden dwellings in Europe. 

Interesting Metallurgy! On our way out, saw this interesting Metallurgy on the wall of the museum. Looking closely one realized that they were Viking Ships.

The wooden buildings in Bryggen are in the form of double tenements (row houses) which are very colorful and tall but at the same time very  narrow and lean haphazardly across the narrow cobblestone streets and planked walkways. They have nice pulley systems to pull the stuff up to the top floor.The  narrow lanes and by-lanes dotted with quaint little shops and workshops in this area means its quite easy to go around in circles. Tenements But the beauty is that every time, you end up peeking inside some other shop so it looks like you are in that lane for the 1st time! We did see one very interesting building…it had been partly reclaimed. So one half is higher than the other!

The Hanseatic Museum shows how the German merchants from The Hanseatic League lived and worked and is the only house on Bryggen which has kept its original interior. Quite an interesting (but stinky) museum, with it’s piles of dried Salmon!!! The way they utilized space….narrow beds in a small cupboard like enclosure…made me wonder…were they slaves? But what I liked most here were the beautiful water color paintings.

Dried Salmon in Hanseatic Museum Paintings in Hanseatic Museum

Now on our own to discover some more of the city, we were walking around when I noticed that the drain holes were quite decorative and interesting.Norway 305 Later in Oslo we were told that the ones there show the Saint of Oslo.  Not sure what the one in Bergen represents though. We did manage to attract quite a few smiles as we tried to get a shots of ourselves against a backdrop of Bryggen from across the street– we wanted to remove our sweaters and jackets and we didn’t want any vehicles in the background…so wait, wait, wait for the prefect shots!

Walked through the next most important place in Bergen - The Fish Market, though I guess we weren't in any mood for shopping so we just  walked right across to the ‘Baguette Place’, where my friend got such an interesting one done…that the guy behind the counter commented…This is the 1st time I made something like this!!!

Enough of aimless walking, we decided to go for a City Walking Tour. It starts at the Tourist Information Center- which is also known as the Fresco Hall for its beautiful frescoes which are now recognized as a national treasure. The 3 walls have 3 different themes – as you enter the wall on your left is the North Country Wall representing fishing near Lofoten in North-Norway, the wall in front is the The Bergen Wall which shows the heavily loaded vessels arriving at the Bergen harbor and their trade to the world market, and the wall to your right is the The World Wall, showing man's importance in the busy machine age. Interesting information, which I wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't pointed it out. But what really made this walk worth it was the walk  through these narrow staircase like pathways between the houses. I don't think we would have ventured there on our own! Or even known that those ways existed. All along she gave us interesting facts about Bergen. Like the city is built on seven mountains and straddles seven fjords.

Norway 416 At the end of this walk we had planned to go up to Mount Floyen. The only difference we had was…should we walk it or should we catch the Funicular or the Floybanen. There were numerous paths through beautiful woodland terrain to reach the top, but I just didn't have the energy. So finally we decided…we take the Floybanen up and come down walking. In hindsight, I would say that it was a brilliant decision. The views as we went up the funicular were magnificent.  And it gave is time to explore the woods at the top. There were several walks and we decided to take the one which goes to a lake. It was a beautiful walk but soon it started drizzling and as we were returning fog enveloped us. Norway 424I was in 2 minds, maybe we should take the funicular back. But P was hell bent…she wanted to trek down and so off we went, with me nervous like anything….I know its not like India where we don't have railings etc. And I possibly couldn't fall off the cliff. But I was worried that we would get lost. But I should have rest assured because as we were walking down we saw so many locals. This was a normal route for them, something they probably take everyday to and fro from work, school etc.

Tired feet…but still craving to see more of this beautiful town. Compromise…we see the sights as we walk towards the railway station. We had only a day here, but to others I would recommend at least 2 days here.

26 November 2010

Norway In A Nutshell

Norway FjordsDuring the initial planning for Scandinavia visits, we started with Copenhagen in Denmark, Norway, Stockholm and Helsinki. As the costs started escalating slowly, slowly we started dropping off places. Helsinki went first, then Denmark. One of things that made us sure that Norway wont be the one that will not go off the list was the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ trip. The description, pictures and videos had us totally floored.

