Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Knapsacks and sesame snaps

Winter Break. A week of active rest over on the far side of Norway. A 10 hour drive clean across the country, through freezing fog, to The Time Machine - a friend's family hytte just shy of the border with Sweden where your watch grinds almost to a halt and everyday conveniences like running water, instant heat, internet and television are a thing of the past.

The hytte is full of tiny family treasures. This simple ceramic salt cellar sparked a trip down memory lane.

Almost all the heating and cooking is done over wood. Chopping, fetching, stacking, kindling, lighting. Living in the city I don't get to do these chores enough.

We spent most of the daylight hours on our skis. Unearthly silence during a lunch break in Finnskogen.

Kick ass Sesame Snaps. They're made with sesame seeds and they kick ass.

Can't see the trees for the woods? Low winter sun filtered through the trees and created a strobe of shadows as we skied past that was almost hypnotic.

Far away from our regular wind crusted mountains of the west we revelled in the gossamer soft powder.

C'mon, you can weigh in here and let me know exactly which wee rodent this little chap is. A vole? He looks pretty vole-y to me.

They don't make 'em like they used too. A trip to a second-hand store unearthed an awesome retro knapsack resplendent in orange canvas, leather straps and chrome buckles. We couldn't resist. It just looked so pretty.

One evening we went to check out a near-by village's flood-lit urban ski track. It was surprisingly technical but the longer dark sections that ran along the side of a road gave someone the heebie-jeebies. Amongst talk of zombies and truck-stop murderers the photo session was cut short before I worked out how to capture us AND our head-torch traces in the same shot.

After completing all the chores that surround basic needs like eating, heating and water there wasn't a lot of time to kill before bed beckoned. Evening entertainment can be as simple as a pack of cards and some dice.

Someone's socks spent their holiday either being shoved into ski boots with a failed lining or hanging around next to the kitchen stove.

It's not all about dramatic landscapes. Sometimes even tiny things can take your breath away with their delicate perfection. Another day on the skis that this time started with some special stage winter rally driving.

Deep in the forest the wind hadn't been able to shake the frost and snow from the fir trees creating a magical winter wonderland that delighted at every turn.

I can remember being taken to see my first art-house movie. A French number about a knife thrower or something. The program said the movie was shot in 'stylish monochrome'. I soon realised that just meant black and white.

Our search for wildlife on this holiday was limited to following animal tracks in the snow and a couple of small rodents. This particular one proved pretty easy to sneak up on...

Deep in the woods there is a small but perfectly formed hytte, operated by a local ski club and open for anyone to warm their cockles by the stove, melt some snow and make a cuppa or snack on some delicious chocolate that can be bought for a few kroner and left in the pot.

On the sunny side of the lake we skimmed along with gloves off and zippers open. We pushed back along this shore wearing every stitch of clothing we were carrying.

Flasking and basking. A Thermos flask of hot chocolate is a welcome treat in the afternoon where, despite basking in glorious sunshine energy levels were starting to flag. Time to hit the trail for the long gentle descent back.

We had to tear ourselves away. Reality and responsibility were pulling us back across the country. Another 10 hour drive punctuated with a hair-raising crossing of Filefjell that looked fairly benign at this point but soon deteriorated into a blind crawl as the clouds rolled in and the snow whipped across the road. Once down into the valley on the other side the visibility returned and I stitched apex to apex together on the winding road back to Bergen.


samh said...

What a refreshing way to spend some time. And I truly mean it, just spending the time, no worries, no troubles. Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic pics!

I think that little guy is a European water vole, "Vånd" in Norsk, "Vattensork" in Swedish and "Ratty" from Wind in the Willows in English. I've seen a few around here, but never been fast enough to get a picture of one.

Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

Loved it.

jumbly said...

Beautiful words and pictures.

Jörgen Johansson said...

OK if we nickname you 'Thoreau' :-)

Yeti said...


Mac E said...

Looks Perfect, the Knapsack looks like a nice find.

Joe Newton said...

Sam - it was a great way to relax mentally with relaxing physically, well, not too much anyway ;)

Tomas - thanks for the rodent identification. We kinda sneaked up on him a bit and he managed to corner himself against the snow bank. Thankfully he stayed still enough for me to fire off a few shots before bounding away up the path.

Thomas - Var så god!

Jumbly - thank you!

Jörgen - you're making me blush!

Yeti - thank you

Mac E - yes, the pack is awesome. It will hopefully form some part of an 'old school' ski trip next winter in woolen plus fours, ventile smocks, 3-pin skis and wooden poles.

kate said...

i'll never say to looking at someone's holiday snaps again ;) looks absolute bliss, a holiday for the mind as well as the body.
...as for those sesame snaps, don't you find in the cold they mold into one sesame block that's almost unchewable?

David Lintern said...

bloody cool, that sir. happy holidays!

Fraser said...

You have it so good up there...

Joe Newton said...

Kate - yes, mind, body and soul were well rested despite the daily adventures on skis. I haven't found the sesame snaps particularly susceptible to cold but on the trip to the far north this week I will soon find out...

David - thank you!

Fraser - aye, too true.