Saturday, October 27, 2007

All the goodness inside!!




















If somebody believes that wrapping a piece of salmon in puff-pastry to make it so much better, it's me and here is the proof as in the pudding. These pieces of proof were prepared for my nephew and his wife in Trondheim a little over a week ago, and my goodness - we loved all the goodness inside!

Salmon in puff pastry is one of these dishes that immediately creates a

- "wow, did you really make that!!"

.. from your guests. Then you can lean back and enjoy your new fame as a master chef, knowing that this is as easy as frying an egg.

You need a piece of boneless salmon, a sheet of puff pastry large enough to be used as a little parcel around the salmon. For Gods sake - use premade puff pastry. If you make it yourself, I get impressed!! You can either buy fresh (the best idea) or frozen, the most important thing is that the sheet is 2-3 mm in thickness.

From here you can improvise, but here is how I did it. I took a knife and spread good mustard on most of the puff pastry except on the sides, where I wanted egg to seal the parcels.

I placed the salmon on the middle of the sheet, and added salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime on top. Then the glue. Whipped an egg and brushed it along the edge of the puff pastry.

Then the master chef bit - folded two of the sides over the fish and then the two others over making it into something that looks loke a spring roll. Take a fork and make small holes in the pastry, this allows air inside to escape. Brush the crust with eggs and place of a baking tray.

Then it is just to put it into a moderately hot oven (175C/350F), and let the heat do the rest. Allow to bake for around 30 minutes and golden brown. You can increase the heat slightly at the end, but remember that puff pastry burns easily so do not leave the kitchen.

And then you have all the goodness outside and inside. Crunchy, crispy, crusty on the outside and the softness and the mild taste of salmon with the a little bite of the mustard and lime.

And what to serve with this dish. We made rice with vegetables (echalottes and mange-touts, finely chopped) with boiled in good stock (or use a cube) and beautifully colored by turmeric. But you may make a simple green salad with a French dressing as well.

This is as convenient for a big formal dinner as an easy afternoon snack. And enjoy a good dry white wine with it.

Are you wondering what to cook today?

See other recipes on Enjoy Food & Travel here!!

Lunch at BJ's - give me a break!
















The franchise BJ's has "Give yourself a break" as its motto, and we certainly needed a break as we left the N3 Highway close to Harrismith to get something to eat. The term "Give me a break" would have been more fitting, as the lunch left two of us happy, and the other two rather unsatisfied.


I ordered fried fish, and Jan chose the fried calamaris, whereas the two girls were tempted by the beef sandwiches.

Fried fish at BJ's was a pleasant surprise.

It reminded me of traditional fish'n chips, dipped in batter and deep fried and served with, lemon, french fries, one large tomato and the most delicious tartar sauce. This was absolutely a success for my part and I and Jan shared our fish dishes.

I am sad to say that Grete and Tone were in bad luck, as they ordered the beef sandwiches. Everything was good, except for the main ingredient itself - the beef. I have not ever seen anyone struggle as much with their meat as they did, and bits of beef ended up everywhere, even in Tones purse.

BJ's - give me a break! Get better beef!!!

But the calamaris were as delicious as the fish, well seasoned and crunchy, served with lemon, rice, and tartar sauce. Crunch in every bite, and not overcooked and rubbery, as calamaris may end up if badly prepared. And sadly, only Jan and I left satisfied, and I think it is totally unacceptable to have differences like this in the same restaurant.

The building was interesting - a thatched house reminding me that we were entering the home of the Zulus.

So if visiting the BJ's along the N3 close to Harrismith - avoid the beef and stay with the seafood.

Address:
BJ's Restaurant & Fast Food
N3 National Highway (13km west of Harrismith)
Harrismith
Free State
Phone:
+ 2758 623 0647
Fax: +2758 623 0681

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Drakensberg - getting there!




















