Christmas markets Europe
Photography

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Christmas Preparations

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Hello Everyone!

StPA is finally back after a month offline that was largely spent packing up and unpacking box after box of ‘stuff.’ Stuff that I’ve accumulated through the bulk of my adult life that needed to be moved to a new house. Much of the extraneous stuff has been sold, given away or donated to charity, and so it feels like a new chapter and beginning for me and the MOTH, in our new Home by the Sea.

Meanwhile, on returning to work, I was greeted with the launching of a Christmas room decorating challenge which seems to have brought out a competitive streak in all the staff.

From doorways and even ‘Ralph,’ the skeleton, enhanced with tinsel and Christmas gift wrap, to desks and computers decorated with baubles and Admin staff bedecked with reindeer antler headpieces, some decorations were quirky, funny, pretty and yes, over the top too! A bit like the lady I met in New Zealand, whose home was filled with all kinds of Christmas trees in her own passion for Christmas preparations.

Some of Dianne’s Xmas Trees

It was with this Dianne in mind, that I decided the prompt this week’s Friendly Friday prompt would be:

Christmas Preparations

Your preparations might be packing for a long awaited camping trip, or cooking up a storm of food, or it might be a well earned rest at the beach with a good book or two, (that’s me), or even a walk amongst the Christmas lights or markets with a warming cup of Gluhwein.

happy girl
German Christmas Markets

Whatever your preparations are, I’d love to see and hear about it here at Friendly Friday. Here is how to join in:

Joining the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

  • Write a ‘Friendly Friday-Christmas Preparations,’ post and include a URL link to this post, tagging the post, ‘Friendly Friday.’
  • Add the Photo Challenge logo, too, if you wish.
  • Copy the published url into the comments below, so other readers can visit your blog.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following their links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future FF prompts in 2020.

Remember to post a comment in this post, so we can find you if the pingback doesn’t work.

Christmas gift
Suspicious Santa

Friendly Friday 2020

As Christmas is usually a busy time for most of us, I wish to announce that this is the very last Friendly Friday Challenge for 2019, as the challenge will be in recess over Christmas and New Year.

Friendly Friday

Friendly Friday Challenges WILL begin again from January 31st, 2020, here at Something to Ponder About and the following week we will welcome our new challenge host, Sandy from The Sandy Chronicles. I do hope you will continue to enjoy and post along with us, on Friendly Fridays.

Snow and I have so enjoyed getting to know such a rich and diverse group of fabulous photographers and bloggers. Maybe we should call it Fabulous Friday!

A huge thanks goes to Manja from Manja Mexi Mexcessive for keeping the Friendly Friday Seat warm for the my hosting weeks in the past month and for being a fabulous backup for both Snow and I. Manja has done a magnificient job and I am very lucky to have a great back up host. Her photos are diverse and enthralling and captions legendary.

Christmas Preparations

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas in your place?

I must admit that I am pretty low key with decorations this year. I think it is something to do with moving overload !! Which leaves more time for relaxing in our steamy summer weather. And also for some Christmas music. My Christmas is always accompanied by the mellow tones of Bing….

Merry Christmas from Amanda at Something to Ponder About

Community, Travel

On Top of the World in Norway

Interested in seeing breathtaking views, experiencing a relaxing atmosphere, walking mountain trails through a UNESCO heritage valley and staying somewhere where an Emperor has stayed and with, shall we say, a chequered history? If so, then Stalheim hotel, in the mountains of Norway, between Gudvangen and Voss, on the West Coast, is the place for you. It certainly was a favourite spot for Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.

I arrived here on the famous Norway in the Nutshell Tour, which takes you from Oslo, by train, across the eternal snows of the Hardangervidda plateau.

view
Hardangervidda

The train then takes you as far as the mountain station of Myrdal, and from there you are required to change trains to traverse down the mountain range to the fjord below, on a spectacularly steep cog railway, (or Flambåna).

The trip doesn’t end at Flam either, for it is there that you move on to a boat for a cruise through the fjords, before finally reaching the town of small port of Gudvangen on the way to Stalheim. The cruise passes through Aurlandsfjord, Sognfjord, and into the narrowest parts of Nærøydal fjord, listed as UNESCO World Heritage areas and spectacular and unearthly scenic vistas such as this:

Cruising
Heading towards the narrow and steespest part of the Nærøyfjord

From the port of Gudvangen, you then take the public bus to the high peaks of the ‘fjeller’ – that’s Norwegian for mountains, to Stalheim where the hotel is located.

Stalheim hotel is only open in the summer months, as the mountain road leading to the hotel consists of 13 hair-raising bends, and is considered too dangerous for public transport, in winter. If your heart doesn’t falter going up, this is the reward.

My view from the Stalheim hotel

Unrivalled views can be had down the UNESCO protected Nærøydalen Valley where mountains look so like ‘trolls’ and people tinier than ants.

