The other day I was taken on a spontaneous boat trip across Mjøsa, the lake here in Hamar. I was supposed to walk over to some friends’ log cabin near the base to see their pictures from a recent trip to Israel, and I ended up having coffee and homemade apple cake (with apples off the tree in their yard!) on the shore of an island where 1000 years ago human sacrifices were made. Ola rode almost the whole way sitting on the front of the boat while his son drove…apparently to even out the weight distribution. It was an interesting afternoon.
Ola and Elisabet have really taken me under their wing, and I see them as a sort of set of Norwegian parents, as they are about the same age as mine. It’s so fun to get off base and in their house or their boat, with their son Ola Johannes, and feel like I’m looking through a window into the life of a real Norwegian family. I loved how they just spontaneously decided to take the boat for a spin, just because they had a full tank of petrol and it was sunny outside, never mind that it was 43 degrees.
Norwegians are a hardy breed, I’m beginning to find. Ola Johannes jumped out of the boat and was in knee-high, frigid water pulling it to shore of the island, then quickly whipped up a fire to warm his feet once we were ashore. Everything was so low-maintenance and I think that added to the charm and beauty of the day. The apple cake with homemade whipped cream tasted that much better because it was enjoyed outdoors, soaking up the last of the “warm” sunshine before winter comes.
That island felt so mysterious…I’ve looked out at it so many times from the windows on base, and that tree-covered land seemed to be the birthplace of a hundred myths. I remembered Ola telling me that they used to make human sacrifices there, which made me feel a little creeped out but fascinated as well, when I thought of the ancient Norse people living their lives here a thousand years ago. Even while we walked around on the island, climbing up the sacrificial hill and surveying the blue waters around us, the sunlight shooting through branches, I couldn’t shake that awed feeling, like I was walking in the middle of a legend from a distant corner of the earth.