Tag Archives: Haugesund

The Minnesota Vikings

Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group.

Ethnic Norwegian immigrants represent the seventh highest from Europe (Germany is highest) and this partly explains the inclusion of Norway at DisneyWorld EPCOT World Showcase.

In Minnesota, 868,361 Minnesotans claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State.  No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th 1960; the name is partly meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.

The Club website helpfully explains. why it was chosen..

“it represented both an aggressive person with the will to win and the Nordic tradition in the northern Midwest.”

The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club.

Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams. Their traditional nickname is ‘The Chemics’ after the main industry in Widnes, but the club now generally use their more modern nickname.

In Norway, the Football club from Stavanger is not just nicknamed Viking it is called Viking Stavanger.  The National Team of Norway, who might be expected to be called The Vikings are in fact called Løvene which means Lions.  Other National Teams that are called Lions are Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Senegal and Singapore,

England are called the Three Lions.

On This Day – Vikings and Museums

Sure enough, in the morning, it was still steadily raining and over the first cup of tea of the day there developed an awful realisation that this might turn into a ‘killing off time’ sort of day. We took our time getting ready and then stretched breakfast out for as long as we realistically could and discussed our rather limited choices.

As we lamented the weather and talked through the options however the rain started to ease off and by half past ten, although it had not stopped completely, it was at last possible to go outside and only get slightly damp rather than completely drenched.

It was another depressing morning, the city crippled under the weight of a leaden grey sky, as we set out in a northerly direction along the black granite coast towards Huagesund’s most famous visitor attraction, the Haroldshaugen Norges Riksmonument a mile or so outside of the city.

We joined a handful of local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ Goretex jackets and stout hiking boots who were much better equipped for this sort of weather than us and were wandering along the meandering coast line rough cinder path stopping occasionally for no good reason other than to stare out beyond the boulders into the grey, unwelcoming vast expanse of nothingness that is the North Sea. Little wonder the Vikings sailed to England, it must have been the tenth century equivalent of Brits flying to Benidorm.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Viking Age and a starting off point for longships full of heathen bullies on their way across the North Sea to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes are part true, part fable and, although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio in their character of unwelcome guest or charming visitor and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

Haraldshaugen was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway’s unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I and was unveiled on July 18th 1872 . Truthfully I found it a bit disappointing I have to say, a seventeen metre high granite obelisk surrounded by a memorial stones in a Stonehenge sort of way, next to an empty deserted car park, a closed visitor centre and an empty vending machine but I’m sure I am being unfair because places such as these are not really meant to be visited on a cold, damp day in January.

On the way back it started to rain again so we quickened our pace and returned to the hotel and made for the tea machine and the television lounge. Twelve o’clock was checking out time so we completed the formalities and then wondered what to do. The city museum was open from midday today but I couldn’t persuade Kim to step out in the drizzle for a second time so I left her in the comfy chair next to the log fire that was crackling in the grate and went back out by myself.

I wasn’t expecting a great deal I have to say but it was something to do for an hour or so and I walked back and went inside the rather grey and boxy utilitarian building. I

t wasn’t very busy and a young museum attendant greeted me in Norwegian which meant nothing to me of course so I just said that I would like to visit the museum. ‘You speak English’ she asked, ‘I am English’ I replied and she gave me a quizzical look that asked what I was doing there so I felt obliged to offer an explanation about cheap flight opportunities and never been to Norway before etc. and she seemed genuinely pleased to see me and in perfect English explained about the museum and suggested that I might find it nice to return in the summer.

As it turned out I wasn’t disappointed by the museum at all and a spent an interesting hour looking around the exhibits. As I left the museum attendant reminded me to come back in Summer, preferably in August when there is an annual herring festival – a three hundred and fifty metre long table along Haraldsgate with 101 species of herring to sample.  The World’s longest herring table.  That sounded like fun.

I walked back to the hotel where we watched television and counted down the clock until waffle time and shortly before three o’clock the batter arrived and we had a snack just ahead of the taxi arriving at quarter past.

This seems unfair but I wasn’t desperately sad about leaving Norway. Unfair because Haugesund is probably a much better place to visit in the summer when the days are longer and the place enjoys relatively good weather so I think we will have to return at a different time of the year.

By a mocking twist of fate as we sat waiting for the flight the clouds broke up and at the end of daylight hours a blue sky opened up to greet the plane and the next set of visitors enjoying a cheap flight bargain to a place they have never heard of.

On This Day – An Unexpected Meeting With Marilyn Monroe

January 15th 2011 and I was in the Norwegian City of Haugesund on the North Sea coast…

In the morning by a minor miracle the rain had stopped and the pavements had been dried off by the piercing wind so when we woke and discovered this we were hopeful of a dry day.

