Yesterday was photographer heaven. A sunrise to make you believe all’s right with the world and a day’s rain to confirm that. A sunrise outside my Stavanger window so incredibly beautiful I wanted to shed a tear or two from sheer joy or the fear that our determination to wrest every natural instance from the environment will block out rose-colored sunrises forever.

So here’s 5:30/6:00 on a Norwegian early autumn morning. A little repetitive perhaps but who am I to waste these awesome photos of an awe-inspiring moment in time.



One ship was still in port and looked most festive from a short ways away.

Cruise Ship Mania; 7:30am: I pulled the thick dark curtains shut when I went to bed last night. Now I stumble forth to draw them open upon a new day and… Voila! A massive take-over-the-world-cruise-ship (Independence of the Seas, registered in the Bahamas, capacity 4,370 passengers) has landed and the occupants are disembarking. My imagination is not that active—it’s why I cannot write fiction—but Leviathan was the word that immediately sprung to mind, an enormous sea creature with a rich and gruesome history…vomiting up last night’s supper.

With my first sips of coffee a possible scenario manifested itself—this monster could pull innocently enough into souvenir village at the head of the bay and the creatures pouring out could be anyone…. Monsters, the Undead, Enemy Soldiers, Trump’s Base….  They look harmless enough right now, cleverly concealed in hooded raincoats, umbrellas overhead, but as they spread throughout the city in numbers way too big to ignoreand rip off their coverings it’s anybody’s guess. It’ll be immediately obvious if they’re the Army of Sleazy T. They’ll start chanting…. “Trump is God, Woodward is the Devil; We’re Here from MOG (Middle-of-Godland), to Save You From that Evil.” But then…all of the Norwegian trolls in front of all the souvenir shops come to life, and soon their comrades are streaming into town from under bridges and behind boulders—together they push the white strangers with the Nazi tattoos back onto Leviathan, set her loose to drift back out to sea where slowly the ship’s infrastructure starts to disintegrate, and … I think the invaders eventually drift to Plastic Island where they must live for a plastic eternity.

Sorry. I should stop drinking wine for breakfast…just kidding, it’s just my usual Nescafe, Wasa rye crisps and Roros butter.

I have become completely obsessed with cruise ships however. There might even be three in port today. I’m quite excited. Between that and the Petroleum Museum my last day in Stavanger is very nearly perfect. Well it is perfect actually. It’s raining.

Here is the description of the Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas from their website. I’ve just kept the best parts.

In the spring of 2018 (Independence of the Seas) was extensively modernized. New attractions include the Sky Pad virtual reality experience, a new escape room, a glow-in-the-dark laser tag facility, and the “Perfect Storm” waterslide trio for all water lovers aboard. New restaurants, Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Playmakers Sports Bar and Sugar Beach extend the culinary offer on board./A large part of the guests on board this ship comes from the United States, but the ship is also popular with many Europeans. Cabins: … As with the ships of the “Voyager” class, there are even cabins with a view on the shopping promenade of the ship. Culinary Delights: There are different possibilities for enjoying the fine food on board. The main restaurant spans three decks and is decorated classical and stylish. The intimate “Portofino” restaurant offers delicious specialties of the Italian cuisine. …. The “Johnny Rockets” is a Diner in 50s style. Tasty burgers and hearty American fast food are cooked fresh to order here. Entertainment: From piano music to shows in Broadway style to the huge disco, all souls on board can find their favorite place…/Sports and Wellness: The Spa is one of the largest at sea./ Our Recommendation: The Independence of the Seas is the ultimate of the seven seas. You can surf on board in a special surf simulator, bathe in two whirlpools that hang 30 meters above the sea, romp about in the “Aqua Park” or climb the huge climbing wall – the ship becomes the destination.

I suppose my favorite line of all is “there are even cabins with a view on the shopping promenade of the ship.”

For just a moment the other day I was feeling kindly toward cruise ships, not like I wanted ever to set foot on one, but the people roaming about the dock area did seem nice and normal enough. The area didn’t seem raucous or more commercial than one would expect.  However, the last view from my window has put me back in cruise ship-loathing-land. My god…it’s like taking the Mall of America or better yet, the Mall of the Emirates which includes Ski Dubai, and your favorite four/five star hotel chain, say the Four Seasons, throwing in some Vegas entertainment, a music-blasting gym, and super-sizing a new Hard Rock Café … and setting it all on water. A holiday on Plastic Island starts looking good. Just me and the trash. Whoops. Forgot. Consigned the invading Sleazy T.s to the island.

