Hardanger 2022

Sailing slowly along the coast is a journey of formation (Norwegian: dannelsesreise). You may get to understand more why living close to the sea on such a coast used to be an asset (and I think it still is, but in a different way), and to see how this has formed the societies and the people living there, in an interaction between nature and culture. For thousands of years, quite up to the time I can remember from my childhood, the sea was the road. You took your goods to the nearest place where a boat could land, and loaded it on board. Once in the boat, people, goods and animals could travel with relative ease, compared with travelling over land. On the islands where I grew up, farmers needed to get their increasing amounts of produce to the market. Tractors and cars were introduced, roads were built, and the process of shifting the goods from vehicles to a boat and back on to vehicles in the other end of the sea journey became more and more of a burden. I remember the local boat to Stavanger could lie for up to half an hour at the quay for this. In the mid 20th century, the thinking changed to percieving the sea as an obstacle. In 1972 the local passenger-freighter boats were replaced by car ferries. My father, who had worked for this for many years, was pleased. Now the lorry could be loaded up on the farm, driven onto the ferry in a minute, and the journey continue on road at the other end. The ferry was an extention of the road on land, and not a sea journey any longer, as such transport had been seen before. When the under-water road tunnels came around 30-40 years later, it was a continuation of the same thinking. The real paradigm shift had already happened.

The pictures below are from the 1950s and 1960s, respetively. They are from a local history book. The coloured picture looks arranged, but we can see the manual work involved, although some hands were in the pockets!

This has turned out to become a rather long story. I want to share the beauty of our Norwegian west coast, with its islands, mountains, fjords, its little communities and its towns, traditional architecture and boat building skills, and some of the things you can meet when you travel slowly.

The goal (one of them at least) for the summer holiday this year is Hardanger. We will go there in many short stages, visiting places along the way. Ellen waved me goodbye Sunday morning 10 July. She joined me after a few days.

Sunday 10 July, Talgje – Hindaravåg

It was a beautiful, sunny day, with a light northwestly breeze. Having all day, I tried to make use of the wind as much as I could. I did not have a clear goal, but sailed north between the islands, ending up in Hindaravåg on the north side of the Boknafjorden basin. The last one and a half hour the wind died and I (had to?) start the engine. There are always nice places to see along the route. These pictures below are from Sjernarøy, and there was also a cousin on the sea (an old Malö), with a German flag.

Hindaravåg is a small community in a bay opening up to the Boknafjord. It used to be the centre of a larger district, something the old church bears witness about. Behind the village, the mountains rise steeply some hundred metres. Have you heard about Trolltunga in Hardanger? Hindaravåg has a smaller cousin, called Himakånå. Home wife, as the English text says. Was there another wife somewhere? The walk up from the village is steep, and the view is magnificent, 357 metres above the sea. Last time we climbed the hill, there was a rugged path. Now they had made quite a road, but so steep in places that only special vehicles would be able to drive there, if that would be the idea. Quite why they made it so wide, I don’t understand. It is only made for walking, which is the point, obviously.

Monday 11 July, Hindaravåg – Lammavågen

The next day was just as beautiful. I started 7.30 with no wind, or, what little there was, came from where I was going. Being on the sea in a good boat on such a morning is nice anyhow, so I enjoyed the five hour trip to Haugesund. Some man made constructions to contemplate as I pass in five to six knots. I know which ones I prefer!

Welcome and goodbye to Haugesund! And the morning’s route.

The wind was favourable for sailing on across the Sletta, an open sea stretch of about nine nautical miles. So I continued after a stop in Haugesund, and some shopping. I thought I would find a suitable place to stop for the night, possibly a quiet bay where I could drop the anchor. The wind dissapeared as I turned into the Bømlafjorden, so the last couple of hours was motorsailing. The Lammavågen bay looked promising. The entrance is narrow, but inside it opens up and the depth of 10 – 12 meters across the bay indicated good holding bottom. I found a nice spot and the anchor dug in. A very peaceful place, and a beautiful evening! But the fallen trees on the nearest shore said something about strong winds sometimes!

