March 28th, 2022 / posted by paularath

Our favorite sculpture in Oslo. It’s a depiction of iconic comedian Gledessprederen. It makes us laugh out loud just to stand in front of it!  Photo by Jerry Mayfield

 

Jo’s House on Bygdoy Island, Oslo, where we stayed. The middle section on the lower floor, with the four pillars, was our apartment. Erik booked it for us, as Jo is a friend of his, and it’s quite close to his home. We loved it!

While our first day in Oslo was a search for my family’s roots deep in the heart of Norway’s farmland, our second day was an urban adventure with Erik Holtedahl as our amazing guide.

Would you believe that Erik rides a bike nearly all the time and all year round? Neither snow, sleet, nor ice deter him. However we are not quite that hale and hearty, nor are we acclimated to icy sidewalks and roads, so we rode the bus with Erik to downtown Oslo. The public transportation is remarkably efficient and inexpensive throughout this well-run city.

In fact, Oslo does everything it can to deter people from driving. Norway is a country that is doing whatever it can to reduce global warming.  Parking is at a premium and it’s a complicated system of small zones which demand that you pay meters each time you change zones. And the paying system is wildly confusing! Gas is about twice the cost of gas in Hawaii. The result? Hardly anyone drives!

Oslo Opera House, on the banks of Bjorvika Waterfront District. It’s part of the beautiful ongoing Fjord City Project.
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Oslo features many different styles of architecture, which adds to the beauty of its location on the water. Two new buildings are particularly exciting: the Opera House and the Munch Museum. On a less icy day it would be lovely to walk on the roof of the Opera House, but that was not a workable option for us. Instead, we wandered around and through the Opera House with its elegant combination of woods and marbles. It competes with the Sydney Opera House in my opinion.

Munch Museum, photo by Adria Goula

Erik said the Munch Museum has been quite controversial, but I like it. We tried to get entry, but it was sold out so we bought tickets for the next day.

Feeling a bit hungry, we popped into a pub for lunch. But it was a traditional Irish pub and didn’t serve food – only booze. As we were sipping, a group of English lads came bounding in to watch a Manchester United soccer match. They brought the news that, as of 10 a.m. that morning, all Covid restrictions had been lifted in Norway. Whew!

Our extraordinary guide and dear friend Erik Holtedahl, enjoying a beer at the pub.

Would you believe there is a group of Norwegian “Polar Bears” who swim in front of the Opera House every morning year round? Not sure of the water temp, but I know it’s frigid! Erik often swims year round off the island of Bygdoy, near where we stayed in Jo’s House.

We did get into the Munch Museum the next day, and I’m so glad we did. I learned a great deal about Munch!

Unfortunately, most art history courses teach only one Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream.” But there is so much more to this versatile artist! The Munch Museum does a great service in showing his works in many media: lithographs, prints, drawings, watercolors, oils, and more. Here are just two of the Munch pieces I photographed to offer a tiny slice of what awaits in the museum.

A Munch lithograph of his artist friend Hans Jaeger

 

A Munch painting with a very different mood from his most famous work, “The Scream.”

The museum just opened in October, 2021, and it takes advantage of the natural light, as well as all the contemporary knowledge of best practices for a museum. (The only crowded room was the darkened area where “The Scream” lives.) It’s a “must” when in Oslo! And the Museum restaurant is superb. Try the Norwegian potato leek soup!

A traditional Norwegian regional ensemble.

Don’t you love it when you happen upon a new place for the first time and you are treated to a unique cultural experience? That’s what occurred when Erik took us to Oslo City Hall. We walked into the middle of several diverse Norwegian families gathering for a group infant naming ceremony in the beautiful City Hall lobby. The women,  both mothers and Tutus, were wearing the traditional outfits worn by the women from their town or region. Each outfit was quite different, featuring embroidery, trims, ribbons, pendants, aprons, belts – all sorts of different accessories. They were also made of different fabrics, including cotton, wool, velveteen and linen.

Erik said that the traditional garb is having a resurgence and is being worn for all sorts of gatherings and fetes.

