Bergen

We are playing the end game now. We are back in Bergen with relatives. The most exciting part of yesterday is we got to wear cotton clothes and we went to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. 

Today we will embark on one last hurrah:  a two-day hike with hut as a four-fivesome. 

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Urnes Stave Church: 10 July

In earlier posts from Poland, I expressed my amazement at log buildings still in good shape after hundreds of years of exposure.  Today we gaped at intricate wood carvings nearly 3 inches deep that have survived nearly 1,000 years of exposure.  

 Urnes stave church, built 1130-1150, is purported to be the oldest standing wooden church in the world. Even better, some of the wood carvings were salvaged from the previous church built in 1070.  Granted, this exterior wood has been coated with pine tar over the years, but still this was quite amazing. 

Today, Urnes is just a few houses by the fjord. We got there by ferry.    


A thousand years ago, this was an important trading spot owned by a Viking chieftain.  Many of the carvings in the church have not been interpreted and may have Celtic origins. The church has a commanding view.  

 Today’s church has two main parts–the original structure (right in above photo) plus an addition added in the 1600’s after the Reformation.  Seats and other interior alterations were added after the Reformation–before the Reformation, services were short and people stood. The bell tower was added in the 1700’s.  

 We also learned more about how trees were prepared for these churches–and by extension gained more understanding of how wooden buildings in general can last so long. 

Of course, they were starting with what we today call “old growth” timber which has grown slowly. 10-20 years before cutting the tree down, they would begin cutting off its branches. This would cause the tree to produce more sap. Then somehow that I didn’t understand, they would gird the tree to cause it to expend its moisture without splitting.  It would take 20 years to prepare the wood, carve, etc., then a church could be erected in a summer. 

First, the best part–that 1070 exterior wall. In 1130-50, they made it a side wall, but in 1070, it was the main entrance. As told by our guide, in the midst of a fight among lion, snake and dragon, there is a keyhole entrance into God’s house (middle part was the door). This carving was cut down to fit the present wall–it was originally more than a foot taller.    

    

   

The 1130-50 door is plain:   

    

 
Inside, there are two crucifixes, one from 1130-50,   

 and one from the 1600’s.  

 
Given that this was a seafaring culture, it is not surprising that some elements were reminiscent of a boat.  

   
There are 50 carvings with unknown meaning.  

   
Pews are divided. The women’s side:   

 and the men’s side.  

 
There were enclosures for important people, for pregnant women, and for children.  

 
For one of these enclosures, two staves were cut off, making the structure unstable. Crude cross-bracing was added. This proves that idiocy in altering structures is not a modern phenomenon.  (The chair in the second image dates to 1130-50.)

 
  
Opposite the fjord from Urnes is the tiny village of Solvorn. We enjoyed our bit of time there, too.  

    
    

 Tomorrow, explore Sogndal. 

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Nigardsbreen:  9 July

Nigardsbreen is an outlet glacier of the Jostedalsbreen icecap, the largest icecap in Continental Europe.  Roger had a grin on his face as he took more than 500 photos, many of rocks showing the effects of glacial movement.  The glacier is heavily crevassed. Roger says it looks healthy and appears to be advancing, although this may be seasonal.  

The glacier:   

    
    
   
Bedrock shaped by ice scraping around it:   

 
Dozens of antique Citroëns  

 
Including some immaculate Deux Chavaux:   

Tomorrow another stave church. 

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Sogndal:  8 July

Sogndal is a rather nondescript place, but its location on the Sognefjord makes it an excellent spot to settle into and day trip from. We will spend 4 nights here. 

The bus route from Lom to Sogndal goes up a glacial valley,    

   

   over a high plateau still covered in snow,     

 

 
  

 then descends abruptly to the fjord.    

    
    

  


Along the way, our driver played chicken with other vehicles on the mostly one-lane road.  Nothing mean-spirited–it’s just a fact that in Norway, everyone–even a bus–has to be able to drive backwards.  He also “herded” a few cattle and sheep that aren’t the least bit afraid of vehicles. 

These sheep were using the stone picnic table to scratch their backs.  

 

Tomorrow we will take a close look at a large glacier. 
   

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Lom:  7 July

This morning we took a bus to Spiterstulen. This private lodge in the mountains is the starting point for hikes up Galdøpiggen, Norway’s highest mountain.  The hike appears well within our ability; we put it on our list for a drier visit. Today, we watched hikers slop in the mud and were glad we weren’t.  