This trip is like one of those hop on, hop off tourist buses…expect its not just a bus. But various modes of transport – train, boat and bus rides are used as one moves from Oslo in the South East to Bergen in the South West. The trip traverses through beautiful and ever changing landscape and one gets to see  some of the most spectacular fjords, breathtaking waterfalls and also get a taste of human achievement when the bus takes the Stalheimskleiva road

Norway Scenery!The trip starts at 8:00 AM from Oslo…so packed breakfast munched at the bus stop as we rushed to the railway station to start the first leg of the journey on ‘The Bergen Railway’ from Oslo to Myrdal.  

The journey is  about 5 hrs over Europe’s largest mountain plateau and quite a bit runs through harsh mountain terrain….but one doesn’t tire staring out of the window to catch the panorama of spectacular scenery with the waterfalls and greenery! No wonder that this ride has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys. 2nd week of August is nearly the end of the tourist season so we were lucky, the train wasn’t very crowded. And so like a little kid I would hop from one side to the other, from back of the coach to the front, to shoot picturesque memories. I just couldn't get enough - I have 172 snaps from only this one day!

At Myrdal...waiting for the FlamAll the pamphlets said…glorious views of the snow-capped fjords and glaciers. But by beginning of August most of the snow has melted, leaving my friend a bit disappointed as she kept waiting for the snow capped mountains to appear!!!

As we got off the train in Myrdal, there was a distinct chill in the air. Since there was lots of changes in transport and we didn't want to be lugging around a lot of luggage, we had decided to leave a major part of our luggage in Oslo.Fjords!!! But I don't know why, I had carried a sweater, shawl, cap and a thin jacket. So on came the sweater, shawl, cap…while my friend had a double layer of jackets on as we waited at the Railway Station for the next leg of the journey – from Myrdal to Flåm on the famous local Flåm Railway, a beautiful 1 hour journey.

Considered a masterpiece of engineering, the Flåm Train glides through tunnels and open stretches on its way down to wild Flam valley. The mountains were mighty impressive…really huge and with these hundreds of waterfalls, many of which were not very voluminous but their depth was amazing. A long, long trickle, that falls over these gigantic mountains.

A Trickle And a thunder

Though there was this one thundering waterfall where the train stops to let you enjoy the waterfall. As we were just soaking in the beauty, we heard surreal music.Fairy??? I was looking around to see if some person had some kind of a music system, when suddenly everyone was pointing at the rocks just next to the waterfall. A lady in red was dancing on the rocks. Suddenly she disappeared and reappeared at another higher place!!!Actually that was another one. They did this beautiful duet between them, when one would go down another would come up and take over from where she left.  It was so smooth, and gave the intended effect, of a fairy flying about!!!

I was just so impressed with this idea. Why couldn't we in India do something like this. Imagine…Jog Falls and a lady doing some Bharat Natyam close by. It would be awesome!!! But if wishes were horses….

SpectacularA short stop at Flåm and off we were on a 2 hr Fjord cruise to Gudvangen. There were these plastic chairs that you take and put them on the deck where you want to sit. We did get 2 chairs and placed them right in front of the cruise boat, but didn't sit for even  a second.  There is just no way to describe this journey. A fjord is described as narrow deep inlets of the sea set between high rocky cliffs…high rocky cliffs doesn't even sound half as impressive as they are. They were massive and the water just kept changing colors.

Deep BlueThe  place that we had made for a wonderful place to pose and get pictures. We were constantly being requested to take photos for people and soon we were joking around and demanding 10 bucks!!! Our joviality, though had a side effect when one Russian fellow got after my friend and kept on chewing her brains. He insisted that she try a sip of his Russian Vodka…that also neat, that he had been sipping constantly from a coke bottle. Normal circumstances I would have walked away from him. But our spot was perfect…gave us spellbinding views of the fjords as the boat cruised along, so much so that I decide to just tolerate him!

