As Eddie and I carefully set our feet down between sheep droppings, we caught a whiff of fresh manure. Instantly, I was transported back to my childhood in Norway, spent in the country with a potato field in front of the house, a couple of steers grazing in a pasture next to the carport, and my uncle’s sheep passing by our house on their way to and from their barn.
My friend and co-worker Eddie decided to take a drive out to Seim and Lygra and wanted to know if I’d like to join him. Our goal was to deliver a life saver our company hands out for free.
For both of us this was a nostalgic trip. Eddie family name comes from a tiny island on the fjord that passes by Feste, and the way there was the way my family drive through to get to the family farm in Mundal (not the one off an arm of the Sognefjorden but an unnamed valley in the municipality of Lindås north of Bergen). We drove on narrow, winding roads for two hours one way. Today, we can get to Mundal in just over a half hour and no ferry, thanks to a couple of bridges and a tunnel.
On our way out, I had a senior moment, as in I was completely surprised by a traffic light in what in my memory had always been in the middle of nowhere. You know, “Ohmygodhowthingshavechanged!!!”
Out on Feste, which used to be a major stop for passenger steamers and later the catamarans headed from Bergen to fjords to the north of us. Feste is the last stop before you leave the torn up archipelago that protects the fjords around the city for the exposure of the North Sea.
We drove out to Lygra (to the Heathland Center) and looked across the fjord to where Eddie’s family got their name from—and behind it the gas flame at the refinery on Mongstad. The old and new Norway in one scene.
Eddie had spent memorable days of his childhood and young adulthood fishing, boating and helping his father build a boathouse. Like me, he had a chance to share a summer meadow with cows or sheep or horses.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how lush Norway is. All that rain makes everything grow like crazy once winter leaves.
On our way back to town, we drove through my old childhood community, Hordvik. I pointed out the house I had lived in the longest, where the post office and grocery store had been, my former school (now a daycare center), where my friends had lived, where I skied in the winter, and helped hang hay for drying in the summer, where a favorite grandaunt lived, the road I biked to visit yet another friend. We ended up on the now disused ferry landing that used to be one end of Norway’s busiest ferry, in a neighborhood that was all newer single family homes, not the sparse cabin community of my childhood with blueberry bushes everywhere.
We headed home, back through the intersection with a traffic light, towards another new tunnel that took me away from my old schoolbus route to middle school, and back into the city.
Eddie offered to show me where he grew up and even though Landås is not far from the rest of Bergen, I had never actually been to the part of town where Eddie had grown up. He grew up in tenement housing built by guilds and unions to accommodate the population explosion after WWII ended. Eddie’s home was a second story condo in a two-story house, near one of the last farms, which had cows, and in the winter the cow pasture was for sledding and skiing. Not unlike my childhood nowhere near the city.
He also grew up with the most amazing view of the Bergen valley and downtown Bergen, a view of Bergen I hadn’t seen before. I’m going back to take more (and better) pictures.