Sunday, November 28, 2010

November Fun!

Happy Birthday and Thanksgiving to me! Nate came over for the Thanksgiving holiday, and what better day to pick for arrival than my birthday -- what a great birthday present! We crammed quite a bit into the week and had a great time doing it.

To get a change in scenery, more space, and be closer to downtown activity, we stayed at the Raddison in downtown Trondheim. On my birthday, Nate treated me to dinner at the Trondheim Mikrobryggeri (microbrewery) -- very tasty! The next day we were in store for more birthday celebrations with a birthday pizza party with the Trondheim Fulbright Crew at the Tyholt Tower. At the top of the tower they have a revolving restaurant that completes a tour of the city every hour -- and, more importantly (!) they have a cheap pizza buffet every Sunday!

Our next venture was a cruise on the Hurtigruten, a cruiseliner that travels up the Norwegian coasts. We were lucky to get one of the newest and largest ships, the Trollfjord. It's one of the few ships with hot tubs on the top deck, so we took full advantage of them, spending many hours watching the majestic mountain scenery pass by -- and getting strange looks from other brave passengers who ventured out onto the deck at night -- most of them dressed in parkas, hats, gloves, and blankets! I'm pretty sure we were much warmer in the jacuzzi than they were sitting in stiff plastic chairs on deck!

In spite of the fact that we were the youngest passengers by at least 2-3 decades, our night on the Trollfjord was great. Awesome scenery, sunny (but cold) weather, nice accommodations, and all-in-all very relaxing. We had a fancy 3-course meal including a reindeer appetizer, a main course boasting 3 types of fish, and a berry/custard dessert. We did make note though that we should make a better attempt to dress for dinner on our next cruise! Oh well!

I’m pretty sure that Nate would say that one of his favorite and most memorable parts of the trip was beating me pretty good at a game of cribbage – that sort of occasion is few and far between, so he made sure to document it! J

After about 28 hours on the boat, we made it to the ship’s last port of call in Bergen. We both agreed that a day in this city was definitely not enough and that we will have to go back. We spent a lot of time wandering the picturesque streets and checking out the shops (where I found and purchased an awesome Norwegian sweater!). We went to the Bergen Fish Market, but unfortunately there wasn’t too much going on this time of year – I’m sure it’s much more impressive in the summer! Regardless, we did get to sample some ‘fisk’ and bought a chunk of gravlaks to take back with us – tasty!

We also went of the Funicular railway, a REALLY steep railway that takes you up to a peak overlooking Bergen, Mount Floyan – great views! They also had some nice hiking trails in a forested area up at the top where we spent some time wandering. Nate also found his long-lost twin brother on one of the trails at Mount Floyan (see second picture below!) Our last stop in Bergen before catching a flight back to Trondheim was the Bergen Aquarium – we had fun wandering around checking out alligators, crocodiles, fish, penguins, and the dancing seals!

We made it back to Trondheim Wednesday evening and had a chance to rest up a bit before Thanksgiving festivities on Thursday. Our Trondheim Fulbright crew pulled off a pretty tasty meal, complete with turkey, all the sides, and pie for dessert – very tasty, and great company! We were even able to introduce a couple Norwegians to this American tradition.

As you can tell by the last pictures, Trondheim is much whiter this time of year than Bergen!! Nate, Rolf, Meghan, and I went out for an afternoon hike and some great winter views – a good way to get in the Christmas spirit! Only a couple weeks left to go and I’ll be home for the Christmas holidays!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My First Visitor!

This past week I had my first visitor! Mom came to visit for the week and we had a great time exploring the country. We started the week off with a couple days in Oslo, where I met her at the airport. During our two days there, we checked off a ton of museums on the list, including the Norwegian Technology Museum, a quick trip up to Holmenkolen Ski Jump, the Folk Museum, Viking Ship Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, and the Norwegian Resistance Museum. We also managed a few good walks through parks, by the Royal Palace, and some of the busier shopping districts. The Radison Blu, where we spent our nights, also gave us a great taste of a true Norwegian breakfast, complete with various gormet cheeses, salmon, herring, coldcuts, fruits, veggies, sausages, breads, crackers, pastes, etc. etc. etc!! Very tasty! And, it cut the need for any big meals the rest of the day! Our first evening on Oslo though, we did manage to get out for what I considered a GREAT meal -- I'd been craving a juicy, American-style burger and fries, so we hit up TGI Fridays -- mmm! After our stay in Oslo, we took the train on to Lillehammar - site of the 1994 Winter Olympics! So our first stop in Lillehammar was up to the ski jump where the opening ceremonies were held and a quick look around the Norwegian Olympic Museum which provided a nice history of all of the Olympic games. Our second day in Lillehammar took us to the Maihaugen Museum, which had an excellent open-air museum with tens of old buildings and houses from yester-year Norway. A perfect day outside for exploring this site!