9:30am:  Time to make the bed, brush the teeth and go adventuring. Mostly to see where the second cruise ship is resting and also where they may have tucked a third. And then for that oil-souvenir I so desperately seek.

5pm: Super nice day. Has. Rained. The. Entire. Day. I walked and got wet. I got wet because it was too hard to open the suitcase where all the Svalbard clothes and souvenirs are packed to find my rain jacket. I walked because rain is good and soul-cleansing and so so rare in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Before taking you to the excellent Petroleum Museum, here’s the cruise ship update for which you’ve been breathlessly waiting. Independence of the Seas has left the port. Here’s a description I just thought of for the way it feels when these giant edifices move in across the street while you’re sleeping. Like waking up in your normal house and an eighteen story apartment building has sprung up across the street.

To be fair I must mention the Costa Mediterranea, registered In Genoa, capacity of 2,680, with twelve decks, is in port as well. And finally, back in that corner, there’s the Zenith/Pallmantur, one of those registered first in Liberia, then Bahamas, now Malta ships, capacity 1,828, and I didn’t even see any balconies or water slides. A poor cousin of the big kids I guess.

Those are the last words I’ll ever speak or write about cruise ships and here are the last pictures of those funhouses of the non-traveling middle classes I’ll ever post. My 48 hours of cruise-ship fascination have left the building.

But Leviathan towers over all.

Norsk Oljemuseum / Norwegian Petroleum Museum: Stavanger is Norway’s Oil City—sister city of Houston, tiny in population comparison but not at all insignificant in wealth creation and transfer.

There are many stories about Norway’s oil history and about Stavanger’s role in it; I’ve heard a few just in the time I’ve been here and I’m hoping to find a good history of it all (that’s been translated). The Museum is simply excellent, well laid out, with the basic realities of oil production as developed in Norway taking front and center, but as well thoughtfully presenting all of the inherent conflicts in funding the best social structure in the world with oil revenues. A good deal of space is given to the environmental issues raised by the very resource that’s making this country the world’s best in which to live. It is complicated indeed. The museum made me pay attention and think seriously while giving me information about an industry to which I’ve paid little attention other than to bemoan its bad political intentions.

Who knew drill bits were beautiful?

I have no idea what the following fascinating things are, except for the last one which holds up the platforms. They are the most interesting pieces of machinery or tools or equipment I’ve ever seen.

I viewed and thought and had a nice lunch, and walked home in the rain. No t-shirts though. Just a head band with a drill bit design!

Tomorrow it’s the train to Kristiansand. My grandparents’ original stomping grounds.

It’s Day 27 of being a Norwegian and I’m almost feeling it. But then I touch on-line reality and remember I’m an American with a President Sleazy-T. I’m sad this evening. It usually happens a little sooner on these epic journeys but being in Norway has kept the inevitable down-day during any given month at bay. It’s not exactly depression or anxiety or physical-offness—more like I need a pajama day with eight hours of streaming deep dark drama, drinking licorice tea and not thinking.

But let’s further analyze this feeling. First of all the probable source of my momentary melancholy ….  I spent much of the day with Arne and Aslaug and I like them so very much. The sadness stems from getting to know each other so late in life and living a continent and an ocean apart. I feel close to them, family/friend close, and each time I see them feels like it could be the last since we are ageing people living in an increasingly crazy world. So…I guess this is just a note to self…remember to spend time with people you care about…it is such pleasure.

Aslaug and Arne, when they were married in the 60s. Norwegians still use traditional costumes for special occasions and celebrations. A handsome couple indeed.

And then there’s the next giant cruise ship outside my window. I’ll bet you want to know about this one too? It’s the Aidasol. Big damn boat. Sphinx class. Holds 2,174 passengers. Want to know what Sphinx class means don’t you? Well, it says it’s brightly colored everywhere, focuses on sports/fitness related activities and encourages  togetherness in the way dining rooms and communal areas are set up. My kind of place—just me and my 2,173 best friends. Registered in Genoa, Italy, aimed at German market. For just under $8,000 you can book a junior suite. There you have it. My cruise tips for today.

