Sitting on a Volcano

Not only Norway has beautiful lakes, Germany has, too. My favourite lake in Oslo is Sognsvann, but this one comes close. It is called “Laacher See” and it is a potentially active volcano. At some spots you can see little bubbles coming out of the water.

In contrast to Sognsvann it lacks an efficient subway connection, but the Benedictine monastery Maria Laach Abbey (seen in the background of the first picture) more than makes up for it.

One Google Maps you find the lake here.

Impressions of Oslo

First blog post after nearly a year of blogging absence: this time just a few impressions of Oslo. Most of the pictures were taken right after a heavy thunderstorm, that’s why they have such a dramatic atmosphere. The first one was taken shortly after midnight on July 4th to show you that it is still light at that time of the night.

I was the entire July in Oslo both to meet friends and to take an intensive Norwegian language course (a win-win situation ;) ). The course was offered by the Folkeuniversitetet and I really learned a lot. Could in the end already have a discussion whether Norway should join the European Union or not (I will not go into the details here).

With these newly acquired language skills I am very happy now because this was the only thing that had bothered me during the 2 years I lived in Oslo: I could perfectly understand everything, but not really talk.

Otherwise, it is great to be in Oslo in July. Sometimes, you feel a bit like being in a ghost town as many people are on vacation. However, the nature around the city, the lakes and the fjord are just fantastic in summer. You should only be prepared for all kinds of weather as it ranged from something that felt more like autumn to 30°C degrees, sunshine and swimming in the fjord.

May 17th: Norwegian Independence Day

May 17th, the Norwegian Independence Day, was a rather wet affair this year: Temperatures in Oslo down at about 4°C degrees, some snow in the upper parts, rain in the lower parts of the city and lots of wind as well.

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Music ensemble in the parade

Also the concerts at Kubaparken later on suffered a bit because of the weather. We managed to stay there for only about 3 hours, but then went indoors to have a real Norwegian dinner with all kinds of traditional Norwegian food. No, not pizza or hamburgers this time, but well, sausages were there as well.

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Patriotic spectator

Despite the weather (“there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”), it was a really nice day with a truly special atmosphere. For Norwegians this day is very important, except for one Norwegian friend of mine who went to his home town for mountain biking by saying “Freedom and independence? You don’t really need this…” (Irony switched on, of course).

For more sunny impressions, check the blog entry from last year.

GPS on the plane: Where am I?

Last weekend, I went for a really quick visit to Germany by plane and had the possibility to try out my new GPS while being airborne. Since I had chosen the somewhat cheaper GPS unit, I had to have a window seat in order to receive enough GPS satellites for the proper calculation of the position.

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“My” plane coming in from Frankfurt-Hahn

I took Ryanair from Oslo-Torp to Frankfurt-Hahn and therefore, the plane was a brandnew Boeing 737-800. While sitting next to a window and putting the GPS on the armrest, I had enough reception during the entire flight and could always see where we were.

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Data view

The picture above shows the data view of the GPS. You can see (bottom) that the plane is travelling at a speed of 824 km/h at the cruising altitude of 37820 feet, which is roughly 11.5 kilometres. The “Distance to destination” (i.e. Frankfurt-Hahn; top left) is 546 kilometers and the estimated time of arrival (ETA) was 18:02.

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Map View

Much more interesting however, was the map view. Here I could see where exactly on the map we were. This helped while being above Denmark to recognize the Danish coastline and parts of the German island of Sylt. Later, above Hamburg there were too many clouds, so nothing of the city was visible.

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Just clouds

Back at home, I put the data from the GPS into my laptop. Since the GPS logs the position every second, you can follow the entire trip. Unfortunately, I had totally forgotten to switch off the GPS during final approach and landing ( ;-) ), which made it possible to even see at which speed we touched down on the runway. Very interesting data.

On the flight back, I took SAS from Frankfurt/Main airport and only got a seat in the corridor, which made it impossible for the GPS to receive anything. This personal GPS on the plane is definitely something I don’t want to miss in the future.

Cross-Country Skiing: Need Pølser

Last Saturday, I went very spontaneously cross-country skiing with some friends. We were four in total and our destination was Ullevålseter, a small cottage just outside of Oslo. Since we were all beginners (except for the Norwegian guy), we did not know whether we would actually make it there.

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Just outside of Oslo

The weather was really beautiful and the sun was shining. The entire forest was lit up and since the snow was new, it felt like being in a totally different world. When there are no other people around, it is also totally silent, because the snow dampens down all sounds.

Compared to down-hill skiing, I must say that cross-country skiing is a bit more challenging with regard to the condition. You basically need all your muscles to ski (especially when it goes uphill). Besides, the waxing of the skis is a science of its own. First, I could not get up the hills, but then I just applied the red wax instead of the blue on and finally it worked perfectly. There is a wax for every kind of weather, we were joking whether there is also a wax that has to be used on Mondays with temperatures between -3 and -1.5, with a mild breeze blowing from south west.

But basically, cross-country skiing is quite simple. You just step into the skis and start marching. The braking works similar to down-hill skiing, but the skis feel a bit “more unstable” because they are also much lighter.

