If one is going to visit the La Verna Sanctuary, might I recommend not doing it on a hot summers day? Instead, go in January. But only if it’s misty, mysterious, and if you have proper time to wander through the forest and around the buildings, wondering if the monks get the same eerie feeling that you do.
Oh, the top nine insta posts. So succinct, and at least in my case, so pointy.
The highlights this year are decidedly less Scandinavian than last year, but I suppose staying closer to home is okay when it looks like this. For those interested in a slighter closer look at all the things I didn’t get to blogging about (pretty sure I say that every year), click on!
On this day two years ago we visited the Hill of Tara, once the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. The little hills and ridges are the remains of ancient earthen structures, and it feels like the sort of place where you shouldn’t be allowed to tramp all over it… but you are. The 360 degree views of the surrounding Irish countryside are spectacular, even on a gray and windy late-December day like we had. We don’t often take bus tours (as evidenced by this post), but we did on this occasion and it was worth it for the color commentary of our fellow travelers alone. Maybe that’s a story for another day…
Have you ever had one of those days when you looked around and weren’t sure how you got there? I had one of those very recently, on our quick trip down to South Tyrol.
Where was I when I had these thoughts? Well…
Considering that we didn’t take an official summer vacation this year, the last two months have been a whole lot of all over the place. BV and I did spend five days in Oberbayern with his parents in July, but that was more like another extended weekend than an actual vacation. I’m hoping we make up for it next year but that all remains to be seen.
So what did I get up to in August and September (besides baking?), click on to find out…
While in Oslo, we decided to take advantage of the Oslo Pass deal. Since we had three days, we went with the 72-hour option, which costs about €76. As I said in the previous Oslo post, we didn’t have a huge agenda while in town, but thought that this would give us enough free and discounted admissions to decide things fairly spontaneously… a good choice given the unpredictable weather! Additionally, we were staying outside of the city center, but this gave us full access to the public transportation system and I do so love riding a tram. Want to see what we got up to? Click on!
Our last few days in Norway were spent in Oslo. We spent one night at an Airbnb close to the airport, then said goodbye to our rental car and hauled all our luggage into the city on the train.
Our next Airbnb was a little bit different to our previous rustic and Hytte choices, but this was exactly the kind of Scandinavian cool I wanted to come home after a day in the big city. I mean, who doesn’t want to be greeted by a sassy Barbie when they walk in the door?
The whole place was colorful, cool, and fun of fun touches. We sadly didn’t meet our hosts as they were on vacation (and spend most of the summer on their boat on the Oslo Fjord anyway, which sounds like a fairly decent life), but they left a binder full of recommendations for the neighborhood, as well as the very-cool nearby area of Grünerløkka and the rest of Oslo.
I was very into my morning coffees on the balcony, and especially out of this mug. Granted it’s probably more applicable on the average workday than mid-vacation, but when in Rome (Oslo). 🙂
I didn’t have a huge to-do list for our time in the city, but the most important thing came first. I had been carrying around a fairly large box in my suitcase for our entire trip, as I had very unwisely tried to send my friend ECS (of the gorgeous Fjord wedding) a package riiiiiight when they moved house. At least it had come back to me*, and we’d have the chance to hand-deliver it to their snazzy new apartment.
They were heading out of town to the family Hytte the next day, but after a coffee and a tour of the new place, we strapped the baby into the stroller and she walked us all through the city center and harbor area. Neither BV nor I took a ton of pictures, considering we were busy chatting, and still had a few days when presumably we’d see the palace again (we didn’t), but oh well. If you want to know where the Norwegian Royal Family lives, Google away!
So what did we see?
After the baby reached his wind tolerance, we parted ways, and BV and I headed back towards our apartment. E had recommended a few places in our area as well, and since we had worked up a thirst in all that fresh air, we swung by a microbrewery for a drink (or two).
I wish I could tell you exactly what we had, but a year later, I’m afraid I’m out. I can tell you that the bartender at Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggerei was knowledgeable and helpful, and that the patrons at the bar were eager to quiz a real-live German on what German beers he’s had, so that’s something, right? It was a nice place to rest our feet and enjoy some local beverages… so if you go, take better notes than I did. Which were zero notes. It’s a low bar.
Our second day was mostly museum-focused as we had bought an Oslo Pass, and I’ll have a post about that coming shortly, but we did do a bit of wandering around our neighborhood as well.
I particularly enjoyed this store nearby our tram stop. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve stopped to buy flowers and lamented the lack of jeans available!
After we filled ourselves up on culture and history, we decided to take our host’s advice and visit Lille Herbern. In the information that they left us, they described it as “one of the true pearls of Oslo,” and I really couldn’t agree more.
