Sure enough one of my cousins is into genealogy. Cousin Shari also was in e-mail contact with a fellow she knows in Norway through a post polio support group. She put us in touch with him. We had a couple of days in the country before we were supposed to meet our friends, so we arranged to meet Harald once we arrived. The internet and e-mail make this all so much easier. If you can find a friend of a friend.... do it... even a brief evening with someone makes the trip seem more like a visit than a tour.
Grandpa's Home Town
We flew to Oslo and phoned Harald to get direction, then drove two hours north to meet him and take him to dinner. My cousin had sent her family information ahead, and with a little research, Harald was able to tell us where the old family farm had been. There actually WAS a town of Fiksdal, but, he told us, it would take about 8-10 hours to drive there. We were supposed to meet our friends in a day and a half by now, but really, did we have a choice? Mark is really a good sport, so we got up, had an early and hearty Norwegian breakfast, and went to find Fiksdal.
Our impression of Norway as we drove through in mid-June was that the country leaks. There were beautiful waterfalls everywhere. The lupines were in bloom splashing pinks and purples across the decidedly green mountains and meadows. The small towns are charming and colorful too. The Norwegians tend to paint their houses in happy, bright colors.
And Now For Friends...
We drove for five more hours that night. Thank goodness it never got dark. Remember you are pretty far north, so if you visit close to the summer solstice, the days are very long; all you really get is a few hours of twilight during the night. The next morning we drove for another five hours across more ferries and fjords. We made it to the Bergen airport on time to meet our friends. Ferries are a way of life if you're driving the coast of Norway, and they're fun and scenic. Ferries run on frequent schedules, and you'll rarely wait more than 20-30 minutes for them. Language is not a problem.
Two more ferries and an hour drive beyond Bergen got us to Varaldsøy where we spent two peaceful days at our friends beautiful, rustic house. (Rustic as in two hole outhouse, no indoor water, hose out the backdoor for showers, but we're all old trekking buddies, and at least we didn’t have to hang TP on a rock.)
Back For More...
We went back two years later. We really didn’t feel like we had enough time in Fiksdal; we wanted to see Harald again; and we had another invitation to visit our friends on their island hideaway. So again we rented a car at the Oslo Airport and got as far as Elverum to have dinner with Harald.
We were prepared to do a little more sightseeing this time. It's an interesting itinerary you might want to take. Driving through Norway is easy and beautiful. When we left Harald, we headed through the middle of the country to Røros to explore that quaint old mining town.
We visited Fiksdal again... for a whole day this time. We got to talk to some of the residents and get into the little Fiksdal Church. The general store is where they keep the genealogy books for the area. I have no relatives left in the area, but that didn't keep people from wanting to help us. They pulled those genealogy books out out and tried to look up our ancestors..... I couldn't read them, but we had no shortage of interpreters. People in small towns like this really want to help make your visit special. They even called the little old caretaker of the church so that we could see the interior this time.
Fiksdal is such a tiny town that there is no hotel there or even nearby.
We stayed about a hour away in Ålesund where we had dinner with another “online” friend of my cousin Shari. It really does pay to get in touch even with friends of friends. We met some locals who said we must be long lost cousins if grandpa came from Fiksdal, and they were quick to offer advice on the most scenic route south. Ålesund is a beautiful coastal town, and a great gateway for a drive through some of Norway's most beautiful fjords.
Scenic Drive Through Fjords
We went for a long looping drive south--taking all the scenic ferries we could find through the Sunnylvsfjorden, Geirangerfjorden, Innivikfjorden, Sonnefjorden, Aurlandsfjorden, and Naerøyfjorden.... Fjord, fjord, fjord.... all with ferries. Get the picture? It was beautiful, and we can heartily recommend this drive.
Norway does tend to be a little expensive, so one way to economize is to picnic... and you can't beat the scenery at the road side tables provided. We stopped to see Stave churches and explore charming small towns along the way.
Eventually we reached the Hardanger Fjord where we made our way back to Varaldsøy Island and stayed three days.
Our friends have indoor plumbing since our visit two years ago, and peak-a-boo views of the fjord through the trees. The weather was so great this time that we went swimming in the fjord every day, and we were running around in bathing suits picking wild blue berries late in the evening. They made for great pancakes the next morning! What a treat a visit like this is.
Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark