Monday, 28 July 2014

island hopping

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Today we are around Ålesund and decided to do some island hopping. The area has both fjords and sea islands.

There's plenty of travel options and we've somehow mixed bridges, tunnels and ferries together to get around.
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The Norwegians have some long tunnels through the mountains, but also deep tunnels that wend their way under the sea. Some use a sort of spiral construction to get the necessary depth as they take us from one pretty area to another, and I keep hearing that Groove Armada track in my head with Patti Page singing about dreaming of salty air and quaint little villages here and there.
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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Top Gear Tesla moment in Norway


I noticed an unusual car whilst we were staying at the wooden hut.

An adjacent hut had a sort of Jaguar-looking sporty car parked outside, except it wasn't a Jaguar. I'm used to seeing most fancy cars around London, so I assumed this was a Jaguar with a slightly plastic-fronted body-kit makeover.

Then, the next day I saw another one. Same shape, but white instead of red. I was mildly intrigued.

It was when we were in a temporary stopping place by the Vinmonopolet the next day that I realised what I was seeing. There was a row of pseudo petrol pumps and another one of the cars. It was a Tesla. An electric car recharging from a special high power charger.

The frequency of sightings made me think that the area was perhaps a factory or special test facility for the cars. To see three in a couple of days seemed unusual. Then I saw another three on our next journey. All the Tesla Model S.

It turns out that this Tesla car is the top-seller of all cars in Norway. It beats even the usual Ford Something. In fairness, it's a small population, and only needs about 1,500 cars to be top of the pops, but it is still noteworthy that a premium-priced electric sports car is achieving this. One reason is the huge Norwegian price incentive because it is electric.

In Norway, a mid-range VW Golf costs about double the UK price because of Norway's taxation. I should maybe mention that a glass of beer is about £10/$16 so there's a general price hike on many products in any case.

Move upmarket with cars and a midrange petrol BMW 5 is around US$100k-120k. So in the middle/upper market the Norwegians look closely at the huge tax relief on a high performance luxury 5 door electric sports car.

The Tesla would be around $220k in Norway if it had the same taxes applied as for petrol cars, but becomes about the same price as the Beemer because no tax is levied. Add the Norwegian fringe benefits for electric vehicles of no toll road charges, driving in bus lanes, free parking, free ferries and only about $700 of fuel (electricity) per year in a car with a 220-320 mile range. No wonder well-heeled Norwegians have created a 5 month waiting list for the car. And no wonder I'm seeing them daily when driving around in Norway.

Norway sells around 12% electric cars already although it is harder to explain how it is selling more than twice as many Tesla as, say, the conventional Volkswagen Golf.

Curiously, the styling isn't ground breaking, probably more like what one 'expects' a sports car to look like, rather than something from science fiction. I guess that's just the packaging for the market and will no doubt evolve as people become used to the idea of EVs.

There needs to be critical mass and developed infrastructure for EVs to work and the Tesla may be a start, although there's still a pretty steep entry ramp even with the circa $130k per car Norwegian subsidy.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

to find that I was by the sea, gazing with tranquility...

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We wandered outside to get something to eat and on the way back spotted one of the working ships that ply the Norwegian coastline, just as it was manoeuvring for departure. Called Hurtigruten, they have no direct connection with the Donovan lyric above*, except in my head.

There's something far more interesting about a proper ship-shaped ship turning, compared with the more commonplace RoRo car ferries. You know - pointed front and curved back. We watched as it executed a 180 degree turn in the space of a 10 Kroner coin, before disappearing into the distance. About ten minutes later, its sister ship appeared in preparation for a similar transition.
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* Hurdy Gurdy Man

watching for the Hurtigruten at Molde

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We've left the little hut on the side of a valley, after a delightful couple of days, which included trip along a winding route where the trolls live.

This evening I'm watching a huge sea bird flying across the expanse of another fjord and I gave up counting mountain peaks when I reached 112. Without moving my head I can count 25 peaks right now, and I'm not even close to the window.
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We've crossed back to the western fjords, to a small harbour town called Molde, which we reached by a ferry crossing and then a drive through a deep tunnel under another stretch of water.

We decided the view at our location is so good, that we'd sit with a drink, rather than wandering off into the town. Later, a couple of ships from the Hurtigruten pass by here on their way from the south to the very northern tip of Norway.

