After we toured the fjords, we returned to Melhus and said our final farewells to Åsmund and Anne. We thanked them once again for entrusting us with the van.
Next on our travel itinerary was meeting more distant family who lives in Røros, Norway. We got on the train in Melhus and settled in for the two-hour ride.
We had reached out in advance to see if they wanted to meet. They not only agreed to meet us but Olav Kne and Bjørg Galåen very generously housed and fed us during our visit.
The first night’s dinner conversation was a more polite version of “so how are we related?” Andy walked them through the family tree, folding in Åsmund’s records to make a more complete picture.
As distant as the relations were, we were quickly accepted as family and felt right at home.
The family was excited to show us around their hometown, taking us to all the best spots and, best of all, making sure we ate all the best foods. Bjørg is an amazing cook, and we ate very well during our stay.
Røros is an old copper mining town (and UNESCO World Heritage site!). Here you can visit the smeltery, the mine itself, and the village that popped up around this industry. The village is still thriving today despite the copper mine being closed. The downtown area is not unlike the old gold rush towns of the American West.
In our tour of the copper mine, we learned that the mining industry permanently changed the surrounding landscape. The smeltery required so much wood to fuel the fire that the local forests were leveled and consumed. When we resurfaced from the mine, I noticed that there were, in fact, no trees in the surrounding area.
While in Røros, we were able to take a tour of the Galåen family farm, founded in 1721 and today run by the 9th and 10th generations. Their products include cheese, ice cream, eggs, Røros cake (sort of like a custard), and sausage. They have 15,000 laying hens and space for over 100 milking cows.
We got to see the facilities and try some of the products— obviously my favorite part. My food nerd brain, heart, and tongue were so excited for this field trip.
I don’t know what was cooler:
- seeing this farm that has been around since 1721 that is still thriving,
- visiting with the man who runs it, Ingulf Galåen (who is also distant family!), or
- trying all the delicious things that were developed, grown, produced, and made right there.
We also learned about the sporting event biathlon, which everyone in the entire family had competed in at some point. The youngest son, Håvard, was in summer training while we were there and we were able to go watch a training session.
If, like us, you are unfamiliar with the sport, let me describe it in the most basic way possible. It’s cross-country skiing with target shooting in the middle. If that sounds lame or boring, it’s only because I oversimplified it.
The cardio-conditioning required to complete the course would be challenging enough. But then the shooting part comes and the athlete must stop, steady their breathing, and hold a gun steady to shoot a target from different positions.
We enjoyed learning about the sport from a family who was so passionate about and skilled at it. The oldest son, Magnar, even gave us a tour of the local gym which he was part owner of.
Our time with this family was so special. We loved getting to know everyone, their hobbies, and their town. The family shared their home and meals with us, making us feel right at home, among family, on the other side of the world.
Tusen takk, Galåen family for your warmth and hospitality!
Adventures in Oslo
After saying goodbye to the Røros family, we hopped on a train for Oslo. There, we were graciously hosted by (read: taken in by) friends of a friend. They met us at the train station and drove us to their beautiful home overlooking Oslo.
Blessings upon those who take in dirty, stinky, bedraggled travelers who are more or less strangers. You are truly saints. Thank you Sissi and James!
We spent our first day exploring Holmenkollen. It is the site of the Winter Olympics for 1952, the Ski Jumping World Cup, and the Ski Jumping World Championships. It is gorgeous and massive and the view of Oslo from the top of the jump was breathtaking.
We also got to meet up with Hege, the final member of the Gålean family from Røros. She was in Oslo completing her law degree and agreed to meet us for coffee.
After meeting Hege, we visited Frogner Park, the largest sculpture garden in the world. We walked around, taking in the sometimes wacky but always expressive statues of Gustav Vigeland.
The 200+ sculptures represent humanity and all the messy, beautiful emotions that come with it. Those shown here were some of my very favorites.
That night we enjoyed a great dinner and conversation with our generous hosts and a gorgeous view of Oslo.
Adventures in Oslo part 2
For our last day in Oslo, we visited City Hall with its very impressive wooden friezes around the courtyard. Fifteen other friezes depicted Norse mythology but of course, my favorite was Snarler and Grinder 🐐
Next, we visited the Viking Ship Museum, which houses the remains of three Viking ships constructed as early as 820 AD. The ships were used on voyages before they were used as burial sites for wealthy or powerful people. These giant ships were filled with animals, food, riches, the deceased, and then buried.
The sheer size and capacity of these vessels for the afterlife were mind-blowing.
We walked along the waterfront to the Oslo Opera House and climbed to the top. Also along the waterfront was this art installation. It’s called “We Are Still The Same” and incorporates 1200 shirts from people in Oslo and Finland. It serves to show that people are united by their humanity, every shirt being worn by someone with a heart, each connected by a common thread, so to speak.
On our last night in Oslo, we had an excellent dinner with our hosts and got one last look at the city lights from the backyard.
We packed our bags and prepared to catch a train to the airport early the next morning.
When we left Spain to start our trek across Scandinavia, most of mainland Europe was in a heatwave. Now that it was almost September, we were headed back to Spain to begin our journey across mainland Europe.
We were excited to keep going but had no idea what all places we wanted to go to, or how we would get there.
But we were sure we would figure it out.