Monday, July 23, 2007

Norway, Fagernes, and Vang


I can tell you that dreams do come true. But more about that later. We arrived at the Oslo Ferry Terminal, and couldn't find the bus to Fagernes. Later we learned that it wasn't coming, and wouldn't have done so unless there were more of us waiting, and we had booked it ahead of time. We took a city bus to the Oslo central bus station, and booked the bus to Fagernes. At mid-day, we boarded and enjoyed a very scenic ride up the middle of Norway to the town at the south end of the fjord which begins the Valdres Valley. We were met by Per Bondli, who our friend Ola (more about him soon) had arranged to have meet us with a rental car to visit farmhouses in the valley.

We checked into the Fagernes Quality Resort, had dinner at a terrific restaurant just up the street, and walked around the town for a hour or so, before returning to our room. From the hotel (wireless internet capable), we had left an email inquiry for Ola Helge Froene, Valdres Folk Museum's resident genealogist and the man to see according to the cousins who had visited Norway. Ola called soon after our return, and we made an arrangement to meet him the next morning at the Valdres Folk Museum.

I first heard from Ola just four weeks ago in response to a request I placed on the Valdres Web-List, an online connecting point for those interested in researching their ancestors from Valdres. Such lists are popular web chat areas for genealogy fans. I sent Ola links to the blog that I had set up to report on what I knew about my Norwegian family connections (Gfearon Family History), and to this blog. Ola reviewed my information, and agreed to help me with my visit.

Today is when the dream came true. Ola met us at the Museum, and rode with us to his aunt's house in Vang. His two cousins, Gerd Marie and Helga, are very knowledgeable about the Vang farms, and listened to him describe what we were up to. Gerd Marie got out her local history books, and the two sisters, their mother, and Ola compared notes on how to help us find the farms of my relatives. I had brought copies of my famiy tree, and maps with farm locations and names. They used my and their information to get their bearings, and then said they'd be happy to accompany us around the town to gain access to the farms.

First, let me say that the weather was not cooperating as much as it could have. We were glad we brought our raincoats. Having three guides in the back seat of the car, consulting their books, discussing options (in Norwegian), and individually and collectively giving me directions, was more than I had ever hoped for. They found me every single farm on my list, and got me onto the properties of most of them. We talked to cousins, met neighbors and probable cousins, and I took lots of photos of both the area and the farmhouses. They took my half-organized dream of what to do in a week, and turned it into a whirlwind successful day I will never forget. They are all also wonderful people whom I hope will share many more memories with us.

After many hours of driving and walking, we said good-bye to Gerd Marie and Helga, and went to checkout a story we'd heard that some Americans staying at a local farm were also looking into the same families I was. It turned out they left yesterday, but we decided to have a bite to eat at the farm. Another great meal, this time more traditional with a wheat and sour cream thick soup, sliced meats, and bread.

Afterward, we drove Ola home and spent an hour talking and making plans for tomorrow. He showed us photos on his computer, taken last weekend, when he and a cousin walked a 15-hour journey re-creating one made by their grandfather while in his 70's across a high plateau and mountain pass. I showed Ola the photos on YouTube which I took on two Coastwalks in California.

I think Pat and I were given a very unique gift by these friends. I could not have imagined a more perfect introduction to this area, and the homesites of my ancestors and current cousins. It's 2am in the morning, and I'm still excited about it.

But it is time to say goodnight to this perfect dream come true.

Here is a link to all of the photos we took today: Norway, Valdres,and Vang


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