Thursday, July 31, 2008

Norwegian Experience Trip Day 8

What a great day Wednesday was! Marcia spent the first half of her day on a guided tour of Oslo that took her to the Ski Museum, the Oslo Opera House, the Viking Museum and then wrapped up in Vigeland Park! She said “With so much to see, it’s been hard to take it all in!”

First, at the Ski Museum, which was founded in 1923, Marcia and her group discovered a wealth of information about the 4000 year history of skiing. This included historic glimpses at the past Olympics that have been held in Norway over the years.

Next, it was onto Oslo’s Vikingskipshuset (Viking Ship Museum). It was here that Marcia learned about the Gokstad, Tune and Osberg ships, as well as historical information about the surprised Norwegians who discovered the ships on their farms. For Marcia, the most interesting part of the museum was where visitors were shown how the ships were transported from the discovery site to the museum.

Finally, Marcia’s group ended their tour in the world famous Vigeland Park. As they walked amongst the sculptures and statues Marcia “couldn’t help but feel how meaningful all the sculptures were.” It turns out her two favorite parts of the Park were the Monolith, which has drawn tourists for decades, and the Wheel of Life. Marcia said, “The Monolith had such fine detail. It was really amazing to me to be so close to it and see all the faces and bodies. It’s no wonder that its so famous!”

After their walk around Vigeland Park, Marcia and her companions spent the rest of the day exploring Oslo and all that it has to offer. They went to the City Hall, they walked to the Palace and basically took the rest of their day at leisure.

Make sure to check back later for information on how their day went today!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Norwegian Experience Trip Day 7

For the most part yesterday was a travel day for Marcia and her companions. She departed Balestrand by express boat, bound for the village of Flåm, just before mid-day. Her route took her through the Sognefjord, which is famous for being the second largest fjord in the world after Scoresby Sund on Greenland, and the largest in Norway.

After arriving in Flåm Marcia had a little time to look around and see the Norwegian village. Most interesting about Flåm is that even though the village only has 500 residents it hosts nearly half a million tourists and receives more than 130 cruise ships per year, including the RMS Queen Mary 2. After a short time investigating the city, it was time for Marcia to embark on the famous Flåm Railway through the Flåm valley, up the mountain to Myrdal before continuing across the “Roof of Norway” to Oslo.

Today, however, was a day to explore Oslo. The morning was filled by a guided tour of the city center, a visit to City Hall and Vigeland sculpture park, and ending with a tour of the Viking ship museum. Her afternoon was free to see more of Oslo and we’ll hear all about it in tomorrow’s post, so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Norwegian Experience Trip Day 6

Monday was another great day in Norway for Marcia and her companions. After arriving in Balestrand on Sunday, Marcia went on a spectacular fjord cruise yesterday, which took her to the village of Fjærland and then to the Jostedalsbreen Glacier.

About Fjærland
Fjærland is a small community with around 300 inhabitants in the innermost reaches of the Fjærlandsfjord, one of the most beautiful arms of the Sognefjord. The fjord meets with a marshy landscape here, Bøyaøyri, rich in flora and fauna and perfect for bird-watchers. You can see the mighty glaciers, Bøyabreen and Supphellebreen, high on the mountainside, reaching down to the valley below. In Fjærland lies the award winning activity centre, Norsk Bremuseum - The Norwegian Glacier Museum. The museum houses many exhibits on glaciers, from genuine glacier ice that is more than thousand years old, to glacier models showing the "core" of the glacier with sound and winds. Ivo Caprino´s panorama film on the Jostedal Glacier is an experience not to be missed and never forgotten.

Guests from all corners of the world have found their way to Fjærland, the first by boat along the Fjærlandsfjord, some via the heights of glacier and today by road, through the tunnel under the Jostedal Glacier.

When we telephoned Marcia yesterday, she had this to say:
"Everything has been so exciting! Some of my family, who are traveling with me, went kayaking in the fjord and came across a family of porpoises that swam alongside the kayaks! I was able to watch them from the beach, where I was relaxing and then, later, from my room at the Kvikne's hotel.

Speaking of the hotel, it's been fabulous, too! From the balcony outside my room I can see the fjord and the water. It's been an amazing place to stay!"

Sounds like Marcia is having a great time and we know that the rest of her time in Norway is going to be just as fun! Remember, if you are interested in entering the 2008 Norwegian Experience Recruitment contest, all you have to do is be a current member who signs up a brand new member. The more members you recruit, the more chances you have to win this wonderful trip that's being brought to you by Sons of Norway and Borton Overseas. To learn more about the contest, click here, or visit

Monday, July 28, 2008

Norwegian Experience Day 4 & 5

This was a weekend full of excitement and travel for Marcia and her traveling companions!

On Saturday morning Marcia traveled from Bergen to Voss and then on to Ulvik where she took a guided tour of Vøringfossen, Norway's largest and most visited waterfall. From there Marcia went to the Hardangervidda Nature Center. From there, Marcia took a a lovely afternoon cruise through the fjords before arriving in Norheimsund and then heading back to Bergen.

