I’ve written about Osterøy several times, especially since our last visit in April. Aside from being a unique part of this area, it’s the home of Jan’s sister and her family. I always feel warmly welcomed.
I’ve been looking over my Osterøy posts and realized that, although I’ve shared specific visits, areas, and emotions, I haven’t written much about the overall island. So I thought I’d dive into a little more “information” depth about this area of this beautiful country.
I found this interesting; from Wikipedia: The Old Norse form of the name was ‘Óstr’. The last element ‘øy’ which means ‘island’ was added later. The meaning of the name is unknown. It is possible that it comes from the word ‘óstr’ which means ‘the arch of the neck’ — words for parts of the body are common in Norwegian place names.
A few facts about Osterøy:
– Population: about 7,500 people.
– Size: at 328 km2/127 square miles, it’s Northern Europe’s largest island; from Osterøy’s official webpage: “[it’s] surrounded by the mainland on all sides and [has] only one narrow outlet … where the Sørfjord and the Osterfjord meet.”
– Surrounded by fjords: the Osterfjorden-Romarheimsfjorden on the northern side, the Sørfjorden on the southern and western sides, and the Veafjorden on the eastern side.
– Mountainous: a dozen mountains, with Høgafjellet the highest at 868-meters/2,848 feet; Brøknipa (also known as Bruviknipa) is the next highest and has its steep face towards Sørfjorden.
The northernmost part of Osterøy has only one road and isn’t connected to the other areas of the island. If residents in the northern part need to travel to the kommune’s administrative center of Lonevåg, they have to drive across the Kallestadsundet Bridge to Vaksdal. This bridge opened in 1985 and crosses the Veafjorden. Residents then continue for quite a way (about an hour) on E16 along the Sørfjorden to reach the other bridge … and then, once back on Osterøy, it’s still another 20 minutes to Lonevåg.
Yes, Osterøy is that big and has that much remote area!
Although we passed it several times during our travels to and from Modalen, I don’t have a photo of the Kallestadsundet Bridge — but I found this interesting photo on Wikipedia:
(Here is where the Kallestadsundet Bridge is located on the map.)
The “other bridge” is the Osterøy Bridge. It opened in 1997, and connects Osterøy to E16 closer to Bergen. The third largest suspension bridge in Norway, it is 1,065 meters/3,494 feet long.
(Here is where the Osterøy Bridge is located on the map.)
In addition to the two bridges, the Breistein–Valestrandsfossen car ferry offers a third way to reach Osterøy. It began in 1932 and has operated continuously since then.
Is it any surprise that the ferry is named Ole Bull? 🙂
(Here is where the Breistein–Valestrandsfossen car ferry is located on the map.)
We’ve driven around Osterøy often, especially my first visit in 2006, but many of my photos are of family and too personal to share here. I especially wish I had taken more of the 1860′s-home-overlooking-one-of-the fjords restoration that one of Jan’s nephews was undertaking then (but hope to get there soon now that they are finished).
I’ve shared other Osterøy photo “themes” in my past posts, so I’ll end this with a collection of some of my favorites from our first visit that give you a glimpse of a small part of this intriguing island — they were my introduction to the way the clouds, sun, and mountains affected the light and reflections of the Norwegian west coast, and utterly captivated me. I stood and looked at these same views during our recent visit, and even with the expansive “over the southern end of the Bergen valley” and “over the fjord” views I’ve enjoyed from my own apartments’ windows — the views seen here still captivated me!
(I’m not able to ski, or go on strenuous hikes, but a blogger I follow has many beautiful photos of his skiing and exploring in the Bergen area. His Osterøy mountain photos are breathtaking, and show a side of this island that I can’t access. You’ll be amazed!)
Our trip to Osterøy last month reminded me of one of my first explorations on the island eight years ago, during the first time I visited Norway. Jan and I had driven to the village of Hosanger, situated along Osterfjorden on the northern shore of Osterøy.
We enjoyed the spring air and walked around the historic church. It was low tide and we made our way out to an area that is cut off when the tides are higher. I had my flute with me, and I shared a little “flute improv” — mixing a little flute music with the bird sounds, while introducing Jan to this silver tube that has been a part of my life since I was ten. It was the beginning of my understanding of the influence the Norwegian environment had on the music and compositions of Edvard Grieg and Ole Bull.
A little about the Hosanger church (kirke): There has been a church at Hosanger since the Middle Ages. The first time Hosanger Church is mentioned in historical records is in 1329. That church was most probably a stave church. That church was replaced at some unknown time by a timber-framed church. A report from 1686 described as “very run down” because of poor exterior maintenance, which suggests that the church, at that time was already relatively old. At Christmas 1795, lightning struck the church and it burned down. A new stone church was built on the same site the following year. That stone church was renovated and enlarged from 1863-1865 and again from 1962-1964.
