Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gino's Perspective - Life and Hockey

Hi everyone. I figured it was my turn to give this whole blogging thing a go. So, I will be pinch-blogging for Laura this week. I hope that I can do half the job she has been doing lately. She may have a future in writing if she keeps it up.

Anyways, I am going to fill you in on some of the differences I have found between the hockey and lifestyle over here. First off, practice times are alot different over here. Most of the Norwegians on our team have day jobs, ranging from a couple times a week to full time jobs. So, we practice around 6:30 most nights of the week with the exception of Fridays where we practice at 2pm.  In the states, we usually had 10am practice and you were done by noon. I can't complain though, we can sleep in as late as we want most days.

As for some of the other unusual things I have found, one of them is the bathroom facilities in all of the rinks. There is only one toilet, instead of the standard two toilets and a couple urinals in most locker rooms in North America. Even our own team locker room has just one toilet which is basically in a closet. So as you can imagine,  hockey players with only one toilet to access, there is generally a wait and very often accompanied by an unpleasant smell... The one thing I do love about all the toilets in this country is that the water pressure is great. So, there is never really a back up... if you know what I mean.

Enough about toilets, but I couldn't resist. Moving on to one of the stranger things I have seen in hockey games over here. We recently tied a team in overtime, which meant there would be a shootout. Now in North America, the home team gets to pick first if they want to shoot first or second. Well not over here. Being the captain on out team, I had to meet with the other captain and referee to deicide who would shoot first. The referee wanted to flip his whistle to decide, but the other captain said we should play paper, rock, scissors.  I agreed, so we played. (after that we played duck duck goose and capture the flag...well not really but you get the idea of what was going on in my head) I ended up beating him with scissors... and picked to shoot first. We ended up losing the shootout, but I found that to be a pretty humorous way to decide who would go first and now Laura and I have been practicing everyday, so I am ready for my next paper, rock, scissors duel.

Last week we had a practice in another town about 45 minutes away. Our rink was being used so we went to another rink in a town called Gjovik. This was where one of the hockey pools were played in the 1994 Olympics. The other was in Lillehammer.  The rink in Gjovik was built right into the side of a small mountain/hill. They used dynamite to hollow it out and when you walk through the main gates, you walk through a hallway surrounded by rock. You can also see the rock surrrounding parts of the stands where people sit throughout the rink. It was a really cool thing to see.

Walking into the rink
Inside the rink

Now, I want to brag a little bit about my driving skills. The cars we use over here are pretty much all stick shifts. I hadn't tried driving one since high school with Casey Green. He was trying to teach me, but at that point in my life, I was hopeless. I kept stalling and pretty much gave up forever on them. When I got here, I was a little nervous about my 2nd attempt. So, I went to YOUTUBE to watch an instructional video. It did wonders for me. I may have a future as a Nasacar driver now with my stick abilities.

I want to brag once more about Laura.(It's a long year and I need to butter her up every chance i get) She has been making a lot of world class meals since we have been here. She is like Martha Stewart in the kitchen just a whole lot cuter. Last Sunday while the North American guys got together in my room to watch the NFL games and have a few beers Laura and the other "Real Housewives of Lillehammer" made sushi while drinking their wine up in Justin & Blair's apartment. They made California, Philadelphia, and Shrimp Tempura rolls. They were really good. Some of the other meals she has made are coconut encrusted salmon, baked ziti, and even Lutefisk... Well not so much on the Lutefisk. We did see it in the grocery store, but I think we will stay away from that.

Laura rolling sushi

From left to right (Blair, Jillian, Laura, Kyla)
From left to right (Evan, Justin, Scott, Gino)

I hope all is well back home. I miss everyone and am always looking forward to seeing everyone in the spring. Otherwise, see you on Skype.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Life in Lillehammer

I can't believe it's already been 2 weeks since I've arrived!  Even though my days here are more relaxed, time has been flying by!  Since Gino doesn't really get any time off from hockey (practice everyday and games 2-3 nights a week) it's hard to plan any overnight trips.  We have a few 3-5 day breaks throughout the year when we will do our traveling but in the meantime we have been busy exploring Lillehammer. 

