Book review, Traditional Art, Travel

Easter in Norway

norway

Norwegian Easter Traditions

Easter is a time when Norwegians head for the hills, or in Norway’s case, the mountains.

Most families have a cabin they own in the ‘fjeller’ – or mountains, decorated in traditional Norwegian ‘Hytte’ style. ‘Hytte’ means cabin, plural ‘Hytter’, in Norwegian.

Hytter are timber cottages decorated with Norwegian crafts such as Traditional Rosemaling Art, woodcarving, weaving and embroidery, with mostly rustic interiors, fitted with benches topped with reindeer furs, (sitteunderlag), and other traditional furnishings.

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Tradition Norwegian embroidery decorates the windows

Norwegian ‘Hytter’ Mountain Cabins

Hytter, or cabins, are quite rudimentary houses, partly because of the remoteness of their locations and partly due to the Norwegian tradition of getting back to nature. Visiting a family mountain cabin at Easter is a therapeutic time for Norwegians to ski, breathe in the fresh mountain air, relax and for a short time, not rely on everyday modern conveniences.

Norway

Beitostølen

So when I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Hytte in Beito, high up in the Norwegian mountains with Norwegian friends, how could I resist?

The area known as Beito is part of the community at Beitostølen, an elite skiing location where the likes of the Norwegian Olympic ski team spent their time. Norwegian-Australian friends who heard I was going to visit Beitostølen, were quite rightly jealous, reacting with comments like,

“That is where the ski team practice.”

“Do you realize how lucky you are to be going to Beitostølen?”

I did. It was different to any other holiday I had experienced.

Mountain cabin
A Norwegian Hytte

The Hytte at Beito comprised three timber cabins, with adjoining composting toilet and washroom; that would later hold a shower at some point in the future.

The cabins, themselves, were not equipped with running water, so we sponged ourselves using a bucket, with water sourced from the nearby spring. Fetching the water is a chore that would traditionally be delegated to children.

Living as I do in Australia, meant things like fetching water in the snow proved to be a novel experience. I was the first to volunteer for this task as it was another chance to be outside in the hushed, cosy silence of the snow-covered hillside.

If it meant I was to traipse through knee-deep snow to collect water, those mediative moments of silence, amidst the breathtaking mountain scenery, inhaling fresh Norwegian air and hearing only my muffled footsteps, were merely a comforting, restorative practice for me.

snowy mountains
Norway

Norwegian Hytte Meals

Hytter meals are simple, apart from breakfast. The traditional hytte breakfast is a feast of eggs, salmon, cheese, bread, jam and vegetables, such as cucumber and carrot and also perhaps some yoghurt/kefir or waffles. Our bodies needed lots of food, ostensibly, to keep warm and active out in the snow.

Lunch is almost non-existent, but really after the filling Hytte breakfast, who needs lunch? A Norwegian chocolate bar, known as a ‘Quiklunsj’ (Quick lunch), or an apple, would suffice.

Dinner is mostly a laid back affair of home-made soup, cold meat such as lamb or boiled sheep and bread, or ‘Lompe’ – basically a hot dog, with a bread-like wrap made from potato flour, cooked on the outside barbeque or grill, of course.

Things to do at the Hytte

Skiing Bitihorn Beitostolen Norway

We spent the daytime out of doors, unless it was snowing heavily. We skied, tobogganed, slide down snowy slopes with the ‘akebrett,’ a paddle like slide, or the snow bike; walked about in snowshoes, built snow castles, threw snowballs and made plenty of snow angels, and snow “candles,” just because.

Once darkness arrived, it was time to ‘play’ inside, talking, drawing or Rosemaling – another Norwegian tradition, which is actually my great passion. If it was snowing hard outside during the day, there would be more Rosemaling as wells as card games or puppet shows, for the children. We read books too, as there was no TV, nor phone reception, unless you visited the grocery store a few miles away.

Rosemalt kubbestol

To get into the full spirit of the Norwegian Easter experience, I read one of the rivetting crime novels from Norwegian crime fiction author Jo Nesbø to complement my surroundings. He is a compelling writer and if you have not come across him before, you can read a Book Review.

The Hytte was good, clean fun and a really healthy, energetic holiday.

Was it cold by Australian standards?

Yes, but did I like it?

Absolutely. I loved it.

Being at the tail-end of a Norwegian winter, the weather towards Easter is generally calm, without storms. After a cold night, the sun could be so warm, my face became tanned!

