There is so much to say about my last week in Scandinavia that I have been putting off writing this post. Part of me doesn’t want to acknowledge that my trip is over, part of me misses it too much to bear, and part of me doesn’t want to write this knowing that it chronicles the final installment of my summer adventure.
However, the week I spent in Risør, Norway is one of the fondest memories I have of the entire trip and I never want to forget a single moment we had there.
Wednesday (July 31st):
After a quick flight from Copenhagen to Oslo, we all arrived and separated to have a little down-time and unpacking time: the parents went to their hotel and Alec, Ingun and I made the trek back to their flat. We’d decided to have dinner at home so that my parents could finally come over and see Alec and Ingun’s new place and bring some (slightly overdue) birthday presents for both of them. After a quick trip to the grocery, Ingun whipped up another batch of her amazing pizza dough and we nommed on homemade pizza for dinner. Alec opened his presents (including two new pairs of running shoes!) and Ingun opened her new cookbooks, so the rest of the night was taken up by finding new recipes to try while Alec and my parents geeked out over exercise and workout tips (snore ;) )
We decided to do a little sightseeing that we’d missed on our last trip to Oslo and made a plan to go to an amazing little place for fish and chips for lunch on the way downtown. This shop, called Fiskeriet (exclusively a fresh fish shop!), is known to make the best fish and chips in town. We had to wait a little bit for them to make it for us to take with us, but it was absolutely and completely worth every second!! They even print their own “fake newsprint” in Norwegian to line the containers with to make it feel more authentic :P
We took our lunch and walked down to the fort in Aker Brygge to eat by the water. It was a spectacular day to be outside!
Our next stop was the Oslo Radhus (City Hall) just steps from the water. It was open for visitors to go in and explore and had a beautifully designed inside with art and murals from floor to ceiling on almost every wall, usually depicting a story in the history of Norway as a country. The great room is actually where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held every year!
It was getting to be late in the afternoon and everyone was losing steam, so Alec and Ingun stopped by Fuglen for a cup of coffee while the parents and I went to Rema 1000 to pick up ingredients for me to cook dinner that night. I decided to make my famous pork and lime tacos with a spicy cabbage slaw and ended up having to improvise a little for ingredients ;)
As requested by Ingun, I made oreo cheesecake bars for a special late-birthday dessert while we all played a rousing game of Ticket to Ride!
We traveled to Risør, the town that Ingun and her family are from, on Friday morning on a charter bus from Oslo. Alec and Ingun make the trip all the time and its always a very smooth ride and takes about 3 to 3 1/2 hours on a comfortable bus with wifi.
Unfortunately, we were not so lucky.
For starters, we got the bus driver from HELL. He couldn’t drive in a straight line if his life depended on it and hardly looked at the road. Add to that the fact that the front bus door malfunctioned and wouldn’t close, so we drove a good 15 km with an incessant beeping sound until we reached a stop where we had to swap to a new bus. This bus, however, had no modern amenities (the bathroom was jammed as well) and was quite an old bus so it was quite a bumpy ride.
Someone realized she’d left her phone on the other bus and decided to get up to tell the bus driver, supposedly hoping he could help her locate it somehow. Instead of waiting until we were at a stop, she marched up there and had an entire conversation INCLUDING writing her mailing address down and handing it to the bus driver to HOLD AND READ while he was DRIVINGGGGGG to the person on the other end of his headset. This added to his problem of not paying any attention to the road… and I thought I was either going to be part of a car-wreck or be sick because I was so nauseated from his driving. The only good part of the trip was getting to see the beautiful Norwegian landscape all around us:
Eventually we arrived in Risør, and despite my weak stomach and huge headache, I instantly felt better as soon as I breathed in the beautiful Norwegian air. The town itself is simply stunning: it looks exactly how you would expect a quaint and charming Norwegian fishing town to look. We headed straight to the Ingun’s childhood home where her parents, Eva and Reidar, were graciously hosting us for the week. There I met Fia– a spunky and hilarious dachshund who instantly became my little buddy!
The week we arrived in Risør was the annual Trebåtfestivalen, or wooden boat festival, so the small little town was buzzing and full of life. The harbor was filled only with wooden boats (no other type allowed!) and they were truly impressive to see all together! Once we’d dropped off our suitcases at the house, we all walked down (about ten steps!) to the harbor to check out all the boats- one of which even belongs to the Norwegian prince!
