My paternal grandparents took great pride in showing their grandkids the greatness of Norway. We went on a variety of trips with them, most of them outdoorsy, both near and far. The last trip my sister and I took with them was a boat ride along the Telemark Canal in southern Norway in 1997. Bonding while experiencing the Telemark Canal with its historic canal boats, numerous locks, and beautiful scenery was not the sole purpose of the trip, however. Dalen, a little town at the end of the canal route, had familial historical significance which our grandfather wanted to share with us.
We are reminded of this piece of family history every time we’re in Oslo because the name of my parents’ home, Mosto, comes from that time in our family history. The home even has its own nameplate on the gate post.
My grandfather was born February 25, 1915, when World War I was raging outside of Norway (1914-1918). His father was an engineer with a specialty in mining, and later that year, he along with his father and others, founded A/S Dalen Gruber (Dalen Mines), a molybdenum mine, of which my great grandfather became the director. Molybdenum was an important metal for the war industry. Once separated from other materials, it was mixed with steel to make armor steel. After the ore was mined, it was crushed, washed, and sent onwards via boat through the canal (which had been completed in 1892). It was mostly exported to England. The mine was in operation from 1916 to 1919, when suddenly there was no more ore to be mined. (View source and pictures of the mine).
In 1997, my sister and I (and my sister’s husband-to-be; my fiancé had to return to LA for work) boarded M/S Victoria in Skien with my grandparents and spent a leisurely day motoring through the Telemark Canal with its eight lock systems connecting lakes and rivers.
We wrapped up our exploration of Telemarkskanalen with a stay at historic Dalen Hotel. Dalen Hotel opened in 1894 and was highly regarded in Europe with visits by royalties and other prominent guests. It’s known as the “fairytale” or “dragon hotel,” its architecture inspired by the Viking era and stave churches. It’s really a sight to be seen!
The house in which my grandfather’s family lived in Dalen for three years is the only building left of all mining operations. It is easily seen from the parking lot of Dalen Hotel, the red house up on the hillside.
With my grandfather, we even made our way up to the house for a closer look. When his family left Dalen in 1918, they moved to Oslo and into a newly constructed home. They named the house “Mosto” which is derived from MoS2 (sorry, can’t do the subscript 2), the chemical formula for molybdenite, the principal ore for molybdenum. This is the home my parents now live in.
This summer it was my parents’ turn to show their grandkids some of the greatness of Norway, and my husband and I came along, too. Telemarkskanalen and Dalen were of course on the itinerary (but by car, not boat) and my parents had added some other notable historical and geographical sights as well which I was very eager to see.
Click map for a closer view.
The road trip started from my parents’ summer home in Kragerø along the coast. To get a feel for what Telemarkskanalen is, we stopped at Vrangfoss Locks, the largest and most impressive of the eight lock systems along the canal. Coincidentally, we timed our stop perfectly and had the chance to watch as two leisure boats plus a canoe went through the lock system. It’s interesting to note that all the work – opening and closing of each of the 5 five chambers of the lock system – is still done manually by a team of about 4 people. It takes about 45 minutes to pass through the whole lock system at Vrangfoss.
After our stop at Vrangfoss, our road trip took us away from Telemarkskanalen to Heddal Stave Church, an 800-year-old wooden church and Norway’s largest stave church. Stave churches are a unique feature of Norway’s cultural history. Researches believe there were just under 2,000 stave churches in Norway at one point. Only 28 remain. I’m glad to have added another to my boys’ repertoire. They have now visited three stave churches – Heddal, Lom (last summer’s road trip), and the reconstructed Gol Stave Church in Oslo at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.
After exploring Heddal Stave Church and its intricate carvings, we headed up into the mountains for a two-night stay near the mountain top Gaustatoppen and sight-seeing in the area (which will be its own blog post).
Two days later, on our return to Kragerø, we revisited Telemarkskanalen, specifically Dalen. My father pointed out his father’s early childhood home up on the hillside and we discussed the connection to their home in Oslo. At Dalen Hotel we enjoyed a late lunch with a view of the lake before getting back on the road.
This wrapped up the experiential family history lesson. I’m grateful to my parents for making this trip possible, and I’m happy my kids now have an understanding of and connection to the name of the Oslo home they visit every summer.
