Thursday, July 31, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 153

As usual I was picking up postcards from almost every place we visited on our recent trip.  The photograph on the postcard above is the view looking down on Geirangerfjord in the Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal, Norway.  We counted ourselves lucky to be able to visit this fjord, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Norway.

Our flight from Seattle took us over the pole to Frankfurt, Germany, then after a few hours layover a smaller plane took us to Bergen, Norway where we spent one night.  The next morning we took a shuttle plane to the small airport that serves Volda, Ørsta and Hovden.  A cousin who had visited me in the United States lives in Ørsta and had invited us to stay with them.  They had places they wanted take us to see and one of them was Geirangerfjord.  We would have to drive a couple of hours north by car from their home, park the car at the small town of Hellesylt and walk on the ferry that would take us up the fjord to Geiranger.   The day we planned to go turned out to be one of the very few times when it rained solidly all day.  Even so the trip was wonderful, the views spectacular, the company delightful and the day a success.

Geirangerfjord extends for a little more than 9 US miles or 15 kilometers and is a branch of the larger Storfjorden or Great Fjord.  The ferry ride was an hour or more of fantastic views, countless waterfalls, steep mountainsides, and tiny little abandoned farms clinging to the slopes.  What with the heavy rain and the snow runoff we probably hit the maximum water flow coming over the falls.  Out of the 100 or so falls we saw and took pictures of there were a few that stood out including a series of waterfalls called the Seven Sisters shown in the photos below.  There were unbelievable torrents cascading over the cliff.  

Across the fjord is another large waterfall called The Suitor.  Legend says that the sisters are dancing playfully down the mountainside and the suitor is flirting and trying to woo them from across the fjord.  Bob loves waterfalls and was delighted with so many to see and photograph.  Even though it was raining he managed to find a small covered place on the ferry deck to stand to take pictures.   The rest of us stayed dry inside enjoying views and taking photos through the windows.

The Seven Sisters waterfalls

A closer look at one of the Seven Sisters

The Suitor

Looking at Geiranger through the ferry window

A large cruise ship
Apparently there are times when several of these large cruise ships are anchored in this bay.  

We are used to the ferries on Puget Sound that have both ends open allowing cars to drive on and off.  Only the front end of this Norwegian ferry opens to let the cars and passengers enter.  After everyone is aboard the ferry turns around and starts the journey to the opposite end of the fjord.

A constant threat is rock slides from the erosion occurring on the mountain Åkerneset.  If a large section of the mountain falls into the fjord it would cause a tsunami and impact nearby towns including Geiranger and Hellesylt.  Another possible threat to this beautiful area is a disputed plan to build power lines across the fjord.   In 2005 Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjorden were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites so it is hoped that it will continue to be protected. 

The postcard below has a map of Norway.  The third picture up from the bottom left is Geirangerfjord.

For more information, please see:,_Norway

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 152

 The Angelus by Jean François Millet, 1857-59


Some postcards, like this one, have pictures of famous paintings or other familiar works of art.  This beautiful painting called The Angelus (1857-59) is by Jean François Millet who was a French artist born in 1814 and who died at age 60 in 1875.  The original painting changed hands several times and now hangs in the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, France.  The title of the painting comes from the first line in the Angelus prayer.  There is some controversy over whether the man and woman are giving thanks at the end of the day for their harvest or if it was originally a funeral scene with a couple praying for a dead child.  An X-ray of the painting showed a geometric shape like a coffin that was painted over to become the basket holding the potatoes by the woman’s feet.  It is unclear if Millet changed his mind on the meaning of the painting or if the shape was even supposed to be a coffin.  The painting became popular and was reproduced frequently during the 19th and 20th centuries, which may partially explain how it ended up as a postcard image.

Millet was born in the farming community of Gruchy, Gréville-Hague, Normandy, France.  His early education was guided by two village priests who taught him Latin and modern literature.  In 1833 he went to Cherbourg to study portrait painting with Paul Dumouchel and by 1835 he was studying full-time with Lucien T. Langlois.  Langlois and others provided Millet with a stipend that allowed him to move to Paris and study at the École des Beaux-Arts with Paul Delaroche.  Millet was one of several artists who eventually settled in Barbizon and established what came to be called the Barbizon school.  His painting style is known as Realism and his subject matter was often peasant subjects having to do with farming and everyday activities.  Some of his more famous works are “Woman Baking Bread, 1854,” “The Sower, 1850,” “The Gleaners, 1857,” “The Potato Harvest, 1855,” and this one on the card, “The Angelus, 1857-1859.”  During his life his works received mixed reviews and it was not until toward the end of his life that he achieved financial success and increased recognition.  His works are said to have been an important inspiration for Vincent Van Gogh who also produced some paintings of potato farmers. 

An American art collector, Thomas Gold Appleton,  commissioned The Angelus but never collected it.  It is famous today for driving Barbizon artwork prices up to record amounts in the late 19th century.  About 10 years after Millet died The Angelus sold for 800,000 gold francs.  In today’s money it would be at least 10 million dollars.   Due to the difference in the auction prices and the art market  compared to the value of Millet’s estate a French law called “droit de suite” or “right to follow” was passed to compensate artists or their heirs when the work was resold. 

