Michael Kleiner comes home to Norway
The end of the journey: Michael Kleiner’s return to Norway comes to a close
The Norwegian American
Part 5: Until we meet again …
Saturday, July 6, 2019
Today was moving day. Olav and his family would host us for our final days in Oslo. They lived in Frogner, not far from the park, where I lived in 1969-70. I checked Google Maps and charted our course. Olav now had two young children with his second wife, Nina.
Going from Eivind and Angela, we took one bus to Majorstua. Like Friday, to Middlethuns Gate, except this time cross Kirkeveien in the other direction, then a block to Professor Dahls Gate. And we walked. Then, the addresses got farther apart. Then we hit Tidemands Gate, walked to the left around a park, crossed a street, and next to a pet store was the apartment building.
We were buzzed in. Winding steps. They were on the third floor. Dalgard family tradition continues. Four stories of winding steps to Odd Steffen and Ranghild’s apartment. They finally got an elevator in 1997.
A huge, lovely apartment. We came into a foyer that led to a kitchen with a long table. A library was on the left of the foyer. From there and off the kitchen was a sitting room with a small terrace with flowers and a beautiful view of the winding street and buildings outside. A cello sat in a corner. On the other side of the entrance was a guest room with a TV. A hallway led to the bathrooms and bedrooms.
Olav was now completely bald. In 1997, he had long hair in the back. The children each had a friend visiting. Introducing the boys, Olav asked, “Can you guess which one is mine?” I thought the boy with the big eyes. Olav had big round eyes when he was younger. “The one with all the hair.” Ludwig was 9. Seven-year old Julia had dark hair.
Nina is a lawyer. She was working on a case, so Olav was in charge of the children. He is a doctor of infectious diseases. We sat at the table to have a snack with Olav and the children. Olav and Eivind didn’t realize I attended Majorstua skole or that Dad had been stationed in Norway. The children were attending the summer camp at Majorstua. Speaking in Norwegian, I said, “Jeg gikk på Majorstua for 50 år siden.” “I went to Majorstua 50 years ago.”
One of the boys was startled. “Det var lenge siden!” “That was a long time ago!”
Olav asked Matthew and Jack if they liked watching sports. When they said no, Olav replied, “Michael failed miserably. You know he’s the No. 1 sports idiot (a fanatic, knowing the stats.) Eivind is probably No. 2. He wouldn’t admit it, but he is.”
He recalled that when they lived in Philadelphia, they were on a championship soccer team.
“I wasn’t very good, but Eivind said he wouldn’t play unless his little brother played. Eivind was a very good player.”
Later in the afternoon, we decided to go to the Munch Museum. Olav said it might rain, so we should take the car. Later, I would comment, “I think it’s rained every time I’ve been to the Munch Museum.”
In the car, he mentioned that people receive a tax break for buying an electric car and that parking is free for electric cars. “If you see a parking lot, it’s probably illegal,” he laughed, pulling into a spot next to other cars on the street.
Security is tight at the museum, with lockers to store backpacks or other items. The first displays showed you why, with accounts of the day in 2004 when robbers entered the open museum and stole the famous paintings, The Scream and Madonna. The artworks were eventually retrieved. Their descriptions said if you looked hard enough, you can see the scratches. There was also the history of the museum. This took a lot of time before reaching the artwork.
There were also pictures of the new Munch Museum, due to open in Spring 2020 in the Bjørvika section of Oslo, closer to town. We had seen it from the boat to Langøyene. It will be 13 stories tall with 11 exhibition halls spread across seven floors, the largest space in the world dedicated to one artist. The concrete and steel are environmentally friendly and recyclable, and the outside is translucent, perforated aluminum. Yet, the current Munch Museum is one floor. There are 28,000 Munch artifacts that will be finding a new home.
We had a drink and snack in the cafe and headed back. I recalled when we came to the Munch Museum in 1969, my brother, who was 8 at the time, ran away from The Scream painting.
Olav drove around part of the city and we finally saw the new Opera House near the harbor, the latest attraction. It’s a white building, with a ramp on the side so you can walk to the roof.
