Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Walking in His Footsteps

My dad was not even two when his father left. The family had been preparing for months, but you can never be completely ready for a sacrifice like that. Because of the war effort and other circumstances, my grandfather had not had the opportunity to serve a mission before he was married, but he remained willing all his life to go wherever the Lord asked him to go. My grandmother would live on next to nothing, manage the house and three young children on her own, and communicate with her husband only through mail for two years. Oh, the faith of that woman! They were poor as to the things of this world, but as to the things of eternity, they had everything. Far from home, and immersed in a language he did not know, my grandfather bore testimony again and again of the truthfulness of the gospel, and showed an honest eagerness to bring people to Christ. In reading his mission journal, I learned of a faithful man who dedicated his life to the Lord. And I wanted to walk in his footsteps... just a little.

Before we left on our trip, I used clues in pictures from his mission to figure out where the pictures were taken. It was quite fun detective work, and I was surprised at my success! I was so excited to realize that I would likely be able to recreate several of the pictures while on our trip. By going to those places, I would be able to see the Sweden that he saw, go to the places where he served, and hopefully learn to love the country the way he did.

Starting out in Stockholm, we crossed over a bridge from the island of Gamla Stan (old town) to the island of Södermalm. There we found the old elevator called Katrinahissen that used to take visitors up to the heights of the island. Now that it is out of service, we had to climb numerous stairs to get up there, but once we did, the scene from his picture came into view! I couldn't get the exact angle because there were some trees that would have blocked the left side, but it was close enough for me!!

Next was the view down Kungsgatan. Our family took the trolley from our hotel on Djurgården up to the main shopping area on Östermalm. When we got to the right street, I saw a bridge crossing over the street, and I knew at once that he must have been standing on that bridge when he snapped the photo! Luckily there were stairs for us to get up there.

Before we left Stockholm, I was determined to get this last picture of the City Hall building. After analyzing the photo, we decided it was taken on a bridge connecting Gamla Stan to Nörrmalm. A big tree was RIGHT in the way when I stood at the exact spot where he must have stood, but I got the closest angle I could.

On our way down to Öland, my family stopped in Norrköping to get this photo. I couldn't figure out why the park looked so much different, with a waterway showing and no street for the cars in Grandpa Clayne's photo to drive on, but the buildings prove it's the right place. There was a large berm behind me, so I couldn't get any farther back without blocking the view.

​On our way to Malmö from Öland, we stopped in Ystad to get this picture. What a crazy day it was, and so we didn't get there until there were late day shadows. I didn't realize until later that the steeple looks so much bigger in his photo. I guess a difference in lenses or focal length could be to blame.

As we were driving from Ystad to Malmö, the daylight was dwindling, but I kept my eye out for the windmills he mentioned seeing while driving on this road so many years ago.

And then this!

Finally, on our last day before flying out, we made a trip out to the island of Marstrand to get this picture. We had to take a ferry over to the island, but I could see from the boat where the photograph had been taken. I was so excited!

And as I stood in that place, tears welled up in my eyes. He had been standing in that same place many years ago, and it seemed like I should be able to call him and tell him I was standing there now. After all, it wasn't so long ago that he and Grandma were still here with us. It made me sad, but it also made me feel connected to him. If only I could share these pictures with him. I know he would be delighted. Love you, Grandpa Clayne!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sun, Sand, and "So long!"

Our last full day in Sweden dawned perfectly. When we were in Stocken before going to Norway, it had been cold and rainy. We were told this was the coldest spring Sweden had experienced in over one hundred years. Water that should have been in the 70's by this time of year was only in the 50's, and the kayak in the boathouse that had looked so fun in the pictures had no appeal. But now the colors were bright, the air cheery, and the warm sunlight beckoning us to play.

The kids were already out at the dock trying to catch a fish.

Soon, they wanted to go over to the beach. My dad gave Kyle the idea that all land in Sweden is open to everyone to roam, so he led the other kids on an interesting obstacle course across the decks that lined the coast. Roaming the land is one thing, but there were fences that the kids had to climb and rock walls they had to scurry across that made it look like people weren't supposed to be going that way. Finally, what the kids called a "grumpy old man" told them they weren't welcome there, and they made their way up to the street to walk the rest of the way. The kids had already been exploring on the days when I was doing laundry, so they knew more about the area than I did. When I realized how easy it would have been to walk over to the beach on the road, and how impossible it would have been to keep walking across the decks along the coast, I wondered why we didn't go that way in the first place. Not as adventurous, I guess.

