A very Nordic day
Norwegians in Minnesota
In August, I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Sons of Norway International Convention held in Bloomington, Minn., as one of three delegates from Alaska. Of course I had to add a few extra days to my trip so I could visit some local Scandinavian attractions I’ve always wanted to see—Norway House, Mindekirken, and Ingebretsen’s.
I jumped on the Metro Blue Line to Franklin Avenue for my first stop, the unmistakable big blue building of Norway House. A non-profit organization that opened in 2015, the mission of Norway House is to connect the United States with contemporary Norway through art, business, and culture. The center serves as a venue for cultural activities and offers meeting and classroom spaces.
The first thing that greeted me upon entering the building was Also Ingebretsen’s Kaffe Bar (coffee bar) and Gavebutikk (gift boutique). I couldn’t resist ordering a Nordic waffle with cardamom sour cream and lingonberry jam and a cup of Biking Viking coffee. The waffles were made with batter from Stine Aasland’s Nordic Waffle Company, which I had read about in Viking magazine, and they were delicious! [Editor’s note: See also The Norwegian American’s “Embracing kos with the ‘Waffle Queen’” from April 29, 2016: www.norwegianamerican.com/featured/embracing-kos-with-the-waffle-queen.]
After my waffle and coffee, I visited the Norway House Galleri, which hosts exhibits on Nordic themes. At the time of my visit, a collection of artwork was on loan from St. Olaf College’s Flaten Art Museum, highlighting Modernist, Romantic, and Contemporary works by Norwegian and Norwegian-American artists such as Carl Nesjar, Herbjørn Gausta, and Erik Werenskiold.
Next on my list was a visit to Mindekirken, conveniently located right next door to Norway House. It happened to be election day in Minnesota and the church serves as a polling place, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go inside. As I walked around the block, admiring the building, I met a very friendly man who lived nearby and who stopped to chat with me about the church. He encouraged me to stop in at the church office, where a church staff member, Terry, graciously offered to give me a brief tour.
Den Norske Lutherske Mindekirke (The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church) was built in 1929 in commemoration of Norwegian pioneers to America and is one of the few remaining churches in the United States to hold services in Norwegian and English. The church offers language and cultural programs as well, and as someone who is learning Norwegian, I loved that all the signs in the building were in both languages. The design of the church is similar to northern Norwegian churches and features exquisite stained-glass windows and a beautiful altar painting.
After my tour of Mindekirken and a chat with Terry, I caught the light rail to Lake Street and Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace. Founded in 1921 as a meat market, the store added a gift shop in the 1970s, and a needlework shop in the 1990s. The family-owned business carries a variety of Scandinavian foods and gifts and offers classes in needlework, cooking, culture, knitting, and woodworking. It took me a while to actually get inside the shop, as I was too busy admiring the beautiful folk-art murals painted by Judith Kjenstad on the exterior walls.
As a knitter, I’ve ordered Norwegian wool through Ingebretsen’s online store several times, but this was my first in-person visit, and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Although the meat market side of the store enticed, I decided not to tempt myself with food items and spent my time poring over imported gifts, cookware, linens, books, music, films, stationery, and much more!
After spending far too much in the gift shop, I headed next door to the needlework shop to browse through yarns, patterns, and accessories. The staff was very friendly and helpful, especially after they learned I was visiting from Alaska, and they invited me to call any time. I finally managed to decide on some Norwegian yarn and headed back to my hotel with my purchases, tired but satisfied after a great day of Scandinavian experiences.
This article originally appeared in the September 21, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.