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Dear Readers,

It has been a tradition on this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. In Part 1, we posted photos of places we visited in the second half of 2018. Here are the places we visited in the first half.

Click on the links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order:

Entrance to Harbor of Lindau, on the shore of Lake Constance in the summer

Red carpet area in St Gallen, Switzerland

Champions League Final in Kiev, Ukraine

Real Madrid scored against Liverpool and went on to win the title 3-1 –  Marcelo, Bale (2 goals – 64′ and 83′), Benzema (1 goal at 51′), Modric and Ronaldo

The Lavra, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

Neues Rathaus at Marienplatz, Munich

Late night Ginza, Tokyo, in April

Zhengyang Gate, Qianmen, Beijing – 正阳门箭楼

Wanchai, Hong Kong in April

WYK, Hong Kong

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Dead sea resort, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Oslo, Norway where we spent the beginning of the new year

Nobel Peace Center, Oslo

Let’s see where we will go in 2019.

Before we leave Oslo, we have an addition to our bookstore of the world series …

Eldorado Bokhandel is the largest independent bookstore in Scandinavia offering 4,000 square metres of books, culture and music. It is located at Torggata 9A.

The bookstore opened in 2013. The facade is fairly non-descript, narrow and does not reveal much about the store. We almost walked past it.

Eldorado has Norway’s largest departments for children’s books, audio books and classical music, as well as a coffee shop, a back yard restaurant (we did not see as it was winter) and four levels (we did not count).

It had a large collection of classical music by Naxos.

In fact, the layout is a bit confusing as it has several levels and the rooms are not rectangular.

A ramp with ducks in the background.

The atrium space with armchairs were very welcoming.

They have a fair number of English books and it was a very up-to-date selection.

and it included Norwegian literature

In English, a reason to buy books !

… a small theatre with comfy chairs

Drawings of people from around the world on the walls above bookshelves of travel books


… a throne from fantasy books ?

Evolution of the Penguin books logo  … cannot remember the context of this poster, maybe it is just a poster for sale.

They were closing at 6 … never figured out what the tall man is about.

Quite a bookstore befitting the name Eldorado.

While in Oslo, we spent half a day in the National Museum of Norway. It houses a very famous painting by a norwegian.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream – 1893 (cropped)

A selection of Munch’s work can be viewed on the museum’s site.

Edvard Munch’s The Girls on the Bridge – 1901


There were also a couple of Degas’s bronze ballet dancers.

We know very little about Norway’s art. Below are a few that we liked.

The collection of old masters and modern art at the National Museum is one of the largest collections in Scandinavia. It consists of 4,500 paintings and 900 sculptures from antiquity until approximately 1945.

Can’t ignore these Norwegian flags.

Ethnic country girls – in their costumes.

Cold climate city – we liked these paintings that depict uniquely Scandinavian life.

Catching salmon in the baskets. This painting is massive and it was immersive standing in front of it. ; )

Moody man – perhaps it is the lack of sunlight for 6 months – many of the Scandinavian paintings are sombre.


Nasjonalmuseet’s collection contains around 400 000 art, architecture and design objects. Almost 40 000 objects are available online here.

Happy viewing.

In Oslo, with our ticket purchased for the National Museum in Oslo, we could use them to enter the National Museum of Architecture as well.

This establishment was opened in 2008. The main building was completed in 1830 as a division office for Norges Bank. It was adapted and extended by Sverre Fehn (1924–2009), who was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1997.

A gingerbread architecture competition is held annually by the National Museum (Nasjonal Museet), Norway.

Oil rig

All the entries can be seen here at the museum’s website.


Some of the results and the winners were on display.


The gingerbread exhibits was retrievable by the contestants on January 6 and any Houses not retrieved will be eaten.


After the audience award ceremony on January 7, a gingerbread House smash-and-eat was held to conclude the competition.


This is part 2 of our post on Gustav Vigeland, one of the most famous sculptor of Norway. The following are a selection of his works on display at the Vigeland museum (Vigeland museet) in Oslo. For more info about the museum, click here to see part 1.

In this post, we focus on the works. The photos below are organized according to the order they appear in the museum floorplan and the order probably corresponds to the periods when they were made.

There were only a few of these flat panels but they are so much details in each.

A different style altogether.


