Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Norway - December 23-28, 2008

Spending Christmas in Norway with Christy, Vegar and his family

We felt very fortunate this Christmas. Not only did we get to see Christy and Vegar, but we had the extraordinary opportunity to travel to Norway to visit Vegar's family and share the holidays with them. Naturally, we did miss the rest of our families. Though, fortunately, we were able to Skype with both. This was the first year that I was not in Morgantown at all for Christmas, and I think the same goes for Chad with Wheeling. But, if we couldn't be home with our families, this was the next best thing. Meeting our new extended family, and seeing the beautiful country of Norway.

I can't say enough about Vegar's family. His mom and two sisters, Siri and Marte, were very gracious hosts. They have a lovely, comfortable home that was decorated beautifully for Christmas. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome and at home, and we really did. There was never-ending, delicious food; Christmas cookies, rice porridge, beautiful spreads of cheese, meat and fish (very Norwegian) for breakfast, and even reindeer meat for Christmas dinner. It was delicious! I'm not sure I'll describe it correctly, but I believe the meat had been dried and salted, and then to cook it they slowly steamed the meat to get the salt out. It was really tender and had a wonderful flavor.

Vegar drove us (his dad, Christy, Chad & I) up the coast to a beach that had old Viking graves. Shiva, their beautiful dog, came along as well.

She had a cute habit of resting her head on the back of the seat right behind you. Her eyes would just move around following the people who were talking. The graves were interesting. They were essentially piles of rocks on the beach (which was a rocky beach). There were a couple very large piles, but most were smaller, in a row. I am really fascinated by the history of the Vikings, so it was neat to see these graves and to imagine what lies underneath.

The next day, we went down to the port of Larvik and met up with some of Vegar's HS friends. There is a park area where you can walk out on huge rocks, or boulders, that run out into the water. It is a beautiful view from on top of these rocks. Since we were so far north, and it was the middle of winter, the sun was only up for about 4-4.5 hours a day. This meant that it did not rise very high in the sky, but rather slowly crept from one side of the horizon to the other. The light always made it feel like it was dawn or dusk, when really it was 3 PM. But, the sunlight from this angle made a beautiful reflection on the sea and the rocks.

For lunch on Christmas eve, it is tradition in Vegar's family (and maybe others, I'm not sure) to eat rice porridge. In the porridge is one white almond, and whomever finds the almond in their bowl wins a prize. Christy found it this year, and she got a marzipan pig! We sliced it up for everyone to share. Really tasty. Vegar swears that one time when he was younger, he had the almond in his bowl, but he accidentally swallowed it before realizing what it was. Nobody would believe him, and they wouldn't give him the prize. Though I don't think anybody else found the almond, so maybe he was telling the truth. ;)

Another Norwegian custom is to exchange gifts on the evening of Christmas eve. This was a really wonderful experience. We all sat in the living room--Christy, Vegar, his parents & two sisters, and Chad and I--and Sori handed out gifts one by one. We took time to watch each person open their gift. It was nice to make the process slow and thoughtful, instead of a mad rush to rip open everything as fast as possible. Dinner that night was, as always, extremely delicious. That night Chad and I were laying in bed and talking about how thankful we felt to be there. It is really humbling and heart warming to have another family welcome you with such open arms. We were also happy to be learning about the Norwegian culture, and where Vegar came from.

We then went to Oslo for two days. Chad and I stayed in a Hostel, and Christy and Vegar stayed in a friend's apartment. The first night the four of us walked around the city for a bit, and went to a huge sculpture park. An artist had made dozens of large marble and bronze statues of people in their most primal emotions. All of the statues were unclothes, and had a different facial expression or body position. It was incredibly moving.

We went to the Viking Museum just outside of Oslo. They had two full size Viking ships that had been excavated and preserved. How cool! It was interesting to see the details of the woodwork, and to read about how the vikings built these ships and what they were used for. You could even walk up some stairs and look down inside the ship. At night, Vegar took us to an area of town with a little plaza that had several restaurants and bars. We went to a pub that had some really nice local micro-brew beers. Chad was in heaven, as we can't these in NL. On the way home that night, Vegar took us to a place in the city where the small river, or creek, had a big waterfall. There were lights shining on it, which gave it a neat atmosphere. It was so cold (probably 20 degrees F) that all of the water that splashed out of the waterfall was freezing on the tinly little tree branches and bushes along the side.

The next night we took the ferry across the inlet to Vegar's Aunt's house. We met more of his family, and they were just as nice and welcoming. We had a delicious dinner with the reindeer meet (yum!). For desert, they had the usual spread of sweets on the table. One cool thing was a cookie tree made of cookies shaped into round circles. The circles were large on the bottom and got smaller and smaller, stacked on top of each other.

We really loved our time in Norway. It is a beautiful country, and it was nice to have a local "tour guide" to show us some of the neatest areas. But, our time spent with Vegar's family was really the most memorable part. It will be nice to see them all again in August for the wedding! Hopefully we can go to Norway again, when it is Warm, and go further north to see the mountains and fjords. Will have to add that one to the list.


More pictures from Norway:

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