In Norway, the education system benefits from an “October Break” – a week put aside in the midst of the busy autumn season, where students (and professors) get a bit of time off. We planned ahead, taking this opportunity to explore and discover a bit more of this country we have been residing in since the close of summer. My family and I packed up a rent-a-car and headed north to fjords and glacier mountains:
Much of this country is defined by the grand majestic landscape – it’s impressive landscapes are varied, untouched, challenging, and strikingly beautiful. While meandering, hiking and reflecting, I believe we all discovered some of what makes Norway a special place. We learned more directly how the Norwegian soul is most certainly shaped by the awesome beauty of this land. To live in this place demands a certain kind of fortitude, a hushed humility, a pragmatic approach to living. It seems to me that these qualities have been fined tuned for centuries, and have become a part of the style and aura of the land and it’s people. And I acknowledge this phenomenon with both admiration and wonder.
We stopped at many 12th century Stave churches along our winding route. The name derives from the buildings’ structure of post and lintel construction, a type of timber framing where the load-bearing ore-pine posts are called stafr in Old Norse (stav in modern Norwegian). Most of the surviving stave churches in Norway were built from 1150-1350, but they have been particularly susceptible to fire over the centuries. Only 28 historical stave churches remain standing today.
The simple valley villages (punctuated by the clear gentle sounds of cow bells in the breeze) still hold a timeless quality that is becoming harder and harder to experience in this world. I was grateful to share this feeling, this sense of place with my growing children. We stopped by the side of the road often, took in deep breaths of clean mountain air, and explored. The remaining relics of the past made it easier to imagine times long past. The stone carved runes and remarkable wood carvings bare rich evidence of earlier human travails in this unchanged scenery – the ghosts of nordic souls reminding us of their past vitality. We experienced our first snow fall of the season, watching this magical place become blanketed in pristine snow. And then finally, we crossed the mountain’s snow line, and we made it to Jontunheimen National Park, also known as “Home of the Giants”. Here, more than 250 peaks rise above 1,900 metres (6,000 feet), including Northern Europe’s two highest peaks: Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 metres, and Glittertind at 2,465 metres.
The week was filled with the kinds of personal moments where you stop to think to yourself: “Memory, please hold onto this scene forever”. Taking photos is an attempt to capture the fleeting nature of time, but it isn’t the same as what you can hold onto and remember inside. I am grateful for everything I have seen this week, and what I have learned, and what I have felt. Thank you Norway.