We returned from Copenhagen on Monday evening, late and exhausted. We had only 3 days to recover and go grocery shopping as Friday, May 17th marked one of the biggest celebration days of the year for Norway – Independence Day. This holiday in Norway has similarities to the US Independence Day on the July 4th: no one works, everyone wheres outfits in red, white and blue (same color flags:), the kids eat lots of ice cream, candy and hotdogs, and there are parades and sometimes fireworks. There are also a lot of differences with 17th Mai: there is very little military presence at the Norwegian parade, there is no candy being thrown to the kids ( you have to buy it), every class from kindergarten through high school walks in the parade making for a VERY long procession lasting several hours, their display of red/white/blue is way cooler than ours in that they wear their traditional Norwegian bunads – everyone from infants to the elderly owns one of these. If you do not own one, you can buy one anywhere before 17Mai and if you choose not to buy one (as we did) you HAVE to dress up – the men typically in suits and the women in fine dresses. Norwegians very rarely dress up, so this is quite the show. I have been told the the bunads are also common to wear to weddings, graduations, and other ceremonies like confirmation. At least they get to use these outfits because they are quite beautiful and pricey! We started our 4 day weekend with a visit to Storgata to see what all the fuss was about – we dressed up, waved Norwegian flags, ate hot dogs, bought candy, and looked definitely out of place in our non-bunad outfits…but we stll had fun!
We left the parade early (it was going to last several hours after all), loaded up in the car and headed South for our first true road trip camping with the kids. When we decided to move to Norway, our plan was to buy a camper van and spend every free weekend exploring this remote corner of the world. We were not able to find a true camper van, but we do have a pretty fantastic VW minivan. The front seats swivel back and the back seats can make a bed – we already want to bring this baby back to the States with us:)
Our trip destination was the scenic island peninsula of Lofoten South of Tromsø. We had 3 days to explore.
Despite having no idea where we were headed, nor what type of camping would be available, we did a pretty good job of finding some beautiful and fairly secluded campsites. For those of you who have been car camping in Europe before, you know how hard that can be. In most of mainland Europe it is not legal to camp just anywhere. There are designated campgrounds, much like our KOA, where you have to pitch your tent unless you hike in somewhere in the mountains. Luckily in Norway one of their mottos is ‘wilderness for everyone’. You are legally entitled to pitch a tent and camp almost anywhere as long as you are more than 150meters from a house or cabin – they have some of the most liberal camping laws in the world. We felt strange camping in someones back yard, however, so we opted for finding some more private sites. We discovered beautiful sandy beaches, more mountains rising from the sea and some amazing little fishing towns along the way. A few highlights and unique aspects of the trip:
1. Viking museum in Borg: “The Lofotr Viking Museum is a reconstruction of the 83 metres long Chiefdom that was erected at Borg in the Lofoten Islands around 500 AD” – very cool ‘living’ museum where they have recreated the Cheif’s home and hall as well as all the gear. Odin was super excited to get to try on a real chainmail weighing almost as much as he, a Viking helmet and hold a Viking sword. It was such a cool museum and amazing history of the area.
2. Our friend Henrik in Ramberg: We wisely left our plug in cooler (they only kind they use here – no ice cubes sold at the petrol stations, so plug in it was) plugged in overnight on night 2 while camping down a dirt road in Ramberg. We woke the next morning, a Sunday when everything is closed, to find the car had no battery left. Joel and Odin walked 3 km to town and found one little store open with a nice older man named Henrik. He had no jumper cables, but kindly gave Odin some cool gemstones from his store. We eventuall flagged down a couple who jumped our car and we returned to Henrik’s shop to thank him for his kindness. The kids found some treasures and we made a new friend, even buying one of his original pieces of art made from local driftwood and stone.
3. White sandy beaches, roasted marshmellows and beautiful ‘ sun-never-sets’. Loved it.
4. Picturesque fishing villages down the coast line – they hang dried fish and fish heads by the thousands – everywhere! Joel calls it a waste of fish and I must agree. I am not a fan of the traditional dried and salted Norwegian fish. I prefer the grill!
Overall it was a great family trip…again. Odin and Adelheyd really are truly loved camping which was wonderful. Joel and I decided that one of the most amazing things we are getting out ouf this experience is our family time together. Home in Montana we camp and ski and play outside, but usually with a few other families and their kids. Here we spend time with each other. We talk and play and just enjoy our family. Of course we miss our family and friends at home every day and wish we could share this with them all. We know that there is a balance in family time, extended family time and friend time. Here and now we are enjoying our amazing, wonderful family.