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A trip to Norway, the kids wrestled and giggled

April 19, 2018

Nila Peter's children

This shows the Wichstrom family in Norway, from which I descended through my maternal grandmother.  We visited many Wichstroms in Oslo.

April 20, 2018

I felt gritty jet lag a couple weeks ago when we got to Oslo.  Turns out it had just a little more snow than Billings, Montana, our starting place.  Difference was the snow in Oslo was older and crustier and the air maybe 10 degrees colder. The sky was sunny and clear.  Even though we four adults were traveling with kids ages 10,11, and 12, the whole time I heard no crying, whining, or bickering.  Well, once I did a few days into our trip when Olivia defended herself from a bossy cousin.  That was the only time.  However, the trio wrestled, giggled, and talked incessantly.  Didn’t matter where we were.  Oh, they didn’t act unruly when we ate with 10 and 20 relatives at Norwegian formal dinners where we got to know our second cousins.  The kids looked forward to skiing.

We traveled by tram from our air b&b fourth-floor walk up apartment across town and up the side of a mountain to a ski place with an old log restaurant.  There we trooped in to a side room to meet Anne, Bjorn Wichstrom, and Celine Wichstrom Flinders and her boyfriend, all second cousins.  Well, Celine’s boyfriend wasn’t.  We ate lingonberries and reindeer meat in a sauce and had dessert that had whipped cream.  At the end we traded gifts:  huckleberry jam and native beadwork from Montana; a heavy book from Bjorn.

We caught the train back to our neighborhood after walking down the mountain about a kilometer past a couple ski jumps towering what looked like a hundred feet.  What insane person would launch himself?  The kids talked incessantly and wrestled like baby raccoons.

Our apartment was close to a tram stop, so the next day we rode it to the Viking museum to see real ships large enough to travel at sea powered by oar and sail.  The ships carried the men who wreaked havoc 1200 years ago.  In fact, I learned on the “History of the English Language” podcast that the words “wreaked” and “havoc” are in our language precisely because of the Norse invaders of England.

Our son Bob used his iPhone to navigate Oslo, which reminded me somewhat of Paris, in that it was confusing to get around.  I exaggerate.  It was confusing for me, but everyone else seemed comfortable with Oslo.

We had three-day Oslo passes, but nobody asked for them until the Viking museum.  The person there let me in anyway, once I told them I lost mine.  We got on bus after bus and nobody checked to see my pass.  Or anyone else’s pass.  I guess they figure if you made it all the way to Oslo you certainly had one.  I don’t know.  Finally, on our last day in Oslo, a man came through the train asking to see passes, so I handed him P’s, since I was sitting next to her on the aisle.  He said something in Norwegian about the date of first use on the pass, then didn’t check P’s.  Satisfied, with everyone else’s, the man sat down ahead of us.

We returned to the restaurant at the top of the ski hill and rented sledges to ride down to catch the train back to the top.  Roland and I nearly flew off the track on a curve.  Roland rode solo afterward and I drank coffee at the restaurant with P.

We visited Ingrid and Neils-Marius Conradi, some more second cousins, at their house in Oslo.  Another fancy meal with several courses including a rich dessert and a couple different kinds of wine to drink with Norwegian salmon and a fancy beef stew.  At the end we traded gifts and Bjorn gave me several  books.

The train ride to Bergen was six pleasant hours of mountainous journey through what looked like Western Montana, but with tunnels galore.  We rode in a deluxe car that had complementary beverages, but none were alcoholic.  Our first drink stronger than beer was the wine at Ingrid and Neils-Marius’ house.

We drug all our luggage from the Bergen train station, across town, over a sizable bridge, and up the side of a steep mountain to reach our air b&b there.  (Modern, had a toilet with heated seat.)  The kids trooped ahead, dragging their immense suitcases in silence.  Once we reached the apartment they giggled and wrestled.  We were hungry.  Bob and I hiked down the hill and across the bridge back to the train station looking for a store.  It was Easter.  Good Friday, I mean, and groceries were closed and streets deserted.  I whined to Bob that I wanted a cab and a restaurant.  

