Norway, Rondane. August 2019.
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary
We were on a trip to Norway to Venabu which is north of Lillehammer on the edge of the Rondane National Park. We flew to Oslo and took the train direct from the Airport to Lillehammer and then on to Venabu by coach, a total distance of 230 kilometres. We stayed at the very comfortable Venabu Fjellhotel in the mountains at 930 metres altitude where the air was pure and fresh. This was my fourth trip to Norway but the first time I had stayed overnight on dry land as the previous journeys had been on cruise ships.
Our trip coincided with the longest day and the hotel arranged a celebration to mark the event. In the evening after dinner a bonfire was lit in the hotel grounds. If we had waited for the few hours until it was darker, if would have been after midnight! Too late at night to celebrate when we had a full daily walking itinerary planned for the following day.. When the bonfire was lit, two musicians played an accordion and a fiddle. The music sounded very much like our traditional music in Scotland. Norway has a very strict policy on the sale of alcohol. The choice to keep alcohol sales on a tight leash remains a political call. The Norwegian Wine Monopoly was originally introduced in 1922 to combat alcoholism, a significant problem at the time. Alcohol monopolies are more common in cold countries because growing potatoes and grain meant making hard liquor. This is what has created a completely different drinking culture in the north compared to warmer countries, where they grew grapes and made wine, a far milder and more social tipple. Anyway, a lovely way to celebrate the longest day and without much alcohol.
We had walks on five days of the trip and all were varied. I shall pick out the highlights to describe them. On the first day we walked from the hotel to Forestadsaetra and passed the bridge famous in the children’s story the Three Billy Groats Gruff which is a Norwegian Fairytale. A fearsome and hideous troll lived under this bridge. Trolls are part of Norse Mythology and Folklore and are usually ugly giants. Our destination was the Myfallet waterfall at 1,034 metres. The trees were in full leaf and obscured the waterfall but it was a lovely walk in the forest. Trails are rarely flat and we did a fair amount of ascent and descent on the easy walks.
We had a walk to Kyrkjegardsfjellet and at the top of the hill at 1,046 metres we had a panoramic view to all the mountains including the Rondane Mountains and Muen which I called Schiehallion as it was a shapely mountain similar to one of my favourite mountains in Scotland. We saw it at every mealtime from the dining room in the hotel. Descending we had some scrambling over the rocks which added to the fun of the day.
On our last day we travelled by public bus to the Rondane National Park to Straumbu and followed a trail under the foothills of the Rondane Mountains. The trail was to the Bjørnhollia which was a mountain hostel owned by DNT (Norwegian equivalent of Ramblers). Time did not permit us to reach the hut as we had to catch the bus but it was enjoyable looking up at the higher mountains still with streaks of snow and fast flowing streams and rivers.
Reindeer Moss and Plants
I was very impressed by the lichen known as Reindeer Moss which carpeted the forest floor like snow. When we were at the higher altitudes we saw the miniature birch trees which were only about 20 centimetres high, like a Japanese Bonsai but not trained to that size. There were also cloudberries in abundance but not yet ready to pick.
Ringebu Stave Church
On our one day not walking, we were tourists and visited the Stave Church in the valley at Ringebu. Stave churches have vertical posts and wall planks resting on sills known as a stave wall. Ringebu church dates from 1220 and is one of only 28 stave churches surviving. After the reformation, the church was rebuilt and the characteristic red tower added. The statue of St. Lawrence dates from 1250. The Old Vicarage at the rear of the Church is an important arts and crafts display area.
From Ringebu we continued on to Lillehammer which is famous for holding the 1994 Winter Olympics. However, I was interested in seeing the Lillehammer Kunstmuseum containing 200 years of Norwegian Art. The building itself is interesting and was built in 1994. Most of the Norwegian artists were trained abroad and came home to paint using the styles they had learned like Fauvism but related to Norwegian life. The special exhibition was on Sigrid Undsets influences from the way she lived. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. She had been an outspoken critic of the Nazis in the 1920’s and had to flee Norway for safety but returned after the war.
Some of us were fortunate to go to the summer farm owned by the hotel. After an eight mile walk in the rain we were welcomed at the summer farm by one of the family who owned the hotel. It was a small wooden building without electricity but with a wood stove. Fresh wild flowers were in vases on the table and it was all very cosy as we were served freshly made waffles with sour cream and homemade gooseberry jam along with coffee. It was a wonderful experience eating and listening to the stories of how life was taking the animals to the summer pasture and living on the summer farm. Idyllic.
I must mention the excellent buffets at the hotel where the food was all homemade of a high quality and varied every day. I liked their idea of a packed lunch where we made it up ourselves from the breakfast buffet. On the last night we had a banquet with a huge selection of local specialities including moose casserole and reindeer and venison.
The trip was made possible by a Norwegian friend who had been to the hotel cross country skiing and recommended it. It is a real foodie experience in a lovely location. Don’t miss the homemade raspberry jam!
This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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