The postcard was published in Germany by Stengel, is unused with a divided back and has a short statement in German about the artist at the bottom left on the reverse.

For additional information about the painting and the prayer, see:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Røldal Stave Church, Norway

Røldal Stave Church

There were several goals for the Norway segment of our European trip planned for last year but postponed until this year due to a broken leg.  At the top of the list was visiting with cousins and seeing places where my father’s mother and her family lived.  Also near the top was the desire to visit at least one of the remaining Stave Churches.  Long ago there were 900 or more of these churches all built between 1100 to 1300 but many have burned, been destroyed by time and rot, the lumber reused, or otherwise not sustained leaving only about 28 considered as national treasures.  On this trip we were fortunate to see two of these churches.  One was the Røldal church in Hordaland, Norway that is open to the public and is still used as a church, the other was the Gol Stave Church at the Folk Museum in Oslo.  We stopped at Røldal to visit the church on the trip down the west coast of Norway from Ørsta where a cousin lives to Hornnes in the Setesdal where there are many more cousins.  There will be separate posts about the Folk Museum and the cousins.

The Røldal church was built in 1275 AD toward the end of the time when stave churches were constructed.  Because of this and also because it does not look quite like other stave churches some speculate that it is perhaps a post church instead but today it is listed as one of the remaining stave churches.  Unlike many of the more ornate churches we saw this one is not full of gold gilt but it is covered inside with paintings, designs and pictures.  There have been numerous repairs, renovations and restorations to the Røldal church so it does not look exactly as it did originally. 

Crucifix, ca 1250

This is a Pilgrim church and is located on an old pilgrim route that was used during the Middle Ages.  At some point in time the pilgrimages were discontinued but in 2003 a group of people began to revitalize the pilgrim’s way and since then a pilgrim’s walk takes place each year on July 6 the old Midsummer.  In olden times this church was a place where afflicted persons would come for healing.  Those that were healed made generous donations to the church.  The crucifix shown in the photo above is from approximately 1250.  During the mass on Midsummer Eve the crucifix was said to “sweat” with curing effect. 

There are a few legends about the church and the crucifix that were passed down orally for generations.  Today it is hard to tell what kernel of truth there might be in any of the stories but the fact that they were deemed important enough to pass along seems to suggest something happened here to make this a holy place.  In the beginning there was a controversy about where the church should be built.  Once the site on the south side of the river had been agreed upon the lumber was stacked up ready to begin construction but during the night it moved to the north side.  The people of the community took this sign as a miracle and built the church at the new north site. 

One story about the crucifix says that an old blind man and a young boy were out fishing in the fjord when the line caught on something heavy.  When they pulled the line in they found the crucifix.  It was very heavy and they could not get it into the boat.  After much effort the old man wiped the sweat out of his eyes and had his sight restored.  He realized that it was the crucifix that had caused the healing to occur and he promised to give it to a church.  He named several churches but the crucifix was still too heavy to pull into the boat.  Finally he named Røldal and the crucifix became so light that it almost entered the boat by itself.  The old man and several others then took it to the church and put it up where it is now.   Another legend says that the crucifix was found in the mountains. 

Early pilgrims were convinced that if they could get a little of the sweat from the crucifix and apply it to a sick or crippled person it would cause a healing.  The crucifix was taken down off the wall during the Midsummer Eve service.  Crowds of pilgrims met at the church, many had to wait outside for their turn to take a small cloth and gather a bit of the sweat.  While they waited they would sometimes carve their bumerke or signature mark in the church wall.  Also there were small knotholes that could be opened to allow a view into the chapel so those waiting could see and participate in the service and healings even though there was no room inside for everyone.  The docent told us that since the service was held in the summer it probably got very hot inside the church and moisture collected on the statue to drip off and this was interpreted as the healing sweat. 

Bumerke or signature marks carved on the wall

One of the peepholes

Here are a few more pictures from the interior of the church.  Notice all the beautiful artwork that covers almost every available space.

Several people came into the church to look around while we were visiting.  The docent took extra time to explain things to us.  I am not sure if that was because we were American visitors or if it was because Hans is a retired architect and had shown interest in parts of the building.  For whatever reason we were very grateful and felt like we got special treatment.

The new organ.  The paintings show various saints.

The ceiling

On the wall—the front piece dating from 1340 showing the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.

The altarpiece painted by Gotfrid Hendtzschell in 1629. 

The soapstone font dates from the 1200s.

Gotfrid Hendzschell also painted the pulpit that was added.  The pulpit was more important in the Lutheran church than when the church was Catholic.  The church was originally a Catholic church that changed to Lutheran following the Reformation.

Decorative pew dividers

Another view of the outside of the church, wall and graveyard

For more information, see:


We also purchased a small booklet, "The Røldal Church, Pilgrim Church" published by the Røldal parochial church council 6 July 2008, about the church while we were there that has many of the details shared here. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ducks in a row . . .

