Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from all of us at Sons of Norway!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

UPDATE: New developments in the upcoming changes to Norwegian passport applications

Last month I posted about the upcoming changes to Norwegian passport applications in the U.S. Initially December 1st had been set as the date that it would no longer be possible to apply for a new passport through Honorary Consulates, including the one in Minneapolis.

Then, last night, I was informed that the date has changed. At least with regard to the Minneapolis Honorary Consulate. For those in the Midwest, the Honorary Consulate will still accept passport renewal applications until sometime in April 2010. I haven't been given an exact date, but this does buy Norwegian nationals at least another four months to start the process (though I strongly suggest that if
you have a passport that expires in the next couple of years start the process ASAP). Once I have a firm date in April I'll pass it along.

Also, has anyone heard if the other Honorary Consulates have been allowed the same extension? Leave a comment if you know.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

24 days til Christmas!

Greetings everyone! I hope you all survived the Thanksgiving holiday and family celebrations unscathed! With November out of the way, I'm willing to bet that lots of you have started putting up your Christmas decorations (shame on those of you who started before Thanksgiving!) at home. Well in celebration of the season, I want to point you to the My Little Norway blog. They have a great post about Christmas in Norway, which I think everyone ought to read!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

On behalf of everyone at Sons of Norway, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eats and Treats!

Thanksgiving is almost here! In a little over 24 hours I'll be knee deep in turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, lefse and pumpkin pie. Unlike past years I am hosting the dinner this year and that means I'm responsible for sending everyone home stuffed and satisfied. Kind of nerve wracking but I think I've got a good game plan in place. I've got it figured out as to when I need to start the turkey, then when I have to get the pie and stuffing cooking.

There's so much to plan out that it makes my head spin and I've gained a whole new respect for the folks who, year after year, host large family Thanksgiving celebrations. Seriously, it took me until this week just to decide on what I would serve , then it took me 3 days to figure out which recipes I would use!

So, in the spirit of the season, and in hope of helping others out there make it through Thanksgiving unscathed, I have put together a full Thanksgiving menu to use if you are running out of time or nerve. Enjoy!

Let's start with a traditional Lefse recipe.
2 quarts potatoes
1 tbsp lard
3 tbsp sweet milk

Run potatoes through a meat grinder, set aside to cool. Heat lard and milk. Pour over the cold potatoes. Knead well in flour, enough to roll out very thin. Bake on lefse iron.

Next, we need something warm to sup on (yes, I really did use the word "sup." And in the proper, not-greeting sort of way, too) since it's supposed to get pretty chilly around here on Thanksgiving. The following recipe for a warm Rhubarb Soup should do the trick.
12 ounces of Rhubarb
3 pints of water
6 ounces of sugar
3 tsp potato flour

Clean and cut fine the rhubarb. Bring to a boil in the water, then dissolve the potato flour in two tsp of water and stir into boiling soup. Bring the mixture to a boil again and add the sugar. This recipe will serve 6, so you can adjust up or down as needed.

Now that we have the soup course out of the way it's time to bring out the main course! If your family is anything like mine, that means that cooking a meal that appeals to everyone can be tricky. I've learned over the years from watching my mother and aunt cook for the fam that it's just a better idea to have a couple of entrees. That way everyone has a great Thanksgiving feast. So, in the interest of keeping the peace, I've got two different entrees that should work great for a traditional Norwegian Thanksgiving dinner.

The first entree is Faar I Kaal
4.5 to 5.5 lbs of lamb or mutton
1 large head of cabbage

2 oz butter
2 oz flour
1 tablespoon whole pepper corns

Wash the meat in lukewarm water. Cut into suitable pieces and place in just enough boiling, salted water to cover the meat. Skim when it rises to a boil and let simmer for for half an hour; then remove meat from water.

For the saus, melt butter and stir in flour. Add the strained broth. Place the meat in this mixture in alternate layers with the washed, parboiled and cut up cabbage together with the pepper tied in a cheese cloth pouch. Boil under cover until all is tender; usually 3 hours.

The next entree is the one I KNOW you ALL have been waiting for: LUTEFISK! Yes, the smelly, jelly-like fish dish that has numerous songs devoted to it! Unfortunately the recipe I have for it takes up to 2 weeks to prepare, but if you need a faster way to get this delicacy, then check out the Sons of Norway recipe box here for a great recipe.

9 lbs dried cod
2 lbs slaked lime
1 and 1/3 lbs washing soda (if you can't tell yet, this is a very old and traditional recipe)

Saw the fish into convenient pieces and place in a wooden receptacle and cover with cold water. Let it lie for a week changing water every day. Make a solution of the slaked lime, soda and fifteen quarts of water. Place the fish in this solution under weights to keep the pieces in position as they swell. Add more water if necessary to keep the pieces covered. In about a week, or when properly softened through, take out and rinse thoroughly and place in cold water for eight days, changing the water twice daily during the first few days.

Cut in pieces the size you wish to serve, skin and wash. Tie in a cloth and place in boiling water to cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Serve with melted butter.

Now that's over, it's time for desert! Today I bring you a traditional Riskrem.

1 qt cream
2 cups cold boiled rice
2 tbsp gelatin
1 cup cold water
2 egg whites
1/2 cup blanched almonds
Sugar to taste

Soak gelatin in water, then put over heat to melt. At the same time, whip the cream until thick. When the gelatin is cold, add to the whipped cream. Add sugar, almonds and whites of eggs and beat until stiff. Serve very cold, and, if you like, add some grated pineapple for color and texture.

So there we have it--a four course Thanksgiving meal that will pull at the heartstrings of any Norwegian American family.

If you have your own recipes or Norwegian American family traditions for Thanksgiving, why not share them in the comments section below.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's Lefse Time!

Just a week left until Thanksgiving, which is called Lefse day at my house! Now I've never made my own lefse before, but I am considering it this year--if I have enough time. If I do, then I'll probably use the video below to help with the recipe. I thought all you readers might enjoy it as well.

Have fun!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NEWS ALERT: Big Change to Norwegian Passport Applications

According to an official alert, December 1st will mark a big change in how Norwegian passport applications are being handled. Beginning on that date, it will no longer be possible to apply for a new passport through Honorary Consulates, including the one in Minneapolis.

That being the case, anyone who has a passport that expires in the next couple of years is being encouraged to
contact their nearest Consulate for passport renewal before December 1. Thereby avoiding the inconvenience of a trip to one of the few remaining consulates in Washington, Houston, New York or San Fransisco.

