Saturday, May 7, 2011

First week in Norway

2 – 7 mai, 2011   
            Early Monday morning, 4:45 a.m., Elisabeth met me at the car to take me to the airport. She and Guy have been wonderful to work with. I feel as though they have become my Luxembourg relatives. This morning she has packed a sandwich and drink for the trip.
            All went as expected at the airport. The plane to Amsterdam was quite full – I had an aisle seat in the very last row of plane. It was necessary and easy to nap a bit during the flight of 45 minutes. Upon arrival in Amsterdam, I found the bank to exchange Euros for Kroner so that I could pay for my train ride and taxi cab in Norway.
            The flight to Trondheim was 3 hours, so more naps and a little eating of airline food. I arrived in Norway at 10:30 a.m. Sr. Sheryl had emailed detailed directions of what to do once I arrived: catch the 11:45 train, just a short walk from the airport’s front doors, and about a half hour trip, and then take a taxi, which was waiting for me at the Åsen station, 45 minutes to Tautra Mariakloster. It worked just like that.
            Once at the monastery, about 1:00 p.m., I had a bit of dinner, then Sr. Marjoe showed me around and to my room. It has a view of the boathouses and the water -  water everywhere.
The day was calm and mild with a definite feeling of spring. The farmers are working up the fields in preparation for planting of potatoes, carrots, lettuce, etc.
After evening prayer, Sr. Sheryl and I had supper together. She was the cook – salmon, green beans, and rice – and made all taste so good. She and Sr. Gilchrist laid out before me the various musical tasks that were before me for the week.
I wasn’t sure how my body/mind would take the long days. At 9:30 I decided to go to bed, but first I took a picture of the evening sky, still in bright twilight, from my bedroom window. Then I slept quite well despite briefly checking the near darkness several times throughout the night. The curtains on the windows block most of the light for easily adjusting to the non-dark.
On Tuesday, the rehearsals began. Each morning from 9:00 – 9:30 I work with the choir. Then there are two or three scheduled meetings for individuals throughout the day. That evening I had supper with Sr. Gilchrist.
Tuesday morning, Sheryl had asked if I’d like to travel with her on Wednesday on some errands to Trondheim. On the way back we would stop at the world-famous Ringve museum of music. Tautra is an island in the fjord of Trondheim. Crossing the little bridge to the mainland is just the beginning. It was over an hour and a half to drive to Trondheim, through several tunnels and along the sea. Norway has lots of big rock mountains and lots of trees. It is very picturesque.
The Ringve Museum has an amazing collection of instruments by a Russian singer who came to and married in Norway. She and her husband purposefully collected instruments from around the world. Most are no longer being manufactured such as a piano with a keyboard like that of an accordion – an invention of the 19th century. The other aspect of the museum is a history of musical instruments, so one finds a Moog synthesizer, a Hammond organ, and a jukebox. In the “barn” the audio tour provided recordings of the instruments being played and explanations of their significance. We really needed more than the 2 hours that we allotted to take it all in. It was a fascinating place to visit.
On our travels through Trondheim, we picked up Bjørn, a retired chef who has become a friend of the sisters who was coming out to Tautra for a retreat weekend. He connects with restaurants and stores to pick up foods that have expired dates but are still good to use and distributes them to several charities. This week the sisters were going to have several treats: salmon, asparagus, and tomatoes.
By Friday, I had gotten to know the other people who were on retreat at the monastery. The guests eat with Fr. Anthony in the guest dining room after the noon prayer. We eat in silence until all have finished eating. Then as the dessert and coffee or tea is being prepared we converse with one another. The Lutheran pastor, the very first day I arrived, gave me a quick lesson on Norwegian vowels so that I might better join in the singing of the prayers. (Now I need to inquire about the consonants because I am hearing some new things.) Another woman, Amanda Dorothea, who is a pastor of a church in Rotterdam, is here with a friend for the week. They are doing lots of walking and some touring of the area. Amanda was a choir director for 20 years. Now she uses a lot of music in her church. We have had numerous chats as we share a common kitchen.
This day, Bjørn wanted to give us a chance to taste Munkeby cheese. This cheese is being made by the Cistercian monks who are about an hour away from Tautra. They come from Citeaux in France, so the cheese looks a lot like brie, but it does not smell like brie – the odor is much stronger – however, the taste is mild and earthy. It is made with goat’s milk from the region around the monastery. It is quite popular with Norwegian restaurants of a certain caliber.
With the cheese tasting, Bjørn prepared rhubarb, cooked just until tender in a water-sugar syrup, and fresh asparagus. There were biscuit crackers on which to set the cheese, too. His chef-hand made it look appetizing, and it was very tasty.
Another cheese that the Norwegians really like is “brown cheese.” This is made from milk that is cooked down, until carmelized, and then processed as cheese. It is very smooth and a little sweet, not unlike Velveeta, but it is not so soft.
In the afternoon, after my lessons were done for the day, Amanda and I walked to the monastery ruins on the other side of the island. It is not a long walk at all. At that site, there are several small shops with gifts, Norwegian and otherwise, and a little restaurant that serves Norwegian dishes. Today there was a funeral dinner being served, so we did not go in. The area is set up for picnickers, too.
Norway has decided to intentionally preserve any remaining ruins – monasteries, castles, and such. There is work going on at this site to tuckpoint the stones.
It was a lovely day weather-wise today. This week there were two days of rain, another two overcast and windy days. The weekend is supposed to be more pleasant. Friday, like Monday, were warm and mild. I hope there will be more good weather next week when I’m on retreat. When the sun doesn’t shine, even indoors it is much chillier.A few more pictures
As I predicted, I do not have convenient access to Internet. Also during retreat, I do not expect to be online at all. If necessary, please call Mariakloster – some of you have that phone number. That will be the best way to reach me until I make my return home.
Peace, Dear Reader.

