One of the things that is great about longer trips is the ability to have some flexibility in which road you choose. As we headed out of Oslo towards the Lysefjord our initial plan took us along a southernly route before turning north to the fjord. Sitting in the passenger seat I entertained my father with the history of the area before coming to the guidebook’s must-see, the Heddal Stave Church, which our current route – the GPS’ shortest distance between Point A and Point B – would have us completely miss. So we backtracked, more than a little bit, before heading into the country’s interior-lying national park in search of the 13th century wooden church.
Last year my father and I visited a breath-taking collection of wooden churches in Romania, so we were rather curious as to why Norway claimed to have the only wooden churches as the Norwegian churches and those in Romania looked quite similar. The details are in the construction, we learned, with earth-bound posts, or staves, making the architectural distinction. The church in Heddal is Norway’s largest stave church, and, in my opinion, had the most fascinating interior of the three we visited on our trip. Crowning the nave is a crucifix on which hangs a sickly, green Jesus.
Leaving the church behind we headed deep into Norway’s interior through the county of Telemark. It was here, in Norway’s hills and valleys that modern skiing was born. It continues to lend its name to Telemark skiing, a cross between cross-country (nordic) and downhill (alpine) skiing. As the day wore on we climbed higher and higher until we reached the entrance to the Suleskar Road, our way point to Norway’s first major fjord and our resting place for the evening.