Gudvangen is one of the most spectacular location in the Norwegian fjord landscape. Surrounded by mountains, cascading waterfalls, and lush birch forest, it is the ideal place to step back in time. People who love the culture of the Viking era travel here from all over Europe each summer to spend a week together to trade, talk, sing, play, and sit around the fire with old friends and kindred spirits.
I had been researching Norwegian history with a focus on the Viking period for about a year, when I came across a great blog called valkyrja.com. The blog is full of beautiful photos and lots of interesting information about the history and craft of the Viking era. I also found a comprehensive overview of Viking and medieval markets in Scandinavia. Gudvangen Viking Market took place just when I was planning to visit my family in Norway that year.
For anyone interested in the Viking Era and especially Viking ships, I am lucky to have a brother who lives only a ten minute walk away from the harbor in Tønsberg, where a detailed replica of the original Oseberg ship is anchored most of each summer. In the last few years (since they started to build the Saga Oseberg), I have had the chance to visit my brother and add some more photos to my existing collection (featured in the blog post titled Building a Viking Ship).
Late one night in July, I was able to go down and have the ship all to myself for as long as I wanted. It gave me the chance to pay more attention to the craftsmanship and all the amazing details that went into re-building this famous, historic Viking ship. I may not know the name of each detail, but the photos should give you a pretty good idea. So this is part-two of the original blog post called Building a Viking Ship-Part I.
During my last several trips back to Norway, I have had the opportunity to observe the rebuilding of several of the best known viking ships discovered by archaeologists since the early 1900s. The most famous of these vessels is the 1200 year old Oseberg ship, named after the farm where it was found.
On August 8th, 1903, professor Gabriel Gustafson of the Collection of National Antiquities at the University of Oslo received a visit from a farmer named Knut Rom from Lille Oseberg farm north of Tønsberg in Vestfold.
Mr. Knut Rom had dug into a large burial mound on his property and had come across what he believed was a ship. Two days later, professor Gustafson started his investigation. He found several parts of a ship, decorated with the ornamentation from the viking era, and the archaeologist was certain that the mound was a ship burial from the early viking age.
Spring has come to the Rocky Mountains, and it’s time to prepare the garden with tilling, planting and sowing. Everything is green and the soil is still moist with a rich dark color from the melting winter-snow.
For as far back as I can remember I have been obsessed with architecture. Especially traditional architecture that blends in with the naturally cultivated landscape – not too grand or too humble – but rich and well-crafted with natural materials and surrounded with lots of trees, berry bushes, vegetable gardens, flowers and other green things. And of course, there would be a stone path and a small stream flowing through the property and perhaps a pond stocked with trout.
So every time I go back to Norway, I visit all the places that I know where I can find inspiration from Scandinavian architecture. Many of the cultural museums in Norway have numerous large farms that are examples of some of the finest timber design that I know. Many of these wooden buildings are over 500 hundred years old, and yet they are still standing there, as sturdy as the day they were built.
Like so many Scandinavians who has immigrated to America, I have begun to explore various aspects of my Norse Roots. I believe it is very important to have deep roots and a strong sense of cultural identity…especially today in our rapidly changing world.
Norwegian’s, for the most part feel close to land and I have always had a great sense of place. As far back as I can remember I would wander alone deep in the hills around my small home town in southern Norway. I would never feel alone or lost, but rather I would feel inspired and energized, because nature was my teacher and closest companion.
I would draw strength from the cultural landscape where I grew up – from the woods, the old farms and the rich architecture. And I loved celebrating the seasons and the cycles of the natural world – just like my Norse ancestors did – and just as traditional people from all over the world have done.
In August 2015 I visited Midgard Historic Center in southern Norway with my brother Morten and his son Jørgen. Most of the photos are from the great viking hall at Borre – an amazing reconstruction of a great mead hall built for the viking aristocracy. The remains of two similar halls have recently been discovered just next to the Borre park, indicating that Borre was a center of power in the early Viking Age.
During my family visit to Norway this summer, I had the opportunity to go and see Edward Munch’s cottage in the small coastal town of Åsgårdstrand in the southern part of Norway. My older brother, Morten, his son Jørgen (my nephew), and myself decided to go on a road trip to explore some of the historic site close to my brother’s home in the city of Tønsberg. I have never really been a great fan of Munch’s work, but after visiting his cottage and then digging deeper into his large collection of artwork, I have had a change of heart.
I learned that not all of Munch’s art depicts the “angst of life” – like the Scream, Puberty, or Ashes. Those are part of the series of paintings from the mid-1890s he called the “Frieze of Life”. In this theme he explored the many stages of life, like fear, sickness, love, anxiety, infidelity, jealousy, and death. In spite of the great value of these paintings, they are not something I would hang on my wall (even if I could afford it) and make a focus for my everyday life. Continue reading “Edward Munch’s Cottage”→
It has been a few years now since I attended the wedding of my nephew Jørgen and his sweetheart Jeanette. The wedding took place on the island of Nøtterøy in southern Norway, and we were lucky to get a beautiful and sunny day after a long period of cold and rain.
The Nøtterøy stone church was originally built around 1100 in the Romanesque style, but the current structure was completed in 1839 and then later in 1883. In 1985, King Olav V of Norway was present to celebrate the church’s 800 year anniversary. The church was originally consecrated to the Virgin Mary, and this is shown by writings of Bishop Eystein (1398) and in an even older letter from Pope John XXII in 1323.
In this letter, which I this is the oldest written record about the church, Pope John referred to the church in Latin as: “ecclesia they Niotaroy … beatissime virgins Maria constructed the ” or “Nøtterøy church … built in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary “. In other words, this wedding took place in a very old church. Continue reading “A Norwegian Wedding”→