Whoops, just looked out the window and another giant seems to have pulled in on the other side when I wasn’t looking. Maybe I’m suffering from some version of cabin fever.

Tomorrow there will also be two cruise ships in port. It doesn’t matter though because I’m spending part of my day at the Petroleum museum. I’m determined to find a souvenir t-shirt from Stavanger…but only if it has an oil rig front and center.

There must be something else to blog about—otherwise I will be forced to open MY BOOK file. I give up.

Let me try to find the odd photo from the Norway collection to justify publishing this post.




I’m sorry to say the days of polar bear and walrus photos are forever gone but there are cats on a step and sheep in the field and swans in a pond and fish in the soup if you continue on…best I could do. 

The colored wrapping for the hay bales signifies that a percentage of the cost has been contributed to cure a particular disease.

IIt’s All Happening at the Zoo

9am: The Britannia, a cruise ship holding 3,647 people is parked directly outside my window. Arne had warned me this could happen since I’m right on the waterfront—I’m not sorry because it’s sort of a zoo-like opportunity. Watching the captive creatures released for a little fresh air and sunshine in a real place, where they will spend a ton of money on souvenirs and a bit on food—but when there are thirteen restaurants and thirteen bars on board, why would you bother with actual Norwegian Fiske suppe in Norway. They keep streaming off the ship, looking like such normal people, taking pictures of my house, thinking they’re photographing the natives.

One of the Britannia’s ads says ‘imagine the excitement of cruising in a five-star hotel.’ Is it reverse snobbery to say that having stayed twice (briefly) in five-star hotels I’m willing to go out on a limb and attest to that level of excitement being comparable to watching grass grow. Oh sure there’s the moment when you realize the bathroom is bigger than your apartment…but how long can you revel in that…or fluffy bathrobes, when you have one at home…okay so I’m poor and crochety, ignore what I just said.

Still…it is a fact, a true fact as opposed to a factless fact, that while five-star hotels are maximally comfortable, they aren’t very exciting…so if you put one on water, where most of the time there’s even less to see and hear and the vehicle is too big to feel the roll of the sea…it’s still not exciting, right?

In fact Mein Schiff 4, which only holds 2,790 passengers, is parked just on the other side of the Britannia so I’m forced to admit, desirability is in the eye/brain of the beholder/experiencer. Mein Schiff 4 (built in Finland) is registered in Malta; it’s owned by Germany entities and Royal Caribbean; its ships were first registered in Liberia, then the Bahamas, and now Malta. The Britannia is owned by Carnival but registered in only one country in its history, the UK, so if I were going on a cruise (for example if I succumbed to serious dementia and my kids took me on a cruise in order to spend down my fortune) I’d want to go with the one that can actually be identified with real place–which Malta’s sort of not.

Personally, I never want to go to sea unless it’s back on the Linden or a ship almost as small. Even the Hurtigrutens are too big.

5pm: “Wise men change their minds often; fools never do.” Okay, well I haven’t exactly changed my mind about cruise ships, but I spent a few sunny hours out amongst the people-of-the-ship and they seemed rather normal, all sizes and ages and shapes and colors (well, mostly white). Then this afternoon over my Fiske suppe and wine I talked to the waiter for a long time about Stavanger, the good and bad of cruise ships and how the oil city came to be. He doesn’t like the cruise ships this close into the harbor, says the sea life is literally gone; that in many ports the ships rest further out and bring people in in smaller boats and it’s not as deadly to the marine environment. But he also described a Mediterranean cruise he went on and why he loved it. Part of that actually sounded wonderful—not the part about ‘like walking into a shopping mall,’ but about effortlessly waking up to spend a day in a new city. Didn’t have to wait in line at the airport or drag your bags onto the train, just went to bed and the next day you either lollygagged about your suite or spent the day roaming about a cool city. I’ve always just thought about the shopping center part or the crowds of people part…so there’s another side I guess. I’m still sticking with the Linden model of sailing for now though.

The Britannia has left the harbor, waiting for the Mein Schiff 4 to leave now, and my quiet little bay will be back to normal.

