A trip to Bergen

Back in the beginning of October, we took a long weekend and traveled to Bergen, Norway.

Bergen is known for being rainy, and it didn’t disappoint. It was our first real chance to put our rain gear to test.

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Maddie and Ada had a great time jumping in the biggest puddles they could find.

and with rain, you always get rainbows (even two at a time!)

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We took the Fløibanen funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen, where it was rainy and a bit cold, but Maddie and Ada managed still had fun at the playgrounds we discovered at the top.
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Evidently parts of “Frozen” were inspired by the city of Bergen, Norway. The moss covered rocks and trolls at the top of the Mount Fløyen were reminiscent of the film.

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Here’s a picture of the Skomakerdiket, a beautiful lake that the top of Mt. Fløyen that made the perfect lunch spot, until it started to rain heavily again.
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The classic tourist photo of Bryggen, the historic shops and restaurants at the wharf.
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The Bergen Aquarium made for a great visit on a rainy morning. I find I really like museums that are small enough to fully explore in half a day.

We also had some great adventures at the science museum.

We spend an afternoon wandering around the Bergen Art Museum.

One really interesting exhibit we saw was this installation where kids could write their wishes on a star and place them on the wall. This one caught my eye. (“ikke” means not in Norwegian.)
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Becoming artists at the Nasjonalmuseet

This Sunday, we went to the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo, the National Art Museum. It was a rainy day, but we really enjoyed this trip to a reasonably sized art museum that you could comfortably visit in a couple of hours.

This museum is famous for having Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and we had to get one of us to do the tourist pose.

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This was one of my favorite paintings— it also give a good sense of what things look like around the “twilight” hour of 3pm.

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One of the coolest features of the museum was a drawing room, equipped with all the art supplies you needed to make a drawing of a scuplture of a mother and child in the middle of the room. Maddie had other designs on what do draw, choosing to draw Camille, the doll she recently got for her birthday.

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And here’s the finished product:

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One more portrait of a young artist, hard at work:

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And of course, Ada had to join in on the fun.

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And a couple more paintings that we liked from a special exhibition of Harald Sohlberg.

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September happenings

It’s been a while since I’ve posted—I need to write an update of everything that has been happening at the University—things are getting pretty busy. But in the meantime, here’s a bunch of stuff that happened in the last month.

Ada got a scooter, which she’s riding everywhere.
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More silly antics on the bus.
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In early September, we went to a festival in Oslo celebrating food from all over Norway. One of the coolest things was this stockfish, a dried fish that you have to hit with a hammer in order to loosen up edible bits. We all bought Norwegian food for dinner but our favorite was the fiske soup- a creamy fish soup with chive oil on top.
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We’ve gotten some use out of our rain gear, but it hasn’t been a necessity until we went to Bergen for a long weekend (post forthcoming). Here’s a photo of the girls walking to school in the rain.
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Diana and I went on a date to tour the Norwegian Opera house, which was amazing. I’m excited to go back there to see a ballet performance this Saturday.
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This was the stage for the ballet production of Hamlet. Each step of the stage could articulate in or out, while the huge door in the center moved around in a circle. It was some incredible stagecraft.

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Here’s a photo of Ada and her friend Kiana whose parents are from Iran waiting for the start of school.
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I’ve always loved the sunsets in Delaware, but I’ve discovered that beautiful sunsets happen in Norway, too.
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One Friday night we went to the Oslo Teknisk Museum for culture night. The kids got to enjoy liquid nitrogen ice cream and make paper rockets. I definitely want to go back to this museum.
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Here’s the launch of Ada’s rocket.

Here’s a cute picture of Ada and Maddie walking through Sæteren Gård after the OIS family hike.
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Maddie and Ada also made a fun reading nook in our apartment by pushing out the bed from the wall.

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One weekend in September, we took a short trip to Bæerums Verk, a historic town west of us for a small festival.

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Jumping into hay

Listening to some Norwegian folk singers.
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On the fall equinox, we went down to central Oslo for a festival where we listened to a couple of bands perform, and walked along the Akerselva river, which was lit with luminaries, and featured a number of art and music performances along the walk.

Ada loved listening to the marching bands before the walk got started.

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Here’s some art we saw along the way.
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On weekends, it’s pretty common for organizations (mostly schools) to hold Loppemarked—a giant flea market, featuring all all sorts of things for sale, along with Norwegian waffles and polse (hot dogs), all of which you can pay for using your smartphone.
We landed an amazing deal at this market—$100 for cross country skis and boots for the family.

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Later that day we went to Folk Museum. Here’s Maddie with Princess, a toy she found at the Loppemarked, that we tragically lost at a bus stop a few hours later.

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After school on Tuesdays, Maddie has been taking cooking class with a French chef. Here’s one of her creations.
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Diana and I also went on a date to Fornebu, a peninsula into the Oslofjord that was once the main airport, but as you can see, has now been redeveloped into a beautiful park.
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Another weekend adventure took us to the botanical gardens. Here are pictures of Maddie and Ada “posing.” Maddie is wearing a very thick Norwegian sweater we bought at a thrift store.

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Only in Norway, part 2

Here are a couple more Only in Norway sightings:

This one isn’t really a mystery—I just thought it was pretty awesome. Who wouldn’t want a climate-controlled dog kennel just outside the food hall so you can leave your dog in comfort while you go in to purchase some fisksuppe.

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This one is a complete mystery to me. I’ve seen a number of these things at my daughters’ school, and on the campus of UiO. At first I thought they were some sort of pavement warmer, but there aren’t nearly enough of them around.

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If you’ve got any idea what this is, please share your thoughts in the comments.

