E&B 2012 Highlights (a.k.a. The Christmas Letter!)

2012 was a great year for us, full of traveling and transitions. Read on for the details!

January

At the start of the year, Brandon and I were recovering from our pre-Christmas trip to Mallorca and our week of ski lessons in Garmisch-Partenkirchen between Christmas and New Year’s. Both trips were enjoyable for completely different reasons, although I might have enjoyed Mallorca a bit more since it didn’t involve bruises, blisters and lots of falls! Brandon loved finally getting back on the slopes with the Intermediate/Advanced class while I happily stuck with the Beginners.

I started my third year at the Hohenfels Tax Center on January 3rd. As one of the senior preparers, I played a key role in the training at Vilseck and Bamberg. Brandon continued to work as the Executive Officer (XO) for the Badger Team, the Counter-IED training team.

February

We knew we would be departing Germany sooner rather than later, so we made sure to get our final “souvenirs”: a custom-made dining room hutch for me and a 2011 BMW 335i xDrive for Brandon.

I continued to play clarinet with the Bläserphilharmonie Regensburg up until our move. In February, we had a weekend of rehearsals at Burg Trausnitz, followed by a weekend of concerts to celebrate Fasching, Germany’s Mardi Gras. The concert featured marches of all origins and genres. The audience was quite surprised when I introduced Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in English.

March

After spending a few months around Hohenfels, we started venturing to other countries again in March. I finally made it to Poland to do some pottery shopping with my friend, Rudi. We stayed one night at the Blue Beetroot in Boleslawiec and did some serious shopping in the two days. I definitely should not have waited so long to go, but I made the most out of my one trip!

At the end of the month, Brandon made a quick 2-day trip to Brussels for some NATO meetings.

April

After the craziness of playing the piano for all of the Holy Week and Easter masses, Brandon and I spent the next week in Slovenia for Spring Break. I actually blogged pretty thoroughly about this trip, so you can read about all of the details here. It was a beautiful country and a memorable trip around Lake Bled, the Julian Alps and Ljubljana. Another place where we would definitely go back!

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

After Slovenia, Brandon had to go back to Brussels for another NATO meeting. While the long drive was not fun, at least he could bring back as much Belgian beer as he wanted!

With the nicer weather, comes Fest season in Germany. We enjoyed the live music, carnival rides, crepes, and Maß biers at the Nürnberg Volksfest and the German-American Volksfest.

Nürnberg Volksfest

Crepes at the Nürnberg Volksfest

German-American Volksfest at Hohenfels

May

In May, the moving madness began! After some question about whether the orders for FT Leavenworth would actually arrive, we finally received the Request for Orders (RFO) on May 2nd. We were able to get the official orders on May 8th and could then start making all of the transportation arrangements. There’s a lot to coordinate with an overseas move, including household goods, unaccompanied goods, shipment of two cars, the special shipment of our wine collection, what to sell/give away, and what to carry with us. Needless to say, we worked it all out, and by the end of the month our household goods and my car were on their way back to the U.S.

Loading our household goods into the truck

In the midst of all of the moving arrangements, life went on. Brandon was inducted into the Order of St. George and was farewelled by the Badger team. I wrapped up my duties as the 1st Vice President of the Hohenfels Community Spouses Club and prepared my successor at St. Michael’s Catholic Parish to take over my role as the musician.

At the end of the month, we escaped the moving madness with a trip to Norway to visit my cousins there. (You may remember that we last visited them in August 2010 with my parents.) It was nice that the Norwegian holiday of Whit Monday (Pentacost) corresponded with the American Memorial Day! We flew up to Trondheim on Thursday night and took the train to Oppdal on Friday morning. Over the long weekend, we hiked to the Losvold summer farm, observed muskoxen, and just generally enjoyed the beautiful scenery and generous hospitality!

Losvold Summer Farm

Muskoxen

The Bjørndals & Caves

June

My last day at the Tax Center was June 1st and two days later we were on the inaugural sailing of the Carnival Breeze for our “Last Hurrah Cruise.” It was a 12-night cruise departing from Venice with stops in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Athens, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Messina, Sicily; Olbia, Sardinia; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Livorno, Italy; Monaco; and ending in Barcelona, Spain. Needless to say, it was a wonderful trip and I need to blog about it in more detail at some point! For now, enjoy these few pictures.

