November 15, 2016. Grumpy from our 24/7 work schedules and getting Grinch-ier by the minute, Matthew and I decided we needed to dredge up a little holiday spirit. A flyer for the Hadeland Julemarked (Christmas Market) seemed just the thing to boost our basement-level attitudes. It promised Christmas music, horse-drawn sleigh rides, traditional Norwegian food and mulled wine — plus steep discounts on the company’s incredible blown glass. Call us Scrooges, but we’re all about bargain shopping for Christmas gifts. (Nothing comes cheap here in Oslo, especially at holiday time.)
However, getting to Hadeland (pronounced “HA-duh-lund”) required a bit more planning on our part. The glass factory sits about an hour north of Oslo at the southern tip of Norway’s fourth largest lake, the serene Randsfjorden. You can reach it via public transportation, but we decided to save an hour and avoid the motion sickness that comes with bus travel. Instead, we rented a car for the bargain price of $100 for the day ($150 is typical.) The deal seemed even better when we showed up expecting a GM Opel but were given the keys to an Audi A3. Who doesn’t love an early Christmas gift?
As the rental agent showed us to the car, he commented, “The low-tire-pressure light might come on at first, but don’t worry. We just finished a vehicle checkup, and it takes a few minutes to register the air refill.” That should’ve been our first clue. Fifteen minutes into the trip, the gold low-pressure light still glared at us. Then the green right-turn signal clicked on uninvited and stubbornly refused to turn off. Ten minutes later, the red ‘low oil, service immediately’ indicator joined the increasingly Christmasy dash display. So we called the manager to report the situation. His response? “Stop and fill it with oil, of course. Keep the receipt. We’ll pay you back.”
Uh, okay. Having taken Driving Lessons in preparation for passing the Norwegian driving exam — during which the examiner can ask the driver to check the oil, explain how to change a tire, or perform other types of basic car maintenance — I assumed this was just another version of: “We are not soft; we are Vikings. It’s normal to personally repair your rental car.” So we stopped to add oil, then checked the tires for good measure. Not only was the front left one low, but all were bald. The extremely low rental rate was now starting to make sense.
Next hurdle. Finding our way to Hadeland. To explain, Oslo’s city streets are a snarl of one-way winding roads. The strict Roman grid system doesn’t really rule here. I’ve created my own mythology to explain the chaos, and it goes like this: Long ago, one of the Norns — Viking goddesses responsible for weaving the fate of mankind — dropped her knitting, and the tangled skein of wool became the roadmap for the city. It’s plausible, right?
Anyway, we’d hoped that the car’s GPS would help us decipher the goddess’s runic road plan, but no such luck. Our English-accented navigator, whom we christened “The British Boob,” became increasingly befuddled by the roadways, making us backtrack several times. And while my Norwegian accent might be poor, her pronunciation made street names utterly unrecognizable. Not to mention that her penchant for precision (“Turn left in 167 meters”) irritated me. Sure, lemme just get out my freakin’ ruler and measure that distance.
The breaking point came when she steered us off a main road and onto a country lane that lay encased in six inches of ice. The steep hills had me crawling at a snail’s pace to avoid skidding and slipping due to our bald tires. Although the view was gorgeous, my terror at narrowly missing an adorable log-cabin home while trying to steer out of a slide made me less appreciative of the sightseeing opportunities. And when we rejoined the main road “in an eyeblink,” as the Norwegians say, we realized that The Boob’s detour had been a shortcut designed to shave perhaps only 30 seconds off the route. Whereupon we decided to pull her plug. May she rest in peace.
Out came our good, old-fashioned paper map, which gave us greater bird’s-eye clarity for the overall route. Our journey took us past gently rolling hills blanketed in snow and wreathed in moody fog. And as predicted by our Norwegian colleagues, the drive was one of the prettiest we’d experienced near Oslo — all crystalline stillness and frozen light. I know most folks shudder at the idea of visiting Scandinavia when it’s cold. But Norway in winter is truly breathtaking. So if you want the quintessential Christmas vista, bundle up and plan a December trip. You won’t find a more magical holiday landscape.
Yes, those are swans mixed in with the ducks. Truly a storybook setting.
A lovely little farm along the roadside. I say “little” sarcastically; notice the huge manor house in the distance.
Check out this frost-encrusted spiderweb. It looks like a piece of Hadeland art glass.