Alec, Ingun and I went to a floating bar in the harbor to hang out and get a drink. It was my treat, so I ordered them beers and a Somersby for myself, all in Swedish! We walked around the little town some more before heading back to the house and relaxing before dinner.
Dinner was so delicious– fresh caught shrimp that we got to peel ourselves! It was a ton of fun to grab a whole pile and work for our dinner :) We ate them on soft white bread with mayonnaise and lemon and had a glass of crisp white wine. The perfect summer meal to eat outside on their beautiful patio!
We took another walk after dinner to see the town from the other side of the harbor. There must have been a few hundred boats there in total!
The weather called for rain on Saturday morning so after a delicious Scandinavian breakfast (yessss) Reidar took my parents and me up to the school he teaches at a few towns over. I was so excited to see a Norwegian grundskola (elementary school) since thats the age-level I’d like to teach someday. Reidar teaches all of the arts and crafts classes, from woodworking to ceramics to drawing and everything in between.
He took us on a tour of the school which was absolutely beautiful and tucked away in a forested area with lots of room for the children to go outside and play. Every room in the school was made of wood and made you feel so close to nature even if you were inside. The classrooms were clean and simple but state-of-the-art with smartboards and computers for the children.
And naturally, me being the language nerd that I am, I found some Norwegian grammar lessons on the wall and had to take a picture :)
My favorite part of the tour was getting to see the “home economics” room, or the kitchens, where all the children learn how to cook, clean, and develop important life skills for the future. In the kitchen there are 100% real stoves, ovens, knives, etc. that the children learn to use safely and work together to make meals for each other.
My favorite feature of the kitchen was a little window off to the side that opens out to the football field and track. It is a window that slides sideways so that the children can sell items they make in the kitchen to their classmates during games! Reidar told us that the kids love to queue outside and wait to buy the treats. All the money raised goes back to a fund where the children save up to go on special adventures as a class! What a spectacular idea :)
We said goodbye to the little school and headed back to Risør. On the way, Reidar took a small detour to take us to the boat shop where he and his friends make their wooden boats. We got to take a peek around the shop and see the builders sanding and polishing away! Check out all that sawdust!
The weather cleared up by the time we got back to the house so we decided to go to a cafe on the water for lunch. Alec and Ingun were raving about these fish burgers, so naturally we had to try them! They were fresh and delicious (and yes, I did eat the dill ;) )
We walked around the town some more and relaxed for the afternoon in preparation for the amazing dinner that awaited us. Reidar made his famous elk meatballs with mashed green peas, soft cauliflower, steamed potatoes and lingon (of course!). It was easily one of the most delicious things I ate during my entire two months in Scandinavia. Top it off with a glass of wine and the smell of the North Sea just around the corner? Perfection.
Eva served these sweet and salty cakes called “munk” for dessert with a cup of coffee. My stomach was so happy after that meal and I still remember how good everything tasted! I have to get the recipe for both the dinner and dessert to recreate it myself :)
The “main event” entertainment was scheduled for Saturday night so we went down to the harbor to watch the spectacle. A well-known Finnish singer had been invited to perform and I was pleased that I could understand everything she said because she was speaking in Swedish very clearly (although in a Finnish accent!) instead of in Norwegian. I unfortunately couldn’t get a picture of her because the light on the stage was so bright, but she was in an incredibly dramatic flowing white gown that blew in the wind as she sang. It kept blowing up and getting tangled in the guitar player behind her too :P
At the height of her dramatic performance, fireworks started going off over the stage in the harbor. A chorus of “oohhhs” and “aaahhhhs” ran through the crowd and it made for a cool finale of the festival!
We were all super excited for Sunday because the weather was perfect and we were planning on going to the Knudsen’s summer house across the fjord to swim and relax and grill some lunch! We piled in to the speedboat (with Fia, too!) and Reidar sailed us around the harbor. It was truly breathtaking to see everything from the water!
Our first-mate, Fia, stood guard on the front of the boat during the entire trip!
It only took about 10 minutes by boat to reach the summer cabin, and it was paradise. The view was incredible!
We changed in to our swimsuits to take a dip in the water. It was pretty chilly so I only went in for a second, but Alec, Eva, and Ingun had fun diving off the dock!