A full explanation of the change can be found here at the website.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Norwegian Time Machine: 1924 Telemark Rye Bread

Since the last recipe was a hearty Lapskaus recipe, I thought it might be nice to include a traditional accompaniment: Telemark Rye Bread. Once again, this is the 1924 version of the recipe. For a modern version, check out the link at the bottom of the post.

And if you do give this one a try, please let me know how it turns out. Leave a comment or e-mail me--I'd love to hear if this recipe has held up for the past 85 years.

8-quart kettleful of potatoes
Graham Rye Flour (sifted)
White flour (sifted)
1 cake compressed yeast or its equivalent in any other good yeast

In the evening boil potatoes very well. Salt more than ordinary. Drain. Put through a potato ricer and mash thoroughly. While hot, work in with a potato masher as much graham-rye and white flour (half of each) as you can. Set aside to cool. When lukewarm, knead using the same proportion of graham-rye and white flour—half of each—as before. Make dough very stiff. When nearly through add the cakeof yeast dissolved in a little water. Let stand over night but not in too warm a place as the large proportion of potatoes causes it to sour very easily. In the morning form into small round loaves. Brushthe tops with a mixture of egg yolk and a little cream. Dent the top of each loaf with the point of the little finger and put immediately in the oven and bake slowly for one and one-half to two hours. Caraway seeds and a little grated primost may be added to the potatoes when mashing if desired.

IMPORTANT—be sure to mash the potatoes well. Don’t let the mixture be too warm when adding the yeast. Do not keep in too warm a place over night. Make dough very stiff as it always softens. Much depends upon carefully following instructions otherwise the bread will not be a success. The dough is sticky and may be hard to handle, requiring patience, but this will be more than rewarded by the finished product.

Now, for a more modern version of this recipe, I found this one, which should be fairly similar, with the exception of the molasses. Anyone up for trying both recipes and reporting back on how they turned out?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Norwegian Time Machine: 1924 Recipe for Lapskaus

It's the time of year when we are all thinking about food. With Thanksgiving right around the corner it's hard not to, right? As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, I turn more and more to comfort foods when planning meals at home. I love good hot meals, heavy stews and thick, fragrant sauces. So, today I give you a recipe from 1924 for one of my favorite Norwegian foods, Lapskaus. I first came across this delicacy 8 or 9 years ago when I was visiting the Vegas Viking 6-152 lodge. They made an absolutely wonderful lapskaus with potatoes, and large chunks of meat in a sauce that was beyond belief. I'll never forget that when I asked for the recipe I was told they didn't really use one beyond the various type of ingredients. Too bad for me, right?

Well, in any case, when made correctly it can be the finest, yet most simple meal to enjoy on a cold November night. So, with that, I give you the 1924 recipe and a link to a more current recipe as the one below may be hard to replicate (can you even get "salt meat" anymore?).

1 soup plate of boiled salt meat
1 soup plate of fresh raw meat
1/2 lb pork
1 qt potatoes
1 small onion
1/2 tsp pepper

Cut the fresh meat, pork and potatoes into small cubes. Place over the fire in water. Add finely chopped onion, pepper and salt to taste. Boil under cover for about one and one-half hours. Add the salt meat after the fresh meat has boiled for half an hour. Serve.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Norwegian Time Machine Recipes: Lefse No 1

To the mothers of Norwegian descent in America:

Who with courage and fortitude almost incomprehensible came to this country in advance of civilization

Who have been the centers about which our happy homes have been reared

Who never stinted in toil of the hands of effort of the mind that those about them might be happy

Who by their love, loyalty, interest, enthusiasm, cheerfulness, radiant optimism, and hopefulness

And not least by their observance of customs and occasions and the serving of good things to eat

Did their part in building and maintaining a morale so necessary in the work of transforming the wild forests and prairies of this great country into golden harvest fields, comfortable homes, and thriving cities

This humble volume is respectfully dedicated

The year was 1924 when these words were written and the passage comes from the introduction of a small, green-canvas-hard-cover, frayed on the edges and definitely well-loved cook book of popular Norwegian recipes called (logically) COOK BOOK of POPULAR NORWEGIAN RECIPES.

I found it a while back when I was doing some cleaning and going through the space under my stairs and after reading the above passage I got to thinking that this cook book probably had a number of recipes from our parents’/grandparents’ generations and thus maybe a wider audience. I think we all have at least one or two favorite family recipes that always seem to taste better than modern variants, right? I think of my grandma Almira’s cooking, using recipes that her folks brought over from the old country and how modern recipes never seem to match them.

So, in hopes of helping a few folks out there reconnect with their heritage and to reminisce about times gone by, I’ll be posting a number of these recipes throughout November and December. Now, before we get onto the recipes, here’s a couple items to give this book some historical perspective: Vladamir Lenin had just passed away and Marlon Brando was born; Also Calvin Coolidge was the president of the 48 United States of America and had just given the first ever presidential address from the Whitehouse over the radio.

So, with that, enjoy today’s Time Machine Recipe:

Lefse No 1

Potatoes, as many as desired

Peel potatoes and cook till well done. Mash fine and add a little salt. When cold, add a little cream and flour enough to mold. Sprinkle the molding board well with flour. Take a large spoonful of dough at a time and roll out thin. Bake on top of a moderately warm stove until a very light brown. Turn with a long pointed stick (made for the purpose) and brown lightly on the other side. Fold and place in cloths to keep soft.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nordic vs Scandinavian: The Terms That Launched a Thousand Ships

Today we've got a great post from Colin, clarifying a point that has confused many folks (myself included).

A recent post on this blog generated some comments about the cultural connections between Scandinavia and Finland. The discussion brings up an interesting issue about the distinctions between Scandinavians and their eastern neighbors.

In America, the words “Nordic” and “Scandinavian” are used more or less interchangeably, but there’s a distinction between them that’s worth making. Strictly speaking, “Scandinavian” is a term referring to people who share a common Germanic linguistic and cultural ancestry, and live in or come from the countries we now know as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. The term “Nordic” is meant to encompass a larger group of people living or coming from a geographic region, roughly defined as stretching from Finland to Iceland, or even Greenland, depending on the context.

Scandinavians are the linguistic and cultural descendents of tribes of wandering Germans who ventured north as the last glaciers receded. Even today, their languages are very similar and to a great degree, mutually intelligible. Finnish, on the other hand, is completely different, and is far closer to Hungarian than any of the Scandinavian languages.

