See Norway this summer with a dynamic duo

Going home on the trip of a lifetime

ålesund

Photo: VisitNorway
One of many stops on the summer tour to Norway with Kirsti and Joseph Grødahl will be Kristiansund, her hometown with its beautiful harbor, the perfect place to depart for a boat trip to a nearby island.

Cynthia Elyce Rubin
Travel Editor
The Norwegian American

Savor an eclectic and personal taste of Norway in and around the Kristiansund region. Travel to Oslo, Kristiansund, Trondheim, and Røros with the dynamic mother-and-son duo, Kirsti (Kris) and Joseph (Joe) Grødahl.

Kirsti was born outside Kristiansund (that is, U-N-D not A-N-D) on the island of Flatsetøy near Frei along the fjord. She immigrated with her parents and three siblings in the early 1960s, to Minneapolis, a “big adjustment” at the time.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Grødahl
Your summer tour guides are Kirsti Grødahl, president of Mindekirken on Norway Block in Minneapolis, and her son, Joseph Grødahl, director of operations and programs at Norway House.

But attending Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church with services in the Norwegian language, she adjusted to her new country and made her first friend. Today she is congregation president. Joseph has lived in Minneapolis almost his entire life, except for a year in Norway. He speaks Norwegian and today works at Norway House as the operations and  programs director.

Working together with Brekke Tours of Grand Forks, N.D., this tour is an independent project as well as a labor of love. Kirsti has guided tours from the United States to Norway and from Norway to the United States.

“I first planned this tour for 2020, but had to postpone it,” she explains. “Now here we are finally doing it.”

As Joseph says, “part of the motivation for wanting to make Kristiansund the focal theme of the tour was because we are so familiar with the area, and we have many connections there. It’s a town and a region that is frequently left out of tourist excursions, partly because it’s a little out of the way along the coast. It’s a town that has gone through much economic transformation in the last few decades. It used to be a fishing industry-oriented town. Now it has oil and with the opening of the Atlantic Highway, there is a slow reconfiguration toward tourism. And we want to be part of that.”

Photo: Sven-Erik Knoff / VisitNorthwest
The Atlantic Ocean Road—Atlanterhavsveien—on the west coast is considered to be one of the most scenic roads in all of Norway and the entire world.

The tour will take you through years of history with local guides and presentations but also focuses on the future.

As Joseph continues, “The trip is being developed as part living history. We’re styling the journey through past and present because we are highlighting modern food culture and the way things are today, but understanding the past is key to understanding the present.

“And we are trying to create some immersive feelings into some of the more significant bits of history. World War II is a focus for me personally. For Kirsti, it’s how her parents lived through the occupation. Kristiansund was firebombed along with Molde, another town that we will be passing through. And then nearby Åndalsnes tells the story of the king’s wartime escape. There are also opportunities to recount some Viking era stories, and we have three stave churches on the itinerary. This puts history into context.”

Kirsti and Joseph have chosen the restaurants with great care. In Oslo, it’s the Engebret Café, which has been serving food in its historic premises since 1857. Patrons include well-known local and foreign personalities. The restaurant makes its own wines, aquavit, gin, and apple juice with apples from Hurum.

In Kristiansund, composed of four islands, there is a unique food culture based on bacalao (dried, salted cod), klippfisk in Norwegian. The invention of bacalhau (Portuguese for “codfish,” also called the “meat of the poor”) dates to the 14th century, among people in Spain, the Basque region, and Portugal. From the latter half of the 17th century, the state of Denmark-Norway welcomed new industries with tax incentives, which led to the production of bacalao on the Norwegian coast. The harbor of Lille-Fosen, later Kristiansund, was chosen because of its location and climate. With its vast rockfaces for drying fish and easy access by ship, it was the perfect spot. Bacalao has been a profitable industry in Norway since the early 1700s. By the 1800s, the golden age of the bacalao trade and the city of Kristiansund produced very wealthy cod merchants.

Photo: Visit Norway
In Kirsti’s hometown, Kristiansund, you will feast on the local speciality, bacalao, a dish made from klippfisk or dried cod, brought to Norway from Spain and Portugal by seafarers of the past.

One of the surrounding islands is Grip. Until it merged with Kristiansund in 1964, it was Norway’s smallest municipality. The tour will cruise to Grip on a small ferry operated by Sundbåten in Kristiansund. Founded in 1876, it claims to be the world’s oldest operating public transport system. The former fishing village is empty today, however, it is a popular tourist attraction in the summer and a favorite haven for summer homes. On Grip there is a stave church, Norway’s second smallest stave church and the Grip lighthouse. Dinner is catered with a buffet including local specialties of bacalao and whale.

Another highlight of the tour through central Norway is Røros, a historic mining town of wooden buildings that has been designated a World Heritage Site. Within walking distance from the town center is a Sámi turf hut (lavvo), where participants will eat traditional Sámi food (think reindeer) and enjoy storytelling.

Photo: Ivdprod / iStock
With its quaint wooden buildings, the old mining town of Røros is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and a center for South Sámi culture.

The tour’s farewell dinner in Trondheim takes place in an elegant room, Speilsalen (The Mirror Hall), where history was been made since 1896. There Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen gave a presentation to the Royal Geographical Society upon his return from the Arctic. Today, Speilsalen is home to the Britannia Hotel’s fine dining restaurant of the same name. Only 10 months after opening, it received its first Michelin star in February 2020. Here seafood takes center stage with a menu that includes the finest ingredients from Trøndelag’s oceans, forests and fields, including from Braattan Gaard, a farm that sends its produce exclusively to the Britannia. It is not surprising that Trondheim will be home to the Bocuse d’Or Europe gastronomic competition in 2024 and Speilsalen’s assistant head chef will compete.

Photo: Sven Eirik Knoff / VisitNorway
A highlight of the trip will be a visit to the Trondheim Cathedral—Niadarosdomen—the largest medieval cathedral, Norway’s national shrine.

It is a fitting finale to a trip that is filled with unforgettable experiences and fresh perspectives as well as lots of unexpected “in-between moments” that will surprise you. Not only are there new terrains and new gustatory experiences, but there will also be plenty of free time along the way and many opportunities to interact with Norwegians.

No matter how many trips to Norway you have made, this is, indeed, a very special, well-curated trip from two people who want to share their knowledge and love of this little corner of Norway.

In addition: You will ride Romsdal Gondola to view the Romsdalen mountains; stop at Tuen Vineyard, the world’s northernmost vineyard; and tour Nidaros Cathedral in Norway’s old Viking capital and do lots more.

This exclusive tour takes place Aug. 13–25, 2024. For more information, contact: tours@brekketours.com

Joe's trip

This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Cynthia Elyce Rubin, PhD., is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history. She collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See www.cynthiaelycerubin.com.