In Another Life
Many years ago, I figured out that, in another life, I must have been a Spanish dancer. I prefer warm weather over cool. I feel an affinity to the mediterranean culture. I love olives and wine. When it was time to learn Spanish, it came easily. My dark hair and brown eyes easily put me in the Spanish ethnic circle and my love of dancing had to come from somewhere since I didn’t get it from my family. I imagined myself in that other life, wearing a long full skirt and red shoes, dancing to the rhythm of flamenco guitars. When I married Jim, I tried to imagine who he had been in another life. Slowly, it came to me. With his love of cooler climates, wooden boats on the water, and his excellent sense of style and craft, I could see him as a Norwegian viking, an artisan working with wood.
As a youngster, my family traveled numerous times to Norway, spending three weeks soaking in the beauty and the peace of the long summer days. My memories of the land made me want to return. I also thought Jim might connect to the geography and culture of what might have been another life… And that’s how we decided to travel to the land of the fjords. Little did we know on that first trip that we would return again and again but that’s how Norway is. It reels you in.
As our plane swooped down between the mountains to land in Trondheim, I was already reconnecting to a land of pines, water, and rolling farmland. The smell of fresh wood greeted us in the airport and we took the bus through the first of many tunnels. Trondheim, nestled between the water and the mountain, is built of old wooden houses and newer stone buildings. It is a very livable city with bike paths and potted flowers but its beauty comes from its setting. The turquoise water of the northern fjords reflects the forest surrounding it. We hike up to the fort on the hill and look down on the view then walk back down for a cup of coffee on the cobblestone street by the wooden bridge. We eat bacalao, a typical fish soup, and treat ourselves to fresh shrimp at a picnic table by the water. We listen to an organ recital in the solid Nidaros Cathedral where kings have been crowned, and watch families in traditional dress bringing their babies for baptism. We walk among the Lapland dwellings at the Folk Museum. We take the ferry across the water to the island of Munkholmen, a dark reminder that the Nazis made it this far north. Mainly, we soak in the water and wood and the even keel life we see around us.
After a smooth train trip up and beyond the arctic circle where incredible views greet us along every mile, we fly south to Bergen. Our apartment is up the side of the mountain so we take the zigzagging stairs up and are welcomed by our host, Ole. The apartment gives us an open view down onto the harbor. I want Jim to see the stave church built all of wood. But he is also taken in by the boats coming and going, and we get to see them up close as we join a local wooden boat festival. They remind us of the old Viking ships we saw in Oslo dating back to the 800s. Wooden boats are definitely a theme here and Jim is mesmerized.
And then there are the fjords. We take the bus over and through the mountain to the ferry and for seven hours, we stand on the front of the boat, taking in the incomparable views. We want to take a picture of every scene, and then realize that photos will never do them justice. This is the Norway I remember from my teenage years. Endless water and steep mountains seem to close in and then open up until we are deep inside the fjord. The sky is blue and reflects the perfect mirror image into the water. The land is dotted here and there with small bright red and white wooden houses. But mostly, it’s the fresh air, the land free in all its beauty, the sky and the water. We soak it in, overwhelmed by nature’s display. And, all of a sudden, we know we will be back. Maybe Jim did live here in another life...