Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I took the train from Århus down to Roskilde, which is about half an hour out of Copen- hagen, this morning. Here is the main train station in town, which has a very nice design. Good thing it was attractive, because I shouldn't have gotten off here. Turns out Roskilde University has its own train station, but my train did not stop there. So I also got to experiment with the local buses, to get out to the university. The joys of traveling without quite knowing where you are going.

The university is almost out in the countryside,
as you can see from the second photo, just down some steps from the communications school, where the view looks out over fields and trees.

I was having lunch with an old friend, Thomas Tufte, who teaches communi- cation there. Thomas also did his dissertation on Brazilian television, so we have known each other a long time. He maintains an interest in Brazil, so it was fun to talk about that. He works more these days on development communication, so we talked quite a bit about that, too.

One of the things we talked about is a new historical project I am starting on Brazilian television, interviewing one of the people who started TV Globo, the biggest network in Brazil, one of the biggest in the world in fact. The plan is to do an oral history of the first 15 years of the network from the point of view of an insider, who was originally from the U.S., part of a joint venture with Time-Life which started TV Globo. So he has a particularly interesting point of view on some crucial issues of just how much U.S. influence there really was in the start up of the network.

Interesting to have a long talk about Brazilian media in Denmark, but that's globalization for you.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Selma Lagerlöf and Mårbacka

Today, Christian and Miya Christensen took me out in the Swedish countryside to take a tour through Mårbacka, the home of one of Sweden's most famous writers, Selma Lagerlöf. You can see a photo of her here.

She was a major writer of both adult and children's literature, ultimately winning a Nobel Prize for literature. But she was also controversial for the late 1800s and early 20th century, living with a couple of women companions.

She grew up with physical problems that kept her from walking easily or playing normal children's games, so she read a great deal and decided early, at age eight to be a writer.

I was struck by that. I have often wondered what my own life would have been like if I had not lived on a farm with few other kids around, turning early to books instead.

Sandy had told me about one of her more famous stories, The Wonderful Adventure of Nils Holgerssons, in which a boy is taken on the back of a magic goose across Sweden, giving the reader a geography lesson as he goes. She also apparently wrote some very complex stories for adults, like The Story of Gösta Berling, which I am going to try to track down in English (not quite being up to tackling it in Swedish, just yet.) Sandy reminds me that "It´s a great book. (It´s the one where the guy staves off the wolf from a sleigh in the snow with a slim volume of poetry)," which he shoves in the wolf's mouth, BTW. That is a tough choice, keeping the poetry volume, highly prized, expensive, hard to get, versus surviving an attack by wolves.

The Nobel prize committee commended her "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings," so I am quite curious.

Selma Lagerlöf grew up in a smaller version of the house, Mårbacka, shown here. Her father lost it to bankruptcy, but after winning the Nobel Prize she was able to buy it back and expand it to the larger house you see here. It is on a rise with a nice view out over the countryside, which you can see in the next photo.

She was interested in farming, too, and tried to supplement her writing with sales of her own special oatmeal, but the writing worked out better.

The house is lovely inside, too, as you can see here in this photo of her sitting room and the following one of her library. I was quite taken with the number of people who showed up, quite a ways out in the country, to take a once a week tour.

It is nice to see people honoring their national writers that well.

However, she is probably turning slowly in her grave, because in addition to the very respectful tour and the clearly loving treatment of her house and grounds, the nearest city is also trying very hard to capitalize on her with Selma spas, etc. Maybe that is just the capitalist form of sincere respect, but she did not seem like the type to appreciate it.


I am in Karlstad, Sweden for a couple of days, giving a talk at Karlstad University and visiting a couple of former students, UT PhD graduates Miya and Christian Christensen, who teach there.

It is a small city, but quite pretty, as this scene along a riverbank shows. It is also refreshing to see a small city with a very full and prosperous downtown. Here the mall, small at that, is in the middle of downtown, so everything around it does well, too. It would be nice if American towns would get the hang of that, instead of building all the new stores on the edge of town so the downtown hollows out and dies.
It is getting into the middle of fall and this is pretty far north, so mornings tend to be foggy, as you can see here, and cold. But it is kind of bracing and enlivening to go out for a walk in it anyway.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Music and memory

What is it that lifts us out of our traces, our trajectory of the time, and gets us thinking about a different possible world out there someplace? For me as a kid back on a farm in Idaho, it was first radio, then music and then historical novels from the library.

