Archive for November, 2015

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Last week I spent a couple of days in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. The ministery of Foreign Affairs in Norway pays for a project where my institute helps the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. This project has been going for 4-5 years already, and I have recently been asked to join.

It was my first visit to Asia, and the traffic chaos was overwhelming! It can take anything from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours to reach the department from our hotel. I couldn’t get my head around the population either, Dhaka is the 11th city in the world with 12 million inhabitants, and the Greater Dhaka Area has 17 million people – that’s more than the Netherlands (which is already the most densely populated country in Europe apart from Malta/Vatican City/Monaco/San Marino which are so small they don’t count 😛 )

Traffic in Dhaka: complete chaos The Bangladesh Meteorological Deparment. Apparently the side wings were planned to be as high as the middle part, and they keep adding floors!

Bangladesh is a developing country and a lot is still done by hand. I visited the weather office, where weather maps and weather forecasts were done on paper.

Written weather forecasts Weather map drawn by hand, showing every hPa...

Yet things are slowly changing, and some of the Norwegian products for visualising meteorological data are now in use in Bangladesh. Very nice to see!

Some Norwegian products in use for visualising meteorological data The weather office

We had lunch with the project group. The flags that were decorating the building on the outside and the inside were showing the names and faces of people who were running for union elections 🙂

They served us a tasty lunch every day Crossing the courtyard. Another smoggy day...

On our last day, there was a strike and we were told it was safer for us to stay at the hotel. So instead, some of the project members came to our hotel where we had our final meeting.

Final meeting at the hotel

We were staying at a very posh hotel, and my room was on the 22nd floor! I took these two photos from my room…

Construction site seen from my hotel room The fascinating view from my room on the 22nd floor!

Around sunset, I took some photos from the balcony on the 23rd floor…

Sports field and lots of highrise buildings Sunset over Dhaka

We only had 3 days in Dhaka (it should have been 4, but we lost one in Istanbul), so time flew by. There was not much time for sightseeing, and even if there had been – we had been advised by the Norwegian embassy to stay in the hotel and not venture out in the city by ourselves, for security reasons. If everything goes to plan, I will become project leader for this project in 2016. That means I will travel there once a year, and hopefully on one of those trips I’ll have the chance to discover more of the country!

Surprise visit to Istanbul

Two weeks ago I was on my way to Dhaka, Bangladesh with two colleagues. We had to change planes in Istanbul. Our incoming flight was late, we were dropped at the opposite sight of the terminal and by the time we got to our gate it had just closed 🙁 As the next flight to Dhaka was 24 hours later, we were put in a hotel (a 5 star hotel, but I think at least 3 of those stars were bought on the black market!). It was all rather annoying, but there was one bonus: we had half a day to explore Istanbul!

The other two had visited Istanbul before (though for one of them, it was 40 years ago!). I had never been there. After a quest for a cash machine (not easy when nobody seems to speak English), we took a tram into town. We got out at the Grand Bazaar…

Inside the Grand Bazaar Lots of bling for sale at the Grand Bazaar

I loved walking around the Grand Bazaar! It’s a labyrinth of little streets and lots of shops. On a Monday morning, it wasn’t very busy. I loved watching tea being delivered to the salesmen 🙂

After that, we walked to the Blue Mosque while listening to the impressive call for prayer coming from all sides. I would have loved to find out why the mosque is called blue, but it was closed until 14:00 so we only had a look from the outside and continued. We had to be back at the hotel by 15:00 for our shuttle to the airport, so we couldn’t wait.

The Grand Bazaar, with on the right tea being delivered to one of the salesmen The Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque. We never got to see why it was called Blue, as it was closed until 14:00

There were lots of street vendors selling corn on the square between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, our next destination.

Street vendor selling corn View towards the Blue Mosque

We visited Haga Sophia, a huge building. The main attraction for the Scandinavians was a Runic inscription by Vikings. Basically, ancient graffiti in the style of “X was here” 😉

I loved the lights inside Haga Sophia View from the Haga Sophia with the Blue Mosque in the background

After that we visited the Basilica Cistern, an underground cistern which was originally used to store and provide water. Quite a magical place, though very dark so it wasn’t easy to take photos.

