Norway 2016

This year we travel to Norway to cruise the fjords along the west coast. After the cruise, we travel to Lillehammer to see where my Imsdahl ancestors lived before immigrating to America.

Wednesday August 3, 2016, Reykjavik

I like to make a plan before going on a trip. Experienced travelers know that sometimes those plans don't always work, as we found out today.

For those back home who knew about our plans, we didn't make it to Koblenz today to visit Monika and Lothar. Our flight was 1 hour and 20 minutes late leaving Minneapolis, and with a 55 minute scheduled layover in Iceland, the math didn't add up. The connecting flight to Frankfurt did not wait for us. So the airline put us up in a hotel for the night as the next flight to Frankfurt doesn't leave until Thursday at 7:30 AM.

Well, we are going to Norway, so I guess a visit to Reykjavik for one day should fit right in. OK, new plan. We spend one day in Reykjavik before visiting Monika and Lothar in Koblenz. As we were waiting for our luggage, Sue talked to another lady waiting for her luggage. She too missed her connecting flight to Frankfurt. Her name is Carolyn. She grew up in Minnesota but now lives and works in Frankfurt. We decided to make the most of our unscheduled detour by spending the day together exploring Reykjavik.

Thursday August 4, 2016, Koblenz

We had to leave the hotel in Reykjavik at 4AM to catch our flight to Frankfurt at 7:30AM. We ate breakfast at the airport after checking our luggage and going through security. The 3 hour flight to Frankfurt went fine. No problems. Once we landed, we went to the rental car desk to see if they would still honor the car reservation I had made for the previous day. I explained that the airline caused the problem and stranded us in Reykjavik. They said that reservation was no longer valid because we were a no-show. But no problem making a new reservation and getting a similar sized vehicle.

We drove to Koblenz and arrived at about 4PM. Lothar and Töönchen were there at the hotel to meet us. Töönchen remembered us right away and was excited to see us. Lothar told us to settle in and rest up a bit. He came back to the hotel at 6PM to take us to their house where we met up with Monika, their daughter Vanessa, and her boyfriend Christoph. Lothar prepared a nice German dinner. We had about 5 hours to visit and catch up on things. Susan and I were very glad to be able to spend some time with our German brother and sister, Lothar and Monika, and to meet Vanessa and Christoph for the first time. Lothar and Monika's other daughter Sandra was expecting her first child, so she and her husband were not able to attend. Lothar and Monika are excited about their first grandson.

We were sad that it had to be so short because of having to miss our connecting flight yesterday. We talked about possible trips together for next year, but won't decide until later. We will see.

Friday August 5, 2016, Copenhagen

We left Koblenz around 8AM and headed for Frankfurt to drop off the rental car and catch our flight to Copenhagen. Good thing I have the tracking device on my cell phone. About half way to Bonn, Lothar calls and says we are headed in the wrong direction. We thought something was funny when we saw we were following the Rhine River. I can just imagine Lothar shaking his head asking himself, what is Brad doing? No, no, no, this cannot be. He told us to turn around and gave us the correct exit for Frankfurt. He then went on the Internet to figure out which exit we should take once we get to Frankfurt to get to our car rental place. Of course we missed that one too. After a few loops around the airport, we finally found the car rental drop off entrance. Problem solved, except that the car rental drop off was at Terminal 2, and our flight to Copenhagen takes off from Terminal 1. No problem. Just take a taxi.

When we landed in Copenhagen, we took a taxi to the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel. The hotel is gorgeous, right on the harbor. We got there around 3PM and took a nap until 6PM. On days when we have to fly from one airport to another, it is difficult to do anything else because you get so tired from the stress of getting to the airport, the long walks through the airport with luggage, the stress of going through security, finding your gate, the flight itself, and then getting off the airplane and find your luggage. By the time we get to our hotel for the evening, we feel like calling it a day. But we didn't travel to Europe to sleep in hotel rooms.

Instead of finding a place to eat after our short nap, we walked around the harbor and canals that are within walking distance from our hotel. Europe has many pedestrian only streets with shops and restaurants where you can sit outside and people watch while having an adult beverage, or two. We walked down this very busy street and found a canal boat ride tour that lasted about one hour. This was one of our plans for Copenhagen, so we were very glad we found one for the evening. It took us to see the Little Mermaid, the Christianshavn neighborhood, as well as other historical sites and buildings. The Copenhagen canal boat tour was very similar to the Amsterdam canal boat tour we took back in 2012. After the ride, we found a restaurant with outdoor seating for dinner before heading back to our hotel.