I had a room in the basement of our farmhouse that I had inherited from my brother, Jack, some sixteen years older than me. It had some interesting stuff left in it, including an ancient radio with a 78 rpm record player in the top, not unlike the one at left. It was also pretty powerful and could pull in strong AM stations from a long way away, particularly at night. On a good night, I could get Wolfman Jack on a station from Tijuana, Mexico. He played a lot of rock and roll stuff that the local channels were not playing and it got me thinking about what else was out there that I wasn't seeing or hearing in Kuna.

My sisters, who were all at least fourteen years older that I was, had begun to get console stereos like the ones that were fashionable then, like this one with the Mantovani records on top. I spent quite a bit of time at my sister Carol's house with her sons who were about my age. I was intrigued that her stereo sounded a lot better than my old radio.

I was also beginning to realize that music wasn't just something that radio dropped into your lap. She had records that sounded better and some were beginning to be interesting, like the Kingston Trio, whose music seemed to be saying something a bit deeper than a lot of what was on the radio, and Spike Jones, who was funny in an intriguingly adult sort of way.

I had a little bitty portable record player that looked kind of like the one in this picture, and some 45 rpm Little Golden records that my parents had given me, Disney songs, Davey Crockett, things like that.

So I began to think more about music. What did I actually like? The first 45 single I bought was sort of a howler in retrospect, Leader of the Pack by the Shangri-Las. Although I have to admit that I still kind of like the song--it was a whole teenage soap opera in less than three minutes--it was not exactly great art. One of the next was I Feel Fine by the Beatles, which was an improvement.

I gradually started putting a component stereo together from the cheapest pieces I could find in second hand stores. It was exciting to read magazines about stereos and dream about getting better stuff, in some ways it was the siren song of modern life (and consumer ambition), reaching into what was a isolated life on the farm, where we did not really buy a lot of extra stuff. I was also reading hot rod magazines (which I could not even dream of affording) and model car magazines (which I could afford to build). But music seemed on a higher plane than just something to put in your room (or fantasize about driving), and as the 1960s went on, the messages in the music were definitely coming in from way outside the rest of my life.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A hike with a view (Flåm, Norway)

We spent a night in Flåm (more on the hotel later). In the morning, I decided to hike up above the hotel to get a better view.

This is the road as it started up from in front of the hotel. The whole day was full of wisps of cloud floating through, sometimes suddenly turning into something with rain, quickly changing again.

As I walked up the hill, the view constantly changed in some directions, but it was hard not to keep looking back at the fjord, which is absolutely spectacular from any angle, as you can see here.

If you are only a little interested in fjords, or not that interested in boats, just this series of views of the fjord would be memories of a lifetime. I am glad we did both, spending most of day in the town, getting a lot of different views at the fjord, and then going out on it as well.

Another lovely serendipity of this trip in October was that we managed to catch the leaf change season at close to its peak, as we rode trains north in Denmark, along the rail trip from Oslo to Myrdal to Flåm, and on this walk above Flåm itself, as you can see with the fjord framed by some foliage.

There is something about getting out hiking that is good for the soul in almost any circumstance. The air clears your head, unless of course, you are hiking in the summer in Texas.

But there is something special, to me at least, about hiking up a hill or mountain. Not an option in many places. We are lucky where we live in Austin to be on the hilly side of town where you might get hills a few hundred feet high. But it certainly was nice to be in some real mountains, even if my hiking ambitions for
the day were pretty modest, to get an hour or two up into the hills and come back.

The trail wound up through a couple of farms and by some summer houses, kept by people who must appreciate a good view. Here is a view back up the valley away from the fjord, looking out from a pasture, in which a few mildly inquisitive cows who seemed completely oblivious to the view (I always thought of cows as pleasant enough, but not very bright), watched me take pictures, standing on a large bale of hay (which probably interested the cows quite a lot more).

Here is another view straight out over the last part of the valley that the Flåmsbana railway comes down through. With one of the dozens of waterfalls in the valley. Not a bad view either. No wonder that the railway is a major attraction in itself.

And then back down, getting to see the same views all over again from new angles. Nothing beats hiking up a mountain, except possibly hiking back down.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The joy of bikes

It is both interesting and refreshing to be back in a lifestyle and in a place where bikes are the main transpor- tation for many people. Here you see me coming home with flowers carefully wedged into the top of the backpack.