Solitary....The boat goes from Sognefjord into the Naeroyfjord, which is one of the narrowest fjords in Europe, surrounded by mighty mountains of up to 1800 meters. Often the boat would move closer to the shore and slow down to give us closer views of the waterfalls or scenery. We even managed to see some seals! And some solitary homes at the top of the mountains!!!

At Gudvangen we disembarked to continue our journey by bus through a mountainous valley to Voss. Here we noticed in the Norwegian landscape, houses with grass on the roofs. It seems, this not only keeps the houses warm, but is a good alternative to the tiles. Hairpin BendsThe last bit of the bus ride is on the Stalheimskleiva road, where the driver zoomed down the twists and turns to cover 13 hairpin bends! It was quite steep and a bit scary…actually quite a bit of an adventure. It wouldn't do justice to our reputation if we Indians got scared on a bus… after all we have experience with the Calcutta Taxi and Kerala Red Bus Drivers!

It is absolutely essential to experience the amazing Norway in a Nutshell as it leaves you completely dazzled. And my friend wasn't exaggerating when she said that Norway is a beautiful picture perfect country.

18 November 2010

Oslo or Jullandhar!

Norway finally!!! It seemed at one point that it wasn't happening…several plans with different groups of friends just wouldn’t materialize. The worst was the plan cancelled by 2 of my friends because of the volcano in Iceland and the subsequent disruption in air traffic. We had done just so much r & d on the net.
Luckily all the research didn’t go waste when suddenly one day quite close to my return from Finland, one of my friends decided she was coming to Scandinavia.

Her tickets were blocked, we were awaiting the visa when suddenly we had another scare. My company nearly cancelled my leave! But I managed to convince them by cutting short the trip by 2 days and deciding to visit only Norway and give Stockholm and Helsinki a miss.

But I guess there were still more surprises in store. All train tickets, hostels and guided trips booked, we were getting all excited when for some reason I revisited the bookings. And thank god for that -  my friend had by mistake booked all hostels for 2011 instead of 2010!!! I had a strong feeling we wouldn’t get hostel bookings for 2010 Norwaegian Airlines!since we were making bookings too close to the dates, but fortunately I was proved wrong….and am I glad. Most of the hostels changed the dates and only in one place we had to book another hotel.

So finally after our share of adventure we landed in Oslo. Though initially Norway beckoned because of its natural beauty and fjords, I was sure we were in for a lot of culture too. It was evident from the tails of the Norwegian airlines planes!

Luckily there was a direct bus from the airport (nearly 50 kms from Oslo city) that left us quite close to the youth hostel. Norway Otherwise living up to its reputation as the most expensive city in the world it would have cost us a bomb to take a cab!

If I had to describe Norway in just one word, it wouldn’t be that difficult. There is just beauty everywhere. Even the ride from the airport to the city was beautiful. I wondered, do they have any industries and polluting factories?

Wenche FossMy friend had reached a couple of hours earlier than me and so she had already left for city center when I reached. She has picked up some of the tourist books and maps…1st glance…this place has soooooooooooooooooooo many museums! There are 50 museums and galleries in Oslo itself!!! We marked what we wanted to cover and immediately took off exploring Oslo.

I saw this beautiful statue outside the Opera House. It is another statue of the playwright Henrik Ibsen that is more famous and visited by tourists, but I personally feel that she deserves more recognition when I heard about her. Her name is Wenche Foss, an actress who had a child with Down’s syndrome. At a time when people hid about their differentially abled children , she openly took him out and felt no shame. ChurchShe was also diagnosed with cancer and felt no embarrassment in being photographed bald. She is also the mother of the Oslo Mayor!

The square outside the National theater was like in most cities with live singing by 2 ladies and jugglers etc.

From there we moved to Holmenkollen, the ski jump arena and museum, which honestly was a let down given the amount of publicity it gets. Its in the top 10 attractions in Oslo, though I beg to differ. Infact I preferred the cute wooden church close by, even though it was closed and we couldn’t go inside.