Saturday August 6, 2016, Leaving on a Cruise

Today we left the hotel around 11AM and took a taxi to the cruise ship terminal. There were three other cruise ships besides ours in town this day, so there was a lot of traffic getting to the ship. We are cruising on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas, which is a sister ship of Radiance of the Seas, the ship we sailed on twice to Alaska. Although some of the names of the restaurants, lounges, and theaters have changed, the floor plan for each deck are identical. So it was nice knowing our way around the ship even though this is a new ship for us.

It was also nice not having to go to the airport to fly to a new destination. A short ride in the taxi, check-in, having lunch, and we were settled into our cabin by 1PM. We finally get to un-pack our suitcases as we are staying in the same room for seven nights.

Sunday August 7, 2016, Cruise along the south coast of Norway

There were no ports of call today, which gave us a chance to sleep-in, relax, and get comfortable. It was nice not having to pack up and move to a new location. A cruise ship is like a floating hotel, allowing you to take your hotel room with you everywhere you go.

There is one bit of sad news to report for those of you back home who knew Ted. He is no longer with us. His real name was Theodor II, as Theodor I wound up in the trash after I found Theodor II at Target.

Ted is the name I call my lumbar support pillow. I fell on the ice last winter and a disk in my lower back is bulging and pinching the nerve that runs down to my right heal. I planned on taking Ted with me all over Europe, but he never made it past Iceland. I forget Ted in the hotel room. But don't worry. I bought Theodor III today in the gift shop on board the ship, and the new Ted is working out just fine. Problem solved once again.

Today we cruised along the southern coast of Norway. Our first port is Stavanger, which we are scheduled to visit on Monday. Our course has us far out to sea. I am sure on a clear day, we would be able to see the shore. Most of this day has been cloudy with some fog, so there is just a faint outline of the mountains along the shore off in the distance. Still, this was my first ever sighting of the Norwegian coast. My first time to see the home of my ancestors.

There is a buffet where you can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We usually choose to eat breakfast and lunch in the buffet because you can go to eat anytime without reservations, and there is a huge variety. For dinner, we made reservations at 6PM each evening in the formal dining room. If you are traveling with a large group, you can usually get reservations for everyone at the same table. When it is just the two of us, we are seated with others because there are no tables for two. This is actually a very nice arrangement and a tradition for cruise ships. You get to meet new people and learn about their travel experiences.

For this trip, we are seated with a family of four from Pittsburgh - Andy, Erin, their daughter Makenna age 13, and their son Harrison age 9. We all sit at the same table for the entire cruise. It has been very interesting hearing about their travels and we are glad to have such nice people to dine with each evening.

Monday August 8, 2016, Stavanger and the Lysefjord

On this day, our cruise took us to the Norwegian port of Stavanger located in Southwest Norway. Norway's booming offshore oil industry is a key industry in the Stavanger region, and the city is widely referred to as the Oil Capital of Norway.

At 10:45AM, Sue and I went on the Lysefjord Cruise Excursion, which was a 3 hour boat ride into the Lysefjord past Pulpit Rock, the famous rock ledge some 1,982 feet above the water. The tour also included a stop along the way for waffles and coffee. Unfortunately it was cloudy with rain showers most of the day. Visibility was poor for most of the trip, so we could not see the top of Pulpit Rock or the surrounding mountains. It was also difficult to get good video in the rain as I did not want to ruin the video camera by getting it wet. Norway is similar to Alaska, where you have a higher probability of rain than sunshine, so we have to expect to be rained out for at least part of our trip.

After the excursion, we did a little bit of walking around town and checking out the shops before heading back to the ship.

For Tuesday, we are scheduled to dock in Bergen. This assumes that we make it. We are currently out in open ocean sailing in rough seas. The Royal Caribbean channel on our TV says the wind is blowing at about 50 to 60 miles per hour, which is not a hurricane, but close. I don't know the size of the waves, but they are big and the ship is a rocking.

