Even After Dovre Falls
Really, it’s not the “middle finger,” even though it looks like that in the picture. The boys and I were just mimicking the pose of Peder Anker at the Constitution Hall grounds in Eidsvoll. The picture will not be available, though I like it because I know that we were sincere.
Confession: I have never been to Philadelphia. Most Americans haven’t been to Philly but that doesn’t mean anyone of us is less a citizen. How many Norwegians have visited Eidsvoll?
I had my education of the Norwegian Constitution in reverse. First I did the parade, then I visited the signing site. In retrospect I suppose that is how most Americans who’ve visited Constitutional Hall in Philidelphia have done it too.
In know Philadelphia is a major American city and the Constitution Hall area is a major tourist destination. I can imagine all the selling and schlock in the neighborhood, entrepreneurs eager to separate the faithful from their money. The Constitution Hall site in Norway is the opposite, it is probably the photo negative. I’ll have to make a journey to Pennsylvania to confirm.
A trip to the Constitutional Hall site has been on my “must do” list in Norway. I have done them all save two: visit every fylke – I looking at you Sogn og Fjordane – and see a moose. Iallfall, fornøyd.
We took the train from Lysaker to Eidsvoll Verk. It was a familiar and unassuming ride. Just north of Oslo Airport, the way to Eidsvoll was old hat for me. Several times I have traversed the spot for other journeys.
The day was fair and mostly sunny. Fields were freshly tilled and in want of rain. A dry Norway is a strange Norway. From the platform we had a walk of about two kilometers to the sight. Truthfully, the walk was welcome. After about an hour on the train, I was grateful to stretch my legs. Also, the walk made it more like a secular pilgrimage, something I could appreciate as a American. I wonder how they arrive in Philly?
The walk took us off the main highway and onto a side road mostly for people powered traffic but you had to look out for the occasional car. On the side of the main road the police were conducting sobriety checks. Well done! No drinking, then driving is allowed in Norway. I wonder wonder how many lives we surrender to the “freedom” of drinking and then driving in America each year? In Norway I don’t wonder constantly if the car coming down the road has an impaired driver, in Iowa I do.
The walk to the Constitutional Hall grounds cleared my head and helped me to focus on the gravity of the place I was about to visit. The boys wanted to know when we were going to eat.
And then we were there. A well manicured grounds of tidy buildings arising from the country-side, there you have it.
We had a packed lunch on a picnic table along the river, typisk norsk. One little boat coursed up and back from the bridge. People walked about, but no crowds. The sign of civilization was the regular approach of planes to Oslo airport.
Dining completed we bought tickets for the tour of the special residence in which the delegates met and agreed to the Constitution. The building itself was a fascinating study in multipurposing, culture, and preservation. The tour was in Norwegian, of course. Meghan and I were counting on the boys to translate as necessary. We did our best to nod and say, “Ja,” at the right times so as to fit in and hid our foreign identifies. I’d like to think we pulled off a pretty good counterfeit.
The guide, in all black, welcomed us and led us into the building. We put on slippers over our shoes and commenced the journey back in time.
I have professionally studied and practiced history. I use historical recreations in my lessons. But truly, the past is a mystery. I wonder about the lives, the smells, the ambitions, the diets of the historic and I lament that I just can’t fully appreciate their full lives.
Even a tour in a such a lovely cared for historic home cannot recreate the past. Our first stop was the dining room. While the colors were correct and the wood was original, I don’t know what it smelled like. I don’t know how hungry the men were, how little sugar they consumed, the working condition of the women who served them…
Each room was like that for me. Yes, I’m a little weird like that. Okay, a lot weird, but the point being that I felt more like a ghost haunting a building than a participant in the grand achievement.
A tight and narrow room, thankfully with a very high ceiling, packed in over 100 men that spring, 212 years ago. To think of of smells, the sounds, not to mention the sights, and then here we were. My family stroad the floors of consequences, we rested on the benches of decision. The angle of the sun that streamed through the old panes were not much different than that of the now ancient lawgivers.
I wanted to linger, I bet many fans of history do. Alas, the tour continued, and I with it. The tour guide had a schedule. How many of the delegates had a timepiece in 1814? How did “time” work?