On Sunday morning Marcia said goodbye to Bergen and headed to Balestrand. The trip took Marcia and her group through the mighty Sognefjord, by fjord express boat. At the end of their journey was the famous Kvikne's Hotel, a 19th century hotel that is also the most famous building in Balestrand.

Kvikne's Hotel

In the afternoon, Marcia was treated to a private tour of the village by Bjørg Bjøberg, the famous watercolor artist. Marcia had this to say about the afternoon:
"Bjørg was so interesting to meet. She took us through the village and told us a lot about its history as well as current day residents. She was an excellent and knowledgeable guide. The best part, though, was when she invited us into her home so we could see her private studio!"

Sounds like they had a full weekend, but the fun is just beginning! Make sure to keep checking back to read and see more about the 2007 Norwegian Experience winner's trip!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Norwegian Experience Day 3

Today was a free day for Marcia and her traveling companions to explore all the history that Bergen has to offer, while getting in some time to shop and wander the city. In fact, there may be no better place in Norway for these kinds of excursions.

Visitors have always been looked after in this Westland city and the Bergeners of today have a long history of hospitality. They are proud of their town and are pleased and delighted to show it off to visitors. There is so much to see and enjoy whether you are coming for the very first time or whether you are returning, as so many do time after time. Nowadays Bergen is small by international standards, but it has always been a meeting place for people and a centre for commerce and culture.

At the same time Bergen retains much of its local character; it also has a very international flavor. There are top class international hotels as well as more modest ones, in the heart of the city or just outside within a short distance from the airport.

As for Bergen's restaurants, these can and do satisfy most tastes and pockets. You can choose for the most exotic to the more traditional dishes from home and abroad. There are high class gourmet restaurants of international repute as well as modest cafes serving popular everyday Norwegian dishes. It is not too difficult to find a pleasant place to enjoy really good food.

In this old tradesman's town you used to be able to strike a bargain and so can you today, which is a pleasant surprise for Marcia as she wanders through the city on a shopping trip. Bergen abounds with all kinds of shops, whether in the city centre or at the large modern shopping malls just outside in the suburbs of Fana, Loddefjord, Åsane and Fyllingsdalen.

When we spoke with Marcia, today, she said, “It was a great shopping day! We started early and went back to the fish market to taste some of the things we missed yesterday and to get more of the things we liked. It was there that I saw what has become my favorite part of the trip so far-gateartist's! There were acrobats and break dancers performing in the streets. It was the most fabulous thing that could have happened to me in the heart of Bergen!

Then we spent the day shopping around Bergen. It was so nice because there was no rushing and I was able to take my time and find some great deals. This trip is the most fabulous thing that could have happened to me!”

Check back on Monday for updates on Marcia's weekend and her trips to Hardangerfjord and Fjaerland!

Things to do in Bergen

In a continuation of yesterday’s section on things to do in Bergen, consider the following if you travels ever take you to this beautiful Norwegian city.

The Funicular
The Fløibanen funicular will take you to the top of Mt. Fløien in 7 minutes, where you can enjoy the view or take a walk on one of the many paths through the forest. There is a restaurant open daily during the summer.

Self-guided walks
Stroll through historic Bergen, with a self-guided tour of Norway's largest city during the Middle Ages. Start at the Håkon's Hall which King Håkon built in 1261. Continue to the Rosenkrantz Tower and St. Mary's Church.

The wharf
Bryggen, formerly the hanseatic quarter and featuring an informative museum, is now home to many unique shops, restaurants and narrow alleyways.

The Fish Market
The fish market is one of the most known attractions in Bergen and Norway. With more then 40 permanent traders is the fish market in Bergen one of the biggest open-air markets in Norway. The market - better known as "fishmarket" - does not only trade fish, but also fruits, vegetables, flowers, knitwears, handicrafts, artware and souvenirs. Beside the permanent traders you will find some temporary traders - especially in summertime. Opening hours in the Summer: Mon - Sun: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm. Winter: Mon - Sat.: 7:00 am - 4:00 pm, Sunday closed.

Bergen Guided Tours
Bergen Guided Tours offers a 3-hour extensive guided city sightseeing tour including a visit to Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg's home. Tour I: City Sightseeing with visit to Troldhaugen and Old Bergen Museum.Tour II: City Sightseeing with visit to Fantoft Stave Church and Troldhaugen.

Bergens Expressen
A 1-hour guided tour on the sightseeing train "Bergens-Expressen" takes you through the central streets of Bergen, past the Fish Market, along the harbor and the Hanseatic Wharf Bryggen. Drive up to Mount Fløien, to enjoy a view of Bergen. Departs from the fishmarket.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Norwegian Experience Trip Day 2: UPDATE

We spoke with Marcia Stein about her first couple of days in Bergen and this is what she had to say:

"When we arrived in Bergen on Wednesday, we weren't too tired from our trip, so we decided to walk around and get to see some of the city. We ended up stumbling upon an open-air concert in the main square of the city. It was an amazing and fortuitous welcome to Bergen.

