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Uncle Henry´s Universe.

About the blog

I have no heavy training... Barely Elementary School. Preferred the wilderness, it became my university, but I got muddy boots and experience instead of School knowledge so my English was therefore quite inadequate. This blog is a project to improve my skills in English language.

We all have our own universe, welcome to visit mine.

Oman and Rub al Khali

Travel Posted on Mon, January 13, 2020 23:36:52

The Arabic name Rub al Khali means “empty quarter”, and it is the world’s largest sand desert, located on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and encompassing southern Saudi Arabia as well as parts of Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, news came out that Qabus ibn Said, Sultan of Oman has died, 79 years old – after ruling the country since 1970. When my wife and I visited Oman in 2010, I got the impression that the Sultan was highly respected and loved by everyone I talked to. He seemed to care for the nation’s citizens and had apparently paid everyone’s debts on some occasions … (I don’t know the whole story, haven’t researched it further, think it’s such a good story that I leave it there) He has probably done much more than that, Oman has long been a safe and prosperous oasis in an otherwise quite troubled corner of the world.  

Qabus ibn Said is now succeeded by his cousin, former Minister of Culture Haitham bin Tariq Al Said. I don’t know anything about him, but he looks very friendly on the pictures available on the net. I hope and believe that he will become a wise and kind Sultan and wish this amazing country all the best for the future.

We rented a car and explored the area around Salalah, along the Indian Ocean with playful dolphins, rays and sea turtles, up the mountain towards Yemen with breathtaking views and out to the desert with sand and sand and sand.

Enjoyed the rich bird life around the oases, put on warning flashers as we stopped for passing camel caravans and tested the local cuisine. (dried camel meat rolled in dried camel fat gave the experience of fatty food a new meaning …)

With bare feet in warm sand, the desert is a breathtaking experience, especially as soon as you think of the scorpions … But it was amazing how fast the sand got cold as the sun went down. When dusk fell, several large beetles suddenly crept around us in the dunes, wondering if they were scarab beetles.

Slept under the open sky with only the blanket of the stars. (okay, you also needed a thick blanket around you, it got terribly cold). The starry sky was amazing, as everyone had said it would be in a desert far from civilization and its illumination. But must still admit that it did not differ in any remarkable way, from the one at home over our little cabin in the woods.

I froze from time to time and woke up several times during the night, followed the full moon that went up at my feet and passed over my head the last time I saw it. At dawn I was awakened by the insistent cry of a fox. Probably an Rüppell’s fox (Vulpes rueppelli) or maybe a Blanford´s fox (Vulpes cana). Both are quite small foxes with big ears, as the locals described them. Never saw it but heard the sound slowly diminish and disappear in the distance as the sun rose over the dunes.



Visit Riga

Travel Posted on Wed, December 11, 2019 20:42:57

If you are going to visit Riga, I really recommend some cozy hotel in the old town. Then you have lots of nice sights within walking distance. Something you should not miss are the five large market halls and the outdoor market next to them.

The market halls built between 1924 and 1930 were originally to consist of two German zeppelin hangars, Walhalla and Walther, but they were too large to heat. Instead, five brick buildings were built where the material from the hangars served as a roof. They are still large, 20 meters high, 35 meters wide and about 100 meters long. But still smaller than the Zeppelin hangars, they were 37 meters high, 47 meters wide and 240 meters long!

The five halls sell different goods. One for meat, one for fruits and vegetables, one for fish, one for dairy and I think it was one for bread. In addition, there were a few other goods in different places as well as a cafe. And souvenirs, of course. But overall, it did not feel like a tourist attraction, it is a place where ordinary people buy their goods. We were there quite early in the day, when the feeling was very casual and cozy.

Fresh vegetables and lots of other types of exciting things …

A huge selection of fish species and products! What a wealth! In the freezer at the grocery store at home, there are mostly square fish without eyes.

In the meat hall there was meat. Traders after traders sold meat of different varieties and of different parts. Everything, and then I mean just everything from the animal was taken care of. You could buy trachea, tail, cheek, intestines etc. Impressive!

Different types of honey and lots of beeswax candles were marketed.

Around the market halls and in the nearest neighborhood there is an outdoor market that sells everything you may need. An exciting environment that is also best suited to visit early in the day. At least I think so. Being crowded is not really my thing.

