Michael Kleiner comes home to Norway

Writer returns with the third generation to be reunited with friends

Frognerseteren

Photo: Lisa Kleiner
View of Oslo from outside the Frognerseteren Restaurant, the highest point overlooking the city.

Michael Kleiner
The Norwegian American

Part 4: The streets of Oslo 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Now, we had Oslo time. I don’t think we gave much thought that it was Independence Day back home. Eivind and Angela were away, but they let us stay in the house. Jack decided he would like to see the Fram Museum. We downloaded the Ruter app for the public transit and tried to purchase the tickets through the app. But there seemed to be a problem with the English versions of the apps. Similar trouble with the new Vy app, the new name of the national railway system. Many Norwegians are wondering “vy” the name was changed from the National State Rail, but Olav joked that the Conservative government probably didn’t like the word “state.”

Back to Ruter. We gave up on the app, decided we would buy seven-day tickets at the 7-Eleven. I then received a red flag on the attempted credit card charge on the app that I had to resolve.

At the 7-Eleven, the cashier said since we were buying four tickets, we had to pay in cash. Huh? Lisa got cash from the ATM, Jack took a note for the scrapbook, and we made our only cash purchase in Norway.

At almost every transportation stop, there is a screen listing the upcoming bus, tram, or train, and how many minutes before it will arrive. It counts down, 8, 7, 6… then nå, Norwegian for “now.” Sure enough, there is the arriving vehicle. Almost every bus or tram spot has a sign “10 min,” which I believe means every 10 minutes. If there is no screen, there is a schedule of how long it is between the stops, the arrival time at your stop. The Ruter app was actually very good in mapping out trips, how long it should take to walk to a stop to make the connection, how many stops to the destination, how long it takes, and connection to maps with walking instructions. Jack would become one of the navigators.

Except for the trams, I believe, all trains and buses are electric. The day is coming for the trams.

Lisa had also noticed people bringing dogs on the public transit. The dogs seemed well behaved. When asked what happens if the dogs must do their business, the reply was, “They don’t. They’re trained.”

My memory of getting around the city had not changed and impressed me. By now, we were familiar with taking the bus through the construction to the Soros stop to connect to the train. I knew we could take the train to Nationalteatret and transfer to the 30 bus to Bygdøy.

The Fram polar ship museum had changed dramatically. A wing now includes the Gjøa ship. Twenty-two years of advancement in multimedia and technology were reflected. There was an introductory film on a large screen in an auditorium with headsets and different languages—which worked.

We only viewed the Fram. The room was darkened with a purple haze over the ship. Along the walls were images of waves—moving—to give the feel of what it might have been like riding in the boat. Almost every display around the ship had a film to accompany it. Boarding and walking around the ship can still be done.

Everybody was hungry. I remembered there should be a kiosk/snack bar near the water by the Maritime Museum, and sure enough, there was. It was much cleaner than I might have remembered in the sense that it was fixed up. The menu was limited to fish and chips, hot dogs/sausages, and ice cream. Matthew and I went for the fish and chips—ice cream for him as well—a real big plank. Jack got fries and ice cream I think, and Lisa, I think, ice cream.

What next? I suggested we hadn’t been to the shops on Karl Johans gate. I figured if we take the 30 further and closer to the train station, we could hit Karl Johan from there, make our way down in the direction of the palace, and when ready to head back, hop the train at National Theatre.

We got off at the Storting, only to be met by a man and his family who noticed my Phillies hat. “Diehard Phillies fan from Allentown.”

I had picked the right spot to get off, because we walked past Stortinget to this side street that met Karl Johans gate, Lille Grensen. A few blocks should be Husfliden, which I had said was one of my favorites. When we reached where I thought Husfliden was, it wasn’t there.

Shop to shop, and Matthew still couldn’t find an XXXL shirt.

Lisa said she saw a café in a church like building. Why don’t we have dinner there? It was Café Cathedral. Friendly waiter. Picky eater Jack had shown a willingness to try different foods and wanted to try a traditional Norwegian reindeer meal. The menu had Norwegian flags by dishes that were “traditional” Norwegian. The reindeer was over $40. A Norwegian flag was next to reindeer pizza, which gave me a laugh. No pizza in Norway 50 years ago, or 47 years ago, when the Dalgards lived in Philadelphia in 1972-73. Reindeer pizza is traditional.

Jack and I each got one, though we could have shared. The meat was in more chunky pieces than the one at Grefsenkollen. We also got dessert.

Getting back to Eivind and Angela’s, I knew we were closer to the Jernbanetorget stop than the National Theatre. I just wasn’t sure where we got it. Finally found an information center, where the guy directed us to the entrance to the train station where we could get the train back to Soros. From there, we found the right stop to catch the bus back to the Joker produce store stop, which Eivind had told me to look for as the landmark to get off the bus. The surroundings were getting familiar, and we walked back to the house.

Friday, July 5, 2019

This was going to be a busy day. Andreas Sørensen and I had to run an errand. We would be having dinner with him and his father, Tom, later. Tom and Andreas had been visiting a few times a year for several years to work with Dad, so Matthew and Jack knew them.

Andreas suggested meeting at Colosseum movie theater in Majorstua. “You can’t miss it. There’s a big dome.”

This was a bit exciting. Back in 1969-70, the family used to shop at the CC Coliseum market for groceries and at an apparel and sporting goods store that was part of it. We went to the movie theater, too.