Daily Life and Murders: My life on the road is authentically exciting however. First of all I did two 2½ minute planks yesterday so my back is most unhappy, then the fire alarm system went off in the middle of the night—no problems, just a little startling, and now over 6,000 people are stationed directly in front of me—and since 2,000 or so probably stayed on board…if I had good binoculars…I could see when the murder actually takes place and possibly even the body being thrown overboard…no that will have to be tonight out at sea. Did I mention I gave up on the Dylan bio for the time being and reverted to reading one of my favorite Norwegian murder mystery writers? In the US every place is the potential site of a real mass shooting; in Scandinavia around every corner lurks an innovative (but not real) murdering weirdo.

History and Writing: The purpose behind scheduling almost a week in each of my three September stops with just a final few days in Oslo, was to have family time as well as undistracted-by-everyday-obligations time to make decisions about continuing to write The Book. I must say it is quite a good plan. So far in Stavanger, I’ve spent an  evening with Arne and Aslaug over a delectable salmon dinner in the company of Gunnar (Arne and Aslaug’s son), Sam and their beautiful daughter who is also something of an athlete.

Yesterday morning, time for coffee and a walkabout in old Stavanger.

Yesterday afternoon included a  history tour to the Utstein Monastery (mentioned in historical records going back to the 9th century, when it was cited as King Harald Fairhair´s garrison after the battle of Hafrsfjord, where Norway was unified under one monarch. Construction of the Monastery started in about 1260, although some parts may be older and may date from an earlier royal farm on the site.) and then coffee in my garret. And since, this little apartment could definitely qualify as an artist/writer’s garret, I’m on my second morning of book ideas and decisions. With the essential blogging (and snooping on the cruise ship occupants), coffee, and planking breaks.

It is still hard to focus on the book-writing plan I admit. I’ll get better at it each day and by the time I get to Neset Camping where there is nothing to do for one week except walk to the village for fresh rolls and write, I’ll be very good at it. I say.

Fiske suppe and the Grocery Store: Mellow afternoon out in a pleasant city on a late summer day. I’ve already talked about the cruise ships so this is just to add a note about finding the grocery store (sautéed spinach with scrambled eggs tomorrow night) and finding more Roros butter so in a short while I will have Wasa crackers with thick layers of butter and a sweet Activia yogurt (with pictures of grain on the front of the package but I can’t tell exactly what’s in it—whatever it is I hope we have it in the US soon). A balanced meal in other words.

Enough with the chatting. Back to the book outline for awhile and then I’ll download the day’s ever-so-exciting photos of cruise ships and fish soup.


Bergen Old Hanseatic waterfront.

Morning: I took the MS Nordnorge from Trondheim to Bergen; I spent a not very satisfying day in Bergen being a tourist (not a traveler—and there is a big difference in my mind). Now it’s the morning of September 1st and the second phase of this trip begins. In about two hours I will take a taxi to the central bus station and a big fast comfortable bus to Stavanger where I stay for five days. Time to walk, get my planks up to three minutes, and approach writing again. Those are the main goals of phase two—which shall mostly exclude $45 lunches (with wine) which I only do every four or five days (remember I rarely eat or drink in the evening so it’s not as extravagant as it sounds on first read) but still… and probably it should include greens in my diet again. Not that Norway doesn’t have ample healthy veggies and salads all over the place—it’s just that they also have the most absolutely perfectly delicious bread and butter. And what would any normal human being do given those choices….

The best thing is of course that in each of the next three weeks/three locations I have family and friends so pleasurable time definitely outweighs any moments spent on planks and vegetables.

Now I’ll haul my stuff downstairs and meet the taxi…very expensive in Norway. I think most of the money I’ve saved by using airbnbs for longer stays is going into the taxi budget. Of course bus service everywhere is excellent but with what seems like hundreds of pounds of souvenirs…I call a taxi…because I’m old and frail damn it.

