Thursday, 20 November 2014

Christmas in Kristiansand

I am from Australia have lived in Norway for about 10 years. Every Christmas I think about home and the Christmas traditions we have there. We do it a little differently you could say....

Back in Oz, we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. Christmas eve is usually celebrated by going out on the town and having a few drinks with friends which meant that Christmas day, we were allowed to sleep in. Of course it is a bit different for couples with children, but I did not have any kids, so that is what me and the boys used to do.

Christmas in Australia is in the middle of the summer, so it is always hot. Shorts, flip flops and a shirt are standard dress attire that day.

Christmas Eve 2004 in Melbourne with friends (me on right)
At lunch time, I would go to my parents place and open the presents. After that we would eat a massive lunch which usually meant that I could barely walk afterwards. The lunch would be a barbeque with a variety of different meats - turkey, lamb, ham steaks, you name it. Desert was always Mum's fantastic chocolate cake, which I have been known to go a little overboard eating it....

Typical Christmas lunch at Mums
We were fortunate enough to have a pool, so a few laps would help work off the excess of food!
The rest of Christmas day was hanging around at their house and nibbling on the left overs.

My wife and I had our three children in Norway, so I never experienced a Christmas in Australia with kids. When we go home every other year as a family, we have large lunches with Mum and Dad which is pretty much what it would be like if we were there during Christmas. Mum always has presents for them, so I guess it is a kind of Christmas for them anyway. We usually go home in the summer months.

One of my boys on the beach in Queensland during the Norwegian winter
My first Christmas in Kristiansand was a bit of a shock I have to say. The Norwegians celebrate it on the 24th and 25th and sometimes the 26th. WOW, that is a lot of celebrating! The Norwegians also have a funny tradition of sending Christmas cards that are pictures of their family. I have never seen that before, but it is a nice thing and now we also do it. Actually we try and make funny ones each year by doing silly things.

This was an attempt at a "funny" Christmas card picture.. 
For the past 10 years, we have had Christmas Eve at home with the kids. My wife usually cooks a roast and we let them open one present that day. The following day it is a massive dinner at her parents' house which requires two large dining tables. Her mother has 13 grandchildren and 12 of them are boys, the 13th one is a girl that was adopted from Columbia. Well, at least she got a girl in the end...

We put all of the Christmas presents under the tree. THE TREE, now that is a story in itself. Every year it is a bit of a mission. Her parents live on a beautiful farm with a lush forest full of pine trees. So each year we walk through the forest to find the perfect tree. I am the impatient one that is satisfied with almost any pine tree, but my wife likes it perfect. We usually disagree on which one to cut down and in the end she gets her way. Her parents have exactly the same "discussion" when they go tree hunting, so I am glad we weren't the only ones!

I love the smell of pine in the house and always have. In Australia we also had a real tree most years but sometimes it was a plastic one. I really enjoyed the real pine trees and the smell takes me back to my youth every time.

Another attempt at a funny Christmas card
I do think that Christmas here in Norway is a little like torture for kids because they see all of the presents under the tree but cannot open them until after dinner! Half the dinner they sit there staring at the tree and usually they do not eat very much. By the time they start to open the presents, they literally rip open the wrapping paper. A bit like a man lost in the desert who finally finds water. I guess that is a pretty good comparison.

Another tradition her family has, is for one family member to dress up as Santa. They have used the same outfit for probably 60 years. Well, it looks like that anyway. My first Christmas here, I had to dress up as Santa and I knew almost no Norwegian, so all I could say was "Ho Ho, ja and takk". I guess they figured out it was me.  

Back in Australia, Christmas was all about the family getting together which did not happen that often as all of us kids had moved out and lived our own separate lives. Here in Norway with my wife's family it is the same but I would say that Norwegian families are a lot closer than Aussie ones. Julia's parents are always having visitors from family members, almost everyday. Back home, I would sometimes go weeks without seeing mine. Here is a classic example of this close nit Norwegian family.

They live on a road that is about 5 kilometres long. Half way up the road I will pass by her sister's house, then it is her uncle's on the right, then her cousins on the right and then another cousin, her brother on the left and finally her parents on the right! That is a lot of road to travel before passing a house that is not related to her family! That is special but it is also very nice. I personally could not live next to one of my brother's because he would drive me insane, but here it works.

The city of Kristiansand looks amazing during Christmas when there is snow. The decorations and lights on the trees and the festive feeling you get when visiting the town centre are special.

We also did that in Australia but it does not have the same affect when it is hot and sunny. Sure, I have worn a Santa hat out in the surf once...

