October 2, 2007

Tour Leader: Steve Soderlind

Steve Soderlind has taught at St. Olaf since 1980. He has a B.A. with majors in mathematics and economics from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He began work in Norway while preparing a dissertation on Norway’s regional policy as a graduate student and guest scholar at the University of Oslo in 1976-77. His working paper “The Ascent of Regional Policy in Norway, 1945-1980” was published in 1999 by the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research.

His current research focuses on the Baltic States and their recovery from almost five decades of exploitive occupation. Over the past decade Steve has lead many International and Off-Campus Studies programs for students in Asia and Europe.

This photo shows Steve with his wife Ann in front of the lake in Voss, Norway.

Tour Leader: Nancy Aarsvold

Nancy Aarsvold has taught Norwegian for more than 20 years. She has a B.A. degree with majors in English and Norwegian from Pacific Lutheran University and an M.A. in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Minnesota. In 1980-81, she studied at the University of Oslo and then returned to Norway every summer for the rest of the 1980s. During that time, she attended the Oslo International Summer School twice and worked as a teacher for American students in a Norwegian summer language program in Sandane in western Norway. In more recent years, she has traveled to Norway almost every year to collect materials for her textbook project, record audio from native Norwegian speakers, and lead study tours.

With specialties in curriculum development and instructional technology, Nancy has been involved in developing a variety of Norwegian language materials, including the NorWords Norwegian lessons via e-mail, the KlikkNorsk CD-ROM, an online workbook for the novel Naiv.Super by Erlend Loe, and most recently Sett i gang I: An Introductory Norwegian Curriculum (textbook / workbook / glossary). Currently Nancy is exploring the use of social software, such as weblogs, to document events and instruction in the St. Olaf Norwegian department (Hva skjer?), to create electronic student portfolios in her courses (Skriveverkstedet), and to develop online listening exercises with audio clips of Norwegian daily news (Ukas lydklipp).

This photo shows Nancy with her daughter Tina on the top of Mount Fløyen in Bergen, Norway.

Bus Driver: Anders

Negotiating the narrow, twisting roads in Norway is no easy task, and the Jotunheimen tour was fortunate to have a top-notch bus driver. A native of Sweden, Anders quickly became an important member of our group, providing us with safe transportation from place to place and entertaining us with his understated humor both during the drive and at dinner. At Voss, we discovered that he had an affection for our group as well when he told us that "he didn't always eat dinner with the groups he was driving." It was also at Voss that we saw the other side of Anders when he met us at the train in his shorts and cool European tank top after spending the afternoon at the lake there. To be honest, we almost didn't recognize him at first since most of our attention was directed toward that tank top! Later, he went for a walk around the lake with us and took a dip in the cold lake with Tina and Kara.

Since our group was small, we were surprised to have such a large bus for our travels. However, it took two or three days of our trip before we discovered that our bus was even larger than we thought. Stretching 14 meters in length, our bus was a full two meters longer than the average bus in Norway. A few days later, we learned our bus had a name that was fitting for its size, namely "Älgen (The Moose)." While the official name of our study tour was "Jotunheimen," from that moment on "The Moose" became its unofficial name and "The Moose Rules" its slogan.

On the narrow Norwegian roads, The Moose really did rule since smaller vehicles had to wait at a turn-out for our bus to pass. On occasion, we met tourists who didn't quite understand the rules of the road and tried to pass our bus in a narrow spot. In this photo, you see a car and a trailer that just barely made it past The Moose without taking some of our yellow paint with them.

October 1, 2007

Aug. 2: Oslo

The Jotunheimen study tour began in Oslo, where the group stayed at Hotel Stefan, just a block off the main street of Karl Johans gate. The group arrived in the afternoon and celebrated the start of the tour with a lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant, followed by a walk around downtown Oslo.

Aug. 3: Oslo

The group showed few signs of jet lag the first morning, arriving bright and early at 8:30 am for the first seminar on the city of Oslo and Norwegian history. After the seminar, we picked up our Oslo passes and took the streetcar from Aker Brygge to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Afterwards, we walked over to the Vigeland Museum, which is housed in Gustav Vigeland's former studio that was built for him by the city of Oslo.

In the afternoon, we took the sightseeing boat from the main harbor to Bygdøy, where we visited the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, and the Viking Ship Museum.

Aug. 4: Oslo

The day began with a seminar on immigration to Norway and an interesting discussion about the lives of immigrants in our own hometowns in the United States. Afterwards, we took our first trip on the Norwegian subway/light rail from the National Theater station in downtown Oslo all the way to Frognerseteren. From there, we walked down to the restaurant where we sat outside and enjoyed the lovely view of the city and the Oslo fjord while we had coffee and a snack.

Afterwards, we hiked along the road down to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump where we climbed to the top of jump to see the view, visited the Ski Museum, and shopped in the museum store. The more adventurous in the group took a ride in the ski simulator while the rest of us waited outside, glad to have both feet on solid ground.

In the late afternoon, we arrived back in Oslo where we visited the Akershus Fort and Castle, the Resistance Museum, and the Nobel Peace Center.

Aug. 5: Oslo — Lillehammer

After walking many miles in Oslo, we were happy to see our bus arrive in the morning. We were surprised to see it was a Swedish bus and perhaps even more surprised to see how young our driver looked. Little did we know that Anders would turn out to be a fantastic driver as well as an entertainer, a modern European man with great fashion sense (remember the tank top), and a swimmer undeterred by cold water. We also could not have imagined how the bus itself—the Moose—became the symbol of our study tour and the inspiration for many jokes and stories. Keith said it best when he declared: "The Moose Rules."