Evening: Now happily in Stavanger. My cousin Arne picked me up at the bus station, we stopped at a grocers, and he brought me to my next airbnb. Which I will admit was just a bit of a shock. Now exactly what I expected in the Old Town of Stavanger, in a 170 year old house for $40 a night in expensive Norway was…I’ve forgotten. It looked so sweet and was so economical that what could go wrong. Well actually nothing has. But the first view, after my luxurious little pad in Trondheim did give both Arne and me pause. It’s a studio, with the couch already folded out into a bed, an old exercise machine in one corner, and a basic pasteboard table in the middle. Small kitchen, decent bathroom. And old, old, old (except for the stairmaster!)—door frames, stucco walls and giant chimney, tilted warped floors.

A couple of hours have passed since that moment of introduction…and I’m fine. ‘You get what you pay for’, right? I’m really getting way more than I paid for, at the edge of the historic, walkable and charming Old Town, right on the waterfront, and an ancient dwelling…all for a bargain price. I’m having coffee, bread and olive oil, and blueberries for dinner, and unpacking/repacking the suitcase with all of the Christmasgift/souvenirs. Making a list, checking it twice to see who hasn’t made it into the suitcase yet. Your souvenir will have to weigh less than an ounce…sorry about that…probably even rules out refrigerator magnets.

The bus ride from Bergen to Stavanger was uneventful—couple of ferry crossings as the road runs along the coast…and even more of Norway’s always scenic green and blue vistas. What Norway needs are a few places that resemble the Four Corners area or Oklahoma so you remember to appreciate the never-ending ‘beautiful.’

Here are just a few photos and comments about Bergen. Then I’m done with it…just like Luxembourg…no need to go back. Bergen really is spectacular looking. You’ve all seen the photos of the colorful houses/workshops of the Hanseatic merchants of old lining the wharf. I went on a tour of the building owned by the Hanseatic Museum and it’s all an interesting piece of Baltic history. Other than that and the bacon-wrapped dates I had for lunch the day…mildly sucked. Bergen is wall-to-wall tourists. It’s like Santa Fe in the summer—They’re places with history and charm galore but so suffocated with shop after shop of crap and people intent on buying it that the reason people came in the first place is lost in the shuffle of money and memorabilia. And yeah, I’m guilty, I bought some stuff… If I ever did return it would be on the darkest coldest day of the year, with me the only visitor in sight.

It’s the last day of August and I’m in Bergen, Norway (which will return in a later post). For now here are some photos from Trondheim. I stopped over there both as a base from which to go meet the Swedish cousins and also to experience a little of where my South Dakota grandfather, Ole Floren, originated. I spent a couple of days in Trondheim years ago but wasn’t as deeply into family history as I am now so it did not have quite the same significance as I expected from this visit—which actually wasn’t particularly meaningful after all. Trondheim is a fairly large, bustling, modern city, so the countryside on the trip to Sweden was the only sight that let me imagine how it must have been back in the day…. Also since I just saw many of the cousins from the Floren side of the family at the Aasen family reunion in Sioux Falls it felt like that branch of my tree was already more represented in my life. Maybe with future DNA connections it will be possible to meet some long lost cousins here in Norway; if not I’m just happy to now know more of the US family.

Nevertheless, Trondheim is a pretty city and I was staying in a lovely apartment through airbnb so it was all worthwhile…and here are the pictures to prove it.

The excitement surrounding the meeting of the Swedish cousins is based, in no small part, on my mysterious grandmothers, one Norwegian, one more Swedish than we knew. The grandfathers have been more easily knowable. In the case of Grandpa Neset—I lived next door to him as a child and I was able to find my Norwegian Neset cousins fairly easily. Getting to know them over the years has been enormously interesting and pleasurable. As for Grandpa Floren, who died when my mom was only two, while I could not know him, I know some of the American-Floren cousins and something about the family, who emigrated from Trondheim, Norway sometime in the mid-1800s.

But those elusive Grandmas. Grandma Neset (Asborg Eilifsdotter) remains almost a total mystery, perhaps to be known a little more during this trip, perhaps not. Grandma Floren (Magnhild Strom) was the reason for this journey to Sweden and is slowly coming into focus.

Here’s what I know for sure about Grandma (Strom-Floren). Magnhild’s father was Per Strom of Funasdalen, Sweden who emigrated to America around 1880. Her mother was Maret P Halvarsdotter Olofsson from the same area. I have now been to their very home, stood in a cellar quite probably built by them, gazed over their fields and forest.

