Hi again! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with an overabundance of yummy food and good company. I didn’t really get to celebrate Thanksgiving like I’m used to, but all of us American students organized a “dessertsgiving” where we all brought a dessert and ate together. We sat around tracing our hands to draw turkeys and played a card game. It was nice, but I did miss home quite a bit.
Anyway, Thanksgiving has passed which means that it’s officially time to start celebrating Christmas. I’m so excited! Especially since my trip to Rauland was basically like a winter fairytale. Let me tell the tale…
Firstly I must give some context of why my brother and I went to Rauland. Way back in the late 90’s my grandparents traveled to Norway in search of some distant relatives. All they had was a location, Rauland, and a name. With luck being on their side, the first home that they knocked on happened to be the residence of exactly who they were looking for. They recorded the meeting on VHS with a big hunkin camcorder. I’ve watched this home video on multiple occasions. When my grandparents found out that both Colten and I would be spending a semester in Norway, they urged us to visit our relatives. I don’t actually know how we’re related because it’s a complicated story but nonetheless Colten and I stayed in touch with Synne, the daughter of the couple that my grandparents met. Colten and Synne organized our meet up because they’re both living in Oslo. We were to spend a weekend with Synne and her parents, Knut and Berit.
Two weekends ago, we arrived at their home and the beautiful snowy landscape surrounding it. Their home overlooked a lake, grey and mysterious in the haze of the falling snow. The trees were painted white, the snow having settled on their branches.
If I’m being honest, I was nervous about meeting and staying with people that I didn’t know. I was worried that it would be awkward or just feel strange, but my worries were for nothing. The moment that we arrived at their home, Knut and Berit hugged us and invited us inside to eat. It felt like we had known each other forever. Helping aid in that feeling, the inside of their home was incredibly cozy. It was small but in a comforting way. The walls held you away from the freezing landscape outside and enveloped you in warmth. The dining table was set with candles and matching plates and cups. The walls were wood decorated with rosemåling. It was the most Norwegian home I’d ever been in.
The first afternoon we spent with them was relaxed. We had a typical Norwegian lunch of bread baked by Berit and spreads to put on top (open faced style of course) such as meats, cheeses, butter, and jam.
After lunch, Knut and Synne decided to take Colten and I on a drive through Rauland so that we could see the sights. We hopped in the car (with heated seats!!) and drove out into the town. I would have been worried about driving during a heavy snowfall back home, but I knew that Knut was very used to driving in those conditions.
Rauland was very small so there wasn’t much to see. He drove us passed the school, the grocery stores, and the church. I had to take a picture of the church because I knew my grandparents would love to see it again. I remember them going there on the home video. Knut stopped for me so that we could all get out and take a look.
The snow was falling heavily so we didn’t stay out of the car for very long. Just enough to admire the beauty and stillness of the church and take a photo.
As we kept driving, Knut explained that Rauland was named as such because the soil is red and full of iron. “Red land” turned into Rauland. It used to be a farm town back in the old days. Nowadays it was a quiet town… besides the ski center. Knut drove us up towards the top of the town and suddenly the surrounding hills were dotted with what looked like hundreds of ski cabins. Rauland happened to be a tourist town for skiing. I definitely wasn’t expecting to see that!
We slowly winded down the hills and back into the heart of town. We arrived at home in time to take a nap before dinner. This is when Synne showed us where Colten and I were going to be staying. We had had the expectation that we were going to be sleeping on the floor somewhere wrapped in blankets, which we were totally fine with because we were grateful that they invited us over in the first place. However, what we got completely blew us away.
We had our own apartment!
Colten and I didn’t even have to sleep in the same room. We each had our own. It was amazing. The apartment was the basement of Synne’s grandma’s place. Knut had built the grandma’s house just a few feet from their home and decided to make the basement of the home a separate apartment that friends and family could stay in. Colten and I felt like spoiled guests.
For dinner that night we had rakfisk for an appetizer and moose stew and mashed potatoes for the main meal. You heard me right. MOOSE. That Berit had hunted herself. But I have to address the rakfisk first.
I’m not a fish person and I think I’ll unfortunately never be a fish person. This rakfisk stuff was not for me haha I appreciated that Berit and Knut had caught it from the lake and made it themselves but after one bite I gave the rest to Colten. Rakfisk is fish (in this case it was trout) that is salted, fermented for days, and eaten raw. Sounds yummy right? For Knut and Berit and Colten it was, but for Synne and I it wasn’t. I felt less bad about not liking it since Synne, a true Norwegian, didn’t like it either.
The main dish came next. The moose stew. That was my first time having moose and it was great. It tasted like beef and was very tender to bite, not chewy or tough at all. I ate too much but then it was time for dessert.
