April 29: Sverreborg Trøndelag Folkemuseum

Today we visited Sverresborg Trøndelag Folkemuseum in Trondheim with Trond, Sylvi, and their kids. We were just in time for a guided “tour” with a delightful aristocrat from 18th century Trondheim who first showed us the home of a local import merchant. After shouting loudly for Hans and getting no response, he took liberty to tell us that Hans was quite rich because he imports spices, wine, and other fancy things, then sells them in Trondheim. He pointed out that a rich man has fancy paint like this, and imported furniture. I got into the groove and understood most of what he was saying, and Anders was right with it.

Then he took us to his own home, the first one to be made out of concrete in Trondheim. It was also lavishly decorated. He asked us all to go into the dining room and treated us to a preview of the party he would hold later in the day. We smelled the spices, listened to his story about the party, and got to “skål” to everyone he could think of while we drained the glasses of sparkly apple juice (he drained 2!) He asked “who should we skål to first?” and no one answered, so I said “deg?” (you?). He thought that was pretty funny! Nope, first the king, then the queen, then the crown prince, then the bishop…on down the line including his wife, and finally him! Skål!

We saw the rest of the sights in the old town, this is the main street with various stores and homes. Some of them were open, others we could see in through the windows.

Next we went to the “nightman’s” house. There was a long recording (thankfully one in English too) about the one person in Trondheim back in the old days who did his work at night: emptying everyone’s outhouses, collecting the corpses of the executed or suicides, sometimes required to put a head on a stake. This person and his family were shunned by the rest of society, no one would have anything to do with them if possible. It passed from father to son, or if one died and they needed a new one, they would force a prisoner into the job. Sad stories. This was the very house that the nightman lived in, now we can honor them.

Dentist office from 1918. Oi! The whole top floor of one of the old town houses was devoted to dentistry over the last century, with equipment from 1928 and 1958 on display as well. Be thankful for what we have now.

Yikes! One looks too happy, one looks in distress, one looks away.

After the dentist office, we stepped into the candy shop, also a toy store (and real gift shop). We didn’t get anything 🙂 We did go to the main museum cafe and gift shop later.

Then we climbed up to the top of the bluff where the ruins of King Sverre’s castle are preserved. Built by King Sverre, completed in 1183 and defended by the Birkebeiners, loyalists to the king against invaders and the church that wanted to assert power. As recently as 2014 and 2016 they have done excavation work and found archeological remains that match some of the sagas written from 1180s-90s.

Only the foundation of the castle still stands now. There were stories of the attacks that killed a lot of the Birkebeiner defenders and a fire in the underground rooms. The attackers threw a dead body and the contents of the outhouse into the well to contaminate it, so that the King and defenders could not stay there. They found the skeleton of a man in the well in 2014, dated back to the 1190s. Anders is blown away that we are standing in places where people build castles almost 1,000 years ago.

From the top, looking out toward the city of Trondheim (above) and fjord with the island Munkholmen in the distance (below).

Looking down at the old farm houses below the castle ruins, with Trond, Sylvi, and Julia down there! Sylvi and I marveled at what life was like in those small farm houses, in the cold and dark winters. All about survival. There are no “good” old days, we have it pretty good in our warm places with refrigerators full of food now.

On our way out we went past the Stave Church from Haltdalen, originally built around 1170 and reconstructed here, the only one remaining in Trøndelag. It wasn’t open today.

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April 22: Rockheim

Guest post by Ted

Last weekend we headed to Rockheim, a music museum on the Trondheim waterfront dedicated to Norway’s rock history and thriving scene.  Scandinavia actually has a fairly rich rock history, with notable chart-toppers ABBA and A-ha amongst the most well known.  Within Norway there is a thriving indie-rock and electronic scene, with bands like Turbonegro, Motorpsycho, Kings of Convenience, and Röyksopp achieving some international success.  And of course Norway is the epicenter of black metal, which has become extremely trendy in hard rock circles globally in the last 10 years.

Metal is a huge category of music, with a menagerie of sub-genre prefixes such as doom, death, grind, thrash, power, groove, post, etc.  Each of these sub-genres are characterized by certain vocal styles, lyrical themes, guitar tones, and production techniques.  Black metal is a very particular sub-genre characterized by a buzzy, noisy blur of diminished guitar chords, rapid blast-beat drums, raspy vocals, face paint, unreadable band logos, and a juvenile libertarian/aristocratic political philosophy (sometimes with a good dose of nature worship),  all working together to create a nihlistic, “grim” atmosphere that emphasizes a perceived authenticity more than technical prowess.