There are still many unknowns, especially connected to Maret whose family tree is not very certain at this time. However we can trace Per’s lineage quite far back. My new cousins gave me some information I did not have which will be included in my tree when I get home. For now though, I have this. Per’s father was Steffan Svenson Strom; Steffan’s sister, Gertrud Svensdotter was the matriarch of cousin Barbara’s (from Oregon, with whom I connected through our DNA tests) branch of the family which includes the new Swedish cousins. We are fourth cousins.

If you are not interested in ancestral trivia or, as I choose to think of it, vital information,  this may not seem like a big deal to you. To me, it is a colossal deal. It fastens me to another place on the world map; it’s another story, another journey. It represents roots, branches, whole trees. I feel more whole and/or complete and/or grounded because I’ve stood on Per and Maret’s land in Funasdalen, Jamtland, Sweden. Am I making too much of this? I don’t think so…it makes me too happy to not be a good thing.

Family trees can be said to start at the deepest root or on that branch that stretches as far in the sky as one can see. The way I’m looking at the tree (that I share with my fourth cousins from Funasdalen, Gustav and Manfred, Gunilla and Jenny) is from the top. I cannot absolutely verify the first few branches—starting with Gullik Matsson born in 1670, who had a son Sven Gulliksson Strom (this is where the name Strom first appears) born in 1716, who had a son Gullik Svensson Strom born in 1753.

Then it gets real. Gullik’s son Sven Gulliksson Strom, born in 1778 married Kirstin Steffansdotter and had several children, among them Gertrude Svensdotter Strom, born 1806, and Staffan Svensson Strom, born 1808. Gertrude was the great-great grandmother of Barbara (from Oregon), and the cousins from Funasdalen. Staffan was my great-great grandfather.

Now the story starts to feel personal. Staffan’s son was Per Strom, born 1838. Whose land I visited just a few days ago. Per was the father of Magnhild, my grandmother.

Staffan’s sister, Gertrude, married Olof Jonsson, her son was Jon Olofsson who married Sigrid Hansdotter, and they were grandparents to Manfred and Gustav and their cousins Jenny and Gunilla, all of whom I met on this visit.

Enough with the begats…but it gives me history…me in history…I love that.

According to Swedish cousin research, Per and his ancestors, going back some generations, were miners. There was a huge mine in the area, owned by one man, who may have also owned adjoining farmland where the miners could grow some things for their personal use. Even though there are many more things to know about Per, this is a start. We know he went on to become a successful South Dakota farmer so he obviously had experience farming before coming to America.

The village where Grandmother Magnhild was born.

I think Magnhild’s mysteries will have to be solved through her mother’s family tree. I had some information for Maret P Halvarsdotter Olofsson, Per’s wife and my great grandmother, but it appears it may be wrong…so I’ll say no more about her until I have time at home to dig a little deeper with ancestry.com. The mysteries of the reindeer herder grandfather, my three percent Russian/Finnish DNA (which is a fairly typical Sami mix I’m told), why my grandmother was said to be part Norwegian (when it appears she’s totally Swedish), and why my mom’s lefse was different from all other known lefse must remain mysterious for now.

I am so happy to have met Gustav and Manfred Hoglund, Margareta Hoglund, Steig Englund, Gunilla Oskarsson Englund, and Jenny Moen. What warm and kind and interesting people they are. Their professions include working with people with hearing disabilities, plumber, builder, and assisting young migrants and refugees to Sweden with the education and means to make new lives. One of them, Jenny, is an accomplished local researcher and writer, and one of a handful of people I’ve met over the years that I wanted badly to know, but with whom language made easy communication impossible—I feel we could be such great friends…but we will try anyway.  I’m so pleased to be part of this agreeable new Swedish family.

Although some family members live nearer the urban regions like Stockholm, the people I’ve now met all choose to remain here in what surely must be one of the most rural parts of Sweden. These families’ histories go far back in this part of the country. Funasdalen is a small town but the only such place around, every other habitation is far in the country or in tiny villages. It’s hilly and tree-covered there and reminds me of the countryside east of Duluth. In the summer the reindeer herds come through, hundreds maybe thousands. It seems they’re owned by Sami for the most part but I’m not sure how the grazing situation works.

