Author Archives: Ahimsa

Pumpkin Season

In the past 24 hours, I’ve drank pumpkin beer, eaten roasted pumpkin seeds, ate pumpkin soup, eaten pumpkin scones, and made oatmeal pumpkin spice cookies (maybe the tastiest cookies I’ve ever made).

Pumpkin season is well and truly here, and there’s only one way to celebrate.

Well lots of ways I guess.

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A Dane on Toad: Roadtrip USA. Oregon, Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah.

This is a guest post from my friend Jeanette, who came all the way from Denmark to visit some places in America she’d always dreamed of.

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I’m sitting on my couch and enjoying my ice-cold self-imported Root Beer from Portland. I had been traveling in USA for the last 19 days, and now I’m home. It seems like forever ago I ecstatically backed my suitcase and went off to sees a long lasting dream of mine. And It seems as if, it only was yesterday I got to the airport of Portland, to get picked up by my dear friend Ahimsa. Besides entering a country there in all ways simply just blows your mind., The greatest surprise of them all was the people there. Never before have I felt this much at home and welcomed. The greetings and welcomes you meet – the politeness and smalltalks that appear out of nowhere. And now I get it when people find the Europeans and danes to be a bit cold and not that welcoming. I wish I could import some of the polite-everyday phrases to Denmark.

Watching too much TV and talkshows from America – The most important things I learned, one of my big prejudice of Americans being overweight slightly stupid consumer – failed totally, and luckily prove me all wrong! I never seen so harmonizing a city as Portland! A city built in a Forrest! Where there still is room for nature- and one respects for trees and all green! I could never seem to find a trashcan- I needed to carry my trash for blocks sometimes! And yet I never saw trash in the streets or in the nature of the states I visited. And they recycle in great manners! Portland is truly a cultivated city, of intelligent, where kreativitiv blossom. Don’t miss the Saturday market, where the rules are, that it had to be made in Portland and sold by the artist himself. I never seen so many vegan/ vegetarian restaurant, I think you could stay vegan by mistake there! Vegan or no vegan- you must try the bbq tempeh burgers of dicks kitchen, and spend a relaxing hour or two, in the house called Tao of Tea. If you don’t know what to order – I’ll recommend the 8 Treasure Tea. And further down the street is Wonderland, just waiting to show you a good time, in the gambling halls of no age! Here mr and miss. Packman come to live, air-hockey tables, quist and car races against friends! Beat your friends in guitar hero, or capture the treasure of the pharaoh! It cost 2-3 dollars to get in the game arcade – and then you can buy bags of nickels – for 2,5 or 10$.

In summer season you will wish to see the street fair in Portland, every last Thursday of the month. Tons of local artist are showing and selling there work, and lots of good food. If you can find it – don’t miss out on a maple bar (from a bakery), spicy pumpkin latte, and root beer! Especial the last one has become a great new love of mine!

My advice to you, if you are going to the States – Rent a car, and get around to see the country! (and don’t save money on insurance, get a good insurance on the car (+collision damages!), as well as and good health insurance and home transportation for yourself).

 

The list of what I have seen and will recommend from my road trip is so long; the variety of the nature just from one state to another is speechless. I have seen and done things I only dared hope for. We camped at Jacobs Lake, near the North entrance to the Grand Canyon – I camped 8000 feet above sea surface! (the highest point in Denmark is 561 feet.) We fall asleep to the howls of the coyotes and the hooting song of the owls. Later I would see bears in the wild – standing on the lake side hoping for a meal., and learning their cubs the last lessons of fishing. I faced the heating dessert that beat down the comfort of the aircon in the car. I have seen the wind of the desert toying with big trucks, knocking them into the wrong lanes. And I saw the wild rain of the mountain sides, making it impossible to see 5 feet in front of the car, forcing us to slow down and use every energy left in us, to focus on driving.

