In early July, I started to monitor daily the website of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health for their travel guidance. One-by-one, they opened up their borders to other European countries until finally, on July 15, most of Europe was able to visit. We booked flights, started planning, and it took what seemed like forever until we were back in an airport, mondkapjes donned, and trekking to a new destination. Honestly, it seemed surreal (and still does). Flying felt very safe, actually, and we were going from a country with very low transmission to a country with even lower rates. What different times we’re in again now…
On top of all of this, Norway has long been at the top of my list for the places that I’ve wanted to visit — partially because I love the nature, but mostly because of my own Norwegian heritage. I feel so fortunate to have learned a little bit about my family history before venturing there, even though the pandemic kept us mostly outside in the wilderness and away from other people.
So, after landing, we secured our rental car and drove to Odda, a small post-industrial town. We had a “cozy little house” for our Airbnb, and it had amazing views of the fjord and town. On our first full day in Norway, we strolled around the town and discovered the smelteverket, or smelter. The smelteverket is a massive ruined complex of offices and machinery. Some of them have been turned into community resources and event halls, while others simply sit there, gathering mold and rust. The vaulted roof of the main complex was stunning and haunting. Odda is where I first noticed the “dragon scale” shale tiling used throughout the country. I found a stack of them behind one of the houses.
After the smelteverket, we drove north to Tyssedal to do a short hike before it rained: Lilletop. This is the site of large and steep hydropower pipelines that carry water from the high mountain lakes down to the fjord. It provided beautiful views of the fjord, Odda, Aednafossen (waterfalls) and Tyssedal below. The low clouds rolled in and out the whole time, and we got back to the car just as it started to rain.
We were practically the only ones on the hike that day, and we visited a lonesome girl at the “cafe” at the top who answered some questions for us.