Nina came home and took care of accommodations. She was Norwegian and Jewish and was interested in how we observed our Jewish heritage. Her father had been a renowned violinist. She had spent a lot of time in Wales growing up, but she was also a Francophile, so the practice allowed her to spend time working in Norway and France. She and Olav met in France. Olav’s first wife was French-Danish. Nina and Ludwig were the cello players.
Sunday, July 7, 2019
As we were waking up, Olav and Nina were getting ready for a walk. It was a Norwegian Sunday after all.
We decided to go to Slottsparken, the Palace Park, and the old castle within Akershus Festning (the fortress). Nina said we could walk there. It was very direct and didn’t take long. It was a Norwegian Sunday after all.
It took 15-30 minutes to get to Slottsparken. We came in the back way. The park has lush greenery, a pond, paths, artistic shaped shrubbery. All open to the public. A few weeks later, I would also learn about Queen Sonja’s Art Stables, where art exhibitions the 82-year-old queen obtains are housed in what were the stables for Queen Maud’s (1869-1938) horses.
At the end of the path entering the park was a kiosk selling tickets for a tour and a guard at a sentry, who had the turning of his head side to side timed.
I guided us to the fortress. It was getting hotter. Outside the fortress was an enclosed area set up to watch the women’s World Cup soccer games on TV.
The fortress encompasses a large area with cobblestone paths, lawns for recreation; the Visitors Center in an old building, the Norwegian Resistance Museum, Akershus Castle, the Museum of Military History, which sits atop a high hill overlooking the harbor and Oslofjord to protect the city.
There is great symbolism represented. When the Nazis occupied Oslo, they raised the Nazi flag over the fortress. Some Norwegian resistance fighters were executed by the Nazis within the grounds. After the war, Vidkun Quisling and other Norwegian traitors were executed by the Norwegian government on the grounds outside where the Resistance Museum is now located. The museum’s location, therefore, is also symbolic.
On previous visits, the castle had not been open to the public. The castle was first completed around 1300 as protection. It was rebuilt during the reign of Dano-Norwegian King Christian IV in the first part of the 1600s in a Renaissance style, encircled by a bastion fortress. Restoration was done in the 19th century and in subsequent times. There are rooms still used for government functions.
There are 11 rooms: the West Wing; the Dungeon; Royal Mausoleum; Castle Church (continuous use since the early 16th century); “Daredevil;” East Wing; Hall of Christian IV; Prince’s Chamber and Green Chamber; Romerike Hall; Margrethe Hall, and Hall of Olav V.
Entombed in the mausoleum are King Haakon VII (1872-1957), Queen Maud (1869-1938), King Olav V (1903-1991), Crown Princess Märtha (1901-1954), and moved from their original resting places at two churches in Old Oslo, King Håkon V (1270-1319), his wife, Queen Eufemia of Rügen (1280-1312), and King Sigurd the Crusader (1090-1130).
Today, the Hall of Olav V is sometimes used as a venue for concerts, theater performances, and state dinners. Believed to possibly be the site of the great hall of the old castle, it was restored in the 1900s, influenced by English and Norwegian styles from the 14th century.
We then went down the hill to the Norges Hjemmefront Museum, the Norwegian Resistance Museum, a historical tribute to the resistance to the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1945. I’ve visited the museum almost every trip. Some friends have said it overstates the resistance. But there is amazing information and examples of resistance. It has contributed to my understanding of World War II beyond the Holocaust, that countries were occupied, and that people had their rights and freedoms taken away.
Outside the fortress is the outdoor Café, Skansen. Skansen means stronghold in Norwegian. We had lunch there.
We then headed back to Olav and Nina’s. Eivind was having us and Olav over for a BBQ. Nina was staying back to work on her case. By the time we got back to the apartment, my cold or allergies were getting worse, and a migraine started to come on. I remained back.
In the evening, Matthew was working on his laptop at the kitchen table. Nina started talking to him about his studies and interest in computer science. Matthew started talking excitedly, tapping away on the computer to show her a program he had written. Nina called Olav and the children to come in and see. They all watched—and me, too—with amazement and confusion. “Papa, hva gjør han? Papa what is he doing?” asked Ludwig. “Jeg vet ikke. I don’t know,” said Olav—impressed with Matthew’s excitement, though.