Then on Thursday, we spent the morning taking a guided tour of the city. We went to an open-air architecture museum, which was very interesting to us and it made for a nice outdoor activity. Then we went to the fish market where we tasted so many new flavors and foods. It was absolutely amazing--I tried smoked whale for the first time and it was delicious! In fact, I liked it better than the salmon and caviar that we tried. I had expected it to taste fishy, but it wasn't.

Next we went to St. Mary's church, which was breath-taking. It's the oldest building in Bergen and the architecture is fantastic! There is so much history here, that it's sometimes hard to take it all in. This trip has been so amazing--thank you Sons of Norway and Borton Overseas!"

Norwegian Experience Trip Day 2

As we mentioned yesterday, today is Marcia Stein's first full day in Norway where she will spend the next week and a half traveling as the winner of the 2007 Norwegian Experience recruitment contest sponsored by Sons of Norway and Borton Overseas!

It's going to be a full day for Marcia and her traveling companions. They will embark on a private, guided walking tour of Bergen, which will include the historic area of Bryggen, visit the Fish Market and go all the way to the top of Mt. Fløien for a spectacular view of the city below.

About Bergen:
Originally a port settlement called
Bjørgvin, which was granted municipality in 1070 by Olav Kyrre, developed rapidly as an occasional royal residence. In 1233, Håkon Håkonsson's hereditary right to the throne was recognized at a general assembly held here, and by 1240 Bergen was formally declared the capital of Norway in place of Trondheim. King Håkon Håkonsson held his court here and he was a very popular king whose reign was long and peaceful. His son, Magnus, married the Danish princess Ingeborg and the same day was crowned joint King of the land of Norway by his father. To celebrate the event, a great banquet was held in the hall now called Håkonshallen, which stands at the entrance to the harbor of Bergen.

The Middle Ages saw the Black Death sweep over Europe. Norway was devastated, having half the population succumb to the pestilence. After this, from about 1420, and for about 400 years, the rule of Norway oscillated between Denmark and Sweden. Bergen, during this time, remained a major trading center. It maintained international contact and the old, socially elite families of Bergen built up large trading empires. Life in Bergen was centered around fishing and shipping up until the present time when, during the 1980’s, oil was discovered off the North Sea. Thus, with this discovery, Bergen entered an age of new prosperity and industry. In 1986, the bubble burst; the drop in oil prices caused an economic recession in Bergen.

Tomorrow there will be a continuation of the "About Bergen" section with information about modern-day Bergen. Until then, here are some great historical attractions that are in and around Bergen:
  • Home of Edvard Grieg
    Troldhaugen is the former home of composer Edvard Grieg, beautifully situated on a lake just outside of Bergen. The house features his furnishings and artifacts, and there is a comprehensive museum detailing his life and accomplishments. The museum is open all year, except December and Easter. Frequent public concerts are held, particularly in the summer season (Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays).

  • Old Bergen Open Air Museum
    The Old Bergen Open Air Museum is a collection of 40 historic houses from the 19th and 20th Century, situated just outside the city center. (Buss nr. 9, 20, 21, 22, 50, 70, 80, 90 – walking takes about 50 minutes)

  • Bergenhus Fortress
    Medieval Fortress - A little further along the harbor you will come to Håkonshallen and the Rosenkrantz Tower -- two of the town's most impressive buildings. The hall was built by King Håkon Håkonsson in the 12th century as a ceremonial hall within the confines of his residential estate at the time Bergen was the political hub of Norway. As for the Rosenkrantz Tower, most of what you see today is from the 16th century. King Magnus Lawmender's keep from about 1260 and Jørgen Hanssøn's defences from about 1520 make up some parts of the tower as well. Rosenkrantz Tower was put up as a combined defense and residence for the governor of Berghus (Bergen Castle), Erik Rosenkrantz, in the 1560's.

That's all for now, but make sure to check back later today to hear about all the excitement of Marcia's first full day in gorgeous Bergen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Norwegian Experience Trip Day 1

It's 8:30 a.m., here at the Sons of Norway Headquarters in Minneapolis, MN. That means the 2007 Norwegian Experience winner, Marcia Stein ought to be landing in Bergen, Norway right about now. At this point Marcia and her traveling companions have spent the last 12 hours flying; I'm sure they are very tired, but also very excited about the days that lay ahead.

Luckily tonight is an off-night for them, so they'll have a chance to rest up, grab some dinner at Hotel Havnekontoret's supper buffet. Tomorrow, though, the excitement truly begins. Marcia and her party will begin their day with a traditional Norwegian smorgasbord breakfast at the hotel before embarking on a private, guided walking tour of Bergen. They will stroll through the historic area of Bryggen, visit the Fish Market and go all the way to the top of Mt. Fløien for a spectacular view of the city below.

After that, Marcia will have the rest of the day free to explore more of Bergen and all the wonders it holds.

Check back tomorrow for more updates on Marcia Stein, Sons of Norway's 2007 Norwegian Experience Winner, and her trip of a lifetime!