Arriving at Hadeland brought another another picture-postcard view, this time of the Randsfjorden itself. Surprisingly, the freshwater lake hadn’t yet frozen over, and its clear, still waters reflected the sky, creating a wintery palette of about a bazillion shades of blue. The small town of Jevnaker slept peacefully along the shoreline, providing us with a great potential backdrop for our upcoming Christmas card. (Click on the images for bigger views.)
Jevnaker can be seen directly across from Hadeland Glassverk. In fact, the town’s seal features three glass goblets as a tribute to its biggest industry.
Whaddya think of this selfie as a possibility for our holiday greeting card?
Just one more spectacular view of the fjord. (Technically, it’s a lake, but it’s called a fjord because of its extremely long, sliver-like shape.)
After our photo session, we tore ourselves away from the scenery and walked across the street to Hadeland, which is situated almost on the Randsfjorden’s rocky beach. Historically, Hadeland floated logs down the length of the immense lake to the company barns, where the wood helped fire the melt-ovens for glass production. A lumber mill on site also turned the timber into shipping crates for the glass, while the sawdust and shavings provided protective packing materials. Talk about using every little bit of your resources.
Beyond the factory itself, Hadeland also harbors a collection of cute cabins that once provided offices, homes, a bakery, school, post office, and other amenities for employees. (Think of it as an early planned workers’ community or “company town.”) Today, most of the buildings act as shops and showrooms for Hadeland’s various lines of glassware, as well as Scandinavian porcelain, textiles, cutlery, décor, and edibles. And speaking of food, should you get hungry during your shopping excursion, the original bakery is still in operation, along with a waffle shop, and a café featuring Norwegian cuisine.
A little girl on her snow scooter gazes longingly at the horse pulling a wagon full of happy shoppers. (Guess there wasn’t enough snow for the sleigh.) Part of the working factory can be seen on the far left of the photo.
Outside the factory outlet, fur pelts and a fire pit provide shoppers with a warm respite.
Looks like Santa should live here, right?
Probably the prettiest little restroom I’ve ever seen.
The Julenisse (which means “Christmas gnome/elf” — the equivalent of Santa Claus) has his own postbox at Hadeland.
Starving after our drive, we made the café our first stop, where we gnoshed on moose burgers and marzipan cake while trying to look like we fit in amongst a sea of Norwegian sweaters. From the odd glances we received when speaking English, I got the feeling that most folks were a bit surprised to find Americans venturing so far inland to visit such a local attraction at this time of year. The many staff that also leapt to help us and eagerly swapped stories about Christmas traditions cemented our impression that perhaps Yanks aren’t the usual holiday fare here.
After lunch, we hit the big factory-outlet barn where we scored some incredible mouth-blown Hadeland beer glasses and wine decanters. Next, we sampled a huge variety of Norwegian cheeses, browsed the specialty Christmas foods, and stocked up on incredible artisanal beers from around the country. By the time we’d finished canvassing the various showrooms for treasures (both “first-quality” and half-priced “seconds” are available), we’d ticked almost everyone off our Christmas list — and completely filled the trunk and backseat of the rental car.
Matthew checks out the gorgeous hand-blown Odyssé wine decanter on sale in the Hadeland Factory Outlet Store.
Looks like the Julenisse (Santa) will be delivering gifts via tractor this year. I’m confused about his tractor’s name, however — it doesn’t sound like a suitable replacement for Prancer. BTW, Norwegians pride themselves on being farmers (like their Viking ancestors, whose raids were all about finding new farmland and trade routes), and you’ll see tractor logos all over everything.
Hadeland’s market had lots of traditional Jul (Christmas) foods on special, including pinnekjøtt. It’s made from salted and dried mutton ribs that are reconstituted by soaking them in water for 30 hours before steaming them over a pot filled with birch sticks. The dish is an ancient one, having been a favorite of the Vikings, who had to find a way to preserve meat for their long voyages. I’ve tried the dish once, and let’s just say that either I had a bad batch, or it’s an acquired taste.
Hadeland’s “firsts” store features incredible hand-blown platters, vases, lighting, and holiday ornaments. (“Seconds” are priced about 50% less.) I think my favorites are the “Krystallkule” lights, which combine the technique of mouth-blowing glass with cutting the incised crystal globes by hand. Four patterns are available, one of which is based on Hadeland’s popular 1913 Marie wine glass series (note the big green globe.) All are designed by Maud Gjeruldsen Bugge, Hadeland’s current Design Director.
