McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Norway

Day 5- Lillehammer, Norway and ending in Avesta

Today we started out with another fabulous spread of Swedish foods. I gave the tube of “kaviar” another chance, and it was MUCH better today! So, that leads me to believe that the first tube had just gone rancid. ha The kaviar redeemed itself. lol


We drove up to the top of the mountain where we were supposed to stay last night. I had found this “Alpine Apartment” on Booking.com. We drove all the way up here around sunset and couldn’t find where to check in. So I called the number on my reservation… and she tells me that my confirmation should have told me that I had to pick up the keys in Häjfell. It did. But it was like size 7 font at the very bottom. lol So we backtracked back down to town and found the empty hotel where I was to pick up the key. So I started to pay and she asks if we have our own bed linens and towels… I say no…. and she says it will be like $40 to rent them… so I’m like, can we just stay here for the night??? ha and she’s like…uhhh, yeah..duh…sure. ha So, we got the hotel room and breakfast for the same price.

But… I still wanted the pictures from the top of the mountain so I made Kegan drive back up today

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A lot of houses in Norway especially the more traditional or older homes, have a “sod roof” which is sort of misleading to what it actually is. This goes back a thousand years, with Vikings having sod roofs on most of their houses. The sod sounds like its just dirt, but really its a bottom layer of birch bark that makes the house waterproof. With a knife, you can slice the tree bark straight down and the whole bark will peel off of the tree. They then unroll it and lay it flat with weight on it to help it dry flat. Once it’s dry, they lay a layer of the birch back down, then cover it with sod to hold it in place, which also acts as insulation. They look so cool. Now I want a sod roof.img_1315

As we left Häjfell, we could see the fairy house and troll across the lake/river.img_1316

Saw this big dam on our way to Lillehammerimg_1320 img_1325

We stopped by the Olympic Park up on the top of the hill.img_1326 img_1329

Everything in Norway has an amazing view.
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We got to the ski jumps from the 1994 Olympics and we were lucky enough to see the skiers practicing. That was AMAZING. I never realized just how far they flew off of that ramp!img_1337

Because there’s no snow, they have astroturf on the jumps.img_1342 img_1344 img_1347 img_1350 img_1351 img_1353
Norah LOVED the skiers. She didnt want to leave. She just sat here at the end of the ramp and watched them over and over. She wasnt happy when we made her leave.

But eventually, we started back towards Sweden. We had a 6 hour drive to Avesta. Not much to share, just some scenery. Lots of forest.

We met Marie, Johan and the boys, Axel and Gustav and had some nice dinner and  conversation. I didn’t photograph all of our dinner, but they did serve us Moose! It was awesome.


They have the cutest country house… and it has a three story guesthouse! I told them we were moving in. It is just spectacular.


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and these beautiful rustic old barn stairs.img_1370

Tomorrow will be pretty light because we’re just hanging around with Marie and living the good Swedish country life! 🙂

Day 4-Mora, Fulufjället Natl Park and Norway again

Today we got up and went downstairs for breakfast around 8:50am…to learn that there weren’t enough guests to make it worth their while to open breakfast….so she told us we’d have to go down to the other hotel. (The one we got dinner at last night because the restaurant was closed at ours). Trouble was, they quit serving breakfast at 9am. grrrr. I was really irked… and was absolutely sure I was going to write a terrible review and ask for my money back from Booking.com since the amenities listed weren’t actually available and I paid EXTRA for included breakfast….

We quickly loaded the car and drove down, making it by 9:06. The staff was just getting ready to put up the items from the buffet but they sorta slowly decided we could grab some stuff quickly. again, I wasn’t happy…but quickly just started grabbing some food haha. Then, as we are eating, in walks the lady that told me breakfast would be in our own hotel… apparently, she was working the late evening at our hotel…but was actually like the main property manager. I (in a nice way) told her how we had to hurry down and grab breakfast because we found out last minute. She was like, “Oh…thats not OK. I will deal with that.” and starting texting haha

So… turns out it seems the people down there were just too lazy to get the food out for the 4 people who were staying there haha I hope they got in trouble because I’m spiteful. She was super nice and loved Norah… was very apologetic, lived in Cork for 3 years, and brought Norah back a bag of surprises including a CD of traditional Swedish music (our car doesn’t have a cd player haha) a handmade wooden heart and some candy ribbons and chocolate. So… in the end, we got breakfast  and I liked the manager…so she saved the day. ha


We set out for the town of Mora, a cute little town in the area of Dalarna (also the area Marie lives).