We had, wisely enough, picked up our car at Johannesburg airport on our arrival and our faithful companion would bring us the long distance from the busy streets of Johannesburg to the tranquility of the Drakensberg mountains in around 6 hours. If you plan to travel over larger distances, hiring a car is a must, as public transportation, in our terms, is lacking in large areas of South Africa.

We left Johannesburg by the N3 highway, and as we left the larger metropolitan area we discovered the size of, and distances in this large country. We left the province of Gauteng, crossing into a small part of the province of Mpumalanga, just after Heidelberg. Then we entered the Free State province close to Villiers, and the Kwazulu-Natal after the town of Harrismith.

The Giant's Castle area is located around 100 km/82 miles west of the city of Estcourt. As we arrived from the north, we turned off the N3 into the city. At the intersection of Conner and Lorne streets we followed the Ntabamhlope road and the signs to Giants Castle.

You are well advised to start early on your trip, as Giant's Castle is a gated area, where the gates close at 7 PM during summer (October 1st - March 31st) and 6 PM during winter (April 1st to September 30th). The roads from Estcourt into the mountains have a completely different standard and may delay you, in times of rush.

Changing scenery

As you drive we clearly noticed that it was the end of winter. Winter here is the dry season, with relatively low temperatures and practically no precipitation. The rain came, during our stay, and the effect on the nature was remarkable, as the trees and flowers woke up from its state of hibernation.

As we left the populous province of Gauteng, we ended up on a motorway with very few vehicles and long endless plains with a few hills scattered here and there.

You better check where to get a snack, as on large parts of our ride, we could hardly see any places to eat at all. As we approached the city of Harrismith we found a place to eat. BJ's Restaurant & Fast Foods.

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The Drakensberg Mountains



















Monday, October 1st, we left Johannesburg heading south to the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal province. These magnificent mountains form a natural border between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa.

The Drakensberg mountains has been on the list over UNESCO world heritage sites since the year 2000. Its highest peaks reach more than 3400 meters or over 11000 ft. In these mountains you find many recreational areas, with small self catering cabins or lodges where you can stay at a relatively low price and enjoy the majestic mountains. We were heading for Giant's Castle named after the nearest mountain towering 3315 meters/ 10877 ft. up towards the sky. For me the Drakensberg mountains were an extremely memorable part of the voyage, and a welcoming contrast to Johannesburg.

The coming days I will share more on our accommodation, home cooking and wine in our self-catering cabin, and on its history, flora, fauna and scenery.

Nidaros Cathedral - a national project













Norway declared its independence in 1905 after 600 years in political union with Denmark, and Sweden. But already in 1814 Norway formed its first parliament and wrote its constitution, heavily influenced by its American and French counterparts. Through the 19th century national patriotism grew in the young aspiring democracy, and a new state needed its national project and it found it in Trondheim.

The Norwegian patron Saint Olaf, christened the wild Norwegians through the first decades of the 11th century. He fell at the battle at Stiklestad in Trøndelag, and was canonized and buried, first at St Clement church, later in Nidaros cathedral.

The building of this large church started around 1070 and ended around 1300, but it was ravaged by fires several times during its history and by the 19th century, large parts of this medieval shrine had decayed considerably.

By the middle of the 19th century Nidaros cathedral had become an important national project and work started in 1869, and has proceeded more or less until the present day.

Nidaros cathedral is a monument of considerable national pride, but the travellers should bear in mind that it reflects the ideas of a young and immature nation, as much as a medieval monument. Today, the Nidaros cathedral would have been left in the state as it was, in decay, but the architects wanted to boost the pride of a long lost medieval past. During Norgesveldet, Norway controlled parts of today's Sweden, the Orkney's, Iceland, and Greenland, and the conquests of the vikings were just a few centuries back.

Only the base part of the magnificent west facade of the cathedral was preserved, and the reconstruction was based on large European counterparts as the Wells cathedral. As in Wells, the facade is covered by a large number of statues in small niches, and the models of these statues came were important figures in politics, art, and culture of the new nation.