Acropolis; Athens, Greece

Mount Etna, Sicily

Porto Cervo, Sardinia

Via Appia Antica; Rome, Italy

Ponte Vecchio; Florence, Italy

Eze, France
(Nice & Eze Excursion from Monaco)

Carnival Breeze in Monaco

After the cruise, we kept working on the final moving details and tried to savor our last few weeks in Germany. We took lots of walks around Großbissendorf, ate at our favorite restaurants, visited Kuchlbauer’s Bierwelt in Abensberg to celebrate Brandon’s birthday, and enjoyed a final day in Regensburg that included a tour of the Thurn & Taxis palace and Sommerfest.

July

After finally selling our “beater” car, cleaning & clearing housing, and mailing our final packages, our time in Germany came to an end when we flew from Ramstein Air Force Base to Baltimore on July 10th. We picked up Brandon’s car at the Baltimore port the next day and started driving to our next adventure at FT Leavenworth, KS. On our way, we stopped in Iowa and Nebraska to visit family for a few days, and then began the moving process in reverse! Gradually, we were reunited with all of our belongings and settled into our new home in Platte City, MO.

At the end of the month, we attended the 60th Haugland Reunion at Inspiration Hills outside Inwood, IA.

August

The first weekend in August, we drove back up to Iowa for the “Fasse Birthday Bash,” celebrating Emma turning one in July and Hannah turning five at the end of August.

The next weekend, I visited my friend Allie who lives in Nixa, MO while Brandon started his coursework towards a Master of Science in Administration through Central Michigan University at FT Leavenworth. On August 13th, Brandon started his Intermediate Level Education (ILE) classes at the Command and General Staff College (CGSC). In typical Army fashion, they changed the name a week later to Command and General Staff Officer’s Course (CGSOC). All I know is he goes to school every day and had a lot of reading and assignments until Novemeber!

September

Over Labor Day Weekend, my sister and her family were our first visitors to our new home. We visited several kid-friendly attractions in Kansas City, including Science City, Hallmark’s Kaleidiscope, the Kansas City Zoo, and Alldredge Orchard.

My parents and Aunt Sandy were our next visitors a few weekends later. We explored historic Weston, MO on Saturday and then enjoyed the beautiful weather at the Plaza Art Fair on Sunday.

October

Brandon’s family came to visit us over Columbus Day weekend. Brandon’s dad was born just up the road from us in Atchison, KS, so we went up there for a crafty Oktoberfest and to learn a little family history.

I started the Becker CPA Exam review classes on Oct. 11th. The first review section was Regulation, so at least I eased into it with a topic with which I’m comfortable: individual taxation. There are four parts to the exam and I will be done with the first two parts of the review by the end of the year. My hope is to take those first two parts of the exam in January/February 2013 and take the last two parts by the end of April. While my application to take the exam has been submitted to the State of Tennessee (where we are legal residents), I am still waiting for approval to schedule the exact dates to take the various parts.

This year was my 10th reunion from Wartburg College, so I went up to Homecoming with my sister and her family. I was a little disappointed that more folks from the Class of 2002 didn’t attend the reception, but it was nice to see those that were there. And I always have a great time with Hannah and Emma!

On Halloween, we announced via Facebook our biggest news of the year: we’re going to have a baby in 2013! Little Pumpkin Cave is due May 24, 2013.

November

We finally found a free weekend to go up to Nebraska so Brandon could be in Lincoln for a Husker football game. Brandon and his dad attended the Penn State game and were treated to beautiful weather and a 32-23 win. I stayed in Omaha to watch the game from the comfort of Brandon’s sister’s house. (However, since I didn’t attend the game, there are no pictures.)

Thanksgiving was celebrated at Brandon’s aunt & uncle’s house in Omaha. It was a nice treat to actually be with family for the holiday and to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Brandon’s mom always gets an Iowa-grown turkey from a family friend in Atlantic and it was delicious!! After watching the Nebraska-Iowa game on Friday, we headed over to Atlantic to see my family for the weekend. (Again, sorry there are no pictures…I’m obviously getting lazy and need to get my camera out more! Is it that seeing family is actually becoming routine again?)

December

And finally we made it to December! Brandon and I kicked off the holiday season with the Kansas City Symphony’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. I loved it! Brandon thought it was a little long.

