Monday, December 30, 2013

More With Kjell Bergh

Kjell Bergh

In the January issue of Viking, we spoke with Minnesota business leader and Sons of Norway member Kjell Bergh. He came to the United States from Norway as a young journalist in 1965 and is now Chairman and CEO of Borton Volvo and Borton Overseas, a travel company that specializes in travel to Scandinavia. Bergh has led travel for royalty, dignitaries and head of state. In 2000, he was appointed Honorary Consul of the Republic of Tanzania. Here’s more of our interview.

Viking: Where do you hail from in Norway and what brought you to the United States? 
Kjell Bergh: I’m from Kristansund, Norway, which is just south of Trondheim. I came to the United States in 1965 as a freelance journalist. I was traveling across the country doing stories and taking odd jobs. I was actually on my way to Seattle to see my brother. I ended up in Minneapolis. I did just one semester at the University of Oslo and finished up at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. In 2004, I went back to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston and got a Master’s degree in international relations.

V: Tell me about the travel services you’ve provided to dignitaries and royalty.
KB: In the 1960s, I became involved with helping plan transportation for Norway’s royal family. For all subsequent royal visits, I took care of the ground transportation, both in Iowa and Minnesota. I also had a large corporate limousine company, and we had a fleet of limos that facilitated that. Over the years, the royal family also asked me to take care of their airplanes. I took care of the jets, turbo props and flew with them on trips around the country.  One of the trips, we went had many stops in the Midwest and continued on to California. I also hosted the royal family in Africa. We’ve taken care of travel for the Ted Turner Family Foundation, Vice President Walter Mondale, senators and ambassadors to Africa.

V: You’ve held the position of Honorary Consul of the Republic of Tanzania since 2000. Why are you passionate about your ties to Africa?
KB: I’ve always been a world traveler. I’ve loved Africa from the first moment I started studying it. I married a Tanzanian just a year after the federal government and Supreme Court outlawed all bans on interracial marriage. In 1974, the Swedish ambassador to Tanzania and his wife invited us to go and spend two weeks at the Embassy residence. I fell in love with the place. I told my then-wife that I really felt at home! I have three home countries—Norway, the United States and Tanzania. I became acquainted with the Tanzanian ambassador to the United States. He was a member of three cabinets and ended up being the foreign minister and eventually the first democratically elected President. He’s the one who appointed me Honorary Consul.

Anya Britzius is associate managing editor of Viking. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and enjoys baking, reading and keeping up on modern Norwegian trends.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Special Christmas Message from Sons of Norway's CEO

Dear Sons of Norway Members

Christmas is upon us and I want to take this opportunity to send you a message of good tidings from myself and the entire Sons of Norway Headquarters’ staff!

Every year, as the day draws near, I find myself reminiscing about Christmases past and all the great memories they have given me; the good times spent with family and friends, the sense of wonder I felt as a child and the feeling of hope I always get as we usher in a new year.  

This Christmas I hope you find yourself surrounded by your loved ones and sharing in the spirit of the season. Above all, I wish you all the hope, wonder and joy that Christmas can bring!

Merry Christmas
Eivind Heiberg
Sons of Norway

Friday, December 20, 2013

Must-See Christmas Special

The St. Olaf Choir at Nidaros Cathedral
The St. Olaf Choir from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., is one of the premier a capella choirs in the United States. Now, you can enjoy their music from the comforts of your own home this holiday season!

Starting Dec. 23, PBS will air a one-hour special called “Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir,” featuring traditional carols, beloved Norwegian hymns and folk songs. 

This summer, the choir, led by conductor Anton Armstrong, embarked in its 100-year anniversary tour of Norway and performed in 11 concerts. While in Trondheim, the choir spent three days in Nidaros Cathedral and filmed this Christmas special.

Check your local listings. In the Twin Cities, the program can be seen on tpt2 at the following times:
•    Sun., Dec. 22, 7 p.m.
•    Mon., Dec. 23, 1 a.m.
•    Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m.
•    Tues., Dec. 24, 2 a.m.
•    Wed., Dec. 25, 9 a.m.

Keep an eye on the choir’s other events and purchase music at the St. Olaf Bookstore.

Anya Britzius is associate managing editor of Viking. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and enjoys baking, reading and keeping up on modern Norwegian trends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast Recap

You may remember from an earlier blog post that Sons of Norway hosted the 28th annual Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast last month. The result was a resounding success! In addition to three great speakers from the Minneapolis community and an engaging MC, we had nearly 1,000 people in attendance!

What’s more, thanks to the generosity of our attendees, we were able to raise more than $15,000 for our selected charities, the Minnesota Military Family Foundation and Second Harvest Heartland. This money will be used to help families throughout Minnesota during times of difficulty and is greatly appreciated by all.

Just as important as the donations, the program itself was popular with the audience. So much so that we have been asked to share the presentations of this year’s featured speakers. Click here to read Dr. David Anderson’s speech and we'll hopefully have the others soon, which we'll be happy to share.

