Friday, March 13, 2015

Off at Trondheim, Visiting the Ancestral Home and Seeing Family

The Hurtigruten was a wonderful experience!  We had a lovely cabin, saw the Northern Lights, spent an enormous amount of time North of the Arctic Circle, met wonderful people and had some excellent food.

However, the boat was in constant motion, the buffets were becoming way too familiar and the prospect of disembarking was starting to sound more and more attractive.

Karen's family, on the Sagen side, originally came from a small fishing community outside of Trondheim.  As in, really, really small.  The family pretty much comprised the community.  Karen has been telling me for years (I dimly recall her mentioning it to me in high school) about her Grandfather growing up in this house, which still stood and was still in the family.  The interesting thing about this particular house is that it was originally about twice the size and at some point after her Grandfather moved to America the house was divided into two and one half was moved about fifty feet away.  So, unlike Lincoln's prediction that "a house divided against itself cannot stand", this particular group of Norwegians showed everyone that it could do just fine.  We don't know the story behind the split, but we have always assumed that it has to be a good one.

We had sort of an address, though it was a bit vague on whether the house was in a town and, if so, what town.  We also had photographs of what the house(s) looked like today.  We did have a map somewhere in our luggage, but we were relying on GPS.  With that, I booked us a room in Trondheim, a flight from Trondheim to Bergen after a night's stay and a rental car to take us to the family home.

We arrived on the about 6:30 a.m. in Trondheim, had a leisurely cup of coffee and a bite to eat, then disembarked from the Hurtigruten MSFinnmarken.  There was a taxi waiting for someone who had not arrived.  The taxi driver offered to run us over to the Trondheim Clarion Hotel and Congress, which was only a few blocks away, but a healthy walk when burdened with luggage and no porters.  He was a godsend!
Good bye, Finnmarken!

The hotel was very modern and lovely and the reception was great, particularly since at 9 a.m. they had a room ready for us!!  We dropped off our luggage, freshened up and then went down to pick up our car which Avis had personally delivered to us at the hotel.  I've normally been a Hertz-man, but I'll have to admit that Avis got my attention this time (I had called Hertz first, but they didn't have any cars, to which I said, "Why did you answer the phone?").

It took a couple of hours to get to the general area of the family home.  First, we had to get through Trondheim and then take a ferry.
Ferry to Saga

Then, we started driving in the lovely countryside.  At some point, we arrived at the largest highway construction site we've ever encountered.  The problem was that there was very little guidance as to where we supposed to go or which of the trucks were trucks just passing through and which ones were actually working on the site.  It is at times like this where I get a bit aggressive, assuming someone will tell me to stop if I cross a line somewhere.  Seriously, we just went around various vehicles, up and down large holes and across gravel and mud in the general direction of what appeared like it could eventually be a road.  No one stopped us, so we just kept going.

After about 6 to 8 miles of construction, we got back on a normal road.  It was shortly after that when our GPS lady chimed in and said "In two miles your address will be on the right hand side.  You will have to park on the 715 and walk to your destination."  Now this was not a message that we'd heard before from our GPS lady.  Karen knew that the place was remote, but our particular location at that time was missing something which we thought was fairly key for a fishing community, water.  We drove on and eventually the GPS lady started "recalculating", never a good sign.  We looked at each other in confusion, turned the car around and started heading back.  There was a side road near the place that the GPS lady seemed to like, so we turned down that road.  It was a single lane dirt road covered in snow and ice, so Karen made helpful observations like "Don't get close to that edge!"  "Don't get close to that edge either!"

We were nearing water, but it did not have the appearance of anything we had seen in the photos.  I saw a house way up on the top of an icy hill with a light on and decided we should ask for directions.  I pulled into the driveway and, fortunately, the owner of the home pulled in shortly after we had arrived.  He did not speak English well, though it was a lot clearer than our Norwegian.  Basically, he recognized the address, gave us directions to get back to the main road (including turning left at the huge cement truck which had overturned into a ditch), and where to go from there.  We drove back, following his directions and eventually Karen remembered the map.  Karen foraged through our luggage, found the map and we looked at it.  We had forgotten one important piece of information, the name "Saga".  We input that into our GPS and the GPS lady basically said, "Oh, that's where you wanted to go!  Why didn't you tell me that in the first place!!"

It was getting later, it was also starting to snow, and we were worried about heading back to the ferry before it got dark, but we pressed on.  We finally came to a lovely fjord that looked familiar and we came around a corner and saw the Sagen homestead exactly as we had seen it in the photos!  We had (and more importantly, Karen had) arrived!

 We found it!

 Looking in the window from outside.

Karen on the doorstep.

Sometimes in life, after anticipating something, it can be a letdown when it actually comes to pass.  Sometime, it can be exactly what, or better than, you were anticipating.  This was one of the latter.  We walked all around the grounds, peaked inside the windows to a view of the interior which was exactly like the photographs that Karen had been looking at for years, and just enjoyed feeling part of the family history.  During all this, the wind had picked up and it had started to snow even more heavily, so we had the added bonus of seeing the family home covered in snow!

When it was time to go, we decided to follow the coast route back rather than the construction route.  It was a beautiful drive through the snow and we arrived at the ferry as it was just finishing up loading, so we were able to just drive on board and not come to a stop.

It was a delightful day!!!

We stayed the night back in Trondheim, flew to Bergen the next day and started driving the Southern Coast of Norway (separate story to come).  A few days after that we arrived in Stavanger, which is a coastal town with a serious commitment to oil and gas development.  Old Stavanger is quite delightful, with little stone streets winding all over the place among a sea of old white wooden houses.

It was in Stavanger where we met up with a cousin of Karen and his wife (Jan and Anne-Breit) from the Sagen homestead side of the family (Karen's grandfather and Jan's grandfather having been brothers who lived in the Sagen homestead in the early 1900's).  We had a delightful traditional Norwegian dinner at their house (called "Sodd") and spent some time looking at an amazing array of photos from the Sagen homestead back in the early part of the last century.

Traditional "Sodd"
Anne-Breit, Jan and Gary

The highlight for us was a photo of Karen's grandfather at the Sagen homestead around 1961, standing with one of his brothers, Nils, who he had come with from Astoria to Norway for a visit, together with Jan, as a 7-year old, and others from the Sagen family.  The reason this was so memorable was that Karen had been talking for years about when her grandfather went to Norway when she was a child and her being very sad until his return.  To see a photo of him in Norway with someone who was actually there when her grandfather was there was one of those "full circle" moments.

The next evening, with Jan and Anne-Breit, we had a wonderful meal out at the Renaa Restaurant.  They claimed to have a 12-course meal, but I think they were miscounting, as I lost track somewhere around 27.  The portions, thankfully, were small, but there were so many portions that we were all crying "uncle" (or the Norwegian equivalent) by the end of the evening (which was 5 delicious hours after they served us course number 1).

Between our visit to the Sagen homestead and the delightful hospitality of the Stavanger cousins, we had a wonderful family time on our Norway trip!!!!

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