Wednesday, Oct 16
The elk bellowed all night again, at least I’ll assume they did, since I heard them as I was going to bed and heard them again this morning. I used my white noise app, and was able to sleep much better. As I typed up yesterday’s journal in the very early morning hours today, I could hear the male elk bellowing as he moved around on the hill below our house. There are bushes right outside the house, so I couldn’t see him. After I finished typing, I went to stand outside the house, and listened some more. I could clearly make out that there was one male near me and another farther up the hill and to the east. I could also hear rustling feet, probably the females following the male near me. After waiting for about 3-4 minutes, I was rewarded with a view of 3 females walking up the hill next to the house. Shortly behind them came the male, all stealthy and quiet now. He came from behind, but then ran up the hill. The female at the back ran after him, and they all proceeded up the hill. It was still too dark to capture these beautiful beasts on my iPhone, but later in the morning, I did capture a pair of females taking the same path up the hill. You can check out that video here.
We didn’t have much for set plans today. Our first stop was the Kaupanger Stave Church. Norway’s oldest churches are stave churches, so called because of their architectural structure. They are generally a dark brown color and made entirely of wood. The one in Kaupanger was built in 1150. We weren’t able to go inside, but we did enjoy walking around the outside and checking out the graveyard all around it. Despite the church being so old, there were a surprising number of recent graves in the churchyard. The modern style of headstone incorporates a place in front of the stone for planted flowers (to be maintained by family or friends, I assume), an urn for fresh cut flowers, and a space for a light of some kind. See sample grave in the photos below. There was a laminated sign on the entrance to the graveyard warning that only lights with batteries were allowed, no open flames. I’ve noticed in many cemeteries throughout the country that Norwegians take very good care of their loved one’s graves. They are always neat and tidy. Most have a water pump for watering plants that have been planted around graves. One cemetery that we stopped at later in the day went to even greater lengths. Not only did they have a water pump with a watering can, but they also supplied several hand tools for weeding and digging. Suspiciously, this cemetery was located next to a garden center, so I suspect it was the garden center who supplied the tools.
There were pastures surrounding the stave church graveyard. One held some large goats with amazing horns. As I watched, one of them stood up and started peeing. I was astonished when he turned his head and started lapping up his pee stream in mid-air, drinking his own pee. Ugh! Another pasture held smaller goats who were on a mission to get somewhere. As Ginger and I approached, about 30 goats came down the hill, along the fence where we stood, and through a small hole (it looked intentional) into another fenced area. It was really sweet to watch them all make their way past us. A few stopped to pose for the cameras.
When the goats had all passed us by, we got back in the car and headed to the nearby city of Songdal. It’s a small city. We parked in the central shopping mall and wandered around a bit. We saw some cute old houses near the waterfront. We stopped by a statue of a man named Gjest Baarsden, who was a “Norwegian outlaw, jail-breaker, non-fiction writer, songwriter and memoirist. He was among the most notorious criminals in Norway in the 19th century.” According to Wikipedia. I guess that explains the leg iron on the statue (which is not visible in the photo). Near the waterfront Rob found the first friendly cat we’ve encountered in Norway. He had massive paws and what looked like opposable thumbs.
We stopped for lunch at the cafe near the Meny grocery store. Ginger had a bacon burger and I had a Norwegian staple that I hadn’t yet tried. I don’t know the name for it, but it was basically a crepe that you add sour cream and strawberry or raspberry jam (I opted for both). It was pretty good, tasted just as one would expect.
From here, we set out to see Kvinnefossen waterfall. It cascades down right next to the road and then underneath. It wasn’t much of a hike, but it sure was pretty! Our next stop was Balderssteinen. Here we saw the tallest standing stone in Norway, nearly 8 meters tall (or 26 feet). Just a bit down the hill from the standing stone were 2 Iron Age burial grounds that were unearthed in the 1990s when the city developed that area for a new cemetery. The town surrounding these Iron Age landmarks is called Husabø. It was the home of Harald Golden Beard who was the most significant king in the region before Norway was unified as one kingdom. And his grandson, Harald the Fair-haired, eventually united all of Norway under one kingdom.