Portuguese ships

There are some dedicated ship enthusiasts in Portugal creating these detailed models for the Museu de Marinha (Maritime Museum).

I hadn’t noticed when watching Pirates of the Caribbean that the ship’s wheel might be two wheels with a rope in between. Is the rope attached to the rudder, perhaps?

The displays include ancient maps, astrolabes and navigational instruments.

I liked the early ships best, of The Age of Discovery, which didn’t travel light (and that’s without taking white man’s burden into account). Here is a portable altar:

And here is an elaborate casket used to carry the ship’s colours embroidered by the queen. It has bronze turtle feet and looks heavy.

There was a section on fishing, since that is very much part of Portuguese life.

This painting reminds me of Clark Esplin’s work:

There were the cabins of the former king and queen (Carlos and Amelia) of Portugal on the royal yacht, Amelia.

There was the royal barge, which our queen sailed on during a visit to Portugal around 1957.

There were pleasure craft and an Olympic medal winning yacht:

A fire engine from the docks, which looks like an incendiary device itself:

And sea-planes. The Santa Clara made the first crossing of the South Atlantic in 1922.

This is the entrance to the museum which is in a wing of the Jeronimos monastery. Here, in a chapel built by Henry the Navigator, mariners took mass before embarking on their voyages. (Source: DK Portugal guide, which is one of the heavier items in my luggage – the other is the Paris guide. The digital versions may be weightless, but aren’t up to my well-used books.)


We’ve become accustomed to appreciating street art, and architectural design, in Christchurch in the last few years. Here are some which have caught my eye in the last week.

I’d been hoping to find this statue in Oslo which is a replica of the one on Wall Street defiantly facing the bull.

Other street statues are mostly famous men, as in this example, but with a difference which leaves you to imagine (or google) what the grouping implies.

I am on the lookout for statues of women. This one in Lillehammer of a woman who won the Nobel for Literature was a surprise.

The Oslo Historical Museum has some stunning art nouveau features.

At the Art Gallery an exhibition by Norwegian designer Gerhard Munthe included illustrations and tapestries of scenes from Norse mythology, and pottery, furniture and interior design.

And, just for you, Mum, this Monet of a Norwegian mountain. He’s got it just right!

There was a room where you could use this Vigeland sculpture of mother and child as a drawing model.

We went to his sculpture park which has the circle of life as its theme in the layout, paving (a maze or labyrinth), statues and wrought iron. The school children there were a reminder of that theme too, not to mention the old codger on the right who is from Christchurch and was in our group.

I have been expecting to see some quirky designs in Portugal and have not been disappointed. I knew to expect tiles:

The ceramics I’ve seen have gone beyond that simple beauty. An eggplant dish, anyone?

These ones in Lisbon, remind me of Carlton Ware, if more extreme.

Wouldn’t it be great to have appliances like these?

Here are some ceramics which caught my eye in Évora:

Put on your sunglasses for this one:

Under two tall lemon trees, with huge lemons on the ground all around them, were these little ceramic houses:

I once photographed a beautiful trompe l’oeil painting in the Louvre, and today, in the Museu Évora, I saw this:

This painting of The Last Supper uses much more plausible or real characters than most such paintings which I suspect have been commissioned to reflect the faces of the patron and his cohort as disciples of Christ.

The emotions captured by this sculptor are all too real:

And then there’s garden design. It’s nice to be surprised by something different as in Diana’s (the huntress) Garden in Évora. More flower meadow (despite the border) than rigidly planted flower bed.

The Roman Temple is in the background. It was uncovered from the various buildings which had been constructed around it.

In repose, enjoying the shade from the 30 degree heat, was this friendly old chap:

Underfoot, the streets in Lisbon have tiled cobblestones – almost fine enough to be tesserae. Here, in Évora, it’s back to basics with stone. Nice.


Norwegians are amazing. I know, it’s a generalisation, but I’m impressed by their care for the environment, their farming practices, their roadworks and tunnels, their efficiency – doing things thoroughly – and their general nice-ness. They are also tough to survive in the harsh winters. I know that Norway is oil-rich, farming is subsidised, and that it is not a part of the EU, but even so…

Today, the generalisation was made even plainer by visiting two ship museums. First was the Viking Ship Museum which has two original Viking ships recovered from burial mounds.

This vessel had two women buried in it, so they were highly thought of to get such respect paid to them after death. The ship is too big to get in one photo.

It has taken huge amounts of patience, skill and knowledge to piece these ancient ships back together, and they are carefully monitored.

