Norwegian Wooden Wonders
As we drive through the magnificent roads of Telemark, Norway, we feel something totally different from before. Something warm. Something that was definitely missing in Iceland. Of course I do not speak about temperatures — although definitely warmer –, but we can feel in Norway some kind of comfort. I therefore suspect the infinite pine forest dotted with traditional wooden houses surrounding us to be responsible of this feeling.
Unlike Iceland, Norway is a country full of trees — although Iceland used to be the same before human settlement –. Less than a hundred years ago, most buildings in Noway were built with wood and even today one can see hundreds of them. The best examples are probably the famous stavkirker, the stave churches.
Everyone who has already visited (south) Norway knows about them as they are plenty and typical. If I had to resume Norway in a couple of words, Stavkirke would be one of those and it would be a shame not to visit at least one. As visiting every single stavkirke would probably take weeks, we stay focused on a couple of them.
We are lucky to arrive after the rain. Birds nesting in the church’s roof are chirping. The wood composing the stavkirke is still impregnated with water and the smell of wet wood and tar create a quiet and relaxing ambiance. Even if the church is surrounded by a cemetery one can not feel sadness at all. I even dare writing that the place feels cheerful… Probably because of the sound of singing birds, the sun coming back and the feeling that the storm is over.
The interior of the stave churches is also pretty impressive. Of course, it is not impressive the same way huge gothic cathedrals are, but these small churches have something that the last don’t have : warmth. Once you get inside you definitely feel protected, even if you are a non believer. It is so tiny, so imperfect and so cute… I like to describe it as a doll’s church interior.
Anyway, wood has of course not only been used to build churches, even if they probably were legion. You can still see thousands of wooden houses everywhere in Norway. Old ones and new ones. Wood used to be the major material for buildings and even whole cities were built with wood. The best example is certainly the oldest part of the city of Bergen : Bryggen district. This wharf dating back to the 15th century was used by merchants of Hanseatic League. Although most of Bryggen has been destroyed by a fire in 1955, a small part of this area is still intact and can be visited.
Unfortunately this district has become one of the most visited places in Norway. Buses are vomiting a continuous flow of tourists and it is quite difficult to find a place and take some time to photography it. However, I am very fortunate to find one of the three main Bryggen‘s “streets” empty. The kind of opportunity you can not miss!
Now we have to leave all this wood behind and enjoy some water and rocks along the Norwegian fjords. See you soon! :)