We returned today from a three night hyttetur–or a stay with friends in a cottage in the forest near the sea. It is hard to know how to begin to describe our experiences, and perhaps, Paul will at some point take a turn to write his thoughts. Until then, I may just ramble a bit from this to that, maybe returning to this subject in some future blog post, in order to try to remember it all.
The Norwegian hytte, or cottage, is a cultural thing. Many Norwegians own a small vacation home, not unlike a lake house which is common in the Minnesota area. They spend their down time there, weekends, summers, winters, whatever their particular hytte would accommodate. Hyttes can be in the mountains, forests, along the sea, usually away from the Big City. They are historically somewhat primitive and rustic, probably small, usually remote, and have a fireplace to encourage hyggelig, or coziness. More recently, in the past generation, they may have more modern conveniences, like an indoor bathroom, electricity, hot water, or a dishwasher. Or not.
When our friends, Astrid and Asbjørn, and Britt and Magnus, came to North Dakota for two weeks in September of 2016, we did not have a hytte to which to invite them. So, we settled for a one-night stay in two cabins in Itasca State Park in Minnesota, where we cooked meals over the outdoor firepit, hiked in the woods, crossed the Mississippi River headwaters, and sang hymns into the night by Lake Itasca. For our time in Norway this summer, they planned to host us for this hyttetur at two hyttes; one belongs to a son/DIL and the other is Astrid and Asbjørn’s. We all stayed in the first for three nights, and we spent the majority of one afternoon and evening at the second.
The first hytte is in the forest about 150 meters from the sea where one could fish or swim or boat. It is a modern cottage with a great wraparound deck and views of the sea. It seems to have been literally built on a giant rock, but we were told that there were actually trees and soil under the cottage. I still say it was on a rock. (which reminds me of the popular old children’s Sunday School song about the wise man who built his house upon the rock…but I digress.) It was remote-ish, in that our cars had to be parked about 150 meters into the woods, and we hiked to the cabin…over a giant rock. Like I said.
I cannot imagine the work that was required to build this cabin at this location. It was beautiful, and we all enjoyed our breakfasts, coffee-times, and evening meals at a different location on the deck with peaceful views. One late afternoon while we were having coffee and apple pie, a deer wandered past about 50 meters from where we sat. This may come as a surprise to most people, but there was only one indoor bathroom and shower for the six of us. If necessity struck, there was an outdoor privy down by the storage shed. There was also an outdoor shower, but it was not required for this trip.
Astrid and Asbjørn’s hytte is about 1.5 hours from this one, still in a forest, and hidden among the trees with a waterfall and river down the bank about 25 meters. It is an older cottage with two levels, three bedrooms, and a tiny indoor bathroom with a compost toilet. To bathe, one would simply go to the river and pool and bathe in the fresh water. They have a large outdoor kitchen prep area with a stone fireplace (as well as a compact indoor kitchen)–in fact, at their cottage, all the stone and concrete work was completed by Asbjørn himself. As the story goes, he was involved in the initial building of this hytte 20 years before owning it. We spent the afternoon and most of the evening visiting, walking, preparing the meal, and eating at, what I described as, the best seats in the house. The sunset, the waterfall, the river and pool, the peaceful forest; all so hyggelig.
Britt and Astrid planned the food for this trip so thoughtfully; we are humbled by the love and care they all bestowed upon us. We ate crab legs, duck confit with roasted vegetables and a mashed potato/broccoli sidedish, deer flanks with roasted potatoes, and papaya, and a deep dish quiche with green salad (yay, I made these!). Each morning, Asbjørn set out a breakfast buffet which we enjoyed eating, again, while sitting out on the deck overlooking the sea.
We also visited two smaller towns along the coast, Kragerø and Risør, during the days. I’ll write about those in another post. Thanks for reading!