Despite the linguistic divide, there has been a long history of cultural and political connection between Finland, Scandinavia, Greenland and, for that matter, the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Over the centuries, various groups have invaded, conquered, colonized, fled, migrated to and been pushed out of each other’s countries, the borders of which have changed significantly through history. Thus, the ethnic and cultural makeup of the Nordic region is far more complex than people commonly think. There are Swedish-speaking people in Finland, Finnish-speaking people in Sweden, ethnic Danes in Greenland, the Eskimo-Aleut Greenlanders, the Kven people in Northern Norway, various groups of Roma (gypsies) throughout the region, immigrants from all over the world, and of course the Sami, who might be related to the Finns, but maybe not – no one really knows for sure. The term “Nordic” is convenient, if not tremendously specific, because it lumps all of these people more or less together.

In America, we’re fairly inconsistent about how we use these terms. Your typical “Scandinavian” gift store will also include a good number of Finnish items. At the University of Minnesota, I studied Norwegian under the aegis of the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch, although the same department also offers Finnish; this is reflected in that my major is known as “Scandinavian Languages and Cultures and Finnish” which is misleading given that, unfortunately, the closest I ever got to studying anything remotely Finnish was to read The Finn Family Moomintroll, a children’s book series written by a Swedish-speaking Finn. On the other hand, the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast event is dutifully so titled because it includes representatives from the Finnish-American community, and various incarnations of Sons of Norway’s mission statement have taken pains to make the distinction: The mission of Sons of Norway is to promote and to preserve the heritage and culture of Norway, to celebrate our relationship with other Nordic Countries, and provide quality insurance and financial products to our members.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Never Too Early for Norwegian Language Lessons

Good morning world! It's still dark outside on this cool October Tuesday, so the creative/mental juices are still moving a little slowly. On days like this I look for inspiration in an number of locations. First I go to the blog stats and see what folks are interested in reading about (language and food) then I go out into the wilds of the web, looking for content that I think you'll enjoy.

Today's wonderstuff comes from the awesome folks over at My Little Norway, another blog about Norway. I love it because it's written from the perspective of a foreigner living in Norway, so there's lots of interesting topics, which I always find entertaining and worth the read.

Seeing as how many of this blogs readers really enjoy reading about Norwegian language, I thought many readers might be interested in some posts by L-Jay about how the Norwegian Language has affected English. Enjoy and check back late for some original content.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shared Nordic Heritage = Fryktinngytende!

I don't know about you, but I LOVE any news story that starts out "In a scene reminiscent of the Viking age, two bearded men in fur robes and leather armor instructed children in swordplay."

Let's take a minute and break it down. Not one, but two full grown men dressed in leather armor are teaching kids to play with swords. What's the Norwegian word for "awesome"? about...fryktinngytende! Yeah...I think that's right...yeah.

Anyhow, that's not the point. The point is that the link goes to a nice story about a Nordic festival that happened down in Kansas and involved folks from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark. I always like to hear about these kinds of festivals because they show how all the Nordic countries can come together in celebration of a shared heritage and common vision of the future.

There are lots of these kinds of Nordic events happening around the country. If you know of one, share it with us in the comments section below!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Since We're on a Historical Kick Lately...

One of my favorite stories, Norwegian or otherwise, is that of the Birkebeiners. It's a story I'm sure most everyone reading this is familiar with, but if not you definitely need to check out the Lise Lunge Larson book about their flight and rescue of a future king.

Basically it goes like this, in Norway during the 1200's there were two groups claiming monarchy over Norway. On one side was the ruling family of King Sverre and on the other side were the Baglers. Battles were fought between them over land, ideals and succession, but in the end the fate of Norway fell to a newborn named Håkon Haakonsson.

Håkon was born in territory which was controlled by the Bagler faction, and his mother's claim that he was a birkebeiner royal son placed them both in a very dangerous position. When in 1206 the Bagler tried to take advantage of the situation and started hunting Håkon, a group of Birkebeiner warriors fled with the child, heading for King Inge II of Norway, the birkebeiner king in Nidaros (now Trondheim). On their way they came into a blizzard, and only the two mightiest warriors, Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka, continued on skis, carrying the child in their arms. They managed to bring the heir to safety.

This event still is commemorated in one of Norway's most important annual skiing event, the Birkebeiner ski race.

Maybe its the father in me, or maybe its the romantic, but there's just something about this story that always stirs up strong emotion. Think about it: two men/warriors facing overwhelming odds are entrusted with a helpless infant who, in their minds, represents hope for the future. Its really an amazing story.

That's why I was stoked to read that the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is searching for two tough cross country skiers to dress as Birkebeiner warriors and ski the 54 kilometer journey from Cable to Hayward, Wis., as part of this year's American Birkebeiner.

If you are interested in learning more, you can contact the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation by clicking here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Leif Eriksson Day!

In honor of today being Leif Eriksson...uh...Leif Erick...uh...the True Day North America Was Discovered (TM), we have a great post from Cultural Advisor, Colin. Take it away, Colin!

Today is Leif Eriksson Day, and in honor of the occasion, I thought I’d post some answers to some frequently asked questions I get a lot around this time of year.

How should we spell his name? Leif Erikson, Leif Eriksson, Leif Ericsson, or what?

In Old Norse, Leif’s own language, his name would have been rendered Leifr Eiríksson. Given the differences between Old Norse (the ancestor language of modern Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic and Faroese) and modern English, it makes sense to tweak the spelling a little to make it intelligible, so really any version of “Erikson” could be said to be correct. Personally I advocate for the spelling “Eriksson” with a “k” and double “s” because it’s the closest to Old Norse. I really see no reason for “Ericson” or “Ericsson” other than the predominance of the spelling “Eric” over “Erik” as a personal name in contemporary America.

Oh, and as for pronunciation, strictly speaking “Leif” should rhyme with “safe” not “leaf.”

Who was he and what did he do?

Pretty much everything we know about Leif comes from two Icelandic sagas, the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red, often referred to collectively as the Vinland Sagas. The basic gist of the story is that Leif’s father Erik the Red got himself banished from Iceland for murdering some of his neighbors, and so the family picked up and moved to Greenland. Erik built up a farm there and became quite wealthy. As a young man Leif took to the sea to make a name for himself. In Norway he won the favor of King Olaf Tryggvason, became a Christian, and was charged with the task of bringing the new faith to Greenland. Having accomplished that, he later struck out from Greenland to search for a new land ever farther to the west.