Next it was on to Trondheim for the rest of the week. After over two months here, I finally managed to set foot in Nidaros catherdral! Another major event of the week was taking the free bus to IKEA for an exquisite dinner of meatballs and a night of shopping -- Ahh.... the simple pleasures :-)

Our last adventure was a day trip to the town of Roros - a little old mining town about two hours from Trondheim. Here we saw our first Norwegian SNOW!!! Ski season is on the way! Roros already had about 4 inches of snow, which made the town even more picturesque. Along with wandering the snowy streets, we toured the Roros museum, which provided a nice history of the town's mining history. A great end to an excellent week!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


One of my favorite past times during my first weeks in Norway has been berry picking. Not only did I get the opportunity to go out and explore a new patch of woods, but I was able to come back with a tasty treat after words! Berry picking seems to be a popular activity among most Norwegians. People are all over the forest with their berry buckets and Norwegian kids run around with berry juice dripping from their face and fingers. And, I soon found out how Norwegians can be so efficient with their berry picking... long gone are the days of bending over and picking one single berry at a time when you use berry pickers! These revolutionary devices save hours of time and back pain! I'm thinking I might start a new business once I get back to the States...

I got in on prime berry season for raspberries, blueberries, lignonberries, and red currants. Below are pictures of some of the berries (and products!)


Red Currants

My supervisors, Torbjørn and Lisa, have tons of red currant bushes in their yard and invited me over to pick some -- so I ended up with a few pail-fulls of currants! So I found myself making all sorts of new and exciting red currant products -- red currant cake (pictured below), red currant muffins, and red currant jam -- which I will probably be eating for the rest of the year!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend in Steinkjer

My next venture out of Trondheim was a weekend trip to Steinkjer, where another U.S. Fulbright Student, Caitlin, is spending the year. Steinkjer is about two hours north of Tronheim by train, following the scenic Trondheimsfjord most of the way there - a nice ride!

Like the rest of Norway (from what I can tell, at least!) Steinkjer follows suit and is filled with scenic vistas overlooking everything that lies below -- which, of course, means long hikes up hills to get to the top of the scenic vistas! Definitely worth it though.

Caitlin and I spent most of the weekend trekking around Steinkjer, learning a bit about it's history which dates back to the stone age (glad to have her to interpret all of the Norwegian signs!), and picking berries! The berry picking was much better in Steinkjer as compared to what I've seen in Trondheim!

One thing you need to know about Norway is that on Sundays, ALL of the stores are closed. ALL of them. MAYBE with the exception of a 7-11 or other convenience type store. BUT... Sundays are the ONLY day where many of these huts on top of mountains that serve treats like waffles and coffee are open! From what we can tell, all Norwegians come out of there homes and head to the hills for Sunday hikes -- young and old alike, there are all out with there spandex hiking clothes, walking poles, dogs, and strollers heading to the top -- often not taking the easiest path up and cutting through bogs and forests instead of the main hiking trail! So like all good Norwegians, one of our hikes took us to the top of a peak overlooking the town and fjord, and on top of the peak is on of these little waffle huts. We were more than happy to take advantage of this treat before starting our trek back down!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Last week I got back from a 10-day field trip to Finnmark -- the northernmost county in Norway. I was as far north as northern Alaska and as far east as Istanbul! During the tour, we drove nearly 2000km, stopped at around 50 different collection sites, and collected thousands of insects! Basically, I was invited to tag along with three other scientists to help out with a biodiversity survey project that is looking at the diversity of certain aquatic insect groups in Finnmark, with goals of being able to document species in the area, describe new species, and have a baseline study that can eventually be used to help monitor effects of climate change on insect populations.