My little Kallie once again transfixed by the simplest of things. She's such a curious little explorer.

I had planned to go to Gothenburg this day before heading over to Uppsala, but the kids were having so much fun with their cousins that I couldn't bear the thought of making them leave. This was their vacation, too, and I knew these would probably be the memories they held most dear. So we stayed. And we played.

I went back to the house to get showered, and I told Grandpa to send the kids back in twenty minutes. Well, after twenty minutes passed, he took them to the fish market instead and bought them all ice cream cones. I couldn't be upset. It is what I would have wanted to do if I were them.

We were behind, but we headed south anyway toward Marstrand to recreate another picture from my grandpa's mission. As the crow flies, it was a short jaunt, but because of all the islands, it was about an hour drive. Google maps said we would have to walk the last part of the journey, and when we got there, I understood why. Marstrand is an island with no road to it, so we had to get out and take a short ferry ride to get there. The whole place reminded me of Catalina Island with the perfect weather and a harbor packed with sailboats.

I didn't realize how much time it was going to take us to get out there because it looked so close on the map, so I was a little disappointed when I had to make the difficult decision to skip Gothenburg. I wanted to recreate a picture my grandpa had taken of the waterfront in Gothenburg during his mission. It was the city from which my great, great grandparents took a giant leap of faith when they emigrated to America so many years ago. We would drive through, but that was it... we needed to get going.

The drive across Sweden seemed to take forever, and there were no major towns for hours. Being that it was late in the day in rural Sweden, the kids eventually had to take a bathroom break by the side of the road. I was okay with that because it gave me opportunity to photograph some of the wildflowers that grow along all the roads in Sweden in colors ranging from fuschia, to lavender, to deep purple. Why can't we have weeds like that?

We arrived late in Uppsala, which seemed to be typical for us. I wanted to explore during the day, so we mostly drove in the evening. The next morning, we would finally get our chance to see a cathedral. The city happened to be hosting a triathlon that day, which made driving around downtown and finding parking a bit difficult. By the time we got there, we only had thirty minutes to explore it, but it was enough. Uppsala Cathedral is the tallest in the Nordic countries, it was used for Swedish coronations for many years, and it contains the tombs of some of Sweden's kings. It's pretty much impossible to show in pictures how massive this building is!

We spent the last of our Swedish kronor on these candles inside the cathedral.

As we crossed the bridge back to the car, I took a picture for our friends who have a son who is on a Mormon mission in Sweden and is currently serving in the Uppsala area. I wanted to make them jealous, and it worked!!

One last look back before we got in the car and headed for the airport.

It was a bittersweet goodbye. The airline had texted me the day before to say they were switching airplanes on us and that they would refund our fares if we chose not to fly. I would be lying to say I didn't at least consider the idea. The weather was just beautiful and some of my family was staying behind, but I was also excited to get home to my own bed, summer in the desert, and the swimming pool. In the end, I'm glad my ancestors left Sweden. It is a beautiful land, but I belong here... where the Mexican food is!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Navigating Norway

Since we chose to spend more time in Sweden, we had almost no time in Oslo. I had read about it in my travel book, and there was nothing compelling enough for me to leave Sweden early. Watching it through the car window, I marveled at the engineering of that city and the striking architecture. I loved the way the ultra modern was juxtaposed with the classic. One particular row of buildings stood out, and I really wish I could have gotten a better shot because you can't see the orange glass windows, the overhanging cubic shapes, and the outer walls folded like an accordion. But you can see the triangular windows!

Now prepare your mind for beauty overload (and a TON of waterfalls)! After staying the night in Oslo, we headed for Flåm (pronounced floam), a popular cruise ship destination deep in the heart of fjord land. The drive there was a feast for the eyes... well manicured fields covered in yellow flowers, quaint farmhouses, shimmering lakes, rolling hills, expansive meadows, and the occasional waterfall pouring from a lofty granite cliff (and turning back into snow again on the way down). It was difficult to capture these images from a moving car, but that didn't stop me from trying.