The Nidaros cathedral has probably never been as magnificent as it stands today. For me, as a historian, there are other medieval churches that provides a better and more genuine feeling of Norways medieval past. The wonderful cathedral in Stavanger and Mariakirken in Bergen are far more interesting monuments from the Middle Ages.

As you enter the cathedral you will find it very dark, the many windows do not provide much light. I find that the choir, where the shrine of Saint Olaf once was, as the most interesting part of the whole structure.

The shrine of Saint Olafs grave was a centre of a very important pilgrim route in Northern Europe during Medieval times.

At the choir of the church you find this alter, and it is here scholars believe the grave of Saint Olaf once was, and where sick and healthy, sane and insane walked to pray for health and fortune in this life, and for salvation and eternal life in the next.

As I visit shrines, here as in Montserrat, I sense that we, in our modern times, have lost something important reflected in the pilgrims progress to places of worship and healing. To have enough time to reflect on our own lives and the times in which we live.

So this shrine itself makes a visit to Nidaros cathedral worth while, and of course to observe the vanity of a young nation.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Flight News




















I am still hoping that even those of us that just buy budget tickets can get good and decent service from the airlines. I do not demand or even expect the same service and space as a business traveller but paying less for an airline ticket does not imply that we should settle for hours in agony. Even budget travelers are entitled to some leg space, and we may hope that contributions from bloggers like me may play a role in focusing on the well being on board for us that occupy the seats in the back of the aircraft.


South African Airways sent an apology for my 11 hour agony, but will they do more?

October 13th I wrote the following message to SAA Customer Care.

Having been to South Africa returning yesterday, October 12th. I have written a review on SAA on Enjoy Food & Travel. The trip was an agonizing and extremely uncomfortable experience for me due to minimal space on Economy Class. I highly recommend SAA to reduce the number of seats in Economy Class in order to make traveling to South Africa a more pleasant experience. Read more on Enjoy Food & Travel

Two days ago I got the following answer from SAA.

Dear Tor Johnsen

Firstly I would like to thank you for your e-mail dated 13 October 2007. We would like to apologise for any inconveniences caused during your flight to South Africa. We have taken up your recommendation with the technical department to review the seating space in economy class. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest and flying South African Airways.

Kind Regards

Vishal Kana

Customer Service Quality Auditor

SAA Customer Service Quality Management
Tel : +27 11 978 6313


Well we'll see whether this helps, and those of you traveling with SAA, please give me your travel experience. Regrettably SAA will mean for me Such an Agonizing Adventure.

Airlingus best budget airline in test

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has tested European budget airlines, and Airlingus ended up with the highest score. Bearing the lack of space in mind, I would like to share some of the facts referred in Aftenposten on the on board space on the number of the largest low price air carriers. And remember what a difference a few centimeters make.

Leg space:
- Airlingus (Ireland): 72 cm
- German Wings (Germany): 71 cm
- Hapag-Lloyd Express (Germany): 70 cm
- EasyJet (UK): 70 cm
- Ryanair (Ireland): 70 cm
- Vueling (Spain): 69 cm
- FlyMe (Sweden): 68 cm
- Fly Nordic (Sweden): 67 cm
- Sterling (Denmark): 67 cm
- SAS Braathens (Norway): 67 cm
- Norwegian Air Shuttle (Norway): 66 cm

So now you know what to choose to get those extra inches. Let me know whether you were happy!!

Ryanair will not expand in Norway - new services from Torp Sandefjord Airport

The founder of Ryanair, Michael O'Leary will not compete on the Norwegian domestic flight market, blaming the high airport fees. This according to an interview in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

This means that Ryanair will operate only from the privately owned Torp Sandefjord airport to destinations in Europe, and one service from Haugesund airport to London Stanstead.

Still Ryainair will open new services from Torp to
Mediterranean destinations in 2008, most likely to Valencia and Alicante, according to the Norwegian paper

We are waiting in suspense!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Grill from Ipanema
Washington DC might not be the most charming city in the world. With the grand avenues, the monumental buildings and all the busy powerful people, downtown DC can feel impersonal. If you want to be around real people, go to the Adams Morgan neighbourhood for dinner.

