[Day 18, Tuesday, July 11, 2000]
Peg & Keith Wheeler's Norway trip report,
Aksdal to Stavanger to Jørpeland. Meeting the Velles
Crisis! Rotraud has lost her voice. We had a feeling yesterday was too much for her -- following all those yellow dots. Today would be eventful for everyone. We had to move on to Stavanger and then Jørpeland, where we were expected, and she and Einar had tickets on the cruise boat up the Norwegian coast. They had to leave by car to reach Bergen that afternoon for their trip.
"2 Americans and 5 suitcases." - photo & title by Rotraud Slogvik
It was a little teary saying the final farewell. We had had SUCH a great time at Slogvik due entirely to the warmth, thoughtfulness, and hospitality of these fine people. We knew we could never repay them. We can only hope they will come to visit us someday. (Even that hope is problematic as we can't think of anything in our country that could be as beautiful or interesting.) Meanwhile, we are sure we will keep in touch and continue to share in each other's lives.
The bus was full and we were unable to sit together. Keith won the prize for the most interesting seat partner. The well-dressed and well-spoken gentleman had been the owner of a small airline and had also formerly been a journalist and a teacher. He had been a frequent visitor to the US on business and spoke excellent English. Mentioning that he had been dealing with some medical problems, he casually divulged that he had a manic-depressive illness, which he further stated was under control now with medication. Keith was impressed with the openness with which he shared about his mental illness. We wondered if that was characteristic of the way mental illness is viewed in Norway. (We later had the opportunity to check this out further and were assured that in Norway there is an "openness around mental illness" and "it is not a shame to suffer" from such an illness. Oh, if this were the same in the U.S.!) Our conversation continued over coffee in the lounge during the ferry ride. We learned from him that "Norway runs on FORMS." He had this one criticism of Norway, that it requires too many forms. This corresponds with the binder full of forms Einar and Rotraud had shown us, which they were required to keep regarding their farm. He was quite informative about the scenery we were passing, pointing out interesting features such as the hot house tomato farming that was taking place on the island just north of Stavanger now that they were connected by highway tunnels.
The bus pulled into the station next to the railroad where we had hoped to store the one big suitcase for the duration of our stay in Jørpeland. Changing our itinerary, we were planning two days in Stavanger before we headed back to Oslo by rail. Our earlier experience with Stavanger was so great, but we didn't get to explore the town much and see the museums. Upon learning that the storage facilities at the rail way station were limited to 24 hours, we realized we needed to decide which hotel we would return to the following week and leave our suitcase there. We had received several recommendations for good places to stay. However, sitting there in the bus station and glancing across the corner of the lake, we saw the hotel we had stayed at before and realized how very convenient it was. Decision made. We made reservations for the following Sunday, deposited the one large HEAVY suitcase at the SAS Atlantic's secure room and, with the rest of our luggage, took a cab to the ferry terminal.
It was two or three hours before we needed to board the express boat to Jørpeland so we stored the luggage in a locker and, since it was raining seriously, made a dash for the Petroleum Museum next door. This modern space-age looking complex houses a series of exhibits related to the oil industry. Through films, photographs, models, displays and actual pieces of equipment it traced the formation of oil and gas off the coast of Norway millions of years ago and demonstrated the early exploration, as well as current and future technology, of the off shore oil industry. We were impressed with obvious attention given to safety. Three cylindrical structures set on pilings out over the water presented a taste of what life and work would be like out in the North Sea on an offshore platform. Keith was particularly interested in the series of models of offshore platforms, beginning with the first one that was brought in from the Gulf of Mexico, that showed the great development of technology to make these massive structures more suited to the extreme conditions of the North Sea. These platforms are like huge floating (or in some cases standing) cities that are very high tech. There was a large number of these models, each in their own glass case with descriptive information in English and Norwegian. The last case was empty, but had the caption, "What next?"
Norwegian Petroleum Museum as viewed from the water. (Actually this photo was taken from the Gamle Rogaland when the weather was much nicer on July 4th.) Check out their web site at: http://www.museumsnett.no/nom/English/index.html
About this time, we needed a bit of lunch. Remembering a coffee shop at the ferry building, we returned there passing up a chance at the café of the petroleum museum. The coffee shop had ok coffee, but not much else. We agreed we could skip lunch for once.
