European Vacation

The Burgeson's trip to London and Norway 06 is chronicled here for anyone who's interested. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rainy day in Oslo

Today it rained, so instead of going to Drammen (where Tiana's family is from), we went back into Oslo and toured the World War II Resistance museum located in Anschuss castle. It gave us a great overview of Norway's part in the war and I enjoyed all of the exhibits. Tiana and Reidar indulged me and let me take my time there, which was great.

Then we went to lunch at the Burger King, as the normal restaurants were very crowded. Tiana was able to find a few souvenirs in a shop along the way and then we went to the Nobel Peace Prize Museum. The peace prize is one of five Nobel prizes, and the only one awarded in Oslo. The other prizes are awarded in Sweden. Sweden and Norway are very closely aligned, and were ruled by the same king for 400 years.

The displays in the museum were very technologically advanced, with moving screens and interactive features which allowed us to hear speeches and see information on all of the prize's past winners. After touring the museums, we went back to the hotel and relaxed for a while and then went up to the oldest existing restaurant in Norway, Vaertshuset. It has been operated as a restaurant since 1640. We had a fabulous meal of asparagus soup, reindeer steak, and the best homemade ice cream and sorbet I've ever had for dessert. Afterwards, we bid Karin goodbye and went back to our room to watch France take on Spain in Fotball.

Tonight we have to pack so we can go to a hotel near the airport tomorrow. In the morning we leave for Moss, where Tiana's other cousins live, and then it looks like we will have time to hop over the border into Sweden, where the "Burge" family originally came from (later made into "Burgeson", in the same style that Leif Erickson was the "son" of "Erick" the Red.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

The land of the midnight sun

Today we went into Oslo, the capitol city of Norway. We took a boat tour of the fjord and saw several cruise ships, party boats, and other assorted wooden and antique ships. We also saw vacation homes on the inner islands and the castle Anschluss from the vantage point of the sea.

Afterwards, we wandered the streets of Oslo, checking out the many shops and street performers. Everything here is clean, and tidy. The whole country is as well kept as Disneyworld. Tiana went to H&M, since we don't have one in Michigan yet. We bought the kids a few articles of clothing there to complete the experience.

We took Oddbjorn to lunch at TGIFridays (yes, they have several of them, here) so he could have an american dining experience. Oddbjorn is an excellent guide and has laid out quite a good touring program for us. We have gotten a very comprehensive overview of the area, with more to come. He also speaks good english, and can translate for us. I am learning a little Norweigan, which isn't as hard as I thought, since all of the scandinavian languages came from the same common tongue, and they can all understand each other. This includes Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, and northern Germany. There are so many similarities to German, I can pick up words here and there, and what I don't understand, Oddbjorn is teaching me.

After resting at the hotel for an hour and a half, we made our way out to Reidar Torp's home. Reidar Torp lives on five acres with his wife just outside Oslo. He originally bought a historical schoolhouse in the fifties which his daughter and her family now live in. Next door to the schoolhouse, he lives in a seperate home with his wife. On the property, he also has purchased and moved, timber by timber, two very old farm buildings. One is a Finnish building, and the other, Norweigan in origin. It was inside the Norweigan building that we ate a traditional Norsk dinner. The structure dates from the 1600's. I don't think I will ever get the chance to dine in an older building like this again!

For dinner we had porridge, to which we added cinnamon and sugar. Then, we ate salted salmon and reindeer meat. Those who weren't driving drank aquavita, a special liqour derived from potatoes and stored in wooden barrels which gave it a color similar to whiskey. Originally, it was mixed by storing the barrels on voyages aboard ships. The motion of the ships blended the alcohol.

After dinner, we had some coffee and cakes. Reidar played soccer (football), played on their trampoline, and ran around the property while we visited with the Torps. Reidar Torp was friends with William Gunderson, Tiana's relative who was a famous ski jumper. William was killed while in America, jumping in competition and also promoting a ski company. It was great for T to learn about her relatives in greater detail and to be able to ask some questions. Reidar was also a former teacher and was Oddbjorn's boss at one time when they both worked in the school administration system.

In the evening, we came back to the hotel and we are watching Switzerland take on the Ukraine in World Cup Soccer. The whole family is caught up in the world cup matches. I think the enthusiasm of the locals is drawing us in. Tomorrow we return to Oslo and we get to go to the world war II resistance museum (my idea), so I'm excited.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Norway day two

This morning we woke up and had a fantastic breakfast at the hotel (part of our deal), and met with Oddbjorn, Kirsten, and her boys. We went first to the Viking Ship Museum, where we saw several ships from around 800 or so. They were actual ships which were used by the ancient norsememan and later made into burial ships. With them were found many artifacts which are on display at the musuem as well.