It is sort of amazing what gets carried on bikes. In my first year in grad school, I carried all the components for a brick and board bookcase across Cambridge, MA, known for slightly crazy traffic on my bike. I have seen half sides of beef on a bike in some places. It escalates up in many places with scooters. I have seen whole families on scooters in Taiwan and elsewhere. I remember riding on motorcycle taxis in Santo Domingo and sharing some anxiety with Sandy as to whether all our kids (then aged 2, 5 and 8) would manage to hang on to the several bikes we were spread across.

Last year when he worked in Mozambique, my son Rolf really got into being part of the big mass of people who got around on bikes. Mozambicans are more used to seeing white guys in cars, so he got a lot of smiles of solidarity. Here is picture of Rolf's bike out in the countryside outside Beira, where he got a kick out of just riding around.

That is fun. I remember how exciting and liberating it was to ride my bike (a then very exciting Schwinn one speed) from our farm in Kuna, Idaho into the neighboring, larger town of Nampa to see my nephews, Andy and Dan, or go to the movies. It was more work than a car but it also made the experience more special. So here is a Schwinn ad that I remember seeing, even though it doesn't have the red one speed classic of my youth on it.

It was exciting step up to get first a three speed and then a ten speed bike in college. I remember thinking then that a ten speed road bike was in some ways a perfect piece of technology. I could carry it if need be, fix it myself, but still get around pretty fast.

Nordic primal stomp

Last night we went to hear two Scandinavian folk rock bands, Hedningarna (The Heathens, a Swedish group) and Valravn (Ravens feasting on dead guys after a battle, a Danish group, drawing on Old Norse for its name.) It is interesting that Old Norse, re-spelled here in Danish, has a concise term for that. (Socio-linguistics tends to say that societies have both short concise terms and very elatorated sets of terms for things that are very important to them. Sandy says this was an important mythic and poetic image in Old Norse.)

This picture of Hedningarna looks like a set of nice folkies with old acoustic instruments, but they had electrified and amplified them to levels Jimi Hendrix or Neil Young would approve of, and proceeded to rock out. Very few vocals, lots of rhythm and beat. Lots of tall white guys with shaved heads were jumping and moshing along. Nordic primal stomp, indeed. Lots of lesbian couples, too. Welcome to modern Scandinavia.

The first act, a lesser known, slightly newer Danish group were not quite as much pure primal stomp, but they rocked pretty hard too, with even more folk based instruments (although you could tell they were adding a lot pre-recorded electronic stuff in the background). They play a lot more traditional ballads from all over Scandinavia, even the Faroe Islands, which have their own dialect, related to Old Norse, and a strong ballad tradition. Great band, sort of in the tradition of Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention, the Brit ancestors or equivalents. But folk rock has been big in Scandinavia for a long time. Sandy has been playing it around the house for a long time. So it is cool to finally get to see some of it on its home ground and begin to hear (or understand) a bit of what they are singing about. (And dead guys on medieval battlefields and dead sheep in fields being contemplated as dinner by ravens is not only the name of the band but in fact a theme that comes up in their music.) They also sing ballads about brothers killing each other, young men being stolen away by elves, young girls being stolen away by pirates. You know, sweet, light pop music.

The music sort of preceded in fact, the current revival of Viking and medieval chic around Scandinavia, with lots of people getting involved in historical re-enactment, more interest in the museums, etc. This second image of Valravn definitely shows the mood they are trying to evoke.

The interest in medieval things is quite exciting. I just hope people don't go over the edge with historical pride in their Viking ancestors. There are some nasty, racialist uses of this kind of imagery and ethnic historical pride. Sandy's department back in Texas periodically gets letters from white guys in prison who want to learn more about Odin, so they can have a proper white guy religion. This is documented in an interesting way in Gods of the Blood by Mattias Gardell, a Swedish anthropologist, who studied white supremacist use of old Norse religion in the USA.

Friday, October 19, 2007

jogger envy in the Danish woods

Today was a neighborly day in the beauty woods, so while poor Sandy was sleeping off the flu, I decided to take a really long walk to the grocery, over the highway and through the woods. Quite a few others there, young joggers, old and (really) young walkers.

