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17th of May (and a bunad-clad baby!)
We celebrated Norway’s Constitution Day by getting dressed up, taking some photos in our backyard, napping and eating hot dogs and dessert at Carrie and Kjetil’s house, skipping every single parade. We felt super lame and un-celebratory not going to any of the parades, but the idea of missing Lily’s naps when every minute of sleep for her was so precious was too much to handle for us so this year we played the new parent card. Next year :)

 

We celebrated in our own way though. I found an adorable little bunad on sale before Lily was born in a 3-month size and hoped hoped hoped that she would fit into it on the 17th. And she totally did! The cutest little Norway baby that I ever did see!
Even thought I thought she was the absolute cutest, Lily had other opinions about having to wear so many layers. She reminded me of that little boy at the beginning of Frozen who, when his mom said he had to wear his bunad becuase it was the queen’s coronation day, said, “but that’s not MY fault!”
We managed to get a smile or two out of her though!
Our now-traditional 17th of May pavlova at the Olsen’s. (2 years in a row makes it a tradition, right?)

Gratulerer med dagen Norway!

 

Utne

A bus from Aurland to Voss, another bus from Voss to Kinsarvik, and a ferry from Kinsarvik to Utne. After a very full day of figuring out our route, hunting down bus stops and ferry terminals, and lots and lots of waiting we finally arrived in town for the night exhausted and wet. Boy was Utne a sight for sore eyes!

 

Especially our lodging for the night, the Utne Hotel! I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a more quaint and charming hotel (and no…I’m not getting paid to write that) and for me it was one of the highlights of our trip! Perhaps it was the fact that it was built in the 1700s and had the antiques and architecture to prove it. Perhaps it was the cozy rooms (each one unique) tucked into every nook and cranny that made you want to creepily look into every open door you passed. Perhaps it was the amazingly glorious hot shower we finally got to take after an exhausting two days. Most likely though, it was the fresh Hardanger cherries that greeted us in little bowls in our rooms and throughout the hotel provided for our munching pleasure. Seriously, so cute!

This view!!

That night we splurged and treated ourselves to a 3 course dinner at the hotel restaurant. The main course was some sort of lamb dish prepared with locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables (including Jerusalem artichokes, which I’d never had before) and it was the perfect way to end our fiasco with the van and send us off into a cozy night’s sleep to settle ourselves back down into a vacation groove.

The next morning we awoke to more fresh cherries and a rain-less day. We met up with our NATO rescuer and his 12 passenger van, loaded up our luggage and then headed to the Hardanger Folk Museum down the street to get a dash of the region’s history and culture before the long drive home. While we walked to the museum we explored a bit of the town, passing calm pebble beaches and apple orchards climbing up into the mountains. And of course all along the way we passed cherry tree after cherry tree dripping with dark red fruit that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. 
Sea goddess statue made of shells and cement.
The Hardanger Folk Museum was definitely worth the trip. A large part of it was an open-air museum recreating old-time farmhouses from the region. It was fun to imagine ourselves living back in the old days in a place like Utne. Tamara also got to see tons of her Hardanger embroidery stitch in all sorts of beautiful patterns in the bunad exhibit. I spent a good bit of time sitting in the cafe trying to stave off a bout of baby-induced nausea by eating lefse. A pregnant lady’s gotta do what a pregnant lady’s gotta do!
At last it was time for us to pile into our rescue van and make the long drive home through Odda and back to Stavanger. We’re so grateful NATO was able to send someone up to get us! Despite the hiccups, it was a pretty fantastic little Norwegian road trip. Chris and I definitely hope to make it back to Utne again in the future!

After arriving back home, we had just a few more days with the Hills in which we introduced them to friends, explored the city, and celebrated their awesome visit with a night out at our very favorite Indian restaurant.

We will always treasure these memories with Mom, Dad, and Emma!

Hurra for 17 Mai!
Chris got back from Menorca the morning of the 17th of May, otherwise known as Norway’s Constitution Day. I was planning to write a profound and witty anecdote or two about the tradition of bunads (the national Norwegian costume) and the fact that it was Norway’s 200th anniversary of their constitution, but considering I’m about 9 months behind on this blog now and I really just want to get caught up I’ll just say that Yay! Norway has been its own country for 200 years! and Yay! Bunads are awesome and beautiful!
We skipped the morning children’s parade this year so after a nice long nap, we met up with some church friends to watch the folketoget, or People’s Parade.
Love these kids’ faces!
Love this guy’s face too!
Our friends, the Olsens, all decked out in their 17th of May finest.
Church dogpile.
Lynne in her gorgeous bunad custom made for her by her mom!
More bunads because I love them so much.

