3rd July 2019 – 5th July 2019
As we continued South through Norway I was desperate to see some of the famous Norwegian wooden stave churches. You know me and a church !. More than 1000 stave churches were built in Norway during the Middle Ages and are Norway’s most important contribution to the world’s architectural heritage. Today, only 29 of these churches remain and they are mostly located in the south of Norway in areas not easily accessible. David being the great navigator however, drove us to the first of these in Uvdal. Located on a slope overlooking a high valley, it was a very impressive sight to see and pure excitement for me. The staves, or columns are the bearing elements that gave the stave churches their name, but there are many other structural elements that are unique to these churches. The interior of Uvdal Church gives you the impression that time has stood still. The wooden font shaped like a hour glass is made from one pice of solid wood and is a rare item in ecclesial art. All the interior wood is painted in robust colours dating from 1600s. There are painted wooden masks beneath the ceiling and carvings on the gallery dado from the Middle Ages. Our guide told us an interesting story of a bronze and enamel crucifix that had been hidden in a time of danger by nailing it into the interior ceiling of the church and painting over it to look like it was part of the ceiling. It came from Limoges in France and was made during the 13th century. Today it is the National Museum in Oslo, but a replica is on display in the church. Family names are painted at the end of the lines of pews, however, originally there was no seating in these churches everyone had to stand, seating was a later addition. What is wonderful is that the church is still used in the summer months and what a place for a wedding ! Outside the church there are a scattering of other wooden buildings that have been preserved and you are able to look back in time to see how these very hardy Norwegians lived and survived. We then visited Nore and Flesberg Churches, both beautiful in their own rights and each having their own individually. I was so pleased to be able to visit during the short few months that they are open. The other 26 will have to wait for another time, as David had had enough by then ! We visited Fredrikstad old town, which is Northern Europe’s best preserved fortified town and a beautiful place to spend afew hours. The buildings have been well preserved and a honeypot for tourists with shops and cafes. The sun was out and so we decided to buy ice-cream. When I popped into the little cafe and bought the most delicious ice cream, the young woman asked where we had come from and I always say London, England, as if I said Essex, I am sure they would glaze over !. She gave me a small pin and asked if I would put it into their world map on the wall. We were the first visitors from England ! The central square of the town had a set of stocks which David was keen to keep me in, as the shops were too tempting !. I was good though, all I bought was a cookie cutter. Our last night in Norway was spent near Steinringfeltet at Hunn. One of Norway’s finest heritage sites. It looks like Stone Henge with stone rings, a spectacular cultural monument, with large stone blocks placed in rings. People have pondered the nine circles for centuries and archaeological evidence suggests it was an Iron Age meeting place. Chloe loved running in and out of the stones and to me it had a magical feel. I laid down in the middle of one of the rings, shut my eyes and just breathed. We feel so, so grateful for our journey through Norway. I have no words to say how amazing it has been, there are no best bits as it was all wonderful, (maybe not running out of alcohol !). David catching his first fish, me catching mine, the competition of catching the biggest fish. Jumping out with our fishing rod as soon as we stopped the van. The visits to the fishing tackle shops to buy more supplies, better than visiting sweet shops. The scenery, to say it took our breathe away, just doesn’t do it justice. Waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, turquoise lakes, moose, reindeer and white tailed eagles. OMG we loved it. Thank you Norway.