The Mountains of Bergen: Mount Fløyen & Mount Ulriken

One of the main reasons my husband and I went to Norway a few weeks ago (apart from the beautiful views!) was the fact that it’s a great place for hiking and climbing mountains. Bergen has seven mountains surrounding the city, so there were ample opportunities to explore the mountains and do some hiking. My husband is pretty passionate about walking around natural spaces and has always loved climbing mountains and through peaceful woods, so we were both pretty excited to try something different on holiday and explore Bergen’s two most popular mountains – Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken.

Mount Fløyen


Due to Mount Floyen being quite a popular mountain, the roads up to Mount Floyen always have tourists and residents strolling up or down the mountain, and there were also trams travelling to and from the mountains for those who wanted the stress-free rides. We decided to take the tram or the Floibanen up to the mountains to explore, and then take the scenic route and walk back down again to the city later.

Once we arrived at the top of the mountain, we were able to see an extraordinary view of the city, which was pretty breathtaking, where we sat and enjoyed the view for a little while. There was also a lovely little coffee top for tea and cake in this area, where a lot of families gathered outside to enjoy the food and breathe in the fresh, cool air.


Although this view was pretty amazing, we were able to keep walking from this area further upwards towards the top of the mountain, where we walked though beautiful paths and plenty of woodland areas. My husband and I had a lot of fun walking through the woods and being silly, although admittedly we were both pretty out of breath from climbing uphill after a while and needed to rest – pretty embarrassing after seeing a lot of people stroll past easily, clearly used to climbing the mountain every day!


One of my favourite parts of this mountain is this man-made trail that we found in the middle of nowhere, which we followed to a small clearing with seating to rest and little notes with a game. I forgot to take pictures of the signs here, but it was a nice little find for us in the middle of a huge forest. There’s something a little haunting and eerie about the picture below (maybe I’ve seen too many horror films in the woods!), but really this was a really peaceful, fun place and we managed to run around the trees and explore a little before moving on.


We carried on walking and followed a path to find a big beautiful lake, which was pretty empty, apart from a family of ducks which didn’t take any notice of us! We sat here for a little while to rest, and enjoyed the peaceful view before walking around a little more, and even found a small cabin on the side of the lake (we didn’t go in though because it was private. And locked.)

We weren’t able to to get to the top of the mountain but we were pretty happy with what we had seen, and were also a little tired, so after this we headed back down towards the city, and made plans for the next mountain hike!

Mount Ulriken


After climbing down from Mount Floyen and taking a short break in city (and having something to eat!), hubster and I decided to tackle the much larger Mount Ulriken which involves more hilly areas, steep roads and and higher peaks which we wanted to explore.

We took a tour bus to the entrance of the mountain (I say entrance, it’s more like the roads which lead into the mountain) which we later regretted because the tour bus journey was pretty short and very expensive!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to take the cable cars (called Ulriken Express) across to the peaks of the mountain, which I was really looking forward to, due to the high winds and the cold weather. We did managed to walk around for a little while though and spot some memorable sights including this beautiful waterfall below. I really wanted to try some of the water from this waterfall but it was at an awkward location which seemed a little dangerous, so we stopped to take pictures and ooh-and-ahh at the fresh, cool air instead.


We also did a little more hiking through this mountain, although we weren’t able to access a lot of it without the cable-cars taking us to the top. We also found this mountain a lot less busier than Mount Floyen which had more families and tourists, while this mountain was for the more serious hikers and explorers.


We had a really fun (and tiring!) day exploring mountains in Bergen, which we found very refreshing. I have mentioned before how wonderful it is to find a place like Norway which has so many natural landscape scenes – mountains, forest, lakes and snowy peaks, and we certainly found all of these in Floyen and Ulriken. I think in future I’d love to be more adventurous and try some rock-climbing or scaling, although I think I’d need to be a little fitter to try these!

I’ll leave you with a funny sign-post we found in Mount Floyen (there’s lots all over) which made me laugh, Norwegians love their trolls and monsters and this was just one more on the list!


Wicked: A Good Green Witch’s Story

My sisters and I recently went to see Wicked: The Musical at Apollo Victoria recently to treat ourselves, and enjoyed it thoroughly – each of us had been wanting to see this for a while and it was amazing fun to see all the singing, acting, costumes and sets sliding around on stage and creating a funny and emotional story.


As is the case with most plays, we weren’t allowed to take photographs during the play’s duration (not that I haven’t tried before, but the accidental flash in the past has taught me a lesson if I don’t want to be removed from the theatre!) We did manage to get a quick shot of the stage before the play started (although these are courtesy of my sister who took these ones below) and which shoes a huge map of Oz as well as a dragon on top of the stage which moved every now and then during the play.