Here in Sweden some small things felt so familiar such as mom’s way of saying thank you—a thousand thousand thanks or tusen tusen tack. Also the scrambled eggs at my hotel were sweetened and only mom did that. If only I could call her and share these moments.

Waiting for my cab to the harbor.

8/29/Wednesday morning. On the road (sea actually) again. I set the alarm for 5am so I would have more than enough time to putter, shower, last bit of packing (hard work with all of those #$@%^&*#$ souvenirs to squash/push/crush down. I was tired…stayed up a little late watching “Retribution” on Netflix. Then some more chapters of the Dylan bio—with which I’m quite bored, almost two-thirds of the way through the book and we haven’t moved past 1965 yet…so I’ve downloaded a couple of Nordic police procedurals for the next few days. I’m hoping friend Bob will give me a crash course on the Dylan phenomena before the October concert.

That was the opening paragraph of my midway-through-a-trip post about being tired of traveling. And I was. From 5am until I checked in on board Hurtigruten’s MS Nordnorge at 8am, got some coffee, and claimed a comfortable seat overlooking the harbor while I waited for my room to be ready for the nap to which I intended to treat myself. The trip won’t hit the halfway mark until Sunday, September 2nd in Stavanger. Let’s see if my travel ennui extends beyond three hours at a time by then.

Damn, people settled in next chairs over are Americans. I hate being subjected to others’ conversations. When you don’t understand the language it’s all just pleasant white noise; this on the other hand is a husband and wife having one of those excruciatingly boring chats about some miniscule matter that no one else could possibly care about. “Did you remember to call the plumber before we left?” “No, I thought you did…” Darn it, Matt, you know you were supposed to…at the rate it’s dripping our water bill will be at least $3.50 more next month.” “Well that wouldn’t be such a big deal if you hadn’t bought that third toaster last week…” “Blah blah blah blah………….”  Phew, they’re gone.

Hurtigruten, this coastal passenger ferry service was founded in 1893 as the best way to get up and down the length of Norway. It’s been in business ever since as a working cargo and passenger service, although since the advent of an airport in every town it caters more to tourists—still without the razzle dazzle of big gambling/entertainment cruises. I would never set foot on one of the giant cruises, and would prefer sailing around the world on the Linden with 15 or so people, but the Finnmarken with up to 1000 passengers and the Nordnorge capable of 700 feel somehow doable for me. I guess it’s the lack of noise and neon, making it feel human even to a serious introvert.

I saw on HuffPost that Sleazy T. is threatening Google. The thought of the-master-of-pout-and-whine trying to wrestle an Indian tech genius to the ground could be quite funny. Unfortunately there’s nothing to laugh about as long as Sleaze is in the White House…even at this distance it’s sad, scary, embarrassing.

I’m sure I could live on the water. There’s no better thinking, planning, dreaming, relaxing, sleeping platform than the soft roll, gentle wave, friendly swell of the sea. The big San Francisco earthquake’s first wave felt the same—innocuous, non-threatening, just a swell, but it wasn’t water, it was the floor of my office. Just another random travel thought.

It’s taking my cabin a long time to warm up so I tried napping. Didn’t sleep but it was a great relief to leave Bob Dylan for awhile and hit the Oslo streets with a Norwegian detective. I have been youtubing some of Dylan’s less familiar songs from those early years and I’m better understanding Dylan-as-poet…at the same time Dylan as human being is getting more difficult to comprehend. Saying he’s strange is understatement isn’t it? That’s what growing up in northern Minnesota can do to you…

My last night on water for this trip. I’ll go get some soup, bread and butter, maybe a beer soon, then hole up in my Deck Three cave.

Later: I’ve been up to the café for my meal of the day. Wholesome. Salmon, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, all bathed in a lovely pool of butter. A refreshing IPA to wash it down and now I’m fine until breakfast. I have a bit of instant coffee in a baggie and the tap water’s boiling hot. I might buy a Snickers bar later for dessert. It is just so glamorous on board a big ship. I saw the ghost of Ingrid all swathed in wooly blankets out on a deck chair in the chill northern air. Waiting for Humphrey who was, in spirit, up on Deck Seven at the fancy bar getting quite sloshed and babbling on about Marrakesh and stuff. Hey dude, it’s Bergen we’re headed for…Marrakesh was then, this is now.

