Category Archives: Norway

Vakre Hjem & Interior Magazine

To wrap up my postings on Norway I must relay this gem of a magazine I discovered on my trip.  I knew based on the cover image and paperweight alone, I was going to fall in love with what I would find inside.  I just didn’t realize I would adore 99% of what I saw inside, despite the fact that I could not read a word!  Vakre Hjem & Interior literally translates to “Beautiful Homes and Interiors.”

Images by Annette Nordstrom of STEEN ART Design
Images by Ragnar Omarsson
Images by Carina Olander
Images by Signe Dons
Images by Ragnar Omarsson
Images by Tom Haga


All Images by Pepper Key Stacie
I stayed at the Steens Hotel, a fantastic historic bed and breakfast a 15 minute walk to Bryggen.   The images above were taken from a neighboring park, apartment, and the Naturhist Museum gardens.

Bryggen, the old wharf in Bergen, is known worldwide as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The area Bryggen rests on is the oldest part of the city of Bergen, which was founded in 1070.  In 1360 a Kontor, or foreign trading post, was set up there for the Hanseatic League.  I enjoyed a Hansa (originally made in Bergen, name stems from the shortened term for Hanseatic League) beer while watching the boats and people on the wharf.  I then walked through a narrow boardwalk passageway between the buildings to find my dinner spot, Bryggen Tracteursted.  I chose a traditional Nordic meal of smoked salmon soaked in aquavit over grilled asparagus followed by a tomato based cod stew.  After drinking the last drop of red wine and eating the last crumb of bread (consistently nutty, hearty and delicious all throughout my travels in Norway) at my candle lit table (another consistent tradition for all meals) I thought to myself I couldn’t have asked for a better last evening in Norway.
Scenic views en route to Bergen from Rosendal


All images by Pepper Key Stacie
This stone features the Norwegian coat of arms, the golden crowned lion with ax, an insignia from the High Middle Ages

Kvinnherad church is one of the oldest stone churches in western Norway.  It was completed in a mixture of Romanesque and gothic styles in 1250.  It was subject to the Barony Rosendal until 1910 and the first families lie embalmed in a separate sepulchre.

The Barony Rosendal, the smallest castle in Scandinavia, was built by Danish nobleman Ludwig Rosenkrantz.  When he married Karen Mowatt, Norway’s richest heiress at the time, the farmland was given as a wedding gift.  The castle was completed in 1665 but the English renaissance gardens were not  planted until the 1850’s.  Famous author Henrik Ibsen, Jonas Lie, Alexander Kielland and painters Hans Gude and Anders Askvoll visited often and musicians such as Edvard Grieg and Ole Bull were guests. Today there are still concerts played here, as there were centuries ago, and new additions include a bed and breakfast and an adorable greenhoused restaurant on site.

May 17th, Norway’s National Day

All images by Pepper Key Stacie
The large parade in Odda and a tiny cemetery in Sand
The constitution of Norway was signed on May 17, 1814 which declared Norway an independent nation.  It is a very non military national day, marked with childrens parades and most attendees wearing the traditional Bunad.

I pulled up to the Roldal stave church luckily just moments before the parade marched to it’s front wall.   I stayed for mass, which I understood not a word but enjoyed the candlelight chandeliers casting light on the richly painted wall paintings that had been finished in the Middle Ages.  Many pilgrims visited this church, originally built in the 1300’s, as it was said to have a crucifix which drops of water emerged every Midsummer Night that had healing properties.  This church was reconstructed in the 1900’s where a dispute occurred due to it’s construction whether it classified as a stave or post church. 

Many scenic stops along the way from Sand to Rosendal


All images by Pepper Key Stacie
My great grandfather Jacob Aanen Steensland was born September 26, 1879 in Hjelmeland, Rogaland County, Norway.  Although I wish I would have been able to find more information on the exact place of his birth or the family farm, it was remarkable just to lay eyes on the region of our roots.  Jacobs father was Aenen Jorgensen Stensland, and mother was Borghild Larsdatter Tuntlandsvikane (how’s that for a name!) and they, like many Stenslands or Steinslands, changed their spellings to Steensland after moving to America.  I have always found the Norwegian pronunciation easier on the tongue and the ears. 
Hjelmeland is known for it’s fruit production; apples, plums, pears, strawberries, and cherries but salmon, cod, and halibut have been important to the fishing industry.  The coat of arms depicts a red shield with plaits of straw, based on the local tradition of furniture making, symbolising the strength and solidarity of the municipality.  These famous chairs with seats of woven twigs, jaerstolen, are still being produced today. 
Reading Summer Light I found a treasure chest of personal parallels.  I grew up in Wyoming; the mountainous and mineral rich equality state, the 10th largest in square mileage but the least populated, and a racially undiverse population at that. Norway, like the rest of Scandinavia, is large but relatively sparsely populated, mountainous and rich in natural resources.  It is a notably egalitarian country, most likely stemming from the Viking days when the farms and communities would be managed by the women while the men were off to sea. Norway is slowly changing but very recently was the most racially homogeneous nation in the world after Japan.  Wyoming has often been termed rough terrain and as the author writes “I ponder the fact that Norway’s character has emerged from it’s rugged terrain and fragmented coastline, and that the isolation imposed by it’s mountains and fjords strenthened it’s traditions.” (p.66) I think it’s fair to say Wyoming’s isolation from metropolitan areas has given it an identity all it’s own.  With the comparisons of geography and economy I caught myself comparing myself to the average Norwegian and discovered my bad habit of bartering down is classically Norwegian.   Farmers would start at a price lower than they wanted and wait for the buyer to suggest a higher price they would then agree on.  (if only I sold my works to other Norwegians:)  I found out the Steensland’s do it yourself nature is inherent; “Norwegians, probably because of their enforced isolation in many of the valleys and on the coastline, have developed a talent for being independent and this quality is reflected in their aptitude in building their own homes, putting on additions, restoring furniture, tending to a vegetable garden, making handicrafts, knitting, weaving, carving wood, and just about any other handyman pursuit.” (p. 177)  We share a distaste of plastic surgery, drunk driving, television, and the exploitation of women, and a reverence for fairness, reading, the great outdoors, and gender equality in the workplace and in the home!  The author clearly holds a great deal of respect for Norwegians, describing them as idealistic, good natured, earthy, and wholesome.  In a study a few years back, researchers left wallets with cash unattended in various countries in public places.  Norway was the only country that all five wallets were returned.