Monday, July 8, 2019
The morning allowed me to meet a new friend in Norway. I had been in touch with our business writer Rasmus Falck and sportswriter Jo Christian Weldingh about meeting in person. All our international communications had been through email. Jo couldn’t make it because of his day job, but Rasmus and I met at the William Samson coffee shop by Majorstua Station. I told him I’d be wearing my Phillies hat. He said he would wear his University of Wisconsin apparel.
We had a nice time talking about the paper, my time and history in Norway. He was flattered to receive an autographed copy of Beyond the Cold. Of course, we got the barista to take photographs.
I started my walk back trying to find out from the family the plans for the day. I also had found a shortcut from the apartment to Kirkeveien. I stopped by Majorstua skole and took pictures of the playground, and an odd stone ping-pong table under an overhang, which had sometimes served as a soccer “field” back in the day. The statues in the center of the playground from previous trips were no longer there, replaced by playground equipment. I had a very mixed experience at the school, but it was still compelling to visit. In August, Rasmus sent me a picture, after he took his grandson to his first day at Majorstua.
I stopped by Frogner Stadium for some photos and was surprised by the American football yard markers on the field. Besides the Vålerenga Trolls American football club in Oslo, there’s also the Oslo Vikings, who play at Frogner Stadium. Both clubs are part of the Federation of American Sports in Norway.
I ended up at the Frogner Park tram stop, still communicating with the family about their status and trying to give them the shortcut to the stop. It was interesting how many No. 12 trams went by as I waited. The family ended up at the Frogner Stadium stop, so I told them to get on there and we’ll meet at the next stop.
Aker Brygge was the destination, with its shops and restaurants along the wharf (brygge). There was TGIFridays, Starbucks, a steakhouse—you know, the Norwegian landmarks. There are several ice cream kiosks, so we bought ice cream. Matthew was still in search of a Norway branded item. Jack noticed another souvenir store on the map. Yes, I know where that is.
The Norway Shop is in a circle of shops by the Rådhus. Sweaters were 50% off. There were T-shirts, sweatshirts, gifts. Over on a rack in the corner were lightweight shirts. They were large in size, but long. I called Matthew over. We both liked them but wondered if it was a bit “loud.” A Norwegian flag splashed across the front. A Norwegian flag patch in the left corner. “NORGE” on the back shoulder.
We decided to get one for each of us. Mission accomplished.
Almost every trip ends with dinner with the Dalgards the night before. To thank our hosts, we said we wanted to take them to dinner. We went to Herregårdskroen (Manor Inn), an outdoor restaurant in Frogner Park (“the meeting place in Frogner Park”) with Eivind, Angela, Olav and Joachim. Nina had a prior arrangement to bring the children to visit her mother.
We enjoyed our meals, desserts, conversations, and one last political discussion.
We walked toward the front gates. The setting of Vigeland Park was appropriate. It has a symbolism for the trips. Fifty years ago, I taught myself to skate on a patch of ice here and tried unsuccessfully to ski. The first week of school my classmates invited me to play in an evening soccer game. Like the Vigeland statues, each trip has been another cycle of my life. I’m getting closer to the statues of the older people and farther way from the statues of the children.
We hugged, thanked Eivind, Angela and Joachim and then walked back with Olav.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Olav took us to the train to the airport. We had only a few minutes, but they never collected money or tickets on the train. On July 15, 1970, my parents and siblings left on an overnight boat to Copenhagen for our travels across Europe and then home. My father filmed the last sights of Oslo, Holmenkollen in the distance, the Rådhus. I wondered if I would ever return. It took until 1986, followed by two trips in 1990, summer of 1992 at International Summer School, 1996 and 1997. Now, like my father before me, I had brought the next generation.
“Norway was fun,” says Matthew.
“Everyone was very nice and welcoming,” said Jack. “We did a lot of sightseeing with people. When I think about the Norway trip, I immediately think of Flåm. But Oslo was also very nice. I would love to go to Flåm again, when it’s a little colder so that it snows. I love the cold.”
After all, Norway is beyond the cold.
This article originally appeared in the April 3, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.