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June 4, 2010

Beautiful Bergen

On a press trip to Norway, I left Landrick today at 05.30 and was relieved to reach Aberdeen airport (Dyce) by 07.30, well ahead of our 08.15 rendez-vous: thank goodness for satnav. The rest of the group was three journalists plus organiser Stan, none of whom I'd met before.

We went straight from Bergen airport to Edvard and Nina Grieg's house at Troldhaugen. Grieg's Scottish connections are rich: his great-grandfather, Alexander Greig, came from Cairnbulg (near Fraserburgh) and his godmother lived near Stirling. Greig was a Jacobite supporter who travelled widely post-Culloden, finally settling in Norway about 1770, and changing his surname to Grieg. Edvard Grieg lived at Troldhaugen from 1885 until his death in 1907, aged 64, but Nina stayed on here until 1919. We also visited the wonderfully situated hut where he retreated from company in the house to compose in peace, overlooking the fjord.

GriegsHouse.jpg

The house is fascinating, full of personal belongings, photographs and presents. Nina was Edvard's first cousin, and a hard-working lyric soprano. Edvard considered her the finest performer of his songs, and they often shared a platform at concerts. Among its contents is his piano, still played regularly in concerts:

GriegsPiano.jpg

After a short drive, we reached Bergen, a city that grew from the Hanseatic port of Bryggen. Its carefully conserved waterfront has barely changed since the last great fire of 1702 (except for the prudent addition of sprinklers). We wandered around the wharf, now a Unesco World Heritage Site, among timber buildings and overhanging galleries of great character. This wonderful image from Bergen Tourist Board/Willy Haraldsen gives you an idea of its timeless beauty:

BergenSunset.jpg

June 5, 2010

The Arctic Circle is closer than you think

I had always though of the Arctic as impossibly remote, but this press trip has cured me. I had driven to Aberdeen for the Bergen flight, but after 26 June I could have flown direct from Edinburgh in a couple of hours. And from Bergen to Tromso¸ takes less than 2.5 hours, although it's over 750 miles and the planes are not jets, but twin props.

On Saturday morning, we left Bergen dead on time by Wideroe Dash 8 at 09.00. The pilot kindly pointed out the towns and features we were overflying, but failed to mention the Arctic Circle, which we must have crossed before 11. Anyway, we were in Tromso¸ airport, baggage collected, by 11.30 and the SAS bus whisked us to the city centre within 10-15 minutes. One of the joys of air travel in Norway is the short transfers from airport to city centre. Another is the quality of the scenery. Flying feels like fun again.

After a cablecar trip to a fine lunch at the Fjellheisen restaurant, we enjoyed the panorama over Tromsø with its elegant bridge. Most of the city, including the airport, is on the island, but its "Arctic Cathedral" is on the mainland, here at lower right:

TromsOverview.jpg

After lunch we visited the Polar Museum, the Norwegian Polar Institute and Polaria. The latter is a fine interactive museum full of portholes at knee height for toddlers. Although I enjoyed most of the exhibits, my heart was stolen by the delightful bearded seals:

beardedSeal.jpg

And after a fairly long day, it was fabulous to walk across a Tromsø bridge to the "Arctic Cathedral" for a Midnight Concert. This superb building hosts well-judged short concerts at 11.30 pm through the season. Ours was performed by four young musicians on trumpet, cello, organ/piano and soprano. The programme embraced not only Grieg but also Bach (cello solo), Nielsen and a traditional Sami joik. It concluded with Fields of Gold sung in English. IMO the late Eva Cassidy sang it better than Sting, but this young soprano's performance was something else. The surroundings were sublime, the musicians talented and committed, and I was choking back the tears.

MidnightConcert.jpg

June 6, 2010

Arctic fishing in the Lyngsfjord

Sunday began with a long drive from Tromsø to the boat that took us deep-sea fishing on the Lyngsfjord with Lyngsfjord Adventure. Never having fished before, I was 100% confident of failure, but within minutes had landed a small codling which we promptly threw back overboard. Here is the boat that took us:

fishingBoat.jpg

Mark McLaughlin (of the Edinburgh Evening News) put my codling to shame with his prime catch of a 5-kg wolf-fish (aka Atlantic catfish), famously good for eating. However, it has strong teeth and jaws that can crunch sea urchins, and a post-mortem bite reflex that can take off your hand, so we kept our distance:

wolffish.jpg

After the fishing trip, we visited the Tromsø Museum, with some fascinating cultural exhibits including a sensitive treatment of the Sami people who have established a nation without borders, have their own flag and parliament. That evening, we were heading south by Widerøe back to Bergen. Time to spare at Tromsø airport is an unexpected pleasure. Normally I hate airports, but you can walk around outside this one, taking in the snow-covered mountain views. Here is the stainless steel fish sculpture that stands outside the terminal:

FishTromso.jpg

June 7, 2010

Lessons from an Arctic interlude

Today didn't start well. We were due to leave the Bergen hotel for our Aberdeen flight at 07.55, but I was still deep asleep when the phone rang to say the taxi was waiting. Adrenalin rush, rapid scramble for belongings, clothes and passport, and within 5 minutes I was at the front door, unwashed and apologetic. The silver lining was that my companions were forgiving and we were still in plenty of time for the flight. Mind you, two of them had similarly overslept on Saturday, so only two out of five had been on time every morning. This was an action-packed itinerary, and the mixture of midnight daylight, thousands of air miles and near-midnight meals had disrupted our sleep patterns. But I'm still feeling deeply mortified: I knew I was sleep-starved and should not have relied on a single alarm (its battery failed so it lost time). Lesson learned: if it matters, have a backup.

The homeward flight was lovely: Wideroe fly Dash 8s with twin props, and their flights always seemed prompt with fast turnarounds. They are efficient, modern and fly relatively low, so you get great views:

planeWindow.jpg

After a smooth, rapid drive home from Aberdeen, I was keenly looking forward to the morning's missed bath and picking up the threads of life at Landrick. Delighted to find my iPad waiting, but rather than let it distract me, I thought I'd download my 200+ digital photos (Lumix G1) from the trip. Total dismay/disbelief when I found that all but a dozen were missing from the SD card, although I had seen them clearly in camera where I had already done some weeding (strictly one image at a time). (Have always known that SD images are vulnerable, indeed one reason for wanting the iPad is a lightweight backup for images while travelling. So its arrival just after my first-ever photo loss felt deeply ironic.)

I'm still utterly baffled by this: I can't think of any accidental sequence of key-presses on the camera that could have deleted hundreds of pix without deleting them all. Bafflement gave way to panic: this had been a press trip and at least a dozen images would be needed for various publications. Panic gave way to the idea of searching for photo recovery software online and I found the simply wonderful PhotoRescue. I had always thought such software would be for hardcore techies, and couldn't imagine I could succeed, let alone as easily as I did. After all, a state of urgency, panic and sleep debt isn't the best combo for learning a new skill. However, this software works like a dream: you download the demo for free, preview exactly which images it will recover, then it asks you for money only if you want to proceed (and offers a full refund if recovery then fails). At this point, I'd have been ready to pay serious money to recover not only my images but also some shreds of self-respect. In fact it cost a mere £25: terrific value.

PhotoRescue has a superb user interface: no need to read instructions. "Quick recover" saved all I needed, really fast. (It even offered me all the images that had been on the card before I had deliberately formatted it at the start of the trip.) The photos are the ones I had intended, i.e. minus the ones that I had weeded selectively. (I guess those might be rescued too via Advanced, but once I had all I needed, it was time for huge relief and at last a bath.) I am still mystified as to how this selective disaster can have occurred, but am now feeling that I've got off incredibly lightly. (And have a rescue option up my sleeve for the future.)

We were due to celebrate our anniversary with dinner at the Kailyard, the only restaurant we can easily walk to. But before setting off, I burned a CD just to make sure: another lesson learned.

June 21, 2010

Fame at last ...

Billboard.jpg

In my wildest dreams I never thought that I'd ever get my name in big letters on a billboard, and if I had, I'd have expected it to be for some really daring adventure. Yet outside our local newsagent, here was the billboard for my flying visit to Arctic Norway.

It had been featured on page 2 of the Observer's June 11 issue, complete with five photographs. If you read my previous entry, you'll know how nearly these photos came to oblivion. Yet thanks to PhotoRescue, they were recovered and printed in the Stirling Observer feature.

The weird thing is that I now look back on that temporary loss of images as having been a good thing. Many of the people who have read that entry have told me that they never used to carry a spare card (but will now); or that they didn't know how to change their card (!) but will find out now; or that they had nearly lost photos like that in the past and had no idea what do do (but know now). I've come to the conclusion that my narrow escape may, through blogging, have had the good effect of alerting a few folk to an accident waiting to happen. And if so, that is a blessing.

Anyway, if you fancy a trip to the midnight sun, Wideroe's twice-weekly flights to Bergen direct from Edinburgh start on Saturday 26 June. But take a spare card for your camera, just in case.

About June 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in June 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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