Don’t miss out on the beautiful nature the country has to offer! You can’t go to Portland without visiting the Columbia Gorge. Drive the Historic Highway (Route 30). Stop and inhale the fresh air and the taste of freedom, take a short or long hike, into the magic deep of mossy trees, playful light and fantastic waterfalls. See Columbia River from The Vista House, and reload your batteries. If you like the Gorge, you will love Zion in Utah. Zion is all your heart can desire, but where the Gorge is free to enter, Zion costs 25$ for a car. Then you can take the free shuttle bus, which runes every 10 min, until 7.45 PM, and “get off’ get on” from hikes on the routes, you will get close-up to wild life there, where deers just grazing few feets from you. But it will be nothing compared to the nature sights, where (small) mountains hills surrounds you and lure you into the deep of silence, still riverbanks and enchanted compressed meadowly ambiance. You can even camp in Zion, but you need to be there early or reserve in really good time. When you have seen and digested the Gorge and Zion, you will be ready to let the Grand Canyon in Arizona blow you sideways and out of reality – the Canyons are magnificent and some of the wildest nature I ever have seen, no picture will ever come close to reproduce its scale of magnitude, it a sight that should be on every ones “to see list”!. Even though the south side is by far the most pretty sight, you must go to the north side while you are there, and see the meadows of fall, before you enter the north side. It cost 25$ for an car to enter, but you can enter both north and south side on the same ticket, and the ticket is veiled for 7 days, just like the ticket from Zion is.

The nature is excellent, but don’t spare yourself for a trip to one of the dollar stores, where things only cost one dollar! Or the big outlet stores where everything is under half price. Do yourself a favor an only travel to the USA with a half loaded suitcase! – and come home with a full (or overloaded!).

Vegas in Nevada is exactly everything I hoped it would be. Again you have something so unique that a simple photo can’t begin to describe it. I have only one thing to say to you, Vegas, I will see you again someday And the fact that i was lucky enough to top it all of with a long drive on Route 66 in Arizona, visit the redwoods and the coast of Oregon- it’s just make my visit in the western USA complete! It truly was a lifelong dream coming true.

Budget! One May ask what the price was, for reliving my dreams. I got a road trip and 19 days in the stats, as I wanted it to be, I was wild in Vegas, I eat and drink as I pleased – and I visit the pay places I wanted to- both exactly the things I desired and our ride through 3210,1 miles /5136,16km, was a brand new Ford Mustang 2014, V8, (22miles pr gallon! / ca. 9,3 km/liter). I’m sure you can do it more cheap then I did! But the price of my dream and my adventure was 4322$ total! I spend 3095$ on flight, hotel/motel/camping, rent of car, Insurance and gas. And I spend 1227$ on pocket-money, to eat, drink, gift and casino/gambling money in Vegas., pocket money pr.day was 65$.

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A big thanks to my dear friend, guide and travelling companion Ahimsa. For reliving my dream with me, and thanks to his family and friends for being so warm hearted and kind people.

And remember, don’t follow your dreams!- CHASE THEM!!

 

 

Telling Tales in the Beaver State: the Many Narratives of Oregon

Time overlaps itself. A breath breathed from a passing breeze is not the whole wind, neither is it just the last of what has passed and the first of what will come, but is more–let me see–more like a single point plucked on a single strand of a vast spider web of winds, setting the whole scene atingle.”
Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

It’s the rain that comes to mind. Oregon, in fact, comes with quite a few associations—tumbling waterfalls, lumberjacks, hippies, microbreweries, vegan food, indie rock, pine trees, and dying oxen in the pioneer game Oregon Trail are some of the more obvious ones. But it’s the ceaseless precipitation—Oregon sunshine, it has been dubbed—that most indelibly characterizes the state. Funnily enough, two-thirds of Oregon is dry desert and the actual rain-is-coming-down-wet days are vastly outnumbered by dreary-gray-but-dry days.

