Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Miscellanea Norvegica

This blog, dear reader, as you know, does not shy away from the lighter side of Norse and Viking life. So I shall not tell you about the excellent papers, or the intellectual stimulation, of the 7th International Symposium on Runes and Runic Inscriptions which I attended recently in Oslo, but rather about the very fine post-conference excursion to runic sites in Valdres, Sogn and Hadeland. This was a repeat of the excursion we made at the 3rd Symposium, held twenty years ago, with the absolute high point being Borgund (pictured above), a wonderful stave church in its own right, but also runically the richest. And, as you can see from the photo, we had exactly the same fabulous weather as we did twenty years ago.
The runes were marvellous, as one would expect, but the trip was further livened by some of the quirky things that caught my eye. For instance, the rune stone (in excellent Old Norse and good Viking Age runes) put up outside Høre stave church by two brothers, to commemorate Gyða who refused to marry Harald Finehair until he was king of all Norway (we're talking ninth century or so, here). The brothers, Hallvard and Thomas Bergh, thus credited her with inventing the country of Norway - a topic foremost in everyone's minds in 1905, when the stone was put up. Or as the stone puts it, in normalised Old Norse, hon hafði fyrst í hug eitt Nóregs ríki.
In Lærdal, where we spent the night, I was able to indulge in my passion for old buses, tractors and the like, with this very fine specimen (pictured left), which seems still to be usable (and, I take it, used), and was certainly spick and span. I have not yet troubled this blog with my numerous photos of rotting old buses in Orkney and Iceland, though I did present a very nice but elderly tractor in a recent blog about the Hebrides. So here is my first bus for you. Some rotting ones may follow another time.
Still on the transport theme, Lærdal also offered a blue plaque (pictured right) commemorating 'Norway's first motor-tourist', a Dutchman who tootled that way in 1901. The day was rounded off with a most fabulous sunset (pictured below).
On the way back to Oslo, we stopped off at Granavollen, to see the 'Sister Churches', a rune stone, and to have dinner at the excellent gjestgiveri there. Delightful though all these were, I was especially happy to rediscover (and now photograph) a grave stone (pictured below) I remembered from twenty years ago, commemorating a certain Astrid Sofie Dynna, who had then only recently passed away. It's nice to see that her family are still bringing flowers to the grave, but I noticed it because she shares her first name with, and ultimately comes from the same farm as, the young woman commemorated by her mother on what is one of my favourite rune stones, the Dynna stone, which I had visited once again in the Historical Museum in Oslo, only days before.

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