Gol stave church, Norway

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Gol stave church crowns a hill on Bygdöy just outside of Oslo, Norway. It was moved into the area that is the Norwegian Folke Museum in 1881, from its original location at Gol, Hallingdal in Norway. The locals in Gol wanted a new, fresher and fancier church and so they built a new one and gave their old one away. I'm... not gonna judge.

Ahem.

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The building has undergone renovations and reconstructions during the years that have passed, but the oldest timbers in the church are dendrochronologically dated to the ample years of 1157 and 1214-1215 and it is believed that the church was built around time due to stylistic conformity. When the church was reassembled at Bydgöy, they looked over the parts and tried to restore it to what they believed was the original 13th-century style.

The paintings in the chancel are originals from 1652 and some other parts have been restored after examples from other stave churches, like Borgund and Hopperstad stave churches.

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I don't know about you, but I love these things. There are 28 stave churches left in Norway and I want to see them all. Every one of them. I've always wanted to visit Norway to cruise around and stare stupidly at nature and old things, and now I've gotten at least a little taste of what our neighbouring country has to offer.

The ambiance in the room when all the other tourists cleared out was stunning. The light seeping in through the narrow doors, accenting the warmth in the wooden interior with its elaborate carvings. The solid walls silencing the outside sound of people moving about. Your gaze is drawn along the pillars and upwards, to find new details and decorations as you let yourself be swept away in their intricacy.

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Enormous power statements like cathedrals and churches, stretching vaults set in stone, golden chandeliers towering above you as you walk silently along the aisles yields a special feeling, but lingering in this space is resonating much more with me.

The worn floor has been trampled by tourists for 140 years, but you can still feel the everyday Christian visitor from eras long lost. Almost nine hundred years ago they built this very church, in a time that blends together with the Viking age, in a time that was so very different from the world we live in today.

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Visiting Norwegian Viking ships

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It was a Wednesday morning at the beginning of May, in God's year 2019. Excitement, though a little dampened by tiredness, was in the air as I scrambled to get my shit together, packing, cleaning the kitchen, watering plants and doing all that jazz that you have to see to before going away. At least this time it felt less crucial because we had a housesitter (the jungle demands attention!) meaning we didn't need to worry about forgetting to take out the trash and having to come home to the lovely smell of regret and old rotting vegetables accompanied by a cheerful fleet of fruit flies.

Because I'm a homebody, I felt the usual tinge of not wanting to go abroad for three days, just like I do every time I'm going away. Living the high life, heyo! I know it's silly, especially this time. We weren't just going away, we were going to a very special destination - my first time to visit Oslo, Norway.

And do you know what Oslo has? Viking effing ships!

For years, first as a wee archaeology student that decided that the actual work of an archaeologist isn't really for me (luckily enough perhaps, having to quit that profession some years later because of chronic pain would have killed me) and now as a hobby-old-things-lover, my longest running point on my bucket list has been to see the ships in person.

After driving for seven hours, we arrived in Oslo. We walked and looked around for a few hours before passing out in our hotel room at an unreasonably early hour. We had better be prepared for the coming day of me crying in public because the Oseberg and Gokstad ships, and their accompanying finds, are so so beautiful.

I'll collect my impressions about the trip itself in another post because this one is dedicated to the wonders of Viking age carpentry and archaeological finds. I'm no historian, so I'll leave a couple of links at the end if you want to do some more reading about the wonderful ships and the Viking age burial customs. What I can do though, is post a bunch of pictures to highlight the wonder that is Vikingskipshuset (not to be confused with the Viking Ship Museum, yeah, because Denmark has Viking ships too).

The two more well-preserved ships were made and buried in the 9th century AD, and was unearthed again around the turn of the century 1800-1900. Made of oak and pine, they're lovingly crafted and decorated along with the other finds in the ship burials, ranging from the simple and functional, to the exquisitely elaborate. On the Oseberg ship, two women were buried, and on the Gokstad ship, a man was laid down for his final rest and journey into the afterlife. Joining the individuals were everything they could need on the other side. Fine fabrics, furniture, sleds, carts, horses, food, weapons, religious artfacts, and decorations.

