I’ve mentioned on the blog before that my great-grandmother Karin (we called her Mas–short for Grandma) was a huge influence in my life from an early age. I would go to her house every day before and after school and almost every day in the summer for a good part of the first 12 years of my life.
In the summertime, I remember sitting out under her covered porch listening to stories from Mas’s childhood. Stories about pestering apartment neighbors, stories about her siblings, stories about that special Christmas when she received an orange in her stocking (that was one of her best Christmas’), and in the later years, stories about World War II and leaving Norway.
Those quiet moments on Mas’s patio are some of my favorites.
While we were in Oslo this past summer, my grandmother’s cousin, Fred, took the family and I on a tour around the city so we could see where our ancestors grew up. We were lucky because we had family from all over Norway down to visit us that day. Our group of 15 or so made our way through the streets of the Kampen district, absorbing our family history and reminiscing about our many memories for a good portion of the day.
As we walked the old, narrow streets past the colorfully painted houses with intricate designs, I noticed that many homes and buildings proudly fly the Norwegian flag. It was easy to feel the strong sense of unity and pride that these citizens have for their beloved country, and it was very contagious.
I quickly learned that although the buildings looked like a big
(boring) box from the street they actually had beautiful terraces and gardens once through the main gate.
After stepping off the bus, we began our journey near the home of my great-great-grandmother. We saw where she lived when she met my great-great-grandfather and learned more about their lives in the early 1900s. We walked through the neighborhoods, listening to the intriguing stories about those who came before us and after a few blocks of walking, we crossed the street and stopped in front of a bright red, three-story building. Fred rang the buzzer and although my Norwegian was limited I understood that he was introducing himself and explaining why we were there and asked if we could come inside. It was as we were walking through the main gate to the terrace within that I learned that this was the home where my great-grandmother (Mas) was born.
I stood there in the grass and looked up at the beautiful red building. This was such a special moment for me. I envisioned her running around and playing on the stairs from an early age. All of those sacred stories I heard growing up were right there in front of me, playing over and over in my mind. I stood there with my grandmother, husband, cousin, and the rest of the family cherishing that moment.
My great-grandmother in the very front in the old family photo above. It was such a surreal feeling to see the exact spot where she sat.
I waited 26 years for this moment. Standing in front of the apartment where my great-grandmother lived as a child.
After old pictures were shared and stories were told, we continued on our journey and walked to the Kampen Kirke (Church); our last stop within the Kampen district. As I entered the church I was amazed by the beauty of the building; the tall stained-glass windows on each side of the chapel created a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors on the pews and the altar was covered in delicate and beautiful artwork.
We made our way through the sprawling Kampen Park to the famous Edvard Munch Museum (you know, the guy that painted the “scream” photo). The cherry blossom trees surrounding the site were in full bloom and were the perfect contrast to the bright blue sky that day. Unfortunately for us, the Museum was closed but we still took a break and enjoyed some delicious Norwegian Chocolate.
With tired feet, happy hearts, and hungry stomachs, we wrapped up this special day with a big family dinner back at cousin Fred and Mona’s house. We indulged in traditional Norwegian fare including hamburger patties (there’s something about this Norwegian recipe that is oh-so-delicious! It takes me right back to my childhood), baked chicken, fish balls (not “those” kind of fish balls ;-) –it’s minced fish-shaped into a ball, like a meatball), salad, fruit, drinks, and coffee. Not to mention the traditional Norwegian Flag Cake and Norwegian Cheesecake for dessert–these cakes were to die for!
This was hands down my favorite day of the entire trip. I will be forever grateful that we were able to see these places with my sweet grandmother. All of the history and memories came flooding back during our trip around the city, I couldn’t have asked for a better day spent with my amazing family.