I found myself with jogger envy. My back informed me several years that jogging was now out, but I miss it. The sheer exuberance of running on a nice day outside is hard to describe, not just the runner's high exuberance you get after a good workout, but something more about being out in nature, I think. (I always disliked running on tracks, but I loved doing it out in the woods. Maybe jogging was to me like hunting is to the people who always manage to miss the deer, more about being in the woods than the ostensible purpose of it all.)

Anyway, it certainly was a spectacular day to be out. Just a few fluffy white clouds out over the sea and autumn colors even brighter than when I wrote about them a few weeks ago.

It made me nostalgic for living in Michigan. There were two places I loved to run there. One was the Baker Woodland, a large (80 plus acre) forest that belonged to the Forestry Department at Michigan State. It was a short walk from my building. I ran there in the summer and sometimes skied cross country there when there was enough snow. Another was a river and woods trail area close to our house that I think all of our family bonded with. Both were great for autumn leaves and that brisk sensation of exercise in the cold, which one seldom gets in Texas.

On the other hand, the Barton Creek natural area by our house in Texas is quite a bit wilder than these genteel Danish woods. It will be fun to get back, particularly since I miss walking with the added exuberance of our dogs, who are doing their walking back in Texas with my daughter Julia and her dogs.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ferry 'cross the Skagerrak

Night before last we had dinner in a famous Bergen literary hangout, the Holberg Stuen (Inn). Named after one of Norway's most famous writers, one of Sandy's friends, Karla Karpinen, had loved to hang out there to hear all the interesting conversation, so we tried it. There were indeed six guys talking passionately about life, the universe and everything, over a long series of brandies. Not being drinking types, we decided to try the food instead, which was excellent. Sandy was going to eat the steamed sheep's head, prominent on the menu, but I talked her out of it.

Yesterday we got on a ferry in Bergen to head back to Denmark. Bergen is famous for having rain almost every day, often several times a day. So true to form, it rained hard as we pulled out of Bergen. Above is a view of the mountains outside Bergen as we pulled away in the rain (trying really hard to keep water off the camera lens).

There is a whole archipelago of islands outside Bergen. Many are populated for quite a ways away from the city. Made me daydream of living on one, which I have always wanted to do. It also reminded me very pleasantly of the area around Seattle and Bellingham, Washington, where my sister Lois and her sons Mark and Jon lived when I was growing up. One of my first outings on my own initiative in high school was to buy a ticket and fly up to visit them for a week or so for several summers after I had worked some kind of boring agricultural job most of the summer. Those visits were sort of magical -- the area was beautiful and much more cosmopolitan. Mark and Jon had found much more interesting music on the radio there (and from Vancouver, BC), so I remember getting introduced to John Mayall, Frank Zappa, the Fugs -- all sorts of people who weren't exactly getting on to AM top 40 around Boise.

Once we got a bit further south, the afternoon passed very pleasantly as we cruised along the Norwegian coast. It turned into one of the kinds of time I like best. We sat in a couple of chairs outside one of the ship's cafes, looking out a window. The scenery was great. We read, talked and I even got into a spurt of productivity on the laptop and got most of the slides for a public lecture for students I am doing next week done. There is something about the combination of reading, working, and watching things go by (while someone else drives) that is great. I actually enjoy airports and airplanes for that reason. Even better if Sandy is along to talk to. Here is the beginning of sunset over the boat, the Prinsesse Ragnhild (sister of the King of Norway) and then another shot of sunset full tilt on the water.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Steamed sheep head and the global condition

Last night, after the fjord boat delivered us to our destination in Gudvangen, we went straight into a group of waiting buses who took us to Voss to then catch a train to go to Bergen. Complicated, but smooth. The government and tourist companies have packaged all this together as part of "Norway in a Nutshell," making it easy for people to put a lot of different modes of transportation together. Sandy and I stumbled into it by deciding which things in Norway looked like fun to do, and then beginning to assemble the pieces ourselves, but found ourselves in the middle of very smooth global tourism management that had brought people together from all over Asia, North America and Europe for this package of trains, ferries and buses.

The bus driver from Gudvangen to Voss was a very chatty local man who told us whose house had been smashed by an avalanche last year, how many Olympic skiers came out of Voss, etc. But his favorite anecdote was about Ivar Løne, whose farm we passed, who is called the sheep head king. He produces half sheep heads, all nicely cleaned and ready for steaming, which -- he assured us -- produced a rare delicacy, once you got past eating the eyeball. You can see Ivar here holding one of his real sheep heads, next to a rock someone found for him which certainly looks a lot like a sheep head, too.