Tuesday August 9, 2016, Bergen

We made it. We heard that we had 75 mile per hour winds with 30 foot waves last night. One of the bar tenders said it was the worst he had seen in three years. The captain did a good job keeping the ship heading into the wind so the wind would not tilt our ship from side to side. It was more of an up and down motion all night long as the ship would ride up a big wave and then come crashing down at the bottom. I got some video facing forward and one shot shows the splash going over the top of the front of the ship. This is a cruise ship with 13 decks, so you can use your imagination for the size of that splash. This cruise is not like cruising the inside passage of Alaska. The inside passage has thousands of coastal islands that protect the shipping lanes from the open ocean and high winds of the Pacific Ocean. The inside passage is more like cruising down a river. There are few inside protected shipping lanes along the west coast of Norway, which means we have to sail out into open ocean for parts of our trip to get from port to port.

Today we docked in Bergen. Sue and I had no excursions scheduled for today. Instead, we went off on our own to explore the town. It was still raining with high winds, so it was difficult to get good video without getting my camera wet. Trying to sight see in the rain is not easy, and we didn't go to all the places I had planned ahead of time to see. But we did get to ride the funicular to the top of the hill overlooking the city. When fun is in its name, how can you go wrong? We also saw the Hanseatic League buildings along the water front.

After dinner, Sue went wild in the shops where they were having a sale. She claims she saved me all kinds of money.

Wednesday August 10, 2016, Alesund

I guess I just assumed that cruising the west coast of Norway would be like cruising the inside passage of Alaska. It is not. To get to each port, we have to sail out into open ocean. There are no inside passage ways like in Alaska that protect you from the rough waters of the open ocean. Last night was not as bad as the trip to Bergen, but once again we were tossed about by 15 foot waves for part of the night. This morning when we entered the fjord to get to Alesund, things were calm. Tonight should be a big improvement when we sail up the Geiranger fjord.

After arriving in Alesund, Sue and I went on the Atlantic Ocean Park & Aksla Viewpoint shore excursion. The excursion started with a bus ride to the Atlantic Ocean Park, which is an aquarium featuring sea life native to the North Atlantic around Norway, and some sea life from other parts of the world. They gave us an hour to walk around before heading back through the city center of Alesund, and then up to the Aksla Viewing platform on a hill overlooking the city. I was able to get some nice video of Alesund from above. The excursion ended with the bus taking us through the city to look at the Art Nouveau architecture that Alesund is famous for. Susan absolutely loved it!

The excursion ended around noon. There was a fish stand a few blocks from where the ship was docked, so Sue and I walked over there and had fish and chips for lunch before going back to the ship.

Thursday August 11, 2016, Geiranger

There could not be a better place for the weather to finally turn out good. Although cold (high of 42 degrees), it was partly cloudy with only a few scattered showers. No wind. A big improvement and perfect timing since this was the only fjord our cruise ship sailed in. The scenery was absolutely perfect. Plus it snowed last night in the mountains so there were beautiful snowcapped peaks to look at.

When we got up this morning, we were docked in Geiranger, a small town at the end of the Geirangerfjord. The town is set up to accommodate thousands of cruise ship tourists even though only a few hundred people actually live there.

At 9AM, Sue and I went on the RIB Riding on the Geirangerfjord excursion. An RIB boat (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) is a speed boat that looks like a rubber raft, only with powerful outboard motors on the back. They gave us insulated wet suits that kind of looked like snowmobile suits to stay warm and dry. They told us we were going to get wet. The driver took us up to a couple of waterfalls to make sure that we did in fact get wet.

Then at 12:30PM, we took the Dalsnibba Mountain Bus Tour. This was a bus ride up narrow switch back roads to the peak of Dalsnibba Mountain that overlooks the Geirangerfjord. Elevation from the viewing platform at the top was 4,500 feet above sea level. It was snowing when we got there, but the weather quickly cleared allowing us to take pictures of the fjord and the tiny speck of a cruise ship and town far below.

After arriving back in town, we had an hour or so for Sue to check out the gift shops and for me to take more videos. Then we went back to the cruise ship for dinner in the evening and to sit on our balcony as we sailed back out of the fjord. I think this was our best day of the cruise so far.

Friday August 12, 2016, Cruising Back to Copenhagen

There were no ports of call today. We spent the whole day out at sea cruising back to Copenhagen where we will leave the ship sometime around noon Saturday. This gives us a chance to pack our luggage and take care of last minute details. This last day also allows us to take a vacation from our vacation by not doing anything other than relaxing and recovering from the busy schedule we had for the last week. Tomorrow we meet up with Dale and Linda from Minneapolis for the last leg of our trip.

