Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Geiranger: Must We Leave?

June 12 and 13
Do We Have to Leave?

In Geiranger there was nothing to do. And no one wanted to leave. You don’t need to DO anything in this village at the head of one of Norway’s headliner fjords; just BE there. It doesn’t hurt that the only culinary game in town, the Geiranger Hotel, serves lavish gourmet buffets.

The village stretches from the waterfront up a steep hill to the Geiranger Hotel and beyond up the mountain. At most hours a ferry or cruise ship rests in port, having released American, British, German and Japanese visitors.

The town’s signature feature is a waterfall that originates at the top of the mountain, rushing between houses perched terrace-style near the switchback road. The waterfall dashes under the road and races around its own switchback in the forest of tall slender pines.

Nearly every house has a view of the waterfall. From every location you hear the rushing white noise. Do the villagers have trouble sleeping in silent places elsewhere?

Many of us were sleep-deprived, but still outside until 11:30 or later June 12, taking photos, walking up the mountain road or climbing the rocks overlooking the waterfall in the lower part of the village.

Sunset turned the bottom of the clouds orange-pink. Still water at the edge of the waterfall reflected the salmon color as if the water were on fire.

A Village Church and a Prayer
Overlooking the fjord is a small white wooden church of the size and sort that serves about 85% of the population – although a much smaller percentage attends. Large urban cathedrals are the exception rather than the rule here.

On our way out of town, our two Study Travel groups stopped at the church to ponder the gravestones. Though one dated from 1812, most gravestones are new. In previous centuries graves were less well marked, and generations of family were buried one on top of the other.

Inside the church, rosemaling colors adorn the intricately carved pulpit, altar rail and chairs. Todd Nichol exorted the men to sit on one side and the women on the other, as they would have done years ago. The alacrity with which the men complied was un-Norwegian. In earlier days, the men would have been hanging around outside while bells tolled repeatedly, trying to get them to come in for the service.

Church historian Todd Nichol, who is ordained, talked about church life, then put religion into practice. One Study Travel has a dying relative back home. Todd kneeled, facing the altar, as the priest would do and led us in “Our Father.” John Ferguson played an organ prelude and postlude.


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