Tuesday 12 July, Lammavågen

The next stage would just be a short trip across to Leirvik, where Ellen was coming to join me the next day. So I decided to stay another day and night in this beautiful and quiet bay. The only sound I could hear at night was the clock on the bulkhead (wall) and tinkling from sheep’s bells in the morning. Other than that, it was so beautifully quiet, something which is hard to find. I spent the day reading, cleaning the boat, and just relaxing.

Wednesday 13 July, Lammavågen – Leirvik

Sailing on to Leirvik. Nice wind, and some rain. The installation at the entrance to the harbour is called Storddøra (the door to Stord), by the local artist Sissel Tolaas.

Ellen came on board in Leirvik. Good company! We enjoy this easy going life, seeing new places and going ashore to see what specialties there are. Our son Nils David, who took Ellen here, joined us for lunch and then drove home again. We spent the rest of the day walking around Leirvik between the showers. The place has a long history of ship building and mechanical industry. The art installation above seems to be inspired by this. There is a big shipyard just outside of the town, geared towards the oil industry. But close to the marina, there is a smaller yard. This old passenger speed boat used to run between Stavanger and Bergen. It redused the journey to some few hours where it used to take a whole day or night. Looks as there is, or has been, an initiative to restore her. In the 70s, this, and her sister ships, were replaced by much bigger and better catamarans. Unfortunately, the service was discontinued around ten years ago. Buses took over. It was a quick and comfortable way to travel between the two cities and stops in between. But I still prefer the bus over the airplane if I go to Bergen.

Thursday 14 July, Leirvik – Halsnøy

We continue east. Today’s destination is Halsnøy, an island with an old monastery.

At Halsnøy we find a berth in a local marina. We walked to the monastery grounds the same afternoon. The monastery belonged to the order of Augustin when it was established around 800 years ago. It was a rich community, prospering from trade with the region and overseas. Only some foundations remain, but the grounds are well kept. It is being used for cultural events.

Friday 15 July, Halsnøy – Rosendal

Our wedding day! 44 years together, and looking forward to many more.

A walk on the island, to the church before we cast off. We often visit churches when we come to a new place. They are quiet places, often centrally placed in the village. Unfortunately, they are normally closed on week days, but the church grounds are usually well kept and worth a visit. So also here.

From Halsnøy to Rosendal we had to use a few liters of diesel, as there was no wind. Nice places to see as we passed along the shores.

Saturday 16 July, Rosendal

Rosendal is known for the manor and the baron’s estate. A visit there was compulsory. But first, a walk through the stone park, where samples of rocks from the region are made into sculptures. Allow me to indulge!

An old saw mill has also been restored here.

Now I just have to include a poem by Olav H. Hauge, and it must be in Norwegian. Olav H. Hauge was from Ulvik in Hardanger. A fruit farmer, he was also a much loved poet, writing short verses like this one. Another of his poems has been voted the best Norwegian poem of all times, by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corpration (NRK). I will post it later.

Eit ord
– ein stein
i ei kald elv.
Ein stein til –
Eg lyt ha fleire steinar
skal eg koma over.

The Manor dates back to the 17th century. The nobility in Norway basically disappeared during the 14th century, when two thirds of the population died during the plagues. But rich and poweful families still found opportunities, as here in Rosendal. This is a long story which best can be studied at their own web site. Suffice here to say that they had a strong influence on the communities in the region. More on this later. Now the estate is kept as a foundation, and during the year many cultural events, like concerts and plays, are hosted here.

We were lucky to be among the audience when Shakespear’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was set up. Shakespear in English, with a fast flow of words can be a challenge, but it was impressive to watch the professional performance. As it was in Shakespear’s time, all roles were acted by men, also the female parts. It is a comedy, full of intrigues and comic intricacies. Very funny! The Manor Foundation continues an old tradition of cultural events, with music concerts, plays and festivals. Paintings of Hans Gude and Edvard Munch hang on the walls in the rooms upstairs, worth 1 million and 1,4 million Euro, respectively. Both artists visited the manor in their day.

Sunday 17 July, Rosendal – Sundal

Rosendal has a medieval stone church, and it being Sunday, we wanted to include a service in our visit. Two babies were baptised in the service, with probably 60 – 70 family members between them. I counted close to twenty people in traditional national costumes, mostly women. Good to be a part of it, and to sing well known, and not so well known, psalms.

