21 Stops and Freedom
T is a distinguished city. The hometown of important Vikings like King Sverre and explorer Lief Eriksen. St. Olav rests forever beneath the most northern Gothic cathedral. Here was strong resistance against Nazi occupation. In T, a vibrant student population synthesizes with the past and makes a future. T is quite the town.
A special claim T has on the world, is title to the northern most Trikk in the world (tram, pilgrim). The Gråkallen Line rides the rails at 63˚ North, about the same latitude of Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s not a special collection of carriages, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe it is a little like the solitary man at the sorority dance, who cares who homely he is, he’s all you’ve got!
I got on at the beginning, the first stop of 21 on the way to the forest above and east of T. The sky was adding clouds, and inverting the temperature, the wind strengthened. I was ready with my pack, kittert, and my smart phone (which I have come to live by here – I had a dumb phone prior). After about 10 minutes of waiting, I first heard, and then saw, the trikk.
You deserve a forest and meadow and wanderland for your city and town. I wrote in August about the joy and necessity of Nordmarka forest for Oslo, the same is true for T, and it should be the same for you (speaking to the American audience, specifically corn country). Bymarka is the city forest and wanderland for T. Because of Allmensrett, it can seem like all of Norway is your forest and playground. While that sentiment has validity, this is something extra special about your city having its own forest. A little additional ownership and pride.
Bymarka is typical. There are the evergreens, meadows, requisite lakes to circumlocate, and sons and daughters of the northern lights clad in form fitting petroleum-based active wear. Maybe Bymarka is also a little special, like T.
Approaching, the trikk was nothing special: another hulking gray chunk of steel driven by an overhead electrical connection. Inside it was less special, or maybe more? The pilot was a young women. She had blond hair that had been dyed green, now faded. Only the tips of her shorter feminine cut were clearly verdant. Juxtaposed against her plain black and white uniform she worn a belt with a checker pattern of black and competition green. Contrasts in a land of contrasts.
I trudged up the path, now a little hurried because I didn’t want miss the ride down, or have to wait in the retreating daylight. Flashing my T public transportation pass vis-a-vis the App on my smartphone, I bounded aboard. Just me. Just me and the pilot, a man. Slightly deflating, I was hoping to share a celebratory smile with another wanderer. And then with a lurch, we were off. Around the loop of the track and retracing the tracks from a couple of hours earlier.
Opposite the cool and soviet gray of the carriage was an interior that was almost kitschy with a peach-colored steel interior. An assortment of wine-colored vinyl covered the bench seating, marking different eras and different manufacturers. I will choose to believe the trikk reveled in the dissent of so many subtle differences. It resisted description and codification.
With a jerk we were off, a relatively well-populated trikk. It rumbled, it swayed. Gathering speed the electric motor gave off a pained voice, a protest against the labor. There was nothing refined in the motion. No, this trikk was a practical beast, a mule, and it would do of it as it was asked without the worry for trivia like points for style.
I heard the trikk before I saw it. Nearing the end of my circling a small lake, Lianvatnet, the trikk was a welcome sensation. My feet were struggling to avoid tripping on the tangle of roots as I paralleled the shore, I was tired. Not tired from all the walking but a deeper fatigue. It had been a long week in T. Wonderful would be the first word to describe the week but tiring nonetheless. I was worn out and I still had to get back to the hotel, hopefully connect with my cousin, teach on Friday and then fly home to Oslo.
Circling the lake I spied three boys fishing, a man walking with his dog, a smattering of dwellings, and a sod-roofed primary school. Who own access to a lake? Should any one person own that access, even just a little? When my ancestors left Norway, a strident contingent of their countrymen also left for America to create a classless society. They immigrated to build a new life of shared suffering and reward, a life free of the ossifying effects of inheritances.
I read recently in Wisconsin Outdoor News that lakes in northern Wisconsin will be “fully developed” in about a generation. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientists have proven that as a lake is “developed”, that is, the shoreline looses its natural cover to turf grass, a dock and run-off from a dwelling, the reproduction of key fish species like Walleye and Musky drop. We are loving our lakes to death.
Leaving “downtown” we pass a stop that makes my ears prick, “Skansen.” No, no, you’re saying it wrong, think “W’sconsin,” just like the locals and you have it. We are in full rumble mode now, and climbing. In this section of track, the rails aren’t welded. It’s just like the old timey days, a rough and boisterous ride.
We pass abused vegetation during the accent. Frayed and desiccated small poles are all that remain of young and hopeful trees. In a geography already at odds with trees, it seems like a cruel and unnecessary violence. Is a clean cut too much to ask? T is a place where too many young and hopeful scions were brutally cut down, be it 1030 or 1940.
By the Sødre Hoem stop the rails’ rumbled lessened. The rails are more modern, welded, one continuous line. The line of history in T is long too. As an American this ancient arch of history is easy to understand but hard to appreciate. What do we still use in America that is a thousand years old?
I made my way back from the wrong direction. Google maps, plus a remote corner of the world is a recipe for disaster. The pasture was set into a hill, the highpoint looked out over T, an impressive view even in the descending gloom of cloud cover and fading light. A happy discovery was that I was on the Pilgrims’ Path. A route from various points in Norway to the Nidaros Cathedral. From Oslo, the journey walks 643 kilometers. A simple marker acknowledged the way. Inadvertently I was treading a historical path of the faithful, I took a moment for reflection.
Higher, and muddier, the path’s vistas begged me to use my binoculars, I obliged. While cloudy here, the sweeps of distance allowed me to look at far northern hills bathed in sunlight. Trees covered the impressive mounds and hinted that they soon would delighted with color. Their shapes reminded me of pictures of the Appalachians, although I have never personally seen them. I continued to scan east, to my right. Freyer failed to conceal fully the distance vistas.
As I panned right I gained sight of mountains that were clearly high, and jagged, and rock. Snow, I saw snow! At approximately 225 degrees I saw snow fields on mountains. Snow from last year, or last century, or maybe snow from the last millennium. Wind and silence, fitting and ominous.
A boy is now on the trikk, maybe he’s 6 years old. He has red hair and a green stripped shirt, the cuffs of his sleeves are soiled. At Munkvoll stop, he leaves. In his place is a new group of ebullient youngsters with a patient leader. It’s hard not to smile. The clouds have thickened. The rails here are welded, though it doesn’t seem to make much difference. At 3:46 PM we arrive at Lian, end of the line, top of the hill; there are few of us left to depart.
The pasture I was traversing was here on purpose. As near as I was able to tell from the sign, the farm was for the enjoyment of the people. Stiles crossed the pasture in many places, inviting a wanderer to tread carefully along the worn paths and dung piles. I met two milk cows, 21 sheep, and countless droppings. Strangely to me, I didn’t smell the animals. In the Midwest the concentration of livestock is such that when on are on a farm you smell the animals.
21 stops and freedom. Freedom to amble and ramble, freedom for the mind to wander further than the feet are able. But the beginning is also the end, a circle. The trikk picks me up at 4:57, the pilot is a man and I’m the only rider. The carriage rumbles on the loop of rails and rejoins the mainline. Down we go to St. Olva’s Gate, 21 stops and another form of freedom.
(Editor’s note: due to technical hurdles, pictures are temporarily absent. They will be added as soon as the Binary Gods allow, takk skal du ha!)
Photos added 3 October, 2015 at 21:03