Put on your walking shoes

Sister City Association leads Seattle on a local tour with a Scandinavian perspective

Photo: Emil Weatherhead Breistein, Bergen

Lori Ann Reinhall
Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association

Seattle and Bergen share a great deal in common, so it’s no coincidence that they are official sister cities. When it comes to geography, there are mountains, hills, forests, woodlands, and seawater, all with stunning, sweeping views. When asked to describe Seattle on a recent visit to Bergen, I portrayed our city as “Bergen in a larger format with modern buildings.”

The many commonalities have led to a similar way of life when it comes to industries such as forestry and fishing, as well as a great love for the outdoors. It is therefore not at all strange that the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association models its popular Seven Hills Walk on an annual event in Bergen, the Sjufjellsturen or “Seven Mountains Hike,” this time the smaller format here at home. While Bergen is set directly among high mountains, our city finds itself situated on seven hills, all heights offering unique perspectives for those brave enough to battle the terrain.

In Bergen, hikers spend an entire Sunday to get through approximately 22 miles of the marked trail, which involves a total ascent of about 7,545 feet. For many, the event held at the end of May during our Memorial Day weekend is an annual family affair. Hikers come from all over Norway, and some even travel from as far as the lowlands in Holland to participate. The hike was first organized in 1948, and in recent years, it has seen a surge in interest from health-conscious Norwegians. Hikers pay minimal fees to take part and receive a snack and beverages along the way. At the finish line, they are awarded an official diploma and a t-shirt to mark the occasion. Not for the light of heart, then event also includes an option to hike four instead of seven mountains, and all are advised to be in good shape.

Fourteen years ago Olaf Kvamme, Bergen native and president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, decided that it was time for us to follow suit, and longtime SBSCA member Dan Kaylor stepped up to organize our local version of the hike here. Being a little more laid-back and with only hills to climb here in Seattle, the route of the Seven Hills Walk starts at the famous viewpoint at Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill and ends up at the former Marine Hospital and Rizal Park on Beacon Hill. In Seattle, it’s a 6.5-mile trek with a 900-foot elevation gain, so walkers can take it easier but certainly have just as much fun. This year, on Saturday, June 3, they will set out at 9:00 in the morning and reach the end destination at approximately 3:00 in the afternoon. There are stops for coffee and refreshments, with a no-host lunch at the Swedish Hospital cafeteria.

Kaylor is a local historian, and along the way, hikers learn about the Scandinavian history of the city, as he points out important buildings and landmarks. Included is a private tour of the old Sons of Norway Hall on Denny Hill, and a stop at Washington Hall on First Hill, the former home of the Danish Brotherhood, is a highlight. The Seven Hills Park on Capitol Hill is also on the route, a perfect setting for a commemorative photo. Ballard residents will be especially interested to learn that many of the tour’s landmarks were developed by early Scandinavian immigrants from their community—ambitious entrepreneurs who took their building skills to the rest of the city.

Best of all, the Seven Hills Walk is a free event, open to everyone who has a good pair of walking shoes. Starting point is Kerry Park, 211 West Highland Drive, on Saturday, June 3, at 9:00 a.m. For more information, email the SBSCA at seattlebergensistercities@gmail.com or telephone Dan Kaylor directly at (206) 782-5374. Along with the diplomas, the coffee and treats at the end are on us, so walkers are encouraged to register in advance at www.eventbrite.com.

Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.