August 1st, 2008


Day Nine: Ålesund

Our legs were tired out (and it was raining), so we decided to spend today mostly museum-going. C & C went off to the aquarium, and the rest of us bought 3-museum passes at the tourist office. We were in fact the first people to purchase the 3-museum passes, and nobody at the museums quite knew what to do with us.

Our first stop was the Ålesund museum, which includes exhibits about the history of the town (lots of fishing and trading; burnt down in 1904; rebuilt in Art Deco style in, by law, stone this time), models of boats, replicas of old offices (photographer, dentist, barber, and hatmaker's window), a lifeboat that crossed the Atlantic, some stuffed seals, and assorted WWII relics including a great many radios.

Stop 2 was the fishing museum, where you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about cod liver oil extraction, how to make a barrel, all kinds of scary things about fish drying and shipping procedures (they don't throw out the fish that goes bad, they just label it "sour"), and what a lot of salt cod in one small ex-warehouse smells like.

Then we went back to the ship for lunch. Mom was tired and stayed in with her book while Dad, Andrés, and I went to try to work out the buses to get to the third museum, which was about 5 km out of town. We failed. So we tried to walk, only to discover that about halfway there the road becomes a freeway along which foot traffic is not allowed, so, dejected and weary, we staggered back to the ship on our bloody stumps. (Actually, Dad and Andrés went and got postcards. I was pretty much in bloody-stump territory, though.) It may have been for the best, though; looking through the brochures later, it was unclear whether one part of the museum was even open that day, and the other would have closed at 3:00, which is about when we were trying to get out there.

The evening's entertainment was The Wonders of Charles Bach, a decent little magic show.

Day Ten: Bergen

Bergen seems like a very nice little city. The parents had a geocache to find somewhere in the park up on the bluff, so they and C & C went off to take the funicular up the hill that is the park and hike back down while Andrés and I located the museums.

We were going to start with one of the art museums, but they weren't open yet so we headed to the cultural history museum instead. It was on the university campus, in a pleasantly landscaped area. Most of the exhibits had English text available somewhere, either on the walls or in little printouts you could carry around, so we learned about Russian icons and theatre set design and vikings and Ibsen and Egyptians and so forth like that. Some exhibits didn't have any English text, so we learned a rather different set of things about Neolithic people and indigenous Americans (there was some kind of diagram of a two-chambered... bong, maybe, we couldn't figure it out, in the Amazon area, which I am desperately curious about but have no useful terms to search with) and some kind of church mission trip to Madagascar and weaving and stuff.

Then we went to the natural history museum, which was included in our admission to the cultural history museum. They had an impressive hall full of whale skeletons, along with some preserved organs (seal lungs, orca parts, and a really creepy-looking fetal dolphin) and miscellaneous pickled invertebrates. There was a room of skulls, lots of interesting mineral samples, and a very old display about dinosaurs, including a little diorama constructed of cheap plastic toys. There was also a large collection of tatty late nineteenth century taxidermy, as seems common in European museums, but we only got a brief glimpse of that while we rushed by as the museum was closing.

We still had an hour between the time the museum closed and the time we needed to be back on the ship, so we strolled up the other way along the tourist-oriented dock area, poking at shops and things. A restaurant offered among its specials elk and whale steaks. There were seal skins for sale in the open-air market. That was a little disturbing.

Back on the ship, the evening entertainment was Tango Buenos Aires. The dancers seemed very skilled, and I liked some parts of the dancing (such as the leaping; the peculiar yo-yo interlude was also neat), but Argentinian tango seems to involve an awful lot of waving the legs around at the knees, which just looks silly.

Day Eleven: At Sea

This was the least awful day at sea. I didn't have to go lie down because I was sick even once.

In the afternoon, the magician from earlier did an escape-artist act in the pool on deck. That was kind of neat, although the sides of the pool blocked the view so we couldn't see the actual escaping part.

The evening entertainment was a couple of contortionist/acrobats who have performed with Cirque du Soleil before, Ilya and Valerie. That was an unexpected kind of show. They're very good. I liked the way they arranged things to play up Valerie's strength and not just her gracefulness. They were both incredibly strong and very very graceful indeed.

Then we packed up our luggage and set it outside our stateroom to be carried off the ship, retaining only what we needed to get up very early the next morning and be bussed to the airport.