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Wicked is a great play – and it’s even more interesting to see if you’ve read the books originally written by Gregory Maguire, who re-imagined the story of The Wizard of Oz to give it more depth, and to tell the story of the misunderstood Elphaba, more widely known as the Wicked Witch of Oz. Having said that (and I was one of the ones who had read the books years ago), it does spoil it a little if you know what’s coming – although in this case, the way the story was translated onto the stage was brilliantly done and a lot more lively than I expected.

Wicked tells the story of Elphaba, daughter of the Governor of Oz who suspects that she is not really his daughter, and resents her green skin – just as she is arriving at University. Meeting the self-absorbed Glinda, trying to protect her wheelchair-bound sister Nessa-Rose and dealing with the isolation from her peers, Elphaba finds love, magic and most importantly, a passion for Animal rights, which leads to her eventual fate as the “most hated woman in Oz”.

The main difference I noticed between the play and the book is the politics and rebellion, which deals with the treatment of talking Animals as they are discriminated against by the laws of the mysterious Wizard of Oz; and Elphaba’s struggles with her professors, her peers and the friends she ends up making. The play does deal with this – but also attempts to wind together a lot of complex issues by focussing the story on Elphaba as a character and what she tries to do – whereas the book has a wider range of characters who all deal with their own struggles and situations that merge under the canopy of the the Animal rights issue.

I won’t talk too much about the novel, since it’s a very different style to the theatre, and translates to a more exuberant show that works. The play itself is brilliantly created – the main characters of Elphaba and Glinda (or Gah-linda, as she pronounces it) are well acted, and easy to love. The songs are, of course, what make the show, catchy, passionate and beautifully sung, with funny dances, subtle expressions and lots of one-liners that catch you laughing.

My favourite scene is one in which the glamorous, conceited and sparkly Glinda tries to teach the socially-awkward and shy Elphaba to be beautiful, to flirt and laugh – it reminded me of so many girls that I know (I won’t name names!) that it made me laugh – what probably made the scene most memorable was the fed up look on Elphaba’s face, as she stands on a stage that she looks like she wants to run away from!

I’m looking forward to seeing more shows – I’ve seen a few in the past with my friends and my husband, and have a long list of more to see! Have you seen this play? What did you think of it?

ZSL’s Roar With Laughter – Sumatran Tigers and comedy

I was lucky enough to get tickets to charity ZSL’s evening of comedy, ‘Roar with Laughter‘ event over the weekend in benefit of Sumatran tiger awareness, which featured a range of stand up comedians, and well, a few (fluffy) tigers.

It was an interesting evening to say the least, Phil Jupitus reading poems about Jeremy Clarkson and his odd relationships with cars, Ed Byne on why cats are evil, and Lucy Porter on joys of Argos reviews. But we did laugh, and I did like the tiger masks on every seat : )

The Blanks come to London

I went to see acapello group The Blanks a while ago (most of you will probably know them as Ted and His Band from tv series ‘Scrubs’), and was happily entertained by their amazing voices, short sketches and general all round good humour. My favourite song was their rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow‘, which sounded really beautiful and really made my night 🙂

You can check out their shows and their other tracks,sketches, weird gimmicks with toys (yep, and some of them are really weird) on their website. Hope you find them as entertainment as I did, and here’s a pic of them performing when I went (I tried to zoom in more folks, but thats as far as I could get!)

Conviction’s Every Coin at Soho Theatre

Every Coin at Soho Theatre
Written by Carlon Campbell Robinson
Directed by Esther Baker

“I don’t do politics. I’m just serving my sentence.”

Thus sums up the tone set in postmodern play Every Coin by protagonist Mark (played by the very talented Clifford Samuel), who is serving a prison sentence, amidst the chaos and politics of rising numbers of Muslims gangs within British all-male prisons. Depicting the fraught relationships between a diverse background mix of prisoners, Mark attempts to come to terms with his own identity and frustrations amidst the growing threat of terrorism and violence that serves as currency in his surroundings. With his old friend Raymond becoming a Muslim convert to protect himself (“I didn’t think they even did white Muslims”), and the increasing pressures of leader Ikrimah and his cronies, Mark’s situation seeming to spiral downwards, and his relationships with his friends, wife and daughter becoming increasingly strained. We see how Mark is forced to make decisions to turn his life around, while ultimately having to decide to “Choose Islam or choose to die.”

Using stylised rap to open up the play, the author builds an eclectic dialect made up of London city slang, gangster lingo, Islamic Arabic phrases and contemporary cultural references. From the beginning, the author successfully depicts the cold reality of gang culture, as well as the manipulation of Islam to justify a means to an end. Throughout the play, both the author and the director successfully project thought-provoking, emotional scenes, with a powerful message about the justice system and the futility of violence.