Last days in Luxembourg

            Saturday morning I had the delight to meet Ernest and Claude Molitor, certainly a relative from several generations before. They came at 9:00, joining me for breakfast. Unfortunately, just as we were about to sit down, we heard the dog yelp. She had gotten behind a car that Guy was moving up the hill toward the house; she could not be seen. This changed the course of events for Guy and Elisabeth for the day since they had to take the gentle and forgiving dog to the vet in Mersch; she was limping badly. As they made their way out the driveway, I sat down with the Molitors.
            In sharing our family trees we have found that Philippe Manternach and his wife née Thérèse Schumacher is the common starting point. Ernest’s family tree is of the Schumacher’s. By what was written down, it seemed possibly that Philippe was a son of Nicholas III. However, the dates do not align according to Fr. Albert’s history. There is a ten-year difference to account for. I would like to find out who are the parents of Philippe. This would be a younger brother to Nicholas, and agrees with the story that Philippe and his sister Cecile were cousins of Henry, our great-great grandfather.
            Later in the day I received an email from Ernest with this family information: Nicholas’ wife, Ann Maria Weber, was the sister of Ernest’s great grandmother who married Peter Molitor. The farming community here is still close-knit, as I understand, so it is no surprise that the prettiest women would marry the handsomest men in the area. I hope that we can keep in touch via email.
            Guy and Elisabeth returned about 11:00 with the dog, who seems only to be badly bruised but with pain relievers. The Molitors stayed a little while longer; we all sat at the pond until a little after noon watching the dog for fear she might misstep into the pond. However, she stayed dry, and at least she wanted to be around people.
            In the afternoon, I decided to take a longer drive to a city in the northern part of Luxembourg – Clervaux – because the weather was perfect for a walk. There is a museum there with a photographic exhibit called “The Family of Man” and some walking trails surrounding the town. I left the house about 2:00. The drive was relaxing. I found the castle-museum, but the exhibit I was expecting to see was closed for renovation. So was the exhibit of miniature castles depicting chateaus from all over Luxembourg. However, the part of the house dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge was open.
            Once again the impact of WWII on the people of the area took a stronghold in me. This place was at the very heart of the fight for independence from Germany, which had annexed them immediately. Many letters of testimony and thanks were exhibited along with the munitions and uniforms of the war, even a brown scapular (called a talisman) from one of the American soldiers who had perished. I was moved.
            After this viewing, I climbed the hill toward the abbey, stopping in at the parish church where a woman was practicing the organ, and then following the road to the top. The Benedictine men’s abbey is quite “new” having been built at the beginning of the 20th century. The chapel is beautifully renovated with simplicity and light. I visited the “expo” of abbey life below the chapel. Here I discovered that Dom Paul Benoit had been a resident of the community. He was a composer as well as an organist who taught the well-known French organists of the turn of the century – Debussy, Faurés, Ravel, et al.
            The bookshop was open, too. I found a wooden-bead rosary for my nephew who makes his first communion today. The monk blessed it especially for him.
            Now it was time to return to the car, as my parking permit would expire in half an hour. I stopped again at the church to see if there would be Mass in the evening, but no. So I went on to the car taking the opposite direction around the chateau. The street was lined with eating places, many of them already busy. I stopped to buy a Magnum caramel and almond ice cream bar at one of the cafés because I heard that they were very good. Indeed it was, like a Dove bar but better.
            I reached Larochette just before 6:00. Seeing people heading to the church, I parked the car and went in to Mass. The choir was singing, but the congregation did not have any way to participate in the music – I saw no books or papers. Interestingly the Mass setting in Latin was the same one that was being used at the church in Nice, so I could at least hum along. I like it. It may be one to use in the States during the transition time if someone wants to use the Latin text.
            Afterwards, I walked across the street to the medieval festival. The crowd was quite small, but the “players” were enthusiastic for their task: food was being served, wood was being chopped, coal was being ground, and along with two coats of armor there were other small items from the time to observe.
            There was a musical group singing French/Belgian folksongs. And a camper was set up selling sausages on a bun and beer. I went across the street to the Café de la Place, recommended by Elisabeth to have supper. The music was just the right volume from there, too. I had a chevre chaud salad: lettuce with a mustard dressing, served with small toasted squares topped with baked goat cheese seasoned with oregano, and garnished with a tomato and 3 slices of melon. It was just what I wanted.
            I made it back to the house about 8:20 p.m., which was a good time to Skype family on this special day for my nephew. The First Communion Mass was not until 4 pm but that would be 11 pm my time; the time difference fascinated my nephew. I’m sure they had a good party if the rain stopped at all.
            Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. Elisabeth and I sat for a long while. She showed me pictures of the house when they bought it. It really must have been a strong dream for them to commit to four years of renovation before they could even move in. The transformation is amazing.
            This afternoon, I am trying to update the blog, then to pack the bag into something that is manageable. Elisabeth will lead me to the airport this evening so that I can drop off the car. I won’t be able to check in early, so we will leave at 4 a.m. in the morning to catch the flight to Amsterdam/Trondheim.
            It has been a wonderful week in Luxembourg. So many people have welcomed my inquiries and interest in the country. It feels very much like home. Now if I could only learn Luxembourgoise – after I secure a little more French.
            This may be the last entry of the blog until I return to the States. The next two weeks I will be in Norway with the Cistercian sisters in Trondheim. The first week I will assist with musical consultations; the second week I will be on retreat.
            So much love to you, Dear Reader. It has been a pleasure to share my travels with you in this medium. You are in my thoughts and prayers. With love, LaDonna