The streets of Adams Morgan are filled with people in the evening, as opposed to the downtown area, which is deserted by 7 pm. You can choose from some pretty interesting restaurants: I wanted to try out Tibetan and Ethiopian cooking. In stead I visited The Grill from Ipanema twice (!) when I visited DC last week. It’s that good.


View Larger Map

The restaurant
You find the restaurant in 1858 Columbia Road North West (see map). There are eight or ten tables outside and room for perhaps 30 people inside. The decoration is nice, but not fancy.

The service is great: The waiters are patient and laidback. They give good advice about choosing food and drink and they don’t bother you if you want to spend two hours having a salad and a lively talk with new friends, like I did :)

The food
The menu has a nice selection of Brazilian food: A lot of meat dishes, as you would expect, but also some very nice poultry choices. And my favourite: The seafood. On my first visit I had a tomato based seafood stew with scampi, which was delightful.

On my second visit, I ordered a seafood salad. It had four different kinds of salad leaves, oranges, olives, palm hearts, croutons and succulent barbecued shrimps. Mmmm!

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Pandia.com. Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Portuguese Fish Market & Sushi Bar




















After an exhausting day, we strolled up and down 7th street in order to find somewhere to eat. We decided to sit down outside the Portuguese Fish Market & Sushi Bar, and enjoy a late night dinner. What we ordered was not actually very Portuguese, rather than something both from the east and west.

The restaurant had a large and a rather eclectic menu, that would please any pallet, prized up to ZAR 75, except the shellfish that was priced from ZAR 100-250.

At the Portuguese Fish Market & Sushi Bar, I decided to go Italian and ended up with pizza "Italiano" with Salami, Peppers, Onion, Bacon and Spinach at ZAR 36 and was served a large sized and delicious thin crusted pizza with a generous amount of cheese on top.

Yum!

Jan decided to go for the seafood curry, i.e. mixed seafood in a mild curry sauce served with rice. As curries go, this could be enjoyed by anyone, mild an aromatic.

So the Portuguese Fish Market and Sushi Bar, was another pleasant experience in Melville. All in all, this part of Johannesburg had an impressive variation of restaurants that would please anyone. Arne, our Norwegian friend, highly recommended Melville Grill for the most delicious steaks.

See the website of the Portuguese Fish Market and Sushi Bar here

Address:
Portuguese Fish Market & Sushi Bar
4a 7th Street
Melville
Johannesburg, SA
Tel: +2711 726 - 3801
Fax:
+2711 726 - 3802
Website: http://www.fishdeli.co.za/

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Credo Mutwa Cultural Village



















In Jabavu in Soweto, we were led to a remarkable place, the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village. This collection of clay statues were created in the Oppenheimer Gardens by the very famous sculptor, author and healer Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa 30 years ago, celebrating African culture and folklore.

This sculpture park is a remarkable contribution to African religious tradition. It is also known as Khayalendaba - "Place of Stories", and is connected to story-telling, rituals and ceremonies, plays and other cultural activities.

Credo Mutwa did, however, use materials that has not withstood time, and many of the statues were in a very bad condition indeed. It was also sad to see that the gardens were filled with rubbish. So for me the visit to the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village ended as a rather depressing experience. I am, however relieved by the fact that extensive restoration of this wonderful tribute to African folklore is in progress, and that some of the statues had been restored back to their former glory.

In the gardens you may go up to a large tower, located on the highest point of the park. From there you have a great view over the area around. I do look forward to return to the park, when the restorations works have been finished.

You may read more of the Restoration work in an article by Lucille Davies at the Official Website of the city of Johannesburg.

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Nelson Mandela and the townships



















Nelson Mandela has lived both in Alexandra and Soweto. In Alexandra, they are now in process of finishing the Nelson Mandela Yard Interpretation Centre - which will include a tourist information office, restaurant and retail outlets. Nelson Mandela settled here, after leaving Transkei in the 1940's for Johannesburg.