Norway 053Back to Oslo city center, where we heard there was some Mela! Artists from all over the world would be performing that weekend. As  we moved towards our destination, we were shocked to see many, many Indians. It was like every 2nd person is an Indian. As we reached the Town Hall, we realized that day there were Indian and Pakistani artists performing and so the crowd of Asians. And then there were the stalls of Jalebis, Samosas, Kababs etc. It was like we  were in Jullandhar and not Oslo. I was starved of India…I had been in Finland for last 6 months, so was totally excited at seeing all that jhim jham. My friend was like…I want to see Oslo, not India!

And true Indian Mela Istyle, one could get ones picture taken outside the Taj Mahal or standing alongside a jazzed up truck straight from Pakistan!

Norway 050Norway 056

17 November 2010

Calvin’s Serenity Prayer

The strength to change what I can,
The inability to accept what I can't,
And the incapacity to tell the difference.

Some of us prefer it to the original…which goes like…

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

16 November 2010

The Guinness record for Talking goes to…

This post is a request…I had mentioned to my friend that a certain gentleman was BLOG MATERIAL and then somehow didn’t get down to writing the blog. She reminded me…it appears to me that she is following my blog and has been eagerly waiting for this post. (Well..SJ if you read this, you better leave behind a comment as this one is for you!)

On a recent trip to Chennai, my friend and I were forced to share a cab with a gentleman from our office. Our manager mentioned as we were leaving…’he’s a real nice fellow…but talks a lot’. That from him should have warned us…as he himself talks non stop and nineteen to a dozen!!!

We had barely settled in the cab that he started firing questions at us. In about 1 KM i.e to someone who knows the route, I would mention till we reached from our office to the main DLF Park gate, he had gathered from us how long we had been working with QA team, which project we were in now, how long we had been with Logica, how long in Bangalore, how long in Chennai etc etc.

Without even catching his breath, he moved to the next topic. It must be appreciated that he was NEVER, not even for a second at a loss for a topic to converse on.

Where do I stay in Bangalore, is it my own house or rented. As I mentioned ITPL, he asked if my husband works in ITPL. The moment I said happily unamarried, his brain started working double time. Calculations…and as he started asking more questions on my experience I could feel he is trying to calculate my age. I saved him the trouble and told him my age. I couldn’t see his face but am sure his jaw dropped. But still that didn’t stop him from blabbering away. He was like ‘Look at the girls these days. And then he started telling us about another colleague of ours, who was also not married, saying that she says ‘ she is happy like this and doesn’t want to get married’. The saving grace was that SJ is married! I wonder what would have happened if SJ also said she was unmarried!

But she wasn’t to be spared either. She was hungry and this gentleman decided that the next topic of discussion would be food!!! It all started with where I was staying in Chennai?  I was in a guest house and this place serves only vegetarian food and that was why he hated it when he was made to stay there the last time he was in Chennai. He was like “I need at least 15 non veg items on my plate when I am here in Chennai…chicken, muuton, fish…’. Had we been to XYZ restaurant (cant remember the name now)?” As we said no, he made it sound as if we had missed out on life itself. “What a place, so much food, chicken, mutton, gravy. He was like, I have told admin, I will stay only in the hotel. No guest house for me.”

The excitement in his words was infectious. SJ was like…should we go and have food there now?

Then he went on to describe the previous evening. He went to some bar and restaurant near his place…he refused to tell the name of this place as he began his anecdote. Not that he gave us a chance after that to ask him once again the name of the place!!! It seems with the beer the waiter came with…not one BUT 4 BIG bowls of snacks…and free!!! There was chips, peanuts, mixture…he ate and drank and ate and drank.

By now SJ’s stomach was growling and growling. She wanted to know if we could get anything to eat at the guest house. I was like I can ask the caretaker to make some idlis. That was it. Our conversation…

Him: for dinner?

Me: no snacks. (actually I could have Idlis for dinner but he made it sound as if we were crazy)

Him: At this time? (It was 7:00). If you have snacks now, when will you have dinner. What time do you have your dinner, what time do you have lunch? What time do you have breakfast?

Without even giving us a chance to speak, he was like…looks like you all eat the whole day long!

These are just some of the discussions we had that evening. But believe me, he didn’t pause for even a second in the whole 1.5 hrs journey. So much so that by the end of it, SJ decided that we would get off and take an auto.