Now we are finishing up our classes, so we can enjoy more time with family over Christmas. We will be making a big loop from Platte City, to Atlantic, to Des Moines, to South Dakota, to Omaha and back to Platte City. Looks like there will be lots of time to review my CPA exam materials in the car!

Thank you so much for reading my blog throughout the year, sporadic as it is! The New Year will surely bring us new and exciting experiences as we welcome Baby Cave in May and move again next June. (No, we don’t know where yet, but hopefully the Army will tell us in January or February.)

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013!!

Erika

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Adventures in Norway – Part V (The End)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Today was our last day in Norway and we only had a few hours to sightsee before catching our flights back to Germany. After an extensive breakfast at the hotel, we took the self-guided walk in the Rick Steves’ guidebook that covered the heart of Oslo—from the train station, by the Cathedral, up Karl Johans Gate, and past City Hall to the harborfront.

Oslo Cathedral (Domkirke)


The cathedral’s cornerstone from Oslo’s first and long-gone cathedral showing how the forces of good and evil tug at each of us.


Reading from Rick Steves’. This is a typical sight whenever we are traveling, although usually my audience is just Brandon!

We moved pretty quickly along the walk so we could catch the free guided tour of the City Hall. City halls, rather than churches, are the dominant buildings in Scandinavian capitals. In 1931, Oslo tore down a slum and began constructing its richly decorated City Hall along the harborfront. It was finished—after a WWII delay—in 1950 to celebrate the city’s 900th birthday. Since 1990, the Oslo City Hall has also been the venue for the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize every December 10th. The inside of the building is decorated with huge murals painted by several prominent Norwegian artists. The guided tour was extremely helpful in understanding the significance and symbolism of these paintings that primarily reflect Norway’s history and economy. A recurring theme was the story of St. Hallvard, Oslo’s patron saint.

According to legend, Hallvard was a highborn youth who in 1043 tried to save a woman from being assaulted. He took her aboard his boat in order to reach safety on the other side of the fjord, but they were pursued and killed, Hallvard being shot by three arrows. His body was weighted down with a millstone and thrown into the sea, but both his body and the stone floated up to the surface. When this became known, the local people saw it as a sign and worshipped him as a saint. His bones are in a shrine before the high altar of the Oslo Cathedral, the city seal depicts the St. Hallvard legend, and he is commemorated on May 15th, which is also known as Oslo Day.


Mural of the St. Hallvard legend.


The mural in the main hall that celebrates “work, play, and civic administration.”


This artist did not appreciate the door interrupting his painting and chose not to hide his opinion!

After the tour, we enjoyed the harborfront for a bit before walking back to Karl Johans Gate to find some lunch. We ate across the street from the Parliament Building (Stortinget).

Parliament Building (Stortinget)

Then Mom and Dad left us to catch their flight, but we still had a couple of hours left. We decided to visit the Norwegian Resistance Museum located on the Akershus Fortress Complex, Oslo’s fortified old center that is still a military base. Rick described the Akershus Castle as “mediocre by European standards,” so we opted for the museum that was rated “Try Hard to See.” The Norwegian Resistance Museum tells the story of Norway’s WWII experience: appeasement, Nazi invasion, resistance, liberation, and, finally, the return of the king. It was pretty interesting.

Akershus Fortress Complex

By the time we were through at the museum it was time to head back to the hotel to get our luggage before going on to the airport. But, first we stopped by this awesome store called Vinmonopolet. The selection of wine was amazing, but they also sold micro brewed beer so we could replace a couple of the Ægir bottles that were stolen the night before.

The beer selection at Vinmonopolet.

So, that completed our Norwegian adventure full of wonderful family meetings and beautiful scenery! We caught the train to the airport and then boarded our flight back to Nürnberg. Mom and Dad were supposed to be there when we landed, but their flight had been delayed, so they ended up coming in about an hour after us. Still, we eventually all met up and headed back home to Großbissendorf.

Mom and Dad spent another week with us in Germany. Brandon and I had to go back to work, but we were still able to find time to see things in the area, including visits to the Kuhstallcafe (Cow Cafe), Regensburg, and Nürnberg. We also went down to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play and stopped by Neuschwanstein afterward. Maybe someday I’ll get around to blogging about that, but for now, I’m happy to be done writing about our adventure in Norway!

