Every summer we return to Norway to see my family. Each trip tends to be very similar to the last one—we spend time at the same places, we do the same activities, we see the same people, we eat the same foods— but that’s what we’ve come to expect and look forward to.
We try to plan our visit so that our time overlaps with my sister and her kids’ visit. Both my sister and I want to have some time for all of us to reconnect and make new memories together, but we also want each of our families to have some quality time alone with our parents as well. When all the cousins are together, we love seeing them enjoy each other’s company. When each set is by themselves, we value the special time they have alone with their grandparents.
We usually spend about half our visit at our parents’ summer home on an island in the Kragerø area (3 1/2 hours by car south of Oslo). I can’t imagine a summer without spending time there. It’s how I grew up, every summer spending weeks at a summer home on the coast, and I want my kids to experience the same.
They’re becoming comfortable with boats and familiar with boating etiquette. They swim in the ocean, which is different than swimming at a beach like they do here. They’re learning how to row and kayak.
Going on boat rides is practically a daily activity. We have our favorite destinations. We may go to Valle, a marina with a grocery store, clothing store, restaurant, and most importantly, an ice cream booth. Or we may head to the town of Kragerø for lunch, a visit to the PlayMobil store, and of course ice cream. Another favorite outing is to the island of Skåtøy for a visit to their cafe, the school playground, and once again, ice cream. We didn’t make it there this year, and we were actually saddened by that.
And, we enjoy all the summer foods I grew up with… pølser and lomper (Norwegian hot dogs and potato tortillas), Norwegian shrimp, sommerkoteletter (smoked pork chops), boller and skolebrød (baked goods), Norwegian waffles, soft is (soft serve vanilla ice cream but in a league of its own), and Solo (Norway’s orange flavored soda).
When in Oslo, we have a different set of activities we always enjoy. We visit my grandmother Farmor. She turns 96 this month so every moment is precious. She lives on her own in a house just below my parents’ home. I love that my boys don’t hesitate to run down the hill to visit her. It may have something to do with her always having Smarties (Norway’s version of M&Ms) to give, but that’s okay. They still stay to chat. The boys also enjoy picking raspberries from her patch. Picking raspberries is something I grew up doing every summer as well.
We make sure to take advantage of the public transportation system. Taking public transportation is ingrained in the Norwegian mindset, unlike here in LA where it’s a novelty for most. The kids are becoming quite capable of understanding the maps and navigating their way.
But there were certainly some special highlights this summer that will distinguish this year from the others. The kids were thrilled to meet the newest member of the family, my cousin’s baby boy who was born in July. I was actually surprised at how interested my boys were in spending time with him. It was quite cute. And now, along with the dog they desperately desire, they also want me to have another child.
And this summer during our Oslo time, we were quite the tourists in our own town! We visited three museums—Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology, the Museum of Cultural History (Folkemuseum), and the Munch Museum—and we also toured the Norwegian Palace (photo above) and visited Mathallen, a newly opened food hall. Adding new experiences to our normal routines certainly keeps our time there interesting and fresh.
Returning to Norway every summer refreshes my “Norwegian-ness”, especially important now that I’m no longer officially Norwegian. It reconnects me with my family. I greatly appreciate it when my cousins, aunts, and uncle set aside time for us. I speak and read Norwegian every day. I eat Norwegian meals.
Our annual visit also strengthens my kids’ identification with their Norwegian heritage. They get to know their extended, multigenerational family. The language is becoming more familiar to them, and they’re expanding their food palates. They’re slowly but surely learning about Norway’s history and contributions to the world. I cherish how our yearly visit to Norway not only deepens their connection to their heritage, but also broadens their understanding of the world and creates a whole reservoir of experiences and knowledge with which to make connections later in life.
- If you missed reading about how our travels to Norway have become much easier over the years, see My Traveling “Sweet Spot”.
- If you’d like to read about why and how I became an American citizen, take a look at My Path to U.S. Citizenship.
- For more information about the sites we visited (and others) in Oslo, visit my page Favorite Oslo Activities and Attractions.
- And finally, for more information about Kragerø, visit the official travel guide here.