We flew from Amsterdam to Norway on August 20, and were met at the Kristiansand airport by Lars Helge and Tove in one car, and Rasmus and Kari in another, since we were four with luggage. We all gathered for an official welcoming and dinner at the home of Rasmus and Kari, where we four Americans would stay during our time in Kristiansand.
The next day Rasmus took us all out for a sailing cruise through some of the waters around Kristiansand. We stopped for a time at Bragdøya, an island in the archipelago in the Kristiansandsfjorden, just south of Kristiansand. The island has been owned by the municipality of Kristiansand since 1969 when they bought it with a government grant as a public open space. It was purchased with the requirement that the islands would be a recreational space for the city. During the summer, the island is used as grazing land for sheep.
We saw the sheep, but we were especially interested in the works of Bragdøya Kystlag, a voluntary association which aims to preserve local maritime culture along the coast.The warehouse complex of the Bragdøya Coastal Heritage Centre contained many interesting examples of restoration and authentic reproduction using traditional tools and methods.
In anticipation of our visit, Lars Helge had arranged for a gathering of all of the Norwegian friends we have met in our visits to Norway. We gathered some 38 km north of Kristiansand at the Ogge Gjesteheim, where we would spend the night in a set of yurts.
The Norwegian guests included Lars Helge & Tove Brunborg, Rasmus & Kari Morvik, Per & Ingunn Skretting, Mardon & Marie Meihack, Rune Teisrud & Bodil Fjelde, Terje With & Mika Andersen, and Harald Knudsen.
It was fun to see them all again. We had some fantastic meals, competed in an improvised game of “toss the milk can”, took a walk along a path that had posted questions, spent some time picking blueberries and lingonberries and a few cloud berries, and spent a lot of time just visiting. And of course, we slept in the yurts!
In & Around Kristiansand
We went on several walks in the neighborhood. One was along the scenic waterfront, where we had lunch and visited the sea food market. We paused for photos at the Christiansholm Fortress. The fortress was finished in 1672 and formed a part of King Christian IV’s plan for defense of Kristiansand when the city was founded in 1641. It was built on an islet, about 100 yards from shore. Today the fortress is connected to the mainland.
The only time the fortress has been in battle was against a British fleet force in 1807 during the Napoleonic Wars. The fortress was decommissioned by royal decree during June 1872 as part of a major redevelopment of fortifications across the nation.
Today, Christiansholm is a tourist attraction by the Kristiansand Boardwalk and venue for a variety of cultural events and festivities. It is now owned by the municipality and is a site used principally for recreation and cultural events.
We also went to the nearby Kilden, the new (January 2012) performing arts centre for Southern Norway. It is used for concerts, theatre, opera, dance and entertainment. The building itself is spectacular.
On another day we parked the cars and walked through woods to Ravnedalen, a nature park with scenic surroundings. In the park there is a grand outdoor stage for summer concerts. We had lunch at the associated Café Generalen, known for its impressive hamburgers. On the way back to the cars we took another route that took us to an overlook of Kristiansand. Later that day we all visited Lars Helge’s and Tove’s son Erik Brunborg.
The Morviks were warm and gracious hosts that excelled at keeping us entertained and making us feel welcome, to say nothing about feeding us delicious meals. On one occasion, Bill noticed a set of wooden blocks in their home. An query revealed that they actually didn’t know what the blocks were for. But Bill did. And so we all competed in a contest to see who could remove a block without the structure collapsing — a task that became increasingly difficult as the structure became increasingly unstable.
We spent the 26th & 27th at the Morvik’s hytta. Our first walk was along a small river near their cabin, where we found blueberries. On the second day, we parked the car and first visited a spectacular cliff and waterfall, and then took a much longer hike through the woods to the site of an old old cabin. (A date carved into a door header reads “1660”.) The cabin survives because the Government has paid the land owner to keep it sound. Tools and bottles and old shoes can be seen inside.
We made a fire in a meadow near the old cabin and had a yummy lunch of pancakes and coffee.
On our last day in Kristiansand we had dinner at the Brunborgs. Tove served a dish that had us all swooning and asking for the recipe. Now I just need to translate it into English. And the dessert kept us coming back until it was all gone!
Next day we took a bus to Oslo, where we rented a car and spent a frantic two days absorbing as much of the sights as we could.
We visited the Fram Museum, which tells the story of Norwegian polar exploration. It is located on the peninsula of Bygdøy, an area with several other museums, including the Kon-Tiki Museum and the Norsk Folkemuseet (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History), as well as several others that we didn’t get to.
The Fram Museum is centered principally on the original exploration vessel Fram. The original interior of Fram is intact and visitors can go inside the ship to view it. In May 2009 the museum also took over the exhibition of the Gjøa, the first ship to traverse the Northwest Passage. Roald Amundsen and a crew of six traversed the Northwest Passage aboard the Gjøa in a three-year journey which was finished in 1906.
The Kon-tiki Museum houses the Kon-Tiki, a raft of balsa wood of pre-Columbian model that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. Another boat in the museum is the Ra II, a vessel built of reeds according to Heyerdahl’s perception of an ancient Egyptian seagoing boat. Heyerdahl sailed the Ra II from North Africa to the Caribbean after a previous attempt with the reed boat Ra failed.
The Norsk Folkemuseet is dedicated to Folk art, Folk Dress, Sami culture and the viking culture. The outdoor museum contains 155 authentic old buildings from all parts of Norway, including a Stave Church.
On our way to Frogner Park, we stumbled upon the Oslo City Museum, which holds an interesting permanent exhibition about the people in Oslo and the history of the city.
We went to Frogner Park to see the well-known Vigeland installation, a permanent sculpture installation created by Gustav Vigeland between 1924 and 1943. Although sometimes incorrectly referred to in English as the “Vigeland (Sculpture) Park,” the Vigeland installation is not a separate park, but the name of the sculptures within Frogner Park. The sculpture park consists of 212 sculptures as well as larger structures such as bridges and fountains.
The Oslo Opera House is the home of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway. The main auditorium seats 1,364 and two other performance spaces can seat 200 and 400. The angled exterior surfaces of the building are covered with marble from Carrara, Italy and white granite. Construction started in 2003 and was completed in 2007, ahead of schedule and 300 million NOK ( about US$52 million) under its budget of 4.4 billion NOK ( about US$760 million). The roof of the building angles to ground level, creating a large plaza that invites pedestrians to walk up and enjoy the panoramic views of Oslo.
It had been a tremendous three weeks in Europe, made all the more special because of our companionable traveling mates, Bill and Colleen. We flew back to the USA on August 31, arriving in Portland, OR to discover that the western United States was ablaze in wildfires. But that is the subject of another blog post.