Thursday, October 13, 2011

Greta loves Maihaugen.
She also loves running after her Uncle Jeremy.
 My brother Jeremy and his samboer, Amber, came to visit us in late August for nearly two weeks. My delay in writing this post has everything to do with waiting for my brother to sort through his 2,000 pictures and nothing to do with my own busy schedule. . . 

I do a little Big Sister
ass kickin' on the stilts at Maihaugen.
While the plane tickets were bought long ago, the planning was. . . shall we say, a little last minute? J&A wanted first and foremost to see their adorable niece, but also to get a taste of Norway. I, of course, wanted to visit with them too, but also wanted them to really like Norway. In fact, I was more concerned about their having an awesome, kick-ass visit than I have been with any of our other visitors thus far (aunt/uncle and our parents), mostly I think because of the amount of money involved and their age. Let me try to explain:  our parents, our aunt/uncle. . . they're retired/nearly retired, have some extra money on their hands in this stage of their lives. . . somehow for my brother and his girlfriend to drop the thousands of dollars it takes to get here--these two hard working kids with a mortgage. . . I really felt some pressure for them to have a great time. (And to want to come back!).

So, in addition to visiting Lillehammer and the requisite trip to Oslo (either upon arrival or departure, or during any of the train trips that generally require a trip into Oslo), I strongly encouraged them to visit Bergen. Bergen is located on the west coast of Norway, and notoriously rainy (kind of like Seattle). But it is colorful, cosmopolitan, historical, and beautiful, and since I visited it 6 years ago on a rare sunny day--I loved it. A link to this blog perhaps sealed the deal on visiting Bergen.

I also recommended a Norway in a Nutshell trip, which fellow blogger Michele described as "ridiculously expensive but totally worth it". It enabled them to get a taste of Norway in just a day or two trip--fjord trip, train trip to the mountains and glaciers, and back down to the coastline.

I thought Lillehammer, Oslo, Bergen, Norway in a Nutshell would be a nice taste of Norway. A few weeks before their visit Jeremy said, "We're going to start reading the guidebooks now!" I reassured them that late August into early September isn't high tourist season anymore, and not to worry too much about making reservations in some of the more popular tourist destinations.
And the weather continues to cooperate.
We stopped at the octagonal church in 

Sør Fron on our drive to Rondane to enjoy
the spectacular view and sunshine.


Bergen was Booked Solid on their chosen days. Only horrendously expensive hotels were available. Jeremy sent us link after link to hostels and small apartments, and every one was booked. After playing with the dates of their in-country trips a bit, and only after Erik called about 40 privately owned apartments, did we find them a place to stay in Bergen for 3 nights.

Let this be a warning to you!!!

We begin the 5km walk to Rondvassbu Fjell Hotel
in Rondane National Park. 
Weather was the wild card. Remember we just had the rainiest June, July and August in history (or modern history) in Lillehammer, and so a few days of rain could be the difference between a miserable trip or an awesome one.

They had an AWESOME TRIP!!  The weather (although a little chilly for late August) cooperated. . . even in Bergen. For the most part.

Nearly there!
(No, I did not carry Greta the whole way. We had a stroller).
Once they arrived in Lillehammer, and we made the pilgrimage to Maihaugen, I convinced them that we should do a day hike into Rondane National Park and stay overnight in Rondvassbu, one of many classic Norwegian mountain hotels. My brother and his girlfriend aren't really hikers (they live in DC), but I reassured them that it wasn't so much of a hike as it was a 5km walk on a dirt road. With backpacks. Norwegians walk in on a Sunday afternoon, have a cup of coffee, and walk back out again. Parents push baby buggies, kids ride their bikes. But it's all in the middle of really incredible high mountain terrain. The sleeping accommodations are rustic (think bunk beds and candles) but the food is not (think 3 course meals with a beer/wine menu).

They agreed it sounded like a fun addition to their itinerary, without too much convincing. Erik was busy with work and house stuff, so it was the two of them along with Greta and myself. We packed backpacks full of layers of rainproof clothing, long underwear and our bed linens (only to find out upon arrival at the hotel that we could have "rented" the linens and spared ourselves the extra pounds in the backpack) and drove the two hours to Rondane, stopping along the way for some pretty incredible sight-seeing. Greta enjoyed the hike from the comfort of her stroller, and J&A were adequately impressed by the stark beauty of the high mountain range. 

After an evening meal of fish, potatoes (and a very tasty pasta salad for vegetarian Amber) and chocolate mousse, accompanied by a good beer and refreshing glass of wine, we settled into the living room to read and chat by the candlelight. The mountain hotel was a bit overrun by about 50+ high school aged kids, heading out on a first-week-of-school multi-night expedition. But they definitely added to the rustic, Norwegian feel to the place--all these kids not batting an eye about heading out into the wilderness with a few days' supplies on their backs. 
Rustic but cozy, right Amber?

The multiple layers of wicking long underwear, fleece and rain gear were unnecessary on our walk in--the sun was out and we all stripped down to a single layer of clothes. The walk out ended on a chilly note with a few sprinkles and strong wind, but did not dampen the spirits of our DC Hikers who, to their credit, got off the beaten path of the "typical" tourist in Norway. 

Come see for yourself! 

Come back soon, Jeremy and Amber!
You still have a lot of Norway left to see!


  1. Wow! You figured out how to make a comment!
    Ladies and gentlemen. . . this is impressive.

  2. I'm so glad your brother and his girlfriend enjoyed their trip to Norway! Sounds like you planned an excellent tour for them (and I'm glad my Bergen post helped). I now definitely want to do two things: 1) make the hike into Rondane with a stay at Rondvassbu, and 2) buy a B&B in Bergen. :-)

  3. Michele: It definitely did help! I was encouraging the Norway in a Nutshell, but they were initially a little skeptical. Let me know if you make it up to Rondvassbu--you can stop in Lillehammer on your way up!