One week ago today I said goodbye to those lovely people who joined me in Åsgårdstrand for a botanical art workshop holiday. Since then I have been relaxing with my family and some of the friends I made during my life in Norway. Today was our last day of relaxation and tomorrow we pack for an early start on Tuesday.
I’m not too good at relaxing fully and need to be doing something. My first day after the workshop was enforced relaxation with a book, whilst a knee problem was given a short chance to recover a little. It did a little, but I also enjoyed having an excuse to sit and read.
One of the things I wanted to do during this holiday week, was to introduce Robin to some of the Norwegian cuisine I enjoyed whilst living here. My daughter thinks I am trying to glorify the past in relation to some of the simple meals we used to eat. But I enjoyed them and I thought Robin might enjoy them too.
On Tuesday we drove up into the mountains to a village in the valley of Sigdal. I spent some happy years there when the children were small and made some very good friends. When we arrived, they pulled out all the stops and made us very welcome, serving us one of the meals on my list; Rømmegrøt. This is a porridge made of sour cream. It is normally eaten with a variety of salted meats, scrambled egg, flat bread (unleavened bread) and Rømme. Delicious. Luckily, Robin also enjoyed this.
Later on in the week, I bought some ‘fiskepudding’. This is a very uninspiring looking meal in that it looks very pale and simple. In the old days, fish scraps were blended with milk and flour into something like a fish loaf. It is served with boiled potatoes, carrots and white sauce (with of course parsley). I know that this is a meal for which many tourists will turn up their noses, but I like it. If there is any of the fiskepudding left, this can be eaten on a piece of bread with a slice of beetroot, the next day – for breakfast or lunch. I’m not trying to put you off Norwegian food – it sounds strange, but it is good.
Another meal is ‘kjøtt kaker’; This is meat cakes. Many might mistakenly assume this is like Ikea’s meat balls, but there is absolutely no similarity. Think of the size of fish cakes, meat cakes are a similar size and made of good ground beef.
Later in the week we visited a friend who I met within the first six months of my 25 year stay in Norway. She and her husband live east of the capital Oslo in a lovely house looking out over a valley cut out by the Glomma river. The river is the longest in Norway and runs almost the whole length of southern Norway from the mountains south of Trondheim nearly down to the border with Sweden at Fredrikstad. But as the river covers such a huge area, there have also been some very significant floods during snow melting – particularly if it rains as well. Of course the areas almost worst affected are towards the end of its course towards the sea; Lillestrøm near where this house is situated, and Fredrikstad.
This visit was hugely interesting, because we were taken to the Fetsund Timber booms. This is where the wood was floated down the Glomma and collected. Additionally, our hosts were hugely knowledgeable about Norwegian History and able to impart it in a very interesting way. To cap the day, we were surprisingly treated to Meat cakes. I know that they had no idea of the list I had in my head, but they helped tick off one more delicious meal that I had wanted to introduce to Robin.
Yesterday we took the ferry over the Oslo Fjord from Horton to Moss. This shortened the journey from my daughter’s home in Tønsberg, just south of Åsgårdstrand, to another friend’s home in Sarpsborg; neighbour to Fredrikstad and also on the Glomma river. She also helped to tick another box in relation to Gravet Laks.
I am very lucky to have so many good friends living in Norway, and fortunate to catch up with many of them in such beautiful weather and surroundings.
What was left? There is so much to do and see in Norway. My daughter thought we should visit the Rolling Stones at Mølen, near Larvik. This has been chosen as one of 37 areas in Norway with special historical and cultural value and therefore protected. The area in itself was completely fascinating. It was amazing to think that we were walking on rocks and stones carbon dated as far back as over 200 million years!
But for me as a botanical artist, there were even more wonderful sights to be seen. The range of wild flowers was huge. Something was clinging in to every knock and cranny; plants you wouldn’t expect to see there. The colours were beautiful.
I know some of the plants in the following pictures, but not all of them. If I haven’t given them a title, I would be very grateful if you know what they are, to let me know. I have used a Norwegian Flora book, found out the scientific name and the English version in many cases.
One thing I nearly forgot. Have you seen and wandered through a Peony field?