You might be a Norwegian tourist if…

Post by Tara Kram

You might be a Norwegian tourist if:

  1. The word “fantastic” is now used at least 3 times a day in your vocabulary
  2. You wake up in the night looking for the top sheet only to discover there isn’t one
  3. You think they keep forgetting the top piece of bread when they give you a sandwich
  4. You go boating for fun when it is 35 degrees
  5. You pay $4 for a 16oz. Coke
  6. You laugh when Norwegians talk about semen (or is that Sea Men?)
  7. You dream about whole grain bread
  8. You are startled when someone inhales and says “ja”
  9. You think Kvikk Lunsj is a souvenir
  10. You wear jeans to the parade on May 17
  11. You’ve been on a Harry Tur
  12. You wake up at 4:00am because the sun is shining in your bedroom

Post by Tara Kram


First days in Arendal

Post by Tara Kram 

We left Porsgrunn on Tuesday afternoon after a relaxing morning shopping and drinking coffee in town.  Two of our Arendal hosts picked us up and managed to squeeze all of our large suitcases into their cars.  After meeting our hosts and getting settled in our new homes for the next six days, we attended their Rotary Club meeting in the evening.  I am staying in a beautiful home overlooking the fjord which is owned by Åsta, the pastor at the Arendal Lutheran Church.  

View from Asta's house in Arendal

 Wednesday we toured the town of Arendal and learned about its history.  We then travelled to a nearby island to see the countryside and different views of the fjord.  We managed to come across a burning home and were glad to learn it was a training exercise for the fire department. 

Downtown Arendal

Cindy, Anjanette, Tara, and Krista - view of the ocean

We also visited a small farm where we had soup with ingredients fresh from the farm.  From there we went to a cow farm which is all automated so there is very little manual labor – quite impressive actually! 

Cows lined up waiting for food - that's us in the plastic gowns and shoes

At the end of the afternoon, we went to Asta’s family’s farm for a bbq.  Her brother was the chef and he is the former Mayor of Arendal. 

Asta's brother cooking the hot dogs and hamburgers

In the evening, Cindy and I went kayaking with the Arendal Kayaking club.  We kayaked for about 3 hours with a stop in the middle at a small island where there are only summer homes.  I was exhausted when we returned, but we had a great time.  The night was warm and the sun was beautiful – a perfect day! 

Tara 7 months pregnant and trying to arrange myself in the kayak

Cindy in her glory

Post by Tara Kram

Trip from Sunday, May 16

Post by Jody for Sunday, May 16

Tour of Telemark Today we had the wonderful opportunity to drive north into the heart of Telemark. It was a rainy, foggy day but our hosts decided to go through with the tour anyway and we are very thankful that they did.

We drove through Porsgruun accompanied by Nils, Kjell, Jan Henrick, Ellen and our driver Jan. The first sight they pointed out was the porcelain factory which has ceased to produce porcelain because of the cost of the employee’s wages here in Norway. It was cheaper to move production out of the country but people feel that there will no longer be the quality of what they made here.

Next, we saw some locks connecting inland waterways that were built in 1892. There are 18 locks in the 105 km long system with a height difference of 72 meters.

Our hosts pointed out a church built in 1180 and told us a fairy tale about 3 girls who were too noisy during a sermon and so were banished by the priest. The girls turned to stone and there are 3 stones in the area which represent them. There is another story about a troll who put the cross on the peak of the church but then fell to his death. Where he is supposed to have fallen, no grass grows there.

We stopped in Morgdal at the Olav Bjaaland Museum. We watched a movie and went through the exhibit and learned about the history of skiing in Norway. We also watched an excellent video of two skiers going down a mountain. It was a truly beautiful thing to see. The skiers were so skilled it was like watching ballet.

Olav Bjaaland, for whom the museum was named, was born in 1873 and came from Morgedal. He won the Royal Cup in Holmenkollen in 1902. He also participated in the Polar expedition with Roald Amundsen as a supervisor of the expedition’s skis and sledges. He was appointed leader of the group during the last stretch to the geographical South Pole. After that, he founded his own ski factory.

From Morgendal we headed further up into the mountains. The higher we went, the more snow there was and the smaller the trees. In Vierle we stopped to take pictures of the still-frozen lake and we ended up going up to about 1260 meters at the highest point. We went through many switchbacks to get there! We met a couple out snowshoeing just before we hit the tree line. The snow banks were really, really big!