I found several Creative Commons images of Hosanger, and the outside and inside of the church, to expand on those more personal photos up there.
The church and area:
Close-up photos of the interior:
Our visit was a beautiful time of exploring a tiny bit of Norway’s history while mixing it with a little modern music — and now, eight years later, finding the images of the inside of this church just adds to the experience. I’ve been in several Norwegian churches since moving here; all have similar pulpits, but I hadn’t seen anything like the baptismal angel before. And, the photo of the old baptismal font makes me eager to get back to explore and experience that history with my own eyes and camera. Such stories it could tell!
(Here is where this part of the world is located on the map.)
I was a flute teacher for thirty years before I moved to Norway. One of the pieces I taught was a solo by the Norwegian composer Ole Bull. It’s slow, beautiful, mournful … and it wasn’t until I moved to Norway that I fully understood the emotions behind the music.
I wrote a little about Ole Bull before, and I now live across the fjord from his home on Lysøen. But he also had a summer home on Osterøy at Valestrandsfossen. We stopped outside this home during our recent visit, which prompted me to think about the legacy of this Norwegian composer.
Highlights of Ole Bull’s life:
– Born in Bergen in 1810
– Child prodigy on violin
– Well known in his adult career and gave thousands of concerts throughout Europe and the United States
– Strong believer in the idea of Norway as a separate country, and played a key role in the development of a distinct Norwegian culture after independence from Denmark
– Co-founded the first Norwegian theater where the actors spoke Norwegian instead of Danish
– At his funeral in 1880, Bjørn Bjørnson, Norwegian stage actor and theater director, called Ole Bull “the (Norwegian) people’s first and largest super star”
Those factual bullet points I listed up there can’t convey the power of his music … but a personal experience can. Eight years ago I wrote about a concert in this Osterøy home that was part of the 2006 Bergen International Music Festival that we attended; the emotions of that concert are still so enjoyable to remember, and are the basis of my understanding of the Norwegian music of Ole Bull and Edvard Grieg:
Sunday, May 28:
My first concert (in Norway); music of Ole Bull and his contemporaries, performed on period instruments at Ole Bull’s home on Osterøy (which is only a ten minute drive from Kari and Henry’s home). It was an intimate gathering of perhaps fifty people. I sat surrounded by his instruments, paintings, photos, home furnishings, all within touching distance and all safe because the people respect the value of these instruments and collectibles and only use their eyes to examine.
I was lost in the music. For the first time, I heard a live performance on the Hardingfele and Harmonium. A solo that I have taught students over the years was presented with variations. The ensemble between the soloist and accompanist was excellent.
Jan and I were seated against a wall on a period-style couch – or maybe it was an original? I looked across the other concert-goers in their chairs, through the window opposite my seat, and saw the mountains and trees and colors of Norway with a light rain blurring the depth and dimension of the landscape. It was my first experience with Norwegian music in a Norwegian setting, and I was captivated.
It’s not possible to share my students playing his music … but I can share this: a violin performance by Annar Follesø, musically accompanied by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (Ole Kristian Ruud, conductor) and visually accompanied by the stunning images of Norway.
(Here is where Ole Bull’s summer home at Valestrandsfossen is located on the map.)
During our drives on Osterøy, Jan has pointed out the special construction of many of the barns we can see from the car windows. During our recent visit, we stopped to take a photo of one of them.
Constructed of wood, stones, and twigs, it looks like many farms I’ve seen in my life … except for those branches. In pointing out the limbs before, Jan has commented on how long these natural building materials last. After capturing the image, my curiosity was piqued. Just what IS it? I put on my research hat and had some fun with Google.
This technique is called “cladding.”
– Just what is cladding? From Wikipedia: Cladding is the application of one material over another to provide a skin or layer intended to control the infiltration of weather elements, or for aesthetic purposes. Cladding does not necessarily have to provide a waterproof condition but is instead a control element. This control element may only serve to safely direct water or wind in order to control run-off and prevent infiltration into the building structure.
– What types of cladding are there? Many types! Information about metalworking, fiber optics, construction, nuclear fuel, boiler, and siding are linked from here.
– What material is used in the type of cladding we see on the barns of Osterøy? A little back story: There’s so much about Norway that was foreign to my North American eyes when I first moved here. For example, although the swans were familiar, the different varieties of birds have utterly captivated me. But the trees, bushes, flowers, and plants I see around me in this part of the northern hemisphere are similar to those that grew in “my” parts of the States. One of those is the Juniper tree.
