Garden of the Gods

The focus of my recent visit to the States was, of course, to see family … but in doing so, I also traveled to parts of my country that I hadn’t been to before. Colorado was one such place, and I was there just long enough to see a few highlights while also spending time with my daughters.

You know that I live in a mountainous area here in Norway; I was eager to see a different type of mountain. The foothills of the Rockies delivered, especially when we visited The Garden of the Gods. It is a perfect name. I felt as if we were driving through a giant garden, with interesting rocks and formations growing out of the soil. From Wikipedia:

The Garden of the Gods red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago … The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains.

Then first formation you encounter when entering the park is Steamboat Rock and Balanced Rock. A full perspective from a short distance away is here; the photos below are my views from closer to the formations. My legs won’t let me climb up, but the affect of *looking* up at the people who were crawling around was interesting!


We got back in the car and drove towards our next stop. Looking out the car windows, I experienced that impression I mentioned earlier: a huge garden of rocks sprouting up out of the ground. Out one window, the backdrop of Pikes Peak was rising in the distance:


Our next stop was another well-known area, a hogback formation with the Kissing Camels boulders. We got out and walked a bit here. The “camels” above us and the texture beside us were intriguing. The graffiti etched into the stone was frustrating to see. And the warnings of rattlesnakes off the trail weren’t really needed for this traveler!


We stopped to rest in a shady area out of the hot sun for a bit, and absorb the generosity of the gift of this park to Colorado City in 1903 “… by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins in fulfillment of his wish that it be kept forever free to the public”:


Time to get back in the car for the trip home, with one last shot out the window:

June 13, 2015 - Garden of the Gods


But first, a stop for a little liquid refreshment at at the Manitou Brewing Co. in nearby Manitou Springs:


The perfect end to a delightful trip. :)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

“Planes, Trains & Automobiles!” No, not the movie … but a pretty good description of my last month!

A plane flight from Norway to Iowa (with my luggage catching up with me three days later).

May 14, 2015 - planes, trains & automobiles


A short lunch train trip in historic Boone, Iowa.


A longer overnight Amtrak train trip through Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado.


And many automobile trips, both local and long distance. This collection shares the highlights of my first few (cloudy) days in Colorado.


I love taking in the scenery around me. But the best part of this trip is, of course, the family connections — especially time spent with these three!

May and June 2015 - Family!

Hello blogosphere!

It’s been a busy month since I’ve last connected with you, with work and then travel to the middle of the U.S. to visit family.

Yes, I’m back in Ottumwa. I’ve enjoyed time with family (especially celebrating my Dad’s 85th!), seeing a few sights (including a musical in Des Moines and a day trip to Boone, Iowa to ride an historic train), a trip to Illinois to visit my younger brother and his family (Aunt Cindi was tired playing with her young nieces and nephew!), a stop at a wonderful restaurant on the trip back to Iowa that honors the American farmer (The Machine Shed), and time spent enjoying my brother and sister-in-law’s hospitality here in Iowa (including a gorgeous and intense double rainbow).

And in a few days I’ll be traveling via Amtrak to a new part of the world for me — Colorado Springs to see my daughters!

Fun, fun, fun!! Here’s a few photos of my time so far. I’m sure more images will find their way to this little part of the blogosphere eventually … until then, I hope your part of the world is peaceful and full of contentment!

the interplay of clouds and sun: a perspective

While sitting together over coffee this morning, we watched the interplay of sun, clouds, and rain across the fjord over Fanafjellet. I didn’t get up to get my camera; I just sat and absorbed the subtly changing scenery.

These photos aren’t from today, but they have cloud, sun, and rain patterns similar to what I saw.


We’ve lived in this little piece of paradise for almost two years now. Our views here are a different perspective compared to those we saw when we lived at a higher elevation on Løvstakken overlooking the southern Bergen valley.


The intermittent rain stopped a couple hours ago, and the sun and clouds have been playing hide and seek. It’s a little nippy to sit outside and enjoy it, but I did go out for a bit … just in time to catch this.

April 26, 2015 - 8:01 pm - interplay of sun and clouds

A magical moment.

And then, just as I was about to hit the “publish” button, my husband called me out to see this.

April 26, 2015 - 8:54 pm - interplay of sun and clouds

That sun and cloud glow: two magic moments in one hour. Thank you, Norway!

innovation and adaptation

As many years as I’ve lived in this mountainous area, I’m still amazed at how people can move mountains to carve out a place for themselves. Whether from my “used to flat land before moving to the West Coast of Norway” perspective, or the reality of “how humans are able to literally carve a place for themselves out of a more inhospitable geographic area” perspective, it’s an important example of adapting to life in this country.

Need to get to the other side of a mountain? Small paths and narrow, winding roads were the norm for centuries. Whether a big or small car, truck, or train transport in our modern day, it’s not a problem; Norway has perfected the reality of tunneling *through* it.

May 2006 - innovation and adaptation, tunnel through that mountain!