Saturday August 13, 2016, DFDS Seaways Ferry to Oslo

There was basically one task to perform on this day. Transfer from our cruise ship to the ferry boat. We arrived in Copenhagen at about 7AM. Most of the passengers left the cruise ship by 9AM, but we purchased a special pass that allowed us to stay on board until early after. Our ferry boat to Oslo boarded at about 3:15PM, so leaving the cruise ship early would have meant being homeless for several hours on the street waiting to get on board. We left the ship at about 12:30PM and took a taxi to the ferry boat terminal where we met up with our long-time friends Dale and Linda from Minneapolis, who flew into Copenhagen last Thursday. They stayed at a hotel in Sweden for a few nights and then took a train to the ferry boat terminal to meet up with us. We sat and visited in the lounge for a few hours before boarding the ferry boat.

Our rooms on the ferry boat are nicer and bigger than the cruise ship cabins. We are on a special floor with a private lounge for passengers who are only on our floor. Free drinks and snacks are provided. Each room has a private balcony. We also purchased the dinning buffet with table reservations next to the windows for the four of us. Breakfast tomorrow morning is also included. We should dock in Oslo by 9:45AM. I plan on getting up early so I can take video as we sail up the Oslo fjord.

Sunday August 14, 2016, Oslo

About the time we got up to go down for breakfast, the ferry boat had entered the Oslo Fjord. It took about 3 hours for the ferry boat to sail through the fjord and dock in Oslo. Our cabin in the ferry boat had a private deck so we could sit out there and watch the beautiful scenery passing by. After leaving the ship, we walked about one half mile, with our luggage, to our hotel in downtown Oslo. We were happy they were able to give us rooms that early, because I think it was around 10:30AM when we got to the hotel and guests from the previous night don't have to check out until noon.

After relaxing for a few minutes in the hotel room, Sue and I, along with Dale and Linda walked another half mile or so to the train station in downtown Oslo where we were told we could catch a bus that would take us to see the Viking Ship Museum, and the Kon-Tiki Museum.

After getting back to the hotel about mid-afternoon, we ordered a pizza and called it a day.

Monday August 15, 2016, Jevnaker

We checked out of our hotel around 9AM and picked up the rental car from the train station in Oslo a few blocks away. Then we headed north for Lillehammer. Along the way, my cousin Roxi told me that we should take a detour to see the Hadeland Glassverk factor. We stopped there and saw a glass blowing demonstration. Sue and Linda also checked out the outlet stores selling glassware that is made at the factory.

Linda's father's name is Gilsrud. He gave Linda information before leaving on our trip about where his grandfather lived before immigrating to the U.S. It turns out it is the same town where this glass factory is located, Jevnaker. To make a long story short, Linda asked around and we were told to go to the community center in town a short distance from the glass factory. They did some digging, and while we were at lunch at a local restaurant, the community center people found the location of the church where Linda's Great Great grandfather was buried.

So we headed over to the church but couldn't find his grave. A lady doing work at the cemetery told us that even though he must be at some other cemetery, she did recognize the family name and knew where that farm was located. She said she would take us there, so we followed her in her car and she drove us up to the farm and introduced us to the lady who now lives there. The lady at the farm was the wife of someone who is probably related to Linda (like a 3rd or 4rth cousin).

Linda exchanged contact information with her, but we believe we found the farm where her great grandfather lived before immigrating to the U.S.

After spending several hours in Jevnaker chasing down leads to Linda's ancestors, we headed north for Lillehammer. We checked into the hotel around 6PM and ate dinner at the hotel.

Tuesday August 16, 2016

In the winter of 1972/73, my uncle Bob and aunt Annabel were friends with a family who had a foreign exchange student from Norway that went to New London High school. The exchange student’s name is Einar, and his wife's name is Bodil. Today they live north of Lillehammer, not far from Imsdalen. About 25 years ago, Bob and Annabel traveled to Norway and Einar took them to see the farm in the Imsdalen valley where my great grandparents Peder and Marit Imsdahl lived before immigrating to America. Back then, there was an old timer living in Imsdalen who knew the history of the people who once lived in the valley and he showed them the land where Peder and Marit Imsdahl once lived.

I got in touch with Einar before going on this trip, and today, Einar and Bodil took us on a guided tour of Imsdalen. We started with an authentic Norwegian dinner at their house. Then we drove up over the mountains to a remote and desolate plateau about 3,000 feet up, then over to the Imsdalen valley where we drove down to the old Imsdalen North Farm. There are several old farms in this area that at one time were probably all connected with each other, so it is unclear which one is which. Einar showed us a clearing on the side of a steep slope and said this is it. I had a hard time believing anyone could have farmed that land. It was fertile soil, but the slope was so steep I could hardly walk up it to get to where the buildings once stood. Einar found the remnants of what was once the foundation to a building. This gives me a clear picture of the hard life my great grandparents experienced in Norway and what influenced them to leave for America.

