(Host) Commentator Willem Lange loves to go north in the summertime. This year he managed to spend midsummer night north of the Arctic Circle with 31 other VPR listeners.
(Lange) The Norwegian alphabet has three extra letters tacked onto it after the Y. There’s no Z. The last letter A with a little circle over it. Using your pocket dictionary can be tough till you get used to it. But it’s a friendly language. If you want to get out of a place in a hurry, you need an emergency exit, right? You look for a Nodutgang, and you’re out of there.
I had a chance last month, during two weeks of midsummer, to travel through some of the most dramatic country in the northern hemisphere, in the company of 31 other loyal VPR supporters. They weren’t all Vermonters, but beef stew isn’t all beef, either; the tour had a definite Vermont flavor, which added a lot to the experience.
We traveled by almost every public conveyance imaginable: plane, train, catamaran, bus, ferryboat, and fishing boat (without the fish). Starting in Oslo, where almost everyone starts, we visited the most famous ships of this seagoing country: the Viking longships; the Fram; Kon-Tiki; and Gjoa. We walked through the Vigeland Sculpture Park, with its amazing monolith of entwined bodies. We spent a couple of hours at the Resistance Museum, commemorating the dark years from 1940-45, and spent hours in a waterfront caf , watching the crowds on the boardwalk.
Then it was north, on the steepest railway in the world, and then to the medieval harbor town of Bergen. Two days later, we traversed some of the most exciting switchback highways any of us had ever seen. If they made a James Bond movie here, you wouldn’t believe it. There were waterfalls everywhere, hundreds of meters high; Norway is swimming in hydropower.
In the ancient Viking-age capital of Trondheim we visited the Nidaros Cathedral, with its huge facade of saints’ faces. One of them, way up in a corner, is of Bob Dylan. Honest! From Trondheim we leaped north by plane across the Arctic Circle and boarded a ferry out to the Lofoten Islands, an improbable string of almost vertical granite islands carved in the last glacial age. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the Lofotens almost never freeze, and for over 6000 years they’ve been one of the richest cod-fishing grounds in the world. We stayed in renovated old fishermen’s shacks, surrounded by acres of fish-drying racks — fortunately, at that time of the year, not filled — and drove by bus from island to island through a fantastic system of tunnels and beautiful arched bridges.
The sun never set during our time on the islands. At midnight, it bathed everything — the sea, the harbors, the dark red warehouses – in a golden yellow light. The nesting seagulls squabbled and screeched all night. No problem. Lots of time to sleep when we get back to Vermont.
This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and, yep, I hadda get back to work!
Willem Lange is a carpenter, writer, and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studios in Norwich.