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Port Notes -- Bergen

The ms Rotterdam felt awfully quiet and cozy on Sunday as we docked for our overnight in Bergen: Norway's second largest metropolitan area. The smell of laundry wafted down the halls, the windows of the Explorations Café fogged up with the warmth of coffee, and the Front Desk was one of the only busy locations onboard as passengers asked questions about Bergen or collected Ship Flicks to watch in bed. The staff of A Prairie Home Companion had the day off, so we turned instead to Holland America's in-house musicians for our entertainment: Adagio and B.B. King's All-Stars did not disappoint.

Monday was another alternately cloudy and drizzly day in Bergen, with plenty to do. Lots of passengers took the funicular (a very steep railway) or hiked up Mount Fløyen to see all of Bergen laid out below. It is a sprawling city whose scattered handfuls of neighborhoods and commercial areas are embraced by seven green mountains. The top of Mt. Fløyen also offered woodsy hiking paths and multiple playgrounds, one of which featured a big troll!

Some of us took tours through the historic German trading area of Bryggen (in English: the wharf), while others of us shopped for Viking-themed souvenirs or stopped for an open-face smoked salmon sandwich. The Fish Market at Torget was quite the sight (and smell): hideous monkfishes, giant crabs in tanks, dried codfish hanging by the jaw, 10 varieties of caviar. Fish soup was on the menu, as was whale meat for the more adventurous eaters. Bergenhus Fortress was another nearby site a lot of us visited. Did you know that Håkon's Hall is 750 years old? It still seemed to be in pretty good shape, and in fact, it is still used as a royal banquet hall today.

One of the more popular excursions included a trip to Edvard Grieg's house for an afternoon recital, and it makes sense that such a musical crew would want to pay their respects to the famous Norwegian composer and pianist. Today we have another entertainment-filled day at sea before our final Norwegian destination of Oslo.

Lecture Notes -- Bendik Rugaas

The Sami people (also Sámi or Saami, traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders) are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. The Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and are hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Sami ancestral lands are not well-defined. Their traditional languages are the Sami languages and are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family.

The Genius Show -- Howard Levy

The Ocean Bar was packed for Saturday night's Genius Show with Howard Levy. Sadly, he just left our ship in Bergen to head home to Chicago. This was his first APHC cruise, and his first visit to both Norway and Scotland, which he thoroughly enjoyed. More than anything, he was thrilled to play music with his good friends in the band. Howard has been a frequent guest for over 20 years on Prairie Home, and we were so lucky to have him with us for half of this incredible voyage.

Howard Levy has a mind for discovery and innovation. He started piano at age eight and harmonica at 18. According to him, he sounded awful on harmonica at first. Then during his first year at Northwestern University, something clicked. He could bend notes and play jazz licks he'd heard on records growing up. He would go on to develop the "overdraw" and "overblow" techniques, producing a chromatic scale on the diatonic harmonica. And though he would prefer to say he "discovered" these methods rather than "invented" them, we insist that he invented them--and forever changed the instrument.

He has also learned mandolin, saxophone (tenor, alto, and soprano), penny whistle, jaw harp, and a little bit of guitar and bass. In his early 20s, Howard cultivated an intense interest in World Music and learned to play many different kinds of flutes, Asian string instruments, ocarina, dumbek, African balafon, and more. "I love good music no matter where it's from, and I like to understand the perspective it's coming from. I've played lots of music you wouldn't think harmonica could be a part of."

Howard has toured the world with many different accomplished artists, including Kenny Loggins, Tito Puente, and as a founding member of the Flecktones. He's the music director of Cheveré de Chicago, a Latin jazz ensemble. He also collaborates frequently with our friends Chris Siebold and Larry Kohut. (Howard and Chris have toured extensively as a duo.) And Howard has done a lot of composing--he still enjoys playing some of the first tunes he wrote when he was a teenager.

Currently, you can find him working on a book called The Melody of Rhythm about his discovery that mathematical formulas can generate scales and rhythmic patterns that are some of the central scales in Western music and some of the central rhythms in Afro-Cuban music. He has given a few lectures on the subject so far.

Coming events: This August, Howard will play a three week U.S. tour with Bela Fleck and The Flecktones. Thirteen of these concerts will be with Chick Corea's Elektric Band. On September 24/25, he will perform Piazzolla's 5 Tango Sensations, featured on the "Tango and Jazz" CD, in Evanston and Chicago with The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians.

View From the Bow -- Bjørn Follestad

Norwegian Glaciers

As mentioned earlier, strandflats and fjords are glacially eroded and carved; thus, a lot of glacial features can be seen.

A glacier can be compared to a bank account. If the input is greater than the losses, the glacier will grow. In mountainside scars and depressions, snow might survive from year to year. Eventually, the snow crystals transform into ice crystal as the thickness (weight) of snow increases. Furthermore, gravity makes the ice descend downslope.

The glaciation limit is defined as a plane on a mountain with and without glaciers. Changes in annual temperature results in higher or low glaciation limits. During the last glaciation, annual temperatures decreased 4-6° C. This gave us a glaciation limit 400-600 meters lower than today. Glaciers will form cirques and cirque valleys in the mountainsides. Even today, cirques might house a glacier. If two cirque glaciers are formed, a ridge will be formed. Similarly, three cirque glaciers might create a peak. For example, the glacier of Jostedalsbreen is a plateau glacier. This glacier is the biggest glacier in Europe and covers 4872 km.

From this plateau glacier, several valley glaciers descend into the lowlands, e.g., the valley glacier of the Suppehellebreeen in the areas of Fjærland can be seen. In total, 37 valley glaciers are named.

Literary Limericks

Excerpted from Garrison's forthcoming book of limericks to be published by Grove/Atlantic

The prodigious productive Updike
Wrote prose like riding a bike,
Fiction, reviews,
To enlighten, amuse,
And verse, when he needed a hike.

Emerson tried to do good:
"If you're great you'll be misunderstood."
Which led jerks to imagine
With great self-compassion
They were heroes in all likelihood.

Travel Tips

As we approach Oslo for our second overnight, you might be wondering what to do with all that time in one place! If you're a big museum person, you may consider buying an Oslo Pass, which at a cost of 395 NOK (about $46 US) will get you free entry into more than 30 museums & attractions as well as free travel on all public transportation. The Norwegian Folk Museum, the National Gallery, the Munch Museum, the Viking Ship Museum, the Nobel Peace Center, the Ibsen Museum, Norway's Resistance Museum, Akerhus Castle, and more are all covered by the pass.

Journal entries:
Rotterdam | North Sea | Edinburgh | Inverness | North Sea | Trondheim | Ålesund | Flåm
Bergen | North Sea | Oslo | North Sea | Rotterdam | Talent Show