Those small roads? Examples of them are still quite abundant! Narrow and winding, in many places they’re only wide enough for one car to pass at a time. Sometimes they’re closed because of an avalanche … which requires more innovation to clear the rocks and boulders safely.


Building a home? Dynamite a place out of the mountain rock for the foundation! Need a cement mixer to pour that foundation, but it’s too big and bulky to get close enough to the construction? Innovate with an extension!


No room for a building for construction and storage, with an adequate parking lot for big trucks to maneuver? Not a problem — blast away the rock.


And when the rock is removed, the streets and walkways set, the buildings constructed, and the people are settled … take any extra space available and plant beautiful flowers or tasty vegetables.


Nature does a good job of …

… innovating and adapting to a carved-out mountain, too, don’t you think?!

Emigration from Norway to the USA

Two weeks ago I shared photos and observations of a short trip to Fusa, and mentioned my husband’s recent discovery of ancestors who come from this area.

Jan’s explorations into his family’s history have been fascinating for me, especially when he discovered family in the States and I thought about that reality from the perspective of *my* ancestors that emigrated to America from Scotland and Germany. So I asked him to share a little of his family’s story with you, set against the backdrop of Norwegian history.

Take it away, Jan!

by Jan Eek

In the span of less than a hundred years, from around 1825, almost 900,000 Norwegians emigrated to USA. To put it in perspective, the population in Norway in 1860 was 1,595,000. That means that around 10 to 12 million Americans are of Norwegian ancestry.

These are just numbers, so what do we know about the people, the human side of this emigration?

Emigrating from Norway to US

Norwegian settlers in 1898 North Dakota
in front of their homestead, a sod hut

I can only relate to my own family, and as it turned out, I was in for several surprises.

The first one came as we moved from Bergen to a smaller place, Os, an hour’s drive from Bergen. So, what did I find out? Well, I have always known the name of my grandmother and connected it to Bergen, and the first thing I found was that my grandmother’s father was born on a farm very close to where we now live and that he belonged to a prominent family in this area. So, I was back at the cradle of my family!

Further inquiry led me to the most interesting person, my great-great grandfather, Wilhelm. He was a wild one in his youth. He became a father for the first time at the age of 16 and his first son is my direct ancestor. He then roamed Norway, Sweden and Denmark and fathered several children. His family, including a priest and a fairly rich farmer/shopkeeper, of course was embarrassed and tired of this unruly young man, so he was married to a sturdy woman, Thora, and promptly sent to America.

That was the second surprise for me. I had no idea! I have family in the US …

Here is a picture of Wilhelm and Thora in America.

Wilhelm and Thora in America


Wilhelm and Thora had eight children and the first years in the US they lived in a cave in Minnesota. Then they managed to get some land and slowly they developed it into a proper farm and later on established an hotel in the nearest town.

So, I have family here where I live and a large number of cousins in America. I have been in contact with my local family and also connected with one of my American cousins. She came to visit me and I showed her the area and the old farm house which is the origin for both of us AND it is still owned by my family, which was another surprise.

For a while I was hung up in tracing my family, but I stopped when I got to the 16th century. I turned the focus, thinking of the next generations, so I am now writing everything I know and can find out about people in my family. I want my grandchildren and their children to be able to connect with the history of our family.

From my Archives: Hardanger

(I’ve lived in this amazing country for eight years. Buried in my blog’s Archives are many emotions and experiences from my first years as an expatriate. I’d like to let them see the light again! So, on occasional Fridays, I’ll share my favorites in a “Flashback Friday” type of reblog format.)

Spring. A time of renewal, rebirth, growth. The flowers have sent their tentative green shoots up from the earth. There are a few tiny buds on the trees. There’s a hint of warmth in the air (even with the mostly cloudy days). The birds’ songs have become a welcome musical symphony outside my home office window.

Spring has also brought a couple of new clients to my freelancing that have made blogging time — both posting mine and reading yours — very limited. (I love the work … but I miss you!)

With the growing energy from both outside my window and in front of my computer screen inspiring me, I thought I’d share a post that featured photos from a trip six years ago to one of the most beautiful places to welcome the energy of Spring in this part of the world: Hardanger.

May 2, 2009

Hardanger is about an hour from Bergen; it’s one of Norway’s main producers of fruit. Understandably, the spring visuals can be amazing with the blooming fruit trees – but planning when to drive to see them can be tricky, as the bloom times depend on the spring weather (similar to the Cherry Blossoms in D.C., which don’t always cooperate by blooming during the Cherry Blossom Festival!).

Jan had called and we knew we were about a week too early on this trip, but stopping to walk behind Steinsdalsfossen, driving along the Hardangerfjord, and finding a delightful stone shed more than made up for the lack of blooming fruit trees!

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Norwegian culture: vacations and hytte

It’s Easter Sunday. Norway slows down the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday. Shops close. Businesses close. Many Norwegians take a trip to the mountains for days of winter skiing. Or they are on the coast, enjoying the hint and promise of spring. And many of them are at their hytte.