Norway in a Nutshell – Part IV of Adventures in Norway

Thursday, 15 JUL 2010

I think we might have seen more of Norway in this one day than we had seen the whole trip up to this point! Today was “Norway in a Nutshell,” a series of well-organized and spectacular bus, train, and ferry connections that took us into two offshoots of the Sognefjord, the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord.

Our day started pretty early in Bergen. Mom had arranged for our luggage to be picked up at the hotel and delivered to our hotel in Oslo that evening so we wouldn’t have to contend with most of it during the transfers on our journey. This ended up working pretty well and was a great service!

Since Norway in a Nutshell is just a series of public transportation connections, there was no official tour or guide. Luckily, Rick Steves came to the rescue and had a Self-Guided Tour narrated from Oslo to Bergen. Since we were going the other way, we were instructed to “hold the book upside down.” (I love this about the Rick Steves’ guidebooks, while Brandon thinks it’s cheesy!)

So, the first step in our journey was a train from Bergen to Voss. This was not the most exciting segment of the trip (I didn’t take a single picture!), but that was OK since the weather wasn’t the best either.

Next, we took a bus from Voss to Gudvangen. Again, the weather put a damper on the scenery, but we passed the wide and tumbling Tvindefossen waterfall before driving along the Nærøydal Canyon. At the top of the road was the Stalheim Hotel with our first views of fjord country. We then proceeded down into the valley on the Stalheimskleiva road, 13 steep hairpin bends flanked by the Stalheimsfossen and Sivlefossen waterfalls.

Tvindefossen Waterfall along the bus ride from Voss to Gudvangen. Note the rain on the bus window!


Switchbacks along the Stalheimskleiva road down into Nærøydal.

After about an hour on the bus, we arrived at the boat dock in Gudvangen for the next segment of our journey. The state-run ferry begins at the apex of the Nærøydalfyord (“Narrow Fjord”), the world’s narrowest fjord at six miles long and as little as 820 feet wide and 40 feet deep. Then the boat “hung a right” to cruise down the lovely Aurlandsfjord. Thankfully, the weather had started to improve by this time and it was more comfortable to be out on the deck of the boat. We passed the quaint towns of Undredal and Aurland before docking at Flåm, a scenic, functional transit hub at the far end of the Aurlandsfjord. Although the boat ride was cold and wet at the beginning, I think it was one of the highlights of the day. It was amazing and breathtaking to be surrounded by the waterfalls and tall cliffs of the fjords.

Brandon and I on the Gudvangen-Flåm Cruise.


Mom and Dad in front of one of the many waterfalls along the Gudvangen-Flåm Cruise.

Once in Flåm, it was time for lunch! Of course, Brandon instantly gravitated to the Ægir Brewery & Pub. The Viking-inspired brewpub didn’t have an extensive menu, but it was unique, including a delicious pizza with cranberries. We also had some time to just relax and browse the souvenir shops before catching the next part our journey.

Dad with a Norwegian Troll; Brandon seriously considered this souvenir. 🙂

The sun was shining brightly and it had turned into a beautiful day when we boarded the Flåmsbana, a scenic high-altitude train that winds for 12 miles through 20 tunnels in about 55 minutes. While I had enjoyed the cruise, this segment was definitely the most enjoyable part of the day! The scenery was absolutely amazing as we climbed from sea level to about 2800 feet. We ended up sitting next to a nice couple from Greensboro, NC, who had recently been to the opening of the EMFfringe series. We were instant friends! 🙂

Flåmsbana

The highlight of this segment was the Kjosfossen waterfall. The train stopped right beside it and let everyone off to take pictures. According to a Norwegian legend, a temptress lives behind the falls and tries to lure men to the rocks with her singing. Sure enough, she was there when our train stopped!

The Kjosfossen Temptress.


All of us in front of the Kjosfossen waterfall.

