Once upon a cold, crisp morn Kevin, Milo and I set off upon a journey through a land plucked out of the pages of The Polar Express. Van Allsburg’s illustrations of a train winding it’s way through evergreen forests draped in white, misty mountains, snowy fields, water sparkling mysteriously create the perfect backdrop for a country where reality is tinged with the fantastical.
Ancient creatures dwell in Norway’s mountains, trolls. Both a part of the earth and creators of the earth, one is to be wary of trolls. They have been historically loathed for their ugliness, slow wit, and great appetite. Entrancing humans and inspiring tales from the time of Beowulf to Disney’s Frozen.
The city of Oslo, home to 600,000+, is a storybook town founded in 1040 where a real king and queen reign. Cobbled streets framed by medieval and modern architecture join the mountains to the sea. Skiers can take a short train ride to get to the Olympic Ski Jump Tower of Holmenkollen. Sledders whoop down the trails. School children skate in the city center where statues of the playwright Ibsen, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a prostitute reside.
The Norwegian Military Defense is still headquartered in a Medieval castle on Oslo’s waterfront where military vessels dock with cruise ships, ferries and tall masted boats. These are the shores from which Vikings and their gods called home.
A long, long time ago, thirty three years to be exact. Kevin and I traveled to the Northern most tip of Newfoundland to what was then a relatively new park in Canada, L’Anse aux Meadows. At the time they theorized that this area was a possible landing spot for Vikings. Now it is a confirmed Viking site from a thousand years ago. Here in Norway we can see the remains of Viking ships. This is where they sailed from and elaborately buried their dead with everything they would need for the afterlife.
The sky over Norway is as steeped in mysticism as the land and water. Here is where the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis were both a bridge to the afterlife for Viking warriors and reflections off Ogdin’s female warriors’, the Valkyries, armour as they chose the fate of those in battle.
The end of our train journey ends in the ancient trading city of Bergen on Norway’s West coast. Seen as the gateway to the Norwegian fjords, flanked by seven mountains and with thousands of islands off it’s coast it harbors an UNESCO World Heritage site, Bryggen.
As far back as the 14th century, a guild of traders, the Hanseatic League, had established Bryygen as a trading center. Over the centuries the buildings have been burnt down and rebuilt again following traditional methods. They have been built in the exact same way in the exact same place as the original buildings