Paula Rath

 

 

 

March 23rd, 2022 / posted by paularath

Photo shot by Jerry Mayfield in Paeskatun, Alta, Norway

To see the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list for decades. Of course it’s never a guarantee, even if you choose the right time of year (mid-winter) and the “ideal location,” such as Alaska, the Arctic, Iceland or Norway. You simply cannot will it to happen. You can only hope.

To maximize our chances, we took a bus ride up a snowy mountain to Paeskutun in Alta, Norway to enable us to have the greatest opportunity for success. There is a clearing there, where many sightings have occurred. It’s surrounded by little huts where you can go to thaw out from the frigid temperature, which was 3 degrees that night!

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

For the first hour, we stood in the dark, craning our necks to search for magic. We periodically rushed into a warm hut to thaw our hands, having discovered that it’s impossible to take good photos while wearing warm mittens, and frigid hands can freeze up fast.

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

First there were glimmers of the light changing, then a burst of mad colors dancing across the night sky: greens, blues, pinks, peaches, even golden lights. Magnificent!

“Shall We Dance,” by Paula Rath

Several days before we saw the Northern Lights at Alta, we had a preview from the deck of our ship, the Viking Venus. At about 8:30 and 11 p.m., we were alerted by the captain that there were lights to be seen, so I bundled up and hurried to Deck 8 to see what I could see.

Paula Rath

 

March 21st, 2022 / posted by paularath

Arriving at my Norwegian roots, on Helgoya Island in Mosoe Lake. (And my first steps toward learning to walk on ice, with the help of my “Norwegian brother,” Erik Holtedahl.)     Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Jerry and I have just returned from a sojourn to Norway, where I have deep family roots. My great grandparents on my father’s maternal side emigrated from Norway to Concord, Massachusetts in 1872. My grandmother Nana, Ragna Helsher Rath, was the Helsher family’s historian. She left us a great deal of information regarding our Norwegian ancestors.

My knowledge was limited and a bit vague until I came across some of Nana’s files that my late brother, Robbie, had been keeping for the family. Nana wrote that our ancestors were farmers on  Helgoen Island (now called Helgoya) on Mosoe Lake. This 60-mile lake snakes through the center of Norway.

Erik Holtedahl of Oslo, whom I call “My Norwegian Brother,” took an interest in the Helsher Family roots and began his own research with Oslo library archives and government files. He was determined to find – and share with me – the place from whence my family came. (Erik was our Punahou class of ’65 foreign student and has remained a dear friend for more than 55 years.)

Erik and I on the porch of the former Helsher farm house. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Erik researched historical records of my great grandparents, Martinus Olsen Helsjier (1851-1944) and Eline Evensen Helsjier (1852-1894) and was able to find the approximate location of their farm. (Note: The name Helsjier became Americanized when the eldest daughter, Evelina, attended school in Concord and her teacher was unable to pronounce her last name. So, in the appalling style of those times, the teacher took it upon herself to change the family name to an easier phonetic spelling,”Helsher.”)

First view of Moen Lake from the Helsher Farm.

Amazingly, Erik has a close friend who used to spend summers on Helgoya Island. He remembered the Helsher Farm, as a child he bought eggs and strawberries there, and was able to describe its location. A three-hour drive in beautiful, though chilly, weather brought us to the front door of a Mrs. Hovinholm, whose family had been the owners of the farm since the 1700s. It is still a working farm, and among the most prosperous in Norway.

This kind and gracious lady happened to be standing on the front porch of her lovely mansion and pointed out to Erik where the Helsher family farm houses were. (The Helshers were tenant farmers, not owners.) They were right next door! She also insisted on loaning me her walking sticks for the icy walk, as well as her warm mittens.

A gorgeous, and relatively mild winter day on Helgoya Island.

Why did my great grandparents leave this beautiful farm in  Norway? Well, in 1872, Martinus wanted to continue farming, but the Norwegian Army was demanding that he spend two years in their employ. He was a draft dodger who chose to emigrate to the United States rather than serve in the Army!

As I stood on the little porch, in that serene and silent place, I marveled at the wonderful world that brought Ragna Helsher Rath’s family from Norway to Hawaii.

Yes! We did see the Northern Lights while in Norway! Stay tuned for another blog very soon, featuring some fantastic photos!

