Sunday, August 1, 2010

Norway, Days 1, 2, and 3

On July 28, 2010, we boarded an airplane that flew the way to the north, as the Vikings used to say 1000 years ago, or as we say today, Norway.  I was really excited to return after so many years.  It had been too long, but after my grandmother died, I no longer felt the same urgency to return.  But on this day, I did return, and in many ways I felt I had returned home.  I have about 500 Norwegian people on my family tree, so I very much feel like I belong here.  The people are so kind, and the air is crisp and feels so good to breathe.  For some reason, Norway has always been the best place for me to get good sleep -- because of the air, I think.  The landscape is hilly, with dark green trees and meadows.  The farms usually have red, yellow, or white homes, which contrast so well with the deep green surroundings. 

The air was quite warm when we arrived, but by the time we reached my uncle's home, it had cooled down quite a bit.  It was somewhat shocking to see the house my grandfather built so dramatically changed, but I also understand why it had to be done.  My uncle expanded the original house and also added a second floor with two extra bedrooms, a living area, a kitchenette, and a bathroom... and he built it all himself.  Building things with one's hands seems to run in the family -- woodworking is a talent of several of my ancestors.  My uncle did a truly fantastic job, but I cannot imagine how he could do it all himself!

The best strawberries in the world...
As soon as we were settled, we ate a fabulous Norwegian meal.  My uncle's wife is from Gambia, but she has been in Norway for many years, and she is an excellent cook.  We had meatballs with gravy, mashed peas (made from dried peas), boiled potatoes, ligonberries, and Norwegian strawberries.  Okay, it is time to plug what is really good here: Norwegian strawberries are the best anywhere in world. 

After dinner, I took my son down to Baerums Verk, the town founded due to iron ore 400 years ago, which is what lured many of my ancestors to the area.  The old foundry and buildings surrounding the iron works still exist, and many have turned into cute shops; most sell very high quality handmade arts and crafts.  Several of the buildings were homes once, and my grandmother was born in one of them.

My grandmother was born in the second building, May 7, 1913...

Baerums Verk -- The Bakery

Baerums Verk has the oldest restaurant in Norway.  The building was built in 1640.

On day 2, we took the bus to Oslo and went to the tourist office to get an Oslo Pass.  These passes are a must for the visitor in Oslo as you can get into all the museums for a very good price.  Even better, all forms of transportation - buses, trams, metro, ferry - are included.  We then boarded the ferry to Bygdøy, which is where the Viking Ships Museum, Kon Tiki, Maritime, Folk Museum, and FRAM, which houses the ship that took Roald Amundsen to the North and South Poles, are all located.  My favorite museums are the Viking Ships and Folk museums.  The Folk Museum, or Museum of Cultural History as it is more properly known, has all original buildings as old as 1000 years old that have been moved there from all over Norway.  This includes an original Stave church, of which there are only 28 left in the entire country.  We managed to escape heavy rain until we decided to return to my uncle's home.  When we arrived there, we found a wonderful stew made with carrots, potatoes, and a hock of ham.  It was delicious, especially in rainy weather.

The Oseberg Viking Ship
Old buildings at the Norwegian Folk Museum

Gol Stavkirke is 800 years old.  It was moved from the mountain village Gol to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History around the year 1880 by King Oscar II.
The Scream by Edvard Munch
On day 3 in Norway, we returned to Oslo and headed for the National Gallery.  We have all seen the museum before, so we skipped around a bit; many of the paintings depict life as it once was in Norway.  The most famous painter is Edvard Munch.  Most people in the U.S. know him from the painting, The Scream, but he painted a lot of interesting art, and not all of it so dark looking.  In The Scream, Munch was trying to convey a scene of anxiety, something he often suffered.  He had several paintings about the darker aspects of the human soul, as he was affected by the deaths of his mother and favorite sister; also, several siblings suffered from some mental illness.  His own mental health weighed heavily on his mind, and he also succumbed to some anxiety and depression (as I mentioned earlier).  Another nice painting worth mentioning is one by Adolph Tidemand and Hans Gude called Brudeferd in Hardanger.  It was painted during the romantic period in Norway and displays a wedding party departing from the Stave church up the hill.  The party is in a procession of boats departing the shore.  It is quite beautiful.

Adolph Tidemand and Hans Gude's Brudeferd in Hardanger
 After the National Gallery, we walked around Oslo, especially the famous Karl Johnans Gate where there are many shops, restaurants, and interesting buildings.  I bought a few souvenirs and then walked over to the new Opera House, which has won several architectural design awards.  It was pretty impressive.  Even the bathrooms were interesting.  The building has a series of ramp roofs that reach ground level, so you can reach the top without going inside the building and taking an elevator or stairs.  It was much nicer than a picture can depict.

Trolls in Oslo

Climbing the Opera House to the top; below is the view from the top

Holmenkollen Ski Jump
The next item on the agenda was to take the metro and bus up to Holmenkollen, the ski jump that was used for the 1952 Olympics.  My father says he attended those Olympics, by the way.  The ski jump has evolved over the years, starting in the late 1800s.  When we went, there was a bit of construction, as they have had to make the jump higher to keep up with the times.  But the view from the top was still as beautiful as ever.  The ski museum is small but cute.  They also have some very old skis from around 600 AD.  Part of the exhibit focuses on the first Norwegian king and his family after Norway gained its full independence in 1905.

My next blog post will focus much more on some family history, since yesterday I met with some relatives I had not met before.  And today I am going to visit some cemeteries; so stay tuned!


  1. An absolutely enchanting blog! You do such a great job with your pictures and descriptions, very enjoyable!

  2. Hi Astrid, It is so very interesting to read about your journey! It must be an amazing trip!
    I hope you get many nice memories, meet many nice and friendly relatives and other persons, and may see exciting places!

  3. You really captured so much in such a short space here. The old buildings look like something out of a movie set. And those trolls. I recall a local merchant in our neighbourhood when I was a little girl who had a few in her storefront windows. I was completely enchanted by them.

  4. I enjoyed your post very much! I am hoping to make a trip to Norway/Sweden next year. What has the temps been in Norway since you have been there? Looking forward to the next post!

  5. As I often say, I am so lucky to be in the company of world traveling geneabloggers so I can have the best of the best tour guides on my vicarious travles. thanks.

  6. I don't even have any ancestors in Norway, but have always wanted to go there; now your post and pictures have intensified that wish!

  7. Norway is so beautiful. I haven't yet seen an ugly spot! The weather has been highs of close to 70 and lows in the 50s; however, it has felt much warmer, perhaps because we haven't had much wind or humidity. Everyday they forecast rain, but although there has been a sprinkle here and there, it has been pretty nice. For those of you who wish to visit, keep in mind that weather is generally unpredictable. One tip, though, is that I usually prefer late June to early July in Norway, and if you really want to see the midnight sun, that is the best time to do it. Thanks for all the comments!!!

  8. Astrid, the house in which bestemor was born is actually the third from the left in your picture, counting the larger house on the left.


  9. The Norwegian Folk Museum looks fascinating. I would love to visit there!