Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write a Travelogue (11/06/14)
TITLE: Kom Tilbake
By Ann Grover
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It was fall, and apples were ripe and heavy on the bough. Each morning, soft mist rose over newly ploughed fields, and the air was crisp, aromatic with the scent of pine, black currants, and golden leaves.
Our cousin Toril all but tucked us beneath our blankets each night. Vær så god, “there you go,” was her constant invitation: to her traditional Norwegian breakfast of goat cheese and bread; for an outing to Rjukan, the site of one of the most daring sabotage acts against the Nazis; for our laundry, which she washed while we slept; for a costly lead crystal plate from Fossen Kro.
Our family had a “gathering” for us, and with much laughter, we tried to maneuver our tongues around their names. Håvard, Gúdrún, Håkan, Bjørg. We feasted on reinsdyr and hest, which I knew from my basic Norwegian skills to be “reindeer” and “horse,” rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge), and fondant-cloaked cakes.
One of my dreams was to visit Lillehammer, the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics, and Uncle Thor was our accommodating and cordial guide, driving us past the sparkling waters of Lake Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake. In Lillehammer, at the base of the ski jump, the site of the Opening Ceremony, I stood by the now-dark cauldron and shivered in awe and wonder as I envisioned Stein Gruben flying down the hill bearing the flaming torch in his hand. Hallowed ground.
In Oslo, at the Royal Palace, we watched the changing of the guard, pompous and proper, and posed beside a boyish guardsman, who declared in impeccable English, “You may take a picture. Just don’t touch me.” Then, stairs, stairs, and more stairs took us to the top of the Holmenkollen, the 1954 Olympic ski jump, and though the swaying of the tower unnerved us, we were rewarded with spectacular views of Oslo and the Oslofjord. An hour later, we were in a tunnel deep beneath the fjord, and I could feel the roar of the sea thrumming in my heart.
In west Norway, we travelled through the longest road tunnel in the world; Lærdals Tunnel is fifteen miles long. Every five miles, the tunnel widened into “sunrise caves,” where travellers are encouraged to stop to balance their equilibrium. It was mind boggling and disconcerting, to be so deep in the earth, beneath almost a mile of rock.
Staked along the roadside were tall saplings called “snow sticks.” Used for marking the road, the taller the snow sticks, the deeper the anticipated snow. That evening in Lærdal, after a hearty supper of “potato balls” and ham, we soaked our shoes walking through the dewy grass beside the fjord, inky in the falling dusk. We slept well that night, beneath a warm down-filled dyne in the loft of a tiny cabin.
Besides moose, fall’s food fare included a traditional dish called fårikål. Mutton chunks, cabbage, butter, flour, and peppercorns are layered, then simmered together until the windows run with wool-blanket-scented steam. Several pots are made at once, for leftovers are even more delectable, but I fear it would take more than a day’s curing (and much ketchup) to persuade me. Waffles and raspberries for dessert was ambrosia, however.
Twisting, narrow roads, some with an eighteen percent incline, brought us to Flåm, and we rode the Flåmsbana to Myrdal. The train climbed in elevation from sea level to over half a mile in just twelve miles. A corkscrew tunnel gave us a view of the train’s tail from our seat in a front carriage. Majestic waterfalls kept us breathless, and we were amused by a herd of goats being driven down the road and an elderly woman wearing lace-up boots, riding a fat-wheeled bicycle and talking on a cellphone.
Numedal was the essence of Norway. Cozy farms perched on ledges above the fjord. Uvdal Stavkirke, nine hundred years old, and where my family worshipped four centuries ago. Sweet “glass apples” from ancient trees at Uncle Tormod’s winter house, where his children were tethered as they played, so they wouldn’t fall into the fjord hundreds of feet below. Grass-roofed homes. Cloudberries with cream.
With sad hearts, we left beautiful Norway. Still, the sparkling fjords and mist-covered mountains call to me, “Kom tilbake.” Come back, come back. My family, my home, my Norway.
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