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Narnia

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Christmas day was, as expected, a non-event. We visited their local church in the morning, which was somewhat different from the one built after the war, as this was medieval. Unlike the previous night it was packed and hymns were warmingly accompanied by trumpet, in a contrast to the previous night's piano and violin. It was nice also to see real candle chandeliers in place of the usual electric ones. We were privileged to see them as they are only lit under very specific circumstances for health and safety reasons obviously! Also of interest was the revelation that the entrance areas before you enter the main area of any of the local churches was used for leaving weapons on arrival 'back-in-the-day'.
 
Later in the afternoon Stein-Rune's parents came to visit so we had coffee and more cake and biscuits with them.

I can't remember what else happened that day but I suspect it was the day we ate pin meat - dried and salted lamb that is steeped in water for 3 days to remove the salt and then steamed over wooden pins in a pan. It smelt vile all afternoon, like hot wet dog or something, and by the time we came to eat it I felt nauseous. It was too salty as it had not been steeped enough. Even Elisabeth admitted she hated the smell even if she liked the taste..
 
That night we planned to go to the glacier the next day weather permitting, but it was felt that after a 3 hour drive it would only be worthwhile if we could raise the guy who ferries people across from the road to the side of the glacier so we could touch it. As it turned out we couldn't get hold of him in time, and the wind blew up a massive gale all night which prevented anyone from sleeping.
In the morning the weather was so atrocious that we gave up on the idea of going anywhere in it and decided instead to do inside sort-of-stuff so headed off to the aviation museum. 
 
The aviation museum is a fantastically arranged museum in the shape of a propellor. One side is the military aviation and the other is civil aviation. Unusually for me I was much more interested in the military aviation though it may just have been that my interest ran out by the time we reached the other side. To be fair, the museum attracts about 5% of Bodø's visitors every year and a lot of this is to see the famous black spy plane I mentioned in a previous entry as very few museums can claim to have one.

I learned a lot about Norwegian's military aviation (they had none until they swapped 4 planes for salt cod which were immediately appropriated by the germans on arrival next day, still in their packing cases), the difficult relationship with the germans during occupation (one of elisabeth's aunts married a german, the other was tortured) and about the history of planes in general.
It's astonishing anyone dared go up in 'string-bags' barely bigger than a human being, hence my curiosity and thrill to get in one. And of course the excitement of getting in a real 360 degree simulator!   Good thing it was the day after Christmas in a remote location in Norway. You'd have queues hours long if it were anywhere accessible.
 
We chilled out for a bit at home before heading out to the cinema with Alexander to watch Happy Feet. Unfortunately, unlike most films here (there are obviously some home-grown films but many AmericanEnglish films are subtitled for show here) it was dubbed in Norwegian, so having sat down in the cinema, we had to come out and get a refund. We took the opportunity to go to Elisabeth's parents' house again as we'd been invited back for more coffee.
Having found little opportunity to communicate on previous meetings it was good in a smaller group to attempt better conversation. They both can understand more english than they speak, as they watch a lot of television in English, but Elisabeth's dad was sufficiently concerned to show me his fish next door before attempting to demonstrate his english for fear of making mistakes. It seems he has bredstill breeds some fish. So he has two little tanks, one with lots of carp type goldfish and in a box at the top were thirty tiny tiny goldfish. I mean seriously about 2 or 3 mm long. They were born on Christmas Day, aw. I asked if he had names for all of them.... His other tank had about thirty inch long fish, which amazingly were babies 2-3 months old.
I would have thought they'd grow faster, but apparently goldfish take up to 8 months to grow to their normal size. 
 
Later we went to Elisabeth's sister's house and had dinner there. She cooked lasagne with salad and bread, and chocolate chrispies and peanut chocolate fudge cake. I had been preparing to be polite and decline a large helping of whatever salty smoked cabbagey plain thing I was offered but fell upon the european food gratefully. I've never been so happy to see lasagne. We played the Norwegian version of Trivial Pursuit after with Andre, the eldest nephew and then later at home I played some Viking Chess with Victoria. It's like real chess but a million times easier. I might try to find a set...
 
So we planned again to go on a long journey to the glacier so again it was an early start and lots of layers. This time however, we had a back-up plan, and had prepared by picking up various snow-suits from family houses the night before. The gale still howled around the house but they had planned to drive further afield and head to Sweden in the pursuit of snow to appease my expectations of Norway. The guy at the glacier finally responded to explain that it was foggy and you couldn't see a thing, but said we were welcome to come up, but we decided to head to the Staltfjeloet National Park. As it was, it was snowing when we got up, and as we headed out of Bodø it was snowing quite furiously, so we began to wonder whether our long journey to find snow might be in vain seeing as it was flying at the car in droves barely a mile from the house.... 
 
