fredag 30. januar 2015

Hooked on Hillforts

Patrik on the top of "The Castle near the Farm by the Bog". 
My dear fiancée Thomas read in the local newspaper for a good while ago, that "Eiker" (The Land of the Oaks 1) history group invited to a lecture by archaeologist Tryggve Bernt. He had written a thesis on four specific hill forts in the area and would now present it at an open meeting at "Ormåsen(Serpent Hill1) School". Since we live a five minutes walk from this particular school it was very convenient for me to join the meeting, so I threw myself on the phone to my best friend, Tina, and said that she just had to rearrange her schedule, because we are going to a lecture.  As the history-geek I am, I've been roaming around in Norse stories of heroes and gone astray in the Eddas more than once, but isn't that the way it should be? Those things that are close to us are those things we don't take the hassle of exploring? I grew up on "Fossum" (The Farm by the Waterfall1), on "Varlo"2 with "Myhre Castle" (The Castle near the Farm by the Bog1) as my nearest neighbor, but I have never bothered to visit this monument, I have always heard that there are only a few stacked rocks there, and I have always wanted to get myself further into the woods. To the "Hoen's Lake" (The Lake belonging to the Farm with the Hof3) and "Holtefjell" (The Mountain of the Farm by the Traveller's Resting Place1) and the main hiking paths, and then I have taken the other way up to the mountains past "Bermingrudmoen" (The Flat Heath in the Forest that belongs to the Farm that has been cleared at the Edge6)  and "Himsjø" (The Closest Lake to Home1), because this was the shortest way for me.

When Thomas and I decided to buy ourselves our own house, we ended up in "Serpent Hill". It suited us well. A small garden plot to groom was fine if we would have children, and it was also great to be so close to the woods. We could tie our hiking boots right in our own backyard, throw the backpacks on our backs and start walking! Fantastic!

We threw ourselves on our newly purchased mountain bikes one day about 12 years ago. We still have the same bikes, and I am not quite sure if that is because of the good quality of the bikes or if it could mean that we haven't used them as much as expected by the producer? I prefer to think that it has something to do with the quality of these bikes. In fact they have been used a lot, if not daily, then at least fairly evenly in the summer, and just this day we hobbled around on and off the trails around the "Serpent Hill". Thomas rode suddenly out into the wildest blueberry bushes and I had no choice but to try to hang onto his back, otherwise he would have cycled from me and I just wouldn't let him do that. Today I can not remember where we were, and not Thomas either, but what happened was thus that we found some long rows of stacked stones far into the woods, completely off the tracks, no paths or roads nearby. I thought that there had to be something old, but that it perhaps was only a stone fence of an old disused seat, but the more we thought about it, the more we started wondering if this could be the ruins of such a stone fortress as we knew there should be several of nearby?

We never found these stones again, and we've tried to look many times. Maybe we almost got "taken by the rocks4" as we have heard about in Norwegian fairy tales, but luckily got away? Anyway, at that time we had a neighbor who was acquainted in the forests here and he could confirm that it sounded like we had come across a stone fortress, but - no, there was no known forts in the area we had been. Well, I still think about the stone wall. Can not get it out of my head.

Then we went on this lecture, Tina and I. There we learned about new datings. Some of the forts, like the ones by the lake "Junger"5,  had to be older than previously thought. Tina and I
travelled around to see some of them. We went to the "Tvillingborgene" (Twin Forts1) by the "Junger Lake", "Geiteberget" (Goat Mountain1). "Høgåsen" (The High Hill1), "The Castle near the Farm by the Bog" and "Gunhildrud" (The clearing of a woman called Gunhild1) . There are many forts we haven't visited, and there are several we have been to many times like "The Castle near the Farm by the Bog" for instance with its fantastic view.

I sat on top of "The Castle near the Farm by the Bog" at December 21th and watched the first sunrise of the year. Yes, for me the year really starts with the first sunrise after the winter solstice. It was absolutely amazing. A small cloud on the horizon formed a colourful artwork as this lifegiving round fireball was born over a ridge where I know "The Brekke Castle" (The Castle near the Farm between two Meadows1) is. There were rainbow clouds higher up in the sky, and a white woolen blanket of fog that came into the valley from "Drammenselva" (The Wavy River1) and showed me how high the water once might have been before the blanket slowly rolled back to where it came from. A black woodpecker chopped in a dry spruce beside me. The same woodpecker that was drumming a welcome solo for me last autumn at the exact same place before the frost came and invited me to other trips. I felt that I met an old friend. There I was with a torch that I had lit before the Sun was born again, and felt a little like I belonged to an old Germanic tribe. I wonder if some of them also sat by a fire and wished the Sun welcome here at the same peak?

The Sun grows stronger during the month of January. It is mild and little snow this year, and Tina and I could have ourselves a Sunday walk on the trails in the woods by "Grøsland" (The Rocky Land1). We brought coffee in the bag, and the dog Ludde, our faithful companion, an aussie terrier who loves to explore the ruins of forts. But now we are not actually exploring forts - really. We are just on a usual roaming and relaxing trip when I want to show Tina a nice viewpoint on "Hønerudåsen" (The Hill by the Clearing of a Farm that held Hens1) and we went out of the path to find it. We walked around in the area, when Tina said: "Dear, Filidh, this is exactly the same landscape as castles we've been to before. This slightly marked high point diving down on several sides and a top beyond that again that is a little bit higher. There are a lot of rocks here below the cliff. Or is it a collapsed wall?" Ludde was in ecstasy. He jumped around like he usually did every time we were on the track of a castle, but I'm a little unsure if he felt our enthusiasm and reflected us, or whether he actually is a small castle dog? In any case he behaved like an avalanche dog that had found a missing person. We began to take a closer look at the area, but ran out of time. The Sun was soon about to go down, and none of us had neither the headlamps nor the sense of direction, so we'd rather come out of the woods before it got too dark. We agreed to go back one day, to look for walls or other indicators that there may once have been a castle there.

The snow arrived a few days later, and we had to wait until springtime.

Go to "Hooked on Hillforts Part 2"

1. I have translated the old Norwegian place names into English, because I think those names tell a story about what the landscape and culture must have been like in the old times. Those place names that are not recognizable in modern Norwegian is translated to Norwegian by "Oluf Rygh". You can find an online search engine based on "Rygh's" work (Gamle Gaardnavne) on the internetsite of the "University of Oslo": 

2. Nobody knows for sure what the name of "Varlo" really means. I am doing research on this issue according to my research of the hillforts in the area, and will publish an article on this as soon as it is finished.

3. One cannot be quite sure what "Hoen" might mean, but it's most likely it means "The Farm with the Hof". "Hof" or "Hov" is an old sacred place indoors used for the purpose of worshipping the heathen Gods and Goddesses. 

4. One example of a fairy tale containing this phenomenon is "Bergtatt" and can be read here:

5. The meaning of the name "Junger" is not known.

6. The exact translation of the name "Bermingrud" was not found in the project of "University of Oslo", but it was guiding me in a direction to an old spelling "Barmen" of the same name and Kongsberg Kommune had an explanation:

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