One of my boys on the beach near home during the Norwegian winter
Some people go to a real effort to make their houses look nice during Christmas in Kristiansand. Lots of lights and decorations both inside and outside their houses. That is nice and my kids love it when we drive past them. Actually, it makes my life a bit harder because then they want to have the same types of decorations at our house! Thankfully my wife comes to the rescue there. She is an amazing Mum. She decorates our house with lights each year which can be clearly seen from the street and she is famous for her Halloween parties. This year, the entire neighbourhood came to our house for a Zombie Disco! My kids were very impressed.

I have always liked giving presents to people and I think I got that from my Mum. She was and still is the same. In fact, she has a massive closet at her house filled with gifts that she gives out from time to time.

Here in Norway I always buy a little something for my mates. A few years ago it was beers, then a couple of pairs of CAT socks, last year it was carving knives and this year it will be a fleece jumper. They never get me anything but then again, they do not have to because they are not used to it. My wife always says that I should not do it because they will feel uncomfortable and will feel that they need to buy me something. We don't do that here in Norway she says. That is probably true, but I like to do it anyway. I think it feels nice when you receive a gift from someone and so I want to do that for them. Ho ho ho.

In comparing traditions from Australia to Norway I would have to say that the Aussies live up to their reputation as a chilled out race that take it pretty easy on Christmas Day. The Norwegians on the other hand are very organised and like to spread out the celebrations. I spoke to a woman the other day who said that they celebrate Christmas over 6 days. Six days!!! She said she has a large family in both Kristiansand and Oslo, so they travel to and fro.

Lastly I would like to say that I hope there is enough snow for Tveit Skisenter to open because that is the perfect Christmas present!

Tveit Skisenter with the monsters
God Jul and Merry Christmas.

Adam @ Visit Southern Norway

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Norwegian diving finals at Aquarama in Kristiansand

The national finals for Norwegian Diving was at Aquarama. What a great opportunity to take the kids and see this exciting event.
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
Aquarama is a large swimming pool complex in the heart of Kristiansand and was opened in 2013. The complex houses a 50 metre pool, spa with massage and treatments, a sophisticated gym, personal trainers and courses. 
Aquarama 50metre pool. Photo Anders Martinsen
It is within the same building as the Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda with great views over the harbour and water. When you book a room at Scandic, you get discounted entry into Aquarama as well as free gym usage.
Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda. Photo Anders Martinsen
My kids love to stay at Hotels and love to swim, so it was an easy decision to make. Everything is in the one place which is a must for a small family.
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
We checked in and the views from the room were amazing with the city beach directly to the front and the promenade to the right. I can only imagine the views from this room during the Palmesus festival or fireworks on New Years Eve!
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
Before I could put my bags down, the kids were out the door and running towards the Aquarama pool. Naturally I ask them not to run along the corridor, but they were too excited to listen.
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
The kids tried the waterslide and every pool within the complex - even the outside pool. 
Aquarama waterslide. Photo Anders martinsen
I did not think the kids would venture outside, but they did. Not a bad effort considering it was about 8 degrees celcius! I guess that is the Norwegian in them because for an Aussie, that is a first. Back in Australia, we tend to go indoors to get away from the hot sun!
Picture taken following morning Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet. 
After they calmed down a little, we decided to take some time to watch the diving competition. There were kids aged up to 18 that were involved and it was amazing to see how clever they are at diving. 
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
My kids were inspired, so after 5pm when the diving boards were also open to the general public, they decided to try some diving of their own.
Four year old Indy getting ready for a "dive" Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
I interviewed one of the competitors for the Humans of Kristiansand project
I won a gold medal in the Norwegian Diving Championships at Aquarama on Saturday. I have been diving for eleven years and have worked very hard to get this far. It was a great feeling to hear the crowd cheer.
After dinner, it was time for the "crazy room'' at the hotel. 
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
It is a playroom with three different TVs with different computer games; one that has a sports seat and driving wheel, one with Nintendo and one with Playstation football.
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
Mission Impossible: Trying to get them out of that room! But, in the end, the promise of lørdags goteri (Saturday night candy) did the trick. We then relaxed and watched a Disney movie together in the room. 
This little one did not want to sleep. Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet 
The family room is set up with a large double bed and two other beds from a sofa. A large flatscreen TV with a USB connection allows visitors to watch their own movies, but the Disney cable channel was perfect for us.

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel. You would be surprised how much food a 7 and 8 year old can eat! Good thing it is a help yourself buffet!

The Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda lobby bar. Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet.
This winter, Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda has a great offer for a family room. It is 971 NOK for one night which includes breakfast for a family of 4. Not bad! I will definitely be back! You also get discounted entrance to Aquarama if you book a hotel room.

A bicycle available for Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda guests. Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
Some useful information on Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda and Aquarama:
Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda opened in June 2013 and is the largest hotel in Southern Norway with 229 rooms, 814 beds and conference centre facilities for 300 people.
Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet
Aquarama opened in March 2013 and has an indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a water park, sports pool, diving facilities, spa, fitness center, sports hall and various offerings in public health. The project has a total area of ​​approximately 41,000 sqm, a sports pool 50x25 meters, sports arena for handball with approximately 1700 seats and a water park with a capacity for 1,000 guests at the same time.