We drove for a couple of hours, the scenery and the depth of snow becoming ever more awe-inspiring. I felt this was a bit of an extreme journey to have embarked on in the pursuit of snow but comforted them with the affirmation that it really was the most snow I'd ever seen and extremely beautiful. We intended to head into the mountains but they had started doing 'convoy' which is when they begin counting the cars as they head over the pass and they line up behind a big lighted vehicle so they know how many is meant to arrive at the other end. Apparently quite recently a family had decided not to wait for the convoy and having got caught on the mountain for some reason, the baby asphixiated. Apparently they recieved very little national suppport for making such a stupid mistake, despite the obvious weight of guilt of losing their own child.  

Anyway, we decided not to do that and simply to stop at the cafe of the National Park. We ate some lunch and then dressed in the snow suits and headed off the car park towards a footpath. And there embarked on simply the coolest walk I've ever been on!  I simply cannot explain to you the sheer scale of the snow and the scenery. It was literally like walking through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia! Simply everything was covered with at least 6 inches of snow, the clean white paths of snow were lined closely with sinnewy branches weighed down heavily with snow several times thicker than themselves. We passed some little forest huts, romantic little wooden shacks nestling in the pine woods, before walking again though closely lined paths of virgin snow almost up to your knee in places. We walked for a mile or 2, across a wide river half iced over at the edges and with blocks and slivers of ice swirling round and down the babbling water. We then walked alongside it for ages, and it in turn was lined by mountains and rock faces that grew in height. The road we wanted to pass was up there.  I wish the tiny camera viewfinder could capture the sheer awe of the mountains, the river, the forest and the thick snow covering every last inch of it like a fairy story. I bumped the branches laden down with snow to enjoy them bounce up again free from the weight, though invariably showering myself with snow. And when we came to stop, we made a snow man in 10 minutes flat. The snow was so powdery that you could pick up a handful and it was already a snowball as is, no compacting, it just stuck together. So making a snowman was really as simple as rolling 2 balls till they became huge, a matter of 2 minutes and then shaping a face. I made a troll - they're very popular with tourists here.. Eventually we headed back; me stepping in the virgin snow off the path as much as possible, to revel in the sheer fabulousness of deep snow that we never ever get in England, and Topsy, their dog desperately trying to shepherd me back onto the path with the group. We were losing light already (about 1pm) and with no one knowing where we were (no tourists expected so no name-taking precautions back at the cafe) and evidence of little avalanches on the hillsides that we passed we thought it best. Apparently it only has to be up to your knees to rush you away.. 
 
Back in the car they decided to drive the further 20km to Sweden just for the sake of it, but with the snow still falling heavily and the light failing it got very gloomy very quickly. We climbed the mountain a little way but already we could see very little. We got out briefly to look over the edge; pulling up off the side of the road into foot high snow (very fun to see exploding over the bonnet) and stepped seemingly in giant steps to the edge of the abyss, forming huge hollows with our footsteps in the even thicker snow. We drove carefully to Sweden but on arrival we discovered that Sweden was shut. ;) That is to say, they had closed the road, so we had a quick photo and then started on the slow and careful drive home in the dark. 
 
I read most of the way aside from a brief stop-off at a petrol station for Elizabeth to arrange a quick go for me on a snowmobile! I got all dressed up but the guy who was beetling across the mountain to be my guide got stuck, and his nephew had to scoot off on said snowmobile to rescue him. We set off again but about half an hour from home we pulled up alongside a family on the side of the road. Looking around there was a van upside down in the ditch offside, and a car slithered off the road nearside. It had only just happened and they were waiting for the rescue van. They said they were fine but the daughter was barely wearing anything and it was clear from the angled resting positions of the vehicles that they couldn't shelter from the cold in there. We all got out, dressed in handy snow-suits and invited them to sit in the car while they waited, knowing the rescue trucks were coming from Bodø half an hour away. Shortly Elisabth suggested that she, Dad and I start walking and leave Stein-Rune in his military role of organising to help with the tow and to pick us up as he drove past shortly. So we started walking in the dark. It's so remote that for 10 minutes at a time we could hear nothing at all but our own breathing, the swish swish of snow-suits and the powdery crunch of the snow beneath our feet. We walked through a grey and black landscape of fields and mountains with the occasional house visible from a mile away lit in a single yellow glow from a remote streetlamp.  We walked in single-file in a 3, Elisbeth and I in front of and behind Dad who was not wearing a teletubby snowsuit and so had no reflectors rendering him invisible in the dark to oncoming traffic. We were looking out for the rescue truck, knowing it would return our lift to us, so I turned round at the sound of something roaring towards us. It was the snow-mobile, which is just a monster öf a thing with a huge vicious-looking curled wafer of steel, angled to sluice snow up to 5 feet thick to the side of the road. It frightened the life out of me, roaring round the corner and threatening to flatten us. But shortly after Stein-Rune picked us up and we finally returned home after a long and exciting day in the snow.

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photo by: CFD