The bus ride to Lillehammer was beautiful and relaxing, and we had an excellent lunch at the Egon restaurant when we arrived. Afterward, we visited the Olympic Museum and the Maihaugen Outdoor Museum, where we had the most wonderful Norwegian guide.

At 4 p.m., we drove over to Nansenskolen, the Norwegian Humanistic Academy, for an outstanding lecture by Erik Cleven on the school's work in conflict management and promoting peace.

Aug. 6: Lillehammer — Geiranger

From Lillehammer, we took a beautiful and leisurely drive northwest through Gudbrandsdalen. At lunchtime, we stopped in Lom, a busy tourist hub, where we admired the stave church from the outside since the price was so steep to go inside (40 crowns) and visited the Norwegian Mountain Museum. After lunch, the drive became more and more beautiful as the day progressed.

We made one of the best stops of the trip at Dønfoss Camping, a small resort that had traditional camping cabins and a gorgeous outdoor pool set in the rocks next to a beautiful river. It was here that we saw the first evidence of Anders' driving skills when he had to back the bus down the road and into the parking lot of the resort.

From Dønfoss, we climbed higher and higher and were treated to beautiful views of the Norwegian mountains and mountain lakes. At the end of the drive, we had our first experience on roads with hairpin curves, but we quickly became adept at distracting one another from the harrowing views with witty conversation and good stories (thanks, Barb!).

We arrived safely in Geiranger, where we had a fabulous buffet dinner while looking out the windows at the beautiful Geiranger fjord below.

In the evening, we went to a folk music evening at the Fjord Center where we heard the Hardanger fiddle, the violin, and the Norwegian flute and watched two young couples in national costumes do several folk dances. The highlight of the evening, however, was when the fiddle player demonstrated his ability to play and dance at the same time!

Aug. 7: Geiranger

Since we had been traveling for a few days in a row, it was especially nice to stay in Geiranger for two days. The hotel meals were wonderful, and so was the sign that we found on our table there: "Center for Lifelong Learing." In the morning, we walked down to the fjord and took a hour and a half sightseeing tour on the fjord. We couldn't have chosen a nicer day and thus were able to get many good pictures of Norway's most famous fjord.

It was a busy day in Geiranger that day, since there were no fewer than four cruise ships in the harbor and many more tourists arriving by the busload from Trollstigen. After the sightseeing cruise, everyone split up into smaller groups for lunch, shopping, and walking. Keith and Kara rented bikes and rode to the top of Dalsnibba for a fantastic view of the fjord and then rode back down to town.

Before dinner, there was a seminar on Norse mythology and Norwegian fairy tales, and the group displayed dramatic talent in an impressive reading of the story "Thor has lost his hammer" and the fairy tale "The boy who had an eating competition with the troll."

Aug. 8: Geiranger — Skei

From Geiranger, we drove to Skei, a small town with a very large hotel and one of the largest tourist stores we encountered on our trip. After another wonderful buffet lunch, Steve gave a wonderful seminar on the economics of rural Norway in the brand new conference room at the Skei Hotel.

In the late afternoon, we drove along Lake Jølster to Astrupstunet, the former home of the Norwegian artist Nikolai Astrup and now his gallery and museum.

We had an excellent local guide there, making this stop one of the highlights of the trip for everyone.

Aug. 9: Skei — Voss

From Skei, we traveled to Gudvangen where we took the well-known "Norway in a Nutshell" trip.

We had nice weather again for the lovely ferry ride on Nærøyfjorden, and we were fortunate to get great seats on the top level of the ferry.

We stopped for lunch in Flåm and then boarded the famous Flåm Railway for the 13-mile trip up the valley and above the treeline to Myrdal. From Myrdal, we took a different train to Voss, where we stayed in a nice hotel 100 meters from the train station and in a perfect setting next to a large lake.

Despite the many beautiful sights we saw that day, the highlight of the day was when our bus driver Anders met us at the train station dressed in his cool European tank top and shorts. That evening, we had our seminar in the form of a walk around the lake. Kara, Tina, and Anders swam in the cold lake, and Andy got in one of his longer runs here.

Aug. 10: Voss — Bergen

From Voss, we took a beautiful bus ride to Bergen. We stayed in a nice hotel right on the wharf and enjoyed our stay there, despite the fact that the elevator rides turned out to be more exciting than we wanted them to be. Steve took us on an interesting tour of the German wharf and told us all about the Hanseatic league and the sale of dried cod.

We also visited the Fish Market and the local cathedral.

Later in the afternoon, we took the funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen, where we took some wonderful photos of the view over the city of Bergen.

Andy went for a long run and David for a long walk, while the rest of us relaxed in the sun on the patio of the restaurant there. A perfect day.

Aug. 11: Bergen

On our last day of the trip, Nancy gave a seminar on Norwegian emigration to America and the emigrant novel, Giants in the Earth, by O.E. Rølvaag. We also had a nice review and evaluation of our trip as we went over an outline of Norwegian history and showed how many of the places we had visited fit into the timeline. After lunch, we took the bus to Troldhaugen and visited Edvard Grieg's home and museum.

In the evening, we celebrated the end of a successful tour with a wonderful dinner at Bryggeloftet restaurant in Bergen. Highlights from the dinner included the discovery of the meaning of the word "carpaccio" and some very funny stories. Back at the hotel, we toasted one another with cloudberry liquor and described our favorite memories of each person on the tour. The Norwegians have a saying, "Når enden er god, er allting godt (When the end is good, everything is good.)," but on this trip everything was good all the way through, from beginning to end. Thanks to all who participated!