Sunday, July 8, 2007

The History of Hallingdal, Norway

There are six communities in Hallingdal: Al, Hol, Gol, Hemsedal, Flaa and Nes. Edna Rude tells us that the earliest settlers around Al and Hol came over the mountains from the Sognefjord and Hardanger areas. They had followed ancient trails made by earlier migrant hunters. Gol and Hemsedal were occupied by those coming through Valdres and from the east (Sweden). It is not known if they had ever settled in Sweden or were just passing through. Nes and Flaa were taken over by people coming through Denmark and Estonia, taking the water route to Drammen and up the Hallingdal River.

All of the above people spoke a similar Germanic (teutonic) language. They either lived peaceably next to each other or they fought to determine boundaries because they stayed. Yet, Edna says, to this day they admit a difference in speech, customs, actions and appearance. There is a distinct line between Nes and Gol.

The people of Hallingdal were farmers with enough livestock to carve out their own existence. During the summers they followed the green grass high up on the mountains to a portion of their farm called the seter. Here the women (get that!) turned the herds loose and stayed with them. They made the finest butter and cheese from the milk up there as the grass was so very sweet and nourishing. Some summers the animals had to be carried out of the dark stable to eat the grass around the stable to gain the strength to walk up to the seter. They tried to keep too many animals on too little food during the winter for many centuries.

Going to the seter was like a vacation. The air was so light and the sun shone more hours in the day than down between the mountain walls of the valley farms. They lived in primitive shelters in the seter and the hard work required strong bodies and strong wills.

To be continued…

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