In Alexandra, Nelson Mandela lived in this neighborhood with his mother, and you can still see the very small house in which he lived. Here he started his career as a guard in a mine, but ended up studying law, and finishing his b.A. at the University of Johannesburg via mail, and took his second degree in law at the University of Witwatersrand. During this time he also ran a small law firm with his friend Walter Sisulu, here in Alexandra

This was before his political opposition process started, that would lead him to the infamous Robben Island prison and life long captivity.

Nelson Mandela moved in 1946 to 8115 Ngakane Street in Orlando west, in Soweto with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Here he lived through his first marriage and divorce, and with his second wife Winnie Madikizela until he was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life long imprisonment. from which he was released in 1990.

Today this modest little house is a heritage site, celebrating the father of the modern South African democracy. We passed it, on our way back from our lunch at Nambitha, located close by. Our next stop on our sightseeing was a visit to Credo Mutwa Cultural Village, in Jabavu in Soweto.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Trondheim - a city of traditions




















Trondheim is more than 1000 years old, and has kept its character as such. Here you find streets (Norwegian "gater"), but also "streter" and "veiter". The latter being one of the many small narrow passages that criss cross the old blocks. Trondheim is packed with history and tradition, and that is what I love to see.

As I left the conference, I had a few hours of daylight left, and I used to time to find traces of the old city. Nearly nothing predates the large fires of 1651 and 1681 that led to a total reconstruction of the city. After 1681 the city plan was designed by Johan Caspar Cicignon, that also designed the old gated city of Old Fredrikstad, that I visited in august.

The Church of Saint Clement (1015)

The oldest remains I found was at this location where a memorial stone close to the conference venue. The small sign on its right side had the following text (translated).

"Just north of this spot were the first known church in Trondheim. It is known to have burnt down in year 1015. According to Snorri (Sturluson) king Olav Haraldsson erected another church here dedicated to Saint Clement. When King Olaf was made a saint in the year 1031 his shrine was placed here. This marks the start of the building of churches in Nidaros culminating with the end of the construction of Nidaros cathedral 300 years later. "

The church dedicated to Saint Clement may have been one of the first churches built in the country, as Olav Haraldssson, or Saint Olaf, was the Norwegian king responsible to christen the Norwegians early in the 11th century.

The Nidaros cathedral and the Archespicopal Palace, are the most remarkable monuments left from the Middle Ages and I will return to them later in a separate article.

Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady) (1207/1739)

Vor Frue Kirke is located by the central square, and is the best preserved medieval church in Trondheim.

It has been dedicated to Our Lady from the 15th Century, and most of the nave is the original church from the 13th century. It has burned several times and been restored. Some of the old gothic features have been lost through extensive restoration work in the 1880's.

In spite of this, Vor Frue Kirke is a more genuine example of how medieval churches looked like, than even the cathedral, that was heavily restored in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Lately, the church has undergone restoration to prepare its 800th anniversary that will be celebrated in November 2007.

Sankt Jørgen Hus (1607/1616)


Close to the cathedral I found this sign saying:

ST JØRGENS HUUS
STIFTET 1607 af Steen Bille
UTVIDET 1616 af Claus Daae

THE HOUSE OF ST JØRGEN (Saint George)
FOUNDED 1607 by Steen Bille
EXTENDED 1616 by Claus Daae

So this, that used to be a hospital predates the fire of 1651 and 1681. I wonder whether the building is as old?

Hornemansgården (1720/1765/1840)

Hornemangården is a giant wooden complex covering a whole block of central Trondheim. Its oldest parts goes back to the early decades of the 18th century but it has been extended several times until it reached its form and architectural expression in 1840, as the home of the wealthy Horneman family.

Today Hornemangården is the home of a centre for the old, and it gives, with its bright ochre colour, a brilliant contribution to Trondheim torv (Trondheim matkets square), as it is located close to Vor Frue kirke.