Early this week Gino and I took a hike over to Olympic Park to hike the ski jump used in the 1994 Olympics.  It's about a 15 minute walk from our house and on a clear day you can see the jump from our kitchen window. 
The jump track is covered with this green, plastic grass looking material so that jumpers can practice year round without snow.  We were walking to the grocery store a couple days ago and saw someone practicing.  From this picture the jump doesn't look very big but when you are standing at the base its huge! In the smaller jump on the right of the picture, I was only able to walk up to the first level...where the green ends!  That's when I started feeling off was steep!
    954 steps to the top....I made it 150:)
    Here is the view from the "top"
    Where the torch was lit for the 94 Olympics.  It sits at the bottom of the jump.
    The next day Gino had a home game.  The first game I was going to see over here, I was pretty excited!  The day consisted of Gino going to practice for about 3 hours in the morning, lunch, nap, then he leaves for the game about 1 1/2 hours early. I met up with the girls to walk to the game.  The arena is only about a 10 min walk "over a river and through the woods" (honestly) from our apartments. 
    The guys gave us year passes for the games so all we have to do is go up to the door, show them our pass, and we're in.  The arena from the outside looks pretty comparable to what Gino has played in previous years but on the inside it looks like a high school arena!  very small.  That just makes the place looked packed with fans, which is great!  Their jersey's are a little different than what I've seen in previous years.  They have the team sponsors advertisments plastered ALL over them (Gino's is full of Coca Cola ads).  You can barely see their number or name on the back of the jersey, but little did I know, I didn't need to see Gino's name or number to know who he was on the ice....he wears THE GOLD HELMET. 
    Gino is the one on the far left
    I don't know if this is the case in every league in Europe, but in Norway the player on each team who is the scoring leader, wears THE GOLD HELMET.  I am so proud of him!!  and better yet, I could tell who he was on the ice!
    If you would like to follow Gino's stats online, go to
    Click on Lillehammer IK
    On Monday 10/11 we took a walk into town (which is a daily occurance) to have a drink at a bar/restaurant called Nikkers.  It's positioned right on the river with an outdoor patio decorated with heat lamps and candles.  You walk in, order and pay for your drink at the bar and walk outside to the patio. Gino had a 16 oz Guiness and I had a pear cider beer which was also 16 oz.  It came to 140 Kroner, equivilent to $23.00.  Probably won't be going out for drinks very often!  As you walk through the doors to the patio, there's a basket full of blankets for people to cover there legs as they sit outside. 
    Thursday 10/14 was Gino's 27th Birthday!  Unfortunately, he had an away game so was gone the entire day and didn't get home until about 12:30am which is about 4:30pm MN time.  Before I left MN, I bought some birthday decorations to pretty up the place so I hung up the banner, blew up the balloons, set up the "pin the tail on the donkey" game, baked a cake and I was ready to go.  When he arrived home, I was already in bed asleep.  He came and woke me up and was so suprised! 
    It was a pretty wild 27th Birthday...

    On Friday, Gino had a 2:00pm practice so we decided to go out for his Birthday dinner that night.  We made reservations at a restaurant called Brenneriet.  They have all kinds of food to order from but on certain nights of the week it turns into a Brazillian Steakhouse, comparable to Fogo De Chao in downtown Minneapolis.  It's about $60 per person for all you can eat. You can't go into a restaurant in Lillehammer or pretty much all of Norway and have a decent meal without spending $80-$100. That could be just a pizza and 2 sodas!  It's a very expensive country for food and liqour.
      When you sit down at the table the waitress gives you two metal circles with one side green and the other red.  The waiters bring out 7 different types of meats.  Green tells them to keep it comming, and red says stop.  There was an antipasta bar with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, veggies, salad, etc and a potato bar with 4 different types of potatos.  I think our favorite meat was the seasoned lamb sausage. Really tasty!  But, for what we spent, we decided that we'll do a dinner out once or twice a month.
    Gino had another away game this week, on Sat, so a couple of the girls and I decided to have a wine and appetizer night!  We walked into town to make a wine run and stop in a few shops on the way.  Everytime I've walked into town it hasn't been very busy but for some reason,  the streets were packed with people!  As we walked down the main street, a parade was just starting.  If we could read the event posters hung up all over town, we would have known that this weekend Lillehammer was hosting a Jazz Festival!  Tents with food and music were set up all over Storgata. This just so happened to be the last day of the festival.  Wish we would have found out sooner! But glad we stumbled upon and could experience this festival.  What a great end to the week~ 

Friday, October 8, 2010

I made it! I'm so thrilled to be here and start our European adventure. I will try and keep up with my blog entries.   Just a warning, im a very visual person and will be adding alot of pctures to help describe everything. 
The  flight on Sunday didn't seem as long as I had anticipated, which was great.  Watched a few movies, read a magazine, slept and I was there.  Delta fed us two meals on the plane, dinner at about 7pm (while still in the US) and breakfast at about 7am (while over the Atlantic Ocean), only 5 hours later.  I landed in Oslo at 12:30pm on Monday, we are 7 hours ahead of MN.  As I was walking out of my gate into the terminal, I saw everyone grabbing a cart and turning the corner into, what looked like a grocery store/super market.  Honestly, every single person infront of me was walking into the store.  I found out later, from Gino, that the store is called "Duty Free" which basically sells everything from socks to liquor, tax free.  They apparently only have them in airports and looking back I wish I would have known to stop and grab some wine!  Liquor is very expensive here.

