Gudrun Skomdal, a Tripper from the South of Norway is our Featured Host. She has traveled to 30 countries and Tripped with hosts in California. A polyglot, she looks forward to hosting Trippers and in this interview shares stories of her childhood and her travels.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Gudrun, and I grew up in Rysstad, a small place in a valley called Setesdal in Southern Norway. It is known for its special national clothes, bunad and it also has a very special dialect. Now I live in Evje, which is a small town just about an hour south of Rysstad and about an hour from a city called Kristiansand.
Like many Europeans you no doubt speak multiple languages: what languages do you speak?
Well, I speak Norwegian of course. There are 2 official versions of Norwegian. One is more inspired from Danish (Bokmaal) and the other is more inspired by the dialects of Norway (Nynorsk). My dialect is based more on Nynorsk.
I also speak some German, which helps very much with all of the German and Austrian travelers who come to our campground. In school days I learned French, and I still speak a little; I can understand it when people are speaking but the words are not so easy.
English I studied at school. When I was a girl, we were not taught English until we were 10 years old. But now school children begin to learn English when they are much younger. So the majority of the young people in Norway speak English but in my generation we much prefer Norwegian. And people from my parents’ generation, they don’t understand English. Only Norwegian.
You’ve done a fair amount of travel. What has been your favorite place to visit so far?
I have traveled very much around Europe – Turkey, Greece, all of Western Europe, the U.S.A. (Florida, California, New York), Mexico, China and the Caribbean. To the Caribbean we went to the Eastern part and I liked it very much. Norwegians we love the warm, sunny places because in winter we are not getting so much sun and it’s cold. Many Norwegians go to Spain in the winter and I have been there as well. We had a home in the South of France, an apartment in Cannes and I used to travel there.
In Mexico I very much liked the food and I traveled with a family so we got to see the family traditions. In Norway we have some Mexican food but it is not the same. I had for example tamales for the first time and also many other things I don’t remember the names now.
China was very different. Often when I travel in Europe, at least, I understand something. Always someone speaks some German or French or English. But in China everything was so different and strange. I liked it but had never felt a place like it.
So it is hard to decide. I like every place except maybe not all to live. I love Norway and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
I think the most exciting trip was to Mexico. We had a chance to spend time together with locals and we got a completely different experience of the country than if we had stayed in a tourist hotel. We ate Mexican food at some locals’ homes and it was very very good food. We got to try a special drink that comes from the Agave called pulque. The Aztecs used to make it. It was collected in the morning and then it was a sweet juice but throughout the day it fermented and in the evening it was alcoholic. We also visited a kindergarten where children of poor workers, natives, were thought Spanish so they could start to go to regular schools. We experienced a lot that we would never have seen as regular tourists.
When you were a child, where did you grow up going on holiday?
During the summers we would go to my parents’ summer cabin in Fyresdal. That is where my father grew up. We had a beautiful beach right in front of the cabin where we would swim and relax. We used to fish a lot in a large lake/water right by the cabin. We would catch trout, whitefish and char. Lots of great fresh water fish. I had a lot of cousins and other friends in the town that I used to play with. Later when I was about 13 years old my parent’s bought a cabin by the ocean where we would spend the summers. It was on the Southern coast of Norway, not far from Kristiansand. Our cabin, like most, could only be reached by boat. We would spend our summers swimming and catching fish and lying out on the special kind of rocks called “svaberg.” They are very big and flat and perfect for lying and soaking the sun.
We also traveled to Denmark. We would take the ferry (about 4 hours back then) to Hirtshals, on the northern coast of Denmark. Many Norwegians in the South travel there for the beaches. Also, everything there costs much less.
Earlier this year, you Tripped in California. What was it like?
Yes my husband and I were hosted by some Trippers I had actually met before but not Tripped with. It was a very nice couple who live in a small town along the coast, south of San Francisco. The husband took us on a tour of the area, which is very pretty. We started with brunch in a quaint local cafe downtown then drove along the coast and stopped at the most scenic points along the way. We saw the beach where the locals go and the little park with the beautiful view that few tourists see.
What are you most excited to share with first-time visitors to Norway?
Everything. Norway has a very small population (only 5 million people total), but it is very diverse. In the East we have Oslo, which is the capital and is the city most people know about. In the West we have the fjords, which are very beautiful and special and what many people think of Norway. The South, where I live, is covered in forest and lakes and we have very many beautiful towns along the coast. In the North you can see the Northern Lights, but not many people live in the more northern parts of the country. Up there we have the Sami, who are the same as in Sweden and Finland and are the original people who lived in these northern lands.
Norway is a great place to enjoy nature. We have many beautiful waterfalls, lots of national parks and glaciers. There is a rich animal life in Norway with great opportunities for fishing. We have elks, musk ox and eagles. Of course we mustn’t forget the Vikings. There is a rich heritage from the Vikings in Norway as well as some very special churches some of which are on the UNESCO world heritage list.
In my region, it depends on the season where to take guests (Trippers). In winter, I would take you to my cabin about an hour drive from my home. When it snows a lot, you can only arrive at the cabin by snow mobile. It is very cozy to sit by the fire after a day of skiing. In the summer time when we are having nice weather, maybe a boat ride to my childhood cabin along the sea would be nice. We could also visit the fjords but that you have to drive, and there are often no roads so you must take the car on the ferry.
If any Trippers come to Oslo and wish to take a short flight to Kristiansand to visit our valley, we are very much looking forward to host!
Thank you Gudrun for the warm invite!
Trippers, you can connect with Gudrun via her Tripping profile.