Here the sagas differ somewhat. In the Saga of Erik the Red, Leif discovers the new country on accident, when he gets blown off course en route to Greenland. In the Saga of the Greenlanders, more or less the same thing happens to a completely different person, Bjarni Herjólfsson who sights land but chooses not to go ashore. Years later, the saga tells us, Leif Eriksson buys Bjarni’s ship and goes looking for the land Bjarni sighted. Over the course of a summer he finds a place he calls Markland (“forest land” probably the Labrador coast), another spot he dubs Helluland (“flat stone land” probably Baffin Island) and finally Vinland (“wine-land” now generally accepted to be Newfoundland). At the end of the season, he returns to Greenland. Other expeditions follow, notably those of his brothers Thorvald and Thorstein, as well as that of Thorfinn Karlsefni who intended to establish a more permanent settlement there. However, conflicts with the local “skraelings (First Nations peoples) and infighting amongst the Norse themselves put an end to the Vinland adventure.

Why do we celebrate Leif Eriksson Day?

In the 1800s Norway was swept by a great tide of national romanticism. The new, nearly-independent nation had emerged from a 400 year-long “union” with Denmark and was striving to define itself on its own terms. As Norwegians began pushing more and more for complete political independence, they also agitated for cultural independence in language, literature, music and many other areas. A side effect of this was renewed popular interest in Old Norse sagas, which connected the Norwegian people to a proud history.

As thousands of Norwegians left Norway for America, they brought their love for the sagas with them. The story of Leif Eriksson, a brave, pioneering (grand)son of Norway who had set foot in North America five hundred years before Columbus, became especially popular. Like many immigrant groups, the Norwegians faced some hostility from native-born Americans; the notion that a Norseman had gotten there first imparted on the Norwegians the “right” to be here. Leif Eriksson became a folk hero, not only to Norwegians but to all Scandinavians in the New World.

This did not sit well with a number of other ethnic groups, particularly Italian-Americans, who had similarly venerated Christopher Columbus. Groups representing each side, including Sons of Norway, competed for years for official recognition of their hero as the original “discoverer” of America. Books and magazines of the time were filled with debate and conjecture about the accuracy of the Vinland Sagas, the location of Vinland, and of course the legitimacy of the Kensington Runestone. As evidence of this, take a walk around the Minnesota state capitol building in St. Paul. About a block away in one direction, there’s a huge statue of Leif Eriksson, with the inscription, “DISCOVERER OF AMERICA.” A block in the other direction, there’s a statue of Columbus, also bearing the inscription, “DISCOVERER OF AMERICA.”

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the first Leif Eriksson Day. By this time, the history of Norse activity in North America had been established as an archeological fact. Interestingly, the day selected, October 9th, had no connection whatsoever to Leif Eriksson, Vinland or the Vikings. Instead, October 9th had been picked because on that date in 1825, the first immigrant ship from Norway, the Restauration, arrived in New York. I can’t help but feel that it also had something to do with pre-empting Columbus Day, which falls on October 12th.

Did he really exist? Are the sagas accurate?

People have argued for hundreds of years about the historical value of the Norse sagas, which were passed down orally, in some cases for generations, before being written down hundreds of years later. But conclusive proof of Norse settlement in North America came in 1960, when Dr. Helge Ingstad, a Norwegian archeologist, discovered a Norse encampment at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad performed excavations at the site throughout the 60s, finding many obviously Norse artifacts, carbon dated to the year 1000, the same time frame presented in the Vinland Sagas. According to Parks Canada’s excellent website on L’Anse Aux Meadows, the site was occupied by people who must have traveled a good deal in the area, perhaps as far as New Brunswick and the St. Lawrence River. Regardless of to whatever degree the sagas are historically accurate, they attest to a short period of exploration and colonization by Norse people in the New World, all of which is very well supported by the archeological evidence.

What happened to the Vinland colony? Why didn’t the Norse come back?

Vinland was a vast, unknown country on the very furthest extremity of the known European world. It was explored by people living in Greenland, itself a small, remote outpost accessible only by a perilous sea journey. In time, the Greenland colony would fade away and die.

The mystery of Vinland has inspired a lot of interesting theories over the years, both before and after the excavation of L’Anse Aux Meadows. Besides the Kensington Runestone, the less famous runestones in Oklahoma, not to mention the Newport Tower, the Beardmore Relics, the Westford Knight and the Maine Penny have all been advanced as further evidence of Norse presence in America and all of which - excepting the last named - have been rejected by mainstream scientists. There’s also a whole family of theories based on the idea that the Norse stayed in North America and blended in with Native American tribes. A classic of this line of thought is the 1940 book, in 4 volumes, entitled The Viking and the Red Man, which postulates that the Algonquin Native American languages are descended from Old Norse. Most recently, Myron Paine, Phd, has advanced a theory that the Greenland Norse walked across sea ice from Greenland to America.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: New Sons of Norway CEO Announced

I just got off the phone with International President Dan Rude and now have some exciting news! Dan was pleased to announce that Sons of Norway has a new CEO!

At 11 a.m. today Eivind Heiberg was offered and accepted the position of CEO. Eivind, a native of Halden Norway, has been with Sons of Norway since late 2002, when he stepped in as a fresh-faced Fraternal Director. Since then, he has been instrumental in the growth of the Fraternal Department as well as the programs and benefits offered to members.

Earlier this summer he assumed the position of Interim CEO when the former Sons of Norway CEO, John Lund, retired after a decade in the position and nearly 30 years of total service to Sons of Norway. Eivind will now assume the role full-time as the chief of our 114 year old organization.

On a personal note, I'm very excited about this announcement. I've had the pleasure of working with Eivind since he first joined the headquarters staff, and he's always been a reliable, innovative and balanced decision-maker. It's going to be strange not having him back in the Fraternal Department anymore, but the upside is that I think Sons of Norway has a bright future ahead of itself with Eivind at the helm.

If you'd like to leave a congratulatory note for Eivind, please do so in the comments section below.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Norsk Hostfest: Children's Choir

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hostfest 2009: Opening Day

The first day of Høstfest is always exciting for me because there's this charge in the air. All the attendees have a spring in their step and all the booth workers are still fresh-faced and full of enthusiasm. In my opinion its the best day of the whole festival. To prove that, I was already out there for a couple hourse this morning, even though I wasn't scheduled until 5 p.m.

I'm glad I went, too, because it gave me a chance to see some of my favorite folks who I only get to see once or twice a year. I think a lot of people who come to Minot every year have the same experience--they get to meet up with friends who live far, far away and spend a week reaffirming their friendships and strengthening connections. This is important, I think, because it helps to reinforce connections with heritage and culture. It also provides a soapbox from which people can yell at the top of their lungs "I'm Norwegian and I love it!"