A crowd quickly gathered outside on the covered dock awaiting the express boat's arrival. This was obviously a commute boat and folks were anxious to get home. Even with the crowd we had no problems finding comfortable seats and soon we were off heading east on this sleek, smooth sailing craft. While this area of water is officially designated as fjords, is seemed more like open water of a huge bay as this is where several fjords meet and start. There were some very attractive islands and rocky areas (what is the name for just a large low rock that protrudes out of the water?…' skjær' in Norwegian, 'skerry' in English), but the rain and sea spray on the boat's windows prevented any good photographs. This was just a time to relax and enjoy a smooth ride. Very shortly, it seemed, we were nearing Jørpeland in Strand kommune (or municipality). The storm had passed and the sun was now shinning though scattered clouds. (Check out this Strand web site for information, a few pics & a map of this area. http://home.online.no/~strandrl/ )
Kristian met us at the dock. Not having seen us before, he was able to figure out who we were some way or other -- we probably had that bewildered American tourist look -- and he and Keith quickly fell into conversation. They had been corresponding via e-mail for over 4½ years and had a great deal to talk about. Kristian Velle had answered an early post of Keith's regarding a translation and they have written to each other ever since. It was Kristian who first started Keith thinking of the possibility of visiting Norway. This invitation to stay with him and his wife had been long standing and after last year's postponement, was finally being realized. It turned out his daughter was also on the express boat from Stavanger with us, so he was able to give her a ride home for a brief visit with us before she returned to her own apartment nearby. Kristian made a quick drive through the town center and toward the outskirts and his home. The brief glance around revealed a small but very interesting town situated along the water with a small residential area spreading somewhat toward the east up into the hills and north and west along the water front. High rocky mountains to the south prevented any significant development in this direction.
Arriving at their splendid home overlooking the water, and meeting Aud Marit, Kristian's wife, we were invited to sit down for a fine Norwegian meal of meat cakes in sauce. We had forgotten we were a bit hungry so this was great! Afterward, we were given a tour of the house which Kristian had designed and built. To simply say he "built" it is something of an understatement. This house had so many unique features that were clearly of his own design and very well thought out, that it was a delight. There were 5 split levels to the design (not including the deck) which made it all very interesting. The wood working was superb. He not only built the house but also all of the cabinets, down to custom wooden cabinet and drawer handles, and also much of the furniture. The walk-in refrigerated pantry with its beautiful wooden door was amazing. Norwegian breakfasts call for numerous components, packages, and condiments. These were all housed on a wooden breakfast cart that was simply rolled into the refrigerator at the close of the meal and rolled out again when needed! Hundreds of other little touches and big ones too were found throughout the entire home. They had raised three daughters there, all of whom were out of the nest. Kristian's workshop basement was a woodworker's dream.
One side of the Velle kitchen with some of the cabinets
Kristian had built from a "tree" he bought. Yes, that
beautiful wooden door on the right is the refrigerator
(no refrigerator magnets here!).
Kristian works on an off shore oil platform for 2 weeks at a time and then has 4 weeks off. Clearly he had done some amazing things with those 4 weeks off. He obviously likes to build and he was very organized at it.
That evening we took a scenic and orienting drive up into the hills above the town where we could get a good look down on the fjord and Jørpeland. Yet again the views were breathtaking.
< One view of Jørpeland
We came back down to the coast near the town of Tau and just shortly after turning on the main highway towards Jørpeland we came to a place called Solbakk. Here Kristian showed us some petroglyphs or ancient rock carvings. There are some 200 petroglyph sites around Rogaland county and this was one of the better ones. The carvings on the gray granite rock were painted red for easier visibility. Granted this makes them easier to see, but Peg wondered at the archaeological soundness of the idea. Keith thought it was a good idea because otherwise some folks would miss some of the faint markings. It WAS humbling to think how long they had been there and to wonder about the original carvers. This site was exposed toward the sea and would have been a look out point of some sort. Reportedly these carvings date back about 2,500 years. (For more information on this, check out: http://home.online.no/~strandrl/solbakk.html )
We stayed up late that evening talking in their comfortable living room. They had just returned from a vacation sailing in the Mediterranean and around Greece with several couples they knew. Aud Marit, thankfully, was able to understand English well, although she was uncomfortable speaking. It was here that our lack of Norwegian was most painfully felt. Kristian and Keith seemed to have plenty to talk about however. They reminisced about their past correspondence and the maps and photographs Kristian had sent. It was also just time to get acquainted face to face after these years of "cyber contact." Among other things, we discussed possible plans for our stay. The next day was to be a trip in Kristian's boat up north to Skiftun if the weather cooperated. The forecast was not promising.
It had been a long, eventful and tiring day, so we retired and slept quite well. We shared our room with Tomlin, a HUGE gray cat that owned the home. He was particularly fond of the foot of our bed.
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