For starters, this is how you get there…
After we left the Viking Ship Museum (which itself is a bit out from the city center on the Bygdøy peninsula), we walked a few minutes in search of this pier. Shortly thereafter, a small boat appeared and for a few krone we hopped on board for a 1-minute ride to another island. The boat shuttles back and forth all day, and he deposited us on the other side just as enormous rain drops started to plop down on our heads.
We sprinted to the buildings in front of us and found more boat shelters, and, a bit wetter than we planned, the restaurant.
We only planned on a drink because we were saving our meal out in Oslo for our last night, but I regretted that a bit because everything smelled (and looked) pretty great. We enjoyed our drinks on the patio, safely undercover from the weather blowing in and out, and watched all the boat traffic.
It was late afternoon when we arrived and it filled up quickly. Next time, I shall be eating. But eventually we ceded our table and stretched our legs for a few photos before taking the boat back to Bygdøy.
We did very nearly lose our heads to some seagulls while walking around because we were so fascinated watching a guy prep his boat that we didn’t notice how close we were to nests and baby birds. We avoided incident, but if you go, watch out for the little guys! And eat dinner and let me know if it tastes as good as it smelled!
Back on the peninsula it was back on another boat that runs between the harbor and the Bygdøy museums. The weather continued to blow around dramatically and the Oslo harbor architecture is really built for that contrast. It was dripping and blowing like crazy so we don’t have too many pictures, but believe me, a stormy day is not always a bad thing.
En route back to our apartment we decided we were hungrier than we thought (darn you deceivingly long Nordic summer days), and stopped off at a brew pub that we had noticed this morning. As it turned out, after we ordered drinks we learned that their chef was sick, so it was just another drink this time. Oh well, it was another cool pub with a snazzy-industrial interior and all kinds of interesting things on tap.
And now that I’m googling this again, it seems the food reviews aren’t great anyway. So I guess it’s good that we just picked up pizza on the way home?
For our last morning, we decided to again take our host’s advice and walk down the river all the way to the city center. Piles of cool cafes with great coffee, parks, and literal waterfalls made this so different to any other city walk I had ever taken before.
I really cannot emphasize enough that THIS IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A CITY. It’s wild.
We also managed to find the most insane antiques store on the way. All the bars, restaurants, and shops that we’d seen thus far were chock-full of very cool old furniture and I guess this is where they all shop?
Please especially don’t overlook the giant moose head in this last picture. Slightly blurry as I was trying poorly to be sneaky.
I also wanted to stop by the Mathallen, as I love a good market. We got there at about 12:30 though, and it seemed most of the stands were already closed. The larger ones and restaurants that were serving lunch were still open, but since we mostly wanted to browse and not sit, it was kind of a wash. That’s what I get for sleeping in. Next time!
At least the area was interesting. Please note the motivational message on that back building.
When we reached the city center we did a bit more museum-visiting (again, more later), but then indulged in our vacation tradition of waiting until the last possible day to purchase, write, and mail (what feels like) 75 postcards. We popped into a souvenir store for the cards in question, then chose a fancy cafe with good foot traffic and healthy pours of wine to fill them out.
Cards written, we headed for a busy square full of restaurants in Grünerløkka for dinner. The meal itself was fairly unremarkable but we enjoyed people-watching and meandering home through the still-bright evening. Luckily that great light meant that I didn’t miss this festively colorful bike display.
As I said, I had no major agenda for this city trip. That’s really not how I travel, but also it’s not like Paris or Rome with checklists of sights to see and must-dos. We managed to completely miss the famous sculpture parks, and didn’t even go into the new opera house to use the fancy restrooms (yes, that was really a recommendation that I got).
I’d love to have a little more time to get lost in another neighborhood or two, or to take the T-Bane out of town to where my friend likes to cross-country ski around the city when there’s fresh snow. I hear there’s a glorious lodge in the forest with a giant fireplace that’s heaven in winter, and being able to reach that kind of place from the capital city has to be such a treat. But since I’m also not the kind of traveler that says, “welp, I’ve already been there, no need to go there again,” I would hope that I can make those things happen sometime. Soon.
*For once. I have terrible luck with sending mail.
It’s been pretty quiet around here these days. Everyone has been hiding from the crazy heat, or escaping to their summer vacations. I can’t lie, I’ve had a fair amount of envy as I’ve scrolled through the ol’ Instagram, but at least we’re heading south for a few days this week. It won’t be Greece (in fact, I don’t know exactly where we’re going), but hopefully it’ll satisfy some of my summer FOMO.
~or~ the one in which we creep around churchyards.
Years ago I had asked my grandma whereabouts in Norway her mom’s family had come from. She didn’t know, so had turned around and asked her cousin. Her cousin told her that they were from Gudbrandsdal
‘Great!’ I thought. ‘Where’s that?’