I think the reason this is such an interesting thing to me is because of my Gen X upbringing. My generation doesn't get worked up about much of anything, so seeing 60,000 people getting all jazzed about their heritage is a real wonder to me. I can't wait to go back this afternoon!

Later today and throughout the week, I'll be posting some photos, video and tweeting from the festival grounds (I got me hooked up with a press pass!). So, keep checking back here and at

Friday, September 25, 2009

3 days and counting

It's a gloomy, rainy day here in Minneapolis and I am finishing up on some office work before the weekend. November Viking page proofs? Check. Publishing contracts? Check. Blog post? Workin' on it. All things I have to get done before I can go home today.

Why's it so important to get it all done today?

Because I'll be busy all next week, basking in the glow of the Norwegian Mecca that is Norsk Høstfest! That's right, come Monday morning I get to shake the overcast city-scape and wing my way to sunny downtown Minot, North Dakota! I'm really excited about going because being at an event with that many people who really into their Norwegian heritage is an awesome thing to see and it really re-charges my batteries. I find it to be very refreshing.

But it's not all fun and games. We put a lot of work into our presence at the event--in fact, we've been prepping for the 2009 event since last November. Rarely is there a time of year when we aren't thinking about Norsk Høstfest. Whether we are planning, executing or holding wrap-up meetings, it's a year-round thing for us. But that, too, makes the event a lot of fun for us because we get to see our plans and efforts come to fruition.

This year is going to be cool because we are going to be blogging from the event, and sending tweets, too, to all of our readers from the event site. If you aren't following us on twitter yet, make sure you start because we will be making a number of announcements there. Also, it's the best place to go to find out about news flashes and announcements of new blog posts.

Ok, I'm off to finish a couple more things before heading out. Come on back this weekend and next week to learn about all the cool things happening at the 2009 Norsk Høstfest! And don't forget--members in attendance can get a 15% discount on the Norwegian Buffet at En To Tre!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Norwegian Invasion

And today from our resident Membership Coordinator and popular music critic, Nichole Neuman, we have a cool post on some great Norwegian musicians.

How lucky are we to live in a time where we can not only have access to touring musicians and be able to keep up to date with them via the internet, even when on a different continent? In case, you’re waiting for the answer with bated breath, the answer is very.

Two fantastic Norwegian acts are currently touring throughout the United States and Canada and, if you’re lucky, coming to a town near you! Datarock, an electro rock band, claims roots in Bergen and Oslo. You can check their tour dates and listen to their music here.

Then there's Sondre Lerche, a darling within the college music scene, well-known for his singer-songwriter style and very blue eyes, who is also visiting many a city. More information than you might ever need (including touring dates) is available at his website.

Having seen both in the past, I can recommend them heartily. It’s a fun and dynamic experience and just another way to connect to Norwegian culture. Don’t forget to leave a comment if you go!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Norwegianity is Everywhere!

Greetings everyone! Today we have a cool post from our Membership Coordinator, Nichole, about "norwegianity" in the community. Enjoy!

I was at breakfast the other day with friends when I noticed a defacement of the booth that seemed a little familiar. Indeed, I was quite surprised to notice the definitely familiar and Norwegian name: Kjell Barne! Why, I know him…sort of. Some of you may recall the well-received 2001 Norwegian comedy from Petter Næss that centers around Elling, a man with a few quirks and his roommate Kjell Barne and their struggle to live normal lives. This sudden homage to a beloved Norwegian film character brought a smile to my face. What made this even better? Spotting the words “Eg elska Hrafn.” Thanks to the Norwegian national anthem, I was able to spot, recognize and translate these words.

So, what’s the point of this rambling about Norwegian references drawn onto a chair? It was in a Cuban restaurant in South Minneapolis. The idea that amongst all that graffiti, someone had taken a moment to share their Norwegian-ness made me think that there are small ways we can connect with others and share our Norwegian pride on a daily basis. From wearing a Norwegian sweater when it’s chilly to that little flag sticker on your car, sharing your pride in your heritage can be small and connect you to strangers (and potential friends) wherever you go.

And here’s a membership tip: talking about your Norwegianity is a great opening to talk about the benefits of Sons of Norway and to welcome new members to our fantastic organization.

Even better for members? If you haven’t seen Elling, we have it in our Sons of Norway media lending library? Call to reserve your copy today!

Do you have any good examples of random encounters with Norwegianity? Go to Facebook, join our group and add your own photos!

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Does Your Lodge Do for Retention?

Today we have a new post from Nichole, our Membership Coordinator. Enjoy!

We take a little break today from our regular news of Norway (and Sons of Norway) to address an important topic within the organization: member retention. With the recent issue of the September Viking and the Fall Recruitment Blitz campaign, Fall of 2009 is turning into All Things Membership. Of course, as Membership Coordinator, I think a renewed focus and energy on that topic can only encourage and revitalize our organization.

To address the above question, I’ve provided a few ideas on member retention. Please post what does work for your lodge here in the comments section. Even better, take those comments to the members section of the website and check out the message boards. This area will serve as a sounding board for new program ideas and a way to champion your own lodge success directly to other members.

Member Satisfaction
Are your members happy with the direction of the lodge? You only know if you ask them. Consider doing a survey or a separate townhall meeting to address the lodge’s present and future. Adaptable surveys are available at

Welcoming New Members
What is the very first interaction potential and new members have with your lodge? Does someone greet them and make sure they have a buddy throughout the first few meetings? First impressions create lasting ones, so make sure your lodge puts its best foot forward. Consider forming a lodge welcoming committee, or send out new member packets. Do call members as soon as they join to welcome them and inform them about upcoming events.

Keep Members Engaged
It is important that your lodge conveys just how important members are. Make sure they’re engaged, feel comfortable and are up to speed on all the Norwegian-ness for which they’ve just signed up! Extend volunteer opportunities, introduce them to members who may have been absent and make sure they on email and newsletter lists so they can attend all the events. Haven’t heard from a member for awhile? Give ‘em a ring. They’ll be glad to hear from you!

Don’t forget to check the message boards and even this blog for updates on membership ideas.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Search for Amundsen Continues

Much in the same way that Americans get swept up in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Amelia Erhart, so too do Norwegians when the topic turns to Roald Amundsen.

Amundsen, best known for his polar expeditions, racked up an unprecedented list of firsts as an explorer. He led the first Antarctic expedition to reach the South Pole between 1910 and 1912. He was also the first person to reach both the North Pole and is known as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage.

