Monday, November 29, 2010

This and That

This entry is going to be a hodgepodge of things/findings/events that have been going on the last few weeks.
 I'll start with of my favorites!  A group of us went out to dinner a couple Sunday's ago, which to remind you, we don't get to do that often.  We went out after a game to a restaurant called "Dolly Dimples", known for having dozens of different types of  pizza.  One of the other couples we were with had eaten there before and tried the "Dangerous Margarita Pizza" and said it was amazing!  So we looked through the menu and noticed that there were 4 margarita pizza versions.  The classic margarita pizza, sexy margarita pizza, vampire margarita pizza, and dangerous margarita pizza.  All had their special added topping.  We went with the dangerous margarita pizza which had basil pesto as it's added topping.  Honestly, it was probably one of the best pizzas I have ever had!  There were 10 HUGE pieces and Gino and I scarfed it all down....YUM.  The best meal I've had in Norway thus far was pizza, go figure!

The wives and I have gotten into a great habit of going to the gym every morning...well almost every morning. Anyways, the gym we work out in is located in the same building where the 94 Olympic hockey games were played (Hakons Hall).  You can see the building from our house and its about an 8-10 min walk down a few unpaved hills. Since we've had alot of snow in Norway, the hike to the gym has been a little more difficult for the ladies and I.  Our shoes/boots don't have enough traction, so we basically have to try and crouch close to the ground and ski down the hills.  It's scary and hilarious all at the same time!  
Blair skiing/falling down one of the hills
With all the walking up and down hills in Lillehammer, I knew I had to buy new boots with better traction.  With the prices of everything in Norway being about triple what they are in the US a cheap, plastic, pair of boots are still $100.  After searching around for boots for about 2 weeks and not finding anything I pretty much gave up and decided I'll just have to hold onto someone when Im walking....until we started seeing the old ladies in town walking up the hills with spikes on their feet!! getting those! 

My new spikes!  Work wonderfully

I have to talk about Gino's hair for a minute. Being a hockey player and all, the hair comes with the territory. He is constantly having to tuck it under his helmet during games so he decided to shave it.  We borrowed a razor from one of the guys and shaved his head about a week ago and it looks great!  For how much hair came off his head, I thought we would find hair through out the house for months! That was a little random, but I thought it was worth telling:)
 A couple of days after he shaved his head, he came home from practice a little later than usual with a puffy lip and a bloody tooth.  During practice, he was hit with a puck in the mouth and his tooth was pushed down out of his gums (makes me weak to think about it).  He said that it was hanging there like a vampire tooth! He immediatly left the ice and went to the dentist where they shot him up with novicane and pushed the tooth back up into his gum (feeling weak writing this).  They put a little stint on the outside of the tooth to hold it in place. 

I wasn't able to get a good picture of the inside of his mouth! But it was pretty bruised and bloody.  A week later, we went back into the dentist for a checkup and they said he needs to leave the stint on for another 2 weeks.  The dentist tested his nerve in his tooth to see how much sensitivity Gino could feel.  He couldn't feel much so he thinks it might be dead.  Now were just waiting to see if the tooth turns grey..if that happens...ROOT CANAL!  We're hoping for the best!

I brought the video camera to the last couple of games, so I could tape the team's game entrance onto the ice.  First all the lights go out in the arena and the theme song from "Pirates of the Carribean" comes on loudly!  The team comes out of the locker room and walks around the ice to the main entrance where the zamboni usually enters and exits.  There they have people holding the Lillehammer Hockey flags.  All of a sudden it sounds like a shotgun, but its actually a firework that goes off in the arena and all the players skate onto the ice.  The first game I went to, the girls warned me so I wouldnt jump...I still jumped.

Lillehammer fans love them some Gino!  Maybe its the "Golden Helmet", or his newly shaved head, But they seem to love him!  I tried to get a video of the crowd yelling his name after he scored, but I have the goal on tape instead!   A couple minutes after someone scores they have a song that the announcer picks represents that player...Gino's song is "Sweet Home Alabama".  I think they were trying to think of the song that sounded the most "American".