I had never been back, not that there was a need to, but 50 years later, I remembered how to get there. Get off at the Majorstuen station, walk through the gates, down the steps, turn right walk along Kirkeveien, past the side street that led to Majorstua Skole, past hunting clothes stores, restaurants (one with food from Lofoten Islands). There were a few small candy and snack stores or take out places, certainly under different management than 50 years ago (Thai Take Away was a giveaway). Which of these stores did (my brother) Al and I stop at walking home from school?

At Middlethuns gate, I turned right across from Frogner Stadion. With construction on this side of the street, I had to cut over to the stadion side. Frogner Stadion hosted some of the skating events at the 1952 Olympics—outside. During my first week of school in 1969, I ran in a track meet with my class against another school. On my previous trips, it had become dilapidated. Now, it was renovated. Next to it was the skating history museum, which I’ve never been to. Then the Frognerbadet, Frogner swimming pools, which I had also never been to.

I crossed back across Middlethuns gate toward the Takaki Asian restaurant. Down the street to the dome. There was the movie theater, a Colosseum apartment building, Colosseum Spa, Colosseum parking garage, but no market. In this day of on demand movies, you would’ve thought the market outlasted the movie theater.

I also learned Andreas had a 10-week old baby. Andreas was now 33. I had known him since he was an infant, when I returned to Norway the first time. When he visited Philadelphia with Tom when he was 10 and 11, I arranged for him to spend a week with the fourth- and then fifth-grade class at Abington Friends School (where I was director of communications). Then, at 12, he spent two months at AFS, which didn’t work out. We would see his wife and baby at dinner tonight with Tom in Nittedal.

After the errand, Andreas dropped me off at Majorstua to meet Lisa and the kids. I called Torbjørn to finalize the plans for Lisa, the kids and me to meet him and Vestlemøy to go to Frognerseteren Restaurant for the famous apple cake with whipped cream.

I didn’t look carefully, but I didn’t notice clips on the outside of the train cars for the skis in winter. On the old brown, rickety trains, there were clips on the outside for people to put their skis for the trip to Frognerseteren for cross-country skiing. Once finished skiing, park the skis in the snow outside the restaurant (One of my favorite pictures from my trip in January 1986) and get varm sjokolade og eple kake med krem (hot chocolate and apple cake with whipped cream).

Torbjørn and Vestlemøy got on a few stops before Frognerseteren. At Frognerseteren, we had to walk down through hilly roads to the restaurant. In the winter, people come pouring out of the train. On the feet go the skis. Children and teens jump on sleds and toboggans and slide down these hills. I have pictures of that, too.

Torbjørn gave some updates about Ingrid and Anja; anecdotes from when he, Debbie, Ingrid and Anja, lived in Salt Lake City for a year back in the early 1990s. I first met Ingrid when she was 2, if not younger, Anja, when she was seven months old. With an American mother and Norwegian father, they were bilingual early. At 4, Ingrid was helping me with my Norwegian. Now, Ingrid was 31 and Anja 27, with master’s degrees and living in Sweden.

I’ve known Torbjørn since he was 24 or 25.

Frognerseteren

Photo: Torbjørn Moum
Michael, Matthew, Lisa and Jack Kleiner with view of Oslo as the backdrop outside Frognerseteren Restaurant, after enjoying the obligatory eplekake med krem, apple cake with whipped cream, with Torbjørn Moum and his wife, Vestlemøy.

It was hot so we took a long table inside the restaurant by a window. In the cafeteria line, I was rewarded twice. Smørbrød, open-faced sandwiches, seemed to have disappeared. I figured Frognerseteren would hold up tradition. A rekke, shrimp, smørbrød, and large slice of eple kake, that was hard to handle and tipped over a bit, but, thankfully, not off the plate. Matthew went for the roast beef smørbrød and eple kake, Lisa and Jack, just the cake.

Torbjørn knew a lot about the history of the area and people. Veslemøy offered Majorstua Skole history.

“When you went to Majorstua, was there a wall between the boys and girls?” she asked.

“There were two all-boys classes and one all-girls class,” I said.

“No. At one time, there was actually a wall in the building separating the boys from the girls,” she said.

I inscribed and signed a copy of my book Beyond the Cold and presented it to them.

“Apple cake was good,” said Matthew. “It was cool seeing the city from that far up.”

We went back to their house—with beautiful views of Oslo and Oslofjord–as it would be quicker if Torbjørn drove us back to Eivind and Angela’s. When we reached Eivind and Angela’s we realized we only had 20 minutes if we wanted to catch the bus to the train to Nittedal. The next option was to walk 15 minutes or so to the later train. We opted for that with Jack serving as the navigator following the Ruter/Google Maps app.

It was only four stops to Nittedal. The conductor finally came to check tickets and said our Ruter passes weren’t good on this train. As we were a stop away from Nittedal, he said “Never mind.”

Andreas picked us up at the station. He was also the chef for the evening, grilling elk burgers, fish cakes, shish kebobs. The four of us liked the elk burgers. We met his wife and new son. Tom seemed tired. We got a tour of the house and the addition where Andreas and his wife lived.

“The elk burgers were my favorite,” said Jack. “With the lingonberry sauce, they were really good.”

Andreas drove us back to Eivind and Angela’s. He stopped for gas on the way, and I’m sure the price said something like NOK 640, about $80 at the time.

Part 3: Flåm

Part 2: The first weekend back

Part 1: Back on Norwegian soil

This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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