Progress along St. Olav’s Way: Gudbrandsdalen’s farms and history

Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com Per Gynt Farm, home of the man thought to be the inspiration for Ibsen and Grieg’s “Peer Gynt.”

Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com
Per Gynt Farm, home of the man thought to be the inspiration for Ibsen and Grieg’s “Peer Gynt.”

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

I am continuing my Sons of Norway virtual pilgrimage from Oslo to Nidaros along St. Olav’s Way.

You read about my journey from Lillehammer to Hundorp in my last progress report, published in the May 4 issue of NAW. Now I will share with you some of the highlights of my trek from Hundorp to Otta.

After spending the night at the Dale-Gudbrands Pilgrim Center in Hundorp, I set out bright and early the next morning.

I had a few more stops to make in Hunsdorp before heading for Harpefoss.

Sygard Grytting
I definitely wanted to stay at Sygard Grytting. A former farm estate, it has been owned by the Grytting family for sixteen generations.

The family added a hotel attic for pilgrims in 1300. You can still stay in this medieval hotel. I thought it would be very special to spend the night where pilgrims had been staying for so many centuries.

Photo: Morten Brun / Visitnorway.com Mealtime at Sygard Grytting, where pilgrims can stay in a hotel attic dating back to 1300

Photo: Morten Brun / Visitnorway.com Mealtime at Sygard Grytting, where pilgrims can stay in a hotel attic dating back to 1300

If you bring your own sleeping bag, you can use one of the 20 beds in the attic. You also have access to a shower and a bathroom. Two meals are available, breakfast and dinner. For dinner you can opt for the pilgrim soup or for a three-course dinner. Since I was very hungry, I chose the three-course dinner!

Per Gynt Farm
My visit to the Per Gynt Farm will definitely be one of the highlights of my pilgrimage. It was the home of Peder Olsen Hågå, the man reputed to have been the inspiration for Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt and Grieg’s “Peer Gynt, Op. 23.”

This farm is the proud recipient of the St. Olav’s Rose, an honor awarded to places with particularly distinguished Norwegian heritage.

One eats very well here. The dishes are typical of the valley. All of the ingredients used are local and “ecologically cultivated.” The meat comes from the farm and the fish from the local lakes. The chefs are among the best in the country.

I highly recommend you view the video at www.pergynt.no/?page_id=55. It takes you on a tour of this marvelous estate, one of the oldest in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley.

Harpefoss
Harpefoss, named after a waterfall in the Lågen River, is a small village with a population of approximately 450 people. It was built in the late 1800s when the Dovrefjell Railway Line, which went from Oslo to Trondheim, was under construction.

Take a ride on this line, called The Trail of Trolls, by watching a two-minute YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQUaFa77XiE.

Vinstra
Vinstra is a small town in Gudbrandsdalen. (It is also the name of a river.) Ibsen made it famous with his great play, Peer Gynt. Every year the Peer Gynt Festival takes place here. It is one of Norway’s most important cultural events.

I decided to spend the night at the Sødorp Gjestgivergård. This guesthouse offers overnight accommodations as well as breakfast and a packed lunch. Group meeting rooms and event space are also available.

Gudbrandsdalen Krigsminnesamling (War Memorial)
The Gudbrandsdal War Memorial documents the entire history of war in Gudbrandsdalen, beginning with the “Scottish Raid” of 1612.

Photo: Jan-Tore Egge / Wikimedia Commons A cannon on display at the Gudbrandsdal War Memorial.

Photo: Jan-Tore Egge / Wikimedia Commons
A cannon on display at the Gudbrandsdal War Memorial.

In particular, I learned a lot about World War II during my visit. The Germans invaded Norway on April 9, 1940. A fierce battle was fought between the Germans and British troops at Kvam on April 25 and 26. It was one of the deadliest battles in southern Norway. Seventy buildings in Kvam were burned to the ground, including the church.

Gudbrandsdalen
“Gudbrandsdalen” means the valley (dalen) of the God sword (Gudbrand). It covers approximately 230 kilometers, going from Lillehammer in the south to Romsdal in the north. It contains many important historical sites and remarkable landscapes and boasts three national parks: the Jotunheimen, Rondane, and Dovrefjell.

For an exciting vicarious thrill, I encourage you to experience hang gliding over this scenic valley in a six-minute YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQuiXsm2RtY.

Kvam
Kvam is the halfway mark between Oslo and Trondheim. I consider this quite a milestone. I am finding this pilgrimage truly enjoyable, and I am learning a lot about this wonderful land of Norway.

Kvam is a village with a population of approximately 800. It has the advantage of good connections with the rest of Norway. Both the Dovrefjell Railway and the Gudbrandsdalslågen River run through it.

The people of this village are famous for their humor. In neighboring Fåvang, for example, jokes are called Kvamværsvitser (Kvam-weathered jokes).

The church in Kvam was originally built in 1775. As mentioned above, it was unfortunately destroyed by the Germans in 1940. A new church was finally consecrated in 1952.

You will find my previous reports in the following issues of the Norwegian American Weekly: December 26, 2014, January 23, 2015, February 13, 2015, March 6, 2015, April 3, 2015, and May 8, 2015. Stay tuned for more—we’re halfway there, so there’s much more to come!

This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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