You can see here another sheep head sitting in a very posh Bergen deli all ready to take home. The driver assured us that even the King of Norway and foreign mutton fanciers get their sheep heads from this farmer in Voss who produces tens of thousands a year, processing them from all over the country, singeing off the hair just right. People come from all over Norway to eat them in Voss, too.

Now the dirty little secret, according to Sandy, is that this tradition originates in Iceland back in the days, pretty much any time before WW II, when it was a fairly poor colony of first Norway and then Denmark. Steamed sheep head was quite nice compared to some of the fish-related things they had to eat. (Iceland is surrounded by a lot of cod and other fish.)

Once Iceland was independent after 1944, they suddenly did a lot better in the lucrative global cod market, which has been making people rich in Norway ever since the German Hanseatic league started buying dried cod in Norway and selling them to protein deprived people in Portugal, Italy, and other places in the 1300s.

Funny how global trade and culture interact. Various forms of dried, salted cod fish, known as bacalhau in Portugal, became the main national delicacy there. I have never quite understood (or learned to enjoy) that. The thing that many Icelanders ate as alternative to cod, when the richer members of society got the good parts of the sheep, was steamed sheep head. Now Norway has a thriving trade in that and think of it themselves as a delicacy. Watch out Colonel Sanders, the next global food craze is on its way.

Flåm railroad

Norway, Land of Giants, continued.

The day before the fjord cruise, we took an amazing railroad journey on the Flåmsbana train from Myrdal, where you get off the main train from Oslo to Bergen, down to Flåm (pronounced "floam"), on the Aurlands Fjord. You can see the train in the first photo, as it sits at its station in Flåm.

The next photo here is a waterfall that you see not far out from Myrdal. There were dozens of waterfalls on the 20 kilometer trip, including two here, but the one on the right is the biggest.

The next photo shows several more, as well as giving an idea of how steep the mountainsides are for most of the train ride, almost until the bottom.

The train ride is both spectacular and steep. The gradient is 1 in 18 over 80 percent of the ride, which takes an hour to cover 20 km. but also stops periodically to let people take photos.

Quite a bit of the ride goes through tunnels, which literally snake back and forth through the same mountainsides several times in some places as they negotiate some of the steepest places.

After it gets out of the steepest part in the beginning, the train follows a river valley that you can see in the next photo. That flows on down and feeds into the fjord eventually.

There are several interesting things about this railroad. The Norwegian Parliament, in consultation with local interests, decided in 1908 to build a side train down to the fjord.

They began to realize just how scenic the valley and fjord were, as English lords started showing up to fish in the late 1800s, back when tourism was really for the truly rich -- not the global middle class. Almost all of the transportation in this fjord area, which is huge, is by boat. However, the people who built it really guessed right. The railroad is now Norway's fifth most popular tourist attraction. In 2005, 408, 900 people rode it. (Statistical and fact-checking support for this post was by Norwegian speaking Sandy, who is also the master of Web searching.)

Another interesting thing is a very complex ownership and operation. The train is privately owned by tourist corporations and local governments, but the national railway system still handles the technical aspects.

Working out the details -- regular train versus cog railway, etc. took a while. Finally, the grade, railroad bed, and tunnels were dug out and built up by local labor 1923-1947, with a break for World War II, when Nazi Germany attacked and occupied Norway. Most of it was done by 1940, but invasions are tough on both construction and tourism.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Finding fjords

We stayed last night in Flåm in an incredibly scenic hotel on the Aurland Fjord, after coming down from the main Oslo - Bergen rail line, on a special train line built and operated by the people who run the hotel (more on that train later). You can see the fjord here from a hill above the hotel, part of a hike I will also come back to in a later post.

While a great hotel, it had Internet connection only at ISDN standard, which is 20 years old and so slow that I could not even load one Web page in an hour, so no blog yesterday.

Since getting out on the fjord was the main reason behind this trip for me, I am going to skip ahead to that and come back to other some things later. This afternoon (October 15), we took a ferry from Flåm to Gudvangen.

Here is a photo looking back at Flåm from the ferry, with Sandy in red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme (tip of the lyric to Richard Thompson, Vincent Black Lightning 1952).

