Finding 'friluftsliv' in Norway
If Trollveggen is the challenging face of friluftsliv, the Herdalssetra Summer Farm is its old, weather-beaten one. “We still follow the Viking law,” says Åshild Dale, who every June, with husband Jostein Sande, leads 130 goats up from their village farm to this lonely pasture high up behind the Storfjord. “If you allow your animals to graze on the lowlands in the summer, they will have nothing to eat in the winter. It would be grass robbery!” The summer-farm tradition has lapsed in most parts of Norway, but the Dales have been taking their goats up to Herdalssetra since 1790. “Nothing has changed here for 1,000 years,” says Åshild, walking among the turf-roofed sheds and cottages. Some are built on Viking foundations, and there is still no electricity and no running water save for a stream that babbles through. “I want visitors to learn that this isn’t just how Norwegian life used to be, it’s how everybody’s life used to be.”
Herdalssetra is shared by half a dozen farmers, who from June to September transform the bleak highland valley into an idyll of cheery communal activity. By day there is goat-milking and cheese-making: the sweet, intensely calorific brown stuff that is the default fuel of friluftsliv. “And of course, it doesn’t really get dark,” says Åshild, “so at night we never stop singing and telling stories.” The only downside, as Jostein explains, is rounding up all the goats come autumn. “Some years I’m still up here on skis on Christmas Day, chasing a lost goat across a mountain. My job is a mix of agriculture and extreme sports.”
Moods of Norway
“Make sure you put some outdoor time into your daily routine. Also: wear good shoes and 80% wool socks!”
Amore profound contrast between the humble, timeless way of life showcased at Herdalssetra and that led by the three young men I meet next is hard to imagine. Their favourite words are “aloha” and “pretty cool features”, and they are wearing enormous red sunglasses and snowsuits decorated with multi-coloured tractors. Stefan Dahlkvist, Peder Børresen and Simen Staalnacke are the brains behind Moods of Norway, founded in 2003 and now a $40 million business selling extremely loud clothing through stores around the world. “But we’re still nice Norwegian country boys at heart,” insists Peder, who, like Simen, was raised in Stryn, a fjordside town that’s downbeat even by regional standards. Sure enough, their first indulgence when the big cheques came in was an old trawler. The second was an investment in Stryn’s summer-ski resort, 1,000 metres up on a glacier behind the town, outside whose clubhouse we’re now standing. Admittedly, both boat and clubhouse were swiftly painted pink.
“We love international fashion, and we love rural Norway,” says Peder. “It was such a cool challenge to mix them up. Tractors are everywhere in Norway, but what if the tractor was pink or gold?” Every pair of Moods of Norway sunglasses comes with a pretty neat feature: a cleaning cloth imprinted with Simen’s granny’s recipe for waffles. Stefan, who manages the firm’s flagship store in LA, marks every homecoming with “some heavy-duty friluftsliv”. He has just spent the night in a cave outside Stryn: “This famous medieval outlaw lived there for three years. It was cold and a bit scary, but what a buzz!” It is fair to say that Norwegian fashionistas are cut from a different cloth.
“Burn your TV, fill your pockets with chocolate and ham, and go for a big walk.”