From a gallery of busts.

Using tree-like structure as a frame …

Smaller square panels appearing later in the exhibition.

 Nightmarish images

The dragon was used consistently to represent sin.


These massive columns can be seen in his sculpture park (Vigelandsparken), including smaller versions of the famous Monolith (Monolitten), with its 121 figures struggling to reach the top of the sculpture.

The park was too icy so we did not go.


A partially disassembled mould showing the making of a sculpture – the angry child statue is a favorite in the park, and is being reproduced on various souvenirs.

Go see them yourself. All these pieces are life-size or larger than life. They cannot be fully appreciated in photos.

Gustav Vigeland is one of the most famous sculptor of Norway. We visited a museum – Vigeland museum (Vigeland museet) in Oslo which houses an almost complete collection of his work.

In 1921 the City of Oslo decided to demolish the house where Vigeland lived and build a library. After a long dispute, Vigeland was granted a new building from the city where he could work and live: in exchange, he promised to donate to the city all his subsequent works, including sculptures, drawings, engravings and models. It was also agreed that the building will be used a museum of his work.

Left row. Use of tree-trunks like structure to create a frame.

Right row. One figure almost fell outside of the frame.

The neo-classical museum was first opened in 1947 which exhibits his works and documents how the sculptures were made.

This one has funny whiskers.

His last name was Thorsen but chose to use the name Vigeland where he lived with his grandparents after his father died.

His work reflects his interest in death and relationships between men and women.

The museum has sketching boards and folding chairs for loan.

Most characteristic to Vigeland’s works in the first half of the 1890’s is an emphasis on the inner life of his figures, combined with a dissolved and almost sketch like form. He was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

Some art critics considered Vigeland’s sculptures to be expressions of nazi or fascist aesthetics.

We did not go upstairs to see where the sculptor lived from 1924 until his death in 1943 (appointment needed to see the apartment).

Initially we also wanted to visit his sculpture park (Vigelandsparken) which is extremely popular. But due to snow which had frozen into sheets of ice, it was impossible for us to go and enjoy the park.

Here is a photo borrowed from Wikipedia of the famous Vigeland installation which features 212 bronze and granite sculptures. The sculptures culminate in the famous Monolith (Monolitten), with its 121 figures struggling to reach the top of the sculpture.

Three shorter versions of the column made of plaster were shown in the museum.

Most of these sculptures were created as a model for the bronze pieces installed in the park.

Fascinating work. See part 2 for more photos of his works.

Loved to have seen the park. Next time.

The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Astrup Fearnley Museet) is a privately owned contemporary art gallery in Oslo in Norway. It was founded and opened to the public in 1993. In 2012 the museum moved to two new buildings designed by Renzo Piano on Tjuvholmen (see previous post about the area).

The museum is funded by two philanthropic foundations established by descendants of the Fearnley shipping family, the Thomas Fearnley Foundation and the Heddy and Nils Astrup Foundation.


Viewer’s discretion advice.


The collection’s main focus is the American appropriation artists from the 1980s, but it is currently developing towards the international contemporary art scene, with artists like Damien Hirst (National History series), Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney, Tom Sachs, Doug Aitken, Olafur Eliasson and Cai Guo-Qiang.

Mother and Child (Divided) 1993 – Damien HirstFormaldehyde tanks preserving the mounted corpse of a cow and a calf.

The corpses were cut longitudinally and neatly into two halves with the internal organs exposed.

It was not as shocking as described because the internal organs looked the same as those sold in supermarket.

It was just a bit perturbing to see them in its natural position in functional relationship with the other parts.

God alone knows 2005 – Damien Hirst – another set produced more recently.

A poem is engraved onto the marble pedestal. The text reads:

Here is the night
It is a reflection of the hopeful terror of the day
Be not afraid

Can’t help but associate this piece with biblical crucifixes – the sacrificial lamb.

There is a catalog of its collection online – click here and  here.

Gilbert & George

About their collection, on their web site, they stated that “This exceptional collection does not aspire to present an encyclopaedic overview of international contemporary art.

Instead, it is an agglomeration of works by artists who occupy key positions in the field, either because they have created visual languages, objects and images of great originality and quality, or because they have reinvented significant aspects of cultural production.”