During these sun-filled days, the Norwegians would enjoy sitting against a sunny wall, their face upturned towards the sky, taking in much needed Vitamin D that their bodies had missed during the long, dark winter. They even have a word for this kind of activity: Solveggen.

Warming the soul and the body!

This is what the Norwegian Easter did for me, too!

Hand-painted-Easter-eggs-from-Budapest

Wherever you are in the world, you can still travel virtually. When are you going this Easter?

In the words of Norwegians, God Påske.

Happy Easter to you and yours.

Linking to Trent’s #Weeklysmile

Easter Holiday Norway Fieldfare CabinNorwegians, Easter, cabins and crime literature belong together like horse and carriage – a tradition that started over 90 years ago. Here you can find out how to celebrate a typical Norwegian Easter.

First: Ensure that you have skis – either bought or borrowed. Also, make sure you have ski wax even if you are not sure how to use it. There is always someone along the tracks that can help a ‘forlorn wretch’.

When it comes to clothing it is important that it has red color, preferably with a home knitted wool sweater that smells of last year’s bonfire.

But wait a minute. If you do not know it already: Norwegians love skiing, especially at Easter, and many go several miles to their cabins where to spend the vacation. Surprisingly many people ski into a different era where outdoor toilet, drafty cabins and totally deserted landscape are considered paradise.

Easter Holiday Norway skiingAnyhow…

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Røros
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Røros – A Walk back in ‘Mine’

 

At latitude of 62 degrees North, in the Sør-Trondelag region of Norway, 620 – 675 metres above sea level, lies the copper mining town of Røros  – a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must see for tourists.

 

 

The town, itself, comprises traditional Norwegian wooden buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, that are still owned and occupied by businesses and residents today.

The smelting house “Smeltehytta,” (now the Røros Museum), forms the major part of the world heritage site, and is surrounded by black slag heaps.

Furthermore, it lies adjacent to the iconic, picture postcard, white-washed masonry church dating from 1784, that stands as a sentinel overlooking the town and countryside. (See more about the church in a later post)

 

 

The landscape surrounding Røros, is one of great scenic beauty – snow capped mountains, alpine flora, log cabins. This photo was taken in early summer and there was still ice in the lake, yet it was a gorgeous, warm summer day.

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Lake Aursund

The largest lake, Aursund, which you will circumnavigate if you travel to Røros from Trondheim, (the nearest city) –a drive of about 2-3 hours, or 5-6 hours if you choose to  travel by train.

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Forbidding high country on the Norwegian Swedish border

 

History

Lying close to the Swedish border,  military action between Norwegians and Swedish forces was a common historical event in Røros, culminating in the Swedish forces burning the town in 1678 and 79.

The Norwegians rebuilt and a revenge, of sorts, was exacted by nature, in the winter of 1718, when 3000 Swedish soldiers died attempting to cross the border, into Sweden, via the mountain range near Røros.

 

 

The first traces of copper,  in the area, had been discovered at Rauhåmmåren, and by 1646, the first smelting shed had been constructed in Røros.  The same copper-mining company, ‘Røros Kobberverk’, operated the copper-works for 333 years from 1644 until it went bankrupt in 1977.

Museum

Røros Copper Mine
Smelting house

Today, 300 years of mining history is depicted in the Rørosmuseet Smelthytta (Røros Museum Smelting House). It was awarded the Best New Museum in Europe in 1990 and consists primarily, of a large permanent exhibit with full scale 1:10 models showing each part of the copper mining and production process, as well as family and cultural life, in this frontier style town.

English language audiotapes are available. Tours of the mine are also available.

If visiting, allow, at least, a good hour at least to see all the museum has to offer.

 

Artists Mecca

The mine may have closed, but tourists has another reason to visit Røros. Not only will they experience the authentic flavour and atmosphere of a 17th century mining town, but the town has re-invented itself as an meccas for artists and of all kinds and specialist food.

More about the some of the unusual creatives of Røros in the next post. Til then, Røros’ long history is Something to Ponder About

Linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

 

 

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Enjoy Scandinavia without the long flight!

A while ago, I was invited to write a post about Scandinavian books and have reproduced some sections and updated others here:

Have you ever dreamt of visiting Scandinavia: the lands that gave us Ikea, Santa Claus, and Hans Christian Andersen? Perhaps you have thought of getting close and personal with a Viking in the fjords of Norway, or the unique landscape of Iceland, but have found neither the time nor the funds?