Along the bus route, we again saw seriously full rivers with some flooding. A few places, the road was close to flooding.  

 
In Lom, we focused our attention on the stave church, one of the oldest in Norway.    

   
 Here is a brief history:    

   
Original front door:   

  
Door not original, but hinges date to 1150:   

 
Ceiling dates from 1608:   

   
Windows were replaced at some point, but the 1600’s windows were kept and later re-installed:   

   
Some interior shots. Originally, the only lighting was the small round top windows.  

    

   
     
   
We were fascinated by how the staves were repaired and pews built around them.  

    
    
    
   
Boys will be boys:   

 
My mind must not be willing to accept that this adventure is nearing its end–I misdated the last few posts as June instead of July.  But end it must.  We have about a week left before we return to the U.S.   Tomorrow, we go to Sogndal, our last destination before returning to Bergen. 

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Lom:  6 July

Whew!  I have finally caught up the blog. This morning, we took train, then bus to Lom, which is a pretty neat little place to wait out several days of rain. We are so glad to be here instead of on the mountain today.  And after all that hiking, we could use a bit of rest. 

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Back to Gjevilvasshytta: 5 July

Vassendsetra and Gjevilvasshytta are about 13 km apart on the shore of a lake. We thought we would follow the shore–an easy hike.   


Wrong. Instead, we went across higher up in the mud. There were more rocks, though, which made going easier.   

 
We went through some lush forest.  The weather was hot and humid. 


Then we heard the roar. Another torrent coming down the mountainside.  When we reached the river, a welcome sign said “Brua (bridge) 150 meters. ”  except there was no trail. That 150 meters we were breaking trail uphill through heavy brush until we came to the bridge: 

 
Except again, the bridge didn’t go all the way across. We were left with 6-7 feet of wet rock that I found exceptionally scary.  

After this bridge, the trail became very good and remained good. The last third was even on a road. We put ourselves in high gear with visions of cold drinks and ice cream sandwiches at Gjevilvasshyta. We arrived there in plenty of time to refresh ourselves before catching the bus back to Oppdal. 

The first order of business was to wash our clothes and our bodies. You would not want to be downwind of our boots. 

Next, Lom. 

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Vassendsetra:  4 July

We knew the trail to Vassendsetra would be difficult because of the water. It was–all 10.5 hours of it, including seven “Croc” events. 

Essentially, we followed a river to its source, went over a pass, then down to the hut. Going was easy in the beginning.  


We saw this little reindeer.   
 This torrent was beside us much of the way. Often, we could not converse because of the roar. 

 
   
 Of course the tributaries were flooded and the trail soon became a muddy mess, but we were used to this by now and trudged on.   

We passed through an area of high grass. We were amazed that it had grown that tall in this climate.   
 Crossings  were the excitement of the day.  Some crossings had small trees placed across. These were easy. 


Most we had to either jump or Croc.   

          
  

  

    
Finally, we arrived at the pass, which was also the source of the roaring river. The pass was broad and covered with sick snow patches, some of which we didn’t dare cross.    

  
A couple of times, we kept our Crocs on over snow banks between streams.  Crossing a snow bank in Crocs–now that’s an adventure!

   
  

At one point, we couldn’t cross the stream below the snow bank and had to climb the steep mountainside above it.   

I never questioned Roger’s judgment as to whether a patch of snow was safe to cross. I was thankful for his experience.  

And then came the worst crossing of the day, which looks innocuous in the photo.  

 This one was flowing so fast that it took every ounce of strength to move my legs, but I knew I had to before they got too cold to move at all. The icy water was about knee-deep. 

Before this trip, I had never crossed a stream deeper than ankle-high. However, I like to read outdoor magazines and sometimes an article would discuss the do’s and don’ts. I was thankful I had read not to turn my back on the stream.  If I had, I might not be writing this. 

Finally, we were over the pass and it was an easy descent to Vassendsetra.   

    

  
 Vassendsetra is not much changed from when it was a farmer’s summer cabin. No electricity, no plumbing.  Gather water from the spring:

 
Use the outhouse out back.  

 
Enjoy the friendly ambiance.   

 
We shared the cabin with a young couple from Trondheim who had come up to Vassendsetra from Gjevilvasshytta. According to the log book, we were the first hikers of the season to come from Trollheimshytta to Vassendsetra. 