P.S. Would you like to experience the Telemark Canal yourself? You could of course travel to Norway and do so in person, but Netflix also offers you the opportunity to experience the daylong adventure from the comfort of your own coach and at your own pacing at Slow TV: The Telemark Canal (fast forward to 3:36:00 to watch as M/S Victoria nears Vrangfoss Locks).
This year the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. A full house of Nordic film enthusiasts was at the Opening Gala on Saturday evening of the first weekend to celebrate this milestone. Along with a buffet of favorite Scandinavian foods, the festivities included a champagne toast and delicious Princess Cake from Copenhagen Pastry at the end of the evening.
Compared to other film festivals, this is a small one. But it’s very welcoming and friendly. Many festival goers come for multiple screenings. They hang out in the lobby between films. They chat and enjoy food from the Nordic Café, the best part of which is the pastries from none other than Copenhagen Pastry.
Last year I volunteered for the first time and I did so again this year because it was such a fun and rewarding experience. The festival is basically a family-run operation with Jim Koenig as head of the festival and his sister Flo Niermann in charge of ticket sales and volunteers. And they are so grateful for their volunteers.
My absolute favorite of the weekend was Iceland’s Woman at War directed by Benedikt Erlingsson. I highly recommend it. Go watch it when it opens in theaters March 1. It’s about a single woman in her fifties who’s an ardent environmentalist intent on sabotaging Iceland’s aluminum industry. She’s independent, bold, and strong — my favorite type of female protagonist. Then suddenly, she receives the unexpected news that she’s been approved to adopt a girl from the Ukraine and she has to rethink her actions. Viewers get glimpses of Iceland’s beautiful landscape. There’s an interesting musical aspect that adds a surreal and humorous touch. The actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is wonderful. (This movie was the winner of Nordic Council Film Prize in 2018.)
I also very much enjoyed Denmark’s thriller/drama The Guilty directed by Gustav Möller. It’s about a police officer who’s been demoted to work as an emergency dispatcher. He expects nothing more than a boring evening answering calls from drunks and druggies. However, he gets a phone call from a woman who’s been kidnapped and so begins a desperate search from his desk for the woman. It is extremely suspenseful with interesting twists. At the same time, viewers wonder and learn more about the officer’s demotion. The lead actor, Jakob Cedergren, is perfect for the role which is good because the whole movie is focused on him.
Sweden’s Border directed by Alli Abbas was not at all what I was expecting. I did not do my research properly and went in blindly. I was expecting something realistic about border issues, which was not at all the case. I later saw the movie described as a “dark romantic fantasy fable.” Had I known this, I may have enjoyed it more since my expectations would have been different.
It’s about Tina, a customs officer who uses her extraordinary sense of smell to identify people who are smuggling. She also has an extreme connection to the natural world. One day when traveler Vore walks past, Tina senses something suspicious about him but nothing is found. However, an attraction develops between them, and when Tina begins to develop a relationship with Vore, she discovers his true identity and also learns the truth about herself.
I wrapped up the first weekend with Norway’s The 12th Man directed by Harald Zwart. I brought my family along to this film since I had previously seen it at a special screening at The Museum of Tolerance and thought it was an amazing World War II story of survival, will to live, and kindness to others despite tremendous risk. The movie is based on the true story of Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud who was the only one of 12 Norwegian resistance fighters on a mission from Shetland to sabotage Nazi activity in Northern Norway to escape when they were discovered by Nazis. It chronicles his journey towards neutral Sweden which would not have been possible without the kindness and help of locals who risked their own lives.
It turns out my family was not as enthralled with the movie as I was. They thought there was too much brutality (Germans against captured Norwegians), too much gruesomeness (German torture of captured Norwegians and Jan’s physical condition throughout his journey), and too much repetition of plot elements. I thought it was important for my kids to see the local Norwegian resistance in action as both my grandfathers had been a part of it before one escaped to Sweden and the other was sent to a camp in Germany. Also, the Norwegian landscape was beautiful and I loved the unexpected glimpse into Sami culture.
