Norway by Boat

Explore the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord from Flåm
NORWAY IN A NUTSHELL WILL FLOAT YOUR BOAT

Float with me as we continue our Norway in a Nutshell tour through the gorgeous Norwegian Fjords. More than one scenic train ride stemming from Oslo yesterday brought us to charming Flåm for a relaxing overnight once the tourist hoards had vacated. Bellies sated from the full Nordic buffet at the Fretheim Hotel this morning, we check out and head to the harbor to start the boated portion of our pre-planned Norwegian package.

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Norway by Rail

Wending along in the eighth of ten cars, feeling the pull and sway along the tracks. Remarkably insulated from the bracing sound of metal wheels upon steel rails. Infrequent is the clickety clacking one most associates with this mode of travel. I love riding the train.

Save for the engineer’s voice announcing the next stop in Norwegian or the shape and color of the farm houses flying their Norsk flags dotting the countryside – it could be Oregon. Instead of Douglas Fir trees, Norwegian Spruce cover the hillsides. Wait – what? HILLSIDES?!? Ahhhh…. topography. Feels like home. It’s what I’m used to. It is beautiful. Snow still tops some of those distant green hills. Not so in Oregon this year. My mother visiting from my from worries for her yard and town and state with the lack of snowcap and exceptionally warm weather for this time of year.

Not a problem in Norway. (Not really in Denmark either.) In stark comparison, a wetter than normal winter and spring have proffered a beautiful, verdant and lush landscape ripe with wildflowers and light green leafy growth. The overcast skies we woke to on our third morning in Oslo didn’t make it past Hønefoss as we travel north and westerly towards Norway’s famous FJORD country. Today’s eventual destination is the little town of Flåm at the base of the Aurlandsfjord. All aboard the first leg or our Norway in a Nutshell tour. We are underway on a gorgeous rail ride through the Norwegian countryside beginning from Oslo’s Central Station.

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So you want to be a Viking

Exploring Viking Roots at Viking Museums Around Scandinavia
WHERE TO LEARN ABOUT VIKINGS IN DENMARK AND NORWAY

(Originally posted in 2015, updated June 2018)

Or where to go to learn about your fierce ancestors in Scandinavia. Not your ancestors you say? Could be! Read my last post for a wee bit of ancestral insight. So when in Rome – you know – you learn about Romans. And Italians and the Renaissance and such. (Can’t wait to show my kids!) When in Scandi-land, you learn about Vikings. And at every turn, there seems to be a Viking Museum. Ok, slight exaggeration. But we’ve been to three in the past 7 months. Not because we’re obsessed with the axe-wielding, long-haired, long-boat rowing, ancient warrior nation. I mean – I adore THOR. Especially Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor in the modern Marvel adaptation of the Avengers. We almost named our first born son Thor. Almost. Not really. But it is a good story. Ask me sometime. And there’s Oden (Thor’s dad) who gets his own day here – every week – on Onsdag. Or Wednesday in Danish. He inspires me to wander.

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Descending from Vikings

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

“Where are you from?” I’ve brought it up before. It’s an interesting question and one that I am as tempted to ask as be asked. I’m not off put or bent out of shape or annoyed in any way when I am posed this query. We’re different here. As Americans living in Denmark. It’s ok. Where we have lived shapes us. The cultures, norms and lifestyles play into who we are and how we approach things. What I have noticed is that the foreign perception of heritage may be different than that of an American’s. How many of my American friends and readers did a “roots report” of sorts in grade school? How many of us celebrate holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and the like because of ancestral ties to the “old country?” My great-grandfather did emigrate from Ireland. We know this. Beyond that, we don’t know a ton about him because after moving to Kansas and marrying my great-grandmother, he left our family including my grandpa and his 3 siblings when they were quite young. But if I were to say I was “Irish American” here in Denmark – I would be met with smirks, scoffs and genuine looks of incredulity. (I am used to that.) “You are not Irish. I know Irish.” or “Why are Americans so obsessed with who their ancestors are?” “You’re American.” Yes. I am. But my ancestors were Irish. I never said

What I noticed fairly quickly moving here is that the foreign perception of heritage may be different than that of an American’s. How many of my American friends or readers did a “roots report” of sorts in grade school? How many of us celebrate holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and the like because of ancestral ties to a specific “old country?” My great-grandfather did emigrate from Ireland. We know this. Beyond that, we don’t know a ton about him because after moving to Kansas and marrying my great-grandmother, he left our family including my grandpa and his three siblings when they were quite young. But if I were to say I was “Irish American” here in Denmark – I would be met with smirks, scoffs and genuine looks of incredulity. (I am used to that.) “You are not Irish. I know Irish.” or “Why are Americans so obsessed with who their ancestors are?” “You’re American.” Yes. I am. But my ancestors were Irish. I never said

But if I were to say I was “Irish American” here in Denmark – I would be met with smirks, scoffs and genuine looks of incredulity. (I am used to that now living abroad.) “You are not Irish. I AM Irish.” or “Why are Americans so obsessed with who their ancestors are?” “You’re American.” Yes. YES, I am. But my ancestors were Irish. I never said was Irish. And I do like corned beef and Guinness. So sue me. (Please note: I never actually have uttered the words “I am an Irish American”, but the topic has been discussed with my local international friends. And I know how very American the saying “so sue me” is as well and living here in Denmark I do appreciate their non-litigious leanings.)