Breakfast turned out to be an excellent affair with a good cold buffet and a hot egg and bacon selection as well. There was a lot of chopped up fish, which, quite frankly, I could have happily managed without and some brown cheese, which is apparently quite popular in Norway, so I tried some and regretted it almost immediately. I think brown cheese is what you call an acquired taste and quite clearly two days was not going to sufficient time to get anywhere close.

We stepped out of the hotel into a drab world of semi-darkness that was just overwhelmingly grey and sad. Along the waterfront boats bobbing gently on the calm waters and except for the occasional piercing squawk of a seagull it was eerily quiet for a Saturday morning.

The best thing to do was to walk back towards the centre and soon we were on Haraldsgate, the main shopping area and the longest pedestrianised street in Norway but even though it was the weekend the streets were empty and the shops were seriously short of customers.

Even at midday it was still quite dark and although the Christmas lights were still twinkling this was doing little to lift the gloom and the overall impression on this mid January Saturday was that this is a town teetering on the edge of  terminal dullness.

I amused myself by taking pictures of frost picked windows…

We didn’t spend much longer in the shopping centre and were soon back on the main street where we noticed that the people seemed to be outnumbered by the statues. Every few yards there was a bust or a figurine of some kind or another and I was left with the impression that the city council must spend a considerable amount of its budget on sculptures and street art.

There were a few spots of rain now so we headed back in the direction of the waterfront and the hotel just in case we might have to make a run for cover and down at the harbour side we came across a statue of a young and flirty Marilyn Monroe.

The reason it seems that she should surprisingly turn up here is that her father, Martin Mortensen lived in Haugesund before emigrating to America in about 1880. After abandoning his family after only six months of marriage, he was killed in a motorcycle crash without ever seeing his daughter – Norma Jean Mortensen.  There is some dispute about this I am  obliged to add and there are alternative theories about Marilyn’s paternal heritage – no one really knows for sure.

The rain was getting heavier so as we had been walking for a couple of hours or so we went back to the hotel to shelter. Another really good thing about the Hotel Amanda was complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day so we were saving money all the time as we sat in the lounge to warm up and enjoyed a hot drink.

I usually prefer a beer at about this time when I am on holiday and because I thought it was rude not to sample a genuine Norwegian brew I slipped back to the co-op and spent my children’s inheritance on three small cans at a massive £3 each and returned with my purchases just hoping that the Frydenlund Pilsner and the original Hansa Fatøl would be worth every øre.

Suddenly the sky brightened a couple of shades of grey and the rain stopped so not having travelled eight hundred miles to Haugesund to watch television we found our coats and returned to the streets.

The wind buffeted us about and rearranged our clothing as we crossed back over the bridge and slipped into the shelter of the shopping streets again. Old photographs of Haugesund show Haraldsgate as a row of attractive timber buildings but over the years some of these have disappeared and have been sadly replaced with later inappropriate concrete and glass additions, a bit like any modern English town scarred forever by 1960s town planners.

It was still light and dry so we went on a rather pointless walk to a pretty church and then returned to the warmth of the hotel via the waterfront. We opened the wine and I had a can of Norwegian beer, taking care to enjoy every expensive drop and when the waffle machine was wheeled into action at three o’clock we were first in the queue at the trough of batter mix and prepared ourselves a tasty snack. I finished the Norwegian beer and I instinctively knew that I should have bought more.

Tonight the dining room was busy with Norwegian guests most of whom looked as though they were attending a tribute band retro rock concert, especially the men with their pony tails and platted beards. We were the only English people in the hotel and the Norwegians treated us with a sort of arms length curiosity because they were probably wondering what on earth we were doing there.

It was pouring with rain now so this ruled out any evening walk option so instead we made ourselves comfortable in the lounge, claimed possession of the television remote controller which put us in charge of channel selection and choose an English speaking film. Some Norwegian guests turned up but didn’t stay and this time unlike the Scott of the Antarctic story – arriving second at the south pole after the Norwegian Roald Amudsen, this time the English were there first and we were staying put.

On This Day – Haugesund in Norway

On 12th January 2011 we took a post Christmas break to Norway.

“‘That’s an outrage’ I said, clutching my receipt like bad news from a doctor. ‘I don’t know why I don’t just pin money to my jacket and let you people pick it off me!’” -Bill Bryson – ‘Neither Here Nor There’

One part of Europe that we have so far missed out is Scandinavia so with January Ryanair weekend flight bargains to Norway, Sweden and Denmark this was the perfect opportunity.

There were a lot of destinations to pick from and after comparing all the options we finally choose Norway. We decided upon Haugesund, a city on the North Sea coast in between the two better known destinations of Bergen to the north and Stavanger to the south.