The next photo shows the view ahead in the fjord. The interplay of clouds, sunlight and
shadow on the fjord was incredible throughout the day, as I looked down on it from above the hotel and as we went out from Flåm to Aurland, for which the fjord is named.

For fellow science fiction fans, you may remember a character in the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, Slartibartfast, a planet designer who won an award for designing the fjords. Nice work, indeed. This ranks right up there with Machu Picchu in terms of most dramatic things I have ever seen in my life.

Along with the dramatic mountains, sun and clouds, we also got comic relief from a flock of seagulls who decided to play in the updrafts alongside the ship. They were a particularly big hit with other large flocks of Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists who were on board.

The cruise went out from the Aurland Fjord into the main Sogne Fjord, which runs east into Norway a long way, with lots of tributaries. We went in it for a while, passing among other things a very remote farm high up on a hill overlooking the fjords.

These kinds of farms are legendary in Norway. Some, like this one, seen at the upper far left of this photo, are on hillsides so steep that people have to use ladders part of the way to get to them. This one is apparently named "stigen," which means ladder, for that reason. You can also see a nice waterfall to its right, one of literally dozens along the way.

Now this also brings up an interesting bit of my own history. My first wife was named Sandy (Sondra) Stigen, and the story in her family was that they were named for the family farm on a steep fjord hillside in Norway. Maybe this was it.

This also brings up the rather bizarre fact that I have been married to two women named Sandy from California who spoke Norwegian who had red hair (although Sandra Ballif started off as a blonde). Sandy (Ballif) Straubhaar simply says the wrong person played her in the first movie.

Here is another dramatic rock just as we turned from the Sogne Fjord into the Laerdal Fjord on the way to Gudvangen.

The sun sets much more quickly in these places, with high mountain walls, but still at sea level. So the last shot here shows the sun getting fainter as even more clouds rolled into to create a pretty dense fog.

There are a lot more wonderful fjord shots. Almost everyone on board was going crazy with their cameras. I will probably put more of them up on my Facebook site.

So stay tuned for more of Norway, Land of Giants.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ferries rock!

This morning we left Frederikshavn on the Stena Line ferry you see here, called appropriately enough the Stena Saga. Very pan-Nordic or Scandinavian: built in Finland, owned by a Swedish company, and operated mostly by Norwegians. One of the things I am looking at this fall is how much the tradition of cultural closeness and economic interchange between Nordic countries matters for television and other cultural industries and businesses. Do the Scandinavians continue to trade very much television with each other, after options have expanded with satellite TV, Internet, etc.?

Back to ferries. Here you can see Sandy striking a pose as the Danish coast recedes in the distance and we head toward Oslo. I really like ships in general, and big ferries between countries are particularly interesting.

We took one between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico way back in 1987, but Sandy spent most of the time worrying that Chris, then two, would fall to his death off the thing, which was about the same size as this one to Norway, which is to say big, a long way to fall. She even tried to keep him on a kid leash, which he was quite indignant about. Rather hard to imagine now that Chris is 22 and 6'4".

The ferry trip was a little like Las Vegas on the waters for much of its first half or so. We had a small cabin but went look for a place to sit more comfortably, do some reading and people watching. There were a lot of copies of a ad featuring a new perfume, Covet, by Sarah Jessica Parker. We were looking for a companion scent for men called False Witness, but maybe they thought one big Old Testament style sin at a time was enough.

We tried the main, large bar area but it had serious second-hand smoke going on, plus a number of people trying to really drunk fast, so they could sober up a bit by the end of the trip. Very interesting scene. Closest to us were some tough-looking middle-aged guys who reminded me of truck- drivers in the U.S. -- in fact, there are a fair number of truck drivers on the ferry (trucks below in the hold), so maybe they were -- and their equally tough looking female friends, who might have been drivers, too, since a lot of women in Denmark do what would be considered hard, working class jobs in the U.S. They were all drinking hard and laughing a lot. Just beyond them, a group of South Asian and Arab teenage boys with computers. Then some Norwegian twenty somethings doing some serious drinking and flirting.

Around the boat, people were also doing some serious gambling on slot machines (including surprisingly small kids), video game playing, serious shopping (including one large boutique just for perfume--hence all the Covet ads), sleeping, reading, and walking on the view decks. The latter was our favorite, particularly once the ship entered the long Oslo fjord and the scenery really began to be pretty spectacular, as you can see from the photos.

More Norway to come.