The museum was organized by several floors, some with hands on activities such as remixing a popular song, learning dance moves, and karaoke.  Other floors had large thematic displays showing various musical instruments, and short video histories of folk and rock performers in Norway over the decades.

It was a fun visit, but by luck (good and bad) we happened to visit on a free day.  The downside of this was that attendance was high, and a good deal of the attendees were little kids who basically treated the place as a children’s’ museum, more interested in the technical parts of the interactive exhibits rather than the subject of the exhibits.  In other words, they just wanted to mash the buttons.  So that was a little overwhelming.  Christy and I hope to make it back during a weekday afternoon to have a bit more space and time to explore the exhibits and actually enjoy all the music and video that has been curated.

A Halling dance lesson, a part of which is kicking a hat off of a stick, to impress would be suitors.  Here Anders gets scooped by an overly-zealous dad and kid.  Just another example of too many little kids this day.

Nora was much more interested in the face painting, which took way too long and had nothing to do with the museum theme.  Christy noted later that they really missed a golden opportunity to tap in to some of the iconic face paint themes in Norwegian rock history, such as Hank von Helvete from Turbonegro and Abbath from Immortal.

Hank von Helvete

Abbath of Immortal

Christy and Anders record their vocals at the remixing station.

Halling dance practice.

Laser disco

The black metal room, complete with fridge full of cheap beer (not shown).

Tour bus themed exhibit showing footage of some old Norwegian music festivals.

Play-along station.  Like Guitar Hero, but real.


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April 21: Trondheim Science Center

Ted and the kids checked out the Trondheim Science Center yesterday. They have Norway’s first and only 3D planetarium and 360 theater. https://www.vitensenteret.com/

It was a pretty standard children’s museum, but a good one.  The electricity section had a manually commuted electric motor, which Ted appreciated.  One of the biggest hits was a reaction game, which would drop plastic batons around you at random and you had to try to catch them.  Anders won.

What does Anders eyes with Nora’s mouth and hair look like?  Kinda like Ted’s sister Matty.

The Orbitron.  All three rotational degrees of freedom — roll, pitch, and yaw — in nested gimbals.  Not good for people who don’t like to be upside-down.

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April 21: Nora’s Soccer Debut

Nora played in the Nardo cup yesterday, such fun to watch the girls play! Nora hasn’t played for several years, so she was really learning the ropes of playing in a game and not just kicking around the ball for fun. Her coach was patient and explained the play to her when she was on the sidelines. She did get some action!

It was cold, windy and rainy, just like the old AYSO Saturday mornings.

Pictures courtesy of action-shot Anders, who also acted as warm-up goalie.

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April 16: Anders is a teenager!

Happy birthday to Anders! Gratulerer med dagen! Now a teenager, he is planning to grow taller than me, beat me in arm wrestling, get angsty, and dedicate himself to his art (whatever that may be). In honor of his return to his birthplace, a selection of pictures from his visits to Trondheim.

2006 visit to Trondheim: Ted reads to our friend Hanna and Anders.

2011 Visit to Trondheim

Bursdagfest! Yesterday we took Anders and 9 friends on the bus to Pirabadet for the afternoon, and Nora brought along a friend too. Waiting for the bus, we caught most of them in one spot. There was a lot of chasing around and parkour on the rails, we had to ask them not to crack their heads open, please. They obliged.

It was fun to watch their antics, and to see Anders with his new friends. I think Anders is doing the crazy dab-jump into the water and the rest are his friends.

They spent a lot of time on the big iceberg climbing structure and Ted and I enjoyed the hot tubs and quiet pools, but Ted had to take a turn on the iceberg too!

We took a break for snacks, veggies, pretzels, cheese, chips, and donuts for the bday treat. They sang Hurra for deg, the norsk birthday song, and he blew out candles! Never too big for that. Anders said that his friends seemed a little surprised to get so much healthy food, but they were hungry so they ate it up. And the donuts helped!

After school today we had tacos for middag, Oreo ice cream cake, and presents. Anders’ class sang “Hurra for deg” for him in school today, and coincidentally, they had a party tonight for the 6th and 7th graders, but he came home after an hour. That’s the way this teenager rolls.

His friends gave him presents at the party yesterday, including this “Slam Dunk All Day” shirt. The kids have been playing some crazy 2-on-2 basketball with lots of teams at the same time at recess, on the elementary school-size basketball hoops. Anders comes home with tales of dunking all day and any team he is on is undefeated. One of his friends got him this shirt for his birthday! Thanks Gard, you know him well! He likes it when he and Gard are a team too. They won again today.

He just had to try to fulfill his 13-year-old goal of beating me at arm wrestling, but I beat him 3 times on the right and once on the left (4 for 4). He has all year to beat me, can’t let him win on the first day. I’ll also be doing more push ups to hold out for awhile longer.