There was one more person from his team in the car who was to get off in town and where SJ and I decided to get off also. And as all 3 of us got off, you could hear the disappointment in his voice…all 3 of you are getting off.

We smiled and nodded and at least SJ and I thought…poor driver, he’s in for it now!

I talk a LOT! So does SJ! And definitely our manager too. Well, he talks more than the 3 of us put together!!!

26 October 2010

Growing old…gracefully?

Norway 707As we got off the cruise ship at Molde, a lady caught both my friends and my eye. At the risk of sounding ageist…she was, I would say, a senior citizen…maybe in her seventies.

Enchantingly dressed…what with matching shoes, bag, hat and  chunky jewelry.  A designer haircut – top half of her hair were naturally grey, she seemed to have dyed the lower part a black!

I would say… dressed to kill.  

My ideal…that's how I would like to age. It reminded me of a poem that a friend forwarded some time back.

Warning – Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

19 October 2010

Quotable Quote!

"Better to get a sore neck from aiming too high than a hunch back from aiming too low”


18 October 2010

Miss Meena

Finland was fun…a lot of fun, but one thing I really missed about Bangalore was the theatre scene especially Rangashankara. I returned and was dying to catch a play…it didn't help that Rangashankara was closed for 2 weeks for maintenance and renovation.
Finally, Miss Meena was playing one weekend. I hadn’t heard about the group before but it sounded good. Couldn't find any company to join me, so heights of desperation…I decided to go alone and that also the evening show. It was so worth it.

Miss Meena‘s script is loosely based on ‘The Visit’ by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The tagline was "A Play In English and a Smattering of Other Languages". Only it wasn’t just a smattering. There was some Hindi, wee bit of Kannada and a bit too much Tamil for my liking and understanding.It was a bit irritating, but the play was so brilliantly creative that I would still recommend it to people who don’t speak Hindi, Tamil or Kannada.

The plot revolves around a film star Miss Meena (earlier Asha), who is returning to her native village Pichampuram after two decades. In the meantime Pichampuram has descended into a state of dire poverty. The play opens with the villagers hoping that Meena will rescue her village. The onus is put by the villagers on Ravi to plead their case since they had something going many years back and she must still have some feelings for him.

Ms. Meena arrives …and that was the 1st glimpse of creativity. So we have this group of people singing a song (Miss Meena, Miss Meena, avala pere Miss Meena) and it suddenly they converge into a circle in the centre of the stage. The lights dim a bit, but its not totally dark. The circle opens up to give us our first glimpse of Miss Meena who has apparated in the middle of that from god alone knows where. How the hell she reached there…I still haven't been able to figure out.

Miss Meena agrees to help the village…in totally filmi style she announces that she will make her final film here and that would boost the village as many people will visit it in her remembrance and to pay homage to her. The film will also star the villagers. But in return for that…she wants the life of Ravi. It seems he had dumped her…and as they say - ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’

And suddenly from the sweet Meena….she transforms to the bitter. Throughout the act  effortlessly she reflects the pose-for-the-camera-sweetness and underlying bitterness.

What I liked best about the whole act was the creativity that shone in the usage of the props…simple props like iron bucket, brooms (the big bamboo ones used to sweep fields etc), winnowing baskets and other handicrafts, a roll of bubble wrap were used in such inventive ways.

I was just wondering what they are trying to achieve when the broom handle was used to suddenly lift the bubble wrap to a height…it was a waterfall! Complete with round winnowing baskets placed as stones to walk on!

A bucket and table frame turned into a cow….and believe me it looked really good. During the shooting of the film, a bicycle pump is used as a microphone, a broom and a churner used to create a boom microphone, and a bucket on stick represents a camera.

The bus scene was amazingly hilarious. A winnowing basket became the steering wheel, the brooms the handrails, the table frame the frame of the bus…this complete with the the slow-motion of the people moving backwards and forwards had the audience roaring.

But the most inventive was when right there in front of us, the cast constructed a statue of Ganesha using the brooms for this ears, sun glasses for his eyes, a length of red fabric(which was elsewhere used to represent a garland) his trunk…it was a very recognizable Ganesha!