A tribute to the the public transportation system of my dreams

When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys was my Brio train set. I could play with those trains for hours, and always dreamed of having the the giant set—the subway, and the ferry, and the tram and the train.

Now that I’ve moved to Oslo, I think I’ve found the Brio set of my dreams here in the Ruter transportation network for metropolitan Oslo and beyond. Since Brio is based in Sweden, I honestly think maybe they’ve just been taking some ideas for the next elements of their train sets from their Norwegian Neighbors.

Let me try to explain just how amazing the Oslo Transportation system is.

First, the Ruter network consists of the T-bane, a subway network of 100 stations with 5 lines covering more than 80 km. It also includes a similarly large network of tram lines in central Oslo and the suburbs, a network of Ferries that reach out islands in the Oslo Fjord, a massive bus network, and the regional train network, NSB.

The entire network is divided into zones, and your price varies depending on which zones you are traveling in. This map is massive—we live about 10 km outside Oslo and are still well within zone 1, which includes all of the subway and tram networks. The airport is about an hour away from central Oslo and near the beginning of zone 4N.

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There are no turnstiles in this subway network, and the only people that use paper tickets are tourists. Once you get a Norwegian ID, you can buy all your tickets electronically on an app on your phone. For about $900, you can buy a year pass, that gives you unlimited rides within zone 1. If you want to ride outside of zone 1, you can buy an extension ticket for a few bucks, again on your phone. Kids under 4 are free, and all children are free on the weekends. The entire system works wonderfully on the honor system. You simply walk onto the train. The only time you ever need to show your ticket is when you get on the bus, and the honor system is enforced by occasional “ticket inspections” and if you are caught without a ticket, you have to pay a $120 fine. This system works beautifully.

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All of the forms of transportation adhere to precise schedules available in the app and on Google maps, and making the most complicated train-tram—bus connections quite simple. If there is ever a delay that causes you to be more than 20 minutes late, Ruter even promises to cover your taxi fare.

Truly, it’s wonderful, and it’s made me realize I don’t miss having a car at all, which is a good thing, since getting a drivers license in Norway is an ordeal I think I’m going to avoid putting myself and my wallet through.

It’s wonderful to know that even though we don’t have a car, virtually all of Oslo and its surroundings are open to us. That, and the wonders of subway cars designed by Porsche, would be enough to make public transportation one of the best things about Norway, but then the thing that really put it over top was this recent ad campaign by Ruter:

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These advertisements feature portraits of immigrants new to Oslo from all over the world, and almost put a knot in my throat—maybe because I’m realizing how easy it would be to feel excluded in a foreign country when you don’t know the language, and how grateful I am every day that I rarely have that feeling here. Or maybe it’s because every day my home country seems to be finding another way to make live even more difficult for immigrants. Either way, I’m grateful for the transportation network that does more than just gets you from point A to B with a awesome app, it makes everyone feel welcome in the process.

Hiking to Kolsås

This past Monday, Diana and I went on another date where hiked to the wetop of Kolsåstoppen, a beautiful mountain about 15 minutes away from our house by bus, which gave us beautiful views of all of Bærum (our commune/county), and Oslo.

Here are some photos from our trip:

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We thought it was neat that this hike (or at least the sign) is sponsored by Kvikk Lunch, the Norwegian Kit Kat.
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This was also our first chance to test our the hiking poles I got for a Christmas present—they make such a difference, but I also felt deeply inadequate as 70 year old Norwegians in tennis shoes just seemed to dance by us in the steeper sections of the hike.
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Our apartment is generally in this direction. You can see the Oslofjord in the background, too.
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Here’s a beautiful mountain lake we came to on the hike. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the water was crystal clear.
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Another view of the lake, with Nodre Kolsas in the background.
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Closer to the top of of Søndre Kolsas.
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Our view for lunch.
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A Hytta along on the trip back. This one serves waffles on Sundays. Too bad we were climbing on a Monday.
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A really cool mushroom we saw along the trail.
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There were a number of electric fence crossings near the end of the trail, but at each point, with these little step ladders to help facilitate the crossing.

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And today, our DNT cabin key arrived. I’m still pretty amazed that if you pay about 100 kroner, the DNT will send you a key that will open any of the hundreds of cabins all across Norway, and trust you to just leave money for any food you eat (in the cabins that are stocked with food) or to pay when you spend the night.

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tilfeldig utvalg for August

Here’s a tilefelding utvaly (random assortment) of photos from August that I didn’t get to blog about in detail.

Another awesome playground we found at Ekbergparken
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This park was recently made famous in the NYT, when the 52 Places Traveler (Keep Oslo Weird) went to the same sculpture park and mentioned this sculpture, Fideicommissium, of a woman squatting and peeing off in the woods.
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We saw the Viking shop museum. Ada was not impressed.
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A pretty decent photo of all of us and the Gilheanys on the roof deck of our apartment, minus Ada hiding off camera.
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Some of the seats in the buses have 4 point harnesses for little kids and the bottom of the seat folds down so that a little kid can sit there. Ada loved it, and wants every seat on the bus to be like this.

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Hanging out at the Royal Palace. I found the tour to be super interesting. The modern Norwegian Monarchy is only about 100 years old, and the people voted to create a constitutional monarchy. It is the official residence of the king and queen, and he meets with the leaders of the government every Friday in an amazing conference room. IMG 0972

A pretty cool culture festival we went to at the harbor.
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A couple of extra outtakes from Maddie’s first day of school:
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Maddie’s classroom. That’s her teacher, Ms. Willums on the far left.
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Ada at her school playground.

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The fountain just outside our apartment that the girls stop to play in on the way to and from school.
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Ada all dressed up in her rain suit.
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Looking back, all of these photos seem like they were taken so long ago. Time is flying by, and I need to learn more Norwegian.