Wednesday August 17, 2016

I decided I wanted to see Imsdalen one more time, as it sort of was the primary reason for this trip to Norway. We started by traveling to the Hallum Farm which is where my great grandfather was born. The 1865 census lists my great grandfather as Peder Gudbrandsen age 9 living with his parents and siblings on the Hallum Farm, which is close to the town of Fåvang Norway. This is why some of the ancestry listings for my great grandfather say his full name was Peder Gudbrandsen Hallum, meaning son of Gudbrand who lives on the Hallum farm. When we drove by slowly to see the farm, two ladies living their noticed our interest. We got out and explained who we were. They said their name is Hallum, so we suspect they could be distant cousins. They could not speak English very well, so it was hard to communicate. But they were very nice to us and we exchanged contact information.

Then we drove over to the Imsdalen Valley to visit the Imsdalen Farm one more time. The 1875 census lists Peder's family as living on the Imsdalen North Farm. His future wife Marit is also listed as age 13 and living with her parents on an adjacent farm. So sometime between 1865 and 1875, Peder's family moved from the Hallum farm to the Imsdalen North farm where Peder met Marit and eventually were married. This is why Peder changed his name to Imsdalen when he immigrated to America, because the Imsdalen North Farm is the last farm he lived on before immigrating.

This time we drove the entire length of the valley, which is around 22 miles in length. There are two lakes in the valley, and a river. On the far end (or beginning) of the valley is where they bottle Imsdal Water, which is a popular bottled water brand in Norway. I did not check to see if I am entitled to any water royalties.

Thursday August 18, 2016

Sue hates mornings. She lost her slip. We looked and looked and looked everywhere. She said she just had it a minute ago. She emptied all of her luggage looking for it. As she was about to have a meltdown, she finally noticed that she was wearing it. Sue hates mornings.

Today we kept it simple and short. We drove to some of the Lillehammer Olympic sites which are only a few blocks from our hotel. The 1994 Winter Olympic Games were held in Lillehammer Norway, and many of the Olympic sites are within a few blocks from our hotel, including the ski jumping hill Lysgårdsbakken which was the venue of the opening and closing ceremonies. They were holding some type of youth ski jumping training so we got to see a few do ski jumps. There was no snow, but they must have some type of material or special grass that mimics snow because they were all using regular ski jumping skis, I think. No wheels that I could see. We also rode the ski lift up to the top of the ski jumping area, and then back down.

We got back to the hotel early afternoon and I took a nap while Sue and Linda went shopping. On Friday, we leave early in the morning for the Oslo airport. Our flight is scheduled for 2:45PM on Icelandair which takes us to Reykjavik. Assuming they don't strand us in Reykjavik for one more night, we then catch our connecting flight to Minneapolis. With a 7 hour time zone change, we are scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis at 6PM, Friday August 19th.

Friday August 19, 2016

We made it. We are home, safe. Today was a long day of hurry up and wait. We checked out of the hotel around 9AM and drove to the Oslo airport, dropped off the rental car, checked our luggage, then waited for our flight to Reykjavik which was scheduled to leave at 2:45PM. Of course that flight was late, but only by about 20 minutes and our scheduled layover in Reykjavik was 1 hour and 20 minutes. This time the math was in our favor.

In Reykjavik, we had to exit the plane and take a bus to the terminal, go through boarder security, and then stand in a long slow line at the gate waiting to get on the next plane. Ted the third almost was left behind in the airport, but some lady sitting next to us spotted him and said we forgot something. Close call. There is something fishy going on about Reykjavik causing people to forget their lumbar support pillows. Not sure what it is, or why. You might want to keep that in mind if you ever have to travel to Europe through Reykjavik.

Then we had to board a bus from the terminal to go back out to our plane to take us to Minneapolis. Big sigh of relief when you sit on that final airplane to take you home. No more detours. No missed connecting flight in Reykjavik. We get to go home.

Our good friends Jim and Sally were at the airport to pick us up and take us home. The house is still here. Cheryl did a good job taking care of our cats. They are all fine and were happy to see us. The trip was a success.

Thanks for following our journey.

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