Giant books made of lead – Anselm Kiefer

Francis Bacon

The museum is not big as it only had a few galleries.


They put on temporary exhibitons – so it is well worth coming back.

Continuing with our visit of Oslo …, the Nobel Peace Center (see previous post here) is at the start of Aker Brygge.

Aker Brygge is a part of the Sentrum area, just west of Oslo down town.  It is known for its piers, where eateries with outdoor tables serve international cuisine, or casual fare like burgers and steak. It is one of the most visited area of Norway.

It was the former ship yard of Akers Mekaniske Verksted, which ceased operations in 1982.


A few old industrial buildings were demolished, while several of the major workshop halls were rebuilt as shopping areas. The first step of the construction was finished in 1986.

The area was reorganized between 2010 and 2014.

A popular summer boat bar is moored nearby, and ferries depart year-round for the scenic Oslo Fjord. There were locals and tourists around even in mid-winter – it must be really fun in the summer.

The new development included an inside street, going through the main buildings. Aker Brygge area today consists of 13 separate units.

Local cultural draws include the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (designed by Renzo Piano, see next post).

Tyuvholmen is the area located on a peninsula sticking out from Aker Brygge into the Oslofjord.

The first element of the name is tjuv = ‘thief’, the last element is the finite form of holme = ‘islet’. Thieves were executed here in the 18th century. An older (Danish) spelling of the name was “Tyveholmen”.

The name for a modern hotel on the islet –  The Thief – also originates from this history.

It was a good 20 minutes walk from the Nobel Peace Center to here.

At the tip of the peninsula is the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park. The park’s concept was designed by Renzo Piano and developed in conjunction with the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.

We did not have time to walk out to the beach but the sunset was spectacular.

Take a look inside the Astrup Fearnley museum in our next post.

Another highlight of this trip up north is to see reindeers.  We joined a tour to visit a reindeer farm located about an hour’s drive inland from Tromsø.

Reindeer pull a sleigh through the night sky to help Santa Claus deliver gifts to good children on Christmas Eve. We see them on festive cards and decorations.

None had a red nose or responded to the call of Rudolph.

It was around midday when we got there. The sky was steel grey with a hint of pink in the direction of the sun.

According to Wikipedia, reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as the caribou in North America, is a species of deer that is native to Arctic, sub-Arctic, tundra, boreal and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia and North America. Some populations are sedentary and the ones we saw are migratory.

Upon arrival, after getting off the bus, we were led to a shed where we were provided with an extra layer of waterproof one-piece outerwear because the temperature was around -20°C. It was the coldest afternoon I had ever experienced in my life.

We were allowed to pet the reindeer when we were inside the fenced area.

All were keen to approach us since we had food in our hands.

The reindeer loved lichen, presumably one of the very few things the reindeers can find and eat on the frozen tundra.

They were not shy with the lichens but did not like people touching them. Many of them are youngsters.

The tour was run by ethnic Sami people. The Sami’s have historically been known in English as the Lapps or the Laplanders, but the guide explained that these terms are perceived as derogatory as they mean “rag” or small pieces of textile.

They made hot tea for us in the tent and also explained various aspects of nomadic life while passing around traditional artifacts.

We sat in a “sleigh” made of slabs of wooden planks crudely made to form a frame and a platform, covered by animal skin.  The reindeer were pulling us just like how the Sami’s or Santa Clause was transported.

Overall, we had fun but the reindeer “sleigh” ride was not as exciting as we thought. It was similar to the speed of a donkey ride. We could have walked faster. Rides pulled by dogs (huskys) would have been more energetic.

We had two main objectives on this trip to Tromsø in Norway: Northern lights (aurora borealis) and reindeers.

We joined a lights-chasing tour one night – spent four hours with a “guide” who directed the driver to take us inland, looking for a cloud-free patch of night sky. There were plenty of stars, and even a galaxy(?- Chris saw a small hazy oval patch), but no aurora.

On the next night, we saw the Northern Lights from our balcony, appearing behind the mountain across the harbor – it was weak but visible and persisted for about 15 minutes. This is the best Northern lights photo from the whole trip.

We stayed in Tromsø over Christmas  – practically everything was closed for a couple of days, including that what appears to be the city’s main souvenir store.

A Christmas tree in the town center park.