Each month our dance group has a potluck business meeting that is really more like lots of food followed by a short announcement of upcoming dances and events, usually a humorous song, then games like Mexican Train, Pinochle, and Rummy Cube.  In the summer; however, there is an extra event -- a rubber duck race in a small stream.  Ducks and other items of all sizes congregate and wait the magic moment when they are swept into the stream and the race to the finish line starts.  The large ducks often get stuck under the low bridges but that is offset by the small ducks getting entangled in the grass and weeds along the sides of the stream.  One person has to stand with a garden rake to dislodge the stuck ducks and another person is positioned at the finish line to catch the ducks as they rush past so none are lost forever downstream.  Usually the race is over much too soon and a second or third race is suggested to see if the results are the same.

Mr. Buttons

This year we had a special duck to enter in the race, Mr. Buttons.  When we stayed at the Classic Hotel Wien in Vienna, Austria we noticed that they were selling rubber ducks called Mr. Buttons.  This duck looked like a bellboy complete with suitcase and cute red cap.  We approached the desk and explained that we wanted to buy a duck to enter in the duck race.  This announcement was met with disbelief at first then much laughter.  We were given the duck at no cost with the request to send photos of the race to the hotel, hence this little report complete with pictures and our thanks to the wonderful hotel staff.

The contestants lined up for a photo shoot before the race begins.

The spectators enjoying a picnic before the races

Ducks in a row--the contestants begin to line up

And they’re off . . .

For a while it looked like the big duck wearing sunglasses would win but then . . .

Low bridge!  The big duck is stuck and the little ones are trying to get past . . .

And the winner is . . .  Mr. Buttons!

From left to right as they cross the finish line . . .


This was the second race.  Mr. Buttons placed 2nd in the first race – the mini marshmallow won.  The marshmallow had shrunk in size and finished fourth or fifth in the 2nd race then it escaped downstream never to be seen again.

Also this race is much smaller than the Quincy, California rubber duck race held at family reunions on Spanish Creek where ducks are decorated ahead of the race by both children and adults then taken upstream and let go.   All the attendees wait at the cabin cheering on favorites and watching to see which one will cross the finish line first.  That race is also held in July but we missed it this year.  There have been controversial winners, at least on one occasion. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 151

 SchafbergBahn, 1939


We did and saw so many things on our month long trip that it is difficult to pick and choose what to share.  One day we walked down the pedestrian only area in Salzburg, Austria and came to a shop called Nostalgie.  Outside the store the owners had placed tables with lots of interesting items including some shoe boxes full of old postcards.   Bob struck up a conversation with the owners while I started going through the hundreds of cards.  I bought a few cards and went back to this same shop several more times, even on one occasion taking my French friend who came to visit us from Italy.  Not a hardship since we share an interest in old postcards and stamps. 

The postcard above is dated 1939, showing a picture the SchafbergBahn a railway that runs from Sankt Wolfgang, in the Lake District located not too far from Salzburg, to the top of Schafberg.  The card has a divided back and is identified as a C. Jurifchek or Jurisschek* publication from Salzburg, Edile Photograhie.  This company produced many postcards of scenic Austria, some in color most in black and white or sepia tones. 

We took a day trip driving from Salzburg to the small village of Sankt Gilgen, once there taking a boat to Sankt Wolfgang and then getting on the steam engine train like the one on the postcard riding the cog or rack railway up the very steep mountainside for 5.85 km or 3.6 miles.  The end of the line is approximately 5,850 feet or 1,783 meters elevation. 

The railway started operation in 1893 and still uses the same type of push engine today although only a couple are steam powered the rest are diesel.  It is a bumpy ride to the top with the train stopping on a side rail part way up to let the down car pass.  The views are stunning all the way up and once at the top many lakes, tiny villages, mountains, and rugged scenery greet the eye.

Here are a few pictures of what it looks like in 2014.

First we took a boat like this one across the lake from Sankt Gilgen to Sankt Wolfgang.  The water is the most incredible green-blue color.

Sailboat on the lake

This is the end destination “Schafberg”

Church at Sankt Wolfgang

This is the steam train that will take us up the mountainside.  The engine pushes the two cars up the steep grade instead of pulling them so the cars cannot accidentally separate and roll back down.  It might also be more efficient to push rather than pull.

The train is attached to this cog or rack instead of a regular train track.

Views from the train window

Looking down on the train from the summit as it starts the return trip back to Sankt Wolfgang

Views from the top looking out to the lakes in the distance

Signpost with distances to other places
This is "The Sound of Music" country and we encountered several tour groups that were specifically visiting places from the movie.  One group of Japanese women began singing the "Do Re Mi" song at the top of Schafberg.  As the sound of their singing echoed around the mountaintop it was a good thing they had decent voices as all the rest of us were being entertained.  More about this cute group of tourists in a future entry.

For more information, please see:


It is hard to tell from the small print on the reverse of the card whether it should be Jurifchek or Jurisschek (Jurißchek) and it appears both ways in listings of old postcards for sale, hence the confusion in identifying the company.