Norway: Family and roots

Norway: Family and roots

I had been watching the travel restrictions due to Covid and, at last, Norway had decided to accept the NHS Covid vaccine certificate. This meant I could travel to Norway again to see my family after nearly two years.  I also wanted to try and find some of the places where my ancestors had lived so the trip needed a bit of planning. In the end, I settled on three days with my cousin in Gjøvik and three days with another cousin near Bergen. I also included a trip to Osa where my father, grandfather, and great-grandmother were born.

Gjøvik — Mjøsa

After a surprisingly easy journey, I was picked up from the train station in Moelv by my cousin Bo and her husband Torolf. On the way to their flat, we stopped off at the shop to pick up some of my favourite Norwegian food. Their dog, King, was happy to see me and seem to remember me taking him out on early morning walks the last time I had visited. I resumed the walks on this visit. Bo was not able to walk far due to her illness but we did manage a wander along the lakeshore, Bo on her mobility scooter and me trotting along beside her. We stopped for coffee and waffles at Gjøvik Gård café and, to our surprise, there was Ragnvald, our cousin, out with his travel group friends. It was lovely to catch up with him too. I also saw Nina, Bo’s sister, but three days was not long enough to see any of my other relatives in Gjøvik.

I did manage to fit in a few walks with Torolf. One day we walked over Bergstoppen via Eiktunet and we met a couple of people from Thailand who were out foraging for fungi. They had found quite a lot of hedgehog fungi and penny buns. There were also a lot of bilberries around which I couldn’t resist picking, slowing us down a bit. The walk took us by the Pensioners’ hut where some lovely red squirrels were eating the bird food.

On another day, we went to Lillehammer on a ‘Stolpejakt’ trip. We parked near the Olympic stadium and walked up along the river, occasionally getting a bit lost.

Bergen — Vestland

Bo, Torolf, and I set off for the drive across the mountains to Bergen. We decided to take Route 7 via Hardangervidda as that would take us down to Eidfjord, near Ulvik, on the other side. We wanted to stop for lunch where we used to stop on the same journey when I lived in Norway. I couldn’t remember the name of the place and it was a lot further along the road than I thought but I knew it when I saw it. It was called Halne Fjellstugu and we stopped for a tasty late lunch. From Eidsfjord to Bergen, the road goes through a large number of tunnels.

We arrived at Auntie Vera’s house where Tone and Olav were already waiting for us with pølse (Norwegian Frankfurter type sausage). We had brought the ‘lompe’ (a flat, thin potato pancake), in which to wrap the sausage, with us from Gjøvik as it’s not available on the west coast.

Bodil and Torolf were to stay with Vera while I was to stay with Tone and Olav in Søfteland, a thirty minute drive away. We arrived at Tone’s house at dusk and just below her house we saw lots of deer in a field.

Olav had pointed out the start of a nice walk when we arrived and I decided to give it a go for my early morning walk the next day. It was a bit misty and quite cold first thing. After breakfast, Tone took me to her nearest town, Osøyro. It had a lovely harbour and some pretty streets. We then had coffee a bit further along the coast at the Solstrand Hotel; I remembered having been there on a previous visit in 2009.


In the afternoon Olav took me to the ruins of Lyse Abbey, which are not far from where he lived. I was interested in visiting this abbey as I had come across it when researching my family history. It is possible that one of my direct ancestors was a sheriff in Hardanger and Strandebarm, land owned by Lysekloster estate, in 1632.

Lyse Abbey or Saint Mary’s Abbey, Lyse is a now-ruined Cistercian monastery in Bjørnafjorden Municipality in Vestland county in south-western Norway. The name “Lyse” is derived from Lysefjorden near which the building stood. The abbey lies at the southern base of the Lyshornet mountain. 


Olav and I decided to walk up to the top of Lyshorn mountain. It wasn’t far but the path was quite steep in places. The view from the top was fantastic but we couldn’t linger too long as we had to get back for a family dinner.

Osa – in search of roots

I had gathered some information about some of my ancestors and I wanted to see if I could find where they had lived. Tone had offered to take me on a day trip to Osa, the village from which my father came. The journey took us along the Hardanger fjord and we had brunch at a lovely little place with views over the fjord.

We drove past Ulvik church, the location of a lot of family marriages and baptisms, and we stopped at Syse farm where they now have a cafe selling various apple cyder products. It turned out that this was not actually the location of the original Syse farm where one of my ancestors had lived; that was now just a ruin a bit further down the valley. We drove past signs for Torblå and Kvåle, other places my ancestors had lived, and then arrived at Osa fjord and the last stretch of road along the fjord into Osa itself.

My last visit to Osa was in 1988 and a lot had changed since then. Back then, my grandmother’s cafe was just a derelict building but it had now been turned back into a lovely cafe. Alas, it had not yet reopened due to the pandemic. We made our way down to the seafront where we found an information board noting that it was a wetlands area and listing several interesting birds to be found there. There was also some information about the painter Lars Osa and directions to the location of his childhood home, though now only the foundations remain. Lars was my great grandmother’s brother so this had also been her childhood home. Unfortunately, there were too many wasps so I didn’t get to look around as much as I would have liked.

I know my grandmother had lived in a red house so we set off in search of it. I had forgotten to ask my cousin, Ivar, for directions to it so we spoke to a few people to see if anyone remembered her. The people we spoke to had not lived there that long enough but knew of others that might have known her. One lovely lady put me in touch with somebody who had considerable local knowledge. They were up in the mountains at the time but we got in touch later. With the increasing wasp problem, we decided to set off back to Bergen. We drove through the Kvåle area and past Torblå again and found a place in Ulvik harbour for a very late lunch. I will definitely visit this area again.

The days passed all too quickly and it was soon time to go home. I flew back from Bergen and the journey home was surprisingly quick and hassle-free. It was lovely to see my family again.

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