If you think Hornemangården is a large building, wait until you see what Madam Schøller constructed close by - one of the largest wooden buildings in the entire country.

Stiftsgården (1774-1778)

Stiftsgården was built by Cecilie Christine von Schøller in the last decades of the 18th century. She inherited, through her husband, chamberlain Stie Tønsbeg Schøller, parts of the fortunes of the extremely wealthy Angell family in Trondheim, and she decided to build her large palais in the middle of the city. It has a u-shape with an impressive facade to the street at two wings facing the garden on the back of the building.

Today it is the Norwegian states official residence in Trondheim, and above the door you can admire the Norwegian coat of arms.

Baklandet skydsstasjon (1791)

Just over at the other side of the river, you find this charming building, that dates back to 1791. This used to be a place where travelers to Trondheim took a rest before crossing the river into the city over Lykkens portal.

This is a charming place to take a pint of beer and the serve highly traditional dishes like the Bacalao, a tomato and dried and salted cod casserole. Great stuff for a cold fall evening, with a dripping cold pint of beer. This is a place for those of you looking for traditional food.

The Old City Bridge (1681/1860)

The Old city bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in Trondheim. The oldest bridge at this place was constructed 320 years ago, but the current one is from 1861. It connects the coty with Baklandet, a charming old area with narrow passages and small wooden houses.

It is also called "Lykkes Portal" or the Gate of Happiness after an old song.

These are just a few of the old monuments of old Trondheim. I will return to the catedral and the Archepiscopal palaces later, as the play a special role in Trondheim and Norways history, and will need more time and space.

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Lunch in Soweto



















Lunch in Soweto, that was the option, as one of the restaurants in Alexandra that Sepive wanted to take us, was packed with people. We ended up at Nambitha, a great place to eat, not far from the old house of Nelson Mandela, and we enjoyed a great lunch there. Lunch in Soweto, who would have believed it??


Nambitha was a great place to have lunch. As we had crossed the city of Johannesburg, passed the large heaps of waste from the gold mines outside the city and were in the opposite part of this large city, we were very hungry.

Interior wise, we could have been anywhere. Soft off white or terracotta walls, furniture in dark wood. They served everything from breakfast to larger meat or fish dishes at very pleasant prices, that is from 10 (!) to 60 ZAR.

And what to choose. I had learned from my lunch experience the day before not to eat something as filling as the baked pasta. I was extremely tempted by the tramezzini, i.e. toasted sandwiches with mayonnaise and chicken.

I thought I would get a double decker with some lettuce, tomato, as well as mayonnaise and chicken. The tramezzini were flat toasted and very thin pieces of fine white bread with filling. Very crunchy, and with a lot of taste. Accompanied by one or two cold pints of South African beer, I found it to be great grub!!

As two of the others chose fish, my friends Jan and Tone decided to share chicken cooked the traditional way.

The chicken served at Nambitha was not the bone free, juicy parts, but the whole thing, with bones and all cooked in a dark tasty broth. It was followed by spinach and pap, a kind of porridge made from maize or other grain. White as snow, but very traditional and completely tasteless. This was a challenge for the hungry Norwegians, but in spite of having to deal with the carcass, Tone and Jan seemed happy with their treat.

All in all, Nambitha was a great place to eat our lunch. The restaurant had a friendly and professional staff, and getting a lunch for 50 ZAR, including beverage feels good for your wallet. So if you visit Soweto, Nambitha is a haven for the hungry traveler, where you get quality for you rands.

Address:
Nambitha
6877 Vilakazi Street
Orlando West
Soweto
Tel/Fax:(+27) (0)11 936-9128
E-mail: info@nambitha.biz
Web:
www.nambitha.biz

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

A day in Alexandra and Soweto



















Sunday, September 30th, we were to explore the other side of South Africa, as we planned a trip to the Alexandra and Soweto townships. First we planned to attend a Lutherans service, and then to get closer to the poverty in South Africa. I do not think any of us was prepared to see what we saw, and the new South African government is facing a daunting task to provide housing for the underprivileged black population.