Then in June of 1928, while flying a rescue mission, Amundsen and his crew of five disappeared somewhere over the Barents Sea. The rescue mission was for the crew of the airship, Italia, who had crashed on their own polar expedition.

The disappearance was major news at the time, not just in Norway but around the world. Amundsen, the man who braved uncharted territories as a pastime, seemed to have vanished into thin air. For months the Norwegian navy searched and searched for their national hero, but to no avail. In the end, the search was called off in September of 1928, having found nothing more than a wing-float and bottom gasoline tank from Amundesn's plane near the Tromsø coast.

Now, 81 years later, the search is back on and is garnering a lot of attention in Norway. Right now, as I type this, Norwegian naval vessels are searching a new location in the Barents Sea. For the past 10 days two vessels have been scouring 36 square nautical miles of seabed close to the island of Bjørnøya in a bid to locate the remains of Amundsen’s seaplane.

This new expedition has the opportunity to put to rest the various theories and postulations on how the plane crashed and why. Finally, a nation may be able to lay one of its greatest heroes to rest. I'll try and find more info on their search results and post them as I can.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sons of Norway International President Meets with King Harald V

I don't know if many of you know this, but our esteemed International President Dan Rude is in Norway right now meeting with lodges and, in a little more than a week, helping Eidsvold lodge celebrate its anniversary. As if that weren't cool enough, I just found out that he had an audience with King Harald V!

I caught up with Dan this morning (his afternoon) and asked him a bit about his trip so far. Here's what he had to say:

The visit with the King was amazing! First of all we were picked up at the hotel by Haldor Strand in a Cadillac Fleetwood Limo. This was a very special honor for us, not just because it was a limo, but also because it once belonged to and was driven by King Olav.

We drove up to the palace and were met by one of the secretaries who took us up to the waiting room just outside of King Harald's office. There we were met by another gentleman and at exactly 12:00 noon a chime sounded and the secretary knocked on the King's office door and announced us. We entered and were greeted by the king!!! He asked us to sit down at a table and he settled himself across from us. We talked about a number of things, including:
  • Our travel plans both for Sons of Norway and to meet with friends
  • the royal family's involvement with social issues
  • Princess Marta Louise's book "Why Kings Do Not Wear Crowns"
  • Norway's role on the national scene concerning peace
Because of the importance of education in Norway he even asked about my teaching career.

Then, after meeting with the King we had lunch with Fred Bjerke, who had arranged the audience with the kind in the first place and Haldor Strand.

The next day after getting lost in Oslo we drove down to Kristiansand to visit a family who use to live in Missoula. In the evening we attended a meeting at Bernt Balchen 8-003. The lodge members appreciated our visit and also had two very interesting programs. One was presented by Arnfinn Torjesen who is a retired Seaman's Church pastor. He talked about his live in Texas and New Orleans as a Norwegain Seaman's Church pastor. The other presentation was made by Bjarne Ugland who is a former Deputy Mayor of Kristiansand. He spoke on the Tall Ship Races that are being hosted by the city of Kristiansand in 2010.

After Porgrunn we are going to Voss to meet with two families. The wives in both families were students at the University of Montana and we were like host families for them while they were there. After a few days there we will go to Hamar and then Tønsberg to visit lodges. The weekend will be spent at Eidsvoll 8-009, celebrating their 25 annniversary. As I understand it that there are over 100 people planning to attend the celebration.

Sounds to me like Dan is having a great trip and is playing his role as a Sons of Norway ambassador perfectly! If I get any more info I will be sure to let you know!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I have strange tastes and I'll be the first to admit it. There are lots of things I enjoy that most would consider mildly annoying, hokey, or just plain odd.

Bagpipes? Love em.

Joiking? Traditional or modern, I'm all about it.

Now, I have discovered something else that I like and will probably get some ribbing for: Norwegian hallingdans. I've always been interested in the folk-dances of different countries (maybe because I have two left feet and am enamored with how some people can be so coordinated), and I find hallingdans to be a lot of fun to watch. With the fluidity of movement, the constant, the apparent Slavic influence in some of the foot work, the constant movement and inertia as well as the acrobatics, it's aesthetically a very unique dance.

Have any of my readers ever tried hallingdans, or any other Norwegian folk dance? If you have, tell me about your experience. Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the only one who enjoys it. Hallingdans is being woven into a new online RPG, called Age of Conan.

Norwegian Experience Wrap Up

As the sun sets on another Norwegian Experience trip, we bid a fond farewell to this year's winner, Judy. I thought a nice way to round out this series was with a wrap-up interview with Judy. So, without further adieu, here we go:

How did it feel to be back home in the U.S.?
It actually feels fine being home again. I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since we came home… it’s gone so quickly. I have a new appreciation for home as well as an extended appreciation for Norway.

Please tell me what your favorite part of the tip was?
Favorite part of the trip??? That’s a great BUT difficult question. I can’t think of anything that was not a favorite part: the beauty and cleanliness of the country, the friendly and helpful people, the delicious food, the glorious hotels, the modes of public and private transportation, the private tours, EVERYTHING!

If you could do the trip over, is there anything you’d change or do differently?
I would have appreciated having at least one (or two) more days in each city to sit and relax – to enjoy the atmosphere a little more.

How was it working with Borton Overseas before and during the trip?
Borton Overseas was absolutely fabulous to work with for our trip. Linda McCormick (the Scandinavian Director) and Elaine Nelson Peik (Scandinavian Specialist) are professionals who went way beyond their “call of duty” to ensure our trip was truly “one of a lifetime.”

I can recommend them without reservations to anyone who wants help and/or advice when planning a trip to Norway. I am definitely thinking about returning and would call on Linda to help me again (and again and again).

What would you say to next year’s winner? Any advice?
Enjoy every minute of your trip; they’re not kidding when they describe it as a “once in a lifetime trip.” Be ready to be amazed from the moment you receive the call that you’ve won this wonderful trip. The planning process is just the beginning.

What would you say to all the people who are recruiting to win for next year’s trip?
Keep up the good work. Although I’m a good example that quality is just as effective as quantity. I recruited four new members – which may not seem like a lot – but the results were the same.

What is your favorite souvenir that you brought back from your trip?
I’d have to say that it’s a tie: my “father and mother” Henning trolls (which I planned to look for and hoped to find) and the beautiful glass vase and “plate” that I purchased at Hadeland Glassverk.