We finally made it to Ullevålseter, where for the first time in my life, I actually wanted to have a Pølse, which is nothing more than a simple hot dog and Norwegians are crazy about these Pølser. The way down was of course much more fun than going up and also much quicker.

I took just a few pictures, which you can see here.

Downhill Skiing: Successful Second Attempt

Last year, I tried out downhill skiing for the first time ever and the painful conclusion I made after 50 metres was that if I ever want to try it again, I will have to take a skiing course (for the pictures from last year see here). So new year, new hope, I wanted to try it again – this time with professional help.

So I wanted to sign up for a skiing course for beginners. However, when I called the skiing school, the lady on the telephone told me that for absolute beginners like me, it was better to have a personal instructor instead of a course in a group. First I was a little bit sceptical also because of the higher price for the lesson, but then I “ordered” a personal instructor for 1 1/2 hours.

Personal Instructor

Today then, I went up to Tryvann and there he was: Nick, my personal instructor from England, a country well known for its cold temperatures, high mountains and loads of snow.

First things first, I asked him many stupid questions like how to step into the skis, whether the boots were sitting correctly and how to properly hold the sticks because I have absolutely zero knowledge when it comes to skiing. After that, we started really slowly on a beginner’s slope (in German we call that Idiotenhügel = idiot’s hill) with very basic movements. After that went quite well, he said “now let’s get up there and go down the big slope”. I was a bit scared because this was the very slope where I fell down last year and hurt myself pretty bad.

However, this time it went really well. We made some more exercises and Nick also showed me techniques how to make sharp turns and how to brake. Then I should follow his way down the hill and when we reached the ski lift on the bottom (where I also met a colleague from work). I was quite happy because I had not fallen and had safely made it to the ground. We went up again and down another time and then my skiing lesson was over. Nick concluded “you are doing really well, if you like, just ski on your own a few times”.

Near-collision

And so I did. Since my card for the ski lift was still valid for almost 1 1/2 hours, I had enough time to practise. In the end, it turned out easier than I had thought: I went down the hill probably 5 times on my own, with only one “minor incident” (a near-collision with a snowboarder). It was a lot of fun, and I am still astonished how it was possible to ski on my own after only 1 1/2 hours of instruction given by a British guy. :-)

Darkness, Snow and the Language

So this time a little update on the weather situation and the climate in general in Oslo: Winter is approaching now and the first snow already fell. At Tryvann, the local skiing area, there is already a lot of snow. If the forecast is right (which it usually is not), there will be some more snow falling within the next few days.

Otherwise the days are getting shorter and shorter, which is a bit annoying. It starts to get dark at around 15.30 and afterwards you have the feeling as if it is 22.00 in the night, but it is only 17.00 maybe. So far, it is not really depressing, but in these days it is good to run on a tight (spare-time) schedule because otherwise it could probably become a bit boring.

Besides, I spotted the other day some spike tyres for mountain bikes. This is definitely a “must have” because these tyres allow you to more or less safely drive on snow and ice.

Norwegian language

A few weeks ago, I started to take part in an “advanced” Norwegian course. The course is quite okay so far, but I am wondering whether I will ever start to actually speak the language. I now understand probably 95% percent (leaving out some really strange dialects), which is nice, though.

In addition, English has now fully replaced German as my working and “living” language. This is a bit funny, but now I actually appreciate to talk German sometimes. (This is in stark contrast to Maastricht, for instance, where it was hard to avoid Germans :-) ).

Electromagnetic pollution: Lessons from the radio amateurs…

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My antenna in Germany

Recently, a study came out [PDF] that looked at the short-term health effects of electromagnetic radiation on humans (more readable version here). Subjects were exposed in 50 minute-long sessions to transmissions from ordinary GSM-transmitting stations, 3G transmitters (i.e. UMTS) and sometimes they were only told that a transmission would take place although the transmitter was switched off.

The individuals who classified themselves as being “sensitive” towards electromagnetic radiation reported flu-like symptoms and feelings of uneasiness even if the transmitter was switched off.

This reminds me of two stories related to one of my hobbies, Amateur Radio. Once a friend told me that he installed a new wire-antenna at his house, highly visible to his neighbours. On purpose, he did not connect the antenna to his transceiver and let the cable hang out of his window. He did not use the antenna for about three weeks, when during that time the first reports of feelings of “uneasiness” by his neighbours came it. After he told them that the antenna was in fact not operating yet, the critiques went silent.

I myself had some minor feedback about my antenna, when somebody complained that she could “feel the antenna radiating” and asked whether it was not a dangerous thing to use. Here as well, I had not used the antenna for weeks.

Even more funny are some mail-order catalogues, where one can buy next to products shielding you from the “evil” mobile phone radiation, other radiating products that are said to be “good” and shall increase your wellness, remove headaches and so on. Maybe I should also start selling “wellness radiation sessions”…

Fjords, Waterfalls and Rainbows: Bergen and Flåm

I finally found some time to edit the 3 gigabytes of pictures from only 3 days in Bergen and FlÃ¥m. To see the best of gallery, just click on the picture below. It is very difficult to describe the nature up there, the best thing is to go and see it yourself. In Bergen the weather can be a bit unstable or, as my neighbour put it: “In Bergen the weather changes every twenty minutes. Either the sun shines, it rains or it storms.”

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Fjord close to Flåm