To travel into the townships is nothing you should do by yourself. We had the company of Arne, a Norwegian social scientist living in South Africa and a local guide, Sepive, that gave us a first hand knowledge on daily life in these townships. Traveling by yourself may pose serious risk and I recommend that you consult, for you own safety, a local if you are thinking of visiting townships.

On our way to church we passed through Sandton, ironically the richest part of Johannesburg, and as we entered Alexandra we were struck by the contrast. It was hard to believe that this was the same country.

We visited a small Lutheran church. The service started at 9 AM and lasted for two hours. It was held partly in English, and partly in the local African language. It was a truly powerful experience, as the songs from the men and women of Alexandra brought tears to your eyes. The rhythm and joy through the dance and the songs performed in this small church room felt very strange for us strict Lutherans, raised in Scandinavia. Where we live, the religious service is a monotonous affair, where people hardly raise their voice as they sing. In Alexandra they sang a capella and marked the rhythm with their hands as they hit their Bibles. The spirit experienced in the poor church in Alexandra is so powerful, that will follow me to the day I die.

As we left the church we were joined by our guide, Sepive. He was a native of Alexandra and training to be certified as a guide. With him to take us through the townships we were in for a very interesting day.

Alexandra has a population estimated to 750 000, it may be more, it may be less, as every day there are people moving into Johannesburg from the countryside to find work, and many of these end up in townships as Alexandra.

Within the township themselves, there are large differences. New and more prosperous neighborhoods for the new black middle class is growing up not far from terrible shacks built for the newcomers. I have, however, in general never seen poverty in such a scale as in Alexandra. You will never find similar living conditions in Europe, as you find here. Within the township Sepive showed us the large blocks built by the apartheid regime in order to house workers needed to keep up this terrible oppressive system. One large block for women, and one for men, with their families living far away, out of sight for the rich oppressors.

Still, visiting these townships today, one should bear in mind that the South African democracy is young, as it has worked a little more than a decade. Things are happening, but the scale of the problems makes the progress less visible. As old shacks are torn down and new houses are built, more people move into the townships and new slums appear. This is a very difficult situation to cope with for those trying to relieve the problems for the poor. And Alexandra is filled with small enterprises that provide small scale services to the inhabitants.

Alexandra is a striking contrast to the conditions of the white population that still enjoy the same living standard as they had during the apartheid years. Some do fear that that the lacking progress in townships Alexandra, may develop into a revert racism against the white population, as it has in Zimbabwe. But our friend Arne was not that pessimistic and pointed to what has been achieved by the ANC government and that things are getting better, slowly.

After the visit to Alexandra, we left for the most famous of the townships around Johannesburg - Soweto. Soweto is even bigger than Alexandra, with a population between 1 and 2 million. Soweto has the same contrasts as you find in Alexandra, but its status as the home of the leaders of the ANC has made progress more visible here. We went to Soweto to see the house of Nelson Mandela and eat lunch, and we did both, and after this visit we went to study some native mythology.

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R.I.P. Fire Brødre

Sadly, Ketil and I have to face reality. Our regular pub, Fire Brødre (Four brothers), closed down last week after around 15 years in business. We are homeless as this as the place where we performed our weekly ritual of drinking our Sunday pints. So we are homeless, and we are looking for another place to make our own.

We are expecting that there are motives behind this closure, as Central Oslo are now been taken over by greedy landlords that charge increasingly higher rents. This means that only chains as 7 Eleven, Deli de Lucca and real restate brokers can afford to pay the bills.

We are expecting to find another chain store where our once so beloved Fire Brødre once was. I would like to dedicate these words to the memory of our favourite French-Norwegian friend Bernhard that once made this place a real neighbourhood hangout! So Fire Brødre - Rest in Peace, and to those of you that live in Oslo, please give us your view where we can find a new home!!