Beyond Lillehammer

On our way from Lillehammer to a medieval farm turned boutique hotel, we stopped at the stave church at Ringbu, which is much more impressive than the Maihaugen specimen. It’s real! Perhaps the theme of the day is Real v. Unreal. Because now I am here at Sygard Grytting, which though much smaller than Maihaugen, is the real thing. I will be sleeping in a small dark unheated room under a giant sheepskin cover. For the full medieval pilgrim experience. More on that later!

Stave church at Ringebu.

I had dinner with a group of Peer Gynt Festival-goers, and it was excellent. I understand between half and 2/3 of the Norwegian spoken around me. Which is enough to get the gist of something but miss crucial details. Enough to be dangerous?

After they left I chatted with Stig, the owner, a bit about the place’s history—it was a waystop on St. Olav’s Way in medieval times, and has been a working farm for centuries, and a boutique hotel for decades, and every building on the property has been moved at some point or another. Norwegians move buildings. It’s a thing I’ve learned.

Sygard Grytting.

I wandered around the area of the hotel for a while. Across the highway (which you cross via a square hobbit tunnel with a creek in it) there’s an art installation of alien heads called “Herd” (Flokk på norsk), which is lovely and surreal in this pastureland.

Flokk, an art installation in Gudbrandsdalen right by Sygard Grytting.

I took a very cold nap before getting up to wait for them to return after the play for “nattmat.” I had thought about just sleeping all the way through, but I’m very glad that I pulled my butt out of bed for it. Stig’s son played the accordion for us, and I feel like I got at least half of what he said about his musical education. The soup was good and we also had Ringnes and Gammel Oppland. All this down in the cellar, where a fire was burning.

The festival-goers reported that it was cold but the show was wonderful. My anticipation is building.

I slept under a giant sheepskin cover, and it was actually quite hot once my body heat got working. In the morning Jacquelin (a French woman living in Trondheim who has been my main companion here) said she was cold, but she also said she couldn’t sleep under the sheepskins because they were too heavy. I will take heavy over freezing any night of the week.

A wood-framed bed piled with sheepskins.
My bed at Sygard Grytting. Cozy–until you need to pee.

In the morning, after another breakfast—this time with no fish!–two Germans picked me up from Sigard Grytting and deposited me at Spidsbergseter, where it is even colder, if possible. It feels like winter to me. The welcome was warm, though, including a taste of Aquavit in the aquavitfjøset here, and lunch. The hotel has many amenities, and some new remodeled rooms. I am not in one of them. It is dim and a bit on the cold side, but at least the heater does seem to work, if slowly.

The aquavit barn at Spidspergseter. The poem says, very roughly, “When potatoes are served this way, even the toothless can eat them.”

Knowing how Norwegians feel about weather, I didn’t even ask if my horseback ride would be cancelled due to the relentless just-above-freezing rain. I just put on a lot of clothes, wishing I had bought rain pants after all. My Norwegian sweater and dorky hiking boots held up pretty well, but my jeans (duh) and gloves did not hold up at all. I kept trying to enjoy the scenery, but really I was just waiting for it to be over so I could get back to the hotel and try out the hot tub… which turned out to be a huge disappointment. It was not remotely hot enough, so I sat in the sauna instead, until my lungs couldn’t stand it anymore and my thighs were almost warmed back up. Then I took a brief nap and a shower, which was almost a catastrophe of coldness. But after waiting seemingly forever the water did finally heat up.

This is what the weather looked like that fine August day.

I went to browse the shop in the hotel. Rain pants? Not for 2000 kroner! I went to dinner… which was outstanding. Don’t get me wrong; the local lamb and especially the berries for dessert at Sigurd Grytting were excellent. But that was to be expected from a place like that that prides itself on farm-to-table deliciousness. I did NOT expect the hotel buffet to be excellent. I ate too much. But what is one to do when they have both karamel pudding AND hjemmelaget karamel pudding? And kaffefromaj, which to my taste buds was the star of the show.