This coming weekend I will see Utøya – July 22 directed by Erik Poppe, a film about a teenage girl who struggles to survive and to find her younger sister during the July 2011 terrorist mass murder at a political summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya. I expect it to be a difficult film to watch considering the subject matter. I have read Åsne Seierstad’s non-fiction book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath so at least I won’t be totally surprised by the scale of terror and horror.
I have not yet decided on which other films to see during the upcoming weekend. It will depend on when I’m there as a volunteer. Estonia’s Take It or Leave It, Sweden’s The Cake General, Denmark’s Becoming Astrid, and Finland’s One Last Deal all look interesting (see schedule). I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about the festival if you’ve been or plan to go.
Is one of your new year’s resolutions to broaden your horizons by seeing and reading more foreign movies and books? You can start making progress on that goal the first weekend of the new year by attending the annual Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA) in Beverly Hills. It takes place the weekends of January 5 & 6 and 19 & 20. Join SFFLA as they celebrate their 20th anniversary this year!
Despite its name, the scope of the festival actually extends beyond Scandinavia. Besides films from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, you can view films from the Nordic countries Iceland and Finland as well as Baltic neighbors Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.
Estonia – Take It or Leave It by Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo
Lithuania – Wonderful Losers: A Different World by Arūnas Matelis
At the SFFLA Opening Gala on Saturday, January 5, at 5:30 p.m., you can enjoy drinks and a buffet meal with other Scandi film enthusiasts. Gala tickets (a great deal at only $40 each!) also include Opening Ceremonies at 7:15 p.m. and the screening of Denmark’s feature film The Guilty at 7:30 p.m. as well as a Q&A with director Gustav Möller. Buy your gala tickets now!
Below you’ll find a list of films by country. Descriptions are taken from the festival’s website. You can also view and download a chronological schedule. SFFLA Festival Passports which allow admission to all screenings and Opening Gala are available for $140, or you can buy tickets for individual films for $12 each online or at the door. Please confirm schedule with SFFLA as it may change after this post is published. Hope to see you there!
Sixteen-year-old Nisha lives a double life. When out with her friends, she’s a normal Norwegian teenager. At home with her family, she is the perfect Pakistani daughter. But when her father catches her alone with her boyfriend in her room, Nisha’s two worlds brutally collide.
It can seem like we are living on the edge of the world. But one morning 200,000 soldiers march into our arctic landscape. Four years later they stumble out leaving everything in ruins. As if nothing has happened. What in human nature triggers violent acts of war, thousands of miles into the wild? Can it happen again? As the ice melts?
True World War II story about Jan Baalsrud, one of the 12 saboteurs sent in 1943 from England to the Nazi occupied Northern Norway. After their boat is sunk by the Germans, the Nazis killed 11 of them. The 12th man, Jan, goes on the run towards the neutral Sweden. However, the brutal weather conditions turn out to be an even greater foe than the Nazi patrols.
The Green Valley is a short film that explores the connection between politics, art and daily life in a multicultural neighborhood in Oslo. The film is inspired by three real events that took place in the director’s neighborhood.
Customs officer Tina is known for her extraordinary sense of smell – she can sniff out fear on anyone. But when Vore walks past her, her abilities are challenged for the first time. Tina can sense Vore is hiding something she can’t identify. Worse, she feels a strange attraction to him. This fateful encounter calls into question her entire existence.
Chronicling the beautiful and tragic life and career of legendary Swedish singer-songwriter Ted Gärdestad, this biopic tells the story of the great highs and lows of one of Sweden’s most loved artists.
When police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) is demoted to desk work, he expects a sleepy beat as an emergency dispatcher. That all changes when he answers a panicked phone call from a kidnapped woman who then disconnects abruptly. Asger, confined to the police station, is forced to use others as his eyes and ears as the severity of the crime slowly becomes more clear. The search to find the missing woman and her assailant will take every bit of his intuition and skill, as a ticking clock and his own personal demons conspire against him.
Halla, a woman in her fifties, declares war on the local aluminum industry to prevent it from disfiguring her country. She risks all she has to protect the highlands of Iceland but the situation could change with the unexpected arrival of a small orphan in her life.