The cab took us back to the air b&b but all of us couldn’t fit in the cab.  Restaurants all seemed to be closed, except one the cab driver knew about.  Bob tried to phone but got an answering machine.  The cabbie knew the place was open, so P. and I took the cab and the kids and Bob and Heather walked.  Turns out the cab driver took us to a place called “Snack Bar,” and Bob, Heather, Olivia, Cyrus, and Rowland trooped to a different restaurant.  Everyone waited for everyone else.  

P. and I didn’t have a phone and we couldn’t remember the address of the air b&b.  So we waited two or three hours, drinking wine and gin at the snack bar and eating hamburgers.  No one rescued us, so we finally got a cab whose driver figured out how to get us home.

I took the day off while everyone else walked all over Bergen.  We ultimately met at a restaurant called the “Penguin.”  The kids wrestled and giggled.

Next day Bob rented a van and we drove to Vang, a farm neighborhood in Valdres about four hours from Bergen.  My great great grandmother Berit Bonde started out in Vang where her first husband bought her a house, still there.  Bob took a couple rocks and a rusty tool from Berit’s place where we walked across crusty snow to look inside.  It was now being used as a shed to store woodworking tools, apparently.  Nearby lived Knute Bunde, a fellow about my age, who was unavailable to speak with us.  Our b&b host in Vang told us he didn’t usually talk to strangers.  The b&b in Vang was deluxe.  I banged my head on a low beam repeatedly.  The proprietors fed us reindeer meet, lots of root vegetables, and heavy cream.  We rented skis.  We visited a stave church at Hore.  We visited the former mayor of Vang who fed us an immense lunch.  The kids went outdoors to wrestle and giggle and slide down a hill on sleds they found.

Later, the boys skied near Vang at a grade school with 10 kilometers of cross country ski trail.  I tried to ski and fell hard on my butt.  The icy snow had a thin top layer of grainy snow.  My skis slipped sideways when I tried to slow down, lost control, fell on butt.  Bob and Heather and the kids did much better than I.  We had the rented van, so we returned to Oslo that way.  I suffered a bruised butt.

Back in Oslo we met even more cousins, and Bjorn was there.  He gave me some books at the end of the evening meal which consisted of reindeer meat, salad, ham, and potatoes.  The Norwegian hosts gave us many kinds of root vegetables and traditional waffles in the shape of hearts.  People treated us like royalty.  The supper at cousin Erik and Solvar Hardeng’s house had 20 guests and I can’t remember most of the people’s names, but they were friendly, warm folk.  Again, Bjorn, an adorable man in his 80s, was there, dressed in his blue suit with necktie.  He gave me several books when we parted.  Erik and his wife had grandchildren who wrestled and giggled with our three.

Sadly, Erik Hardeng has terminal cancer and doesn’t expect to live more than a month, or so.  He showed us a brief slide show of his trips to the south and north polar regions.

Bob and Erik had a tearful parting.  We drove off in the van.  Erik phoned us minutes later when he discovered Heather had forgotten her purse.

Ultimately, we returned to the US with loot.  I bought a variety of paper clips bent in the shapes of animals.  Later I discovered they had been made in China. Cyrus and Roland each got tanned hair-on reindeer skins in Oslo.  I then bought a sports bag to carry them and some of the books back to the US.  Bob got himself a wool sweater.  Roland bought a model of a Viking boat.  I had a birthday in Oslo, so I got a bunch of trinkets to carry back.  A couple pens, a wooden globe.  Oh yes, and books.  Lots of books.  Olivia returned with a sheepskin.  I don’t remember much else.  Roland bought his dad a cow’s horn for drinking.  I saw lots of candy and gifts in P’s luggage that she bought when I wasn’t looking.

Turns out returning from Oslo to the US creates less jet lag than going, a good thing,  and the kids wrestled and giggled.


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  1. Jeff Tillotson permalink

    This is a heart-warming essay. It immediately takes me back to the time I have spent in Norway over the last fifteen years and how I somehow felt “at home” there, from the moment I first stepped out of the airport at Gardermoen. I still have occasional dreams of waking up in Lillehammer or Aurland.

    I am so glad you have had this opportunity to connect with distant relatives and forge new connections. It makes the world so much a better place!

  2. Val Ehli permalink

    Wonderful story of you’re recent trip. Sorry I could not be there to hear all your stories in person. Glad you had a great time and you made it back home safe.

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