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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Norwegian inspiration

This has been a very strange summer, one we will remember, and I am not talking only about the weather. My mind has turned to other memories, some good, some not so.
I would like to share with you a wonderful one, another story of inspiration.
It all started with this large coffee table book, which DH and I bought many years ago, full of beautiful photographs of Scandinavian design and its simplicity, which we both love.

           But there is a picture which stood out; a picture of a house which we loved, somewhere in Norway. To be more precise, in a place called Balestrand, on the shore of Sognefjord, the longest and deepest of Norwegian fjords. And it had a story......
We said that one day we will go and find that house.

Some years later, in June, 8 years ago, we went on a journey. We packed the car, drove up to Newcastle and took a 24 hour ferry to Bergen, on the west coast of Norway. After an overnight stay in Bergen we drove north to Sognefjord, took a ferry across and then followed the fjord east. The fjord is over 100 miles long. And as we were driving in a heavy rain, we could not help wondering if this was a such  good idea. Eventually we arrived in Balestrand, on dark, cold and wet day. Our small, family owned hotel was warm and cosy.
The next morning the sun came out and at last we could see the beauty of the place. We stayed for 3 days.
And yes, we found "our" house, you could not miss it, Balestrand is not a big place. 
From the late nineteen century until his death it was a home of the artist Hans Dahl, one of many artists who were attracted to Balestrand by its beauty, by the contrast of water and mountains, and the clear light you find here.
This villa is one of several in "dragon style", built by newcomers, in the Swiss style, very popular at the time.
Hans Dahl, when studying in Germany, became a friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Kaiser Wilhelm paid Hans Dahl a visit, in the summer of 1914. He arrived on a three-stack steamer, accompanied by a flotilla of twenty four warships, all of which laid anchor in the fjord just off the house's dock. It must had been a sight!
We spent our time just wandering around Balestard and its surroundings. All the time we were there the weather was glorious, a beautiful Scandinavian summer. At night it did not get dark, it was mid June, close to the longest day and so far north the nights stay light. Our hotel room overlooked the fjord, calm and beautiful in the middle of the night.
In the middle of this small town was a small shop, with a studio above, belonging to Bjorg Bjoberg, a local artist. We got talking to this lovely lady, she showed us around her studio and told us about many artist who come and spend time here.
We both fell in love with her work. Bjorg paints what she sees around her, images of Balestrand and many, many wild flowers. She illustrated this book, which is a sort of walking guide to this lovely place.

And here is the house again

Although her shop was quite small, she was already an owner of a large yellow house across the street, which she showed us around and talked about her future plans for it.

Balestrand and meeting Bjorg made a huge impression on me. I came away wanting to paint!
(I should point out here that I could never draw or paint).

Unfortunately I could not afford one of her original paintings, but a couple of her prints have been hanging on our wall since.

And there was another a very special moment. It was here we received a phone call from our daughter telling us that she just got engaged.

Did I take up painting? No, not so far. But meeting Bjorg Bjoberg inspired me to look around, to notice the beauty of simple things.

And may be this was about a different inspiration. It was about a picture in a book, which inspired two middle aged people ( I am being very kind here), to go on a journey.

Will we ever go back to Balestrand? Probably not, the memories are too good.....

You can read more about Bjorg Bjoberg here, see what she has done with her yellow house.
(You might need Google to translate).

Also, you can see more of Balestrand here.


  1. Interesting story! It`s a beautiful house and the nature too. I`ve never been there. Beautiful paintings from Bjørg. Have a nice weekend. Hugs from Norway.

  2. Este año mi familia y yo hemos estado unos dias de vacaciones en Noruega,y te comprendo perfectamente porque se trata de un país encantador,con una naturaleza y unas casas que se quedan en el alma para siempre.Estoy deseando volver otra vez y yo no dudo de que lo haremos porque es un país maravilloso.Y en estos dias en que han pasado esos momentos tan difíciles nos acordamos de ellos más aún.

    besitos desde España con cariño.


  3. That's a truly lovely story Radka, and it must have been an exciting experience for you both. It obviously holds wonderful memories. Love the little prints, the colours are so delicate. Thanks for bringing such a magical place to our attention. You always think of something exciting to post about. Take care.

  4. Such a beautiful book and the house is stunning. I love to read stories like this too.

  5. I lovely story Radka. What memories to cherish.

  6. What a magical story, to finally get to see a house you have so admired. It looks like those we see in fairytale books.

    The artist is delightful, I love her soft pretty colours, how nice to have met her. Anne

  7. Thank you for your story. I love to hear that you found our neighbor´s country so beautifull. I agree it is so special! Thank you for your nice wo!ds at my place.

  8. What lovely memories you shared with us. I enjoyed very much reading about your norwegian memories.
    PS: it will take a little time before I start the ladybird quilt. You have probably seen it in Wenches (from Northern Quilts) blog. I saw the quilt in real life. It is soooo cute. I just had to have the fabrics for the quilt.

  9. Oh What a lovely story and since a love Norway too it touched my heart. I share the wish to be able to paint, with you. I have tried and bought paint for much money, but it wasn´t as fun as I thougt it would be.The sewing is my cup of tea

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful trip to Norway.. I have not been to Balestrand but you made me wanting !!

  11. Hello Radka,That is a lovely journey to Balestrand to share with us.The house, village and the beautiful mountains have left you with special memories.
    Newcastle is the name of the city I live in in Australia.

  12. A lovely story of discovery, Radka. So wonderful that you and your husband were able to visit that magical place.


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