Travels · Travels: Norway

Grimstad: Berries and History

I packed up my little bag, helped my local pal Hilde load the car with the necessary snacks, clothes, bedding, musicals, and Redbull, and we were on our way to Grimstad; off to visit Randi, Hilde’s college buddy, and her family.

The ride took about 5 hours and included a few ferries, an hour long delay due to a tunnel closure, singing, and a lot of napping on my part. I grilled Hilde on her Norwegian history, and as we passed the bucolic countryside dotted with little white houses and matching white rolls of silage, she told me all about it.

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The part that reminded me of AK.

I learned about how the very first Norwegians followed the big furry delicious beasts north, with the end of the last ice age. Then about the days of the Vikings, who, despite what most people think, weren’t just wild raiders. The Vikings, it turns out, spent most of their time farming, and only set out in their sturdy vessels once a year to plunder. After the Vikings came the Christians with their monks, then the Black Death which completely decimated the country. Norway was next taken over by Denmark, then the monks were booted out because Martin Luther was doing some stuff, then Norway became free. That lasted just long enough to write a constitution, and Sweden decided it was in charge. That ended in 1905, just long enough for Norway to remain neutral in WWI, and be occupied by Germany in WWII.

Needless to say, that took the better part of a few hours, was populated with stories of great men, and interrupted by toilet brakes. The think I found most fascinating about the history was its affect on the language. Norwegian, as it is today, is relatively new, due to the country being under foreign rule for most of its history. There are two ways to write, Bokmål and Nynorsk, but the spoken language is all over the place, each little corner having its own unique dialect.

Poor Hilde was finally set free from my incessant questioning, as we arrived at our destination and were greeted by warm smiling people, and the beautiful crocuses of spring. What excellent people they were too, Randi, her mother, and her father! Hilde and I were ushered to a table laden with food. Moose was the selection of the evening, and I, being from Alaska, felt quite at home. In addition to the moose were chanterelles, and pickles. The farm, now belonging to the son and growing berries (be still my beating heart), used to grow pickling cucumbers, and pickles we ate. There were also the usual suspects: potatoes, cruciferous veg, a bit of bunny food (salad), and tyttebær (lingonberry) jam. It was simple, but delicious.

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Next was dessert; we had berries from the farm, tea, and cake. And not just one type of cake, oh no; there were four kinds of cake. I had a slice of each, the blueberry cream, cloudberry cream, chocolate, and almond tart. They were all wonderful. I will say that I am used to baking with unsalted butter, and I could taste the difference made by the salted butter which is used here. I suppose it’s all what you’re used to.

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By this point I was tired and waddling with satisfaction. We chatted about recipes. I landed an apparently splendid recipe to use with my new sandkaker tins. I was also given a recipe for potato dumplings stuffed with bacon, and one for rømmegrøt, a porridge made of cooked sour cream. I was also presented with a pair of woolen socks, made by Ingveig, Randi’s mother. They are wonderfully warm; I’ve been wearing them like slippers.

At the end of the evening we left the farm to Randi’s house, and turned in for the night. I was wiped!

The next day I was greeted with four types of breakfast jam. We had black currant, red gooseberry, strawberry, and mixed berry with apple. Then we went into town. I bought a huge wooden porridge ladle for 50NOK at a second hand shop. We got the local pastry, a sort of enriched dough situation studded with raisins and topped with vanilla cream and a sprinkling of sweetened coconut. I got some yarn to make some warm cozies of my own, and we walked along the little cobblestone streets of old town Grimstad.

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Pretty little buildings
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A sea of Easter Chickens

It’s a tiny town with beautiful antique shops. If I only had an unlimited budget and a home to go home to. Such treasures, and the best treasure of Grimstad was yet to be revealed, in the form of a little cabin in the woods.

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