Outside our stateroom window fair haired young people in Norwegian sweaters and jeans were lining up along a path right next to Prinsendam. It looked like the 1965 St. Olaf ski club including one, and only one, black kid. When I saw so many Norwegian sweaters a twisted version of my college fight song came to mind.
“We Come from St. Olaf
We wear fancy sweaters
We live on the hill to be closer to God
We don’t smoke we don’t drink
At least that’s what they think
But in Norway Valley we Um Ya Ya Ya
So now I’ve had that damn song is my earworm all day. (To make matters more interesting the construction company doing work behind the dancers is using construction equipment branded “Manitou,” inside joke for Oles.) But the kids did a great dance routine with younger children in filmy blue dresses and one with a red cape that kept wanting to blow away as fairies dancing around the more appropriately clad for the weather, ski team.
It was a wonderful introduction to Arendal, a “small” town of 40,000 southeast of Oslo. It is a resort town that makes its living off being a regional medical, education and technology center and from tourism, more specifically arts tourism with lots of music and arts festivals and a modern art museum.
I feel sorry for people who took driving tours on this short stop (all aboard was 2:20) because this was just a delightful town to walk through and to stop in a café for a coffee and a chat with locals. We had a local pastry munke (Monk’s food). The woman in the bake shop gave Suzi the recipe (Feeds 100, it is a bakery.) It is made from a kind of waffle dough but is salted so it is sweet and salty. It went well with my macchiato. The local birds liked it, they kept buzzing us and making skidding landings on the glass tabletop.
A gentleman asked us if we minded him joining us at a big table. We were delighted. When we told him we were from Alaska he told us of how his grandfather immigrated to the States and made enough money working boats on the Missouri River to move back to Norway to buy an island, build a house and get his own fishing boat. Most importantly he had enough money to marry in his 30s. We later met the man’s brother.
We spoke to another woman who immigrated to the State in 1954, her husband was a carpenter. They had their kids in America and made enough money to move back to Norway (which is one of the most expensive places on the planet) and live a good life, although they are American Citizens.
She is an activist for senior citizens and has an interesting cause. Many seniors are uncomfortable with Norway’s “cashless” society that I mentioned in the Oslo post. The government wants to pay them electronically, and in turn they can pay their bills using a computer and make purchases in stores using their smart phones. But seniors are not always comfortable with computers and don’t want to own a smart phone. My mother would certainly have been in that category. She is lobbying for a continuation of the use of checks and cash, at least for pensioners.
She is the docent at the Old Town Hall. It is a fine old wooden building, the second largest wooden building in Norway, and we saw the room in which the King greets people every few years when he makes his rounds. His portrait sits over his chair. (I actually met him more than 50 years ago when he was Crown Prince. He visited St. Olaf college and, what else, spoke at a Chapel service. He’s 10 years older than we are. He spent his younger years, during World War II in Minnesota.) We’ve met several people in Norway with family ties and very warm feelings for America.
When I bought our munke and coffee I asked if I could pay with money. The young woman looked surprised but said it was ok. When I explained that I wanted change in coins for our grandkids she brightened up and gave me a fine collection, some with holes in them. (Editing this two ports later I have actually seen more cash transactions take place in currencies other than Kroner than I have in Kroner. In Flam the “Mall of Norway” took dollars and Euros.)
Norway is an expensive country and people are developing expensive tastes. Suzi went into a wool shop to look for some, you know, wool. What she found was alpaca wool, not sheep’s wool although we learned that some shepherds are mixing alpaca with their herds because they fight back against wolves.. The same store sold traditional costumes. Some of the buttons for the costumes cost more than $200 apiece. Clasps can cost $400 to $500 and one set of decorative chains to hold a vest together cost $1,650. (Converting one Norwegian Korner at 11 US cents.) The store advertised some of its wares with models wearing the hijab.