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Bergen with the family Hill

Bergen will forever remain one of my favorite Norwegian cities, no matter how many times we visit. It has the perfect combination of big-city-grandeur and small-village-charm with its eclectic architecture and fascinating history. So when the Hills wanted to see Norway we knew Bergen was top on the list of places to take them.

 

Emma gave herself a photo challenge for the duration of her trip to photograph as many flowers as she could. Here she is living up to her challenge and photographing some Bergenese flowers.

 

Mom loves to sew and is a part of a local stitching club. One of the stitches often talked about in her club is the Hardanger Stitch, so we knew we had to focus on the amazing artistry of embroidery on the Hardanger region bunads. We found an awesome shop that makes custom bunads and I think she was in her own personal heaven!
The rest of the family wasn’t so thrilled that so much time was spent in a sewing shop ;)
Exploring the outdoor fish market. Emma and I got to try samples of roasted whale!
These crabs were as big as small dogs!

 

The past two times Chris and I have been in Bergen we have passed this antique/flea market shop and each time it has been closed. This time it was finally open and we got to explore the treasures within! It was worth the wait! So many cool things crammed into every nook and cranny. Some of my favorites were antique newspaper letterpress type blocks and old nautical charts from WWII. Chris found a bunch of cool swords and Mom and Dad loved the antique coins. It’s probably a good thing they don’t have something like this in Stavanger because I would waste so much time just combing through everything in the store and trying to imagine its history. And of course, despite having a flea market feel, the prices were still Norway prices. Which, again, is probably a good thing because we would have left with half the store if they were cheaper :) If you are ever in Bergen and need a good souvenir, I would definitely try this place over any of the “tourist” shops any day!
The view from the top of Mt. Fløyen
Brother and sister.
Brygge
Chris and his almost dream boat (This was the Hallberg-Rassy 62 and his dream boat is the Hallberg-Rassy 64). Someday when we have a million $$ or two just lying around burning a hole in our pocket she will be ours :)

In typical fashion, we used Bergen as our launching point for a grander Norwegian adventure into the mountains and fjords. More on that soon!

 

Preikestolen

After getting back from our fantastic weekend at Bjergøy we had a day to “rest” before we jetted off on the next round of our adventures with the Hills in town. And by “rest” I mean mom and dad Hill got to rest while we dragged Emma up a mountain to sit on top of a cliff. Because that’s just what you have to do when you visit Norway!

Summer was definitely in full swing! We’ve never seen so many people swimming at the swimming hole!
The traditional feet-over-the-edge shot.
Queen of the rock, Emma!
Hello little baby bump! Glad you could join us on this lovely summer day now that your secret is officially out in the open!

 

An island called Bjergøy

 

While Chris’ family was in town our dear friends, Joanna and Johannes, invited us to join them for a weekend at their hytte (a Norwegian vacation home) on an island north of Stavanger called Bjergøy. As soon as Chris got home from his Arctic adventure we loaded up the car and made the gorgeous drive up there.

 

Norwegians LOVE their vacation homes and from what we’ve seen they escape to them quite frequently. Some are up high in the mountains and some are out by the coast. This particular hytte used Johannes’ family home where he grew up when he was a boy and it has remained in the family ever since. In fact their last name, Bjerga, comes from the name of the island (Bjergøy) generations and generations ago. Talk about some cool history in an absolutely idyllic place!

 

 

We swam in the fjord, we kayaked, we gardened, we laid in the sun, we picked raspberries, we played games, we grilled, we made s’mores with Reeses peanut butter cups, we had deep discussions about the intricacies and complexities of life and death, and most importantly we bonded with family and friends.

 

Nemi did NOT like the fact that we were swimming in the water and whenever anyone was out there she would leap in too and swim circles around us herding us together and keeping us safe. Such a good dog :)
Farkle!
Sampling the plums fresh off one of the many fruit trees on their property. Seriously so perfect. 
The growing baby bump! We still hadn’t broken the news to anyone there yet (including Chris’ family!) so I was all about the baggy shirts to try to keep it hidden until we were ready to spill the beans (even though we snuck in this one photo). Luckily no one noticed and I wasn’t so nauseous that I couldn’t hide it, although I later learned Joanna suspected. I suppose it was getting a little hard to conceal by that point! We finally told the Hills the night we got back from Bjergøy with a fun dinner reminiscent of the way Chris’ mom told his dad she was pregnant with Chris with “baby chickens” (aka cornish game hens). We thought we were pretty clever and it was fantastic to finally have it out in the open! Needless to say, they were pretty excited at the news :)

 

We absolutely loved our time with Joanna and Johannes that weekend and were so glad Chris’ family got to know them. Bringing close friends and family together always seems to create treasured memories and this time with the Bjergas will always be special for us. The Hills got a great taste of why we love it here in Norway so much: a peaceful atmosphere, beautiful scenery and truly amazing friends!