The Basilica Cistern The Basilica Cistern

There were two pillars that reused a block of stone carved with the head of Medusa as a base. They came from a Roman building originally, and this one is placed upside down as it was believed that staring directly into Medusa’s eyes would turn you to stone. Medusa comes from Greek mythology and is supposed to be a monster, with the face of a hideous human female with poisonous snakes instead of hair – nice 😀

Medusa upside down

After that it was time for a quick lunch before taking the tram back to the hotel, from where we took a shuttle back to the airport. It was quite strange to walk around in a city as a tourist, when you had no idea you were going to be visiting – but I really enjoyed this unexpected visit to Istanbul!

Winter comes to Oslo

I came back from a work trip to Bangladesh last Friday (more on this soon). When I left Oslo the week before, it still felt like autumn. When I came back, it was definitely winter! The temperatures are below zero all day, the trees have lost all their leaves and there is snow up in the hills. On Sunday, I dressed up warm and took the Tbane all the way to Frognerseteren. This is the highest station in Oslo at 469 m. Up there it really was winter!

Ice! Not easy when the whole path looks like this

I took small icy paths until I reached Tryvannstua. Unfortunately I had forgotten my wallet at home, so no hot chocolate for me 🙁 There is a ski resort here where they were working hard to get more snow!

Tryvannstua looks inviting across the frozen lake More snow in the making!

I followed the gravel road to Skjennungen and took some photo of the ice crystals on the frozen lake. I had lunch here too, but I didn’t sit down for long as it was too cold for that!

Icy crytals on frozen Skjennungen lake Bubbles in the ice

Another reason to keep going is that the days are getting quite short now. It was nearing sunset and I wasn’t even halfway through my walk. The views were very pretty…

Nearing sunset and the moon is rising Nice views towards the city

I reached Ullevålseter, which was deserted already (last time I was here, the queues were really long and there were so many people sitting in the grass around the building). I reached Store Åklungen around sunset, such a pretty place!

Ullevålseter - last time I was here the queue was extremely long, now it was deserted Sunset at the frozen lake Store Åklungen

The skies turned really pink and then the moon appeared from behind the clouds – so beautiful!

So pink! And then the moon appeared from behind the clouds - beautiful!

After this I walked on to Sognsvann as fast as I could – it was dark by the time I got there. I had walked 13 km and could feel it in my legs! 😀

Talking about Sognsvann, I went for a walk there earlier this month with my friend Judith. We had a week of foggy weather then, and this is what it looked like that afternoon…

Foggy Sognsvann

I have more photos to share, of my sisters visit to Oslo, and from my trip to Bangladesh – hope to add those soon 🙂

Hvaler

Yesterday I took the train to Fredrikstad (just over an hour from Oslo), where Marie and Pål picked me up. We went for a walk at Vesterøy in Hvaler. We weren’t very lucky with the weather: it was grey and foggy – but at least it wasn’t raining! The landscape was very different from what I’m used to: very rocky with low vegetation. Here we reached an old fishing village where we had a picknick lunch 🙂

Old fishing village where we stopped for lunch Photo by Marie :)

After lunch, the sun tried to come out – nice! I’ll have to come back here in summer one day, lots of nice places to go swimming as well!

Nice sandy beach, the fishing village can still be seen in the background The sun was trying to come out

There were some huge boulders lying around, this one was cracked – couldn’t help myself 😀

Pål & Marie in the typical landscape: rocks and low vegetation A huge cracked boulder - photo by Marie :)

In some areas there were lots of cabins, some were very pretty. From there we descended back into the fairytale forest 🙂

Nice cabins! The trees in the forest were quite amazing, and easy to climb :)

A big mushroom on a tree – in Dutch we call this type of mushroom ‘fairy bench’ 😀

Big mushroom - in Dutch we call this type of mushroom 'fairy bench' Photographer at work, by Marie :)

We briefly visited Papperhavn, which was very quiet but I bet it’s full of life and activity in summer!

Man & Dog leaving Papperhavn

The days are getting short now, it started to get dark not long after we got back to the car. We drove back to Fredrikstad, where we walked around the old town in the dark (very pretty) and had a wonderful dinner before I took the last train back to Oslo. Such a great day, thanks a lot Marie & Pål! 🙂