Photo: Adam @ Visit Sørlandet

Adam @ Visit Southern Norway

Monday, 10 November 2014

Kvinesdal Kortreist cultural menu

The town of Kvinesdal is located in Southern Norway, just under a 2 hour drive from Kristiansand. It is nested in a valley surrounded by mountain ranges and a fjord.
Picture: Courtesy of Utsikten Hotel
When entering the town by car from Kristiansand, you will pass by the famous Utsikten Hotel which is perched on a mountain top overlooking the town and valley. The views are spectacular.

The Hotel encompasses first class living facilities, an arts centre, a museum with rich cultural history and a golf course. 

Kvinesdal has an abundance of locally made food that is sold throughout Norway as well as famous artists, musicians a chefs that have originated from the region.

Torill Haugen is the arts centre manager and is always coming up great ideas and concepts for exciting arts exhibitions and programmes.

She decided that with the great mix of local talent, food, the hotel and local scenery, it was important to share this with visitors to the region. So, "The short trip cultural menu" was created called "Kortreist kulturmeny".
Visitors can hire local artists, order locally made foods and experience culture and everything that Kvinesdal has to offer.

The launch party was on Wednesday the 29th of October 2014 and was a huge success. Local and national Norwegian media were in attendance as were many other important invited guests. The autumn colours were still present in Kvinesdal, but on the tail end of their existance. Winter is around the corner.
Kvinesdal church
Enjoying some local food at the commencement of the launch.
After the initial introduction for the afternoon's schedule, we did some painting....
Preparing to paint the walls of the hotel

In action

Last touches
Took a tour of the museum and heard a local artist play some inspiring music.
Listening to an exciting guitar performance from Lars Aksel Teistedal 

Local paintings and a very old violin in the museum
A local actor played the role of the local famous artist Kristian Marcelius Førland.
An aspiring young actor

We also took a trip to a local antique store where some locals performed classical music.
The antique store

Short break between songs
Experimented with various types of photography;
Experimenting with different colours

Ever wondered how the kids tv series Pingu was created?

We visited the local church in the town centre where we watched a very entertaining opera performance
Awaiting the next exciting performance

Silvia Moi
Listened to a local artist performing her own and cover songs.
AIrmelinn Stakkeland
It was a fantastic launch party followed by dinner at Utsikten with locally produced food.

The activities at the launch included: Symphonic pop-break with Irmelin Stakkeland, musical journey trip / return view with Lars Aksel Teistedal, photo art with Solfrid Økland, Stop Motion by Jan Rune Blom, Street Art by Frode vessel and Classic twist with Oddbjørn Stakkeland.

Last but not least is the opera with Silvia Moi, who grew up in Kvinesdal. She has worked for several years at The Norwegian Opera in Oslo and has had major roles in several opera houses in Europe.

More information about this exciting concept can be found on the official Kortreist kulturmeny website.

Adam @ Visit Southern Norway Dra på ferie til Kvinesdal

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The powerful Rafoss waterfall in Kvinesdal

Kvinesdal is a little town in southern Norway, just west of Kristiansand.

It is all about nature in Kvinesdal. 

Picture: Jan Kåre Rafoss
It is located in a valley between large mountain ranges with a river that leads to a large fjord. When you drive there from Kristiansand, you will pass the Utsikten hotel which overlooks this rugged area.

Approximately seven kilometres to the north of the town centre is Rafoss. It is a very powerful waterfall with a 42 metre drop. Tons of water pass through the waterfall into a river which leads to the town centre.

To get there, use google maps which will guide you directly to the area. Just before you reach the church, there is a road to the left that has a little wooden sign that says Rafossen. Follow this little local road and drive slowly as there are houses and children nearby.

After approximately 1 to 2 kilometres, the road ends next to a farm. It is possible to park your car here, but there is no public carpark, so make sure you do not block the road or park in someones driveway.

You will walk along a field to a fence. Once through the gate, you can walk along the waters edge where there are large rock platforms perfect for fishing. Continue on to the waterfall for great photo opportunities.

If you have children, please be very careful with them as it is slippery and can be dangerous. There is a fence line that prevents sheep from getting too close to the waterfall, so perhaps use this as a guide.

Here is a google streetview map screen grab to show you where the little road starts from the 465 road on the left. This is a Google street image from 2010, but there is a little wooden sign on the left now with Rafossen written on it.

Here is a Google map to show you where the road and carpark is at Rafoss.

Visit the Kvinesdal Tourist office for more information.

Rådhuset, Nesgata 11, 
4480 Kvinesdal

Telephone: +47 38 32 80 81

Adam @ Visit Southern Norway Dra på ferie til Kvinesdal