No Norwegian holiday would be complete without a candle placed in every window. Hadeland’s candle store features virtually every kind of handmade candle. You can even color and dip your own.
But beyond the shopping, we made time for Hadeland’s glass museum to learn the story of the company and peruse art pieces made throughout the eras. It seems that when the company began in 1762, nobody in Norway knew much about making glass. So they imported craftsmen from Germany and focused mainly on the basics, like bottles and jars for chemists and pharmacies.
Then in1852, Ole Berg took over the factory, re-tooling it to copy European designs for crystal glassware, bowls, and such. And by the 1920s, the company had begun developing its own award-winning designs with characteristic Scandi simplicity and elegance. Today, the company produces everything from utilitarian pieces to incredible art glass and interior design installations, and also sponsors artists-in-residence programs.
Although Hadeland products aren’t readily available in the States, you might be familiar with some famous pieces that have made their way into U.S. history. Norway gave the Kennedy Center its spectacular set of Concert Hall chandeliers, which were designed by Hadeland’s Jonas Hilde. And you might have seen the company’s Peer Gynt crystal on display if you’ve taken a White House tour (the set was added during the Johnson Administration.) Check out some of my favorite Hadeland pieces, both historical and modern, by clicking through the gallery below.
The Nøstetangen decanter’s design dates back to 1762, when the company was first formed. It’s one of several stunning historical pieces reproduced by Hadeland.
I love this Art Deco wine service made in 1949 by Sverre Pettersen. He served as Art Director from 1928 to 1949 and was the guy who helped Hadeland design its own lines, rather than copying those of other European glassblowers.
Here are a few more pieces by Sverre Pettersen, ranging from uber mod to more traditional. And here’s some basics about glassblowing for you: The key element in clear glass is silica sand, with limestone and potash added as melting compounds and stabilizers. Hadeland’s crystal no longer contains lead for environmental safety reasons.
I’m crazy for these bowls, with their simple, pure shape and metallic finish. By the way, adding metallic oxides is what gives color to basic clear glass. Iron and chromium oxides produces the color green, while selenium and gold oxides produce red. Sulfur and metal sulfides produce yellow.
Check out these fab pieces with their funky disco-era colors. These were made by Friske Farger during the 1970s. More fun facts about color: blue comes from cobalt oxide, while copper oxide produces turquoise. Manganese creates the purple shade.
Incidentally, this is the “Peer Gynt” line of crystal that Ladybird Johnson selected for her White House service. It’s incredibly thin and delicate — too fragile for the likes of fumble-fingered me.
We bought the award-winning Augustin wheat beer glasses and the Odyssé wine decanter. The Augustin line was developed via a collaboration between Maud Gjeruldsen Bugge (Hadeland’s current chief designer), and beer expert, Espen Smith. The shape is designed to intensify the fruity aroma of wheat beer and create a foamy head. (Like Germans, Scandinavians want their beer with a lot of froth, while Brits prefer the opposite.) For the Odyssé series, Hadeland consulted with Norway’s leading sommeliers to create a reasonably priced but elegant design. The wine glasses even come with a full replacement warranty if you break one! Which is why I’m now thinking about going back and buying the full set.
Hadeland also has a whole line of really gorgeous glass animals. I’m not normally a big fan of tchotchkes, but I was so taken with the isbjorn (“ice bear” — that’s the Norwegian name for a polar bear), that Matthew had to pry it out of my fingers.
Our last stop was the factory itself. I’ve seen glass blowing many times before, but usually in small artisan workshops or in tourist traps like the Smokey Mountains. Never have I seen glass blowing done in a factory production line, and I gotta say, it’s pretty impressive. The workshop we’d entered had at least 30 furnaces and ovens, as well as innumerable machines for etching, sandblasting, and polishing.
By the time we wandered in, late in the day, about three guys were still manning the ovens set up in front of theater seating for curious visitors. Each worker seemed intent on a specific task, with some blowing the initial shape while others added color to glowing blobs of glass or trimmed their pieces. Nearby, two more workers sat busily engraving and polishing delicate wine glasses that had cooled.
A worker etches the details into what will become a white wineglass in Hadeland’s Finn (“find”) Line of crystal.
Here, a worker removes water glasses from the final oven, called an annealer, which allows the glasses to cool slowly so that they retain their lustrous shine.