A quick Google later I had my answer. It is… a lot of places actually. Gudbrandsdal is a valley, covering a large area of central Norway. Like, 15k square kilometers (or nearly 6k sq. miles if you prefer Freedom Units). In other words, this information was not terribly specific.
Since my grandma is now gone, when we started planning this trip, I asked my mom who then asked my aunt if we had any more information. My aunt had many copies of my great-great-grandfather’s citizenship application, and his birthplace was listed as Ringlia (or nearby), Norway. Google that, and it’s a hill somewhere kind of but not really near Trondheim.
See where this is going?
Americans get grief for not knowing about their family history, but we’re working with geographical regions, 150 years ago, at a time when people sneezed and died and crossed oceans and houses burned down routinely and two people were literally struck dead by lightning in the same place at our old family farm so I guess it makes sense that accurate paperwork was not always priority number one?!
A whole lot of googling and cross-checking of entries on ancestry.com later, I still had no idea where this great-great-grandfather had really come from. It seems he may have changed his name at some point (a common thing among farm workers at the time? Changing their name to the farms they worked?), but I had a better idea about his wife. She had been born in the U.S., but her parents had emigrated from yes, Gudbrandsdal.
Gausdal, where we were staying, is a municipality within Gudbrandsdal, and this was part of my strategic plan. Our temporary home was just a short drive away from two towns I wanted to check out, Tretten and Øyer.
Our first stop was Tretten’s church. It sits on the hillside overlooking the Gudbrandsdalslågen river, perfectly picturesque.
BV helped me scout the headstones, starting with the older-looking ones, but no luck. Behind the church we noticed many more stones that had been removed. These were all much older, weather-beaten, and most completely impossible to read. The church itself was closed, so we turned back towards the car.
It also then occurred to me that if the standard practice in Norway is anything like the Germans and their rent-a-plot temporary burial method, there was a flaw in my plan. I have no idea if this is a thing in Norway, but if you know, drop a comment!
Outside the churchyard was some sort of memorial, and we stopped to take a closer look. Lucky too, as sure enough, on the front side was a last name *pretty* close to the one we’d been looking for. Considering the changing of spelling that often occurred when people arrived in the States, a letter or two difference seemed good enough to me.
We knew that some of the family must’ve stayed behind, because my great-grandma had visited Norwegian cousins back in the 1970s. This might well be the right place then, or at least it had been at the time of the memorial.*
Though we’d possibly already found what it was we were looking for, we continued on. After all Øyer was just a few kilometers downriver, why not stop there anyway?
Øyer’s church looked quite similar, and was also overlooking the same river, but this yard was a bit bigger. We spent more time searching, and eventually a man who’d been cruising between headstones on a riding lawnmower asked if he could help us.
We told him the name we were looking for, and he shook his head, pointing back towards where we’d been. “No, they’re in Tretten.” Well, now we knew for sure. Granted, we didn’t (and don’t) know much, but it’s a starting point if I want to try digging a little deeper on the next trip!
And? Are you also a fan of creeping around churchyards? Have you had more success following dubious family ancestry information? Leave a comment!
*The inscription on the back says it was erected by the town on the 100th anniversary of Norwegian independence in 1914. I think there may have been something else on the front, and there’s something about 1807-1814 on the top of the back so… multi-purpose memorial? If you know, please enlighten me, good people of Tretten!
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Sometimes they are wrong.
Back when we first started thinking about this Norway trip, one of my first steps was to check out overnight options on AirBnb. We had no exact itinerary at that point, so I just scrolled around the map, clicking on anything that looked interesting. This extremely specific and technical search method brought us to Gausdal.
A little bit of background: the first chapter book I ever read was Little House in the Big Woods. It didn’t take long for me to collect the whole series, and I can’t tell you how often those books got reread. They’re all still in boxes at my parents’ house, in fact. When the new and snazzy annotated edition of Pioneer Girl came out a few years ago, yep, got that one too (thanks, M&D). I was fascinated by those books, by that life.
Luckily for me, I also grew up quite close to Old World Wisconsin, a most excellent living history museum run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. It was built as part of Wisconsin’s bicentennial project, and basically involved a bunch of hippies driving around Wisconsin in the 1970s knocking on the door of old farmhouses and asking if they could take their buildings. Eventually about 70 historic structures made their way, piece by individually labeled piece, onto nearly 400 acres in the Kettle Moraine forest. Going there as a kid was as close as you could get to pioneer life, and I loved it. I even went to work there, post-college. It’s very much one of my favorite places in the state.
At this point you might be asking yourself what in the world pioneer life children’s books and a museum have to do with a Norwegian road trip. Fair question.
This is a very long-winded way of saying that I saw a picture, fell in love, and decided that I would do my damndest to work a stay at this beautiful place into our trip. Which is exactly what I did. Behold…