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On February 9, 1945 (only a few months before Germany surrendered in Norway) the Dallachy strike wing of the RAF flew a mission over Førde fjord in Norway to attack German shipping along the Norwegian west coast. The ensuing battle was the largest aerial clash over Norway during World War II. While the air battle occurred over a large area, the battle center around the anchorage point of a German convoy in Førdefjord near a farm called Frammarsvik in the community of Naustdal. Several British planes were lost in the battle, crashing into the fjord or on nearby farms.

In 1990 a museum dedicated to the air battle along with a cafe was built in the Frammarsvik area and included artifacts from the battle, a movie and many battle plan maps, photographs and models. Over the past 10 years they have entertained guests from the UK, Canada, Germany and the USA who were involved in the air battle as well as war historians researching material on the battle.

Recently the Luftkampmuseeum (Aerial combat museum) and Håjen Café celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary while unveiling a major renovation of the museum and cafe. The renovation, funded in part by the Sogn og Fjordane fylkeskommune, includes photos recently released from the Norwegian National Archives as well a privately owned photos donated by family members of the pilots, recorded accounts from survivors of the battle, and a published book that was extensively research both in Norway and England.

The Luftkampmuseeum and Håjen Café are located on the Slettehaug family farm in Naustdal kommune in the fylke of Sogn og Fjordane on Norway’s west coast. Håjen Café includes a locally known lefse bakery along with it’s well received cafe and catering service. Chef Else Slettehaug builds her menu around locally produced foods, some grown just outside the cafe window. Håjen specializes in traditional foods made from scratch, including all sorts of lefse, pancakes and other traditional cakes such as “bløtkake”, kransekake, krumkake and many more. Holiday meals at Christmas and Easter may include pinnekjøtt, lutefisk and svineribbe. The café is also know for desserts and ice cream many of them made of raspberries from the farm.

Håjen Café can be followed on Facebook.

Contributing Editor
Ken Nordan

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I was very dismayed to recently read an article on Aftenposten (in Norwegian so have your dictionary handy), about the possible sale of one family owned hotel in Telemark. Hotels are sold all the time, but the part that got to me was the fact that many family run hotels not located in major cities are also for sale.   A sidebar to the article says that “The four largest chains Choice, Rica, Thon and Rezidor, have 50 percent of the hotel accommodations in Norway.”  And I would guess that most of these hotel properties are in the larger cities.  I worry that if these small family run hotels should go out of business, accessing the “Interior of Norway” will be harder for average people.

As we all know, Norway is not the cheapest vacation destination. The cost of everything is considerably higher than other world destinations looking for our tourist dollars (or Euros). However, because Norway is primarily a summer tourist destination (July and August mostly), hotels that are not located in major cities or near business activity must receive most of their bed nights in this limited time. This drives the cost of running the hotel (which includes finding help) up even higher. I have some very good friends and family members in Norway that depend on a large percentage of their income from the tourist trade. They own summer cottages, rent boats, run a cafe and have tourist support companies (tour guiding). These individuals must have other income sources during the non-summer months to get by.

Hotels are very important to the economic health of small towns and kommunes of Norway. Some of the best places to go are not near large cities including many Stavkirke (Stave Church), signature falls, adventure activities and some good local history museums. So if you are really interested in seeing Norway, you must get out of your cars, buses and trains and stay a few nights in these places.  I have, and love it!!!

Norway is known for it’s nature and taking a hike in the Norwegian fjords can be very exciting. If you stay in Bergen, Ålesund or Oslo you can get a feel for the fjords while staying at a very nice hotel chain in town. I’ve done this several times and would recommend doing it if you want. However, I’ve also taken a day long midsummer hike (from 6am to 8pm) out of a small town in Sunnfjord and enjoyed this adventure even more. The closest hotel was a small family run place that also had a bus service to a nearby white water rafting company and when in season helped you find a local guide to take you fishing for salmon, snow skiing, hunting or on picture safari.

In another article that I read on Aftenposten, they talked about Innovation Norway, the company that is set up to promote tourism to Norway. Innovation Norway has asked Norwegian for their help in promoting Norway by launching a website where people have the opportunity to share their Norwegian favorite vacations and nicest places with other vacationers. I’ve already done a little by contributing to the cause at this site and I hope you can also. We need to help Norway promote itself, because if you are like me I want others to know what I do about this fabulous country and help them experience what we have experienced.

