Thursday, August 11, 2011


Approaching Utne via Ferry Boat

Is it any wonder that Carole loves what she loves - mountains, glaciers, rivers and streams, trees and ferns, and stunning landscapes of green, green, green! Actually, the color green must have been invented in Norway from lime to emerald to forest to chartreuse! Whatever we might say about Norway, we both agree that it is the most beautiful place we've ever been, and we've been around the block a time or two! Carole says that if you're very, very, very good, when you die you go to Norway!! It is truly a heaven on earth!

Our trip began with an overnight in Oslo, and an early morning train from there to Voss, a mountain ski resort town where we would spend a few days over our week in Norway. The train ride is said to be among the most spectacular in the world, and it would surely get our vote. Even though it was raining most of the time on the trip, it was still gloriously beautiful, from the fjords to the glaciers, to the small mountain villages and farms along the way.

Researching Family History in Agatunet
In Voss, we rented a car and drove to Kvandall, then boarded a ferry boat to Utne, at the tip of the fjord of Carole's family origins. From Utne, our first stop was the Agatunet (Aga village), where Carole's great-great grandfather, Per, was from. What an experience to actually find reference to her family in the historical records! Then we set out for one of the homes of Arnhild Bleie, that we had rented for our brief stay in the Bleietunet. Bleie (changed to Bly, Carole's maiden name, when her family came to America) was the name that Per took when he married Guri Bleie and moved there.

Ullensvang Church

Before we did anything else (except for catching dinner at the Cinderella Restaurant (believe it or not), we drove around the fjord to visit the Ullensvang Church, which was attended by Carole's ancestors (by walking across the fjord in the winter and by boat in the summer). Needless to say, it was awe-inspiring to be in that place. The following morning, we attended church services there and were pleasantly surprised to see three Norwegian infants baptised during the service.

 Once we returned to our rental house, we were joyously greeted by Carole's cousin, Einar, who escorted us to his house to meet his wife, Sara, who is also Carole's cousin. Sara served us a most amazing dinner of reindeer (a result of Einar's hunting expertise) and fresh vegetables, followed by an incredible dessert and coffee. We have never in our lives felt more welcomed anywhere! The following day, Einar and Sara took us on an amazing sight-seeing tour, a perfectly delightful day spent with our new family!

A bit sorry to leave Bleie, we returned to Voss and prepared for a scheduled interview with Koldjorn Valestrant and Signe Aarhus, the founders and co-owners of Oleana, Norway's premier maker of very high-end, exquisite knitwear (Michelle Obama purchased four Oleana jackets when the Obama's were in Oslo on the occasion of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize). Two more gracious hosts you will never meet, and the story of their enterprise is truly inspiring. If there was only one organization interviewed for David's sabbatical that could serve as a model of what is possible with vision, courage, talent and fortitude, Oleana would be it!

Oleana's Retail Store in Bergen
The story of Oleana is impossible to tell in this short space, but it is well worth ten minutes of anyone's time to go to, and check out a video that begins to capture the beauty of their work and tells their remarkable story. At Oleana, they say, "The future belongs to the storytellers."

Now that we are home again, we must also say how very saddened we are to know about the recent extreme violence in Norway, a country so deserving of its reputation as a peaceful nation of fiercely independent people who are proud of their history, their culture, and the beauty of their land. Our hearts go out to all who are suffering there, and, even though it is impossible to return to a prior state, we are keeping the faith that Norway will recover from its tragedy and again be a symbol of beauty and peace for the world.

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