You can still experience the arctic world without leaving the comfort of your own home through the literary works of Scandinavians. Gaining popularity here not just because they write good crime mysteries, but also because they focus more on story and descriptive plot, giving the reader an impression of, “being there.”

So select your destination and read on:

Denmark

Visit the fairy tale land of Denmark through the eyes of writer Elsebeth Egholm, an excellent crime fiction writer, (Title: Next of Kin), set in the author’s hometown of Århus. Or you could get a feeling for Greenland and snow with Peter Høeg’s thriller “Smilla’s Feeling for Snow”, or even watch the 1997 movie version of the same name, starring Julia Ormond. But if historical fiction is more your thing, Per Olov Enquist will transport you to the Danish royal court of King Christian VII of Denmark and the 1700’s – the time of ‘enlightenment,’ with a tale of romance, lust, treachery and intrigue.

Sweden

A short train ride from Copenhagen, takes one to Sweden, across the Bridge over the Oresund, which is a central theme on the TV series, “The Bridge” (available on DVD). The first season was so popular a second one is set to come. Most people are familiar with Henning Mankell’s ‘Wallander’ books and film, but there are many other Swedish authors whose writings bring Sweden into your own home. Camilla Lackberg is an author who writes about Fjallbacka, a small town on the Swedish Bohuslan coast, with journalist turned home-maker Erica Falck, helping out her policeman husband solve puzzling murder mysteries such as The Ice Princess, which is first in the series.

No one can dispute Stieg Larson’s, ‘Millenium Trilogy’ has brought Swedish crime fiction to Hollywood, and the world, but not everyone likes crime fiction, even if it is Scandinavian. ‘Hanna’s daughters,’ (a story of three generations of woman and their journeys through life’s stages), together with  ‘Inge and Mira’, and ‘Simon and the Oaks’, are three fiction novels of human drama, peppered with a little history, and a central theme of  “friendship,” which the author believes, is more important than family.

Karin Altvegen’s describes marginal life in Sweden’s suburban fringes, in the psychological thriller, ‘Shame” whilst John Ajvide Lindqvist’s “Let the right one in”- is a horror fiction story about vampires, but don’t let that put you off. I would never read a story on vampires, yet this one is a more intimate account of childhood bullying than vampires themselves and, furthermore, was made into a successful movie, then remade by Hollywood. Very atmospheric and highly recommended!

Finally, Lars Kepler is selling out in bookstores as his atypical but brilliant Finnish detective solves even the most brutal and complicated crimes in a most unusual way. I would suggest The Hynoptist and The Fire Witness.

Hungry? Time for a coffee break? Enhance the full Scandinavian experience with an authentic Norwegian Waffle with Swedish Cloudberry Jam and cream?   Recipe found here

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Waffles are delicious while reading works by Norwegian writers: Jo Nesbø with the infamous Harry Hole, Karin Fossum, whose character exist on the fringes of society, or Anne Holt, former Norwegian Justice Minister turned crime writer, with her detective Hanne Wilhelmsen series.Recently, I read “Finse 1222”, set at one of the highest points along the Oslo-Bergen train line, wherein Holt’s descriptions of a winter snowstorm are so real, that when you read it, you will be shovelling snow in your dreams. Again, if you prefer something that does not have dead bodies, I recommend Per Pettersen, (To Siberia, Out Stealing Horses) or Jostein Gaarder (Sophie’s World – a Fiction story that introduces you to philosophy in a fascinating way).

Iceland

Finally, your Scandinavian tour is complete when you get a taste for Icelandic landscapes and culture in Arnaldur Indridason’s police procedurals: Jar City, Arctic Chill, and Hypothermia. (my favourite detective stories), or a depiction of Icelandic rural life, is found in Halldor Laxness’, “Iceland’s Bell.”

Travel fiction of note:

Andrew Stevensen – Non- Fiction; “Summer light”; A Walk across Norway. Not a Scandinavian writer, but nevertheless a great travel account.

True North – Gavin Francis: Travels in the Arctic, following the travels of ancient Nordic explorers.

I recommend checking out Euro crime for seeking details of other Scandinavian authors and further listings of individual Scandinavian titles to ponder about. Bon Voyage!!

 

Something Scandinavian to Ponder About