So I’ll post this…obviously not for worldly words or fine photos. It’s travel babble, not an inconsequential part of every waking moment on the road. Cheers y’all.


The photos included in this post are of place—from Trondheim, Norway on the coast to Funasdalen, Sweden and around the Funasdalen area, the route my Swedish ancestors probably took to leave for the U.S. The route I took Sunday to meet the ones that stayed. Cousin photos will be in the next post. 


PLACES: This Nordic trip was planned for new adventures to dominate August and unrushed time with familiar Norwegian family and places to fill the September weeks.  The August adventures included sailing down the coast on Hurtigruten ships and a bit of sight-seeing in Tromso, Trondheim and Bergen. Primarily and most excitingly however it was to be, and has been, all about Arctic Svalbard and Swedish Cousins!

I’ve already posted many pictures and some words about Svalbard and the schooner Linden, One of the greatest weeks of my entire life. Now I must tell you about the Swedish cousins. You see the Swedish part of my heritage has been largely unknown, represented only by my maternal grandmother who was said to come from the Norway/Sweden border, be half-Swedish, have a reindeer-herding grandfather, and who made lefse with cream instead of potatoes. I was curious but, since I didn’t ask the questions when my mom was alive, there seemed no way to know more—until Ancestry.com, DNA, and Family Trees invaded my life.

Gradually the need to know more about what went into the making of me has dominated my thoughts…where oh where, on all those world maps that hang all over my apartment and office are the places and journeys of my people. I’ve always had a desire to place myself spatially, to see where I am on a map—whether that means the apartment/house/hotel, street, neighborhood, city, county, highway-between-towns/rivers/state lines (which is why I find the tiny map and whiney voice of auto navigational systems so deeply disconcerting).

Now, thanks to all of the scary tech we’ve come to depend on, I must, and can, put me into the biggest and widest of worlds. To do that I just need to connect with my people, relatives and cousins however distant, cultures of origin, all those DNA strands… including my heretofore unknown Swedish cousins.

Why? It seems to me that we are safer and happier as part of the whole rather than practicing the xenophobia increasingly prevalent in the U.S. I want to be on the map…along with any Neanderthal pottery robbers and cave-dwelling painters and ice-house building entrepreneurs that contributed to my DNA.


ME AND PLACES (AND BOOKS): History was my subject of choice in college. Especially world history with specific regions and times coming to the fore and then fading into the background as I moved on to new countries and continents: first Western Europe, then Africa, eventually Latin America and Asia, and finally these last decades, the North of the World. Given my heritage, my genes, my bloodlines, all northern, it makes sense. The north that is Russia, Scandinavia, Greenland, Iceland, Canada; the north of Vikings, Arctic explorers, the Sami people, glaciers, ice bergs, polar bears, and, not the least, northern Minnesota winters.

Did my ever increasing obsession with my Nordic heritage grow out of being raised by a Norwegian immigrant father and a first-generation Norwegian/Swedish mother in Scandinavian community in Koochiching County, Minnesota? Or…

Is it because of all of those history classes and books? Or…

Because of a life-long passion for adventure/explorer stories and a latter day infatuation with Viking history and with mysteries in the Nordic Noir vein? Or…

Because I believe life should be lived in a warm indoors and cold outdoors with great attention shown to the quality of the butter one eats?

The Breakfast Buffet BUTTER Dish at the hotel in Funasdalen.


NEXT POST: Meeting the Cousins.

It’s a foggy Monday morning in a skiing village called Funasdalen in the west central part of Sweden, the region where my maternal grandmother was born and lived her early life before immigrating to South Dakota with her family. But much more about this later this evening when I’m back ‘home’ in Trondheim and have time to process the joy of becoming acquainted with new cousins and visiting meaningful family locations. For now I’ll just share some additional photos of the Norwegian coastline between Tromso and Trondheim.

Norway’s coastline is one of the longest in the world, with the length recalculated in 2011 to account for complicated features like islets and fjords. All in all, Norway’s coastline has 63,000 miles of twisting land – which…would circle the world two and a half times if stretched out.         https://www.hurtigruten.com/must-read-articles/norway/new-pageabout-norways-coastline/