The tour ended. We retrieved our bags from storage and then bought what we needed from the giftshop. The return walk was less eventful than the entrance. There was no time to be contemplative at the platform.
Courage. The signers of the Philadelphia constitution were puting their lives on the line vis-a-vis honoring the revolution. The men at Eidsvoll were signing their death warrants to a debilitated King of Sweden. In contrast, I’ve signed my name to a mortgage.
As we left, workers were lowering and removing flags. Visiting hours were over. We left with some memories and photos. Meghan got a Christmas ornament for us, I bought a copy of the Constitution, Grunnlov. The boys got lollypops.
When the men of the assembly parted on 20 May, 1814, they were reported to hold hands and profess their loyalty to this new Constitution, “until the mountain of Dovre falls.” That is, forever. Benjamin Franklin responded to an eager follower of the constitutional proceeding in Philly that the Americans now have a republic, “if you can keep it.”
Historical sites don’t make for a present. They help inform the present but they are only ideas of the past. As for my republic, I want to keep it, until even after Dovre falls.
Off the schneid! Leave it to Lister to give me another surprise. I came to the Lister area to teach. But I also got to see a couple of new birds. The Lister area is one of the top birding areas in Norway – lucky me. However it’s off season, Lister has it magic during migration season. Perhaps I’ll find a reason to return.
New birds: 2*
*Sothøne, seen 20 October in Stavanger, finally got around to reviewing the picture
We Go Up, We Go Down, Very Nice!
“Jesus!” my mind screamed and I felt like I lept five feet into the air. What was that? That sound, it tore the peace of the misty forest apart. “There, ghosts!” my eyes gathered in all the intell. No, wooly sheep. “Oh,” and my focus returned to the soggy trail and my guide, stay with my guide because I am somewhere in Norway but exactly where?
I was running in the Lister area, Farsund was my base for the week; consult the map and then return to this blog. Good.
Norway has two envious paradigms. One, a person is able to walk-hike-run just about anywhere the heart desires, Allemannsrett (“Everyman’s Right” in english). Two, personal health is a national imperative, that is, eat well, exercise, and don’t become a burden.
Following my Tuesday lesson at Lister VgS – Eilert Sundt, there was the important time to socialize with the other teachers in the Personal Room (teachers’ lounge…in Norway they really know how to do the teachers’ lounge. Note, must be part of the social connections at school, it is just expected. Plus Norwegian teachers don’t have their own classrooms so the lounge really is an important home base).
I was introduced to Vidar (psydonemn) while having a cup of coffee, from their custom dinner service #pride. My host for the day told him that I liked to run on my travel. She told me that Vidar was a local running guide. At first glance you may not think that he was a gonzo athlete but you’d be wrong, very wrong. He reminded me of a favorite teacher from days of high school past.
“Can you be ready by 12:20?” he asked. “Yes,” was my immediate response, I didn’t want to even bother to consider having a conflict. Now I just had to get to my hotel ASAP and change.
I was late but he was forgiving. I’ve alway appreciated the kindness of strangers. With a hairy black dog in the back of the van we had a quick drive to the coast. I planned on running the length of the beach and back – my tactic to avoid getting lost – he was going to run with the dog to the top of a local promontory.
I have right to traverse the beach, throw shells back into the sea, watch for birds, and to dream. This community has some of the better beaches in Norway. They will create a trail, most with handicap accessibility, some 40 kilometers long up the coast. Room for anyone to wander, a destination for the wellness of body and soul, a place not for sale.
Any thoughts I had about running in a steady manner ground to a halt as soon as I got the beach: the gentle lap of waves, the force of the wind, and the vision out into the abyss stopped me. Pictures, an attempt to do a Periscope (live-streaming app) and a quick video for my family turned the run into an intermittent stroll.
It was late December but the Gulf Stream gives this coast a gift of warmth, it was about 5 degrees centigrade. Overcast skies were a leaden dome but they couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. After enough pics I needed to get running or I’d would run out of daylight. The sunset was at 3:42.
And just when I got a good pace, my run was stopped again; birds on the water. Several dark and large duck-like birds, and a couple of petite and light grey feathered swimmers. The low light, my eyeballs, and little iPhone thwarted any definitive observations. Okay, keep running.
