Vikings

Tonight’s the night Vikings returns for season 5 on the History Channel.  I love this show, so I’ve been looking forward to tonight.  For the last several weeks, snippets of the 5th season have been showing up in my Facebook newsfeed.  I’m not into many shows, but Vikings is definitely one of them.  Fortunately, its also a show my kids love.   In fact, when we traveled to Norway this summer I made sure we incorporated some Viking themed scenery in our trip.  Although it would have been hard to avoid Viking related sights in any trip to Norway.

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Serene
Serene Fjord

In Flam, we took the boat out on the Aurlandsfjord.  This Fjord deep in the heart of Sogn Og Fjordane is sublimely serene and overwhelmingly beautiful.  As we boated around the fjord, we approached an outcropping from the cliff.  There was a grassy area on this outcropping, which was home to a Viking Burial.  It was pretty cool to see.  As an aside, Lagertha according to legends is from the Gaula Valley, which is in the northeastern part of the Sogn Og Fjordane region.

Now that the show has started, I’m writing during the commercials.  How fitting that Ikea is one of their advertisers, but I digress.  As an American of Norwegian descent, I enjoy watching a show about Norwegian/Scandinavian history.  My dad’s family emigrated to the US from Sogn Og Fjordane the very same region that Lagertha is thought to have come from.  Clearly, I was born to be a modern day shield maiden or Viking queen.

Our trip through Norway gave us a deeper connection to our Norwegian roots, heritage and Norway.  Now as I watch the Vikings, I long to go back and explore the Norwegian Countryside.  Additionally, I’d like to explore Ireland, where the show is largely filmed, and the U.K. retracing the Vikings travels.  While in France in 2011, we ate lunch at a small seaside Norman town.   As we enjoyed our crepes, our view was a replica Viking ship moored in port.  It was beautiful and imposing much like the authentic ships housed in the  Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

Finally, tonight’s song, in keeping with my Norwegian theme, is “Take on Me” by Aha.  I know a collective sigh of relief went out as you realized I wasn’t gonna torture you with “What Does the Fox Say?”

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Hidden Treasure

The drive from Stavanger to Oslo is, without any stops included, a 7.25 hour drive under the best case scenario.  When you’re traveling with kids and a post-kid bladder, 7.25 hours in a car, is never going to work.   The hubby and I planned on  stopping in Kristiansand, Arendal and Sandefjord to break up the drive and find some hidden treasures, but even with those stops the drive was long.

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Soon after leaving Arendal, I saw a sign for Olavskirken on the side of the road (E18) and I immediately asked Luke to stop at that site.  I had no idea the hidden gem that we had stumbled upon in the town of Bamble, Norway.

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Built in the Romanesque-Norman style, the old church Olavskirken dates back to 1150.  The church served as a Catholic church under the name St. Olav’s until the Reformation. Thereafter, it was referred to as Skeidi Church.  The old church was replaced by the new church built in the wooden cruciform style around 1845.

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When we pulled into the lot, I thought we were there to see the cruciform church until I noticed the ruins of the ancient church midway through the cemetery.  We all quickly lost interest in the new church and made our way towards the ruins of Olavskirken.

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The ruins were a complete gem of a find on our way back to Oslo.  We walked through the ruins noting the signs posted that spoke to the old church’s and the new church’s construction.   Moss and grass now cover the remaining walls and roof.  In the middle of the cemetery and surrounded by Norwegian forest, the scenery was magical.

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As we walked deeper into the ruins, we found a stairway that no leads nowhere and a room off to the side.  The room off to the side turned out to be the ancient chapel that is still in use today.  It was small, but beautiful.  After stopping on a whim, we had made a wondrous discovery.  Sometimes it is worthwhile to take a bit of a detour to explore as you never know what hidden gem you may uncover.

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Exploring Trondheim

Exploring Trondheim

We spent our morning exploring Trondheim with my parents, my grandma, my brother and his family, my cousin and her family and my aunt and uncle. Trondheim is a great walking town, so we haven’t needed the car once since we got here. The weather is quite a bit colder than Florida, a refreshing and rainy 55 degrees.