If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s breakfast, I hope you’ll read the remarks from last month and keep an eye out for next year’s event, which will be held on Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

Casting Call: "Alt for Norge"

"Alt for Norge" Season 3 contestants

Are you an adventurous Norwegian American looking to meet your relatives in Norway? The Emmy-winning Norwegian reality television show “Alt for Norge” is rounding up contestants for Season 5!

Contestants will travel to Norway and compete in cultural challenges, meet long lost Norwegian relatives and win a $50,000 cash prize.

Season 3 winner Todd Ferris meets his family in Norway
Here are a few requirements:
• Have never traveled to Norway
• Be of Norwegian descent
• Be at least 18 years old by February 16, 2014

If you want to hear first-hand what it was like being a "Alt for Norge" contestant, check out the June 2013 issue of Viking magazine where we talked with Season 3 winner Todd Ferris. You can also read the interview here

Ready to apply? There will be an open casting call in Minnesota at the Mall of America on Sat., Dec. 21.

Application and video submission deadline is January 5, 2014.

You can email any questions to

Anya Britzius is associate managing editor of Viking. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and enjoys baking, reading and keeping up on modern Norwegian trends.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Crossing the Line—Twice

Ever wondered whether it’s really true that the bottle of Linie Akuavit on your Christmas dinner table was loaded in the hold of a ship and sailed over the Equator and back?

Well, it’s true, and here’s the story.

In 1805, the cargo ship Trondhjem’s Prøve sailed with goods to Indonesia, including five oak casks of Norwegian “aqua vitae,” or water of life, made by distiller Jørgen B. Lysholm. The ship’s captain failed to sell the casks, and in December 1807 they returned to Trondheim. When the casks were opened and sampled a second time, Lysholm and friends discovered that the two years in the casks, plus the constant motion of the ship and the changing temperature and humidity, all dramatically enhanced the balance and aroma of their akuavit. Lysholm eventually joined with exporters to South American markets, regularly stowing oak barrels of akuavit on their ships, not to sell in Rio, but for the unique benefits of aging at sea.

Today, fresh batches of Linie casked in retired oak sherry barrels depart once a month for a 19-week voyage that can call in ports in up to 35 countries. On any given day more than one thousand barrels of akuavit are maturing as deck cargo on the world’s oceans.

Want to know where your bottle has been? It’s all right there on the backside of the label: dates of departure and arrival, and the route the akuavit traveled via Australia before returning to Norway.

For more about akuavit, modern-day distillers and even akuavit cocktail recipes, check out Viking’s December 2013 feature “A Scandinavian Spirit Revived” by Denise Logeland. Or visit Linie's website. 

Ann Pedersen is editor of Viking magazine. She lives and enjoys akuavit with her family in St. Paul, Minn.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Norway Inspires New Disney Film

©2013 Disney
If you’re in the mood for a family-friendly movie this holiday season, check out Disney’s new animated film, “Frozen,” now playing in theaters across the United States. Norway’s landscape, folklore and culture take center stage in the film.

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale The Snow Queen, “Frozen” is set in the fictional kingdom of Arendelle, which sits on a fjord. Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer, Sven. The group travels to find Anna’s sister and save the kingdom.

To get inspired to create this magical, frozen setting filled with ice castles, snow and mountains, filmmakers traveled to Norway and teamed up with Norway’s national tourist board, VisitNorway.

“Disney is well known around the world, and we hope that in providing the backdrop to the film, Norway will appeal to the film’s fans,” says Per-Arne Tuftin, director of tourism at Innovation Norway.

In addition to the spectacular scenery, filmmakers also were inspired by Norway’s traditional folk costume, the bunad. Keep your eyes peeled for a stave church and listen for several of the characters speaking Norwegian.

©2013 Disney

Check out Disney’s sweepstakes and enter for a chance to win a trip to Norway!

Anya Britzius is associate managing editor of Viking. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and enjoys baking, reading and keeping up on modern Norwegian trends.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Check This Mate: Magnus Carlsen Wins the World Chess Championship

As the chess world held its breath and watched on Friday, November 22, top-ranked Magnus Carlsen made his winning move in the championship match against defending world champion Viswanathan Anand to become the new reigning king of chess. Carlsen started playing chess at the age of five, setting himself the goal of beating his sister, then his father. The rest quickly became history, and at age 13 he became an International Grandmaster, the youngest at the time.

After the grueling weeks leading up to the tournament, Carlsen took the weekend off, playing basketball and soccer with members of the Norwegian media, and scoring points in both. Joined by his father and other members of Team Carlsen at the award ceremony in Chennai on Monday, Carlsen was presented with a gold medal, a trophy, laurel wreath, and a check for NOK 9 million (USD 1.4 million).

Stay tuned for future World Chess Championships—the next one may just be hosted by Norway. In the meantime, check out Viking’s profile of Carlsen in the September 2013 feature “Making Their Marks: Young Norwegians to Watch.”

Ann Pedersen is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in St. Paul, Minn.