What the heck is a “hytte”? And what does it have to do with Norway, vacations, and especially culture?

Hytte is a difficult word to translate. From my American perspective it means vacation cabin. But it’s not just a physical building. The word represents generations of outdoor exploration and living, and the family hytte is at the center: it’s the place to return to after a day’s activities, and represents all that is cozy, warm, and relaxing with family. The more remote hyttes don’t have electricity or running water, require hours of hiking to reach, and then (in the winter) more hours of shoveling to get to the front door. There are also many hyttes closer to civilization; an hour or two of driving, and a family can have a relaxing weekend together.

At this stage of life, escaping to the mountains for days on end of hiking or skiing is something that is physically beyond my abilities. But I’m fascinated by this aspect of the culture, and enjoy listening to my husband’s stories of his experiences when he was a young boy and teenager, and father to young boys and teenagers. Experiencing “outside” was the backdrop for all their family activities, which is opposite mine as a girl, teenager, and Mom raising daughters.

In June of 2007, the first year I lived in Norway, a friend invited me out to her family’s hytte on the coast for an afternoon’s worth of girl time. Sotra, an island easily accessible from Bergen that has made several appearances in my blog before, is rocky and typical of the southern Norwegian coast. It reminds me of my trips to Monhegan Island, Maine.

My friend had fixed a lunch that we enjoyed on the deck overlooking the small harbor area looking out towards the Norwegian Sea. The sky was washed out and bright, and the landscape showed the effects of the strong winds that blow in off the ocean.

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra


After lunch we took our dessert — a thermos of coffee and tin of sweet rolls — and went out in their small row boat, planning to get to one of the small outcroppings visible in those images above. My friend was rowing the boat, and I was supposed to offer steering guidance from my place at the bow. I was clueless; I’m sure it was a comical site, with strong winds pushing us in various directions and me offering useless suggestions. My friend wisely decided it wasn’t the safest activity! We returned to the dock and took our dessert to an area overlooking the ocean. Once there, we realized we’d forgotten coffee mugs … so used the aluminum containers that had held the sweets. More laughter for the two of us! The early June sun, approaching the longest day of the year, was glaring and hot. It was a peaceful time, all centered on my friend sharing her family hytte with me.

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra

June 2007 - hytte on Sotra

I asked my husband to share his experience both as a boy/teenager, and in the family hytte in northern Norway as his boys were growing up. It’s the typical Norwegian experience of his generation.

My whole life I have been roaming the mountains. Skiing in the winter and hiking the rest of the year. Every week-end, no matter what weather it was, we packed our rucksacks and went skiing or hiking. We never thought about the WHY; it was part of our culture.

As I grew older, we started getting bolder, walking and tenting in the mountains (the real high and dangerous ones) for days and even crossing glaciers. Properly equipped, if the weather got really bad, we dug ourselves a snow hole and waited for the weather to get better.

When my boys grew up, we had a hytte way up in the high mountains of the north. Summertime it was fairly easy living, despite no electricity, no tap water and no toilets. It was marvelous! Walking to the creek to get water, fire up the fireplace and fry dried reindeer meat, light the kerosene lamps, watching the field mice and squirrels hopping around in the fire wood. And long hikes in the deserted mountains, coffee making on a fire beside a lake or a creek, watching the reindeer, the occasional wolverine or even a brown bear and numerous birds. The boys learned very early to walk in the mountains, that is, keep a steady pace and get into a rhythm and make enough noise to alert any predators. It was a wonderful time…

Winter is very different. First of all, we had to get there. In foul weather, the road was closed. If we got there it was very cold, down to around minus 30 degrees centigrade ( and fantastic polar light!), a lot of snow, 5 to 7 yards, and we had to get to the hytte. It was quite a stretch to either ski or trample in the snow and the last hill was very steep, so I had to carry food and sometimes kids up a little at a time…

Once we were there, we could only see the top of the pipe of the hytte, so I actually had to dig a tunnel into the door, and once inside, fire up the stove and the fireplace and get some food and drink into our bodies. It took two days for the hytte to thaw, and in the meantime we had to stay winter clothed at all times, even when we slept.

If this sounds exhausting, we actually never thought about it. It was as it should be…

No photos to show of the family hytte, but his description does it justice, doesn’t it? Here’s one found online that’s in the same area … but missing the final steep hill to get there!

northern Norwegian hytte

Click the photo to see others similar to it, as well as photos of families enjoying summer and winter activities during their time at their hytte.

How about one more photo? This one from the 1960’s is my husband, 17 years old, out for a hike in Sogndal with his friends (referenced in his second paragraph up there). I say “hike” — but this trek was part of a fourteen hour day: hours up a steep ascent from a hytte to get there, hours exploring the area, hours back down. The glacier is one we took my oldest daughter to see when we visited Sogndal in 2010 … although we didn’t get as close as Jan is in this photo, and — to make it easier for this American — our “hytte” was a comfortable hotel . 😉

1960s - Jan at Jostedalsbreen