Sharp-suited Erik represents the aspirational face of modern Iceland. Atli, a petty criminal just released from prison, is stuck in a downward spiral. The distance between these two very different brothers vanishes when the duo teams up to smuggle cocaine into Iceland, inside plastic pellets swallowed by a young Polish mule, Sofia. But things go wrong when rule-breaking cop Lena starts closing in on them and Sofia falls sick. With the drugs yet to reach their destination and a rival gang demanding a slice of the action, time is a luxury that the brothers can’t afford. Charismatic anti-hero Erik’s ability to stay one step ahead is tested to the limit – how many lives is he willing to sacrifice to sustain his own?
This violent summer noir tells the story of Veijo, a 50-year-old mechanic, whose second job is to put sick pets to sleep. He’s also an animal whisperer and prefers to personally deliver justice to careless owners who neglect their pets. His unconventional but meticulously organized life is disrupted when he comes across Petri, a garage mechanic and member of a neo-Nazi gang, and Lotta, a young nurse who understands his psychosis. The themes revolve around animal rights, suffering and death. But the real story is not about good or evil – it’s about intolerance and the stupidity of absolute men.
Based on novel of the same name by Váinö Linna, the film follows a fictional Finnish Army machine gun company on the Karelian front during the War from 1941 when the troops prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union until armistice in 1944. The author himself had served in such a company.
An elderly art dealer Olavi (72) is about to retire. A man who has always put business and art before everything – even his family – cannot imagine life without work. At an auction, an old painting catches his attention. Olavi suspects it is worth much more than its starting price, which is low because its authenticity hasn’t been confirmed. Olavi’s instincts kick in. He decides to make one last deal in order to earn some proper pension money. At the same time, Olavi’s daughter Lea (42) – whom he hasn’t seen for years – asks him to help her with his teenage grandson Otto (15). Together with Otto, Olavi starts to investigate the background of the painting. They find out that the painting is called Christ and was painted by Ilya Repin. Olavi manages to buy the painting, but when the auction house realizes that there has been a mistake with the original pricing, they turn against him. To fulfill his dream, the old dealer must face both the auction house and his own past mistakes.
Ivars Seleckis takes a look at five children and their families from throughout Latvia. Shot over a period of two years, the film explores how choices made by adults are reflected in a child’s thinking.
One sleepy Saturday morning a 30-year-old construction worker Erik gets some earth shattering news: his ex-girlfriend Moonika who he hasn’t even seen for the past six months is about to go into labor. She however is not ready for motherhood and if Erik doesn’t want the kid either, the little girl will be put up for adoption. Take it or leave it!
They’re called water carriers, domestics, ‘gregarios’, ‘Sancho Panzas’ of professional cycling. Always at the back of the group, with no right for a personal victory. These wonderful losers are the true warriors of professional cycling.
What festival films look interesting to you?
I have actually already seen two of the movies to be presented, both of which I highly recommend. I saw What Will People Say, an #ownvoices immigrant story from Norway, at AFI Fest in November 2017. It was a moving and thought-provoking film. The 12th Man is an amazing World World II story of survival and will to live and kindness to others despite tremendous risk that I saw just recently at a special engagement at Museum of Tolerance. I plan to bring my family to see it at SFFLA this year.
There are many films I’m personally interested in seeing. I am currently reading Åsne Seierstad’s One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath and plan to see Greenglass’ 22 July on Netflix at some point. Poppe’s Utøya – July 22 seems to be a totally different take on the same event so I’m very eager to see that, though I think it will be an extremely tough film to watch. Other films at the top of my to-watch list are Sweden’s Border, Denmark’s The Guilty, and Iceland’s Woman at War. Can’t wait for the screenings to start. Will I see you there?
It’s that time of year again when we all welcome gift ideas for friends and family in our lives. Do you have some Scandinavian enthusiasts on your gift list? Here are some gift ideas that might be of interest. If books are on your gift list, read on to find out how to save on physical books at Amazon.
Recently Released Scandinavian Cookbooks
This year has seen the release of some notable Scandinavian cookbooks. Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).
Magnus Nilsson is a Swedish chef who is head chef at the famed restaurant Fäviken in Sweden. His 2015 documentary cookbook, The Nordic Cookbook, was very well received, and his newest cookbook, The Nordic Baking Book, is not to be missed. It contains 450 recipes for home bakers chosen from across the Nordic region — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Watch Magnus Nilsson introduce The Nordic Baking Book.