If you are into exploring, you can even find a Machine gun bunker underneath the terrace which dates back to the days of the Second World War.

You will want to have dinner and breakfast at Stalheim, for there is little alternative options close by, and the meals are usually included in the tariff. That leaves you with more time to savour that wonderful view. There is also a small folk museum behind the hotel to wander through.

My son in younger days, posing with a Gandalf-style ‘Lord of the Rings’ Pipe he purchased, beside an amazing view through our room’s expansive windows at the Stalheim Hotel

A Chequered History

The original hotel was built in 1750 as a postal inn, and during the late nineteenth century was modelled into a guesthouse on the road between Oslo and Bergen. It has burnt to the ground several times and been re-built each time.

In 1939, during Nazi German’s occupation of Norway, Stalheim hotel was taken over by the German Army as a site for Soldiers on R and R leave. The notorious Heinrich Himmler then concocted a plan to address the low birth rate of German citizens and produce more of his so-called Master Race, by setting up Stalheim and other places as a ‘Lebensborn’ home. This was to be a place where Norwegian woman who were already pregnant, or were willing to become pregnant, to German soldiers, could stay and give birth. There were eight Lebensborn homes in Norway – the former Stalheim hotel was one of them.

The hotel was again cursed by a fire in 1959, and sadly, 34 lives were lost. However, it was rebuilt into the current structure we see today.

PhotoCredit: Stalheim.com

Here is a video of the road down to the fjord and village of Gudvangen.

Stalheim Hotel – A fascinating place to stay with unparrellel views.

Something to Ponder About

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Banksia
Community

Walking on Straddie with Maddie

It started out with Maddie wanting to go to Straddie….

Maddie was Swedish, in high school, and on an student exchange to experience Aussie culture, language, and the few contemporary traditions, we Australians have. She wanted to see Straddie, aka Stradbroke Island, a secluded beach paradise off the coast of north eastern Australia. This is how we came to meet Bill, but more about that later.

As Australians are oft to shorten names, Stradbroke Island is affectionately called Straddie, even though it’s name has anything but humble beginnings, being named as it was, after the British Lord of Stradbroke.

Aboriginal communities have long existed on Straddie, as has a plethora of wildlife and flora, including the much-loved koala, kangaroo and ‘Gin–gin,’ otherwise known as a Grass tree.

australian animals
Koala

Add to this, miles of pristine white sandy surf beaches, and you have a swimming meccas for locals, and occasionally, sharks.

“Maddie” wanted to see “Straddie”, so we booked in at the Backpacker’s  Manta lodge, situated just a few kilometres back from the famous Point Lookout, and took an early morning ferry to Dunwich. This was actually called the ‘Flyer’ and the fare also included the bus to our lodge, which has a convenient timetable that coincides with the arrival of the ferries.

The beach from the porch of the Manta Backpackers Lodge

 Desperately hoping the name Adder Rock was not synonymous with the highly venomous snake, the Death Adder, we arrived at Manta lodge, an accredited scuba dive centre and above average Backpackers in a 4 share room. This backpacker is in an excellent location, step outside and you are on the beach, also reasonably close to Point Lookout by road, but we chose to walk along the beach for the scenic journey over the rocks and beach verges.

Stradbroke Island Adder Rock
4WD vehicles are permitted on the beach here

Gunter’s point where perhaps a German tourist was not careful enough?

If you visit Stradbroke and stay here, I would caution you that the beach trail to Point Lookout takes over an hour, and we found later that it is more direct to take the road, or catch the bus, but, of course, it was a lot less scenic. You can also find toilets along the way at Cylinders beach Caravan Park and a small shop and Post Office. We ever saw a Beach wedding taking place. High Heels in the sand… can you imagine the difficulties???

A nice diversion along the way is the Point Lookout Hotel, good for a hearty/ liquid lunch, or refreshment, or two… the view from there is simply amazing, from anywhere in the hotel. After we were suitably refreshed, we continued on, exploring the headland at Point Lookout, named by Captain Cook as he sailed along the East Coast in 1770.

The views from Point Lookout afford amazing views along Thirty Mile Beach…..or or was it Sixty MileBeach…. plenty of it anyway!   Take the Gorge walk for a long and very scenic view of this cove and the turbulent surf hitting the headland in front of the Surf club and you will see views like this….

As for amenities, Point Lookout has a number of eateries to suit a variety of palettes.  You will find a small collection of avant-garde gift and boutique fashion shops. Their opening times are various, but you could be lucky. One that caught my eye seem so ‘Straddie’…. laid back…. not always open and simple but good… the Fresh local Seafood shop called “The Prawn Shack.”

But this is where Bill comes in, our local tour guide – the quiet achiever Bill who would take us on a 4 hour 4WD tour of the Island.

As I am linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks,  I will talk more about Bill’s fabulous adventures in another post.

Some Walking with Restless Jo on her Monday walks – lots to Ponder About