Then again maybe I should become more selfish and do my best to keep people away. I’d like to keep it to myself.    😉

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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All air travel in Northern Europe has been shut down due to the eruption of the Volcano in Iceland. A large ash cloud has moved over Norway and other Northern European countries closing airports. Check out the animation on the Aftenposten website to track the cloud.

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I was talking to Liz, my good friend and fellow committee member of the Chicago Friends of Vesterheim (CFV) a few weeks ago. As usual with friends we start talking about one thing and end up on a completely different topic. Wisconsin weekend getaways became the subject and I was remembering that back “in the day” my family took a lot of trips to Wisconsin with Baraboo and the circus being one of our favorite destinations. The circus was a lot of fun for a kid and I loved the history it had. But a lot of the fun of going to Baraboo was “in the route we took.” We could have taken the interstate all the way, but once past Madison, dad would watch for the Wisconsin 60 turnoff to Lodi and we’d travel Northwest to Lake Wisconsin and the Merrimac Ferry.

The Merrimac Ferry in Wisconsin

The Merrimac Ferry in Wisconsin as seen in November 2009. (photo KJ Nordan)

For those of you not familiar with the ferry at Merrimac, go to the story and history page, but briefly it is Wisconsin’s only free ferry and is run by the D.O.T. of Wisconsin. The ship I remember only carried a dozen cars, so at the height of the summer season cars would be stacked up for an hour waiting to go across. The wait never seamed to be very long however for a little boy that saw Indians behind every tree and marveled at a stone being skipped “FIVE TIMES!!!!” The wait was also enhanced by the ice cream vendors marching back and forth selling “two fisted” ice cream sandwiches and nut covered ice cream cones, “oh baby!” With so many kids running up and down the pier I wonder today how parents got their own kids back in the car before getting on the boat.

Great memories, but how does this fit in with Norway, or a Norwegian experience. Well, part of the trip included a story dad would tell us whenever we crossed on the ferry. His story was about our cousin Marit in Norway, it was a story I never got tired of, even though it never changed. “You see”, he would say, “Cousin Marit lives in Norway, on a little island waaayyy out in the ocean and each day she must take two ferries to go home.” “These ferries are much bigger and the trip is far longer than the one we are taking right now.” “These ferries take cars, and busses, and even trucks, and the ferries are all over Norway.” “Maybe someday we’ll go and see them.” Well I tell you, now I was seeing Vikings behind every tree and wondering if stones skipped in Norway like they did here.

The Fanafjord Ferry - South of Bergen City

Inside the Fanafjord Ferry - South of Bergen City (photo: KJ Nordan)

Thirty years later my father passed away, never taking us to Norway, but the next year my wife and I went together for the first time. He was right, ferries are everywhere, shuttling people, cars, trucks and busses from one place to another. It seems Norwegians did not want to ruin the fjords by building bridges. On that first trip, we must have taken 10 or more ferries. On many of the ferries they had cafeterias where I could buy iskrem (ice cream) and even a hot meal. Kids were running and playing and on one ferry they even had a room just for kids to play. What a joy, it took a lot of restraint to stop me from joining them. At the end of our trip we did go to my cousin’s little øy (island). We crossed several rivers and drove along a marvelous fjord. But the best part of the trip were the two ferries we took. From the ferries we could see stock fish drying in the sun, and eventually we saw Marit, waiting on the shore to take us to her little farm. That day, stones skipped better in Norway, and so did I.

A medium size ferry near Ålesund. (photo: KJ Nordan)

Thought I had a picture of the ferry to my cousin Marit’s island but today I can’t find it.

Contributing Editor
Ken Nordan

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Football, Fish and Beer

When I was a young man my father and I would get together over a beer and a jar of herring (sild). Dad would open up the new jar with a little bit of ceremony declaring “to the fishermen of Norway we thank you.” It always seamed to me that a good beer with some fish and Wasa crackers (flatbrød) was a great combination. As a child, I had also gained an appreciation of smoked fish, mostly salmon, chub, trout and later mackerel. It has become a Sunday football tradition for me to pour myself a good beer (usually German or Irish) and bring out the herring or smoked fish. In recent years my appreciation for mackerel has increased due in part to the fun I had in Norway and the memories of my visits, many of those trips include stories about mackerel.