This couple told us stories of Norwegian legends. When the cabins were left empty during the winter, folk from the underworld would come up to inhabit them. Therefore, when the farmer arrived in the spring, he needed to knock before entering to avoid frightening them. Likewise, one would not pour boiling water on the ground without warning. The folk of the underworld were not evil and were benign if they were respected. However, if mistreated they would seek revenge perhaps by killing your calf. 

Often, girls in their late teens stayed the entire summer alone in these cabins tending the animals. It was quite useful to have her believe that if a strange man came along, he might be from the underworld and she should run. 

Trolls were just benign dimwits that were useful scapegoats when something went wrong. 

The next day we returned to Gjevilvasshytta. 

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Trollheimshytta:  2-3 July

Bridges work better when they go all the way across. We learned this early on our way to Trollheimshytta–Croc time again.  There was a log–a wet round log that would have to be jumped onto. I never went to circus school.  

   


The further excitement of the hike was water. Everywhere. Lots of streams to jump over.  

    

 Lots of water to slog through or go around.  The river we were following was full, thus its tributaries were backed up.  Often “going around” meant slashing through brush that was about head high. At some point, we learned we found bend this stuff over and step on it. 

    

 

  

   
Most of the trail was relatively flat, but as we neared the hut, we had to seriously climb to the top of a gorge.  
 
Trollheimshytta was the first hut built for hikers–in 1890. We stayed two nights and took a rest day.   
I watched volunteers install a board-and batten roof in a new building–I still don’t understand why it won’t leak.   

  

We watched baby birds.  


   

and enjoyed this old cabin and the mountain Snota behind.  

   
The next day, a hike to Vassendsetra.  

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Gjevilvasshytta to Jøldalshytta: 1 July

Now that I have signal again (July 5), I can catch up on the posts. Gjevilvasshytta deserves more than one photo, so I will start where I left off. 

First, I restate that “hytta,” or “hut” is really a misnomer. Many were originally summer cabins for people tending the animals in the mountain pastures.  Popular ones have been expanded to hold large numbers of hikers in a curious mix of luxury and roughing it. 

For example, the toilet appears to be uniformly an outhouse. About as primitive as you can imagine except they have toilet paper instead of catalogs.  Dinner, on the other hand, at least in the staffed huts we visited, was a formal affair announced by the ringing of a bell and ceremonial opening of the dining room door.  The table set just so, candle light, and three courses of fabulous food served by waitresses in traditional clothes. 

We have also sensed that these huts are more than just a convenient place to spend the night while hiking. With the careful preservation of these old structures and the antique collections within, there appears an obvious intent to link Norwegians to their history and heritage.  Some are accessible by road and welcome day hikers. 

Gjevilvasshytta is the oldest of all the huts. The original structure was an 1819 log cabin moved to the site in 1923. The second part was a log cabin from 1738 moved to the site in 1950.  

    
 
Some interior doors have their original paint.  

   
Six-board chests are used for firewood and linens.   

  
Several traditional  cabinets in corners. 
   
 Other furnishings are also rustic. These are table legs:   

  

The fire escape was simple.  

  
The hike to the next hut, Jøldalshytta, was a long, exhausting, beautiful day.   The first excitement was a poor lamb caught in the fence.  

 
The early trail was quite innocuous. 


Lots of these flowers.   
 It became more interesting as we approached tree line.   

 

Magnificent mountains all around.   

   

  

     
The snow patches were not steep, so easy to cross.  

Then we came to a snow patch that was melting underneath–too dangerous to cross. We had to go low, remove our boots and gaiters, put on our Crocs, wade across the ice cold water, then put our boots and gaiters back on. Little did we know how routine that routine would become in the next several days.  The sequence took about 20-25 minutes. (These two photos are of the same stream.)
   The next obstacle was the same boggy conditions that had plagued us on earlier hikes. We spent a lot of time going around wet spots.    

  

  

We put on our Crocs a second time for a fast-moving stream that another couple was able to jump. Roger could probably have made it. Me–no way.  

We arrived at Jøldalshytta late for dinner, but there was plenty.  This hut was similar to Gjevilvasshytta.  

 This photo was taken from our second-floor room looking out over the grass roof of the porch.  


A dated chest of drawers.      

The next day was a hike to Trollheimshytta. 

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