Archives for May, 2012

I prefer taking my train travel among the world’s more vast and glorious landscapes, undisturbed by roads or motor traffic and stop signs. Indeed, the whole point of a railway is to take you where cars can’t go — to move across a place so effortlessly that the whole travel experience becomes cinematic: the immense…

It’s been a while since I’ve milked a goat — twenty years (at least) but I’m very proud to report that I have not forgotten how. Goats are one of the principle ingredients in the vast Norwegian landscape — like salt and pepper sprinkled across the high granite mountains and shiny green valleys. No matter…

It rains all the time in Bergen—or at least that’s what people kept telling me. Nearly every Norwegian I met warned me that I would get soaked in Norway’s second-largest city, reminding me to pack an umbrella and pointing out the city’s annual Rain Festival (no longer celebrated) as proof that my visit would be…

Sometimes, I forget where I am. I wake up in the morning and blink my eyes, hoping for hints. What color is the sky outside my window? What birds can I hear? The traffic might offer clues, too: in Mexico, I the wailing hydraulics of aging trucks. In Paris, I hear mopeds. Our bodies move…

I’m learning quickly that to be a good Norwegian, you must climb. This is a land of very steep mountains. Already, I hear tales (tall tales?) from a century ago, when children who played outdoors were tied like dogs on a rope to the trees in order to keep them from tumbling down into the…

Acrophobia is not a “fear of heights”, like everyone says. Acrophobia comes from the Greek root ἄκρον (akron) which means: the farthest bounds or uttermost parts, the end, the extreme—the edge. I am a true acrophobe—I am not afraid of heights; I am afraid of the edge. The very extreme edge of Preikestolen looks hand-chiseled,…

Kids see the world so much differently than we do, which is exactly why it’s so much fun to travel with children. While I’m exploring Norway solo, one city in particular has brought out my inner child, and that’s Stavanger, in the southwest corner of the country. With its industrial history and current oil-town status,…

Screams

For more photos of rare and unknown works by Edvard Munch, please read my cross-post on Huffington Post World. Down in the basement, leaning against the wall sat a brown package–the back of a picture frame: small and unremarkable like the “art” you find stacked in a garage sale. I walked right past it–just one…

Forward

Museums tell you everything you want to know about a country. In New Zealand, I once visited a museum of milk separators—“The world’s largest collection of milk separators!” boasted the sign—and it didn’t lie. I spent an hour perusing hundreds of different examples of defunct farm equipment and learned how dairy farmers used to separate…

It’s never happened to me, but getting hit over the head with a full can of Coke is probably quite painful. I winced as I watched the girl swing her fist forward, projecting the cold metal cylinder towards the other girl’s head. I waited for blood—but someone stopped her just in time. A Norwegian man…

Hurra for syttende mai! Happy 17th of May! Good travel is all about being in the right place at the right time, and today, May 17th, the right place for me is Norway’s capital: Oslo. What better day to be here than on Constitution Day, the country’s national holiday, celebrating Norway’s independence? As I write…

Seven hours across the Atlantic, I nose-kissed the airplane window and waited for my first glimpse through the invisible whiteness below. As we dropped back to Earth, the white clouds pulled away like white cotton stuffing, revealing white snow. Spring snowdrifts still coated the upper reaches of the growing landscape: a blanket of fir trees…

No matter where I travel in the world, it’s the people I remember most. More than any other aspect (food, architecture, nature, history), it’s the people who make a place. Nowhere is that more true than in the great city of Durban. My week-long exploration of this city-by-the-sea revealed many things, beginning with the realization…

Umlazi

Everyone kept telling me the townships were so dangerous, but I think that only applies to cows and goats. A lot of cows die in the townships—every time there’s a birth, or a wedding, or a funeral, a cow gets stabbed in the back and then cooked on a fire. Among the Zulu in Durban,…

A dead, dried-up monkey hangs from the shop, next to a gaping set of shark jaws. Strips of dried animal skin dangle in a row, and as I walk past, I guess at each remnant’s former animal life: a crocodile, an antelope, a vulture, and several long black mambas. Beneath the display, on a hand-constructed…

I’ve only eaten one bunny so far, but I am sure to devour at least one more before I leave. Bunnies are delicious. Bunny chow (or “a bunny”) is classic Durban cuisine: a hollowed-out square loaf of soft bread, filled with rich, spicy HOT curry that you eat with your fingers. It’s messy, very yummy,…

Gandhi’s neighbors are very loud. It is a sunny Sunday morning and sane people are in bed with the paper and a cup of tea—or else in church or on their way to the beach. But way out here in Inanda township, the house next door is blasting earth-shaking drums and wild marimba noise that…

New city, new language. That is the beauty of South Africa. Just drive a few miles and everything changes. Cape Town is lovely but now that I’ve arrived on the other side of the country, I must switch gears. Durban is the center of KwaZulu-Natal, the great Zulu kingdom and the western fringe of the…