Then, at the Fram Museum, I stepped on board two real ships. The Fram was built to withstand polar ice and fitted out to the last detail by Amundsen. We know him as that Norwegian who pipped Scott at the post. This exhibition shows why. The expedition on the Fram was meticulously equipped, not only to withstand polar ice, but to ensure both the physical and psychological well-being of the people on board. The Norwegians had close knowledge of survival in snow and ice, knew dog-sledding and Nordic skiing and used survival techniques learned from the Inuit.

The photo above is a model, but these next ones are inside the actual ship (note the piano).

There are tidy compartments for everything. There was even a windmill to generate electricity.

These were two amazing museums to visit, particularly the Fram for its interactive exhibits.

Well done, Norway!

Trolls’ Road

At Geiranger, we went out on the fjord in late afternoon sunshine. This is a freshwater fjord as it extends 150 kilometres inland and is fed by snow melting and the subsequent mountain streams and waterfalls, such as this one. Note the blue ice-melt in the water.

The fjord is deep enough for cruise ships to negotiate.

The next morning we took the so-called Trolls’ Road which gives wonderful views, if you can handle the many hairpin bends and the vertigo!

You can cross the fjord by ferry to explore further – the even steeper “Trolls’ Ladder”.

There were many motorbike groups out in very flash bikes, some with sidecars.

I saw one tough rider in full leather gear shakily reaching for the rail of the viewing platform. It doesn’t help that you can see the drop below through the metal grid you are standing on!

Looking over the edge:

On of our group said you can see how the idea of trolls came about when you look at the gigantic mossy rocks (and maybe squint a bit).

Can you see it?

Plants in Scandinavia

Plants have caught my eye in many places. In the cities, such as Copenhagen, plant shops spill out onto the pavement.

People find places for them, such as in pots on apartment balconies or in courtyards.

These tiny tomatoes are perfect for a balcony.

On this Stockholm cafe’s tables, the violas match the chairs.

Pots are everywhere on streets in Finland too, such as here in Helsinki .

Wildflowers are everywhere in the Finnish countryside:

They grow on turf roofs too.

These alpine plants were at Alta, Norway:

This one, someone said, is cotton grass:

On a street corner in Trondheim, I spotted these colourful flowers, with matching cushions:

There’s an app for identifying plants, but it might diminish the wonder and strange-yet-familiar appreciation I have for each little gem, such as these mosses and tiny flowers at Geiranger Fjord, Norway.

Old and new

Very few towns in Norway are very old, due to the devastation caused during the Second World War. There are some charming older areas, however, with mainly wooden buildings. My early morning walk in Mosjoen brought up memories of Arrowtown.

Farms and villages we passed on the road south looked traditional with a white farmhouse and red barns, only a few sheep or the red Norwegian cattle, and fields on a thankfully smaller scale than ours.

There is a strong sense that Norwegians live in the natural environment rather than clear-felling and replanting it to assert some kind of dominance. Perhaps it is because the climate is harsh and there’s no ignoring metres of snow on your house and months of darkness.

Norway is rich in oil, which means agriculture doesn’t have the same place as it does in our economy. Here’s an oil rig being constructed.

Trondheim has an old cathedral built on King Olaf’s grave, but much of it is recently reconstructed, such as the figures on the facade.

And, always, there is a memorial of war.

There is a lovely old town along the Nidelva River in Trondheim, buzzing with student life and a bit of Friday evening pre-weekend excitement.

I climbed the hill to Kristiansten Fortress and was rewarded by a women’s choir singing, and the view.

I spotted a classic boat and a modern catamaran moored at Trondheimsfjord waterfront. Old and new.


We are travelling down the west coast of Norway through fjord after fjord after fjord after…

We cross from one peninsula or island to another through tunnels or over suspension bridges.

Having a front seat in the bus today was a bonus.

There are lots of roadworks. Here, a helicopter lifts a small vehicle at a tunnel-building site:

These massive rock mountains are awe-inspiring. I get the feeling that the glacial action which produced them was much earlier than that in New Zealand. My Sixth Form Geography is proving useful.

There are streams and waterfalls around every corner in the road, and charming fishing and farming villages (with sheep!). This is Narvik, which we approached by an alpine train from the Swedish side of the border.

The photo above was taken at 3am. It doesn’t get dark at night.

Here’s our group queuing for the loo before driving our bus onto the Tysfjord ferry.

The shapes of the mountains make you think of trolls and, sure enough, here’s one at the waterfall which powers a small hydropower station.

It is quieter where the water flows into the fjord.

This is my favourite scene today:

We ended the day by crossing back over the Arctic Circle.