How has this trip helped connect you with your Norwegian Heritage?
I can appreciate the country of birth of my grandpa and great-grandparents even more than before. Their rich heritage is a part of me that will always be a part of who I am. I can also appreciate the beginning of the lives of many of our members who were born in Norway and immigrated to our area (Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood) even more. It meant a great deal to many of them who followed my travels, especially when they knew we visited their home towns or traveled through their birthplaces. (“You went right by our family farm when you were on the train to Stavanger.”) Their excitement made me even more excited about my trip.

Now that you’ve been home for a while and had some time to process everything you saw and did in Norway, any final thoughts on the contest, the trip or the experience?
It’s obvious that my trip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I doubt if I will ever be able to afford a trip like this myself. As a retired school teacher married to a retired state employee, our vacations have been and will probably always be very modest in comparison.

However, I will ALWAYS have my memories of this fabulous trip – where I had the opportunity to fly business class, be met at an airport by a driver holding a sign with my name on it, be driven in a Mercedes or Jaguar “taxi,” receive personalized tours with a private guide, stay in five-star hotels, and eat at some world-famous restaurants. In other words, be treated like “queen for a day” for twelve straight days!!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

UPDATE: Viking Magazine Needs Your Help

I was in an editorial meeting yesterday, discussing some story ideas for the December issue of Viking magazine, and the editors told me that they are in serious need of sources for an article on Norwegian antiques. Apparently they are considering a story on people who collect antique Norwegian items, be it Hadeland glass, porcelain items or hand painted decorations. The editors are especially looking for people who are collectors or who know good places where collectors can find these items.

In an e-mail from the editor, she writes "We’re mostly looking for great finds, stores and markets in Norway. We’d be interested in good dealers and shops in the U.S., too. The story could go a few directions. Most interesting being the idea of an Antiques Roadshow in Norway."

Have you got a story to share? Do you know of a great shop to suggest? If so, I want to hear about it! If not, do you know someone who might be a good source? Tell me about them, too!

I think this could be a very cool article that a lot of our members will enjoy, but in order to make it happen we need folks to come forward before the end of August. If you are a collector, or know someone who is, please e-mail me at or you can call me toll-free at the HQ at 800-945-8851. I know there are a lot of collectors out there, so lets make this happen!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sons of Norway Presents: En To Tre

Yup, you read the title correctly--no need to clean the glasses or do a double-take. Sons of Norway is now the presenting sponsor of En To Tre, the finest dining experience at Norsk Høstfest! This is an awesome new facet to our title sponsorship of Oslo Hall. But what's even better is that Sons of Norway members will get a 15% discount on Authentic Norwegian Buffet meals!

All Sons of Norway members have to do to take advantage of this great deal is go to click here and scroll down to the Sons of Norway logo to get your discounted tickets. It's a great deal and trust me when I say that it's some of the best food you'll find at Norsk Høstfest. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy deep fried food as much as the next guy, but it's a nice change to sit down to a meal of smoked salmon or roast beef with a spiced, aioli remoulade sauce. Sounds good, right?

Just remember that seating is limited, so you'll want to make your reservations ASAP to ensure you get a chance to sample this amazing culinary fare. And if you go, be sure to stop by the Sons of Norway booth in Oslo Hall and say hi!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sons of Norway Highlighted on

I'm working on an interview with our Norwegian Experience winner, Judy Gray to wrap up our coverage of this year's Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest. In the meantime our membership coordinator, Nichole, has a post about a cool, new website and the efforts of one of our lodges. is a blog that highlights the many ways Americans serve their country and fellow men, whether by large or small feats. Sons of Norway lodges routinely assist in their community (check the message boards for ideas and success stories), and recognized one of our own lodge’s year-round contributions to Ski for Light.

Edmonds 2-130 has assisted with trail upkeep, guiding blind and mobility-impaired individuals and continuous promotion and fundraising for Ski for Light. You can read the full story here, under the title Sons of Norway Serve.

Congratulations to the Edmonds lodge for some well-deserved recognition!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Norwegian Experience: Day 11

Thursday was the final day in Norway for Judy and her sister. After spending the better part of 2 weeks constantly on the go, our weary travelers finally had a morning to rest and sleep in as is befitting any true vacation. Judy spent the late morning going back to the Bryggens museum and packing before she and her sister traveled to Solstrand, which was a perfect way to close out the trip.

You see, this year's winner received an overnight stay at the Solstrand Hotel and Spa, where she and her guest were treated to relaxing scenery and complimentary spa treatments. From what I hear, the massages and facials were just what the doctor ordered. After that, the pair went out for some sightseeing.

They wandered around Solstrand, taking a lot of photos and enjoying the sights. Overall it was a very relaxing way to close out the trip.

And with that, the 2008 Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest comes to a close. I hope you've enjoyed following Judy and her sister around Norway as much as I have. Stay tuned because I'll be doing a follow-up interview with Judy later in the week to recap her trip.

Don't forget: If you'd like your own Norwegian Experience, you can either enter to win this year's contest, or you can contact Borton Overseas to plan your own experience with a 5% discount for all Sons of Norway members!

The Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest is a joint venture between Sons of Norway International and its partner Borton Overseas. The contest is open to all Sons of Norway members who sign up a new, dues-paying member between January 1 and December 31, 2009. A winner will be drawn at random in January of 2010. For more information about this year's contest, visit or click here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Goodbye, John.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog posts so I can say today was one of the toughest days I've ever had in the nine years I've spent at Sons of Norway. I posted a while back about our CEO, John Lund, announcing his retirement. Well, today was his last day at the office. You could feel it in the air that there was something different about today. There were a number of sad faces, more than a few tears and a lot of reminiscing.

As I stood in his office, this afternoon, trying to find my own words for goodbye, all I could think of was the many fond memories I have of working with John. After spending nearly a decade working for him, there's more stories and memories than I can count, but as I stood there shaking his hand and saying goodbye they all came rushing back to the forefront--as if they happened yesterday. That made it tough. Real tough. He's been a great leader, mentor and friend over the years.

I know the company is in good hands for the immediate future with Eivind Heiberg as our Interim CEO, but I'm gonna miss John.

If anyone else would like to share a story or memory about working with John, or wish him well in his newly minted life of leisure, please do so in the comment section of the website.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Norwegian Experience: Day 10

Today was the 10th day of the Norwegian Experience for this year's winner, Judy Gray. The trip is almost over and on Friday Judy and her sister will make their way back to the U.S. However the fun isn't over yet.

I only spoke to Judy for a few minutes about her day, so today will be a shorter post.