We stopped for lunch, and the kids were amused by the odd statues.

Now there is no mountain that can stand in the way of the Norwegians. As my dad put it, those Norwegians are tunneling fools! I was impressed with the engineering involved... although Oslo was a horrible maze to navigate, they had extensive sections of freeway that were completely underground. As we entered fjord land, there were several tunnels that cut straight through the mountains, usually about 2-3 kilometers long. Our kids tried to make it through each one holding their breaths the whole way, but some of the tunnels were just way too long... one was 24 kilometers!! Such a long trip through a tunnel normally would have been totally boring, but they had these Matterhorn-like lights that delighted us along the way.

I have to admit that when we first pulled up to the hotel, I was skeptical. It looked dumpy like a Motel 6, and we could see knick-knacks in the windows. I was a little surprised my dad would book such a hotel, but then we found out we were looking at the back where the offices were. When we got to the front, WOW!! An upscale resort nestled against the mountain walls of the fjord.

Okay, so my niece and I were amazed by the flowers in the garden.

She was totally jealous that I got such a great shot of this blue flower.

The weather called for rain all day the next day, but that didn't stop us from booking the train and the fjord cruise. We were in Flåm... we had to! This train ride, which climbs from the depths of the Aurlandsfjord to the top of the mountain, is the most scenic in all of Norway.

The scenery was breathtaking, though difficult to photograph through a train window. I didn't realize we sat by a window that couldn't open, but I learned and sat by one on the way back!

The train stopped at a platform near the top so that we could get pictures by this waterfall.

Here we are at the snowy heights of Myrdal Station, waiting to descend again.

It was cold and gray, but strangely beautiful.

Before long, we were back in the greenery.

Next was the fjord cruise from the end of Aurlandsfjord out and around to the end of Nærøyfjord. Although rain had been in the forecast, the weather mostly held with just a few drizzles here and there. The overcast sky hung low on the mountains and gave every scene an enchanting misty aura. Sweden had been charming and quaint, but Norway truly showcased the majesty of God's creation. May I give you a glimpse? (Sorry, I may have gotten carried away with the pics here, but they were all so beautiful!)

The kids had a great time wandering around the boat and drinking hot cocoa.

Even Russ admitted his soul was stirred by these magnificent surroundings. It takes a lot to impress this guy.

Yay, a picture of me!

The next day, we made the long trip back to Stocken. The kids had been disappointed that they didn't get a chance to touch the snow when we were at Myrdal Station, so we decided to stop on the way back and let them play.

Since I didn't want to spend a day doing nothing but driving, we decided to stop at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo on the way. Okay, this would have worked out perfectly, except navigating Oslo was a real nightmare, and because of the vagueness of the signs, we missed the turn to get on another road that would have avoided a giant traffic jam. Once we got in the jam, we were stuck! Our marriage was truly tested by the roads of Oslo! Confusing signs, unreliable GPS because of tunnels, intersections where one road crossed underneath the other, lack of street signs, way too many turns off every roundabout, etc. Our favorite memory: Me: "Turn right.... okay, now do a u-turn." Russ: "WHAT?!?!" Just look at this map... for real?!?!

Well, the good news is that even though we lost an hour sitting in traffic, we still had an hour to explore the museum. It was small, so we pretty much saw everything, even if we didn't get to read all the signs (Russ was probably HAPPY about that). These three Viking ships that date to around 800 AD were found in burial mounds, and served as the final resting places for prominent Viking people. They were well preserved because of the soil conditions, then rebuilt and put on display here. Very cool.

Prominent person... dug up and put on display. Prominence is overrated!

The people were buried with all sorts of things they would need in the underworld, like gold (which had already been stolen from the graves in ancient times), food, sleds, and carts. They had all kinds of things from the burial on display there.

By the time we got out of the museum, the traffic was pretty well cleared up, and it was smooth sailing back to Stocken. Goodbye Norway! I hope to see you again someday! (Except you, Oslo.)