After enjoying some svela as an afternoon snack in Myrdal, we boarded the train to Oslo, our final transportation connection on Norway in a Nutshell. This was also our longest segment at about five hours. Honestly, by this time I was getting tired of traveling and probably didn’t appreciate the scenery as I should. Rick describes it as “the most spectacular train ride in northern Europe.” The entire railway (from Oslo to Bergen) was completed in 1909 and is 300 miles long; peaks at 4,266 feet; goes under 18 miles of snow shed; trundles over 300 bridges; and passes through 200 tunnels. From Myrdal, we were able to travel the longest high-mountain stretch of railway in Europe. Finse, at about 4000 feet, is the highest stop on the line. We did meet an interesting Chinese girl on the train, but that is a story for another time! After that, I think I slept the rest of the way to Oslo.

View from the Myrdal-Oslo Train.

Once we arrived in Oslo, we bought our tickets to get to the airport the next day and then went to find our hotel, Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel. Thankfully, the hotel was pretty close to the train station because we ended up going back when we discovered that Brandon’s souvenir glasses & beer from the Ægir Brewery had been left on top of the airport ticket machine. Unfortunately, it was already gone. It was a rather disappointing way to end an otherwise memorable day traveling across Norway. Even with the questionable weather at the beginning of the day, the journey was filled with spectacular scenery. Norway in a Nutshell truly deserved the “Don’t Miss” rating it received from Rick Steves!!

Adventures in Norway – Part III

Tuesday, 13 JUL 2010

Today marked the beginning of our journey back south and a new mode of transportation…boat! The MS Trollfjord departed Trondheim at 10am with us aboard.

MS Trollfjord of the Hurtigruten fleet.

The MS Trollfjord is just one of eleven Hurtigruten ships operating on the Norwegian Coastal Voyage route from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. The entire route is 12-days, but we joined the voyage already in progress on Day 11 in Trondheim.

The ship was really nice and quite large. In fact, we had trouble finding our room until we realized that we were looking at the map backwards! Brandon and I were on the 4th deck while Mom and Dad were up on the 8th. The rooms were quite tiny, but we didn’t spend much time there. For the most part, we sat in the Panorama Lounge up on the 8th deck for the best views of the fjords. Of course, the views would have been better if it hadn’t been so rainy and overcast, but at least we could sit comfortably inside and relax.

Brandon checking out the view from our room. That couch he is kneeling on turned into my bed that night.


Mom and Dad relaxing in the Panorama Lounge.

At 16:30, we docked at Kristiansund for about 30 minutes. We got off the ship and walked a little along the harbor. Again, it was cold and rainy and we only had 30 minutes, so we didn’t see much besides this statue:

Statue in Kristiansund.

When Mom made the arrangements for the boat, she also made sure all of our meals were included in the restaurant Saga Hall. Breakfast and lunch were free seating and buffet-style, but dinner required a table reservation. We were able to eat at the first seating at 18:30, but unfortunately, we were in a corner surrounded by an entire family with small children. While I can’t remember what we specifically ate, I do remember that it was all good.

After dinner, the ship stopped in Molde from 20:45 to 21:30. We were able to walk along the main street, but everything was closed at that time of the day. Still, it seemed like a cute town with about 25,000 inhabitants. It is also internationally known for an annual jazz festival.

Molde, Norway.

The MS Trollfjord would make several more stops during the night at Ålesund, Torvik, Måløy, and Florø, but we were soundly asleep in our little cabin!

Wednesday, 14 JUL 2010

Today was most of the same on the boat. This is definitely a relaxing way to travel, but it was a much slower pace than we are normally used to on vacation. (We noticed that this voyage seemed very popular with older travelers!) While Mom, Dad & Brandon used the time to read and relax, I ended up doing homework for my Contemporary Issues in Information Systems and Control class.

The only stop that day was our final destination of Bergen. The weather started out the same as the day before, but as we approached Bergen, the skies cleared and the sun came out! The last hour of the voyage was spent outside on the 9th deck enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Brandon and I enjoying the sunshine as the ship approached Bergen.

Bergen, Norway.

We arrived in Bergen around 14:30, so after we walked straight uphill to our hotel and checked in, we had some time left in the day to explore the city. Our first stop was the Byggens Museum, but they were closing, so we went to the Hanseatic Museum instead. There we learned about the Hanseatic League that existed in northern Europe for 500 years (c. 1250-1750). Clever German sea-traders banded together to defend themselves against pirates and established trading posts from London to Russia. Fish from Scandinavia were exchanged for grain from the eastern Baltic and luxury goods from England and Flanders. Everyone benefited, and the German merchants—the middlemen—reaped the profits. Bergen was an important harbor that was conveniently located between the rich fishing spots of northern Norway and the markets of Europe. Cod was a form of protein that could be dried, preserved, and shipped anywhere while grain, cloth, beer, wine, and ceramics were imported. The museum preserves a typical interior of the buildings where the German merchants lived and worked.