They have a really cool church, the church of St. Michel..and a statue of St. Michel slaying the dragon in their downtown square.img_1215 img_1216 img_1219 img_1221

They are also famous for their knives. Morakniv is a world famous knife manufacturer. Kegan was drooling over them and trying to figure out how to get them back home. hahaimg_1226

This area is famous for its wooden horses. These days, the horse is just a symbol for this part of Sweden, but it started out as a toy that parents would carve for their children back in olden days. People started manufacturing them for sale as early as the 1600s although, if Wikipedia can be trusted, they didn’t get the intricate painting on the red horse until the late 1800s. I had to buy one a tiny one to go on my travel knick-knack shelf alongside my loch ness monster. lol

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After Mora, it was back in the car for a couple hour drive as what could best be described as the Ikea warehouse. (Nothing but new growth Pine forests for 2 hours! you know that wood was bound for some sort of flat packed dining table ha)


We did see a little grocery store and we stopped in to ensure we would at least have some snacks if we couldn’t find dinner tonight. I love that they had these little kid carts! Norah thought she was such a grown up with her own cart. It was cute.


We arrived at Fulufjallets National Park right on the Norwegian border to see the largest waterfall in Sweden: Njupeskar.

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The sign says “2”…. so maybe it’s trail 2? some sort of slag, like ‘this way 2 Njupeskar’ or something? because it definitely wasn’t 2 kilometers. lolimg_1235

A lot of the trail was on boardwalk, which I thought was really neat.

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Ansel Adams over here spotted a tree that he knew would make a cool picture. Gotta get the shot!img_1242

In all fairness… he did pretty good:


As I was going through photos, I turned this one black and white and LOVE the busy-ness of it. Might be a framer.img_1243 img_1248

Of course, Norah made friends. Some Swedish lady wanted to high five her, so she cornered her into a game of pattycake. lolimg_1251
We’ve got poses.img_1253

Always stairs involved with everything cool. I don’t understand. lol
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Ansel Adams also took this photo of the spiral bark dead tree. Came out pretty cool, too. So apparently Kegan should have the camera, not me. img_1275

Speaking of, Kegan actually took some photos today I can be in the blog post too! 🙂


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When we finished climbing Everest (ok, so I’m a bit dramatic about hiking…) we decided to just eat at the little cafe- they had some menu options posted above the window-all in Swedish of course- so I just picked something. Turned out it was cube steak. haha but it was good!img_1282  



After leaving the park, we entered Norway again and we were supposed to head over to the west coast to catch some AMAZING scenery and fjords….but i didnt calculate out the time right for driving it….it was just too far to do and not be miserable… so we decided to save the other Norwegian coast for the next trip and just go to the town of Lillehammer and live out our olympic dreams. Lillehammer was the site of the 1994 winter Olympics and there are still a lot of Olympic related buildings around.  We’ll explore that more in the morning.

One other thing Lillehammer has is the Hunderflossen Amusement Park with a Norwegian folklore theme…so of course, there is a giant troll in the park. Unfortunately, the park closed Aug 18th and was only open last weekend. I guess you have that when you put an amusement park in the middle of a ski resort town that gets snow 8 months out of the year.

We drove there anyway, just to see if we could get a view of the giant troll or the fairy house. We could barely see both, but it was enough 🙂

Trolls are beings from Old Norse mythology. A lot of folklore talks about them big, strong and dim witted. They turn to stone if they are caught in the sunlight… which it seems is what happened to this particular troll. He got caught in the sun and here he sits.

Our view of the park:img_1297  img_1303

Other people’s photos of the troll and fairy house:fairyhouse troll1

 

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The troll sits on top of a restaurant inside the park. Inside of the restaurant is held up by four more trolls. Little disappointed we couldn’t go here.

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We got to our hotel and it will do just fine for the evening. 🙂

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We grabbed hamburgers at the gas station right up the road…and there was corn on it. That was a first! 


Tomorrow, we’ll see some of Lillehammer and drive back to Marie’s house for dinner! 

Day 1-Oslo, Norway

What a lovely time for a vacation! Haha 4 days into moving to Ireland we decided to just be true gypsies 🙂 

Not really. Truth is, I had already made plans to see my friend Marie who was an exchange student at Brownstown when we were in high school. She has been back to the US a few times since then-even came over for my wedding!…but none of us have ever gone to see her! (That I know of)… So when I saw super cheap prices last Black Friday- we made plans. 

Fast forward, here we are 🙂

Our flight left Dublin at 9:35am and arrived 12:35pm. We had originally tried to rent a car in Oslo and return it in Stockholm but the pricing was outrageous… And only for US drivers, too! When the website thought I was an Irish driver based on my IP address, my rental quotes were half priced and included full insurance. Still wondering why that is… Global conspiracy…

So, we rented in Gothenburg tomorrow and spent today Ubering all over Oslo and then taking a bus to Gothenburg to our hotel this evening. Today was all about the public transportation.

We left Ciara’s place early (our temporary 4 day home sweet home) around 6:30am. I had to drive our manual transmission SUV back over to the airport. That was a 12 year hiatus on driving a manual. And I drove like it was, too. Haha who in their right mind chooses to do like 5 extra steps while driving?? No thanks. I’ll take my car with a real transmission. (Unless it costs a lot more to rent, in which case… My cheapness wins out and I drive the manual.)

Scrooge McDuck found this charity bin in the airport and said , “Whoa! Let’s get some dollars!!” Then proceeded to try to pick it up. Good luck.