More from the interior:

The altar piece above was made by order of the baron in 1705. In 1905 it was taken down and moved to the entrance hall in the church. A clear degradation. The reason? According to the deacon, people were fed up by the baron and all his vices (baronen og alt hans vesen) and had stained glass installed in the window above the altar instead, and a figure of Christ by the Danish artist Thorvaldsen. However, in 1931, the altar piece was reinstalled over the altar, hiding the stained glass, and Thorvaldsen’s Christ moved to the corner.

From Rosendal we sailed to Sundal in the afternoon, a three hour trip. Sundal is famous for the Bondhus lake, and the glacier above it. This is an arm of the Folgefonna glacier covering a big part of the peninsula. It goes up to ca 1600 meters above sea level. From Sundal, where we stayed, it is a one hour walk to the lake. The path extends around the lake. We went there the next day.

Monday 18 July, Sundal

The morning was misty, but calm. Even with a fully packed camping site just on the shore, it was very quiet. We went up to the lake around noon. The walk is easy, on a well made gravel road. We met many hundreds other visitors, mostly from the continent. Talking to a guide, we learned that many of them came from a cruise ship, waiting in Rosendal. It is just a short drive by bus to Sundal. The glacier has been withdrawing over the last decades. It used to be much larger a hundred years ago, which you can see from a picture I took of another picture on the wall in the restaurant where we had dinner after the walk.

Tuesday 19 July, Sundal – Norheimsund

Entering Hardanger proper today. A four hour trip through the narrowest part of Hardangerfjorden, to Norheimsund, where we visit good friends, Marit and Arthur Strømme. They live close to the fjord, and have their own marina just below their house. We have been friends for forty years, living and working together in Kenya in another period of our lives. We have wanted to visit them by boat many times, but it has not become real until now. Thank you for good company for three days!

Wednesday 20 July, Norheimsund

When in Norheimsund, visiting Hardanger fartøyvernsenter, Hardanger Maritime Museum, is a must. It is a living museum where they preserve traditional maritme craft and skills. Look them up at their website. There is always a restauration going on, and the workshops are open for the public, so you can see shipwrights, blacksmiths and rope makers at work. The Nordic tradition of clinker built boats has been made a Unesco world heritage. The designs and building techniques were developed with the needs the users had. Is it art? Or is it “just” craft? Doug Stowe discusses this in his book The Wisom of Our Hands. He refers to an anthropologist asking people in Bali about their art. He was told that “we have no art, we do everything as well as we can.” Probably this was how the shipwrights and the craftspeople of the old times here also were thinking.

Thursday 21 July, Fyksesund/Botnen

In addition to visiting our friends in Norheimsund, we also wanted to go into the narrow Fyksesund fjord, to Botnen (meaning the bottom, that is, the end of the fjord). I had been recommended to go there by a fellow sailor. Initially, our plan was to stay there two nights, and poosibly walk up to a cabin in the mountains behind. But we also would like to visit Skåro, a farm high above the fjord, now deserted. What we did not know was that Marit’s grandmother was born there. What could be better then, than to go there together and hear about the family history from an insider! It was a beautiful day, with sun and just a light breeze. From Norheimsund to Botnen was two hours by engine. In Botnen, there is a little visitors’ jetty. When we arrived, there was another sailboat lying there, actually an elder cousin of ours, a Hallberg Rassy Monsun, if you are interested. The lonely sailor, Klaus, was from Germany, and took our lines when we arrived. Introducing ourselves, I said that we come from a little island outside of Stavanger. Which one, he asked. Talgje, I replied. Klaus: Last week I played the piano in the chirch there! I talked to a man who grows flowers. Me: That’s my brother! Small world! When I happen to meet people like this, or someone I know at an unexpected place, I sometimes wonder, how many others would there be just around the corner, or the same place yesterday!

Odveig Klyve, a contemporary poet, came from this fjord. Her poem, Skjelv du på handa i dag, Putin, (Does you hand tremble today, Putin), has been translated to at least 100 languages.