Portland in the Rain

Portland in the Rain

It is an insular state; a place where locals are still afraid that word will get out how nice it is. The slogan of “Welcome to Oregon. Now go home,” is apocryphally said to have appeared on the California border. That’s not correct, but it is true that in the seventies Governor Tom McCall famously told a news reporter: “Come visit us again and again…But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.”

It is also a quirky state, as indicated by the famous mantra “Keep Portland Weird.” This is a state that calls hazelnuts “filberts,” a state that chose not a wolverine, grizzly bear, or panther as its state animal. Nope, Oregon is the Beaver State, and disproportionally proud of it. When 39th Avenue was renamed to honor Caesar Chavez, there was significant effort to likewise redub 42nd in honor of Douglas Adams. And despite the rain, 40 inches a year in the Portland area, it’s a place where carrying an umbrella is seen as a major character flaw. (But to really annoy an Oregonian, pronounce it “Ore-e-gone” rather than Or-eh-gin.)

Beaver State

Beaver State

That combination—idiosyncratic, parochial pioneer stock, kept inside for too many bleak wintry days—has led to the creation of some great art. Being that the great cultural homogenizers in this modern world are film and, to a lesser extent, literature (fine arts, etc are not part of society’s narrative in the same way), Oregon hosts a trove of treasures waiting to be discovered.

A belletristic journey could take you across the entire state, from the Shakespeare Festival in Southern Oregon to Trek in the Park in Northern Portland. A comprehensive list would be unwieldy and unnecessary, but here are some of the top places to visit in Oregon for literature and movie lovers alike.

Portland

City of Roses

City of Roses

Naturally, the biggest city in Oregon has the biggest presence. In addition to current shows “Grim,” “Portlandia,” and “Leverage,” Stumptown has seen its share of cult films like Drugstore Cowboy, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and The Hunted.

Simpsons creator Matt Groening is from the Portland area, and visitors will notice many street names with familiar names (Quimby, Lovejoy, Flanders, Kearney, etc. While we’re on the sidetrack of NW Portland streets, the street spelled “Couch” is mysteriously pronounced “Cooch.”)

Those who remember Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby can discover the real Klickitat Street, with statues dedicated to the characters in nearby Grant Park. Ursula K. LeGuin’s classic Lathe of Heaven uses the backdrop of Mt. Hood and other Portland landmarks most memorably. Parts of The Road and The Shining were filmed near Portland as well.

The movie was neither set nor filmed in Portland, but Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk used Portland landmarks in the book. His nonfiction Fugitives and Refugees is a bizarre travelogue of some of the city’s weirder sights.

The Coast

The Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast

Moving on from Portland, it’s a 90 minute drive over the Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean. The Oregon Coast is wild, wind-blown, and wonderful. Gnarled pine forests grow to the sea, long stretches of sandy beach have more shells than people, and small-town bookstores and charming restaurants make up the bucolic whole.

Astoria

Astoria

Astoria

The oldest town west of the Mississippi, not far from Lewis and Clark’s winter settlement, this city of one-percenter John Jacob Astor is a capital destination for those who love eighties films. We’re talking Goonies, Kindergarten cop, Short Circuit, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. (The Ring 2 was also filmed here, but the less said of that, the better.)

Newport

Newport

Newport

The next stop of the entertainment tour is the home of literally the biggest star of the nineties.

Yes, I am referring to Keiko, the world’s most famous orca, who found fame in Free Willy. The film was mostly shot in Oregon, and Keiko was a resident of the Newport Aquarium for some time before being sent back to Iceland. (Where, sadly, he kept hanging out with humans and died of pneumonia.)

Newport, along with nearby Kernville, is also the film setting for maybe the greatest Oregonian novel, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. This tale of a small-town lumberjack family is as quintessential to Oregon as a cloudy day, and even if the filming locations are hard to find, the towns themselves are surprisingly unchanged from the early seventies.