We watched the glassblowers’ carefully orchestrated dance as they worked around each other to blow, shape, and refine their pieces. Can’t be too cautious with fire-hot glass. Eventually, children were invited to get in on the action. One worker let a little girl blow her own glass bowl — with some coaching and the assistance of a stair-stepped stage for a better angle on the blowpipe.
As it turns out, folks can blow their own glass on weekends for a mere $20, plus an additional $20 for sandblasting a pattern of their choice on their creation. I would’ve loved to have tried it myself, but the place was closing, and it takes at least 1.5 hours for a piece to cool down before you can take it home. Note to self: come earlier next time, and make a beeline for the factory.
Nonetheless, it was nice to round out our shopping spree with the chance to see the stuff we loved being made by hand. And if you’d like a little dissertation on what we learned about the ancient art of glassblowing, take a look at my final gallery below….
A view of one of the factory workshops shows you the various workstations. Making glass requires not only glassblowers, engravers, grinders, packers, and quality control specialists, but also mechanics and electricians to tend to the machines. Not to mention that operating the ovens and furnaces requires stokers, batchers, carpenters, and bricklayers. All of these people work together to turn out 400,000 pieces of Hadeland glass each year. And each piece passes through the hands of 13-14 people before it reaches the sales floor.
Glassblowing has been an art form for more than 4,000 years, and the use of the iron blowpipe itself has been around for almost 2,000 years. Pictured are various tools of the trade, including blowpipes, a glassblower’s bench, jacks (giant tweezers) for shaping the glass, and wooden molds to help contour the glass during the blowing process.
Looking to brush up on your glassblowing skills? Hadeland Glasswerks offers the only glassblowing school in Norway. It takes three years to earn a professional degree, and then another 6-10 years to become a master glassblower, called a gaffer. Each of Hadeland’s workshops is run by a gaffer, who controls all the final design decisions.
Each year, Hadeland melts about 25 tonnes (27.5 tons) of raw materials to make glass. Every afternoon, workers load the raw materials into special pots that get placed into a furnace and heated to around 1400° C (2552° F), until the glass is white hot. By morning, when the glass has reached the consistency of honey, the temperature is reduced to 1140° C (2084° F) — the ideal temp for blowing glass.
Glass that has cooled to the correct orange-red stage for blowing gets placed into a smaller oven called the “Glory Hole.” The glassblower first heats the end of the blowpipe, then dips it into the molten puddle of glass to collect a blob called a “gather.” He then rolls the gather of glass on a steel plate called a “marver” (notice the slab of metal beneath his hands.) The process of “marvering” forms a cooled skin on the exterior surface of the glass so that it will more easily hold its shape as the glassblower works with it.
The glassblower then begins inflating the gather of glass with a few short puffs designed to open up a cavity and create an elastic interior skin similar to the one that has formed on the exterior surface. Next, he quickly inflates the gathered glass to the desired size. Sometimes for more standardized factory pieces, the glassblower blows the glass into a mold (seen here) to ensure that every piece will be roughly the same shape and size. For an art piece, however, he might choose to do “freeblowing” without a mold, which will imbue a piece with its own personal quirks.
Color and bubbling detail can be added by heating colored or textured glass rods in the glory hole, then “painting” them onto the gather of glass. You’ll see in the next image that the technique the glassblower has used here will create a bubbled white swirl on the piece.
The glassblower then uses a jack to help shape the piece, giving it a neck. The jack will also be used to open the neck wider, so that the piece will become a vase.
The glassblower then uses a paddle to flatten the base of the vase so that it will stand up straight. Notice that the glassblower wears sunglasses to shield his eyes from the bright, glowing glass.
Here, a glassblower has disconnected his piece from the blowpipe. While the glass is still hot, he’s reattached it to a long metal punty rod. He then rolls the rod across the bench while shearing off the excess glass left behind by the blowpipe.
After using the jack to widen the mouth of the piece until it becomes a bowl, the glassblower begins to even out its shape. He rolls the punty rod back and forth along the bench while shaping the hot glass against a pad made of layers of wet paper. (Notice that the glassblower wears protective gloves.)
For the final step, the glassblower smooths the bottom of his bowl using a blowtorch.
When cooled, the glassblowers’ works become a part of Hadeland’s line known as Vervil (“Swirl” or “Vortex” in English).