Damn, I regret it, I would have bought that t-shirt! 😉



Riga

Travel Posted on Fri, November 29, 2019 17:14:09

There are times when I leave the forest and walk the streets of the city like a normal man… (old jungle saying)

When snow, mires and tracking sucks, and the longing for gray peas and yards of homemade sausage becomes overwhelming. Or when the yearning for architecture almost burns in your body, preferably Art nouveau … Then you go to Riga!

Or for any reason. All causes are good. Riga offers an abundance of interesting architecture, exciting history and food of the highest quality. We had some very pleasant days in Riga this week.

Oh, I always wished I had a sphinx at the cottage …



Madeira

Travel Posted on Mon, November 25, 2019 11:41:55

After twenty days of gray weather, rain, wet snow and even more rain … it’s probably no wonder the thoughts go to Madeira, an archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Portugal, and with a fantastic summer all year-round weather!

We (My wife and I) were to Madeira for the first time in February this year and were not disappointed. Sunshine almost every day, mild winds and around 20 degrees. Stayed at a small charming hotel centrally located in Funchal, the equally charming capital of the island. No bigger than you easily get acquainted with it on foot.

Madeira lives on tourism, and the small population of about 300,000 inhabitants receives about 1.5 million tourists annually … Yet the island does not in any way feel as touristy as most other tourist destinations, at least that’s our impression. Everyone we meet was relaxed and pleasant, salespeople or those who want to make us eat at their restaurant, where anything but pushy. Just nice and friendly, apologize immediately when we told them that we have just eaten. Honest smiles, jokes and laughter.

A cable car runs from Funchal up to the tropical garden with panoramic views of the city and the bay. Recommended! In the morning the queue is insignificant but when a cruise ship has arrived it can extend along large parts of the boardwalk. So, choose the right time.

Another cable car goes halfway down again, to the Botanical Park. A given visit for anyone interested in plants. The floral splendor was not overwhelming, as I heard it is in the spring, but compared to snow and ice at home, so …

Some days we took a local bus up the mountains to the 27,000 ha Parque Natural da Madeira and hiked along some “levadas” in the Laurel forest. Levadas is constructed water channels which run through the forest following the contours of the landscape and clinging to the cliffs and steep-sided valleys. Wonderful hiking trails that offer everything from panoramic views to dense rainforest and where you hike through tunnels, along narrow paths and sometimes even under waterfalls.

The Laurel forest, also called laurisilva, is a type of subtropical forest found in areas with high humidity and relatively stable, mild temperatures. A previously widespread laurel forest type, which covered much of Southern Europe 15-40 million years ago. Madeira Natural Park has today Europe’s largest area of original laurel forest and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Smaller areas of the same type are only found in the Azores and the Canary Islands.

Laurisilva is extremely rich in species of all kinds and many are endemic. During our walks we had great sightings of both Madeira Firecrest and Trocaz pigeon, two endemic bird species for the area.

Our visit to the island provided many wonderful experiences, but endless remains to be seen and experienced. Hope we get the opportunity to come back.



Geneva

Travel Posted on Sat, November 16, 2019 13:57:59

Geneva with its jewelry, Rolex watches and chocolate are fucking expensive! A pizza and a beer cost at least twice as much as in Sweden. But with that said… End of complaint. The city is a fantastic gem that I hope to return to.

An attenuating circumstance is that local traffic is free for tourists. Tram, bus and even some boat lines on Lake Geneva are free. (We got a free pass from the hotel we stayed at.) This means that you don´t have to stay downtown, if it is close to a stop, you can easily and conveniently reach the entire city center. In addition, the city is no bigger than you can easily walk around the central parts.

One of the city’s most visible landmarks are Jet déau, one of the world’s highest water fountains, located in the bay where Lake Geneva flows into Rhone. It sprays five hundred liters of water per second up to 140 meters in height.

Geneva is one of the greenest cities in Europe, 20% of the city is covered in green areas. And there is liberating free from rubbish. I don’t think I saw a single junk anywhere! At one point, I saw a young man smoking a cigarette at a bus stop. When he was done, he looked for a trash can, found one further down the street, went there and threw his fag-end before returning to the bus stop! Hello, the rest of the world, please copy!

Mentioned in this context should also be the botanical garden, Jardin Botanique, created in the early 19th century. This fascinating park and “living museum” have 16,000 plant varieties and the world’s largest herbarium. Sculptures, theme areas, bird ponds, restaurants, children’s playground and lots of giant greenhouses filled with exotic plants and environments. A facility where it is easy to spend a whole day.