Mackerel, beer and salad

Mackerel, beer and salad

One of those memories include a day with my cousin Marit and her husband Arne. My cousin has a few rental cabins on their island near Trondheim, each cabin includes access to a small boat for fishing. A family of Germans had rented one cabin and been fishing most of the day. They invited us over for an evening meal with a small keg of beer, mackerel (cooked over an open fire) and potato salad. As the late night summer sun finally set (probably 1 o’clock in the morning) we were all laughing and enjoying each others company.

My second memory occurred a few years later when myself and a group of my friends rented a small boat to take us on a tour of the fjords near Ålesund. As part of the tour the owner gave us fishing poles and allowed us to catch a few fish. We had a great time wetting our lines, enjoying the competition and excitement, even though we only caught a few small mackerel. Later, a member of the crew gladly took the fish off our hands and I’m sure he enjoyed the fish at his evening meal. For me, it is important knowing where my food comes from and the work involved in bringing that food to my table.

MackerelYesterday was another Football Sunday and once again I enjoyed a nice beer (this time a Chicago brew) and some smoked mackerel on Swedish knåckebrød. The food and the memories helped me get through another humiliating loss by my favorite team. “To the fishermen of the world, thank you.”

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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Look to Norway – a travelogue

This article was published in the Norwegian American Weekly, No. 29 – August 21. 2001.

I was excited as our plane ducked beneath the overcast skies at Værnes airport, east of Trondheim. I had not been there for over a decade, and now, years later, I was anxious to reacquaint myself with the city, and Stiklestad – the goal of our trip – which was made even more special as some years prior I had moved to the US. Funny how distance creates a more intimate appreciation for things like identity and heritage.

Nidarosdomen seen from the city square.

Nidarosdomen seen from the city square.

There are many places of historical significance in Norway. However, Stiklestad is in many ways the epicenter of Norwegian cultural history and religious life – centered around the fall of king Olaf Haraldsson in 1030, the alleged miracles after his death, and the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral, finished in 1300 AD, where his remains are said to be buried.

Nidarosdomen, among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.

Nidarosdomen, among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.

I have been to a few cathedrals, such as St. Peters Basilica in Rome, The Cathedral of Valencia, Spain, Notre Dame in Paris, and also the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City. Norwegians tend to believe that things must always be grander and more magnificent beyond our own borders, but the fact of the matter is, at least in this writer’s opinion, that the Nidaros Cathedral elegantly takes it’s place among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. Also, something truly spiritual has been preserved within its walls, despite the constant rush of tourists coming from all over the world.

Stjørdal Station, a piece of old Norway. The station opened in 1902 and is one of the many wonderful things to see along the Trondheim-Verdal train route.

Stjørdal Station, a piece of old Norway. The station opened in 1902 and is one of the many wonderful things to see along the Trondheim-Verdal train route.

The train ride from Trondheim to Stiklestad is a great way to see a part of Norway that is mostly gone from the more urbanized areas of the country, offering scenic views of the Trondheim Fjord with Steinvikholm castle dating back to the 1520s and one of the final hiding places of the German battleship Tirpitz during World War 2. This last detail was pointed out to me by our very friendly train conductor Per Nygård.

Professor Torgrim Titlestad lectures to the audience at Stiklestad National Cultural Center

Professor Torgrim Titlestad lectures to the audience at Stiklestad National Cultural Center

At Stiklestad we launched our book The Great Saga of St. Olav with a lecture by Torgrim Titlestad, professor in history at the Stavanger University, about the historical validity of the Sagas. There is now a dawning consensus among many historians that these ancient documents may be regarded as credible sources to our early history. This is important because they help us understand why the democratic traditions are so strong in our culture, and why it is crucial that we strive to preserve them.

Spelet om Heilag Olav.

Spelet om Heilag Olav.


After the lecture we all went to see “Spelet om Heilag Olav”, a play written by Olav Gullvåg to commemorate the Battle of Stiklestad, and performed every year since 1954 at the end of July, and has throughout the years featured some of Norway´s most prominent actors, directors and conductors. After more than fifty years, the music is still vital, fresh and captivating, leading me to think about the great artists, composers and poets our country has produced.

I believe Norway has a unique history in the world. We must not forget this, few as we are. We must keep working to preserve our heritage so that it can serve as an example, and a force for good in troubled times. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, look to Norway!

Country romance.

Country romance.

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