One of the coolest sites in Trondheim is Nidarosdomen, Nidaros Cathedral, which is the northernmost cathedral in Europe. The cathedral was built on the burial site of St. Olav and work started in 1070 as a tribute to the King and was completed in 1300. The church’s denomination (as with the rest of Europe) was originally Roman Catholic Church, but post reformation it’s denomination is the Church of Norway.  It is truly a saintly place.

We stayed for the organ meditation where many of us fell asleep courtesy of a long travel day and some jet lag. The kids were only hushed once, which was a complete miracle. My boys lit a candle to honor Debbie. Each of the kids lit a candle to say a prayer, threw coins into the wishing well, and left a note of gratitude with a stone on an alter. Only two of them burnt themselves on the candles, another small miracle.

 

After the brief nap, or the 1:00 pm organ meditation, we made our way down to the crypt. Its much different from the catacombs of Rome or Notre Dame in Paris. In Norway, the burial practices were much different. In medieval times, they did not embalm people and they reused graves. This means the headstone would change when they would bury someone else in the grave. These headstones, some of which were for knights and other dignitaries, were what was kept in the crypt.

In the Nidaros Complex there are several museums including the crown jewels, the Archbishops palace where you can see the actual excavation sites, and a military museum. We were able to go into all of them on our combined ticket. The boys favorite was the military museum while mine was the Archbishop’s Palace and the military museum.

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Post cathedral, we took a nice nap. For those that know me that will come as quite a shock as I am not a napper. Tomorrow I’ll grab some pictures of the free breakfast, which is absolutely incredible.

Memorial Day

Several years ago we were in France for our dear friend’s wedding.  After enjoying the incredible ceremony and party, we headed to Normandy and Paris.  After a brief pit stop in the beautiful seaside town of Honfleur, we headed to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery.   We knew it would be a tough place to visit, but I truly don’t think we understood just how powerful and emotional the visit would be.

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From the moment we stepped onto Omaha Beach, you could feel the death, destruction and despair that had occurred there as if it had just happened.  The feeling was palpable and inescapable.  We started our visit by walking down to the beach where our troops handed landed.  When the attack was launched, it was planned to begin 1-3 hours after low tide, which represented a compromise between the Army and the Navy.  When we visited the beach that day, it was low tide.  As we stood on the beach looking at the beachhead, I couldn’t help but imagine how it must have looked to our troops on June 6, 1944.  The cliffs are steep and were heavily fortified.  As they made their way up the beach, grenades and mines would detonate.  That fateful day 6,600 American soldiers were killed in action, wounded or went missing in action.

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Over the course of the campaign to secure the beachhead, June 6, 1944 to August 21, 1944, 72,911 Americans were killed or went missing in action.  Omaha Beach present day is serene, beautiful and quiet, but the overwhelming feeling of loss that was omnipresent made for hard juxtaposition. It was almost hard to imagine the carnage that had happened in this beautiful place except for the pain of walking on hallowed ground in omnipresent.

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We left the beach and began to walk through the cemetery.  It is here that over 9,000 men who died in the Normandy campaign are buried.  They came from all 50 states and were so young.   As we walked through the cemetery, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  The tomb of the unknown soldiers, of which there are many in Normandy, was difficult to see as a mother.  I could not imagine the pain their mothers endured never knowing what happened to their son and never having closure. My heart ached for them.

We were there in 2011, 67 years after the D-Day Invasion. There were flowers and personal notes left on several graves, which took me aback.  Sixty seven years later, the pain of loss from World War II was still very real.  The wounds of war are slow to heal.  We left the American Cemetery quietly and without speaking we headed to lunch.   The experience was heavy, emotional and one that took several days to digest before any of us could speak about it.

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The American Cemetery was humbling visualization of how many brave soldiers, sailors and airmen were willing to go to their death to preserve our freedom.  Amazingly,  it is representative of only one campaign in one war.  In the course of American history, we have lost 651,008 servicemen and women.  This Memorial Day we remember those that paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom.  The deep sense of gratitude hardly seems adequate for the price they paid.  Lastly, we hold near their families, friends, and battle buddies, who still feel the pain of their loss.