One of the reasons that we have tended to avoid Scandinavia is because of the notoriously high cost of living and the lofty prices relative to southern and eastern Europe but with flights at just £12 return we calculated that we could afford a couple of days of sky high northern European alcohol and restaurant prices without too much pocket pain.

With budgets in mind the search for a hotel produced the highly recommended four star Clarion Collection Hotel Amanda situated right on the waterfront and at £110 a night all inclusive including evening buffet that seemed just about perfect so we had no hesitation in booking the room.

On the day of departure and anticipating low winter temperatures we packed appropriately because Haugesund is just slightly further north than the Orkney Islands so we were expecting cold weather. And with alcohol prices in mind we left space for a three litre carton of red wine from the duty free shop at Stansted airport!

It was a lunch time flight and with the one hour time difference we landed at Haugesund airport on the nearby island of Karmøy at half past four where due to the high northerly latitude of 59º it had already been dark for over an hour.

I am fairly certain that Ryanair weren’t making a big profit out of this flight because there were only forty passengers on the plane which was probably a good indication that Norway in mid January is not a popular tourist destination.  Once through passport control thirty-seven got on the bus for the three hour journey to Stavanger which was an even bigger clue that Haugesund is not a regular itinerary as a tourist destination.

After a short wait the bus driver finally conceded that there were no more passengers and set off along heavily salted roads with piles of cleared grit stained snow and ice piled up on either side. We could see the lights of the city ahead and a ring of snow streaked mountains in the background and soon the bus passed out of the bleak countryside and into the streets of Haugesund and after just a short wait at the main bus station the driver obligingly went off route to drive us to our hotel down on the waterfront.

The Hotel Amanda was warm and welcoming with a log fire burning in reception and as Haugersund is home to the annual Norwegian film festival the whole place had a movie theme with appropriate memorabilia and every room named after a famous film.

We would have liked the Gladiator suite but we were allocated Shane, named after the 1953 Alan Ladd western, which although not as exciting as Ben Hur or Spartacus was better than the Rosemary’s Baby room on the opposite side of the corridor.

That reminds me, a few years later I was staying at the Thomas Paine Hotel in Thetford in Norfolk and got to stay in the Ronald Reagan room…

In the hotel dining room there was a help yourself waffle maker so we tried that and a glass of the duty free wine and as we sat in the window it began to spit with rain and soon it was coming down really hard driven into shore by a raging wind off the North Sea. We attempted a short walk but it was that sort of hard driving rain that a cheap umbrella cannot possibly protect against and after only a few yards our coats and trousers were getting soaked so we were forced to abandon any thoughts of evening exploration and return to the hotel where we sat in the room drinking wine and listening to the rain pouring down outside.

And there were more price shocks to come when we investigated restaurant prices from a menu left in the room presumably for humorous entertainment. With a green salad at 150 krone(£12) and a main meal an average of 300 (£25) it was obvious that dining out would be a pricey business so we were grateful therefore that the hotel rate included an evening buffet which although not very thrilling at least it wasn’t a wallet busting experience.

As we dined the weather got worse as the rain turned to sleet and then to snow, back to sleet again and then full circle back to driving rain and when we finally went to bed we began to wonder how we might entertain ourselves for two days in Haugesund if it was going to continue like this.

Top Five Posts

Always, at this time of the year I spend some time looking at my statistics. This year I have been looking back over eleven years to find my Top Five most visited posts…

Number 5 – Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

First posted – August 2013
Total visits – 16,792
Best Year – 2015, 8,717 visits
Consistently recording hundreds of visits each year
2020 – 194 visits

Number 4 – Sorrento – Vesuvius, Living on the Edge of Danger

First posted – April 2010 in a series about a holiday to Sorrento
Total visits – 18,183
Best Year – 2013, 4,213 visits
A very steady performer and always in my annual Top 10
2020 – 376 visits

Number 3 – Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

First posted – April 2010
Total visits – 18,287
Best Year – 2013, 5,016 visits
Did well for 4 years followed by a steady decline
2020 – 18 visits
I feel a repost coming on.

Number 2 – Royal Garden Party

First posted – June 2009
Total visits – 23.010
Best Year – 2015, 5,871 visits
Year after year, has always done well, especially in May when Palace invites go out.
2020 – 212 visits

Number 1 – Haugesund and The Vikings

First posted – March 2011
Total visits – 24,710
Best Year – 2012, 14,773 visits
It took me a while to understand this but then I found out that people in USA were searching for Minnesota Vikings Football and being directed to my post. Google put that right and the visits bombed immediately.
2020 – 9 visits

Thanks everyone for reading and Have a Happy New Year.

