The Street Mimes of Spain

April 12th, 2014


The trains in Spain speed mainly on the plain……  Spain’s Renfe train system is one of the best in Europe.  While we could only travel 2nd class, it trumped first class in most other countries.  Buying a ticket is another issue–we waited in three lines to purchase a ticket (reservation actually as we had Eurail passes) in the Barcelona Station.

314 kph

The Eurail Pass is also in disarray–we purchased two first class tickets on the US side of the ocean and found that France, Spain and Italy charged a surcharge up to $60E ($90USD) per reservation.  We spent nearly $600 more for this $2600 ticket so that’s why I went to Norway–I’ll get my money’s worth.  Between Paris and Barcelona runs the new Renfe high speed which clips along at 315kph.  Fasten your seatbelts!


Ham is a big item here and the whole shank is cured and sold whole for $225E.  It is served thinly sliced.

Cow Maw

The Spaniards waist nothing.  Here a Cow-Maw smiles back at me at the market–with a good set of dentures, this cow would be back in the running.  Maw soup anyone?


An alternative is to succumb to Americanization which is everywhere.  I’ve never eaten at McDonalds, drunk a Coke nor owned a TV….just sayin’.

Cuban Campers  

In the center of Madrid, Cubans camped out refusing to move until they were provided with free housing.  They had been there for over one year.  And I thought the US held the trophy for entitlements.


I promised you street mimes and here is a guy walking around without a head.   Hmmmm


I must interject here I stumbled upon this bookstore in the back alleys of Madrid–one of the best collections of mountaineering literature I’ve ever seen in one–actually several–rooms.

Libraria interior 

On the back wall was a montage mural with each portrait signed by the climber him/herself.  If you are in Madrid and love the mountains like I do, don’t miss this store.

Mime 1

Another mime balanced on a broomstick……


A Spanish marketplace.  We shopped at local markets when we could cook.  Juices in Spain were very fresh and very cheap–usually $1E.

Mime 2

Not sure what’s going on here but the donation box is right up front.  Who can hold still for this long anyway?

Mime 3

This mime had this German Shepard totally freaked out, but then again, he freaked me out when I first walked by.

Mime 4

Balance a ball on your head while talking to pretty girls?  This guy could do it.  Velcro?

Mime 5

Then there was the tennis player.  Look at his feet and imagine holding this position for any length of time.   He did.

Mime 6

This act featured gulag-y music and lots of chain rattling.   Interesting. 


This “mime” was also perfectly still.  Since the Euro-ization of Europe, eastern Europeans have flooded every street corner in western Europe from Trondheim to southern Spain (Norway is a #1 begging country because of their high standards of social services).  They carry their kids, crutches, and various disguises, put on a visage of pathos, and beg for pennies.  Frankly, I get tired of this when I see them walk together to “work” each morning carrying their props.  Some became very aggressive when I attempted to photograph them.  Add to this graffiti on virtually every building in Europe, glass cutter marks on virtually every subway and you have the beginning of the end of the age western enlightenment.


Next is Portugal–and the Algarve where we set up another basecamp.  Stay tuned!

Alesund & Kristiansund

April 11th, 2014


Alesund is one of the prettiest towns in Norway.  Built out on a narrow spit between mountains, there are no ill perspectives.  Climbing behind the town to a restaurant gave me a view of all the islands nearby….and all connected by under-sea tunnels.  This is some place to behold.


The coastline as you travel north in Norway becomes more glaciated and bare–like Greenland and Iceland.


Tremendous pressure formed the central coast where many of the major fjords are.  Here gneiss has been twisted around in this process.

Road signs

I rent a car in Kristiansund (next town north); my goal is the Geitbotmuseum in Valsoybotnen, a small fjord about 50 miles outside of town.  A most beautiful drive on Norway’s very well engineered coastal route which includes many tunnels (both under sea and above) and ferries.   


This is it!  I own two Norwegian style faerings built in this local style and I need information.


And here it is.  A warehouse full of old faerings and larger “Viking” boats.  Some are rowed by 10-20 people, called church boats where everyone piled in and grabbed an oar and rowed to church.

rigged faering

I’m mainly interested in the sailing rig.  Here’s a good example of what I need to know.

Faering in Shop

They also are building new boats in their shop.  This is quite an art-form.  One stick with several notches at various intervals is all they use for a plan.  Each plank is bent and measured with this stick and verified by eye.

 Shop 2

Another view.  Compare this with our project in Alaska here.


Like the boatworks in Hardangerfjord, this one is strewn with odd lumber pieces.  At the left are hand-sawn shingles for a stave-church.


Every tool needed for this project is also hand made, some centuries ago.  The Norwegians have been building these boats for well over 1000 years; an idea imported from the Phoenicians.  Well, time to get back to Kristiansund and catch the Hurtigruten up to Trondheim.  From there I train back to Oslo and south to Munich.  There was no snow north of Oslo this winter and several forest fires were burning–very strange indeed.

Bergen, Totland and Faerings

March 31st, 2014

Bergen Harbor

Bergen Waterfront

Bergen has grown a lot since I last visited almost 15 years ago but not this classic waterfront.  Oil has brought prosperity to Norway and the outlying areas are now all connected with bridges and undersea tunnels and the like.

Bergen Harbor Museum

If you love wooden boats, like I do, Bergen is the epicenter with lots of activity going on even in the winter.  It’s been very mild north of Oslo with no snow on the ground.  There are two forest fires burning in the north.

Two Norwegians

Stormfugl or Shearwater.  A Northsea trawler.


This is Ostereidet where my cousin, Ragnhild & Tor live.  Theirs is the white house center left which includes the red boatshed.

Ostereidet & Oster

About a mile away is a perfect cove which serves as the winter moorage for the Oster, a 120′ steamship.  Tor, a retired merchant marine/engineer put this boat back together in a couple years for about $1.2M.  The Virginia V, a comparable boat in Seattle took 6 years and $6.2M…..  I vote for Norwegian boat builders every time.


Let’s go aboard!

Tor and Oster

Here Tor demonstrates some of the machinery.

Ostereidet 2

Here’s another shot of the Fjord with Osteroy in the background.  It’s one of the largest islands on the Norwegian coast; ranking #14 at 329 square kilometers–we drive around this island on incredible roads.

Ostereidet 3

Opps, here are the roads:

Osteroy drivearound

This is a good stretch of road with many tunnels–all stop-lighted.

Osteroy farm

There is one small orange light from a barn in this isolated farm.  This is rural Norway. The waterfalls above are frozen in motion and await spring.

Bergen Museum

But down to brass nails, or copper ones actually.  I came here to study the faerings so first visit the Maritime Musuem in Bergen.  There are a dozen or more perfectly executed ship models based upon Bernhard & Oystein Faeroyvik’s “Inshore Craft of Norway.


It’s only a two hour drive over to Hardangerfjord and what a surprise!  A small city devoted to rebuilding traditional faerings in the Hardanger style.

Faerings for Sale 

These faerings are for sale–about $20,000 each which would include the 25% VAT.

Wood 3

Rooms full of bent wood ready for selection.


Here is Peter Helland-Hansen who is authoring a book on these boats.  After seeing how these are crafted, it’s easy to see that Norway ruled the seaways 1000 years ago.


A pile of knees.

Wood 2

And another…..

Tor & Peter

Tor and Peter contemplating Hardangerfjord and their next viking adventure.  Me too!


Two faerings under construction–everything under control here.    

Norwegian house

The perfect life… Norway.  Alesund and Kristiansund are next!  Can’t wait!