Ramblings from the Cove...
By Lars Gren
The sun was bright against the blue sky as we were descending toward Kristiansand, founded by King Christian the 4th in 1641 and my home town in Norway. As we broke through the lower clouds I began to see the familiar places, the main road into the city, the two bridges spanning the fjord, summer cabins on some of the rocky shoreline. Then as we made our turn toward the runway the warm gold of the birch among the many evergreens on the distant hillside “announced” that autumn was in the air. It was ten years since I had walked across the tarmac to meet my cousin and her husband for a twelve day visit and this one without Elisabeth. Valerie had come to Strawberry Cove for a visit and along with Danielle, who is spending some time with us, kept house here while I “walked back in time.” Although I had told my cousin that I would carry a sign for recognition it was not necessary—we looked pretty much the same—a great surprise.
An old country song comes to mind that has this line in it, “The old home town looks the same as I step down from the train,” well from the air and on the way into the town there was little change but on a walk through the center I said, “Not so.” Now some of the typical Norwegian white frame houses have been replaced by eight or so story apartment buildings. The style is much the same as in the rest of Europe or for that matter how much style is there in a concrete building? However the city fathers require that in some of the older business buildings that are being enlarged the exterior has to retain the original Nordic style. All is not lost though since several sections in the town have retained the typical one or two story family frame houses all of which are kept in 1st class condition. However I was aghast to see one house painted—I think it was a light green—this in three blocks of pristine white ones. I had to blink my eyes to see if it was so. Perhaps it is someone from the Caribbean Islands who moved north. That is very possible for a major change now with open borders is the influx of foreigners into the country.
I walked along the river that bounds the city on one side, then turning seaside I passed the old City Fort, built in 1672, which was used in battle only once to run off some British war ships. Lovely flowers in small gardens as well as a variety of small bushes dot the well kept walking path that leads toward the open sea. Here were boats upon boats tied at the mooring docks or lying at anchor waiting to be lifted out for the winter season. A few boats were plying the fjord but I suppose most owners are content to talk of the summer as it was with excursions to their cabins or to the many small islands that dot that area perhaps recalling the catch of the mackerel that abounds in June and July, then pan fried in butter with just a bit of salt and pepper.
After reaching the fish market and having a walk through to look at what was available I headed for the city square just a few blocks away. I stood near the Cathedral (if interested Google Kristiansand, Norway Churches and see a nice photo of it. (The top was shot off in the invasion.) Looking across to the square to the jail I recalled where I stood with hundreds of others at the end of the war to watch as the doors were opened and the men who had been interred as resistance fighters walked out into freedom. They were the fortunate ones and it was a day never to be forgotten. Off to the side is an open park area with welcoming benches to enjoy as one watches the day pass with people coming and going through the open market frequently buying cut flowers. It seems that a bouquet of flowers is a necessity for any event. But it is not only Norwegian products but also British, French, Italian and other lands represented and many of those who were selling did so with very few understandable words—English being the mediator. All knew that “to taste” is the best sales agent and in that area I helped out very happily and came away with a large jar of, “Krydder Sild” herring that is pickled with condiments. They are delicious for breakfast with good bread or for supper with potatoes but I purchased no foreign goods—only tasted—I didn’t want the merchants to feel slighted.
Aside from seeing the familiar slope where I broke a leg on my first ski experience and the three story building where I did a “half-gainer” off the banister then through the circular stair “putting” my head on a thick welcome mat I spent time with a few friends of old and then being with family. Egil, a friend who was with me when I took the fall said, “It was strange when you went over backwards you did not go head first but you went down in a sort of “sea-saw” fashion, rather slowly and the back of your head landed right on the mat.” Do I believe that there are guardian angels? Yes, a resounding Yes! There were other incidents from the past and from this trip too but I’ll just add that it would have been more enjoyable to have had Elisabeth with me. On my first night there, in the midst of sleep, I awoke with a start as I reached out my left arm and found it to fall on the mattress. “Where is Elisabeth?” It took some seconds to think through where she might be and then it dawned on me that we were three thousand or so miles apart.
Now for the weather report since most ask, “What was the weather like?”—well it was fall with the lovely colors but also the chill breeze coming in from the North Sea—temperature in the fifties—a few bright sunny days but then some days with low hanging gray clouds delivering just enough rain to say so or making one think that there is a downpour coming and sure enough that also was delivered on a couple of days. A good sweater or jacket was needed. It was the sort of season that one of my aunts who left Norway said makes for the melancholic ways of the Norseman. I never agreed on that point. Oh yes, if you go bring money—coffee, four dollars and change will get a cup and drink as many cups as you like but there are no refills for free—planning on renting a car—gas at $8 a gallon might make you change your mind—have a hankering for an ear of Norwegian corn—yes, that is available for $1.50 at the open air market.
Now to end—here is the weirdest happening on any flight I have ever been on. Think “perpetual adolescence” and you will wonder what has to be done to keep air passengers “feeling good.” Shortly after takeoff, it was announced that the video portion would be beginning, which it did and worked for about 10 minutes. Then the announcement followed that something was wrong and the system would have to be “rebooted.” Well, they did and it worked for a short time again, and then out of commission. This process was repeated several times until finally they gave up and with great apologies announced that they would not try further and that we would be without any entertainment portion. Several more times this was announced as we crossed the Atlantic. As we neared Boston a further apology was given including adding that there would be compensation—is no video entertainment considered suffering? Taxiing towards our gate apologies’ were again given and we were told that there would be representatives of Delta at the exit door to offer us compensation. As I approached the door I realized that they were handing out envelopes so even though I’d had no intention of using the entertainment system, I did not hesitate to receive one. Would you believe that in the envelope I found that I had a choice of 10,000 miles added to my frequent flier account or a $100.00 credit for any future Delta flight. Have we gone so far in the need of being entertained that an airline company cannot allow passengers to have a 7 hr. flight without this “offer? I guess for some, it’s a necessity. To me this seemed the height of absurdity.
But the sweetest moment of the trip was when Steve Price, who picked me up at the airport, and I drove in our driveway. At that moment Elisabeth had just walked out the door and was standing on our doorstep looking up the driveway as though waiting for me. As I walked up to greet her I said, “Well, I’ve been away for a few days.” Before I could get another word out she said, “Yes, too long,” and I was home again.
And that’s it from the Cove.
God bless y'all,