So my days were spent wandering around bogs, lakes, rivers, marshes, and coastlines of Finnmark with nets and other collection gear trying to round up as many chironomids as possible! Much of the inland areas reminded me of northern Minnesota -- gorgeous country! The coastline was rocky, rugged, and for the most part windy and cold! Still very neat to see. Fall definitely comes early to that part of the country. We based ourselves out of four different locations along the way and were put up in everything from multi and single bed cabins, an apartment-like house on the coast, and a national park center with hotel-like accommodations. Most very nice and an improvement upon my dorm-like flat in Trondheim!

A few exciting tidbits from the trip included seeing MANY reindeer (we also had a number of meals which consisted of reindeer... a couple versions traditional Sami reindeer stew, reindeer burgers, reindeer sausage, etc....), eating a fantastic meal of fresh-caught salmon, and seeing Russia ! A number of our sampling points were right across the river from Russia -- some literally a stone's throw away! But, the rules on the Russian border are quite strict -- if you even think of crossing or even making contact with someone on the other side, you get a free pass to jail with a large fine if you want to get out! The good news is though that they don't mind if you take a picture of the other side (as long as you don't do anything offensive or provacative), so I did take advantage of that (see picture below!!). We were quite close to the tri-country border of Norway, Finland, & Russia where they have a nice monument. You can cross the border from Norway into Finland and vice-versa, but if you make a full circle around the monument (which would take all of 2.5 seconds) you go directly to jail without passing go!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trondheim at First Glance

So now I've spent over a full week getting to know Trondheim, where I'll be for the next 10 months. Nate was a big help getting the hang of things and get settled into life here. It was really tough to see him go back to the States on the 16th!

Before he left we were able to get in a couple good hikes in Byrmarka, one of the two 'city forests,' with miles and miles of hiking trails and gorgeous scenery... similar to Minnesota's northwoods. Lots of lakes, trails, and cabins along the way. And, to make it better, all of the hiking trails turn into ski trails in the winter!

As for the city, it is filled with hills and high prices. My dorm is situated on a BIG hill, about an hours walk from the downtown area where I'll be working -- or a half hour's walk from the main campus where I'll be taking classes. Biking down is another option, but it gaurentees that I will be hiking up part way pushing the bike! If nothing else, I'll be in GREAT shape by the end of the year!

This past week has been filled with Orientation activities at NTNU, the university where I'll be studying. A good chance to meet some people (there are over 800+ new international students this year!), learn about the city and university, and go on a few hiking trips around Trondheim... imagine going on a group hike with HUNDREDS of people...
The orientation program wrapped up yesterday, which means that tomorrow (Aug. 23) is the first day of the semester. I'm planning on taking one, maybe two classes, but most of my time will be devoted to research.
More to come later! Cheers!

The first two weeks... European Ventures!


I'll try to keep a (semi) regular blog to keep you all posted on my latest adventures in Norway.
I've been here just about three weeks now and have been keeping pretty busy so far! This is the first day with some time to sit... be warned that it might not last long because the hiking trails are beckoning!

So, what's been happening...

After the first few days of attempting to get settled in, Nate and I took off for a few days in Oslo for a Fulbright Orientation program with other U.S. Fulbrighters in Norway. We took advantage of the Oslo Pass which gave us the free reign of public transport in the city and free admission to museums. A couple highlights from the trip were a ferry trip in the Oslo Fjord to Museum Island where we saw the Fram Museum (ship pictured in picture below). Another trip highlight was a visit to the new Holmenkollen ski museum and ski jump, including a trip to the top of the jump! Too bad we didn't have our ski jumping skis with us...

From Oslo, Nate and I flew to Prague for a few days in the Old Country to visit our roots. We spent lots of time wandering the streets, visiting the Prague Castle, going to various museums, eating lots of good food and good Pilsner beer!

We also took a day trip to Plzen, about an hour by train from Prague, to visit the Pilsner Brewery. The tour was great and fresh Pilsner at the end was fantastic!

From Prague, we took the train to Berlin and spent two FULL days taking in the sites. Highlights included the Checkpoint Charlie museum, the DDR museum, a river cruise, the Brandenburg Gate, and lots of currywurst and visits to the Eiscafe!