The original itinerary had Judy and her sister cruising through the Hardangerfjord and Eidfjord, two of the most scenic areas of Norway. However, thanks to happy accident, our winners wound up having an even better experience when they accidentally got on the wrong bus, which took them to a boat going on a Sognefjord cruise!

Judy told me that they had a great time and the folks from the cruise line were so good to them. From what I heard after Judy discovered the mistake, she offered to pay for the difference in cost between the two cruises, but they wouldn't let her pay. The purser also put them on the Flam railway to get back to Bergen free of charge.

I gotta say, it's nice to hear about people taking care of people like that. It doesn't come as any surprise to hear about that kind of hospitality in Norway, but its still refreshing.

Ok, that's all for now. More later about Judy's last day in Norway and then we'll probably have one more post next week once Judy is home, with some final thoughts.

The Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest is a joint venture between Sons of Norway International and its partner Borton Overseas. The contest is open to all Sons of Norway members who sign up a new, dues-paying member between January 1 and December 31, 2009. A winner will be drawn at random in January of 2010. For more information about this year's contest, visit or click here.

Norwegian Experience: Day 9

After speaking with Judy it sounds like she had another awesome day in Norway! Yesterday was her 9th day in Norway and even though her trip is coming to a close, there's no sign of slowing for this year's Norwegian Experience winner!

The first half of the day consisted of a guided walking tour of Bergen. According to Judy, her guide, Solveig Mohr, was one of the best she's encountered in her time in Norway. The walking tour included visits to tourist mainstays, Haakenshallen, Mariakirken, Koengen (where Bruce Springsteen recently played an outdoor concert), the Bryggens Museum, and some more off-the-beaten-path locations.

Haakonshallen (Haakon's Hall) is the Royal Hall of Bergenhus Fortress and is the largest medieval secular building in Norway. The hall has played a significant role in Norwegiuan history. In addition to being the center of Norwegian politics in the 1300's, it was also the location of King Magnus Lagabøte's marriage to a Danish princess, which thrust Norway into years of conflict with Denmark (but that was more due to Magnus' kidnapping of said princess than the marriage itself). Judy told me that the sheer size of the structure was unbelievable and awe-inspiring.

Next Judy and her guest/sister were taken to Mariakirken (St. Mary's Church), a 12th century church that is the last remaining of 12 that were built between the reign of Olav Kyrre (1066–93, traditionally 1070) and the end of the twelfth century. It played a part in the story of the famous Birkebeiners because Mariakirkien was also where the Berkebein party sought refuge when under attack from a peasant army in the late 12th century. Had Mariakirken not played this role, the Birkebeiners may not have been in a position to preserve the course of Norwegian history by saving the child-king Haakon Haakonson. Who knows?

One of the things that Judy enjoyed most was a tour of the Bryggens Museum of Bergen. This museum display archealogical finds from the remains of a series of fires that ravaged this part of Bergen at different times throughout history.

From there, Judy's tour guide took our Norwegian Experience winner off the beaten track and into some lesser visited areas of Bergen. According to Judy, "these included some back-alleys and hidden areas where one can find some of the most interesting shops!" The tour guide, Solveig "shared many stories about the locale that really added to the local flavor and made the trip so fun!"

After their walking tour it was time to visit Mt Floyen. When I asked Judy to give me a one-word description of her trip to Mt. Floyen, she immediately responded with "Spectacular!" Judy and her sister stayed for lunch and ate fresh seafood at the Floyen Folkerestaurant, which has one of the most breath-taking views in all of Norway.

The afternoon was spent back in the Bryggen area, where Judy and her sister retraced their steps back to some of the boutiques and shops they's eyed earlier in the day. Judy shared with me that she was on a quest for trolls. "REAL trolls," she said, "not those cheap plastic ones they try to pawn off on tourists." Judy was looking for, and found, real Henning family trolls. She said she found the matching pair of old man and old woman trolls she was looking for.

Judy and her sister finished off their day with a nice dinner and then it was back to the hotel for some rest. Sounds like they had a full day, huh? I can't wait to hear about what they've done today. Check back later for more updates!

The Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest is a joint venture between Sons of Norway International and its partner Borton Overseas. The contest is open to all Sons of Norway members who sign up a new, dues-paying member between January 1 and December 31, 2009. A winner will be drawn at random in January of 2010. For more information about this year's contest, visit or click here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Norwegian Experience: Day 8

Yesterday was a fun day for Judy and her guest as they spent Day 8 of their Norwegian Experience in Stavanger and Bergen!

They were up by 5:30 am to catch their Flaggruten (express boat) that would take them from Stavanger to Bergen. The Flaggruten is a phenomenon that is somewhat unique to coastal countries and is their answer to Greyhound Express buses. Only with nicer accomodations and waaaaaay better scenery. Upon their arrival in Bergen, Judy and her guest disembarked the ship for an auto-tour of Bergen.

Thanks to the amazingness of Borton Overseas, our traveling duo were picked up in a Janguar and taken on a personally guided tour that included all the major sightseeing stops in Bergen, including Edvard Grieg's summer home, a local Stave Church and the posh neighborhoods that overlook the harbor and bay.

The Edvard Grieg House, which is now a museum dedicated to the renowned composer and called Troldhaugen, houses a number of exhibits that bring history to life. It's a definite must-see for anyone who is traveling through Bergen.

The Stave Church that Judy visited is called Fantoft, and is a reconstructed version of a Sognefjord church from around 1150AD. It's had a rough, but interesting, history having been disassembled and moved piece by piece from Sognefjord to Bergen, only to be set ablaze by some pagan, black metal enthusiasts, turned into and album cover, then rebuilt once more.

After that, Judy checked into her hotel, the beautiful Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret. One of Bergen's newest and most fashionable hotels, Havnekontoret is an amazing hotel in the heart of Bergen's historic harbour-front district. The property is also one of the city's most recognizable buildings with elegant, neo-baroque architecture.

According to Judy, from her room she can almost see the famous Torget i Bergen (Bergen fish market) and her room also looks out onto a shopping district, where she and her guest spent the rest of the day enjoying some shopping and more sight-seeing.

Sounds to me like Judy is having an amazing time! I'll be checking in with her later this afternoon, so come on back soon and see what she has to say about today's experiences!

The Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest is a joint venture between Sons of Norway International and its partner Borton Overseas. The contest is open to all Sons of Norway members who sign up a new, dues-paying member between January 1 and December 31, 2009. A winner will be drawn at random in January of 2010. For more information about this year's contest, visit or click here.