All five of us moved to the old jetty below Skåro, a few hundred metres back out the fjord. The steep climb up to the old farm 300 metres above the sea took an hour, partly on steps built into the steepest places. Jon Skaar (1925 – 2013) lived there all his life, the last part alone. He would go to town once a year. In his house, he had a library of ca 500 books, mostly collected by his ancestors. His grandfather, also Jon, built the main house. He carried the heavy roof tiles up from the fjord on his back, some of the a hundred kilos or more. But he worked so hard that he died before he was fifty. In the local history book, it says (in old Nynorsk): Han ol på seg hjartemein, og tok sin bane av det. (Can’t be translated!)

Some more pictures from the fjord:

Friday 22 July, Norheimsund – Strandebarm

Again, a beautiful morning! We have had a mix of rainy days and warm, sunny days. This is quite ordinary summer weather on the west coast of Norway. And we don’t mind. The boat is dry and we have good heating for the colder and wetter days. And there have been enough dry, beautiful days to make enjoyable trips on land.

This day, we sail, that is, the wind was not favourable, so we motored for three hours from Norheimsunf to Strandebarm, back out the Hardangerfjord. Sailing in these narrow fjords you have two alternatives, either go when you have planned and expect to use the engine, or wait for a day with wind in the right direction. We have a schedule. We have to be at a place where we can go to Odda by road on Tuesday 26th, so we aim to be back in Rosendal the day before at the latest.

Leaving Norheimsund. The maritime museum seen from the seaside. The glacier (fonne). The old church in Vikøy.

Strandebarm is a beautiful village/little town in a valley that opens up to the Hardangerfjord on the north side, with a breathtaking view to the mountains on the other side. We found a suitable berth in a nice, modern marina, between a old fishing boat and two big, luxurious motor boats. We can say we have found a niche in between!

Saturday 23 July, Strandebarm

A view of the village, valley, fjord from above. We walked up to into the valley. Above the village, through a forest with many indigenous species of trees, we came to a flat part which was cultivated into grass lands. Also, some beautiful, traditional houses, where old building techniques have been preserved. The houses are being used, apparently. Look at these stone tile roofs! They are very common in Hardanger, and also furher north. There are quarries in the area where the tiles have been cut out for centuries.-

Sunday 24 July, Strandebarm – Rosendal

Back to Rosendal. That was not our plan initially, but a week earlier my uncle, who lived in Odda, died. The funeral would be Tuesday the 26th, and we found that the easiest way to reach there would be to go back to Rosendal and go by road through the tunnel that passes under the mountains between the fjords. We actually were prepared that this might happen while we were in the area, and had brought clothes for such an occasion.

Coming into Rosendal, the wind quickly blew up and we had a rather bumpy night in the marina. Typically when you are close to high mountains, there will be strong gusts falling down the mountain sides. We tied up as good as we could. You never can have too much roap on a boat!

A cruise ship also came in and sent their passengers on shore by small launhes, which added to the commotion. For four hours there was constant traffic back and forth. When, after a couple of hours, we asked the crew how long they would continue, they said: We will not go on for the whole night! Only until six o’clock.

Monday 25 july, Rosendal

Monday was spent in Rosendal. We visited the modern and very informative Folgefonna centre, where we can learn more about how the landscape was formed and how the glaciers have come and gone and come back. This side of the mountains is one of the wettest places along the Norwegian coast, feeding the glacier with many metres of snow each winter. But due to warmer climate, the ice is slowly withdrawing and the glacier growing smaller. We saw this with our own eyes about ten years ago, when we climbed ut to the top of the glacier from the other (Odda) side. We did walk on snow and ice before we reached the cabin where we spent the night, but before that, we walked over rocky stretches where there had been ice only a couple of decades earlier.

My sister and her husband came to Rosendal to spend the night in a hotel at the Manor, before going to the funeral next day.

Tuesday 26 July, Odda

A special day today! My uncle, Knut, was the last of my mother’s siblings. He reached the age of 96, living in his own home until he died peacefully Saturday July 16. Growing up in Odda, he learned woodworking at an early age, and later became a primary school teacher. His three children are my age, give and take. Growing up so to speak under the Folgefonna glacier, and with the mountains surrounding the little industrial town, he learned to love the great outdoors. His father before him started hunting reindeer in the heart of the Hardangervidda more than a hundred years ago, taking his own sons with him when they got old enough.