Vikings in the USA, Leif Ericson and the Axe Factor

Viking Longship

Outside Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s Lutheran Cathedral, is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson who was an Icelander born about 970 and who explored the oceans and the lands west of Iceland, establishing colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland and who according to legend reached America long before Christopher Columbus or Amerigo Vespucchi.

The statue was a gift from the American Government in 1930 to mark Iceland’s 1,000th anniversary and in the United States October 9th is commemorated as Leif Ericson Day.  The date is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson’s life, it was chosen because the ship Restauration sailing from Stavanger in Norway, arrived in New York Harbour on October 9th 1825 at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Vikings and a possible starting off point for long ships full of heathen bullies on their way to the British Isles to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

Lief Ericson Reyjkavik Iceland

The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.  These Norsemen used their famous long ships to travel as far east as Russia, as far west as Newfoundland and as far south as modern Spain in a period known (not very imaginatively) as the Viking Age.

Whilst we tend to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was quite complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from archaeology and modern research.  A romanticized picture of Vikings as noble savages began to take root in the eighteenth century and this developed and became widely embellished for over a hundred years.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers is part true, part fable and part exaggeration and although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio of good and bad and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

But now it seems historical revisionism has gone too far for some people  especially for Professor Simon Keynes, an Anglo-Saxon historian at Cambridge University – ‘There’s no question how nasty, unpleasant and brutish they were. They did all that the Vikings were reputed to have done.’

They stole anything they could. Churches were repositories of treasure to loot. They took cattle, money and food. It’s likely they carried off women, too, he says. ‘They’d burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction.’ It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise. It was maritime blitzkrieg at first.’

It is now widely believed that Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group. In Minnesota, nearly a million claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State.

No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th1960 a name that is meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.

The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club.  Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams.

epcot-norway-viking

It probably also explains why Norway features at World Showcase at EPCOT in Disney World in Florida.

In actual fact however there is no real evidence that Ericson actually discovered America at all  and rather curiously his statue in Reykjavik faces east as though gazing back to the Old World of Scandinavia rather than the New World of America.

Today he looked out over Viking skies full of Icelandic drama with mountainous clouds as big and as grey as a medieval cathedral that closed around the city like a soggy cloak.

Steinunn first Icelandic cSettler

Weekly photo Challenge: Circle

Tyre Circles Haugesund Norway

One of the reasons that we have tended to avoid Scandinavia is because of the notoriously high cost of living and the lofty prices relative to southern and eastern Europe.

The reason that Norway in particular is so expensive is that after World War Two, thanks to shipping, the merchant marine industry and a policy of domestic industrialisation the country experienced rapid economic growth.  Then, from the early 1970s, there was further accelerated growth as a result of exploiting large oil and natural gas deposits that had been discovered in the North Sea.

Read the Full Story…

Wales, Rainy Days and Mondays

To be fair to Wales and to set the record straight, it isn’t the only place that we have visited where it has rained a lot…

Sigulda LatviaIceland Traditional HouseHaugesund Sailors NorwayFolegandros RainStreet Cleaners Alghero Sardinia

COMPETITION!

Ten points for each country that you can identify in the pictures!

1  S*******

2  L*****

3  I****

4  S****

5  I******

6  S****

7  M******

8  N*****

9  G*****

10 S*******

 

EPCOT World Showcase – Norway

EPCOT Norway

At EPCOT the Norway Maelstrom ride is on water with the occasional splashes that leave a few damp patches on your summer clothes but Norway in January in the driving rain and penetrating drizzle is a much more authentic getting wet experience I can tell you!

We joined a handful of intrepid local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ kagools and sturdy hiking boots who were wandering along the coast line cinder path stopping occasionally for no apparent reason to stop and stare out into the grey nothingness of the North Sea as though searching the horizon for long lost Viking ancestors returning from a raiding expedition.

Read the full story…

Favourite Street Art

Street Art Mellieha MaltaMellihea, Malta
Bratislava Street ArtBratislava, Slovakia
Sólfar suncraft Reykjavik Iceland
The Solfar Suncraft, Reykjavik, Iceland
Agincourt ArchersAgincourt English Archers, France
L'Escala Costa Brava Street ArtL’Escala, Catalonia, Spain
Burgos Weary PilgrimBurgos, Castilla y Leon The Pilgrim, Spain
Marilyn Monroe Haugesund NorwayHaugesund Marilyn Monroe, Norway

Krakow, Poland

I Love Wroclaw DwarfWroclaw, Poland
Irish Famine
The Potato Famine, Dublin, Ireland
Anonymous Pedestrians Wroclaw Poland
Wroclaw, Poland – The Anonymous PedestriansBelfast  Beacon Of Hope
Belfast, Beacon Of Hope