Bryggen, Bergen’s Hanseatic Quarter.

After learning a little about the history of Bergen, we walked by the Fish Market and the Main Square and found a statue of composer, Edvard Grieg (he was born in Bergen).

Dad and I standing by the Edvard Grieg statue in Bergen.

For dinner, we took the funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen for a great view of the town, surrounding islands, and fjords. The Fløien Folkerestaurant had a great multi-course meal and a beautiful panoramic view! I really enjoyed Bergen, of course, it helped that it was a gorgeous day since my opinion can always be swayed by the weather!

Fløibanen Funicular.

Dinner at Fløien Folkerestuarant.

Adventures in Norway – Part II

Sunday, 11 JUL 2010

Today we were able to spend a lot of time outdoors and learned more about life in the Oppdal. Early afternoon, we took a walk to Uvssætra, a summer farm. Traditionally, farmers would take their cattle and other livestock to graze higher up in the mountain during the summer months. The entire family would move to these “summer farms,” and dairy products such as butter, cream, and cheese were made there. Today, there are still some working summer farms, but they are not as common. For example, Losvold (where my great-grandfather was born) had a summer farm, but Utem (where the Bjørndals live) does not.

Uvssætra.

While Uvssætra is a working summer farm, it is also a tourist attraction. It is open to visitors, primarily Norwegian hikers. We enjoyed stopping there for waffles with homemade rømme (sour cream) and jam, coffee & tea.

Enjoying a snack at Uvssætra.

Although the weather was a bit overcast, the scenery walking to and from the summer farm was beautiful!

I think I could live there during the summer!

When we got back to Utem, it was time for their cows to be milked, so we took the opportunity to check out their barn. What continued to amaze me was how small and sustainable farming in Norway has remained compared to the massive corporate farms that are becoming more common in the United States. Of course, they don’t have the wide open spaces to expand either! In addition to their small herd of cows, the Bjørndals also raise foxes and grow hay.


Milking time.

After dinner, we took a hike down to the Driva River with Hanne, Kari, Stein & Lars. It was a steep hike down, which means it was an even steeper hike back up, but it was worth it!

The hike down to the river.


The Driva River.

That was the end of our last full day in Oppdal. We would learn the next morning that Klara, Oddrun’s mother and my grandma’s cousin, had died during the night. We wanted to stay for the funeral service, but it turned out that funerals don’t happen as quickly as they do in the U.S. Klara’s service would be held almost a week later, and it just wasn’t possible to rearrange all of our travel plans. Our thoughts and prayers were certainly with them though.

Monday, 12 JUL 2010

In the morning, we had to say goodbye to most of the Bjørndals.

Hanne, me, and Kari outside their house. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to see each other again soon!

Olav drove us to Trondheim where we checked into our hotel and grabbed some lunch. Before he had to drive back to Oppdal, we also saw the Norwegian crown jewels in the museum in the Archbishop’s Palace and took a guided tour of the Nidaros Cathedral.

Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

The highlights of the cathedral tour were the Rose Window and the Wagner organ. Here is some of what the Lonely Planet also has to say about the Cathedral:

“Contructed in the late 11th century, [Nidaros Cathedral] is Scandinavia’s largest medieval building. Outside, the ornately embellished west wall has top-to-bottom statues of biblical characters and Norwegian bishops and kings, sculpted in the early 20th century…The altar sits over the original grave of St. Olav, the Viking king who replaced the Nordic pagan religion with Christianity.”

Although Olav had to leave, we stayed for a short prayer service that consisted of mostly organ music on the newer organ. Then, we made the visit complete by climbing the tower for a view of Trondheim!

Brandon and me at the top of the Nidaros Cathedral Tower.

That evening we ate dinner at an exquisite restaurant called Chablis. It was a delicious multi-course meal that wasn’t far from Lykkens portal (“The Gate of Happiness/Luck”). While our time in Trondheim was short, it was still memorable!

