Archive | July, 2012

Meeting Etgar Keret

25 Jul

I’d never heard of Etgar Keret until I was asked to put an announcement in the community newsletter about his appearance at an upcoming speaking engagement. The email I’d received stated he was a frequent contributor to NPR’s This American Life. After reading that, he immediately went up a few notches in my estimation. (After all, I’m a fan of This American Life and I’d just finished reading a book by another of the show’s frequent contributors, David Sedaris.)

I visited Etgar’s website. I liked what I saw, especially the quirky illustrations. Ooh, he’s written graphic novels. Yes! This guy sounds interesting. And, he’s done film! I watched a video of him reading one of his stories. Yes! I’m going to this speaking event, I thought. I read one of his stories (Creative Writing) on The New Yorker website and loved it. In the matter of a couple of hours I’d become a fan. Yes, I thought, I’m going to this event…and I’m bringing my camera!

The event last night was, by design, an intimate affair. I think at the most about 25 people were in attendance at the home of one of the member’s of our community. When Etgar arrived he was introduced to and shook the hands of those of us who had arrived early. Straight away I asked him if it was okay if I took some photos. He replied amiably, “yes, of course.” I idiotically added, “I promise I won’t use my flash.”

During the reading Etgar was casual, charming, funny and very down to earth. He spoke of his life, his family, his work. He related a couple of anecdotes. And then read the stories that grew out of those anecdotes, one of which was his first short story, Pipelines; the other, What Animal Are You?, from his most recent collection of stories.

I had chosen a great seat for taking photos of Etgar – just yards away and directly facing him. And though the interior lighting was low, the light from a window behind him was rather bright. Without using a flash I didn’t know how to adjust for the lighting situation. My photos came out a bit blurry. Oh, why did I promise not to use a flash? But, of course, I would never have used my flash in such an intimate situation as that one. I certainly didn’t want to bring any attention in my direction. And I sure didn’t want to make Etgar blink from a camera flash. Even the sound of the camera shutter sounded thunderous to me and I imagined everyone in the room thinking “when is she gonna stop clicking away with her camera?”

I gave up on the photo taking after a few exposures. Besides, I couldn’t hear what Etgar was saying while I was behind the lens.


Seventh and Final Port of Call: Stavanger

11 Jul

We sailed south, past Bergen to the town of Stavanger situated at the mouth of the southernmost of the west coast fjords. Stavanger had a humble beginning as a medieval fishing village, then experienced an economic boost in the nineteenth century due to a lucrative fishing and canning industry. The town’s prosperity was boosted even further when oil was discovered off the coast in the 1960s.

The old town center, Gamle Stavanger, consists of a few streets with some well-preserved whitewashed clapboard wooden houses situated along narrow cobblestoned streets. Bright flowers decorated the quaint white houses. We visited the Canning Museum in Gamle Stavanger as well as a worker’s cottage furnished on the ground floor as in the 1920s and on the first floor as in the 1960s. We sampled some delicious homemade waffles and coffee at the cafe on the ground floor.

The skies were gray and a few sprinkles here and there reminded us of the constant threat of rain. We enjoyed walking through the old town, around the harbor and in the lively and trendy commercial quarter north and west of the harbor. We climbed the fire watch tower for a nice view of the rooftops of the city, visited the maritime museum and had a light lunch in a coffeehouse where we had a nice conversation with the barista who hailed from Leeds, England.

In late afternoon, the rain finally came down. We were tired and ready to head back to the ship anyhow. Hard to believe our cruise is almost over! Tomorrow we we spend the day at sea as we make our way back to Amsterdam.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sixth Port of Call: Olden

10 Jul

Another small village at the head of another fjord. The main attraction near Olden is Briksdalen Glacier which can be reached by hiking 3 km from the “mountain lodge” (really a huge souvenir shop complex) about a half-hour drive from Olden. It felt cool at the beginning of the hike and I bundled up but with the slight incline up the mountain I warmed up pretty quickly and began shedding gloves, scarf and layers. The trail was quite scenic with moss covered rocks, brilliantly colored wildflowers, rapids, waterfalls and even a small group of goats off to the side. About halfway along the trail we spotted the glacier, then past markers noting where the face of the glacier had been situated in 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. When finally we got to the end of the trail we were a bit disappointed. A small lake of glacier melt prevented us from actually touching or standing on the glacier which itself looked rather puny! You expect a glacier to be massive in size…this one looked like an unfortunate pile of snow wedged between a couple of peaks. Oh, I don’t mean to sound too jaded…it really was a lovely invigorating hike.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fifth Port of Call: Geiranger

9 Jul

Our two previous ports of call, Alesund and Bergen, were situated at the mouth of a fjord. Today we sailed through a fjord considered to be the pearl of fjords in Norway to visit the small village of Geiranger. The views were stunning as we approached the head of the fjord. Rugged craggy mountains with sheer drops to the water. One waterfall after another as the snow melts into the fjord. My photos simply don’t do the place justice. I had a hard time dealing with the overcast skies and low-lying clouds. There was no place to dock the ship, so the we laid anchor in the fjord and took ship tenders to shore. Aside from souvenir shops there is not much to do in the village. We opted for a ride to the top of Mount Dalsnibba. Following a series of incredibly sharp hairpin turns we arrived at the summit — about 5,000 feet above sea level. The views were breathtaking.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fourth Port of Call: Ålesund

8 Jul

The rains finally caught up with us during our visit to Ålesund. A steady cold drizzle lasted throughout our time in this city. A pity, as it definitely curtailed my photo opportunities in the charming little city. Alesund suffered devastation from a fire in 1904 which destroyed 850 homes and left 10,000 residents homeless. The town was subsequently rebuilt with stone buildings in a blend of nordic styles and Art Nouveau. We paid a visit to two museums —the Alesund Museum and the Art Nouveau Center. It’s a good thing they were open as most shops and restaurants were shuttered until late in the afternoon since it was Sunday.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Third Port of Call: Bergen

7 Jul

Overcast skies and cool temperatures greeted us in Bergen where we spent the day in constant anticipation of rain which thankfully never arrived. We wandered around the wharf area, known as Bryggen, where there are a handful of wooden houses dating to the time of the Hanseatic merchants (15th century) that managed to survive numerous fires in the history of Bergen. These houses and other buildings around them now house shops, cafes, restaurants and a museum. We strolled through the fish market, paid a visit to the Permanenten museum for a display of applied arts and took the funicular up Mount Fløyen for a fabulous view of Bergen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At Sea

6 Jul

Today will be our first full day at sea. We have sailed back through the English channel and are in the North Sea. We have finally caught up with the inclement weather we had been expecting. It has been very foggy with visibility only about a kilometer or so. The fog horns have been sounding with regularity — a sound I find strangely pleasing. We will be docking at Bergen tomorrow around 2 p.m. Until then, nothing to do but relax!

I’ve already finished reading a great novel, Gone Girl and am on to my next ibook: The Space Between Us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.