One main significance that is portrayed is the division within the prisons, mainly divided between the ‘whites’ and the Muslims converts.  It is ironic that many of these converts are reformed men who used to be London ‘gangsters’. Yet there is still very much a strong gang culture alive within the prisons, which forces men to take refuge in safety offered in the violent interpretation of Islam that has been offered to them. This is very much a real concept that is alive in Britain today; that a growing number of men are joining the strong gang culture which promotes violence as righteous action and reaction.

Also depicted here is the idea of ‘reverse racism’, in which the white prisoners are the minority  and are terrorised and intimidated by the larger Muslim population who dominate the prison with their own rules. Although there seems to be a real division set in the prison, which is lightened by the use of humour (“Can’t even have bacon sarnies without having to look over our shoulders”), it can be argued that the case here is not so much the idea of racism and a minority group, but the refusal of either group to co-operate or understand each others’ values. Robinson clearly depicts the similarities in each group, shown in such scenes such as the symmetry of both Christian prayer and Muslims praying at dawn in their own privacy, confirming that “Nothing is as black and white as you think it is.” It is this which also cleverly offers layers of not only colour, but politics and relationships. I would definitely say that Islam itself is not attacked in this play, as this would be too easy and neat a conclusion, but rather we are shown how it is distorted and manipulated to justify violent acts. Ikrimah’s constant brainwashing of other prisoners and his dramatic and quietly violent beliefs further reinforce the idea that violence is used as a way to persuade and force others to fit a certain doctrine, and that it is regarded by many as a suitable way of responding. In this way, the idea that being a Muslim is synonymous with being a terrorist is taken on and exposed, so that we see that the message of peace and love from Islam is exploited and distorted to fit the prisoners’ own means.

Also being examined here is the question of identity, with constant questions of “Who are you?” and “Not what God knows, what do you know?”, forcing Mark to look at his past and also his anger and frustration. With names, attire and even behaviour all being used to represent something, the play successfully uses these tools to show physically how they can all have significance in both religion and identity.Through this the author channels the idea of an individual identity rather than a gang who are dominated and ruled by beliefs that do not always seem to make sense. With charismatic Ikrimah asserting his views that “sometimes the innocent have to be sacrificed” and his followers such as Angel seeking retribution for a past gang killing, the doctrine they have created begins to crack, showing how it does not correspond with the original ideals of Islam.

Like Mark Inspector Cole, who perhaps represents not only the justice system, but also acts as an in-between pivot for both the ‘whites’ groups and Muslim converts, we see a man with his own decisions to make. In him we see an earlier generation, haunted by his own past and experience of combat in the Iraq war. Out of any of the characters, he could be perceived as having the least ‘faith’, choosing to take refuge in logic and the law.

The idea of fatherhood – both being one and having one – also resounds, showing how Mark’s family who have been left behind are not exempt from the impact of him being in jail. While there are emotional scenes, depicting the strain that it is having on his wife and child, the play also chooses to depict their close family bonds, choosing to show Mark as an ordinary father and husband despite his situation:

“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary. Martin Luthor King said that.” “If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘boyfriend’ out of your vocabulary. I said that!”

All in all, this play is goes from intense scenes to comical ones, yet this does not ruin its flow nor its overall message. Although the scenes are played out on a small stage, having the effect of  making the audience feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable, this helps create an extraordinary atmosphere of intimacy which fits with the idea of looking at the cold, hard truth. There are many powerful, raw scenes, and at times you can see the emotions of the author peep through– it is no coincidence that the author is currently serving a prison sentence and his voice really comes through. The play is full of layering which is wrought with cynicism. When I went to see the play, it was interesting and satisfying to see a multicultural audience, suggesting an open-minded willingness to see what Convictions has to say. With wry humour also thrown in – (“It’s a long story.” “I’m serving a life sentence”), and references to the current David Cameron and Clegg coalition thrown in, such as Cameron’s idea of that multiculturalism no longer exists (leading to uproar amongst the converts who regard this as an attack), Convictions really caputres a cross-section of society today within the prison.

“The old way doesn’t work anymore. It’s dated. Nobody gives a f**k about postcodes. Or about who done what to who before Islam.” It can definitely be agreed that terrorism has shaped the way Islam is perceived. The current postmodern world – and also post-9/11 world  – means we look at things differently, and there is a very real issue of young men being brainwashed by the violence of terrorism, which is being called righteous under the label of Islam. With an increasing number of young men serving prison sentences in the Western world for attacks in the name of Islam, is time that someone has set the record straight. Robinson very perceptively projects the idea of frustration – at the justice system, at gang culture, at the way people treat others and are treated, showing how Islam is used as both a scapegoat and a tool to victimize men. I applaud both the director and the writer of this play; Convictions received a standing ovation when I went to see it and very rightly so.

Convictions Every Coin is no longer showing, but you can still catch Convictions’ other plays such as The Archbishop and the Antichrist at Soho Theatre on Dean Street in London as well as other shows which are available which look promising.