Norway, July, 1984

img526I flew to Hamburg, Germany and got the train to Oslo by way of Denmark. img530A lovely Dutch couple shared my compartment—we had a nice visit. When we got to Denmark, the whole train was put on a ferry. We spent img532img668several hours on this very nice ferry, eating open-faced sandwiches and drinking tea. When we reached land, the train rolled out of the ferry and we continued on our way to Oslo.

 

 

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My first excursion, the next morning, was to Vigeland Park (or Frognerparken) via streetcar. I img739was studying my map when a young man got on, who was looking for a seat. I moved my map and myself over a bit and invited him to sit down. It turned out he was going to Vigeland Park, too, so we got off together and enjoyed the Vigeland statues!

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These statues are unique. They are very true to life, warts and all! I thought the energy and movement in them made them outstanding! There are many, img748many and we enjoyed each one as we walked all around the park viewing many of the 200 sculptures, all made by Gustav Vigeland, mostly between 1939 and 1949.

 

 

 

 

 

One interesting thing was that every so often, there would be some especially tall and very blond ‘Vikings’ img743that looked different than most of the people in Oslo, and different from my smaller relatives, too!  They really stood out in a crowd!

 

 

My Lebanese friend and I agreed to meet the img759next day to visit the Viking ships and other museums. We took a boat across the bay, first to have lunch at an outdoor restaurant with perfect weather. The menu was in Norwegian and English, and each entrée was numbered. I ordered ‘number four,’ while my companion ordered ‘number two.’ I read the English under his entrée and asked him if he realized that he img761was ordering horsemeat. His eyes got very big as he repeated, “Horsemeat?” The waitress offered, “It’s very good!” The Lebanese immediately said that he would change to ‘number four;’ as the waitress walked away, he said to me, “In Lebanon if anybody tried to sell horsemeat or donkey, they would go straight to jail!” The Norwegians got used to eating horsemeat during World War II, and developed a taste for it, so they continue to relish it.  This young man was visiting his sister who had married a Norwegian man that was sent to Lebanon some years earlier as part of a UN Peacekeeping Force. He was here with his mother.img762

After lunch we looked at the Kon Tiki Museum. Thor Heyerdahl constructed a raft from reeds attempting to demonstrate that people could have reached Rapa Nui (Easter Island) from South America, a feat that he duplicated. Also on display was the Ra II, a raft that he used to cross the Atlantic in 1970.

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The three Viking ships, on display in the Viking Museum, are awesome. They were built in the 9th century of oak and were used for burial for their chiefs.

 

 

 

A Norwegian Folk Museum contains about 150 buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries that have been gathered from all around Norway and img776reconstructed in this outdoor museum. Since img774my forbears came from Norway, I especially enjoyed this history. There was a stave church from Gol that was reassembled here. What a beautiful work of wood, built in 1200!

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Other interesting buildings that I visited included the Parliament building (Stortinget), the Radhus with its beautiful img785murals, and the National Palace. The Palace img769made me smile as it is so ‘plain Jane’—typical of the Norwegian mindset. In my (Minnesota Norwegian farm) upbringing, ostentation was shunned as unforgivable. This is the least decorated palace that I have ever seen. It really looks like any other government building—hardly fit for a king—unless it’s a Norwegian king!

img781The Edvard Munch Museum was spectacular! He was known for his paintings img779with psychological symbolism (like ‘The Scream”). They kind of got under my skin, in a good way.

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Then it was time to take the train from Oslo to Myrdal, img805into the heart of Norway. The scenery was breathtaking as we climbed up and up through semi-tunnels of snow caused by wooden wind breaks. img812

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually we reached the tiny town of Finse, and the Finse glacier. All this snow, and the date was Julyimg822 3rd!

 

 

 

 

Getting off at Myrdal, I got the spectacular train falling steeply down to img651Flam, really back of beyond.

From Flam, I got a ferry to Gudvangen, which offered such img654spectacular scenery—mountains, waterfalls everywhere, img657lakes, isolated farms, and hairpin turn img658roadways.

 

 

 

 

 

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And from Gudvangen img660I got a bus that brought me to the costal city of Bergen.

Bergen is really a beautiful city with its colorful wooden houses, born of the Hanseatic League, a powerful commercial enterprise with its headquarters in Lubeck, Germany. I took a tour of part of the compound that was where the people lived img667img672who came from Lubeck to work here in the ‘hinterlands.’ I was told they got extra pay for putting in their time here, in such an undesirable place to be! They were attracted by theimg676img680 fishing industry in Bergen.   This successful, rich company operated from the 14th to the 18th centuries.

More Edvard Munch! In this museum we img677were treated to a piano recital of Edvard Grieg music—Norway’s most prominent composer. Speaking of Edvard Grieg, I later img697visited his summer home outside of Bergen where he did much of his composing.  It was a most pleasant house in a wonderful setting—I can see how it would have inspired img699him!

 

 

 

 

I took a cable car to a great overlook point to see Bergen laid out in front of me. Then I img681img686img689visited the 12th century Mariakirken with its elaborate pulpit that was donated by the Hanseatic League in 1676.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fantoft Stave Çhurch was a spectacular thing to see. It had been built in Sognefjord in the 12th century img695img694and had been brought to the southern outskirts of Bergen.

 

 

There was a poster on the wall of my guest house describing an outing that one could take to attend a ‘mock’ wedding at a 9th century church, followed by a visit to a farm outside of Bergen where they would serve rommergrot (Norwegian cream pudding), lefse, and other goodies that were treats for me as a child, growing up in a Norwegian farming community. Well, that sounded terrific, so I joined a group gathered at the central plaza and got on a bus driven by a farmer (in traditional clothes) with his wife (also in traditional clothes) describing how they had bought this bus and converted their farm into a tourist destination. We did stop by the 9th century church for some Grieg songs. I learned that most of the tourists were from Minnesota and Michigan, USA, where there are large numbers of people with Norwegian forbears, and that they all looked like my relatives!

img703img704From the church we went on to their farm where we were welcomed by a man playing the Hardanger fiddle, which has four strings that are played, with four more underneath them for resonance. My father was a self-taught fiddler and my sister and I often chorded on the piano to accompany him as he played. One number that he played was called, “The Swedish Waltz.” Imagine my surprise when this fiddler launched into this very same img706number! I hadn’t realized that the roots of my second-generation father’s fiddling were in Norway!

img707The proprietess greeted us as we were seated in their much enlarged dining room, and explained some of the customs of rural Norwegians in the last img735century. Some local young people demonstrated traditional dances.  Then women from the neighborhood filed in with steaming bowls of rommergrot (my favorite food in all the world), waited while a prayer was said, and then served the food.  What a feast!

 

From Bergen, I boarded a fast hydrofoil to img712img710Stavanger, a city on the southern coast of Norway, which used to have many sardine img714canneries before the fish stocks became depleted by img711the 1960s. Luckily that’s about the time that oil was discovered in the North Sea, so Stavanger now is the ‘Oil Capital of img720Norway.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stavanger also has pretty colored wooden houses, and many old img721whitewashed traditional img726houses.  The Stavanger Domkirke is an impressive medieval 12th century church.

From Stavanger I got the train to Kristiansand, another southern Norway town.

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img829A quick overnight there, another train ride, and I was back in Oslo, from where I departed for home.img545

I was surprised at the familiarity I found in Norway, relating to my family’s Norwegian roots. The appearance of the people, the music, the food and the low-key, un-ostentatious displays were like home to me!

 

 

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