Then we made our way over to the Norsk Folkemuseum where houses from all over Norway have been brought so you can walk through Norway's history (think Greenfield Village.) Each valley had their own distinct style of architecture. There were ancient timber homes with grass roofs and similar huts of the era, as well as more modern buildings from the 19th century. One of the 10 or so surviving early christian churches -- which is housed in a heathen style temple -- is at the Folkemuseum.

Costumed performers were scattered around playing instruments and singing. Reidar even got to join in on a local dance. There was also craftsmen and women such as potterers, silversmiths, and women in costume cooking traditional foods (which Reidar tried.) While we were there, we viewed one home (from the picture) that was donated from Karin's family farm. Many farms in Norway still have these historic centuries-old buildings which they still use.

After the Volks museum, we went to lunch at Frognerseteren (meeting place) restaurant. The historical building which houses the restaurant is high atop a mountain with a spectacular view. We enjoyed a tasty lunch while taking in a fabulous view of the fjords. Cross country ski trails weave around the area and are still in use in the winter.

On the way down the mountain, we stopped at Holmenkollen ski jump, where the 1954 Olympic ski jump matches were held. Matches are still held there, and have been since the mid 1800's. The jump has been rebuilt several times to make it larger, and will be rebuilt again when Oslo hosts the 2011 world championships of ski-jumping. Each time they make it taller, the records for jumping are broken.

Reidar was happy to see that four of the names on the record board where held by Reidar's. "My name's really popular here, dad!" he told me. Tiana was happy to see the gift shop, because she had no desire to go to the top of the ski jump with the rest of the group. The view from the top of the jump was awesome, and the boys enjoyed climbing to the jump platform.

After the skijump museum, we went to Karin and Oddbjorn's to have a sandwich and watch England beat Ecuador in world cup soccer. The sandwiches here are very good; open faced with very fine meats, cheeses, vegetables, and breads. Beckham scored for England on a free kick for the game's single goal. After the game, we had some excellent salmon with a salad and Norweigan strawberries for dessert. Reidar used the free time in-between to play some more football with his cousins from across the sea.

After dinner, we made our way down the mountain to rest and relax at the hotel. Tomorrow we have a fine day planned in Oslo.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Day one in Norway

We took a car from our hotel in London and flew to Norway this morning. The trip was uneventful. We were all pretty tired and all of us slept on the flight. Oddbjorn met us at the airport and we followed him in our rental car to his apartment outside of Oslo where Karin was waiting for us. There, we had a wonderful lunch and caught up on things. Afterwards, we walked around the surrounding area while Reidar played football with his cousins. We watched Sweden lose to Germany in the world cup and then went on to Michael and Kirsten's house for a tasty barbecue and a birthday cake for Ari.

When it started to get late, we left and settled into our hotel and are relaxing, doing some wash, and preparing for tomorrow's sight-seeing adventure which Oddbjorn has set up for us. Today is the longest day of the year, and it will not be dark tonight.

British view of America

From what I can gather, Americans are seen as agressive and "in your face", as one woman described her concept of the Yanks to me. We were mistaken for a Canadian family at one point, which allowed us to hear some very real thoughts on the US. After the mistake was realized, we were told that not being recognized as Americans was the highest compliment we could be paid.

The opinion of Bush is not too great here, as you have probably heard. In the papers, he is seen as a bigger threat to the world than Iran or North Korea. He is viewed as a brash aggressor. The English see themselves as a non-agressive people, caught up in a war that Tony Blair has gotten them into as a way to "Margaret Thatcherize" himself, the way in which she gained popularity after the Falkalands War and won a third term.

The english are enthusiastic about sports, friendly, polite, and were helpful to us during our stay here. The city of London is very dynamic and modern. There are people here from several nations; India, Australia, Japan, and the Middle East, to name a few. They live, in all ways, just as we do. They care about their children, the education system, their leaders, and their way of life. I can see why we feel such a kinship to our old motherland. I only hope that our deteriorating world perception does not continue to distance us from our cousins across the sea.

Friday, June 23, 2006

London calling

Our first full day in London was a full one indeed. We caught the Big Red Bus and toured all over the city. For one fee, you can get on and off the bus as many times as you want. Reidar and I rode the London Eye, a 135 meter tall ferris wheel that allowed us to see all of London with fantastic aerial views. Tiana opted to stay on the ground with Ari.