There is plenty more to see on the coast, but for purposes of our tour we will now take the 20 to the 5 and head inland to Oregon’s most famous hippy college town.

Eugene

Further

Further

This college town is chilled out even by Oregon standards, a sprawl of co-ops, farmers’ markets, and scenic bike paths. The nearby Oregon County Fair, an event every summer, is like time machining back to the sixties, and Cougar Hot Springs are another way to meet some of the real free-thinkers of the world. (The slogan “Make Love Not War” originated in Eugene in the sixties.) Eugene itself is famous for two very different films.

The first, Animal House, was filmed in Eugene and nearby Cottage Grove. University of Oregon parties might feature fewer togas these days, but pre-funking a Ducks game would just about capture the right Jim Belushi spirit. (U of O was not the original setting for the story, but after turning down the chance to be the setting of the Graduate, the University pushed for this one.)

In Stand by Me, Brownsville filled in for the fictional town of Caste Rock. Other scenes were shot in Eugene, Franklin, and Cottage Grove. Recreating the sets of this film would be fantastic fun, but I recommended leaving out the leech scene.

Finally, for the runners of world, both Prefontaine movies were set here in the land of Phil Knight.

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon

Ashland is home to The Shakespeare Festival, which was founded in 1935 and is arguably the greatest place outside England to encounter the Bard. There is outdoor theater in the summer, where you can pack a picnic dinner and get spat on by enunciating thespians. More locally, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline was filmed by Portland’s Laika, and set in Ashland.

Jim Jarmush’s trippy existential tale Dead Man was filmed all over Southern Oregon, including Applegate, Rogue River, and the hippy bastion Takilma. You too can wander these areas with No One, meeting characters too strange for fiction.

And although the film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed in Salem (the state capital, between Portland and Eugene on the interstate) and Depoe Bay, a more interesting use of time would involve a visit to Ken Kesey’s farm in Southern Oregon. The infamous bus Further still rests there, dredged from the swamps by his son Zane and surviving members of the Merry Pranksters.

It’s true that using art to form your narrative in this manner, you miss out on places like the surreally gorgeous Crater Lake, the charming town of Bend, the high desert, the Wallowa mountains, and the Columbia Gorge But the variety of film and literature that has been set, written, and filmed, here would make for a truly entertaining entertainment-based visit.

Yeti Daytrips: Vikingeskibsmuseet

Welcome to the Ship Museum

Although the town of Roskilde is most famous for its music festival, it’s a beautiful city in its own right, with historic buildings, a university, and numerous museums. (The town itself dates back to King Hrothgar of Beowulf fame). And for a town of fewer than 50,000 people, this includes the Roskilde Museum, the Cathedral Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Lejre Musuem (cradle of Danish civilization), the Land of Legends (open air museum) and the Viking Ship Museum.

Because they’re expensive (about 20 dollars per museum) and also quite comprehensive, I only had the time and funds to see one museum. Land of Legends sounded awesome, but the Viking ship museum (in Danish: Vikingeskibsmuseet) won out with the promise of sailing a viking ship out into the fjords!

As it turned out, I missed the Viking ship departure time by less than 30 minutes. But it didn’t even matter–the Viking Ship museum was one of the best museums I’ve ever been.

Partly it’s the unique history. Around the year 1070, five Viking ships were deliberately sunk at Skuldelev in Roskilde Fjord in order to block the most important fairway and to protect Roskilde from enemy attack from the sea

There they sat, for almost a thousand years while the Vikings faded into history, the Mongols came and went, Marco Polo found pasta and added tomatoes to it, new parts of the world were connected, the Burmese founded and lost the largest Empire in Southeast Asian history, and (at least) 2 world wars were fought.

And then in 1962 the Skuldelev ships were found and excavated. To do so, they built a huge air bubble in the sea and then drained the area of water. Effective, though I imagine that technique would not be allowed these days. They turned out to be five different types of ships ranging from cargo ships to ships of war. In the late 90’s they uncovered a further 9 ships including the longest Viking warship ever discovered, at 36 metres.

