Friday June 19, 2015: Today we drove up to Lillehammer Olympic village, then over the mountains into the Oppland areas of Aurdal (pronounced like “Ah you’re doll”) and Etnedal. Many of the Arneson line came from North and South Aurdal. We were struck by the natural beauty of the places we visited. It’s easy to understand why environmentalism is so strong in Norway: there is much of great value to defend. In Lillehammer we went straight to the top.
|June 2015 Norway Trip|
|Click on the date to see the post|
I can just imagine skiing the slopes here, with the picturesque villages, hills, lakes and rivers. Lillehammer was a great place for the Winter Olympics in 1994. The town was centuries old before the crowds came and the pace of life has probably not changed much since then. We rode the ski lift down to the base of the ski slope, wandered around a bit, taking pictures and getting mementos, then rode the lift back up. Getting on and off a ski lift without skis is a slightly different experience. We were blessed with lovely weather for the day, and although there were periodic sprinkles, the day was quite warm and pleasant.
From Lillehammer, we headed west into Oppland, a large central province in Norway, and the ancestral homeland of many of the Arnesons. We noticed a deep contrast between what we saw a dozen years ago when we took the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Ulan-Bator, Mongolia. What we saw from the train in Russia was beautiful scenery, very similar to Oppland, but all the homes and businesses were ramshackle and impoverished. We saw nearly nothing in the entire train ride across Siberia that looked well built or well maintained. Oppland is the opposite: everything seemed to be in its place, beautifully designed, built and maintained. We were surprised to learn that many of the places are vacation homes for people living in the cities and for travelers.
I could have stopped every five minutes to take beautiful pictures, but we would never have made it to the places we wanted to visit. Arild told us that many of the marriages, baptisms and other family events occurred and were memorialized at the church in Bruflat, which was built in 1750: a quarter century before the American Revolution. We would have loved to be able to go through the records there, but just being there gave us a good feel for the lives our Arneson ancestors lived.
We spent a while in the cemetery, looking at the names and dates, many going back to the 1600s, and noticed that almost all the gravestones were decorated with flowers planted at the base. This fragment of our family tree from FamilySearch.org, shows people in our lines in Aurdal whose life events were here in Bruflat. You can see that Mikkel and Marit (lower left – you can click on it to make it bigger and readable) were married in this church over 180 years ago.
The soil here is so rocky that it must be difficult to dig out the plots. And the natural shifting of the soil and rocks in a place with as much moisture and freezing and thawing must wreak havoc on the monuments. Yet they were all upright and beautiful, telling us that much loving care goes into tending the resting places of our people.
We couldn’t resist looking closely at the tiny specks of beauty while traveling through the majestic vistas of Aurdal and Etnedal. The two main colors we saw were green and blue. We could see why many Norwegian transplants chose to settle in the fertile north on Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. It’s a little more baffling to understand why the Haggens ended up in Wyoming, with its browns and grays, but it is said that Hans and Nellie Haggen often went up into the Big Horn mountains where the vegetation is lush and the streams play joyfully down the slopes.
The mountains, the rivers and the lakes told us the story of our people. Even the farms , fences and rowboats whisper of the past. They are not forgotten, and the opportunity for us to peek into their lives has been wonderful.
Soon we will complete our time in the east and head west for the fjords. We will be visiting Solheims in Bergen, and seeing the places where the Haggen family sprang from in Haugesund and Stavanger.