Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Long Way Round

As stranded travellers all over the world return home, I am happy to report that we too are now back, as of this morning. The various members of the large group that went to Selja (see previous post) all came home in different ways and by different means. Most of the Nottingham group (now known as the Snotlingar) came back to England by a slightly circuitous route which had, however, the benefit of extending the field trip element and giving us all a chance to view some Viking landscapes and, in particular, to visit three important runic sites.
The first leg was the train from Bergen to Oslo, over the beautiful snowy mountains, and a few moments' experience of a real blizzard when the train stopped at Finse for the smokers (though it was not really smoking weather). The next day, a morning in Oslo gave some a chance to visit the Viking Ship Museum, some a chance to observe the modern monumentality of the Vigeland park, and me a chance to photograph the mythological frieze by Dagfinn Werenskiold on the Oslo City Hall, which I have long meant to do. I particularly liked Thor in his goat chariot (see the picture above).
From Oslo we took the train to Sweden, where we picked up our own chariot in the form of a borrowed car (and a very nice one too, with quite a lot of goatpower), and spent the first night at Mjölby. More by accident than by design, it was a brilliant choice in that it enabled us the next morning to visit the nearby rune stones at both Högby and Rök. The drive through the Swedish countryside in the brilliant sunshine was also a highlight. We raced across the bridges to Denmark and then pressed on to our third and fourth rune stones of the day, at Jelling, which we saw in the soft and fading light of the day. It was good to see the stones before they are encased in their protective box (see my earlier post on this subject). I was also delighted with Erik the Red's very splendid modern rune stone outside the museum (see picture left). After a long day, we ended up just over the border in Germany, ready for our last road leg, to the Hook of Holland, where we gave the chariot back to its rightful owner, who had similarly been stranded in England. From the Hook we sailed to Harwich, happily meeting up with some others of the Seljumenn on the boat, and then arrived home at 3 am having first had to go to Gatwick to pick up my car that had been languishing there since we left.
All in all, a memorable trip, thanks to the Icelandic ash cloud!

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