The director behind the hit documentary "Siblings are forever" is extending an invitation to US descendants of Norwegian immigrants.
One of the most popular documentary films in Norway in recent years is "Siblings are forever",the touching tale of Magnar and Oddny Kleiva, brother and sister.
They've lived together for their entire lives, tending their tiny farm in Naustdal the old fashion way, seemingly unaffected by the wealth and progress that have come to define the modern Norway.
The peculiar duo, their spines crooked from potato picking but their spirits warm and friendly nonetheless, managed to charm the entire nation as the film became the most-seen documentary ever for Norwegian broadcaster TV 2.
In a sequel, the siblings left their farm to visit Glenwood, Minnesota, looking for the descendants of relatives that immigrated to the US from Norway in the 1800s – while also going on their first real holiday ever.
Recently, film director Frode Fimland decided to build on his experiences making the films, founding the travel agency Meet Norway. Here, he is offering his own brand of cultural exchange across the Atlantic, allowing both Americans and Norwegians to go searching for their roots.
“As I was making the films, I was reminded of our immigration history and the strong bonds that exist between Norway and Americans with Norwegian roots,” he says.
“This put me on a path to create experiences that are real, that aren't just on a screen, where Americans can meet Norway and the people here, seeing our way of life. I know that a lot of Americans don't know a lot about what contemporary Norway is, versus that nostalgic old idea of rose painting and lutefisk.”
In the same way he does in his documentaries about Magnar and Oddny, Fimland wants his tours of Norway to showcase the contrasts between the old and the modern Norway. One example he gives is the salmon industry.
“Between Røros and Trondheim, we find Winsnes farm where 17 generations have made their living from salmon fishing. Salmon rivers are part of the culture here, speaking to the history of this region. But then, we go to Sogn og Fjordane, where we meet a modern salmon farmer, telling us something about how people along the coast make their living now.”
The duration of the 2017 tour is 15 days, starting in Oslo and ending in Bergen – a distance usually covered in seven hours by train.
“You're planning something of a detour?”
“Yeah, our aim is to get a real sense of both Eastern Norway, Middle Norway and the coast. We're not rushing through, there are no days that start at seven in the morning and last until six in the evening. We're going about this at a holiday pace.”
Fimland is also offering genealogy research for those who are wondering if they may have relatives living in Norway today.
“It used to be a lot harder, but with digital archives, that has become very easy to figure out in recent years if you have a few scraps of info about someone's roots.”
While he is intent on bringing the US to Norway, Fimland has also met a lot of Norwegians that are curious about what happened to the brave immigrants who crossed over to the great unknown country.
That's why he has also established connections to people in Minneapolis and Montana, preparing to offer journeys in the other direction.
“I see this as a two way street.”
Norway is large. Far larger than most people realise. We recommend focusing on one region at a time, and coming back to see the rest later. If you only plan one trip to Norway, take your time as you travel; make the journey itself your destination.
Spend your holiday working on an eco-friendly farm in Norway, where you will get new knowledge about organic production and make some new friends. Mette Pauline Strand talks about WWOOF Norway.
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