After picking up my bags I walked right through customs without having to talk to anyone OR get my passport stamped.....not sure if anyone knows im here!  As I walked through customs, I saw Gino.  I was so happy to see him and to finally be in Norway.  The train wasn't scheduled to arrive for another 2 hours so we went and grabbed some lunch at Pepe's Pizza, they sell pizza by the slice.  For 3 small slices of pizza and a 16 oz 7-up it was 80 Kroners which is $14.00....not too awful but a little expensive.  The Kroner is the Norweigen currency and can be converted into dollars by roughly dividing by 6.  Ive been cheating a little....I have a currency converter app on my Ipod touch:). 

The train ride is 90 min from Oslo to Lillehammer and was absolutely beautiful, minus the cloudy/overcast weather.  The scenery actually reminded me a bit of Northern MN with all the pine trees and fall colors except it was pretty hilly.  We followed Lake Mjosa (largest lake in Norway) most of the way. 
Gino's buddy, Justin, picked us up from the train station in Lillehammer in the cars the team gave them.  Those are advertisments written all over the cars....and dont even get me started on the colors, probably the brightest vehicles I've ever seen.  The whitish looking one is actually neon green which just so happens to be the car we drive, HA....
The drive from the Lillehammer train station to our aparment is only about 5 min up a pretty steep hill.  The town is basically built up in the hills,  comparable to Duluth.  At the bottom of the mountain/hills is Lake Mjosa and on the other side of the lake are mountains with lots of pine and colorful trees.  Here is the view from the balcony of our apartment (facing the side of the hills).

I think the best way to describe our apartment is plain, only equipped with the necessities.  Our tv is brand new and looks a little out of place!  The living/dining area is a good size.  The bedroom, bathroom, and water closet (closet where the toliet is located) are pretty small.  Something a little strange...  the shower/bathtub isn't attatched to the wall and has about a 3 inch space between the tub and the walls where water falls all over the floor.  Apparently thats normal, so they have a drain built into the floor outside of the tub under the sink where all the water is supposed to drain. The first time I took a shower I thought there was going to be a flood! 


Dining Room/Living Room

Living Room with "Dorm" like furniture


Bedroom- to the left is a wall of closet space

"WC" Water Closet
No one on the team has a microwave and I thought that was going to be a big deal because I feel like Americans are always reheating, defrosting, etc.  But we haven't had any need for a microwave!  We have a coffee maker and some device that heats water for tea or hot chocolate.  If we need to reheat food, I guess we will use the oven!
My first full day in Norway we decided to take a walk into the downtown area of Lillehammer.  Its about a 10 minute walk down the mountain.  It's a very pretty walk with views of Lake Mjosa and all the cute gingerbread type houses.  Very Hansel and Gretel~

Storgata is the main street in downtown Lillehammer.  Full of shops, restaurants, cafe's and a few creeks flowing through the downtown area.  There are couple of pretty restuarants, located on the creeks, which have outdoor patios open all year round!  yes, in the winter.  They have some sort of plexi glass which covers half of the patio which is heated with heat lamps. 

Thought this was funny.  It's a a fake horse with its head in the pub, HA
For all you "Always Sunny in Phil" fans, Gino found the Lillehammer Patty's Pub
After our walk into town and the hike back up to the apartment, it was time to do some grocery shopping.  There's a Kiwi grocery store about 2 min from the apartments.  Not a large grocery store but they have a brand of food called "First Price" which is kind of like Target brand, much cheaper.  Obviously, we're not able to really make out any of the labels, but you can guess what most of them are.  The hardest would be meat.  We're never quite sure what meat were eating.  Half the time we take the food home and google the labels to see what they translate to but nothing comes up!  A little scary, haha.  Chicken is very expensive, 2 chicken breasts are about $10.00 USD.  So I have yet to eat chicken here.  All the food is pretty tasty though, we've had taco's, pork, waffles, sandwhiches, etc.  The way some of the food is packaged is very different.  For example, mayonaise comes in a a tube of toothpaste.  You can also get a tube of bacon, ham, and turkey!!- GROSS. 

 I'ts been a little bit of a process getting used to the simple things and I'm sure I wont stop learning the culture the entire time I'm here.  So far, so good.  I'm thankful to have this expierence with Gino and to immerse ourselves in a life COMPLETELY out of our comforte zone. Alot of what I have seen the past week has been similar to what we see at home but the way of life is much more simple.  The lifestyle and people are very relaxed, walk everywhere, sit in cafe's for hours and just enjoy their day. We miss you all and Ill write again soon.