Over the last year, my family has been working towards a family reunion that would unite us from across the world. All descendants from a man named Soren Moe, who would have been my Great, Great, Great Grandfather! The idea took us to the family's hometown, in Hokksund. There, my Great Grandmother Olga's school house, her grandparents graves, and an old building used to store goods for their bakery, were all still present.
Surrounding that trip my husband and I decided to incorporate a little exploring of our own, by staying in Bergen for a few days, then crossing the country via train to Oslo where we planned to commute to Drammen by train during the family functions. After celebrating National Norwegian Constitution Day on the 17th of May with family, we parted ways and headed north to Aalesund for a two nights. Following Norway, we made a quick stopover to Iceland before routing across the Arctic back to Alaska.
In total we spent 2 and a half weeks indulging in Norwegian culture. In a lot of ways, it's like peering into Alaska's future. The difference? They have been working towards the future of their civilization for over a 1000 years, and it shows! Imagine a tamed Alaska, with cobblestone streets, a slower than normal pace, and infrastructure to last more than a lifetime.
Filled with shops, restaurants, hiking trails, and the jumping point for fjord trips and tours, we spent five days exploring city streets, coffee shops, and catching up on sleep! With the time difference, we were awake by 5am and ready to rock. But Bergen, like most of west coast Norway, doesn't wake up until 10am! A beautiful dilemma. On one hand we literally had the streets to ourselves. Walking up and down cobblestone alleys and learning the city, there were almost NO coffee shops that opened before 9am. This is struggle city when you're an American who relies on their coffee by 7am!
In addition to 400 year old buildings, I was able to spend some time shopping for the store! One of my favorite brands had a shop in the city center. I spent two days bartering, trying things on, and negotiating my bulk order to bring back to Alaska. I was able to get some great basic jeans, some tops and sweaters, and hair accessories that are worn by every other Norwegian woman!
To end our time in Bergen, Seattle's Sister City, we took the train across the country into Oslo. A 7hr ride that makes various 3 minute stops along the way. Departing at sea level, heading along the fjords into the highlands and snow-capped mountains, then dropping down into farmland and straight into the Capital City. A gorgeous train ride!
My hope was to meet some long lost cousins my age, instead it was their parents and grandparents who actually came to the reunion. The younger descendants had to work and couldn't make the trip into Drammen to meet everyone. It turned out just fine, older people always have good stories and tend to care less when they want to get something done.
The first family outing took us to a graveyard to see the stones of Anna and Soren Moe. When we arrived (six cars deep), we wandered the graveyard before realizing the headstones were no longer there! As it turns out, in Norway, you have to lease the land where the body is laid! The first 25 years are a courtesy, then after that the family must pay to keep the plot, and also maintain it to high standards. The closest current family member lived over an hour away and after 50+ years of dedication he let the responsibility go. So what happens to the bodies?! Not entirely too sure, the general conclusion is that they must be cremated because that plot of land eventually becomes available to new tenants... I guess you do what you have to do when you live in a country that has had people for hundreds and hundreds of years!
The next stop took us to the site of the old bakery, where my Great Grandmother, who was raised by her grandparents, lived and worked. Of course the site was paved over into a parking lot since the actual building had been moved to an open air museum.
By memory, my Grandmother Anita, who also came from Alaska for the trip, remembered her mother showing her the old school house she attended. She lead over 30 of us through the winding neighborhood to an old building that has since been converted into an apartment building. Amazing to see how many times over a building can be made of use!
The final stop took us to the open air museum where the city had moved select buildings from all over the area into one collective site. I was most looking forward to this part of the trip, the long awaited day to finally see this famous bakery my family has been talking about for years and years! And, what a let down haha! Turns out, the bakery no longer exists, BUT the storage building that was used by many over the years, including my family, was still standing. The storage building was used to store ingredients for the bakery!
We all arrived with expectations to see some real historical sites and family graves, but sadly it wasn't as advertised haha. But like anything, it reminded us all that we were truly there to meet each other. So with plenty of wine, we all rendezvoused for dinner and learned each others trades, family lines and how they connected to ours, and laughed into the evening.
What a cool city! Totally blown away by its forwardness and innovation. There are even public use bicycles and scooters! They're left all over the city, and you just connect with an app and you can explore the entire city on two wheels!
Aside from the clean streets and friendly people, we were able to catch Norway's National Constitution Day, the 17th of May, in the capital! Aside from celebrating Norway's Independence, the entire country celebrates with a children's parade. To Norway, the children are the future, and when Norway gained independence, they did it for future generations and the hopeful growth and prosperity of them.
Bunads were also everywhere! Traditional dress, each bunad is custom made and can cost upwards of $4,000-8,000! My Norwegian family was in full attire that day! They explained how they each wore a different style from a different era, and how colors and floral design mattered.
My favorite city! Nestled on inlands on the coast, the city limits are hard to define because it sprawls from coastline to coastline! Under sea tunnels and bridges connect them.
At the base of the city you can hike up 418 stairs leading you to the top of the town mountain. Gorgeous views in nearly all directions, I came up here three different times because I couldn't help myself! The weather was perfect, spring blossoms, mountains, and salty air were the perfect recipe for relaxing.
Overall it was a beautiful trip, and if you ask me to go to Norway again, I will always say yes!
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