After leaving Ireland I found myself on my way to Norway, a place near and dear to both my family and Luther College. Luther is proud of its Norwegian heritage, and for most of my life my grandma has taught me about my Norwegian ancestors who emigrated to America. We have relatives who still live there and, this week, I got to meet some of these relatives and learn about my family history.
I spent the weekend in Stavanger staying with my dad’s third cousin, Kristin. She and her sister, Torunn, planned a wonderful weekend for me and acted us my guides to Stavanger. They were amazing, gracious hosts and they helped me explore a lovely corner of Norway.
On my first day they showed me around Stavanger. In Stavanger’s old town, 18th and 19th century white wooden houses are well preserved and act as a gateway into the past. The city’s main industries were shipping, ship-building, and canning; remnants of these industries can still be seen. We also visited the Stavanger Cathedral, which traces its history back to around 1100. The cathedral is an important symbol of Stavanger’s early Christian history. I enjoyed walking around Stavanger because the city’s heritage and culture is still so vibrant.
On our second day, Kristin and Torunn took me on a fjord cruise. We enjoyed coffee, lefsa, and wonderful views of the Lysefjord. The Lysefjord is well known for the Preikestolen cliff that looms overhead. This cliff might be familiar to Decorah residents and Luther students — in English, it is known as the Pulpit Rock.
That night Torunn invited me to her home for a traditional Norwegian dinner that included reindeer, lingonberry sauce, and riskrem. The food was delicious, and I enjoyed learning about the dishes and talking with Torunn’s family.
On my last day in Norway, we took a ferry trip to Strand. My great-great-grandpa emigrated from Strand to America in 1886, and some of his relatives still own land in Strand. Here we visited Strand Church and the farm that has been in the family for generations. It was very powerful to see where my ancestors come from and to put a physical place to the histories my grandma taught me.
After seeing Strand we took a scenic drive through the mountains, visited more family members at their lovely cabin, and saw a bit of the area around Strand. Norway is incredibly scenic, and I was able to see many parts of the Stavanger area.
I had a wonderful time in Norway meeting relatives and seeing where my ancestors lived. The hospitality and generosity of everyone I met was truly amazing and made my time in Norway truly special. I will be forever grateful for my time there.