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday since the guys had a game Thursday.  The 3 other North American wives and I got together and cooked the meal.  I have to was amazing!!!  Lamb is really popular over here and usually eaten for holidays so finding a turkey was really hard.  We finally found one the day before the big meal.  This is what was on the menu: turkey, mashed potatoes/gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, salad, stuffing, pumpkin pie, chocolate dessert pie, and homeade apple cider.  For appetizers we had a cream cheese taco dip, bacon wrapped smokies, and tortilla cream cheese pinwheels.  Needless to say, we were stuffed! After dinner, the guys played cards and the ladies headed down to my apartment to watch the Macy's day parade that I taped on our slingbox.  It was so nice to have an American Thanksgiving here in Norway:)

On Saturday the Lillehammer Christmas Market opened!  We all assumed it would be set up on our main walking street (Storgata), but it was actually in the Maihaugen Open Air Museum.  It's a 16th century town over looking the Masa lake.  In the summertime, you can take tours around the property and people dress up in 16th century clothes and put on a performance at each building/house.  None of us had been there before and thought it was a couple miles away so all 8 of us hopped in  2 cars and started driving.  Turns out, the market was about 500 yards aways from our could litterally see our apartment through the trees.  Ooops.  Anyways, once we arrived we had to find parking which was a little difficult because there were so many people!  We got to the entrance of the market and had to pay a fee.
Girls waiting while the guys pay:)
Once we paid, we walked into the covered museum where they had a little cafe, and a bunch of Christmas stands selling ornaments, etc.  Then, we walked out the back of the building and started on our walk through the town. A few of the old houses were open throughout the town for people to tour and in our case...warm up!  (It was 9 degrees on with no sun).  The houses were all pretty dark inside with only a fire and candle light.  I couldnt imagine living through winter in Norway in the 1600's.  Even with the fireplace taking up half of the house it was still probably about 40 degrees.

Our crew taking up the entire fire space

Pretty table setting in one of the houses.  Ready for Christmas!

After walking around for about 30 min we decided to find some cider and a hot fire to sit by.  We found the town square which was full of people and little food stands.  I saw this big cauldron and thought there was some sort of meat cooking in it...nope it was porridge! 

Drinking our hot apple cider by the fire
As you can see in the picture above there were a bunch of girls with santa hats and freckles painted on there face.  I just thought they were being festive but it turns out they were Chrismas Carolers.  We loved this!  Could have sat by the fire and listened to them for hours.

The Gang!

Overall it was a really cute Christmas Market!  It's only open for the weekend unlike other large cities in Europe.  But, I'm glad we got to see it.  When we got back in the car, it had felt like we were walking around for hours because of how cold we all were.  Turns out, we were only gone for an hour and a half, HA.  I think I can officially say Happy Holidays!
Stay tuned for the next update featuring the Gopher Girls Italian adventure!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Norway in a Nutshell"

I've been waiting these last couple weeks to write another entry until we went on our first trip. 
So this is going to be a big one!!

Gino only gets a few days off every month and had his November break this past weekend.  Since he was only given two days off from practice, we decided to stay in Norway and explore the Fjords.  For those of you who are not familiar with a Fjord it's basically an ocean inlet surrounded by mountains/cliffs that shoot straight up from the water.  Here is a link that can give a better description.

We found a tour online called "Norway in a Nutshell", which is an unguided tour from Olso ( East coast) to Bergen (West coast).  On the trip you take a couple different trains, a boat cruise and a bus ride.  The tour is about 12 hours, with alot of stops built in so you can sight see and take pictures.  Gino and I love to take scenic trips, so this was right up our alley.  Our train left the Lillehammer station at 5:30am on Sat and we arrived in Oslo, for the start of the tour, at about 7:45am. WARNING: You will not be seeing much greenery in any of these photos.  We are officially in "Winter Wonderland" country.

Walking down to the train station in the SNOW
 [SIDEBAR] We opted not to have our tour tickets mailed out to the apartment because one, it would have been an extra 100 NOK, about ($20) and two, we were a little nervous they wouldn't arrive in time for the trip.

 We had to arrive at the train station early enough to find the "Norway in a Nutshell" ticket office, pick up our tickets, and get on our next train at 8:11am.  Not knowing the train station at all, we were a littler nervous.  But right as we walked off the train, we ran directly into the ticket office (oofta!), picked up our tickets and still had enough time to grab a cinnamon roll and a coffee. 
Ready to go!
The first leg of our tour was about 4 hours and took us through the beautiful Norway country side.  We had specific seats on this train and sat in a 4 person spot where we sat facing 2 other people.  These two other people were speaking Spanish and were completely spralled out on there seats/common space leaving us very little leg room...for 4 hours! That was ok, we were busy enjoying the scenery (and playing alot of scrabble on the Ipod Touch).  For the most part, the trains are very nice and the interior is comparable to airplanes.  Taking the train is such a great way to see a country, I wish we had more of them in the US.  It's a fairly cheap way to travel.  Most people use it as there main form of transportation in Europe.  Here are a few of our "Polar Express" photos...

There was an area somewhere between Oslo and Myrdal that was very foggy and the sun was behind the clouds. It was like we were viewing landscapes from a calendar or something.  Here are a few of those photos.