Another good pace, an even rhythm on the firm sand, righteous running. The shoreline here has lovely stones and rocky outcroppings like most of Norway, but also sandy dunes with swaying grasses. The roots fight with the waves for the sand, they have for 10,000 years.
Here comes Vidar and the dog. He said the path was hard to follow because of all of the rain so he came back to guide me, stout fellow! Farewell shoreline safety, good. Vidar and the dog alternated being the leader, I followed.
We passed through a gate to control the sheep. A long dark bird was on water like before, but this one was close. Vidar said something was amiss, it didn’t try to flee. I got a good picture and then spotted a corpse of a recently deceased of the species. Maybe they were companions?
Now we’re through the dunes and marshes. Just off the beach the wind disappeared and all sorts of new sounds invaded. During the occupation, the Germans fortified this part of the Norwegian coast with an intensity. We ran past numerous ruins of bunkers, pillboxes, and fortifications. I was reminded of my visit to Normandy. Sheep grazed a distant hill, they are used as natural vegetation management. The dog pulled, Vidar pulled back, victory to the biped.
Across a road we scrambled up Skjolnesveten. This was adventure running: novel, a little risky, imperfect weather, camaraderie, and a goal. A bird exploded away to our left. I asked if it was a grouse, Vidar said it was a Rugde, he made a motion with his fingers about his nose to explain that it had a long thin bill. At 15:18 we reached the summit. The view was thoroughly modern: reclaimed natural areas, the timeless sea, and a massive Aloca smelting plant. And down we went.
The route down was the hard part, caution being the better part of valor. Returning via a different route we spooked a Roe deer, and got our feet good and wet. At the car they drove off, I opted to run back to the hotel. It was a chance to extend the run and to see more of the industrial harbor where two ships were docked.
A couple of weeks ago a Norwegian friend related a story about some hill climbers. They were friends of his who were on holiday. The country in question had certain hills that were off limits or required a local guide, a concept not well accepted by the travels. The pair had bagged the peak and were on their way down when they were confronted by an officer demanding their papers and interrogating them about their poached climb. The duo played dumb and just kept repeating in a pigeon english, “We go up, we go down, very nice!” with toothy grins for added effect. The officer finally gave up and they all went on their way.
What rights do you have to enjoy God’s earth by your own power? In Iowa you are limited. On a few rivers you have the right to float but the shoreline is private. Wisconsinites are free to course any body of water, even if it’s only seasonal. Ola and Kari Nordmann enjoy almost total access to rivers, the exceptions are exceptional. Because of Allemannsrett they can walk the fields and forests, camp most anywhere they please, and not stress about fencerows or property lines. I am jealous.
Thursday was my second date with Vidar. He had shown me on Wednesday an internet map of the destination. “This is a special place,” he pointed to a part of the route. I have heard that a lot in Norway. Seems in every locale there is a hill, rivulet, or forested grove that is special. But the labels have been always pronounced with sincerity, bordering on reverence.
The fog and mist that greeted the sunrise Thursday decided to make a day of it. We ran anyways. Like Tuesday, it was a melange of modernity. We parked next to a new auto tunnel that ran 3 kilometers under the mountain, we ran next to the century old canal that linked the sea to Framvaren and then up the ancient Fossekleiven to the saturated meadows and forests of Raufjellt.
“Over there a German airplane crashed,” pointed Vidar. He said some people died. “Germans,” he added as almost an afterthought for clarity. It was a detail that only added to the contemplativeness of the place.
We were near the point of beginning our descent. We went down through a surprisingly all deciduous forest by way of a switchback trail. I got a lesson from Vidar about how the oak and good wood here was taken by the Danes, and then English to built their fleets. The Dutch built Amsterdam on oak pilings.
The surf, forests, and mountains are for play and pleasure but also history lessons. These sweeps of nature, in all their steep glory, are here to impart health and happiness. They are open to you and me to explore, enjoy, and embrace. And if you are really lucky, you can get an education and a new friend.
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh
author’s note: landscape photos filtered “mono”, running photos filtered “chrome”