Blog by Gillian Hovell, The Muddy Archaeologist www.muddyarchaeologist.co.uk
A remarkable stave church was our next visit. Many years ago I visited one of these entirely wooden churches in Sognefjord, further north in Norway; we even attended the Sunday service in the fascinating wooden house of worship that is over 900 years old. Fantoft Stave Church was burnt down in 1992 (although the original crucifix survived) but was lovingly rebuilt exactly as the old medieval church had been. No metal or glue was used in its construction, just wooden pegs and dovetailing carpentry.
A stone cross stands outside the church now and a wishing stone is incorporated into the north wall. But it is the wood carving that catches the eye.
Inside, the woodwork continues to be wonderful. The details earn a restful time of gazing and enjoyment. A window for lepers is a distinctly medieval feature that was reconstructed and everywhere you look there is real love in the workmanship.
After exploring Bergen, it was time to board our wonderful ship, L’Austral, for the last leg of our journey to Copenhagen and on to home. The North Sea continued calm …
… until our last day at sea. Our Smithsonian Journey’s flag was flown but getting a photo of it was safest from the Bridge with our Captain – the wind had picked up enough for a walk on the prow to be decidedly dodgy (although I did try – briefly!). I was pleased to be in the comfort of a Ponant cruise ship rather than a Viking longboat …
A quick glimpse of Copenhagen on the way to the airport was tantalising. History, museums, sites to see … but that will have to wait for another day.
For now though, we have visited a marvellous mix of sights and scenery, from Glasgow to the Scottish highlands and on to the islands of Skye, Orkney & Shetland, and then the Viking homeland of Norway. We have gone back in time to 5,000 years ago and walked in the footsteps of the first farmers as they created their megalithic monuments. And we have explored millennia of history, seen something of lives lived in homes great and small, and cast our minds to other ways and times. Thank you Smithsonian Journeys for inviting me to be a lecturer on this marvellous tour; it’s wonderful to share with our guests, and I hope you as a reader have enjoyed joining us on this virtual tour.
Until the next tour … au revoir.