Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Hell and Beyond

First off, let me be very upfront here. If you could live in Norway on what you can live on in Vietnam or Cambodia, I’d be looking to relocate as soon as we get home. If you love the mountains and/or the water, Norway is about as good as it gets. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you saw some of that in the photos from our weekend at the mountain cabin with Blaine’s cousins. And we saw more of that in our brief journey to the Inderoy peninsula north of Trondheim. Older son wondered at one point if one could overdose on Norway’s beautiful scenery just as one seems to overdose on Cambodia’s temples or Hue’s pagodas and tombs. We were assured by someone who has lived overlooking the Trondheim fjord since 1974 that her heart still quickens each morning when she opens the curtains. She figures that when it doesn’t, it will either be time to move or she will be dead.

As for the title of this post, To Hell and Beyond, our first stop after leaving Trondheim was, yes, Hell, as in the train station in Hell, Norway. We stopped there 19 years ago and have a photo of the sons and me on the platform to show for it. The train station is a bit more modern today, but still as photogenic. Here’s one of my other photos from Hell. I really need to do a post, perhaps on my everyday blog when we get home, on just how far ahead the rest of the world is in the waste disposal business. I have not posted all the photos I’ve taken of the various bins we’ve encountered in our travels. In my informal rankings, Sweden is probably the most ahead, but Norway isn’t too far behind.

After Hell, we stopped at Stiklestad, where King Olav Haraldsson fell in battle against peasants and petty kings in 1030. Olav’s death is considered to be the breakpoint in Norway’s transition from paganism to Christianity. Olav had outlawed all religions but Christianity, and shortly after his death was canonized as a saint, thereby cementing Christianity as the Norwegian religion. Stiklestad and, by extension, Trondheim to the south became prime destinations for Christian pilgrims. At Stiklestad today, there is an outdoor drama in the summer, and a cultural center with exhibits on Olav’s life and death. The cathedral model in the cultural center was pretty impressive. The real church at Stiklestad was pretty impressive, too. There’s supposed to be a rock under the altar inside that figured in one of Olav’s miracles, but we weren’t able to get inside the church to see it.

Our destination in Inderoy was the home of yet another of the husband’s cousins. We’d never met her before, but we bonded almost immediately. She and another cousin were wonderful tour guides for our time in Inderoy. (Totally extraneous but fascinating fact: These two people were both first and second cousins. They are first cousins through one parent and second cousins through the other. I told them they must be first-and-a-half cousins.) The first evening, we walked through a wonderful sculpture garden containing works by a sculptor named Nils Aas. Inderoy sits on an arm of the Trondheim Fjord, and this sculpture represents the fish in the fjord. The scales twist gently in the wind but even more interestingly, the wires are rigged to produce musical tones, so that you hear as well as see the sculpture. Aas was a very versatile sculptor based on the variety of works presented in the garden. This one represents working women. Any cat owner can relate to this one. There’s also a wooden moose and a metal pole vaulter.
Finally, this one fascinated me because the Norwegian word for “squirrel” is so close to the English word “acorn,” which squirrels are noted for collecting. I need to remember to ask my friend the linguist (say hi to Gilbert for me, please, Virginia) about this. As for natural beauty, here’s a shot I took on the same walk, after the sculpture garden and while just walking through the town.
If you’re wondering what we were doing in Inderoy, besides getting out in nature, try this. Yes, that’s the husband’s family name on that lower road sign. The family farm in Inderoy, on which the husband’s grandfather was born and from which he and six of his siblings emigrated to Canada and the US, is still in the family, and it’s something of a pilgrimage destination in its own right for all the North American descendants. On the way there, we stopped to visit what’s known as “the new church” and “the old church.” The new one is from the late 1800s. I just realized that I really didn’t take a photo of the whole outside of the church, so this will have to do. I took quite a few photos inside the church, though. The cross in the above photo sits atop a spherical candle holder. When a death occurs, anyone who wants to remember the deceased lights a candle and puts it in one of the 30 holders around what would be the equator of the sphere. Above the main aisle of the church hang two large light fixtures and this. When I asked, I was told that there’s a ship hanging in most Norwegian churches. It symbolizes one’s journey through life. Another thing I found interesting about the church was that the only stained glass windows were at the front, around the altar. The side windows were all plain glass, which gave wonderful, natural lighting to the inside.
The old church dates from 1150 and was consecrated in the 1180s. They still worship there on occasion, but not regularly since there is no electricity and, by extension, no heat. Unfortunately, we were unable to get inside, but as you can see from the outside, there aren’t many windows.
Perhaps because of my interest in quilting designs, I was fascinated by the metalwork on the doors.