I was so excited to try this because cloudberries are specific to Norway. We don’t have them in the states. Cloudberries are even special to Norwegians. Synne explained that the berries are difficult to find and nicknamed “the gold of the forest”. It was really a delightful treat! The berries tasted different than what I was expecting. It’s hard for me to think of adjectives to describe them but they weren’t particularly sweet or particularly sour. It was like an in between flavor, but the sweetness of the cream complimented it perfectly.
After dinner we sat around the living room and chatted. Then after that Colten, Synne, and I played a board game called Ticket to Ride. It was pretty fun, and despite not knowing what I was doing, I won. We called it a night after the game so Colten and I headed down to our apartment for a lovely nights sleep.
The next morning we had breakfast at 9:30am. Breakfast was basically the same as lunch had been the day before, but cloudberry jam and hard boiled eggs had been added to the table. I don’t know what it is about how Norwegians eat breakfast and lunch (maybe all the bread? Norwegians are fellow carb lovers like myself) but I immensely enjoyed it.
After breakfast the real fun began. We let our food settle a bit but then we were to visit the cottage that Knut and Berit had up in the mountains. Colten and I hadn’t brought warm enough clothes to travel through the snowy mountains so Berit pulled out some old stuff that we could put on over our clothes. And let me tell ya, we looked so cool.
I’m not going to lie, this is my favorite picture that I took of Colten and I on this trip. We just look so silly and I’m genuinely laughing as I captured the moment. This is typical Gray-sibling stuff. Just wait, we looked even better when it came time to go outside.
Berit drove Synne, Colten, and I down the road and then pulled off by the trees. We waited for Knut because he was coming down on his snowmobile to get us. He had gone up to the cottage to get it warm so that it wouldn’t be frozen when we got there. When he arrived I realized how all four of us were going to get to the cottage. There was a little box looking sled connected to the snowmobile. That’s where Colten and I were going to sit.
And there we are, looking like two excited little kids. This picture is basically a representation of how our childhood went. When we were children we always had to sit together, not unlike this, since we could fit in small places. Our Mom sure got a kick out of this one.
Settled into our box and Synne sat behind her dad, we were ready to go. I had no idea what to expect for this ride to the cottage, but it was one of the most magical experiences of my life. We entered the forest, staying on one path made in the snow by Knut coming earlier and knowing the way to the cottage. We ascended up the mountain with trees on either side of us, covered in snow. We passed sparkling mounds of snow, as the sun was shining. I had to pinch myself, the feeling was so unreal. It was like we were in a Norwegian fairytale with the snow, trees, mountains, and blue sky floating by us. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a troll or nissen emerge from the forest.
Colten had the mind to tell me to take a video as we wound through the snow covered trees and up the mountain. I’m so glad he told me to because now we can always remember what it really looked like. I have two videos of our ride on Facebook if you want to see the full affect.
After a wonderful ride, we arrived at the cottage. It was tiny like Knut had promised. He had built it himself for their family and friends to use for hanging out or skiing during the winter holidays. We happily went inside to escape the cold.
We sat and chatted for awhile, enjoying some sparkling water and soda. We couldn’t stay too long though because Berit had to pick us up so that she could use the car to drive to a conference. Colten and I got to experience the amazing ride back down the mountain once more. That will definitely be a ride I never forget.
We came back home and knowing that Berit had to leave soon, I asked if I could take a picture of everyone. Gladly they agreed. I think they understood how important it was more me to document Colten and I’s experience in Rauland, not only for us but for my grandparents too.
After the picture was taken Berit left and Colten and I hugged her and thanked her as much as we could without seeming over the top. Then we all retreated into cozy quarters to take a nap.
After a little rest, Synne, Colten, and I played a card game until dinner time. Dinner that night was meatballs, potatoes, and cabbage in white sauce.
This was probably my favorite dinner, even though the moose stew had been so satisfying. The meatballs, gravy, potatoes, and creamy cabbage all together was just so delicious. Again, I ate too much but I don’t regret one bite. After dinner, Knut drove us to the bus station because it was time to head back home. Colten and I hugged and thanked Knut just as we had Berit, and then hopped on the bus. Rauland is only a bit over an hour from Bø so I arrived home after 7pm but Colten and Synne arrived in Oslo closer to 10pm. Overall, our weekend in Rauland might be my favorite thing I’ve done in Norway so far.
Finishing this blog post marks me up to date on my time in Norway. Right now I only have three weeks left and most of that will be prepping for exams and then taking exams. I know it will go by fast. I can feel the semester ending and Christmas approaching and I couldn’t be more excited. I think I might get one more blog post in before I go home. I’m planning on visiting Colten in Oslo for a day or two so that trip might be blog worthy. If not, this could be the last post before I conclude my Norwegian adventure. I’ll definitely do a wrap up post to reflect on my whole experience. Until then, I have three weeks left to get my fill of Norway.
Thanks for reading!