The material used on the barns is juniper: In Norway, juniper foliage is used in cladding, a traditional method of insulating barn walls from wind and rain. The process is tedious, but well-constructed juniper cladding can last for decades.
– Why is it used? I read that Juniper keeps the lashing rain out, while permitting drafts that keep the hay dry.
– Interesting! More information, please? From “The Ecology of Building Materials” by Bjørn Berge: The juniper is cut around midsummer, since that is when the twigs are toughest and the needles most firmly attached to the bush … Branches of about 50 cm in length and 1-1.5 cm thickness are cut and woven between horizontal battens at 20 cm intervals so that each branch lies inside one batten and outside two, forming two layers outside and one layer inside each batten … The wattle work is pushed together with a hammer to make it tight. Finally the wall is trimmed. At first the cladding is green; in time it becomes brown and dark grey, and after 30 years so much moss may grow that it becomes green again … Juniper cladding is particularly good, and has had a functional lifespan of between 50 and 60 years; and even up to 100 years in the western fjord landscape of Norway.
To end these thoughts on cladding, I thought I’d share another part of Osterøy: the historical farm area of Havrå. From Wikipedia: Havrå or Havre … is a cluster of farms along the southern shore of the island … Havrå is one of the very last and best preserved of the common farm clusters on the western coast of Norway. Havrå was the first cultural environment to be protected … [by the] Norwegian Cultural Heritage Act. It was not connected to the national road network until late in the 1960s. (In other words, it was only accessible on foot or by boat until the 1960s.)
I share this because, of course, there are many examples of cladding on the buildings. We haven’t visited yet, but I’ve seen it across the Sørfjorden through the car window when we’re driving on E16:
Here’s another “across the fjord” image that I found online, this one from the perspective of looking across Sørfjorden towards the mainland. It gives you a better idea of how steep it is:
Seeing its remoteness and location on a steep mountainside helps me appreciate the strength and dedication of the people that, hundreds of years ago, saw this area from their ship on the fjord, transported the tools and material necessary to carve out a slice of the rocky and steep terrain, brought the animals and materials necessary to stock their farm, and founded a successful place to sustain life.
But it’s even older than a “modern” farm; loosely translated from this page: Pollen analysis of samples taken show that there were crops in the area 3500 years ago. Findings from the Stone Age show that human activity in the area is even older.
Fascinating! And just another incentive to get out there and see it for myself. In the meantime, here are a few other cladding images I found online from this historic farm area of Havrå:
(Here is where this part of the world is located on the map.)
There are many ancient stone fences in Norway. With the abundance of rocks and mountains, and the glaciers’ scrapping away of that rock eons ago, the resulting stones were the perfect fence material for the earliest people who began to carve out their place in this country. They used a special, long-lasting technique to build their fences to separate the sheep from the different farms — whole sections still stand today, 200 – 300 years later!
During our drive through a small part of Osterøy on Friday, we saw the usual old moss-covered fences snaking through the hills. On the way back home I had Jan stop so I could get out to photograph one of them “up close and personal.”
The end had been repaired recently (“recently” meaning perhaps five, or perhaps fifty, years ago?), and I realized once I got up to it that, with crutches from my hip issues and a recent foot surgery, it would be impossible to walk down the rutted, rocky, and slightly muddy grass to the really old section. Darn.
But I did get a few images that show the newer repaired end with the older rocks and moss underneath, an angle of the stones meandering off through what was once open farmland, and I’ve cropped one of the photos to try to show the ancient rock and moss section off in the distance.
With Spring arriving in this part of the world, would you like to join me for a picnic? We can sit next to these ancient stones and eavesdrop on their whispers of history.
(Here is where this part of the world is located on the map.)
Today we spent a delightful few hours visiting Jan’s sister and her warm and welcoming family on Osterøy. I took a few photos of the area and plan to share them soon, but I thought I’d reblog my impressions of the first time I meet them back in 2006.
I think they represent the best of the Norwegian people.
(EDIT June 8, 2014: in moving my blog to a new host, the “reblog” disappeared; click here to read the original!)
That was my final draft. My first one was over 4000 words (!) and included several other attributes of this area. And as much as I love exploring the history of Bergen, I really wanted to include those other highlights too. So I told those words they’d see themselves in a blog post soon.