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April 12: Spring Downtown Date

Spring! I guess Ragnarok is not coming this year after all. Breaking 50F this week with almost 15 hours of daylight!

Ted and I had a downtown date to shop for our almost-teenager. We enjoyed a stroll through Bakklandet, stopping for lunch alfresco at Kalas & Canasta.

Then stopping for coffee and cake at the historic Baklandet Skydsstation.

Then came home and brought the chairs out to the balcony to enjoy the weather.

We also picked up Nora’s soccer team warm-ups downtown, so now we are a house divided, just like those Beavers-Ducks households–unbelievable, look at the colors! But even though we are Utleira-håndball and Othilienborg-fotball, we are united as Brekkens.

Nora’s team is now practicing outside twice per week, so I walked her over to the field, about 10 minutes from our house on a pedestrian path. She can walk home all by herself. Getting all grown up.

It feels so warm and spring-like outside but there is still so much snow on the north and west-facing slopes that don’t get much direct sun throughout the day.

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April 10: Stjernedryss

Stjernedryss, “Stardust” concert for Steindal Skolekorps tonight. All 3 bands played–junior, aspirant, and main band, and each kid got a star for their uniform for their year of performance, followed by a large table of baked goods, coffee, and saft.

I try to fit in and go with the flow, but everyone knows that we are the Americans because all of the families here have been together for so many years. It’s a tight community. I’m delighted that a few people smile and talk to us to make us feel welcome, and they always think that we should stick around longer! Anders has made a good impression.

Next up for the korps: marching and 17. mai, Norwegian Constitution Day! Can’t wait to see the hats that go with the uniforms.

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March 31-April 1: Surprise døgn (day and night) in Oslo!

Our first train was delayed a bit on our way back to Trondheim and we missed the connection in Oslo by moments! The train customer service desk made an “exception” and booked us on the next day’s train back to Trondheim, so we had 24 hours in Oslo! Luckily we found a nice reasonable hotel room near the station, and set off to pack in the sights.
It was late afternoon, so we toured the outdoor attractions.

First Vigeland park with its amazing exploration of humanity.

Then we took the trikk back to the main drag, Karl Johan’s gate, starting at the royal palace, along to the Storting (legislative branch), and to a great pizza place for dinner.

The guards at the royal palace are friendly! But they are on duty.


We visited Gunnar Sønsteby with his bicycle, where he stood on April 9, 1940 as German soldiers marched through Oslo after invading Norway. Sønsteby participated in resistance efforts during the German occupation of World War II, sabotaging the Nazis in many operations, making him one of Norway’s wartime heroes.

This is the Storting, Norway’s seat of government.


The next morning was Easter, and everything was open! We were one of the first into the Viking ship museum (before the tour bus), which is an awesome sight. One of my favorite places. They have 2 reconstructed Viking ships, made in part from their original pieces. This is the Oseberg ship. The largest excavation of a burial ship in the world. It was used to bury 2 Viking women in 834. It’s re-built in amazing detail and blows me away to think that this very thing was designed, built, and used by humans so long ago. https://www.khm.uio.no/english/visit-us/viking-ship-museum/exhibitions/oseberg/3-osebergwomen.html

There is also the Gokstad ship in another wing, which is slightly bigger and was designed to be sailed as far as Iceland! https://www.khm.uio.no/english/visit-us/viking-ship-museum/exhibitions/gokstad/

Then to the Folkemuseum with historical buildings and objects from Norway’s past, including a stave church, and stoic young women cooking thick lefse on an open fire. Then back on the train for a long ride home.

The stave church in the Folkemuseum, built around 1200. After Vikings converted to Christianity, they still used their ship-like building skils and dragon imagery. https://norskfolkemuseum.no/en/stave-church

A 50’s style Norwegian household detail. We had one of this little yarn-boxes, or grandma did? Dark brown? Now I want one again!

Back on the train again. The scenery is always a nice part of the trip.

Proof that Norwegians say “Uff da!” Thankfully, no one needed it.

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March 30: Haglebu Hytta Day 2

The plan for the day was for dads and kids to downhill ski while the moms did a big cross country trek, but it didn’t come to pass because the whole area lost power! We were just renting gear when the lights, and the lifts, went down. Because we are adaptable and resilient, we all took a cross country tour instead, stopping for a lunch break on the trail.

It’s pretty clear that these mountains were created when three trolls were caught in the sunlight.