On the other side of the coin – my husband’s “heritage” has Swedish roots as evidenced by our last name – Gustafson. Having the last name Gustafson in Scandinavia instantly makes you a Swede. King Gustav was big there. We saw him in Stockholm. Somehow – we are his sons. Not really. But it’s fun to say. And having a Scandinavian name in Scandinavia is not actually a boon as it bestows higher expectations on your knowledge of local language and customs. Like my son who was taller than his peers from an early age – the expectations of his early development a grave disappointment when his size didn’t match his language maturation. But he is only 14 months old! Whew, that indignation came back quickly – sorry. Back to our story. When they hear our name, people ask us if we’re Swedish. I have been asked that more than one time in Denmark and in Norway. Weirdly, no one asked us in Sweden. 😉

King Gustaf the III
King Gustaf the III

Heritage it seems – where we are from – an important question. Not only historically, but a serious question in our modern societies. The issue of immigration a hot bed topic the world around. It was intruiging to bear witness to the question during the recent Danish elections. It will clearly be a popular topic in the upcoming American Presidential election. Where are you from and how are you different from us. It is so very interesting a topic to me as the one who is currently part of “the different.”

But apparently we aren’t all that different and ancestry is messy according to an evolutionary geneticist, Mark Thomas, who wrote a piece in the Guardian a few years back in response to pay-for-ancestry genetic tests that could determine your heritage. Thomas shows that the science can’t definitively say. He states that…

you don’t have to look very far back before you have more ancestors than sections of DNA, and that means you have ancestors from whom you have inherited no DNA. Added to this, humans have an undeniable fondness for moving and mating – in spite of ethnic, religious or national boundaries – so looking back through time your many ancestors will be spread out over an increasingly wide area. This means we don’t have to look back much more than around 3,500 years before somebody lived who is the common ancestor of everybody alive today.” ¹

So what does that mean to you and me? We’re all descended from Vikings! Or Celts. Or Jews. Or Masai. Or Zulu. Or… you decide. Anyway. Around here – I’m a Viking. It’s fun to say. Vikings are fierce. Snap. And we’ve learned a lot about them lately. They are very popular. We have been to three different Viking Ship museets in Denmark and Norway. Comparing and contrasting for your reading pleasure in the next post. Stay tuned. Cheers from Viking land wherever you are from! – Erin

Vikings in Barcelona
Vikings in Barcelona

Shock and Awe

I have mentioned before how hardy the Danes are. Many of them, anyway. My son hates gross overgeneralizations – reminding me that my initial perfunctory characterization that ALL Danes are blond, is in fact completely incorrect. Which is true. I stand corrected. Today my estimation of a certain segment of the Danish population ticked up a few notches.Charlottenlund Søbad

Color me shocked. Drawn to the rich, but muted winter tones of this beautiful building on the water in Charlottenlund, I pulled right on over and set outside to capture it for my Scandi palette collection. What I did NOT expect to capture was the pale flesh tones of stark naked bathers dipping into the freezing cold Øresund. It was 0°C outside when I took this photo. I do not even want to know what the temperature of the water could have been.That is KOLDT!

A wee bit taken aback, I instantly took down my long-range lens feeling very much more than slightly stalkery. I did a quick look about to make sure I hadn’t been witnessed “spying” like a common paparazzi and then snapped this quick pic with my iPhone, which is where I edit all my photos anyway. Not so unhurriedly, I scuttled back to my car and continued up the road to my original destination – Bellevue Strand in Klampenborg (Bellevue Beach.)

A popular swim beach (I’m told it gets PACKED) in the summer months, Bellevue Strand is quiet and peaceful in January. Could have sat and listened to the lap, lap, swell, lap, whoosh, lap of the waves on the shore for a long time. Caught ‘gramming (again) by a woman and her 20-something daughter moving out to the pier where I had concentrated, they smiled and I got up to move on down the beach to the next pier. As soon as I stepped onto the sand, the daughter gracefully removed every stitch of her clothing and went into the water. Need I remind you? IT IS KOLDT HERE! There is no warm sauna or steam room or hot tub with which to warm up into immediately following this Baltic dip. It doesn’t last long and soon she is dressed again and on her way with her mother. No way. Doesn’t compute.

Farging KOLDT.

I put my hand in to reach for a shell washing in and out with the soft tide. Mere seconds are required to freeze my skin to a perfectly painful and prickly state. I can not even process a full body dunk. The shock to your system must be intense. Apparently this is normal regular everyday behavior for a certain segment of Danes. Wow, color me impressed. I will say it again. These Danes are HARDY. I am in awe. Enjoy the photo gallery from Bellevue Strand and have a happy Fredag!