We met Eilert and Greta Solheim today – our first full day in Bergen. We have been anticipating this for several months. They are our cousins. Eilert’s grandfather, Eilert Bertin Solheim, and my mom’s grandmother, Johanne Martina Solheim, were brother and sister. My brothers remind me of Eilert. Eilert and Greta met on a ship. He was working on it and she was traveling on it. When she got home to Olso she told her mother, “I have met the man I will marry”. They began writing letters to each other and the rest is history.
All the beauty we saw on our trip through the fjords yesterday was nothing to the beauty of these people. They have three children. John Eilert, Anne Margarete and June Marie. Greta is very vivacious and loves beautiful things. She is also health conscience and enjoys reading Dr Oz’s books. Eilert is a quiet man with a great smile. He was a sailor and ship’s Master, then retired from the sea and went to work provisioning supplies for vessels and off-shore Oil Rigs. Eilert likes to fish and has a boat for island hopping and fishing.
|June 2015 Norway Trip|
|Click on the date to see the post|
Bergen is surrounded by islands galore. Right above the symbol that marks Bergen we drew a little red diamond where Greta and Eilert live. By the way – the Bed and Breakfast was on the same street as Greta and Eilert’s: less than five minutes walk.
As you can see on the map, we marked the places we talked about in our prior post plus some from today. The high-mountain snows were near Myrdal (1). The train brought us north down the valley to Flåm (2), where we caught a boat up one arm of the fjord and down the next to Gundvangen (3). A bus brought us to Voss and a local train brought us the rest of the way into Bergen from there. We like to try different forms of transportation when we can, and the stories Grant told about his father’s life in Norway often included boats. Grant’s brother, Edward Haggen, told us about his World War II service in Norway in the US Army Ski Patrol, “The Norwegians” in which he served. We saw a monument to them on our way to the area where my great grandmother was born in Lindås and to Austrheim, Norway.
Eilert and Greta bundled us into their car and brought us to a town that had a rebuilt church and several buildings from North Dakota. The church and town buildings had been disassembled shipped to Norway and then reassembled. Outside were many monuments, including, among others, one to Norwegian/American Pioneer Women’s suffrage, one to the town’s sister city, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and the one shown in the picture above. The transplanted church had a museum in the basement where they had stories of many of the immigrants. Greta read and translated one story for us. It took place in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota near the Forest City Stockade where my brother Ross and his family have performed their folk and blue grass music. Everywhere we turned there were connections.
After the North Dakota town in Norway, we went to Fedje where Eilert grew up (Left center on the map). We took a ferry out to the island. It has very rough terrain, rocky like the rest of Norway, with just enough soil for the hardiest plants to eke out a living. With the ocean winds and cold weather, the people have to be pretty resilient as well. It was beautiful, and the cottages by the lighthouse are usually booked by vacationers and honeymooners a year or more in advance. They took us to the house where Eilert grew up, and which is still used by the family as a retreat. Eilert’s father built it. It’s a very nice house with many places to sleep. When Eilert’s whole family comes out it gets very crowded. They are all fond of this place. I think there have been many happy times in this house. We’ll post some more pictures and put a link to them on this blog.
We stopped at the Austrheim Chapel and took pictures in the church graveyard. Then Eilert brought us to the house, built in the 1800s, where our grandparents lived. It was part of our plan in coming to seek out and see these places.
Here are some of the gravestones with our relatives’ names and dates:
I feel very close to my great grandmother Johanne, Eilert’s dad’s aunt. My mom always tells stories about her so I feel like I know her. This is the grandma that lived with my mom when she was a girl. She is also the first of my ancestors to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and pass that heritage down to my Mom and me. I think this was a very difficult thing for her to do. When she heard the teachings and read the Book of Mormon she developed a deep belief in its truthfulness. It was good to be in the same place where she grew up.
Next we went to the grocery store to get food for the party at John Eilert’s place. John Eilert and his wife Bente host a Mid Sommer party in their neighborhood every summer and invited us to join them. We also met John Andreas, John Eilert and Bente’s son, and his wife Annette and grandchildren. In this picture, John Eilert is standing up with his mom, Greta, his wife, Bente and his daughter-in-law, Annette to the left and his son and father on the right.
It was amazing to be with so many family members, and this was a picnic we’ll never forget. The food was good. After everyone got done eating they had an enormous fire: a Midsummers Day tradition. When it started getting to cool outside we went into John Andre and Annette’s house where we got a very thorough tour. He built the house himself. It was incredibly spacious and beautiful, with lovely vistas of the sea. We had fruit and drinks and very nice conversation with them. They were very accommodating to us, and were not offended by us declining to drink coffee. We then went to John Eilert and Bente’s house where we got a short tour. Joe tuned up their guitar and we sang The Burglar Boy and To Zion to them.
The connections we made with Eilert and Greta were fond and deep, and we will continue to communicate with them long after we return to America. But we also connected with John Eilert, Bente, John Andre and Annette. Before we left, there were comments made about possibly visiting America and we assured them that there is a place for them to stay in Minnesota. Nothing would make us happier than to have a long lasting relationship with this warm and loving family.
On the way home, Eilert took us to the Lindås church where my Great Grandmother, Johanne was christened. The sun was still up and lighting the land of the midnight sun as we retired. This was really the center point of our trip, and we learned many things about our cousins that give us insights into our families and own selves. The resemblences are far more than skin deep.