Rene Redzepi is a Danish chef and co-owner of the world renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. David Zilber is the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab. At Noma, named the world’s best restaurant four times, every dish includes some form of fermentation. Fermentation is one of the foundations behind Noma’s extraordinary flavor profiles. This cookbook has also been named one of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018.
Anyone who has ever been in Scandinavia in December will know that Scandinavians really love Christmas. From huddling up in candlelit snowed-in cottages to consuming gløgg at every opportunity, Christmas is peak-hygge season all over Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Bronte Aurell of The ScandiKitchen Café in London shows how to celebrate Christmas Scandi-style by sharing her delicious recipes and family traditions.
Books & Reading
Books are always a wonderful gift. Are you looking for gifts for young kids, tweens, and teens? For books relating to Norwegian culture and history, take a look at my Book List: Norwegian History and Culture. Or see Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia for seasonal books the whole family will enjoy. But otherwise here are some suggestions for the adult readers in your life.
Limited time offer: Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).
Fjällräven Kanken Backpack (Fjällräven is a Swedish company established in 1960 that specializes in outdoor equipment and clothing. There are many varieties and colors of backpacks to choose from: Classic or Laptop or Mini plus more.)
Kari Traa Kristina Hoodie (Kari Traa is a Norwegian company established in 2002 that specializes in sportswear for girls by girls. Read their story here.)
Yggdrasil Amulet from Grimfrost (Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree with branches that extend far into the heavens. It is central and very holy in Viking mythology.)
Vikings: Season 1 (Now about to begin its 5th season, this HISTORY original series transports viewers to the brutal and mysterious world of Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking warrior and farmer who yearns to explore–and raid–the distant shores across the ocean.)
Kubb Yard Game(This is an outdoor team game involving strategy and skill, perfect for all ages.)
Aurora is a up and coming singer-songwriter from Bergen, Norway. Her music is unique pop — emotional and dreamy. In the new year, she will perform in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.
Subscription to The Norwegian American newspaper (The only Norwegian-American newspaper in existence, it’s been the “the voice of Norway in America” for 125 years.)
I hope you’ve found some gift ideas here. I’d love to hear if any of these make it to your friends and family. I wish you a wonderful holiday season!
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Thanksgiving may still be a couple of weeks away, but the season for Scandinavian Christmas fairs has arrived in Los Angeles. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all offer events with a cozy Christmas atmosphere and unique vendors, foods and drinks, and entertainment. The fairs may require a bit of driving, but they’ll be worth it. Presented in order of occurrence, here are the upcoming Scandinavian Christmas fairs in the greater Los Angeles area. Did I miss one? Please let me know in the comments.
Norwegian Christmas Fair – Julebasar
First on the calendar is the three-day Norwegian Christmas fair Julebasar hosted by the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Pedro on the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’ve been at this event several times both as a guest and as a volunteer and it never disappoints. Warm gløgg (traditionally, mulled red wine with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, raisins, and slivered almonds, but for this occasion, non-alcoholic) and ginger snaps welcome you as you arrive. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. There are daily raffle drawings with wonderful prizes and even live entertainment if you‘re there at the right time. On Saturday there’s a children’s workshop to occupy the young ones while you can enjoy festivities on your own. And of course, the kitchen offers a wonderful assortment of traditional Norwegian foods. My favorite is rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge served with butter, sugar, and cinnamon), but there is so much more to choose from such as open-faced sandwiches, meat stew, pea soup, and Norwegian sausages (at least in previous years). And don’t forget to check out what’s for sale in The Bakery and in the church’s store! The Julebasar is free to attend and all are invited. You do not need to be Norwegian nor a member of the church.
On theSunday before Thanksgiving, SWEA Orange County (Swedish Women’s Educational Association) hosts its annual Swedish Christmas Fair in Huntington Beach. Come for Swedish handicrafts, traditional Swedish foods and home-baked goods, a gløgg bar, dancing around the Christmas tree, and Lucia pageants (at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.). There will also be a fish pond and jultomte and much more! Entry fees are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 15.