To the west of the botanical park is Adriana Park, an even larger park area (46 hectare) with about 800 tree species. There is also the Palace of Nations with the United Nations Office, the second largest United Nations Centre after the United Nations Headquarter in New York.

Geneva is really packed with interesting sights and lots of international organizations have their headquarters there. One of them is the Handicap International, which together with the Genevan artist Daniel Berset stands behind the monumental sculpture “Broken Chair” on the Place des Nations. Initially calling on all States to sign a treaty to ban landmines, but today with an extended meaning. This gigantic work of art, facing the United Nations “Flags Valley”, is twelve-meter-high and made of 5.5 tons of Douglas fir wood. A thought-provoking creation and a tourist magnet where selfies and group photos replicate each other.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that the city contains lots of exciting architecture, both modern and older. The old town, picturesque and genuine as they usually are, offers exciting hikes in narrow alleys. St. Pierre Cathedral is probably a given visitor’s destination for those who are interested in John Calvin, one of the leaders of the protestant reformation. Inside the church is a wooden chair used by Calvin… Personally, I attach more importance to the Broken chair, but Calvin’s chair is probably a nice piece of furniture in its own way.



Visit CERN!

Everyday life, Travel Posted on Mon, October 21, 2019 19:55:28

Although nuclear physics is not my strongest side, 😉 the visit provided at least some idea of what it is all about, and it’s an absolutely amazing world to discover!

If ever visiting Geneva, I highly recommend a visit to CERN. The CERN Laboratory was established in 1954 and the name is originally an abbreviation of Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire.

Their work helps to uncover what the universe is made of and how it works. They do so by providing a unique range of particle accelerator facilities to researchers, to advance the boundaries of human knowledge. And if I borrow some more information from their website: CERN’s convention states: “The Organization shall have no concern with work for military requirements and the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available.” That’s nice and wise!

When you hear about CERN, I guess most people think about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, smashing particles together at unprecedented energies. These collisions enable physicists to study the phenomena that govern particles and forces. We got to visit an older model that has now been taken out of service, but with the help of a fantastic light and video show, the visit was very rewarding.

The researcher who led our guided tour was inspired by the story of the infant universe and all the research they conducted on the subject. We listened and were amazed, listened and were taken aback, listened and were amazed again … And in that way the tour continued.

Mysterious Neutrinos, The Higgs Boson, Antimatter, Dark Matter…“The possibility that dark-matter particles may interact via an unknown force felt only feebly by Standard Model particles motivated LHCb to search for “dark” photons, setting tight new constraints on the coupling strength between dark and conventional photons. Also exploring the dark universe is the CAST experiment, in which a large superconducting magnet is pointed towards the sun to search for dark-matter axions as well as solar chameleons (candidates for the dark energy sector) “…. WOW!  

Their website is very readable! There is a universe to discover for you too!

Even if you do not have time or manage to get a guided tour, their permanent exhibitions are so good that they provide value for the visit. It also describes some small side projects that happened to be created in connection with their research, such as computed tomography and the World Wide Web.



Dublin

Travel Posted on Mon, February 04, 2019 12:02:22

Although I
prefer wilderness in front of urban sites, there are some capitals that go
directly to my heart, Dublin is one of them. With its mild coastal climate, it
is a nice destination even in the winter. We were there a January week, a few
years ago.

The hotel
was a little worn, the bathroom door couldn’t close, the view not directly
captivating and a ice-pail on the table next to our table, caught the
water dripping from the ceiling in the breakfast room … Charming! The hotel
was simple but at the same time very affordable! There was nice reception and
central location. We loved it!

It is
impossible to miss where the dark stout Guinness comes from, it characterizes
the whole city. Are ubiquitous. A heavenly kingdom for those who appreciate the
drink as the undersigned does. If you visit Dublin, you must not miss the Guinness Storehouse. A fantastic museum that tells
you everything you want to know about the iconic stout, at seven packed floors!

The city center
is no bigger than you can easily discover it on foot, but there are of course
several different companies with Hop on Hop of buses, if it is preferable. In
addition to museums, whiskey distilleries and other cultural events, there are
several fine parks. St. Stephens Green is one of them. A small oasis in the
middle of the city with lush greenery, statues, ponds and a rich bird life.
Fearless robins sing from bushes and fences.