The ships are the raison d’être of the museum of course. But there is lots more. The special exhibit when I visited was called “The World in the Viking Age,” which detailed the state of the world for about 200 years. Very cool. There are also many workshops where you can learn how to do traditional crafts like knot tying, rope-making, rune crafting, and more. But my favorite, by far, was talking to Tom, an expert in weaponsmithing and sword-fighting. I got to try on medieval mail (way more comfortable than I expected) and practice with a variety of medieval weaponry.

I kind of thought when I got there that the museum would only last an hour or two. But I stayed until closing, and ended up being there for over 6 hours. That makes the 20 dollar entrance fee seem much more reasonable. And did I mention you could dress up like a VIKING?

Yeti Eats: Vegan Denmark

Denmark is a land in love with dairy. The 133rd biggest country in the world, it’s one of the world’s top five dairy exporting countries. Meat too is popular, in the traditional meat and potatoes sense, but dairy is on a whole ‘nother level. Yogurt and milk are consumed at high levels, and at popular music festivals people drink nearly as much chocolate milk as beer.

But on the other hand, factory farming hasn’t set in yet like in North America, and there are efforts from Dan Jørgensen, the minister of agriculture, to further reduce it. What’s more, Denmark has banned ritual slaughter of live animals, with Jorgensen declaring that “Animal welfare takes precedence over religion.”

And so it’s not as hard to be a vegan here as I might have thought. Vegetables are cheap (especially if you shop at a market like Netto or Aldi) and pastas and rice are readily available. In my experience, tofu was difficult to find, and forget other faux-meat products, but cooking at home was easy and, for Scandinavia, quite affordable.

Eating out is another story, but Copenhagen does have some great vegan places. Most of the popular vegan places now skew toward the raw and the expensive, neither one of which I’m entirely down with, but I did get to try out two really good places. The Swedish chain Astrid och Aporna (which means something like “Astrid and the monkey”) offers burgers and sausages and a really good jackfruit wrap. The relishes here include things liked sliced cucumber and cashews and it’s about 8-9 USD for a burger. Not far away, Express Pizza looks like your average pizzeria but has a secret “vegan” menu if you ask for it. They were out of the kebab pizza when I was there, but would be great to try next time.

With lots of cheap veggies and a growing number of vegan restaurants, the dairy-friendly Denmark isn’t nearly as challenging for vegans as you might think.

Scandinavian Midsummer

On June 23, the summer solstice,  I was lucky enough to sail Oslo Fjord with my friend Hanne and her parents on their boat.

Midsummer Night's Theme

Midsummer Night’s Theme

Midsummer is a big deal in Scandinavia, and has been since the days of Odin and Heimdal.  Originally it was seen as a supernatural struggle between light and dark, heat and cold. These days it is perhaps nowhere more celebrated than in Sweden, where it’s a national holiday (as I understand it, no one has to work) but Denmark and Norway have their own celebrations too.  In Norway and Denmark it’s called  Sankthansaften (Saint Hans Dayor  Jonsok (John’s wake.)  Though now largely a secular holiday, until the mid 19th century midsummer festivities included a pilgrimage to one of the stave churches in southwest Norway to visit a magical crucifix.

I witnessed several bonfires along the Oslo Fjord, though they were hard to see in the eternal glow of July.  I was hoping to see–but didn’t–some effigies of witches.  The bonfires predate the witch effigies (they predate Christianity too while we’re counting up predates) but since the late 19th century they’ve been adding witches to the fires (speculated to be an ugly German witch that corresponds with fears about Otto Van Bismark and Prussian expansion.)