2018 Date & Hours: Sunday, November 18, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Scandinavian enthusiasts can visit the Danish Church’s Scandinavian Christmas fair Julemarked in Yorba Linda. This annual event features Scandinavian vendors selling items imported from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland or that feature Scandinavian themes as well as traditional Danish foods and drinks such as smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with powdered sugar and raspberry jam, strong Danish coffee, and gløgg. Danish pastries and selected meat products are also available for purchase. I have not attended this event, but maybe this will be my first year.
2018 Date & Hours: Saturday, November 24, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Last on the calendar is the Swedish Christmas Fair organized by SWEA Los Angeles (Swedish Women’s Educational Association), which is another favorite yearly Scandinavian event of mine. It takes place the first Sunday in December in Torrance. The event is in its 38th year and welcomes about 3,000 visitors during the one-day event. Highlights of the fair include a multitude of vendors selling Scandinavian gifts, books, music, handmade crafts, traditional holiday foods, and baked goods as well as traditional entertainment with folk dancing and Lucia pageants. When you go, make sure to be there for one of the two Lucia pageants. They perform at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is also a children’s corner where kids can create crafts to take home and visit with Santa. To top it all off, there is also a gløgg bar and Café SWEA serving traditional foods and baked goods.
2018 Date & Hours: Sunday, December 2, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Lars Mytting’s Svøm med dem som drukner was my Norwegian read this year in anticipation of my yearly trip to Norway. I had not heard of the book, nor the author, until I received it from my parents for my birthday. It came highly recommended from friends of theirs, and it had received the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize for 2014. I started reading it without any ideas of what it was about.
Not only did the book meet all my criteria for my Norwegian book selection (it was by a Norwegian author, it was in Norwegian bokmål, and it generally took place in Norway), but it had the added bonus of bringing alive a bit of Norwegian history with which I was not very familiar. My hope is always that my book selection will transport me back to life in Norway while also refreshing my Norwegian language skills. This book went above and beyond what I was looking and hoping for.
I loved the book! And – updated 8/15/17 – I am extremely happy that I can recommend it to English readers now. The novel is now available in English with the title The Sixteen Trees of the Somme, translated by Paul Russell Garrett. Continue reading →
In my desire to read a Norwegian book once in a while to maintain my language skills, I recently read the first book in the six-book autobiographical series, Min kamp (My Struggle) by Karl Ove Knausgård. Interestingly, it wasn’t my choice, but the pick for my book club here in Los Angeles. I don’t even know if the woman who suggested it knew that I was Norwegian. Knausgård and his work had been in the book news a lot recently in conjunction with his US tour for the release of the English translation of his third book. Knausgård’s first book was suggested in hopes that it would be a little more serious and discussion-worthy than some of our more recent reads.
The timing worked out perfectly because I was right in the middle of trying to decide what Norwegian book to read next in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Norway. Last year I read the first of the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbø. This year I was looking for something new. A cousin in Norway had suggested Knausgård’s Min kamp last year when I put out a request for suggestions for my next Norwegian read so it was on my list, but I didn’t know if I was ready to read it yet. I had the impression it would be a long, heavy read about someon’s life I wasn’t necessarily very interested in.
We pretty much overdosed on Norwegian culture this past weekend when we celebrated Norway’s Constitution Day. Maybe that’s par for the course since it was the 200th anniversary of the constitution. (A fact we learned, it’s the oldest constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world after USA’s!) Every year there are two main events in the Los Angeles area to celebrate the Norwegian holiday. The first one is always on the actual day of May 17th at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro, and the other one is on the closest Sunday at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates. We’ve never attended both in one year, but this year we did, and they were one right after the other!
The celebration at the Norwegian Church has traditionally been hard for us to attend since it means driving to San Pedro, about 30 miles away, on a weekday after school for a 5 o’clock event. After-school activities, sports, homework, and traffic have made that close to impossible. But this year, the seventeenth of May fell on a Saturday so many of the factors prohibiting us from going in the past were a non-issue this year. I seized the opportunity. As did over 500 other people! It was the biggest gathering ever. Continue reading →
These two weeks of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi have been an exciting time to be Norwegian. At the start of the Olympics, we read several places that Norway and the USA would be neck in neck in the medal count competition, and some sources, such as the Wall Street Journal, even predicted that Norway would beat the USA, if only by a slim margin. It’s pretty fun that a little country like Norway with only 5 million people could maybe beat the USA with its population of 313.9 million, or at least give it a good run for its money!