 

Sailing the Arctic
Chris got so many amazing photos of the icy summer wonderland of Svalbard that I couldn’t let the story rest without including just a FEW more photos of the gorgeous scenery from his trip.
Taken at 3am.

 

 

Waaaaay up north

When someone asks if you want to be part of the crew on a sailboat to go hunting for icebergs in the Arctic Ocean, you say “yes”. Because really, that’s how all great adventures start.

 

This particular adventure for Chris happened to start when a friend of ours from church was looking for some assistants to accompany him on a 6-day trip up to the Svalbard islands to sail into the Arctic Ocean to collect iceberg core samples for a business venture. Basically, he’s creating a new brand of über-premium bottled water made from North Pole icebergs, called Svalbardi (apparently there is a really good market for that sort of thing. Who knew?) and he needed some able-bodied crew to come along and help him share the costs of the boat and aid in collecting iceberg core samples for purity testing.

 

When Chris heard the words “sailing” and “Arctic Ocean”, he immediately wanted in. Then he thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Then he thought maybe it was a great idea. Then he thought it was too expensive. Then he thought it was priceless. The timing of the trip was pretty terrible, what with it starting just after we got back from our trip to the States and overlapping a visit from his family at the end. And yeah… it was money we weren’t really planning to spend. But you know, there are always plenty of reasons NOT to do something and sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and say “yes” when life hands you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For us, we decided that 60 years from now the story of hunting icebergs in the Arctic is going to be worth all the money spent on the trip and more so Chris accepted and off he flew to Svalbard to catch his boat to the Arctic Ocean for 6 days.

 

Mmm…whale, reindeer and seal for dinner. Viking food.

 

Dead seal.

 

Alive seal.

 

Setting sail.

 

The total crew ended up being Chris, Jamal (owner of Svalbardi water) and the sailboat captain. The captain was pretty happy Chris was a certified Day Skipper with the RYA and Chris was pretty happy that he therefore got to do a lot of the sailing. And Jamal was pretty happy that he had someone to help out with the icebergs, because apparently it was a lot more work than expected to hunt down the ‘bergs. Happiness all around :)

 

(Unfortunately, Chris didn’t get any photos with himself in them, so the rest of the photos will include a lot with the captain and Jamal. We’re going to work on this in the future ;) But know that he was actually there as the man behind the lens. )

 

The weather was as good as could be expected (yes, it was July but you sure wouldn’t know it based on their outfits!) They had some gorgeous clear days and some horrible days with 20ft swells and accompanying seasickness. All in a week’s work for a sailor.

 

One of the experiences Chris talked about a lot when he got home was hearing the icebergs calve from the glaciers. All would be eerily silent except for the sound of the waves against the boat and then they would hear a huge thunderous CRACK. If they were close enough, they would whip their heads around towards the sound and catch the sight of glacier ice crashing down into the water. Sometimes they would sit and listen to what sounded like a thunderstorm in the middle of a clear day as iceberg after iceberg broke off and fell into the sea.

 

He also had a bit of a harrowing experience involving a capsizing iceberg. To get the core samples, Chris and Jamal would take a dingy from the main sailboat with all their equipment, sidle up to the iceberg and anchor the dingy tightly onto it with ice hooks and rope. They had just tied themselves off to one particular iceberg when Jamal realized they were missing a part for their core borer. They untied themselves, leaving the ice hooks in the iceberg to await their return with the needed part. Once they got back to the sailboat, however, they realized that the part they needed was actually attached to the core borer all along. No sooner had they turned to head back to the iceberg when a huge chunk of ice broke off from the iceberg beneath the water line and the entire iceberg heaved up and over onto its side before eventually righting itself again and crashing back down into the water. The Man Upstairs was most definitely watching out for them that day because if they hadn’t had gone back for the “missing” part they and the dingy would have been pulled under the frigid water as the iceberg tilted. They didn’t anchor themselves to any more icebergs after that.

 

“Iceberg right ahead!”
The core sample.
Bagged and tagged and now on to the next ‘berg. 

 

Most unfortunately, they didn’t get to see any whales or polar bears out in the wild (I was REALLY hoping Chris would get to see some wild orcas) but they did see a lot of seals, birds, walruses and puffins!
wpid-Photo-20150214105618958.jpg
One of the really cool things about being that far north in the middle of the summer was getting to experience the midnight sun. The sun never sets up there during that time of year. The two photos just above ^^ were both taken around 2am!

 

This sign was as serious as a heart attack…
And of course, they got to do a lot of sailing, which Chris loved. When I asked him what were some of the coolest memories he has of the trip he said, “Definitely getting to sail above the Arctic Circle. We went above the 79th parallel!”

 

Definitely an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime adventure!