My favorite part of the day was learning how to fish. I’d mentioned to Reidar that I’d never been fishing before and he seemed to take it on as his personal mission to teach me! It was super windy so we couldn’t go out in his wooden boat, but we found a nice spot on the edge of a rock and I started my lesson. He was a great and patient teacher and got super excited when there was a big ol’ trout following my hook. Unfortunately it didn’t bite, but he was so proud of me anyways!
I was very persistent and stood out there fishing by myself for a good hour. I managed to catch some “salad” (seaweed) and a jellyfish leg! Even though it wasn’t a fish, I had a ton of fun and can’t wait to take my grandpa out fishing back here in the States!
We grilled sausages and corn for lunch and finished with some more yummy munk for dessert. Nothing like grilling and enjoying the outdoors!
We headed back from the cabin around late afternoon and all retired to take a little nap. Alec fixed a light pasta dish for dinner and we decided to take a hike up the nearby Urheia mountain for some more fresh-air and to see the most beautiful views of Risør from up high in the twilight.
Climbing up to the top, we stopped to get a family picture (christmas card shot perhaps?) of all the Oyhenart travelers!
We found some pretty interesting history at the top of the mountain. Risør had been a prime harbor for the Nazis at the beginning of World War II and they set up a substantial military operation at this high point. There were tons of remnants still there– pill boxes, bunkers, trenches, bolts from where radar and anti-aircraft guns were installed, and even a rock with “1941” carved in to it.
As we kept walking we came across some beautifully peaceful lakes and trails winding around in the forest. The paths are even lit so runners can use them in the dark winters! The water in the lakes were so still that they almost looked like perfect mirrors.
On the way down the mountain, Eva spotted wild blueberries growing on the side of the path. I love that its perfectly okay and safe to pick berries all over Scandinavia (as long as you know what you’re looking for!), so we had a few to try. I even found a young lingon plant with just a few nearly-ripe berries on it!
We took our last look around the town and I managed to snap a photo of peaceful Risør in the twilight. What a beautiful place to be.
Reidar started a fire in the small outside chimney and we spent the rest of the night chatting and relaxing on the back patio. Fia came to join when she saw the snacks on the table. Here she is– First-Mate with the Captain!
We were so sad to be leaving Risør after spending a few wonderful days in the town and with the Knudsens. My parents and I got up early to go to the bookstore in town to buy a few postcards and a book on the history of Risør. I filled out the postcards right there and took them to the post office to get some stamps to send them to the United States.
A few days earlier we had stumbled across the coolest thing down by the aquarium in the harbor: an underwater post office! Once the letter is ready to be mailed, you deposit it in to a red postbox at the aquarium and at 17:00 on mail days, the mailman comes by in his scuba suit and dives down to the post office to post-mark the letters! I sent one home and one to my grandparents and they are still in route– I hope they arrive!!
Here’s a view of the underwater post office from the dock!
We said goodbye to our wonderful hosts and headed back to Oslo on the bus. Thankfully this time it was a very uneventful trip (except for seeing a Norwegian celebrity on the bus!) and we made it back to Oslo by late afternoon.
I went back with Ingun and Alec to their flat to pack up my suitcase while the parents did the same at their hotel. We made reservations at our favorite Indian restaurant called Mother India for one last dinner in Oslo before our trip home the next day.
It was a special dinner for me because everything really came full-circle: Mother India was the first restaurant we ate at on our first trip to Scandinavia when Alec moved to Oslo, and it was the first time we met Ingun. It was quite fitting to end my latest trip with dinner there, too :)
We finished the night back at Alec and Ingun’s flat and said our goodbyes before heading back to our hotel. It was difficult to leave after having such a good time with the two of them and realizing that I really did have to leave my favorite places in the world to go back home.
This trip was the most incredible adventure I’ve had so far in my 22 years. I met some truly amazing people who I am so lucky to call my friends, improved my Swedish skills to hopefully help me with my future life in Sweden, had lots of fun and laughs with my wonderful family, and learned a lot about myself.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone that touched my life this summer. From my family, to my beloved Knudsens, to my teachers, and my friends that I’ve made and will keep for the rest of my life– and even to anyone out there just reading this blog. I love and appreciate every one of you and I hope you’ve enjoyed following my adventure for the last two months.
Vi ses nästa gång!