Lykkens portal (“The Gate of Happiness/Luck”)

Velkommen til Norge

Once again, I have fallen terribly behind on my blogging! (Trying to keep up with homework while traveling throws me off, and then I can’t seem to catch up when we get home!) However, I am determined to blog about our summer trip to Norway, so please bear with me as I try to remember our experiences from July.

 

Thursday, 8 JUL 2010

Brandon and I arrived in Norway tonight. We flew from Nürnberg at 18:30, had a brief layover in Amsterdam, and landed in Oslo around 22:30. Mom and Dad were there waiting for us and we just had to walk a short distance to the hotel, Radisson Blu. Since it was so late, we basically just got there and went to bed. Our Norwegian adventure would truly start in the morning!

Friday, 9 JUL 2010

Our first full day in Norway was a certainly a full one! We were up early to eat breakfast at the hotel before catching the train to Oppdal by 08:33. The train station was right below the airport, so at least we didn’t have far to walk to the platform. Thankfully, we had reserved seats and easily found space for our luggage. Overall, the trip was pretty uneventful. I worked on my homework, and the others dozed, read or looked at the scenery. We also bought a light lunch on the train. I had a salad with lots of crunchy tuber-like things that had little flavor and we couldn’t identify!

We arrived in Oppdal around 13:05. My mom’s cousins, Oddrun Bjørndal and Anne Kari Knutsen, and Anne Kari’s husband, Egil, were there to meet us. Appropriate enough for visiting my family, the first place we went was a nursing home! Oddrun’s mother, Klara, was not doing well and we wanted to see her as soon as possible. Already there were Oddrun’s husband, Olav, and four of their five children: Ola, Kari, Stein, and Lars. After visiting Klara’s room, we all went into the dining room of the nursing home to have some delicious sandwiches and cake.

 

Norwegian Family: Ola, Kari, Lars, Anna Kari, Egil, Stein, Oddrun, Olav, Mom, Dad, Me, & Brandon. (Hanne is missing because she was still working in Lillehammer and wouldn’t arrive until that evening.)

From the nursing home, we drove about five minutes to the Hovden Express, a ski lift that is turned into a gondola during the summer. The views of the valleys and Oppdal below were beautiful and it was a great location to get oriented to the area.


Oppdal valley from the Hovden Express.

We were finally on our way to Utem, the Bjørndals’ farm, where we would be staying for the weekend. Mom and Dad stayed in the main house, while Brandon and I stayed in the “guest house.” Actually, it is an old house that some friends are fixing up to live in. They have a bedroom upstairs sorta finished and a toilet installed downstairs, but we had to go to the main house to shower. The friends were on holiday, so they were nice enough to let us stay there while they were gone.

The “Guest House” where Brandon and I slept at the Bjørndals’ farm.

Saturday, 10 JUL 2010

Today was a lot of “family heritage.” We visited the Oppdal Church where we were able to get inside between two weddings. It was fun to be able to see the traditional Oppdal dresses.


Oppdal Church and the traditional Oppdal dress.

Then we went to Losvold Farm, where my great-grandfather, Erik Loe, lived before he went to South Dakota. No one lives there now, but the house and other buildings are still standing. Actually seeing the small size of the farms and the rough terrain, it was obvious why so many people left to try to find a “better” life in the U.S. However, it must have been hard to leave such a beautiful place!!

Mom, Dad, Me, and Brandon at Losvold Farm and the View.

Our next stop was the Viking burial grounds (Gravfeltet på Vang). Vang contains Norway’s most extensive pagan burial site. Archeologists have registered as many as 800 burial mounds, many of which date back to the Viking Age. It was a gorgeous day to walk around the area and contemplate how the site was might have been used in ancient times.

Viking burial grounds – You can kinda see the mounds.

Our last stop for the day was the Hindseth Farm, where more of my relatives came from. We were even able to meet another distant cousin, Oddvar Hindseth.

Hinseth Farm.

Finally, we headed back to the Bjørndals’ farm, but days are incredibly long in Norway during the summer! Around 10pm, we started to smell something delicious coming from the kitchen. Kari, Hanne, and Oddrun were making svela, a traditional pancake-type food. We assumed they would be breakfast the next morning, but we were very wrong. We ate our second dinner of svela with sweet butter and raspberry jam around 11pm and it was still light outside!

Kari making svela. Delicious!!