Paula Rath

 

 

February 8th, 2022 / posted by paularath

These boots are made for Norwegian winter weather.

Jerry and I are going on an international trip for the first time in nearly three years. We’re really thrilled at the prospect, although trying to keep up with the Covid protocols, which seem to change every week for European countries, has been a challenge and a bit stressful.

Our travel plans include Norway and England, each of which offers its own set of clothing issues.  Norway in February, London in March – Yikes!

What to wear? What to pack? What shape is my long underwear in after all these years? Will my coat be warm enough for frigid Oslo? Will my raincoat adequately protect me in Bergen’s rain? Shall I take my swimsuit in case the cruise ship has a lovely indoor pool as we sail in search of the Northern Lights? How chilly will London be and do I have the right footwear to walk those beloved streets?

Well, all of those questions were answered without too much difficulty. With some shopping in my closet, I only had to buy a few new pieces to meet most needs. But, what about boots? The only “boots” I own are some ankle-high Arcopedicos that offer no warmth whatsoever. Our Norwegian friend, Erik Holtedahl, strongly suggested warm waterproof boots with a cozy fur lining. Of course I tried to shop locally first, as I always do. But oh my, there are slim pickins for real winter boots. And OMG, they are so expensive!

Then I tried online, and every time I found an appropriate – and attractive – pair – they were sold out in my size.

I happened to mention my dilemma to our neighbor, Chelsea Haina, who asked what size I wear. Wow! Turns out we wear the same size, and Chelsea is an incredibly generous person who did a lot of skiing prior to giving birth to toddler Walden. Problem solved! I am borrowing a beautiful pair of “Ohana Boots”!

Way back in 1999 I wrote a story called “All in the Coat Ohana.” It’s about various groups of island women who love to travel but hate to spend a lot of money on things they will wear only once or twice. Instead, they generously share coats, jackets, rain gear, and, yes, even boots, with family and friends who are traveling to cold climes. Some smart moms also create huis to pass along snow suits, ski gear and winter wardrobes of all sort among their children.

Ohana clothing and accessories is a great concept and a boon to the budget.

Paula Rath

 

 

 

 

January 13th, 2022 / posted by paularath

 

Introducing my treasured Greek sandals, acquired at the tiny shop of a cobbler on the Aegean island of Paros, in Greece, in 2011. They feature a highly functional zipper on the back and they have. amazingly, survived the Nuuanu weather. Of course I do try to treat them well, as they represent a wonderful time spent with Jerry and Duncan.

Thanks to my friendship with artist and fashion designer Sierra Dew, we were offered an opportunity to stay in the Greek island home of her father, Ed Thielk, who lives mainly on Maui.

Parikia, the largest “town” on Paros and home to a fabulous cobbler.

Paros is among the lesser known Greek islands. It is one of the Cyclades, but is often in the shadow of the sexier Myconos, picturesque Santorini, or historical Delos. In fact, its visitors are largely Greeks who flock to its beaches from the mainland in the summer. It’s also extremely popular among wind surfers who come from all over the world.

We were on Paros in the fall, and the only other non-Paros people we saw once were a German couple who frolicked on the beach for a few hours. The house was amazing, comfortable, large, with many areas perfect for setting up painting studios. Referred to as “the Hawaiian House” by local Greeks, it was also home to many cats, Duncan’s favorite pets. A few of the kittens were not faring well, but by the time we left, our “Cat Whisperer,” Duncan, had healed them!

The location was absolutely ideal. Every morning Jerry and I walked about a half mile down to an empty length of bright white sand beach with pristine turquoise water, Golden Beach. Swimming laps in the Aegean, all to ourselves, was heavenly!

In a whole month of daily swims, we only saw two other people on this beach!

There is just one town, or really a village, on Paros. It’s called Parikia and there are some shops and markets there. That’s where I found these sandals, and have been loving them – and the memories they conjure – for more than 20 years.

There is so much joy in finding a fashion treasure on a trip; one that I will wear and enjoy for years; one that will remind me of the handsome Greek cobbler who made it, and the handsome husband and son who shared a heavenly month in Paros with me.

Paula Rath