Another interesting aspect of  the play was the spoof on films and the parodies on movie clichés. So whether it was the rendition of a film climax with the gunfire and screaming or the ‘baaap ki beti’ sequence, they sure were a hit with the crowd. The father in the sequence is a cripple, and the way the actor enacted the crippling walk was hilarious.

And finally, a brilliant cast makes the play a must watch. Not only did they play multiple roles to perfection, but they way the enacted insects and winged moths accompanied with oral percussion was brilliant.

07 October 2010


Almost half of 2010’s July in Oulu has been classified as ‘helle’. Helle is used to refer to temperatures above 25 degrees!!! All days in Summers in all cities in India by these standards would be Helle.

Trust my luck – the year I go, Finland has the most severe winter in 40 years followed by a Hot Summer as Oulu temperatures broke records with the officially recorded highest temperature of 33 degrees.

33 is not that hot, but with no fans and AC, a top floor house and blinds needed to block the sun in the middle of the night, it can be Hell!

06 October 2010


One Summer weekend I decide to visit Turkansaari, the open air museum in Oulu. There was a guided tour conducted by GoArctic,  at a price of 40 € (incl. lunch) - traditional tar boats with the help of engines would be used to follow the old route of tar transporters in Oulujoki river to the Turkansaari museum area.

The other option was to take a bus (free as I had a pass) and an entrance fee of only 3€. Somehow a ride in a tar boat on the hot summer day didn’t excite me that much that I would want to spend 40 € so I decided to go for the 2nd option.

So off I was on the Sunday morning …30 mins later as the bus left the city The lonely waythe apprehensions and doubts on my decision started haunting me. The linjakas site showed that the walk from the bus stop to the museum was 2 kms. I assumed that there would be something like a city with people all around whom I could ask for directions etc…but the bus had got on to a highway kind of road and there was not a soul in sight. Vast endless green grassy fields with a house here and there!!! No cars also on the road. That's a picture of the road I walked!

Attacked hereI had asked the bus driver to let me know when my stop came…as I got off he smiled and with a look of disbelief said you are joking that you haven't been here before. You know your way around here, right? I didn't know what to say.

Got off the bus and looked around me in disbelief…I was like in the middle of nowhere! I nearly thought of running after the bus and trying to get on to it again!  Then I thought, what the heck…let me see. Otherwise after 1 hr another bus will come across the road on the way back to city and I will get onto that. 

Forest!Luckily there were some road signs for Turkansaari.  But they didn't really help in addressing my apprehensions….as soon I found myself on a narrow road with forest on both sides.

And then I was ATTACKED….by mosquitoes. It was impossible for me to walk. I was soon hopping, jumping, skipping and smacking myself trying to ward off the mosquitoes. I am sure I must have looked a funny  sight. It was so bad that when I finally reached the museum car park I approached 2 total strangers for the mosquito repellent they were using!

Turkansaari was an important market and fishing place  as early as the 15th century. The islet in the valley of the river Oulujoki is now what is called an open air museum (its been there since 1922!). 

Open air museum – the  old ways of life: farming, cattle-farming, fishing, logging,
timber floating and tar burning are replicated as is. So there are huts and farms as they would have existed in the 1500s. The traditional tar boats and tar pits can also be seen here. I really enjoyed the whole concept …made a museum so much more interesting. Instead of being in one closed building its like walking in a small ancient village!

The pictures say it all. The ancient Coffee machine is really pretty

A farm Cooking
A small Hut Coffee!!!
Tar Boat Inside the house

The Old Lutheran Church from the year 1694 is was restored here and still is functional. There is a service every Sunday and I was lucky enough to attend it. I really enjoyed the service…even though it was in Finnish! ChurchSaw some similarities with a Gurudwara. One man came around collecting some money in a hat and then the priest said a little prayer over the collections, blessing all the people who had made those contributions…..like we give money to the priest or giani in the Gurudwara and ask him to say a little prayer for us. Then often they would stand and the priest would say a prayer and they would sit again.

The church itself was very quaint and nice.  No idol of Jesus but Jesus was represented as a fish!

Good experience…leaving me a fan of open air museums.