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Dreams and Rice Creams:
Epcot's Norway Pavilion Entices
This article appeared in the August 28, 2001 issue #101of ALL EARS®.
The kingdom of Norway encompasses the western and northern section of the Scandinavian peninsula, as well as the Arctic island archipelago Svalbard, plus Archipelago Jan Mayen. Norway is shares a border with neighboring Sweden, Finland and Russia, but it has three frosty coasts -- the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Barents Sea to the north, the North Sea to the south.
While we may never get to experience the cool climate of the real Norway, we can visit the country and get a glimpse of its culture Disney-style in the Norway Pavilion, located in Epcot's World Showcase between Mexico and China.
Added to World Showcase in 1988, the pavilion houses the Maelstrom boat ride, Restaurant Akershus, a Stave Church, the Kringla Bakery (and deli) and plenty of wonderful shopping. The picturesque town square of the Norway pavilion re-creates the Norwegian towns and cities of Bergen, Oslo, Alesund and Setesdahl.
The Maelstrom (a Fastpass attraction), encourages you to leave present-day Norway and journey back in time aboard dragon-headed, 16-passenger boats. As you enter the shadows of a mythical Norwegian forest populated by trolls, one of the creatures casts a spell and suddenly you are traveling backwards into the rapids of the Jutenheimen mountain country. From here you encounter an ocean storm, then a calm fishing village where your boat docks. A door opens into a theater, where there is a short film that takes you on a tour of Norway and introduces you to its people.
The Stave Church found in Epcot's Norway is a replica of the Gol Stave Church found in the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. The Norwegians built the first Stave Churches around the year 1050. When St. Olaf brought Christianity to Norway, the Norwegians turned to the craft they knew best, woodworking, to build their new churches. They blended Christian symbols with Viking images to create these impressive buildings. Of the 1,000 Norwegian Stave Churches built in the Middle Ages, only 28 survive today. Many folks see the Stave Church as they pass by the pavilion, but not everyone realizes you can actually walk inside! The church houses an exhibit on Norwegian culture and the history of the Stave Churches. It's a really peaceful and beautiful attraction, totally separated from the bustle just outside its door. It's also very cool inside, making it a pleasant retreat from the often relentless Florida sun.
ALL EARS® friend CzarJim, a fan of the Norway pavilion, shares some background on the food found there:
Restaurant Akershus shares its name and stone construction with a famous 14th century castle that stands in Oslos harbor. Epcot's Restaurant Akershus is a stone-walled, high-ceilinged Norwegian grand lodge hall with a buffet. After your server takes your drink order, you are invited to eat your fill at the smorgasbord. Cold items include several types of tasty marinated herring and smoked fish. For those who enjoy high quality smoked salmon on nice dense dark bread, this is the place. There are cold meats, pickles and cold vegetable salads. Soups are appropriate for warming up after a day on the North Sea: dense, flavorful and hearty.
Hot dishes include lightly spiced meatballs in a creamy gravy, which I recommend. There is also a creative chef's special every day, usually a roasted meat in a sauce or stew. The Norwegian desserts are rich and creamy, frequently a highly iced cake or a mousse. Akershus offers a hearty meal, with good variety. Of course, if you like herring in large quantities, you will be in heaven.
Be sure to ask your server about his or her homeland (and who the favorite Disney character is in Norway!!) Lunch: adults $11.95; children 11 and under $5.25. Dinner: adults $18.50; children 11 and under $7.95. The lunch and dinner buffets are almost identical, except shrimp is included at dinner. Kringla Bakeri Og Kafé is a pastry and snack shop with a nice covered outdoor seating area next to the Stave Church. Popular sweets include the Sweet Pretzel, a sweet, baked dough covered with a white frosting, and, optionally, sliced almonds. The pretzels are large, suitable for two people.
The Norway pavilion's signature dessert is Rice Cream, a heavenly rice pudding. It is true to the flavor of the rich cream, not over-sweetened. It has a thick layer of bright red strawberry topping, with large fresh strawberry pieces. I have been known to walk halfway around Epcot and back to obtain a Rice Cream -- it's easily my favorite dessert in Walt Disney World. (You can find the recipe HERE.)
There are a few sandwiches at the Bakery, as well. My favorite is the smoked salmon, which is a generous serving, sliced and coiled around scrambled eggs, on rye bread.
Menus for both restaurants can be found HERE.
A Viking ship converted into a small play area sits to the left of the Norway Pavilion, near the restrooms. It's a great place for kids to explore and climb around to burn off some energy.
The minimum age to ride Maelstrom is 3 years. Ken DiPietro sent in this great tip: "Small children can become scared on the Maelstrom, especially when the boat is sent backwards toward the falls by the trolls. At this point, we always turn our son around so he is facing us, not the trolls, and is not riding backwards. Just being able to see where we are going helps him enjoy the ride and not be scared."
Check out the statue of World Class Runner Greta Waitz on the grounds of the Norway Pavilion.
During Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival, Norway is home to the woodlands with wildflowers and a larger than life troll topiary!
During Holidays Around the World, the elf known as Julenissen (Santa Claus) makes appearances throughout the afternoon.
Be sure to check out the entertainment in Norway:
The Norway Trunk Show (by the World Showcase Players) is a 25-minute comedy show with audience guest stars. Times are not usually found in the Guide Map, check at the pavilion for times that day. Usually performed Wednesday-Saturday afternoons.
Monday, Tuesday and Sundays be entertained by Spelmanns Gledje, an instrumental group led by fiddler Jonita Aadland. The 20-minute sets by the group, whose name translates as Fiddler's Joy, are enjoyed by all ages. Aadland, who is of Norwegian descent and has performed at the Norway Pavilion since its opening in 1988, is joined by accordion, stand-up bass and guitar. She has performed and studied in Norway and is currently working on a Norwegian fiddle CD.
(Thanks to Steve Soares, Webmaster of the UNOFFICIAL Walt Disney World Entertainment site, for this info: http://wdwent.com/)
Photos of the Norway pavilion can be found HERE.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.