I also strolled around the graveyard. From the hillside above, you can see both the old church (the red roof to the lower right) and the new church (the white steeple) along with the fjord. From there, we headed to Norum. We were enjoying lunch in one of the houses on the family farm when the sons got their own nature moment after a bird flew into one of the large windows. It was only stunned, so the sons held it and stroked it gently as it came to. When it seemed to have awakened sufficiently to get by on its own, they left it on the deck railing from which it flew away a few moments later. After lunch, we toured the original farmhouse which is undergoing yet another interior renovation. About all that is left of the original house is the foundation, but it’s still somewhat awesome to know that six or so generations of the same family have lived on this spot. It’s also somewhat awesome that the fifth or sixth generation of babies is using the family cradle. We have photos from 19 years ago that show the then-four-month-old younger son lying in the cradle and the then-two-year-old older son sitting in it. The latest Norum to use the cradle is three months old; his grandfather is one of the cousins who gave us the grand tour of Inderoy. We also hiked through the woods to see the view of the fjord that the husband and I remembered from our visit 19 years ago. What wasn’t there 19 years ago were two very impressive anthills, so impressive that, like the fish sculpture we saw the first evening, you could hear them as well as see them.
Older son’s taking a photo of the second anthill provides a scale as to just how big the anthills were. And here’s the view from the point that was just as stunning as we remembered.

The ground cover on the point overlooking the fjord was pretty cool, too. I’m betting someone out there will recognize what it is, but I really don’t know. Finally, we drove by one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, the one connecting Inderoy to Mosvik at Fosen-peninsula. The cables don’t show up too well in this, unfortunately. They’re nominally red in color, but looked to me to be much more pink than red. We also drove over this bridge on our way back to Trondheim. We took a longer way back than the one we came on in order to see a bit more scenery and get a 35-minute ferry ride in the process.

Our final adventure in Trondheim was front row (as in about four feet away from the stage, on chairs in what normally would be the orchestra pit) center (as in the space in between me and one of the husband’s cousins was the middle of the row) tickets to the opening concert of Trondheim’s annual Nidaros Blues Festival. The concert paired the Grand Mothers, the Frank-Zappa-less Mothers of Invention, with the Trondheim Symphony. The symphony opened the concert by playing some Stravinsky, since Stravinsky was one of Zappa’s favorite composers. The Mothers then joined the symphony for some joint pieces before performing two long sets on their own. The symphony then rejoined them for the finale. While the acoustics might have been better further back in the auditorium, I really enjoyed being able to see the faces of the band and symphony members, and the eye contact back and forth. They were clearly enjoying immensely playing together. Sometimes it sounded very much like jazz, with one side playing off the other somewhat improvisationally. And the audience definitely got their money’s worth since the concert started on time at 7:30 and finished at 11:00 with only one 15-minute break.

I’m writing this on the train south from Trondheim; I’ll add the photos and upload it tonight in Oslo. If I get adventurous along the way, I can go roam the train wearing my Blues Festival t-shirt (an advance edition since they didn’t go on sale until today; we got ours early courtesy of the husband’s cousins who are on the festival’s board of directors). The Grand Mothers are supposedly on the train with us to Oslo, and I could use the t-shirt as an introduction. It might be fun to tell them how much we enjoyed last night’s show.

Here’s an interesting aside that I just decided to add since I decided against wandering the train in search of celebrities. In this post, I’ve mentioned a new church and an old church as well as how multiple generations of the husband’s family have lived on the same farm. Every time I have visited Europe, I have come away marveling at the history a European can mark relative to the average American. While we certainly have things in the continental United States that date from the days of Inderoy’s old church, they are not generally celebrated or appreciated. I think the county in which I live, Albemarle County, Virginia, had its 250th (I think) anniversary not too many years ago. The fact that I don’t remember exactly which anniversary tells you how big the celebration was. By way of comparison, in 1997, Trondheim, Norway celebrated its (pausing for effect here) 1,000th anniversary. Now, that’s history!

I will try to post something from Oslo over the weekend since we plan to see some interesting things there including the Viking Ship Museum and the Folk Museum, an open-air museum of Norse buildings and culture. At the same time, though, we need to repack the luggage so that the sons aren’t carrying anything they don’t need during the next three weeks and so that the bags the husband and I will take home are under the British Air weight limit. The sons also want to see about doing some laundry so that they at least start their journey in clean clothes. It probably should embarrass me to say that we haven’t done laundry since Cambodia almost three weeks ago, but it’s really not that hard to lower your standards in the interest of saving money and/or having more time to do neat things and see beautiful places. In fact, if I were packing for this trip now, I’d be packing even fewer clothes since I now know just how many times I will wear the same clothes without washing, and it’s many more than I would have thought two months ago.


Karen said...

Jean/Blaine, Can't wait to hear your stories! You have been gone for sooooo long. Hope your journey home is a good one!

Debi said...

I am sooooo far behind in my reading of your adventures! As always, I enjoyed this post immensely. It's truly mind-boggling just how much you've managed to pack into two short months. Hope I can catch up on my reading today...I know I'm in for a treat!

Anonymous said...

I'm far behind in reading too, but wanted to note that Albany and the Hudson Valley in New York are marking 400 years this year... Henry (Hendrick) Hudson sailed up theh river in 1609. No celebrations yet but they keep talking about it...
Janet (:>