I’m sure the view from up there is normally fantastic but we didn’t see too much today because of the weather. We stopped for lunch at a beautiful restaurant up in the mountains.

Our next stop was to the old Vemork hydroelectric power station and the Norwegian Industrial Worker Museum. This is something that is very hard to describe with words as it was so impressive! To get there, we had to drive down the side of an enormous mountain and cross a gorge so deep that they bungee jump off the suspension bridge that crosses it. There are huge waterfalls down the mountain that are absolutely breathtaking! I have never seen anything like them. There isn’t just one either. There are waterfalls everywhere, cascading down the steep cliffs.

The powerhouse is impressive, to say the least. I have no idea how they could have gotten the supplies in to build the facility or the large turbines. It would have been quite a challenge. The facility is no longer in use but is open to go through. We watched a movie about heavy water and I learned something new about the events of the war.

Heavy water was first discovered in 1933 by the Americans. It looks and tastes like ordinary water but its boiling point is 1.4 degrees above ordinary water and it freezes at 4 degrees. They hydrogen element is different though and is of a special kind which is twice the weight of ordinary hydrogen. This makes heavy water have a 10% increase in weight over ordinary water. It is used like “brake fluid” in atomic fission and therefore needed to make atomic bombs.

All heavy water at the time was produced at Rjukan in German-occupied Norway. The Norwegians did not want the Germans to create an atomic bomb so they decided to sabotage the plant. With great difficulty and loss and a strenuous battle with the elements, the team destroyed the vital cell of heavy water. I had no idea that this event took place and I was very glad to learn about this piece of history.

After leaving the power plant, we proceeded to the Tuddal Heyfjellshotel, one of the oldest high-mountain hotels in Norway. It was certainly something to see. Inside, the hotel is beautifully decorated. I would love to be able to spend a night in such a place! Hanging from the ceiling is a boat estimated to be about 600 years old, that they found in the lake in front of the hotel.

Our last stop of the day was to the Heddal Stave Church, the largest one of its kind standing in Norway. We had only a few minutes to stop as our bus driver was running out of time he could log, but we were able to get a couple of pictures.

I am so thankful for this tour today! We visited some very special places. The landscape was completely different from what we had seen so far. A very big thank you to our thoughtful hosts!

Jody and Cindy

Post by Jody Houle

May 17 – National Day in Norway

Post by Tara Kram

While the rest of the team has been touring Porsgrunn, I came to Oslo to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and niece who live in Trondheim, Norway.  We toured more of the city and saw a more diverse Oslo than when the group was here the first time.  We were able to walk through a neighborhood where many immigrants have settled and we ate at a delicious Indian restaurant. 

This morning we went to the Royal Palace in Oslo to see the May 17 Parade.  May 17 is the day that Norway became independent of Denmark in 1814.  Many Norwegians wear their traditional attire called bunad.  The bunad attire is different depending on what city you are from in Norway.  Those who are not wearing traditional attire are often dressed up for the day to go celebrate with friends and families. 

Carin, Troy, and Beatrix (my family) ready for the parade

Post by Tara Kram


Post by Cindy

Skihopp (pronounced “shee-hop,” and also known as ski jumping) is a unique Norwegian past time. Kids mess around with it by building jumps in their back yards.  Folks in Morgedal, the Cradle of Skiing, ski off the roofs of their houses.  On Friday, Niels showed me an old ski jump trail in the woods south of Porsgrunn. We actually hiked up this thing, and it wasn’t an easy stroll. Locals used this ski jump between the 1870s and 1930s, and an old-timer had told Niels that they called it “Once in a Lifetime.”  Either you did it once and never tried it again, or tried it once and didn’t survive!  I suppose the survivors of all these various homegrown skihopp adventures might eventually end up at Holmenkollen in Oslo – the real deal.

We’ve seen film footage of skihoppers, and I am always struck by the beauty and grace with which they fly through the air.  They begin to set up their landing while they are still airborne, and (at least in the movies they’ve been showing us) land in a perfect “Telemark” position, with knees bent, one foot ahead of the other, and the back heel up. Now that’s what I call free heel skiing! The Sande Rotary Club treated us to a ride in the ski simulator at Holmenkollen, and the feeling of flying effortlessly through the air and gliding to a perfect finish was pretty great.  I would like to try it…  I think I might be able to build a skihopp in my backyard….