Here are the first of those words – the ones that shouted the loudest to me, after the history words were published! I mentioned concerts at Koengen, and wanted to explore a bit of the wealth of music and culture opportunities in and around the city too. (I am a flutist, and my career before moving to Norway was teaching flute; it’s only natural that the Bergen culture scene should grab me!) I haven’t attended or visited everything, of course, so this just covers my perspective.
Grieghallen, home to the Bergen Philharmonic, is the large indoor performing arts venue. It contains a 1,500 seat concert hall, a smaller area that seats 600, a TV studio, and large foyers for the audience to gather. Viewed from above, the building has the outline of a grand piano.The acoustics are fantastic … and if classical music isn’t your “thing,” just knowing that the recording studio is famous within the black metal community – several Norwegian black metal albums were recorded there – might make a visit more interesting!
Den Nationale Scene (The National Stage) is Norway’s oldest permanent theater. Founded by Ole Bull to help develop Norwegian playwrights, Henrik Ibsen was one of the first writers-in-residence and artistic directors. The theater presents about 20 productions each year on its three stages. I saw a production of Les Misérables a couple years ago – very interesting in Norwegian, and very well done!
Bergen was home to two famous composers, and a visit to their homes gives a unique perspective and understanding to their music!
Troldhaugen was the home of Edvard Grieg and his wife, Nina, for the last 22 summers of his life. Grieg found much of his musical inspiration here. The site is a museum and includes the Villa, the composer’s hut, Edvard and Nina’s grave site, a modern museum building, and the concert hall Troldsalen (a chamber music hall that seats 200 people and overlooks the composer’s hut and Nordåsvannet). I had a tiny view of Troldhaugen from the home we lived in for five years; I used to say that the birds that heard me practicing Grieg on my flute through the window were the “grandchildren” of the birds that listened to Grieg composing it in his hut!
Ole Bull was a world-renown virtuoso violinist and composer; his dedication to Norway’s folk music played a key role in the development of Norwegian culture. His Villa on Lysøen is perhaps his most recognizable, and his summer house on Valestrand on Osterøy also gives a glimpse into his musical inspiration. My first concert attendance here in Norway was in his Valestrand summer home. It was an intimate setting of about fifty people. I sat on a period couch (or perhaps it was an original?) and was surrounded by his instruments, paintings, photos, and mementos while music of his era, performed on period instruments, surrounded me. All the mementos were within touching distance, and all were safe because the people respected the value of these instruments and collectibles and only used their eyes to examine. Outside the windows, the Norwegian landscape beckoned. It was a remarkable and inspiring afternoon for a 21st century flutist!
Another personal observation … we now live opposite Lysøen, just across the narrow fjord and about 100 meters up. Once more, I feel the energy and inspirational surroundings of a famous Norwegian composer permeating my personal area, and the musician in me loves it!
There are many art museums in Bergen containing Norwegian and international paintings and collections. My favorites are the Bergen Kunsthall and Kode – the Art Museums of Bergen … but there are many more!
There are many groups and associations in the area, but the one I know the most about (and volunteer a little of my time with) is the Bergen Chamber Music Society (Bergens Kammermusikforening). They offer a program of ten to twelve chamber music concerts throughout the year; artists include members of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and artists from around the city – and also guest artists from abroad. I’ve been to several concerts held at various venues around Bergen, including Korskirken and Johanneskirken (enjoyable for the music, acoustics, and feeling a part of Bergen history!), the Reksten Gallery/Museum, and Troldhaugen’s Troldsalen.
Back in 2006 I wrote about the concerts, experiences, and emotions of attending performances during that year’s Bergen International Music Festival (Festspillene i Bergen). I didn’t live here yet, and it was a wonderful introduction to the cultural atmosphere. The annual festival is held for two weeks in May and June, and offers a complete mix to satisfy everyone – music, theater, opera, dance, debate, exhibition, family, and outdoor genres. Venues include Grieghallen, Den Nationale Scene, Logen Teater, Haakenshallen, Studio Bergen, Domkirken, Johanneskirken, Troldhaugen, Lysøen, Valestrand, Siljustøl, and Oseana, as well as the Bergen streets and town squares.
During the festival, the OiOi Festival (OiOi Festivalen) is also going on. An outdoor program organized by Bergen composer Ole Hamre, OiOi stands for Opplevelse, Innlevelse, Oppsikt, and Innsikt – Experience, Empathy, Attention, and Insight – and the motto “Distinctive and popular” is the festival’s main goal to get more people to feel a natural part of the Bergen International Festival.
The International Jazz Festival “Nattjazz” also takes place during this time.
What cultural activities are you interested in? Have you visited or attended any here in Bergen, or in your own corner of the world? Share your experiences – I’d like to live them vicariously!