Instead of witches and burnings and witnessing the eternal struggle of day vs night, we drank coffee and ate strawberries (Norwegian strawberries are by far the best I’ve ever had) dusted in powdered sugar (which they call flour sugar) and slowly floated down the Fjord on the boat of my friend Hanne’s parents. Some brave kids jumped into the chilly waters of the fjord.  Neighbors floating by waved and stopped for friendly chats.  Hanne’s mother told me about how they iceskate across the fjord in the winter.

On the way back, we stopped by a tower that has existed in the oldest town of Scandinavia for at least 800 years and even though it was approaching midnight we had enough light to explore like it was early evening.

It’s hard to imagine a more interesting place to celebrate midsummer.  Even without the burnt witches and magical crucifixes, it’s a rather spectacular place.

Urban Yeti : The Outstanding (yet overpriced) City of Oslo

Old Oslo

Oslo has a reputation as an expensive, rather boring city.  Even travelers I met in Stockholm and Copenhagen (hardly cheap places themselves!) were largely avoiding the place.When I mentioned I was traveling to Norway to other travelers in Asia I would get wide eyes and sympathetic head shakes.  And it’s true that Oslo is the world’s most expensive place to live so it’s not exactly foolish to avoid.  A pint of beer starts at 11 euros (over 14 USD).  An hour train ride to the airport (which cost, for instance 2.5 USD in Portland) costs 45 USD in Norway.  Hell, even the Prime Minister thinks it’s too expensive.

Old Oslo

Thus I was very fortunate to be staying with my friend Eldar, an Azerbaijani Russian I met in Australia who has lived in Norway for half his life.  He lived very close to the city center and met me at the bus stop as I returned to civilization after visiting the Land of the Giants.  That night was the World Cup Final, and we both went to support Argentina in the outdoor Kontrasjæret.

Old Oslo

The next day was our big Oslo day.  While it doesn’t have the historic buildings of Stockholm or the charming energy of Copenhagen, Oslo has a stately grandeur.  Not to mention that fearsomely bearded Vikings once lived here in great numbers.  The city center is small and construction with oil money does mean a lot of new buildings, but it’s still Europe.  The refined buildings of yesteryear adorn the city.

The coolest part of Oslo has to be Frogner Park–the most popular tourist attraction in Norway, with between 1 and 2 million visitors a year.  It’s not everywhere you can statues of men kicking babies or women suckling goats, but the 80 acre Vigeland Sculpture park, located inside Frogner Park has 212 sculptures with just such illustrations.

The sculptures were designed by sculptor Gustav Vigeland from the 1920s until the early 1940s.   He was actually given a home in the park (now a museum) and he created the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist.  You could spend hours and hours here.  We didn’t, however, as we still had more of Oslo to see.  We did have time for this, however!

There are quite a few museums in Oslo but A) they’re expensive and B)they are closed on strange days.   We made our way out to the Kon-Tiki museum–of which I only knew the bare facts.  The story of Thor Heyerdahl is fascinating, and it’s worth watching some of their footage for those interested in exploration and amateur sociology.

We then headed to the marina and the Opera House–a semi-ugly building built on a bloated budget but in a rapidly expanding part of the city.  The so-called lego buildings are not popular with Oslonians, but I thought they looked kinda neat.

Ibsen and the National Theatre

We stopped at the greatest part of Oslo–Grønland.  As a multicultural melting pot, the area has kind of a bad reputation amongst Norwegians (crime rates are higher here) but it’s close to the T-Bane station and has some of the most affordable prices in town (beers are down to about 8 dollars a pint, for instance.) Grønland is one of the most multicultural places I’ve ever seen–more so than New York even. Citizens from all countries are united here by their love of budget blueberries, cheap celery and affordable avocados.

I left Oslo that night, sure I was coming back and eager to see more.  Because of the snafu with British Immigration, that did not work out.  But I’ll be back to see the rest of the beautiful city, sooner hopefully rather than later.  There’s more to see, including swimmable fjords and the Munch museum.  I just have to figure out how to get more money.  Now I know why those Vikings kept going to raid other countries so often!