Did you know that the giant Christmas tree at New York’s Rockerfellar Centre is a gift from Norway every year ?

Most of our activities were centered around the Radisson Blu hotel and Scandic Ishavshotel, both next to the port. This spot was effectively the center of town for those few days – most people that were out and about were tourists. All the tours including those originating from the cruise ships started from there.

Tromsø was selected by the Norwegian National Olympic Committee as Norway’s candidate for the 2018 Winter Olympics. This would have made Tromsø the first city north of the Arctic Circle to host the games. In 2008, the NOC suspended Tromsø’s bid, citing excessive costs

Arctic hunting, from Novaya Zemlya to Canada, started up around 1820. Tromsø was the major centre of Arctic hunting and became a major Arctic trade centre from which many Arctic expeditions originated.

Hence, there is a Polar Museum (Polarmuseet i Tromsø) by the harbor with all sorts of seal hunting and polar bear trapping paraphenalia.

Lots of histories and stories about life on Svalbard and explorations to the north pole.

View of the bridge that connects the island to the mainland.

Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen, literally “The Cathedral of the Arctic Sea”) across the harbor is a landmark for the city.

Dedicated in 1965, glass mosaic added 1972 and new organ installed 2005.

Modern, simple, severe.

Tromsø is a port of call for the Hurtigruten.

Hurtigruten (literally The Fast Route) is a ferry line along Norway’s jagged coastline. Originally, Hurtigruten was used as a means of transportation for passengers, goods and mail along the coast of Norway. The ships still transport a limited amount of cargo, but today the ships resemble cruise ships more closely than the original coastal steamers.

The southbound ships arrive at 23:45, and depart at 01:30 in the night, to Finnsnes, … Lofoten, Trondheim and Bergen all year round. MS Nordnorge has her own on-board Expedition Team and serves as a university at sea.

Tromsø’s city’s library.

It would be nice to come back in the summer. Things will look so differently.


Before spring arrives, we want to post these pictures before they become out of season. We went to Norway over Christmas.

Our first destination was Tromsø in Northern Norway – at the top of the Scandinavian land mass.

It is the third largest urban area north of the Arctic Circle (following Murmansk and Norilsk). Most of Tromsø, including the city centre, is located on the island of Tromsøya, 350 kilometres (217 mi) north of the Arctic Circle.

In the city centre, the sun is not visible between November 21 and January 21. We arrived around noon – the brightest time of the day.

The city is warmer than most other places located on the same latitude, due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. The temperature was fairly constant at around -10 degrees celsius. Thankfully it was not windy.

We rented an apartment south of the city center.

Our apartment building looks like the one above except that ours faces the harbor with a balcony above the water.

This area is full of new buildings unlike the older town center that is famous for its wooden houses.

The view across the harbor is the mainland.

A cable car goes up to Mount Storsteinen, 420 metres (1,380 feet) above sea level, with a panoramic view over Tromsø.

All kinds of ships passed by all hours of the day.

Our apartment has two bedrooms and a large living/dining room that opens to the balcony (one can sit outside and stare at the harbor, if there was no snow on the outdoor furniture).

The apartment was about 10-15 minutes walk from the city center. We trekked back and forth many times.

On the way, we passed the Polaria – a museum/aquarium – a touristy place for the cruise ship crowd – the building looked like a toppled deck of tiles or books.

The streets were largely empty due to the holidays.

This is Tromsø’s cathedral – built in 1861 largely with wood.

More pictures to come.

Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

This is our first post of 2018. It is a tradition of this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. Overall, we traveled less in 2017 than 2016, at least in terms of distance traveled. We did not leave Europe after our Hong Kong trip concluded in January 2017. But we entered the Arctic Circle, visited the capital of Norway, England, France and Portugal.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order:

Oslo, Norway, December-January – Astrup Fearnley Museum

Tromsø, Norway, December – 350 km inside the Arctic Circle

London, December – overnight business trip

Paris, France, December – on the Grande Roue

Lisbon, Portugal – attended a conference at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown

Rotterdam, Netherlands, in November – outside the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Lucerne, Switzerland, August – with S&J + family

Panorama from Mount Rigi above Lake Lucene

Verbier, Switzerland in September for business

Aix-les-bains, France in July with friends

Travels in first half of 2017 to come in part 2.