Until then, here's a hastily grabbed video from the window. No editing, so it will be a bit rough.

Friday, 25 July 2014

great things are done when trolls and mountains meet

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This time we're in the area officially regarded as the home of Trolls. They decided to throw a few thunderbolts around and sprinkle the land with rain, just as we arrived.
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Of course, it was only playful, and they were simply improving the view for us so that by the time we arrived at the fjord, there would be a suitably mystic appearance. The trolls themselves were hiding; they don't come out in sunlight, because if they did, they'd turn to stone.
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Thursday, 24 July 2014

we decide to stay in a little hut in the valley

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Tonight we’re staying in a little wooden hut in the valley. It’s on the way north past Lillehammer and looks like the sort of place the three bears might live.
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I checked though and there’s no porridge, although I did spot some tasty hjemmebakeri kaffemat which we’ve eaten without getting any ominous taps on the door.
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It makes quite a contrast to the place we stayed a couple of days ago...
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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

mud is the new black

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The little French car we're using has been showing off its adaptive paint scheme over the last day or two.

I guess it's a feature of some of the terrain, which has included the Peer Gynt Way, which is a lengthy drive across beautiful countryside on mainly lightly made roads. It's a toll road and at one point required us to stop, fill out a form and then post money through a kind of letter box.

It's been a similar experience with the local shop, where we wrote a note saying what we'd taken, to be charged later.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

unexpected events at the Astrup Fearnley Museet

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Sometimes you just don't know what to expect.

I first noticed Elmgreen and Dragset's work when they exhibited on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Officially called 'Powerless Structures, Fig. 101', I'd describe it as the golden boy on an plywood rocking horse. It simply subverted the idea of a great leader on a horse in such a prime location.

At the fantastic Astrup Fearnley Museet, here in Oslo, there's a whole collection of Elmgreen and Dragset's installations, which start disarmingly in the entrance to the main site. They've taken over a downstairs area which I guess is normally the way to the restrooms and created something of a makeover, innocently disorientating everyone who ventures into the space.

The neon lit 'Amigos' sign give a hint and expressions start to change before everyone experiences somewhat more than expected, creating a whole extra level of mannered accidental and humorous participation.

Then into the main exhibition, via what seemed to be the remnants of a gay disco bar after a particularly wild party.

Further along, there was plenty to see and challenge and enough space for the show to have room to breathe.
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let's have a look in the courtesy drawer

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Okay.

I know it's a bit silly, but here's the contents of the courtesy drawer in the hotel. Fresh shirt, cufflinks and all manner of other items.

The adjacent minibar makes these items look like positive bargains.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Hardangervidda

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Today we're crossing the mountains in the southern part of Norway. It's a seven hour train journey between Norway's two main cities of Bergen and Oslo, and the route crosses the Hardangervidda, which is Europe's highest mountainous plateau.

It's a modern, smooth, quiet train, once the bustling backpackers have all found their pre-assigned seats, before we leave Bergen. We later discover that there's even a kids' carriage, complete with an expansive play-area.

There's 182 tunnels on the route as well as climbs and the skirting of further mountains draped in the remains of summer snow. Yet outside temperature is 34 degrees on part of the journey. 'Costa del Norge' as the headlines say in the local papers.
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At this time of year, there's plenty of people out biking the extensive trails in the middle section of the route. We've started at the western end ahead of a couple of days to wander Oslo.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Flåm

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We found ourselves adjacent to a Viking brewery last night. It meant today we were well positioned to take a small boat along the fjord. At our first destination we stumbled upon a Viking encampment, with folk cooking food from smoky fires, practicing archery and following the nine noble Norse values.
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We still had some distance to cover and took a local bus along twisty hairpin roads, not least to retrieve the rest of our clothes, which have been stashed away in a locker somewhere at the other end of a fjord.
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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Almost midnight sun

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We've been through snow today. Not huge amounts, but it is surrounding us. The light packing for this part of the trip means that I don't have a computer until I get back to our base camp, so this blogging by mobile phone will have to suffice.

We've been heading north to the extent it was still light at 2330 yesterday. It was actually kind of light at midnight, but I'd say the half past eleven was a more convincing case.

Because we are in a deep valley tonight, I am pretty sure the darkness will come earlier. And then tomorrow we'll be on board a ship for a nine o clock departure.