Source: Pascal Le Segretain
I’m always proud to be Norwegian, but the feeling certainly intensified when the Opening Ceremonies began. It was with great anticipation that I waited for Norway to enter the arena. Even the kids, who by then had lost some interest in the Parade of Nations, eagerly focused on the TV again to see Norway enter. We were tracking the number of athletes each nation had, and Norway’s 118 athletes certainly surprised the kids, who had predicted about 20 since they knew Norway is so small compared to other countries.
I love watching all the countries enter, some nation groups are very large and others extremely small, at times just one athlete, but each and every one of them is equally excited to be there. I’m fascinated by the stories behind each country’s participation in the Olympics.
As the Winter Games progressed, we enthusiastically followed both Norwegian and American athletes in their events. There wasn’t too much competition directly between the two countries, so we could generally cheer for each country in their respective events without feeling unpatriotic towards the other.
We did have a couple of conflicts, though. In Men’s Slopestyle and Men’s Super-G, both Norway and USA were in the running for medals, and happily for us, they both ended up on the podium. USA took gold in Slopestyle while Norway’s Ståle Sandbech took silver. In Super-G, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won gold while USA took silver and bronze. They were exciting days for our Norwegian-American household.
The kids are now familiar with events not normally in the forefront of American minds—biathlon, cross-country skiing, and Nordic combined—but very popular with Norwegians. And they know about a new Norwegian hero, Ole Einar Bjørndalen. They may not be able to spell or pronounce his name, but they do know that the athlete with the most medals in the history of the Winter Games is a Norwegian biathlete.
Source: Lee Jin-man/Associated Press
An unexpected amusement from these Olympic Games has been Norway’s bold fashion statements. The men’s curling team’s pants made headlines before the Games even opened. The team wore nine different pairs of pants during competitions, and there was even a Facebook page for fans. I was not able to see all the pants in action, but I scoured the Internet to find pictures for you. Click on the photo to see the patterns even better.
And Norway’s hockey team had very cool goalie masks… They pictured the Northern Lights, a Viking warrior, and a tribute to the Norwegian movie Trollhunter.
An added benefit of Norway making headlines and doing so well in the Winter Olympics is that people are becoming more aware of Norway and maybe even learning a bit about our culture. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about how Norway’s culture and lifestyle could be the reason for Norway’s success at Winter Olympics. Norwegians thrive in the great outdoors. “Norway remains a largely agrarian society that places a large premium on being outside. A Norwegian concept called friluftsliv—enjoying outdoor life—has been studied in books and represents whole areas of study at universities.” The author remarks how Norway’s cities are relatively close to the wilderness, and children are encouraged to play outdoors even on the coldest days. There’s a saying in Norway, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
The author also noted many other specific reasons that may contribute to Norway’s success: skiing is fundamental the country’s culture, athletes benefit from the large annual budget of Norway’s main organization for elite Olympic sports, high paying jobs allow people to enjoy much leisure time and spending money, and Norway competes in a sport—cross-country skiing—that has limited interest elsewhere and isn’t very competitive. The article is definitely worth a read if you’re interested and have the time.
These couple of weeks we’ve proudly worn anything with the Norwegian flag. I found a t-shirt at Sports Chalet with lots of flags on it and the Norwegian one stood out so of course I bought it, and I’ve worn it several times. Sonny has even worn his Norwegian sports jersey to soccer practices.
No matter what the final medal count is, I will be satisfied and proud. I feel the Olympic Games bring a great sense of community to the world. Everyone has something in common and can relate to it in one way or another. I feel kind of sad when it’s all over. I will watch the Closing Ceremonies with a mixed heart. The party is over and it’s back to the daily grind.
Now we wait anxiously to see if Oslo will bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff makes a great plea here in an open letter to the citizens of Norway. I personally would be thrilled if Oslo were to host the 2022 Winter Games. I know there’s great debate and opposition in Norway, so we’ll see what happens.