Temple bar area
is
another must. Charming district full of good pubs and restaurants. Many pubs
have live music in the evenings, an atmosphere of Ireland at its best.



Barentsburg

Travel Posted on Mon, January 21, 2019 22:02:35

Barentsburg (Баренцбург) is a Russian mining town, 55 km west of Longyearbyen
in Svalbard. The company town was founded as a Dutch mining town in the 1920s
but was sold in 1932 to the Soviet Union. Today, about 400 people live here,
most of them with roots from Ukraine.

The village
is a mixture of old mining houses, industrial premises associated with the coal
mine, and much more modern buildings.

The local
guide, who in English with clear Russian accent seems to enjoy scaring the shit
out of American tourists, is an otherwise happy and jovial person who with
great knowledge and empathy tells about life in the village. He is only forced
to silence at times, when a fully loaded mine truck with a deafening roar is
pounding by. The stories feel Russian, the atmosphere feels Russian. The house,
which was solemnly marked with 1958, was built in 1952 … but the carpenters
did not find number two, so they took the figure that felt most like it, it had
to become an eight instead. Wonderfully!

Red Bear
Pub & Brewery is located on the main street in Barentsburg. For a long time,
it was the world’s northernmost brewery, but when Longyearbyen opened its
brewery, they became, with very little margin, the world second-most
northernmost … The brewery manufactures its beer on pure glacier water and
is, according to the guide, fantastic quality, a must try. If any of us were
craving for stronger drinks, the pub also had it, but he strongly advised not
to try their local special drink, called; “see you tomorrow”



Malvarina

Travel Posted on Tue, December 13, 2016 22:07:55

We spent a
week in October at Malvarina Agriturismo, an organic farm that also has cozy
accommodation and a fantastic restaurant. The farm is run by a family and a few
employees; it is really genuine and breathes calm and peace. (No TV in the
room!) It is a wonderful oasis on the slopes of Monte Subasio, where a brisk
walk through olive groves takes you up to the Mt Subasio national park and a
wonderful panoramic view over Umbria.

The kitchen
offers genuine old-fashioned Italian diet, completely built on their own
organic products, adapted to the seasons and availability. Their prosciutto crudo is heavenly, mouth watering just
thinking about it! And their freshly pressed olive oil, early pressing, emerald
green and smooth as velvet! An experience which should be on everyone’s bucket
list.

Dinner is
served at 20.00, then you eat and socialize, drink good local wine (the best
was the one who actually had no name), dish follows dish, one tastier than the
other. The meal lasts until towards midnight, when you rounded off with a cappuccino
and a little grappa. After a week of partying on the Mediterranean diet, I have
lost more than 1 kg! (Try to do so at a hamburger menu!)

During the
week there were only two things that did not taste me, and it was not due to
the kitchen, it was because of me. I hate liver! It did not help that it was
cooked in a pear; it just tasted even more liver.

And then
the thing with the snails. I love French snails in garlic but the herbs in the
Italian did not suit me. Or size, fully grown specimens, giant monsters who
must be forced out of the shells. As large recalcitrant arionidae, who must be
cut into slices to be swallowed. But this is like saying a parenthesis; Malvarina
is fantastic and well worth a visit. Try it!



Mary-Ann´s Polarrigg.

Travel Posted on Mon, July 04, 2016 21:19:50

We have stayed at
many peculiar places around the world, Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg in Longyearbyen, is
definitely one of them. Old miners’ barracks assembled into a small hotel, with
mining tools, coal and driftwood lying in the corners and images of half-naked
ladies on room doors. And with a polar bear in the corridor which reminds you
of the importance of being able to defend yourself in the Arctic.

Polar bears
rarely freeze ass off, neither this one. It has its rear end in a wonderful
conservatory, also the dining room, where you can have breakfast with the whole
nature panorama outside the window. (Maybe you will see a drooling arctic fox,
a glowering Svalbard reindeer or any other exciting thing …)

If you suddenly
need a beer (Longyearbyen has the world’s northernmost brewery) or any other
strengthening, the pub has open until 02:00. It’s just tiptoe away in stocking
feet (No shoes indoors in this village!) sneak through the kitchen, say hello
to the chef if he is there, pass slugger bear and swish you’re there.

The beer is very
good! The place is quite charming and the style really relaxed! Go there, be cool.



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