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Published: June 25th 2017
Ready for Dessert
Lynn, May-Annie, Ragnhild and Katrine
Norway is not a large country by area (149,000 square Miles) but it is long and narrow with its northern most reaches curving over the top of Sweden and Finland and bordering Russia. Its coastline is about 1,500 miles if you don't count the fjords and islands and over 16,000 miles if you count them! Getting from south to north can be a challenge. The excellent rail system only gets you about half way and driving is almost impractical given the huge mountain ranges in the central part of the country. So, it is boats and planes! The Norwegian government subsidizes both in an effort to support people continuing to live in the outlying areas.
Hege was born in Tromsø and was raised in Harstad which is above the arctic circle. We took a short flight (1.5) hours from Oslo to Harstad/Narvik airport and then a 45 minute bus ride into town where we were met by Katrine, Hege's younger sister. Katrine lives on a farm nearby with her husband Robert and two sons: Andreas and Jakob. The farm was originally owned by Katrine's grandfather so they are keeping it in the family. Katrine works as a teacher and Robert
as a social worker aiding recent immigrants. So, they each have full time jobs in addition to the full time job of running the farm! They currently host about 80 sheep and grow mostly hay and potatoes. Theirs is a traditional farm which is long and narrow and extends from the waterline on the fjord to the mountains. Robert explained that the original idea is that each farm should have access to the sea for fishing, the mid-lands for growing crops and the high-lands for grazing livestock in the summer. It is an entirely different system than you would find in the US but has worked here for hundreds of years.
Hege and Katrine still have extended family in the area. We were taken to the home of Ragnhild who is the oldest sister of Vigdis, Hege's mother. She lives in a beautiful apartment with views of the sea and welcomed us with a wonderful Norwegian lunch. We were joined by May-Annie the younger sister of Vigdis. We couldn't have been hosted more graciously! And lunch was followed by one of the most wonderful desserts we have ever had. Ragnhild called it "Budapest Cake" which she made herself and
consisted of two thin layers of yellow cake enclosing a cream filling with blue berries all topped with meringue and whipped cream!
After lunch, Katrine, May-Annie and Jakob took us on a short tour of the area. We saw the house where the girls grew up, the church where they were christened and where Hege and Bjorge were married. The Harstad Church has the distinction of being located farther north than any other medieval church in Europe. There is also a sad chapter in Harstad's history. During WWII, the Nazis maintained a labor camp here housing primarily Soviet POW's who were used to build fortifications and other infrastructure. Over 13,700 died during the process and there is a monument to them near the church.
Unfortunately, our time with Katrine and her family in Harstad was far too short. The next morning Katrine took us to the dock where we boarded a ferry headed for the Lofoten Islands.
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