The perfect trip: Norway
The viewpoint was created by Todd and fellow architect Tommie Wilhelmsen in 2006, one of a series of architectural projects built in scenic areas across Norway, from the rugged Trollstigen plateau to the windswept Lofoten islands.‘When you’re driving around this amazing landscape, you can become numb to how powerful it is,’ Todd says. ‘We wanted to make it so that when you walk out on the platform, you feel fragile and tiny. It makes you look around and really experience how enormous and beautiful the place is.’
He gives a grin. ‘I love coming up here to see how people react. Usually I just hear “Holy shit!” in about 15 different languages.’
He laughs and nods to where a couple are daring each other to inch closer to the edge, shrieking with laughter, while another pair stands nearby, leaning calmly over the lip of the glass to take in the full extent of the magnificent fjordlands below.
Hardangerfjord: Best for mountain life
Morning breaks over vast Hardangerfjord, sending shafts of soft light across hillsides ribbed with the orderly lines of orchards. The area’s rich soil has drawn fruit growers for some 800 years, and the dawn light picks out the bright red rounds of apples, shining with dew. Above, perched on a cliff that rises 600 metres straight up are the traditional mountain farms of Kjeåsen.
At one time, Norway’s fjords were lined with mountain farms, with families raising sheep and planting crops on small, sharply inclining plots. Today, the majority are no longer working, with farmers having sought a more prosperous life elsewhere, but family pride in the traditions remains strong.
Alvhilda Kjeaasen, a tall, elderly woman, gets ready for a day of overseeing her old farm, preparing the waffles and hot coffee she’ll serve to visitors who might come by. Soon enough, the first arrive. Some stop to chat, taking a seat in a sparse wood-walled front room and learning a little about the area’s history. Most, however, simply bypass the farmhouse and head to the edge of the property to take in the glorious views.
The bright blue waters of the fjord pool beneath cliff edges and rushing streams are bordered by high, grassy mountain walls, shot through with white seams of waterfalls. ‘I often have to call them back if they go the wrong way,’ Alvhilda says, keeping one eye out for errant walkers. ‘There are some nasty places to fall down around here.’
While the property has not been actively cultivated since the early ’60s, the traditions of Alvhilda’s family stretch back 400 years, and she remembers all the stories of her forebears. The farm’s scenic and isolated location came at a high price. With no roads to the cliff top built until 1974, and no way to transport goods up to the farm by cart or pulley, all supplies had to be carried on the family’s backs, from food and tools to livestock, with sheep and calves slung across shoulders and carried 530 metres up a steep cliff side path. When the farmers had goods to trade, they would load up a boat and row to the markets of Bergen – a journey of some 130 miles – and back again.
Alvhilda settles herself comfortably in her favourite spot on the steps leading to the farmhouse door. ‘I often sit here in the afternoons and look across to the mountains,’ she says. ‘I think about my grandmother and I wonder, what did she think about living here? Did she sit and look for faces in the rocks like I do? Life was very hard for them, but I think she must have had moments of peace like this.’
Alvhilda leans back on her elbows and turns her face to the sun, seeming completely at one with this rugged old farmhouse and the wild, steep farmland running off the edge of the mountain.