Back yard skihopp, in the woods behind Arne and Ranveig's.

Hiking up the "Once in a Lifetime" skihopp near Porsgrunn.

Skihopper, in the Morgedal style.

Holmenkollen Skihopp in Oslo. They will be hosting the 2011 World Championships.

post by Cindy Mom

An Amazing Program!

Post by Jody and Diane 

Diane and I had a vocational visit together today and we were introduced to some wonderful programs at the hospital in Skien.  

In the rehabilitation centre we were met by Elizabeth, who is a neuropsychologist and in charge of the unit.  She informed us that they work with children from 0 to 18 years old with neurological diseases, low cognitive abilities, brain injury and other such disabilities.   In 1990, Norway moved away from institutions and worked to allow children to stay in their own communities and homes.  The rehabilitation centre provides assessment and diagnoses through a multi disciplinary team.  Assessments are completed within 3 months of referral. 

We then met Anne Marthe who gave us a tour of SAMBA, which we are told means to work together around children.  SAMBA is a brand new program and the first of its kind in Norway.  It is formed with the collaboration between Porsgruun and Skien.

We were very impressed with this program and would love to have it in our own communities.  In Canada, I don’t believe there is anything like it.  There are 15 staff members including 2 teachers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists who provide service.  The unit is used for many different purposes.  Some families use it for respite where the parents can either stay in the facility knowing that their children will receive 24 hour care, or can go home and get a good night’s sleep.  It is also used to assess children’s needs and provide programming for them.  Children can go and stay at the facility where staff can learn about their needs and create a plan as to how to best meet those needs.  There is one child currently staying there who will have surgery within the next year.  They have her there now to meet her and learn all about her so that, when she has the surgery, she is already comfortable with the staff and they already know about her needs.  Another youth will soon be turning 18 so he is currently staying there so that the staff can learn about what will work best for him when he moves into his own apartment and they can provide recommendations to the people who will support him. 

Because the program is so new, they are still learning about all of the possibilities of services that can be offered.   I think the most important service of all was described by Anne Marthe when she talked about how they help parents celebrate the small things and focus on what is special about each day with their child. 

One of the things that I do not want to forget about Norway is how much they value art.  Everywhere we go, we have the privilege of looking at beautiful artwork.  SAMBA was no different!  The hallways and rooms are very nicely decorated to create a bright and cheerful atmosphere.  The pictures below are of some art work that the children can touch and manipulate.  I’m sure it goes a long way to lift the spirits of those who are in the facility.  

We both enjoyed our visit to the hospital immensely and were extremely impressed by this much needed service. 

Post by Jody and Diane

If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you

Post by Cindy Mom

I had the pleasure today of touring around the Eidangerhalvoya (Eidanger Peninsula) with Niels Andersen, a member of the Porsgrunn Rotary Club. Niels is a geology enthusiast, and pointed out many of the interesting features of the area to me, including 400 million year old chalk cliffs and the fossils along the Porsgrunn Kyststien (Porsgrunn coastal trail).  The unique calcarious soils of the area support a variety of sjeldne and saeregne orkideer (rare and special orchids) that aren’t found anywhere else in Norway.  Of course, it’s too early in the year to see these orchids in bloom, so I’ll just have to come back later in the summer to see them.

I’ve been repeatedly struck by the familiarity of Norway, at least this part of Norway. It seems like a combination of all the places I’ve ever truly loved to live or travel: Scotland, Michigan, Canada, Rockport Massachusetts, Maine.  On our tour today, Niels showed me places that have been influenced by quarrying, ice production, drinking water reservoirs, forestry, farming, shipbuilding, boating, cement production, fishing, and the tourist economy (as in ice cream consumption.)  Add to that the fact that we were on a peninsula all day, and also that there were a couple of suspension bridges within view…  and it just seems like home.

Downtown Brevik with the Breviksbrua in the background

Grenlandsbrua, with Breviksbrua behind... overlooking Brevik and Frierfjorden

The Coastal Trail. I think they use the same trail-marking paint that we do!

Post by Cindy Mom