My uncle had a great desire to teach the next generation to love the mountains. He wanted us not only to hear about it, but to have our own experiences. In 1971, in July, he invited me to come with himself and my two cousins on a one week trip to the little cabin my grandfather had built on Hardangervidda. Being only 15, and having only gone on short walks around the island before, walking in this wilderness for two days before reaching our destination was quite overwhelming. We came to the simple cabin made from corrugated iron, having to clean out mice’ nests from the beds before we could turn in for the night. We stayed there for a week, fishing for trout in the rivers and lakes. It was an experience unlike any I had had so far in my young life. But he manged to inspire in my a love for the wild, the high mountains, the quietness, the odours, the vastness. I am glad I had the opportunity to thank him for this when he lived, and I took the opportunity to honour him today in the lunch we had after the funeral. I wore my mountain boots in his honour today!

Wednesday 27 July

Ellen went home with my sister and brother, I travelled back to Rosendal after the funeral, with a cousin of mine. After three days with wet and windy weather, it was good to wake up to a partly sunny morning. The forecast for the next few days looked promising for sailing back out the fjord, and home. I motored just clear of the marina, and from there home to Talgje I did not use the engine much. The wind started with light northerly breeze, increasing to a good breeze as we got away from the high mountains. It was beautiful sailing for five hours, reaching Mosterhamn early afternoon.

Mosterhamn is a historic site. With a well protected harbour in any weather, and just off the main sailing route north and south, it was a natural place for the early kings to establish a base. In 995 Olav Tryggvason came home from England, and made landfall at Moster. He brought priests with him and arranged a mass. The little stone church was built in the 12th century. It has long been thought that Moster was the first place where Christianity was introduced in Norway, but newer research and archeology has shown signs of Christian presence more than a century before that.

The little harbour has a nice athmosphere. Typically, you will find one or two old fishing vessels being restored and taken care of by local enthusiasts. A lot of work, for sure, but very valuable as living memory.

Later in the afternoon, another sailboat came in and tied up alongside Vestavind. It turned out it was a couple my age, who had sailed from Fredrikstad in the very south east of Norway, to Lofoten, and was now on their way back home. We had a chat about sailing the coast, about the change that happened last century when the thinking changed from seeing the sea as an opportunity for travel and transport, to seeing it as an obstacle. And as the lady said: Up to this, we had seen Norway only from the back side, now we see it from the front.

Thursday 28 July, Mosterhamn – Kopervik – Bokn

The good wind continued, although a little fickle until we got out to the open sea south-west of Bømlo. From there, it was beautiful sailing across Sletta, through Haugesund and Karmsundet, and into Kopervik. Signe Elisabeth, my daughter, picked me up for afternoon coffee with extended family.

Through the evening hours, we sailed on through Bokn and anchored on the east side of the islands. The wind was gentle all through, and died down when we reached the anchorage.

Friday 29 July, Bokn – Talgje

The wind picked up again in the morning, from south, south west. This meant sailing close to the wind across Boknafjorden. We managed to keep our course where we wanted to go, although we just barely made it south of the Vignesholmane archipelago. When we godt close to the southernmost tip of the islands, the wind eased off, meaning that we could glide past almost without making any sound. This is the beauty of sailing, that you get so close to nature. You can hear the sounds from the birds on the shore, and they did not seem to notice the boat at all.

But as often is the case when coming tin between the islands, the wind disappears, so I had to use the engine for the last hour. Coming out towards us, was the French barque, the Belem. She was launched in 1896 as a freighter of sugar and coffee between the Caribbean, Brazil and Europe. Now she works as a charter ship, currently visting the Norwegian West coast. A beautiful ship! As I write this (Sunday morning 31 July) she is heading into Bergen.

One response to “Hardanger 2022”

  1. Så utrolig flotte reiseskildringer! Herlig å lese – spesielt for oss som har det alt for varmt – og som gjennom ord og bilder får en følelse av mild bris mot varmt og fuktig hud!
    Herlig! Takk! 🌻⛵

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