Monday, March 30, 2009

Back Home in Kentucky

On Saturday night our visit to Norway was completed with a wonderful dinner in Hamar, attended by hosts and Rotarians from all the towns we visited, including Kongsvinger, Gjøvik, Lillehammer, and of course Hamar.  It was great to see friends again from our month-long tour and to share memories from the trip.  We were presented with a nice gift from the Rotary District, and paid tribute to our hosts.  On behalf the whole team, we all want to say thank you to our wonderful new friends in Norway for their hospitality, and to Rotary for making this life-changing experience possible.   Our lives are forever enriched.

We are back in Kentucky today, where the weather is a bit different than in Norway when we left. Spring is in full bloom here.  The grass is green and the temperature is in the mid-60's Fahrenheit (that's about 18 degrees Celsius for our Norwegian friends).  We are happy to be home, but also a bit wistful for our new home in Norway, and for our many friends there.  The GSE team intends to stay in touch with each other, and with our new families in Norway.  We are excited for the Norway GSE team who will visit Kentucky in May and June.  We hope and expect they will have as wonderful an experience as we did.

Rotary is bringing peace to the world, one person at a time, through the experience of friendship and sharing via the Group Study Exchange.  We are all so honored to have been a part of this, and look forward to making that experience possible for others in the future.

Ringsaker Church

On Friday we completed our tour of the Hamar region with a visit to the Folk High School at Ringsaker, and then were treated to a private organ concert at the church of Ringsaker, which dates back to the 13th century.  Here our guides points out details on the beautiful altar piece dating from the early 1500's.


Last Thursday we spent the day in Elverum, visiting local industries and other important sites, including the Forestry Museum.  We took a short walk around the grounds near the museum, including across a walking bridge over the River Glomma.


One of the many highlights from our visit in the Hamar region was a tour of the cathedral ruins of Domkirkeodden.  Hamar was home to a bishop throughout the late middle ages and up to the mid-1500's when the town was burned by an invading Swedish army.  The old church's ruins remain, now protected by glass walls and ceiling (at the same height as the original church).  A museum of the region's history also sits near the site, and we received a tour from the director.  The cathedral today is a functioning church, hosting weddings, religious observances and other events.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Update from Hamar

We have continued with our busy schedule, moving on to Hamar on the east side of Lake Mjøsa last Sunday. Unfortunately I'm not able to upload any photos at the moment, which is shame because the views of the lake from here are amazing and we've visited some very special places.

On Monday we visited the Mammoth House and learned about the geology of this part of Norway, toured some large farms in the area (this region of Hedmark has a strong agricultural tradition), and then visited Geno, a special farm that collects, analyzes and distributes bull semen for the Norwegian Red breed of dairy cattle. This is a high-tech process, sort of; the actual collection process is a blend of high-tech and old fashion birds and bees (bulls and bees?) natural instincts. Later in the day we visited the BioHus biotechnology program at the local college where extensive research, data collection, and storage takes place to support agriculture and other industries.

Yesterday featured a tour at the majestic ruins of the millenium-old Hamar Cathedral (now protected under a large canopy of glass--we must post pictures of this somehow), lunch with wonderful hosts at a beautiful home by the lake built in the "functionalist" architectural style, and then back to town for a discussion of the Norwegian economy and banking system.

Today was a vocational day for each of us. I visited the teacher training program at the local college and some area schools. Tomorrow we continue our travels in the nearby town of Elverum. We are also making presentations in the evenings to local Rotary clubs and enjoying the food and fellowship with others.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Venabu Fjellhotel

The landscape around Venabu was spectacular.  This photo was taken on Tuesday afternoon as the sun set over the nearby mountains.

A Week of Adventures

This week has continued to be full of brand new experiences and forging new friendships.  On Tuesday we had a very informative meeting with the Oppland County deputy governor, and we had great discussions about the similarities and differences between Norwegian and American governmental structures.  We then toured the National Olympic Museum and then were transported about an hour up into the mountains where we stayed at Venabu Fjellhotel, a ski resort near Rondane National Park.

Tuesday night we met with the Rotary Club from nearby Ringebu, giving our regular presentation, but we were also treated to a beautiful slide show about the Ringebu region, Rondane, and the wild reindeer that populate the area.  On Wednesday morning, we rose early for shoeshoeing and then an exhilarating experience driving dogsleds through the magical white terrain around Venabu.  Later we visited Ringebu's Stave Church, the oldest wooden church in the world, and then Ringebu Folk High School, a fascinating institution for which there is no American equivalent.

Today we toured Maihaugen Friluftsmuseum, an outdoor museum of traditional Norwegian home archicture, and then had a tour of Lillehammer University College, which features Norway's only school for film production.  Tomorrow we'll continue with a tour of the local police station, followed by the art museum and possibly other adventures. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ringabu Stave Church

Gary, Sara, and Jayme in Ringabu Stave Church, one of the world's oldest wooden buildings, constructed nearly a thousand years ago. It has a wonderful hushed atmosphere.

Ringebu and Snow Shoeing Too!

Today the group went snow shoeing and dog sledding with the view of Rondane mountain glistening in front of us. The view was spectacular and we had a great time enjoying the sunny winter weather!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


In the afternoon, we were treated to a tour of the Hafjell alpine ski area, host to the downhill ski events for the 1994 Winter Olympics.  This is a partial view of the valley from the gondola which takes skiers and visitors up the mountain.  The sun emerged for a few hours, making the whole landscape glitter.