Odin and Anders share a love of Mr. Lee’s cup-o-noodles on the trail. We didn’t bring forks, so they showed their adaptability by eating chopstick-style with sticks broken off trees! Odin shared the sad news that Mr. Lee had recently died, but his memory will live on in his noodles. Anders’ favorite flavor is kylling smak (chicken flavor), which got riffed into an english-mangled “killing smack,” a joke that will also live forever!

Nora chillin’ like a ski queen, coat open and sunglasses on.


Then we got another chance to be adaptable, because the power went out again as dinner was in progress! Kristine showed her homesteading skills by finishing the cooking over the wood stove. The kids finished up their epic Monopoly game, with Odin taking over the whole country, as is fitting. We heard that his big sister always wins, so he got a chance to be the capitalist king this time.

Then outside for an evening fire and the Easter mystery tradition! A campfire is just what you need when the power is out, the moon is full, and it’s easter holiday.

What a treat for the kids! It’s a tradition to enjoy mystery stories at easter. The radio plays mystery dramas and kids get a mystery or scavenger hunt to find their easter eggs. Tor and Kristine put together a clever mystery based on Mr. Lee’s reported death earlier in the day, riffing off of their earlier “kylling smak (chicken flavor) = killing smack” joke, the kids solved the mystery of who killed Mr. Lee. Then Kristine took them out on a night ski tour to find the eggs that she hid for them. Such an amazing experience! 

Back inside with the easter goodies. Instead of hiding real hard boiled eggs, there are large decorated cardboard/plaster eggs that we filled with treats for each kid. Still in the dark, we strategized the bathroom and sleeping arrangements…until the power returned and we could turn on the heat in the cabin bedrooms again. After sharing more card games we had a good night sleep.

Thank you Kristine, Tor-Einar, and Odin for an unforgettable traditional påskeferie! We almost had the kids convinced that we cut the power just to make the mystery more exciting.

The next morning we had to pack our things and we put the cabins back in order. Nora showed off the room where the kids bunked. Also pictured is the hytta room where Ted and I slept. Every hytta on the trip was outfitted with lots of beds for lots of friends and family–so cozy and welcoming!

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March 28-29: Haglebu Hytta Day 1

We spent Wednesday on the train from Røros to reach Nesbyen on the line between Oslo and Bergen, then up to visit Kristine, Tor-Einar, and Odin at their Haglebu hytta. Another gorgeous setting with lots of snow and great company!

The hyttas again were cozy and snowy! There were 3 little cabins, ours was on the left behind the snow and it had a full bathroom and electric sauna. The common rooms and kitchen were in the middle cabin, behind the snow. And Kristina and Tor’s family stayed in the right cabin, next to the snow. These hyttas belong to Kristina’s parents, who were there to greet us on our first evening and had dinner with us. It was very generous of them to invite us to stay.

On our first evening we played games after dinner–several serious games of Jenga, then the kids started an epic game of Norsk Monopoly (all Norwegian properties) while the grown-ups played Norsk Bananagrams. It’s easy to handicap the Norwegians by asking them if our words are right every few minutes ;).

In the morning, the kids went out to sled right behind the hyttas for awhile, then we took a walk up the road toward the mountain so that we could slide back down, part way on the spark (kick sled) and part way on regular sleds. Nora and I shared a sled for part of the way and it was fast!

Kristina and I sat outside and soaked up the sun for a bit. Despite all of the snow, the sun is warm on your face and feels so good after the long winter. Just get bundled up and sit on some sheep skin and you will stay cozy.

The main goal was to get us cross country skiing (what the Norwegians call “skiing,” but if you want to be very specific you can say “langrenn”) for a real påskeferie, so Kristine and Tor put out a call for skis and we borrowed some from the mayor of Ås–celebrity skis! Anders and Odin took off using the “skate style” technique, with Anders learning all he could from Odin. The rest of us stuck to classic style. We had a great ski tur afternoon in an area that has a large lake and endless ski trails through the woods and into the hills. We stayed on fairly flat trails so that we could work on our technique.

After skiing for awhile, we found a nice place to stop and build a campfire and have a snack. This is such a classic ski day activity, and we were treated to all of the tips and tricks. They brought along foam and wool pads to sit on so that our butts stayed dry and warm, warm drinks, chocolate, along with pølser and fish cakes to cook over the fire!

          This is the inside of the Kwikk Lunsj, a classic candy bar that is just like a Kit-Kat, but has a special relationship to the Easter holiday. You take them on your ski tur, and on the inside of the package are the “mountaineering rules” about how to stay safe when you are out on an adventure. It says something special about your country’s relationship to the outdoors when the candy bars carry tips to keep you from dying in the wilderness.

We had a delicious dinner with good company, then the boys took a sauna complete with a jump in the snow! It was the whole hytta-tour package!

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