By Nancy Van Veen
“Only one who wanders finds new paths.”
~ Norwegian Proverb
Of all the countries I’ve visited, Norway is unequalled for its scenic beauty. From trendy Oslo in the south, to the dramatic Atlantic Highway and the stark landscape of the northern tundra, Norway is otherworldly in its natural splendour. But this trippy tale takes place several years ago in a west coast village on Hardangerfjord called Rosendal.
My time there was especially memorable as it was the home of my travelling companion’s grandparents. Rosendal, (or as my Viking friend refers to it, ‘the most beautiful place on earth’) holds a special place in his heart, as he spent many eternal summers there as a boy. His cousin still lives in the old family house and runs a local motel, in which we stayed.
I could instantly see why Knut was so enamoured with this idyllic place. Despite its small size and location off the tourist track, Rosendal boasts many splendid features — a picturesque harbour, a baronial mansion dating back to 1665, a medieval church, hiking trails, majestic waterfalls and a geological park.
Our stay began with a morning trek to relax by the waterfalls and crystal clear streams. We then followed the trails farther up into the hills to Steinparken, a fascinating open-air geology museum featuring rock monolith sculptures and an antique saw mill.
Next was a guided tour at Norway’s only barony. The restored mansion has a fascinating, romantic history and showcases lovely period tapestries, porcelains and an impressive library. Afterwards we roamed the gorgeous Renaissance rose gardens and grounds, and then enjoyed lunch at the greenhouse cafe. In summertime one can stay and take in an evening concert. There’s also a wonderful art gallery on the estate, which was exhibiting a feminist photography display.
‘Time was up’ in Norway many years ago. The Norwegian government has long lead the way in gender equality. They also have a great appreciation of arts and culture. And thanks to the exemplary stewardship of their nationalized oil wealth, they have ample funds to ensure the arts flourish, along with their treasured social systems. Funds are also set aside for the inevitable transition from fossil fuels.
Our evenings in Rosendal will play on in my memory forever. My companion’s childhood pals, now jazz musicians, still dwell there. His friend Torkjell converted the old stone potato cellar in his basement into an impromptu jazz club. We spent our nights there, grooving on jazz standards, sipping wine and nibbling on reindeer sausage, cured lamb, local cheeses and Norwegian potato pancakes, or lufsa. Thankfully, the notorious lutefisk — aged, lye-soaked cod — was not on the menu!
On our final day we strolled along the harbour, feasting on bags of cooked shrimp bought right off the boats, while Knut entertained me with tales from his colourful youth. We then visited the towering Kvinnherad church and explored the grounds and bone yard. That evening when we returned to the club, the jazz trio played ‘My Funny Valentine’ (my absolute fave) for their new Canadian friend. Tusen takk! Their talent, passion and hospitality was touching. I recall walking back to the motel after midnight, with the sun just finally setting, and a little hedgehog scampering up to us, as if to bid us farewell.
Rosendal is a fairy tale place. Gazing from the sparkling waters of the fjord, to the vivid green hills and blue waterfalls, it’s not hard to imagine a big, ugly troll poking his scraggly head out from behind a mountain peak! But he doesn’t scare me — but rather taunts me to wander further and find ever more new paths.