Gratulerer med 200 års dagen Norge!

The Dreaded Lutefisk

One of the most common questions we get asked about living in Norway is, “What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten there?” I think there’s just something about foreign countries that invokes images of strange and exotic foods and people have some strange desire to hear about it and get grossed out.

Norway definitely has some pretty strange foods compared to the US. A lot of it’s weirdness stems from the bygone necessity of preservation back in the old days. I tell you, Norwegians came up with the most creative ways to preserve and reconstitute food I have ever seen. There’s this salmon called “gravlaks” which literally translates to “grave salmon”. Traditionally, it was salted, buried in the ground, and left to ferment until it became super pungent and strong tasting. Yum.

Another one that is pretty common here in Southwestern Norway is lutefisk. Lutefisk is cod that has been hung out in the open air and dried for months like so:

Photograph by Peter Prokosch
The dried fish is then soaked in water and then in lye for a week until its structural proteins dissolve and it becomes a sort of fish-jelly (lutefisk directly translates to “lye fish”). Since now the fish is caustic from soaking in the lye, it is soaked again for another week in cold water to make it edible. THEN it is boiled or pan-fried until translucent and served with mustard, potatoes, and mushy peas. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff?? I want to go back in time to meet the first guy who thought, “Hey, what if I soaked my dried cod in toxic lye? Think it would be delicious?”

 

For some reason, lutefisk is a pretty traditional Christmas dish in this part of Norway. We’ve been hearing about it for years so we decided that this year was the year we were going to give it a try. Some good friends of ours really like it and eat it every Christmas, so we went with them to City Bistro which supposedly serves the best-prepared lutefisk in town. We figured if we were going to try reconstituted fish jelly, we might as well do it right. Apparently, it’s reputation is sound because you have to reserve a table for lutefisk in advance and when we tried a few weeks before Christmas they were fully booked until January! So we had a post-Christmas lutefisk celebration this year.

We were too apprehensive to order the full main-course lutefisk so we split the appetizer version. Our friends thought it was hilarious to watch “the Americans” try it for the first time.
But you know what? We actually really liked it! We were very surprised based on the horror stories we’ve heard, and we can only attribute it to the fact that we supposedly had the best-prepared lutefisk in town. But it was seriously enjoyable to eat and when we were served our main courses (catch-of-the-day and reindeer) we regretted that we only ordered the lutefisk appetizer. I think we’ll definitely be making this an annual Hill Christmas tradition!
And now we have a really good answer to the “what’s the weirdest thing you’ve eated in Norway” question :) Next on our list is smalahove (Google image it if you dare!)

 

 

This – right here, right now – is Norway.

This hike to Månafossen and the Mån Farm with the Hoegers and our church is going in the C2 record books as one of the most Norwegian things we've ever experienced.
 
First, there was the hike to the falls. In the drizzling rain. Rain doesn't slow the Norwegians down one bit.
 
We continued up through the mossy, mysterious forests to Mån Farm.

 

Then we grilled pølse on the bank of the river for lunch. Because of course it's not a true Norwegian outing unless hot dogs are consumed.
 
We cheered on Crister as he tried to rock-hop across the river (wearing his parka in August).
 
He almost made it, but then had to wade the rest of the way barefoot through the glacial river.
 
And that glacial river? The kids were playing in it in their swimsuits. It doesn't matter that the water is frigid….it's summer!
 
THEN the sheep showed up. Just sauntered through the group with their bells jingling like it was totally normal. Which…because it's Norway…it was.
 
And then, you guys, the children started RIDING THE SHEEP!
 
And the grandpas too. In Norwegian sweaters. I mean…. FOR REAL???
 
It was like everything we ever imagined/hoped/dreamed Norway to be came to life right before our eyes in a beautiful, surreal still-life of Norwegian culture.
“'Sup?”
 
 
It could only possibly have been more Norwegian if everyone did the hike wearing cross country skis.
 
But I guess that's what winter is for :)