Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mountain vacation 2008. Facts & figures

Some facts & dates for the non-initiated. :-)

The cabin in the mountains is the most typical of all Norwegian holiday retreats. Traditionally, this was preferably rather spartan; this is changing now, unfortunately, but this is not the time or place to get into that debate, so I'll leave that for later. A cabin tends to stay in the same family for generations and is often owned jointly by several siblings or other relatives.

My family's cabin - which bears the rather too impressive name Bjørneborg ('bear's fortress') - was built by my grandfather in 1950-51. (Please note: when I talk about my family in the following posts, I'm talking about my mother's family. They are from the inland county of Hedmark; the East Valley area, to be precise.) The cabin is in a rather remote area in the famous mountain region called Rondane. Rondane was the first national park in Norway, established in 1962. The cabin sits not in the park but in Myldingi nature reserve, which originally bordered the park, but after the park was expanded five years ago it's actually an integrated part of the park. (There are no fences or other visible demarcation, of course. :-)

Naturally, and in case anyone's wondering, it's totally illegal to build anything in the park or the reserve. My grandfather was given a dispensation because of our family's unique status in relation to the area. Very nearby - a few minutes' walk - is Bjørnhollia, a mountain resort of the type which the Norwegian Tourist Association (DNT) maintains in hiking districts around the country. This place - now kind of a slightly rough hotel, but surprisingly fancy considering the location ;-) - was originally built as a shieling by my maternal grandmother's family, to serve their nearby farm, Solvang, in the early years of the 20th century. Not many decades passed before DNT took it over to serve the growing mountain tourism trade ... but it has continued as Solvang's shieling up until today, and we all hope will do so for many years to come. As a proper hotel it was finished in 1947, but a number of expansions and alterations have been done since then. From 1959 through 1972 it was managed by my great-uncle Hans Øyen, the farmer at Solvang, and when his son Storm took over the farm he also took over management of the shieling. But eventually he felt the demands of both farm and hotel were getting to be too much, and in 2000 the management of Bjørnhollia was taken over by outsiders. Gasp! :-) Beate and Svein are doing a stellar job with the place and we're all happy that we're getting along so well with them and with their two sons Sigurd and Storm.

Anyway. Because of this my grandfather and eventually another family member were allowed to purchase plots of land in the nature reserve and build cabins there. My grandfather later added to his original construction and of course built an outhouse :-) and later, in the first half of the 90s, my father and uncle expanded the cabin and built a new outhouse (although the old one still stands). The cabin is in our opinion ;-) very beautiful, it has an absolutely lovely location, a fantastic view, and as far as amenities go it has everything we really need. No electricity, obviously, but solar panels that give us some electric light and also let us use a radio without depending on batteries. A pretty fancy gas stove for cooking and a fireplace and two wood stoves for heating. Three bedrooms with eight beds in all (4+2+2). Cold running water in the summer. No indoor plumbing, of course, but a really nice outhouse. :-) None of these things will ever be improved upon as that would require alterations to the landscape that of course are unthinkable considering the conservation status of the area. I don't mind, and I don't think the others do either - for me at least a big part of the charm of a cabin vacation is that it's so different from the way I live at home.

The cabin is about a six to seven hour drive from where my parents live. I suppose it would be a little shorter from here, but I don't drive, so I don't really know about things like that. From t/here to my grandmother's house it's between four and five, five and a half hours (depending on traffic and on the driver ;-), and from there to the cabin it's another hour and a half. The house sits well back from the road, you have to get pretty close to it to notice that it's even there. The property is owned jointly and equally by my parents and my uncle and aunt. Since I am an only child, when it comes time to pass the torch (not at all that I want that to happen, but let's be realistic) I will totally be queen of the castle, since I will own half the place and my cousins each only about a third of a half. Bwahahaha!!! Prepare for a reign of terror!! I will leave as many old tins of canned pears and fish cakes in the cellar as I want to leave, and damn the consequences!!! Do you hear me??!? AS MANY AS I WANT TO LEAVE ... !!! BWAHAHAHAHA ... !!

Ahem. Pictures coming up in a later post.

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