At least some people got some sleep. HaOur flight arrived on time to Oslo, but I didn’t account for the over 2 hour wait through customs for Non-EU passport holders.
Luckily, as it got soooo backed up, about 30 minutes in, they started allowing those of us with kids to use the empty EU line. Thank goodness for common sense. Norah would not have made it another 2 hours. Plus, we only had 5.5 hrs in Oslo anyway. 

Very thankfully, we made our way towards the Flytoget train that does a super smooth high speed rail trip down to the city’s central station from the airport in twenty minutes. What a great infrastructure! 

Since we were behind schedule, instead of walking the length of the city, we went to the bus terminal we would be leaving from in the evening and grabbed a locker to put all of our stuff. We did some major minimalist packing for this trip. We packed for all 3 of us for 10 days in backpacks! The Scandanavians would be proud of our efficiency!


After, we grabbed an Uber straight to Vigelandsparken,which was the most unique thing in Oslo that I didn’t want to miss. It’s a beautiful sculpture park where all of the statues are created by the same artist: Gustav Vigeland.

Seen below are what you might hear referred to as “solar panel Scandanavians”. When there is sun like there was today… The locals all turn into solar panels and soak it up for the rest of the year. Haha

We grabbed another Uber to the Viking Ship museum, another awesome and unique trait about Oslo: Vikings!

Quick nerd notes: 

There have been people in Scandanavia for a heck of a long time, but the term “viking” came to be when these people started raiding Europe in what is known as the “Viking Age”. About 800-1100ad. A good three hundred year run. Back in these times, there was no Sweden, Norway or Denmark… Just Scandanavians who belonged to different colonies or tribes/chieftains with similar ideals, religion and customs. The Vikings from around Denmark invaded England, the Vikings around Norway invaded Ireland and Scotland and the Vikings of Sweden mostly focused on Eastern Europe. They never made much of a dent in mainland Europe because there were already such strong regimes uniting territories around this time. (Think Charlamagne). England and Ireland were fighting themselves for hundreds of years, so when the Vikings arrived- there was no chance to unify. Eventually they did (Kudos to King Egbert) but it was a bloody time getting there.

Mostly it was  Christianity that ended the golden Viking Age of raiding and plundering. By 1100ad, the Catholic Church was legitimizing families and dynasties that didn’t exist or had very little influence in Scandanavia even 200 years prior… It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Christianity conversion bought you allies, money and support and for the Viking Warriors- a new underlying reason to conquer and continue their way of life- the crusades, bought and paid for by European kings to further spread their faith. Christianity also brought Latin language to the north and the end to Old Norse language and as christianity spread, cities and countries began mimicking European culture and finance. Thus ending a lot of the rich pagan culture we know as Viking.

But… Those 300 years or so that we have written records and artifacts are totally cool. Take this Viking ship they have on display at the Vikingship Museum in Oslo. They uncovered it in a field in Norway in the early 1900s. The ship was built in the 800s and was eventually used to bury a very important chieftain with his belongings. 


I had my first run in today with cogender bathrooms! That was exciting and slightly uncomfortable for about 30 seconds. Haha It was strange to be in the bathroom stall and have 2 grown men waiting outside conversing… I had just never encountered it before! But honestly, it makes more sense. At least there were no open urinals! That may have crossed a line 🙂

We stopped by the cafe to grab a snack . I have heard nothing else about Oslo other than how expensive it is and jeez Louise are people right.We got one small shrimp sandwich, 2 Reindeer jerky sticks, 2 waters and a juice… $31. LolAfter selling our firstborn for a snack, we grabbed one last uber to get us down to the harbor and walkable back to the bus terminal

Oslo OperaHouse- performing War Requiem… Hence the “graffiti” on the front. It was designed so you could go all the way up on the roof and get a good view of the city

Someone got a little tired on the way back  and had to be carried like a sack of potatoes.

We arrived back to the bus terminal an hour prior to departure so we grabbed some snacks at a convenience store type kiosk in the terminal. The bus is just like an airplane- tray tables and air vents…and my Personal favorite: wifi! I was able to write up to this point while on our 3 hour trip. It was great just watching outside as we went through the countryside. Some beautiful scenery.


We arrived in Gothenburg at 10:45pm- and after a 3.5hr bus ride, we needed to find the facilities… But we found that the toilets cost 10 krona ($1.17 USD) to use at grand central station! And since we just arrived, we had no dollars or krona. So we had to hit the ATM and then break the bigger bill for some coins. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. Other cities have done the same thing because they found that free public toilets attracted the drug users…. But putting a fee for it kept them nice and pretty and helped fund the services for the government. 

We walked a couple blocks to our hotel, grabbed a Salad, some waters and some chocolate in the lobby and called it a night. It took Norah approx 45 seconds to fall asleep haha


Downtown Gothenburg tomorrow, a boat tour down the river and then an afternoon trekking through some small towns. Goodnight!