A third ship is presented under the white arches, the Tune ship. This was made, used and buried a little later, during the 10th century AD. Because the material in it's huge burial mound, spanning 80 meters in diameter, had been transported away, it was in worse condition than the other two. It was also excavated early on before the techniques of preservation had been fully understood, and it took a toll on the remains that were either destroyed or damaged. A man was buried in the ship, together with weapons and three horses. The ship itself had been in use for ten or so years when it was buried, a light vehicle for swift travels. This ship was laid in darkness when we visited and made out the background for a movie screening. All ships were covered with burial mounds, and have been plundered of their most valuable possessions during antiquity.

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The Gokstad ship with its impressive profile.

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The Oseberg ship.

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Too badly damaged or lost parts have been replaced with replicas, coming together with the original decorations to make up this impressive piece of artistic engineering.

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Elaborate decorations from bow to stern.

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The processional cart that was found on the Oseberg ship. It’s not possible to steer, hinting at a religious or ceremonial function.

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Detail from the cart.

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The gripping beasts, so characteristic for the style that it’s named after the location where the ship was found; the Oseberg style.

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A decoration in the shape of an animal, with it’s ship in the background.

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The “Buddah bucket”

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Along with cooking utensils and pots came a huge trough filled with a wheat based dough, ready for making food in the afterlife.

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If you’ve ever thought about going to see the ships and its friends, I highly recommend it! Especially along with it’s neighbour, the Norwegian Folk Museum. I’ll tell you about that one soon!

Gokstadsskeppet - Wikipedia Swe
The Gokstad Ship - Wikipedia Eng
Osebergsskeppet - Wikipedia Swe
The Oseberg Ship - Wikipedia Eng
Tuneskeppet - Wikipedia Swe
The Tune Ship - Wikipedia Eng
Vikingskipshuset

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A little trip to Dalarna

Home again; I’m sitting by the computer in my little apartment. I’ve just returned from a six day trip with my two best friends. We got the chance to rent a cabin in the lovely Dalarna, close by where we as teens had a cabin through an association at school. Packing a week’s stuff worth of stuff, we ventured inlands to the hills and valleys and the accompanying wonderful views. It’s all been calm and quiet, and so, so great. We’ve talked about life, gone thrift shopping, cozied up in front of the fire, gone to a knife outlet (Mora, hähä) stared at the wonderful nature, laughed, cooked, watched Brits compete in baking and interior design and gone to bed early.

Not at all like when we used to visit this place when we were in high school, that is. Back then it was more like anything microwaveable, using the floor as a refrigerator for our beer because it was so cold, collecting water in the public water/toilet house because there was no running water in the cabin and having a hot cup of coffee on the front porch with its glorious views, trying to fight off the hangovers.

Fifteen years later it was lovely to get to see the same views again, with my two best ones in life. It all has meant and does mean so much to me; having the history and that we’ve gotten the opportunity to do these kinds of things together. Invaluable.

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How it looked during our time. My love.

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The cottage has changed a lot, and I'm guessing that there's not much left of the original. But everything changes. 

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Dalarna is one of Sweden's most beautiful regions, that's for sure.

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It's like time froze 120 years ago, and I LOVE IT.

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Eheh.. Funny.

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Storstupet, "The big fall". A little canyon with it's train bridge built in 1902 and a logger's chute in order for the logs to get down stream unharmed.. Not far from here is a place called Helvetesfallen, "The Hell Falls", that is wonderful also, but walking through 2 kilometers of knee deep snow didn't really tickle our fancy, so we missed out on that one. Next time! 

It's been truly lovely, and I'm ever so greatful to have these people and memories in my life. I'm one lucky gal, after all.