Once we arrived at Myrdal, which was basically just a train station, we hopped on the Flam railway.  The Flam is one of the worlds steepest railways that travels through the mountains and very close to the edge of cliffs!  That portion of the trip was only 1 hour but  the train made frequent stops along the way for photos.  The scenery was amazing, lots of waterfalls, tunnels, little towns built in the valley's, rivers, etc.  Although, most of the waterfalls were frozen to the rock... It was still gorgeous! I can't imagine what it would look like in the summer.

What the ride looks like in the Summer
The city of Flam is located smack dab in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains and is also the beginning of the Sognefjord boat cruise.  I shouldn't even call it a city...It was basically a very small port for boats with a hotel, little school and a souvenir shop.  I'm guessing most people live in the mountians surrounding the Fjord.  What an amazing site to see evertime you wake up and look out your windo!  We had about an hour to kill before hopping on the boat so we went into a couple of souvenir shops and grabbed a snack, then boarded the boat.

For some reason troll memorabilia is popular in Norway...
Fjord cruise boat

The boat cruise lasted about 2 1/2 hours and had 3 decks that you could look off of.  One being covered and heated.  We stayed on the top deck for as long as we could before almost freezing!  That's where we were able to get the best view.  Gino and I were like kids in a candy store running from one side of the boat to the other trying to capture everything we were seeing.  The water was so deep and very still, it reminded me of thick tar.  The pictures just don't do it justice and we had forgotten to charge our video camera before the trip (AHH!) so I tried to take a few video's from my camera, you will see one below.

Our boat crusie ended at about 5:30pm. For the last 40 min of the trip it was pitch black outside!  We couldn't see 5 feet in front of us.  So we waited inside the heated deck until we stopped at Gudvangen to pick up the bus to Voss, which was about an hour ride through the mountians. I was a little nervous because it was snowing/sleeting and the bus driver said he had to turn off the lights inside the bus so he was able to see the road.  I didnt like hearing that as we were winding around cliffs on a huge coach bus!  But luckily, we made it saftley.   The 2nd to last stop was the city of Voss where we picked up the train to Bergen, about a 2 hour ride.  When we arrived at the train station in Bergen (about 8:30pm) we were bummed to find out it was raining!  I guess that may be a little better than snow.... But since we had no clue where our hotel was located and we weren't about to walk around a city the size of Minneapolis in the rain, we grabbed a cab.  Little did we know, our hotel was about 3 blocks away, so we probably could have walked...oh well! 
The hotel was nice with a cozy lobby/seating area with a fire and piano.  We checked in and went to find the elevators up to our room.  When we got to the elevator it was alot different than our elevators at home. Instead of an electric sliding door that opens and closes on its own it was a door with windows that you had to push open.  When you move up or down to a new floor, the door disappears and all thats left is the wall and you.  I wish I would have taken a picture now!
When we got into our hotel room the TV had a personalized greeting on it! Kind of a neat touch.

We were so exhausted and hungry that we quickly changed and headed out to dinner.  The main walking/shopping district was about a block from our hotel and overlooked the harbor.  The streets were busy with people going out on the town and we passed by tons of restaurants and pubs with live music.  Coming from our quiet little town of Lillehammer, this was almost too much for us! haha.  Its funny how comfortable we have gotten with the low key/low maintenance lifestyle.  The next day was Sunday and unfortunately...a rainy Sunday! That wasn't about to stop us from exploring the city.  Most cities in Norway basically close down on Sunday's.  We opted to save about $200 and booked the overnight train on Sunday night back to Lillehammer so we had the entire day in Bergen.  We were anxious to see what was actually open!  We ended up sleeping in a bit, heading down for breakfast in the hotel and checking out at about noon.  It was nice we were able to leave our suitcase locked up in a luggage room at the hotel so we didnt have to lug that around in the rain. 

Crazy alley we ran into (reminded us of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter!)
After exploring the city for a bit, we walked over to the Floibanen Funicular station to ride up the Floyen mountain overlooking Bergen.  This is a huge tourist stop for the city.  At the top of the mountian there are spectacular views of Bergen's 7 mountains surrounding the city...yes 7!  and a bunch of hiking trails and a restaurant.  Here is a link describing the Floibanen  We stayed at the top of the mountain for lunch overlooking the beautiful city!

 Here it comes!

Heading back down the mountain
Once we got back down from the mountian we headed back to the hotel to pick up our suitcase and start the hike back to the train station for our long overnight train ride back to Lillehammer.  It was a great first break and we cannot wait for our next one!