We also did a river cruise down the Thames which ended up at the tower of London where we did the tour led by yoemen, or what have become known as "beefeaters". After that, we trekked back home. Other sites we saw while on the bus were Big Ben, the houses of parliament, Hamleys, (the world's largest independently owned toystore--which we actually went into with the kids), the fictional home of sherlock holmes, the prime minister's residence, buckingham palace, the marble arch, kensington palace, st. paul's cathedral, and a host of others.

We went back to the hotel and got cleaned up and headed out to ride a double decker bus over to the home of a friend of Tiana's uncle in central London. We had a wonderful dinner there and talked late into the evening with Jim and Jilla over several bottles of wine. We also watched a bit of world cup soccer (football) and learned about that quite a bit (everyone in the household was an expert), and their 14 year old Doug gave us some instruction as to how Rugby works. We still don't understand rugby very well. At the end of the night, we made our way back home via bus, with Reidar and Doug kicking the football the whole way.

Now that we're experts on the bus system, we got up late in the morning, grabbed some fruit and water from a local stand, and walked all the way down to Harrods. Along the way, we ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (lunch was expensive but very good!) Then we walked to Harrods, the most outrageously expensive department store in the world. Needless to say, we didn't buy any souvenirs there. Then we hiked down to Piccadily Circus, where we shopped at Lily White's, a huge sporting goods store. Reidar and I got football jerseys (England and Sweden). Then we rode the bus all the way back home because we were too exhausted to walk back. Ari had a monster meltdown on the bus so we got off a little early and walked the rest of the way back to the hotel. Reidar got back and immediately asked if he could watch the football match and we are all relaxing and doing our own thing now. Later we'll go out for fish and chips, a pint, and then back to the hotel to pack for the flight to Norway tomorrow. We have a car picking us up in the morning at 6am (ouch!)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Americans are coming!

We arrived in London yesterday after a fairly uneventful 6+ hour plane trip. As usual, I couldn't sleep on the plane, but the kids and Tiana got about 4 hours in. Each seat was equipped with its own television screen and video on demand so Reidar was in heaven. He watched King Kong until after midnight, which is about the time they fed us dinner. Three hours later they gave us breakfast. Besides the 5 hour time change and the lack of sleep, our bodies were confused by the strange meal times we were keeping.

This is probably why Reidar got sick while we are on the ground waiting to deplane. Ari was in a mood as well. So when we bussed our way to customs and saw the line that would take us an hour to pass through, we were a little depressed. Thats when we caught a break. A nice customs employee took pity on us and walked us to the head of the mile long line and we were processsed in no time flat.

After we retrieved our luggage and changed money, we bought some train tickets for the half hour trip to Victoria station in London. By the way, the pd. beats the dollar at a ration of 2:1 so a hundred bucks nets us fifty. The prices for food and such are about the same as here, which sounds great until you realize your eight dollar meal really costs you $20 USD.

We almost fell asleep on the train but were soon at the station. There, we caught one of those cute English taxis to our hotel. Jury's Kensington hotel is very nice. Our room wasn't ready so we took a nice hike to the park -- a huge sprawling wooded area -- and walked around for an hour or so. We saw the famous statue of John Barrie's Peter Pan and watched some local kids playing "football". We must look like a typical british family, because we were asked for directions twice while on our jaunt.

After collapsing in the hotel room for three hours, we woke up and explored the area around the hotel. A few people stopped us to tell us how cute Ari was, and we found this area of Kensington to be quaint and friendly. There are a number of restaurants, a small grocery where we purchased some snacks, and other assorted stores nearby. The streets are narrow but clean and well kept, and the appearances of the people, buildings, and cars makes us feel like we are in any large city back home.

We decided to have dinner at the Irish pub style restaurant attached to our hotel. I had a nice little Irish stew, Tiana a sandwich, and the kids shared some nachos. I of course had a nice pint of Guiness, and made Tiana have one too, instead of the Coors she was going to order. She was glad she did, I think. Reidar and I watched Australia play France in Rugby on the flat screen, and he really enjoyed it (maybe a new sport we can bring back to Manistee?)

After dinner we went back to the room, had some ice cream from the grocer, and crashed. We still are a little jet-lagged, and Ari woke up in the middle of the night, but some Benadryl solved that issue. I am currently the only one awake, as the rest of the family is still in a coma, so I got showered and decided to blog.

Today, we are taking a tour on the big red bus. It will stop all over London. Tonight we are having dinner with some friends of Tiana's uncle. I'll give an update later. I just brewed some hot water so I could have some english tea, and stupid me filled the pot too high so it boiled over. Cheers for now!