Monday, July 30, 2012

Magical Mundal

Mountains, a glacier, and a fjord
In our quest to get off the beaten path in our travels, we discovered the charming village of Mundal,  (Fjaerland) Norway.  Tucked into a deep mountain valley at the end of the Fjaerland branch of the Sognefjord, this tiny village is the ancestral home to the Mundals- or Mondales, as we say in English. Former Vice President Walter Mondale visited Mundal while in office and returned in 1986 to commemorate the opening of the new (and only) road that allowed for travel by car--- prior to this, boats were what connected Mundal to the rest of Norway.  One of the fellow travelers we met while there was an American Mondale who was making a repeat visit with his grandfather.  Glenn speculated as to how he was connected to Walter......thankfully he didn't ask, but now we'll never know................

Church, circa 1861
Shopping on the honor system
The village of Mundal has just 300 residents who support themselves through a combination of farming and tourism.  For being such an isolated place, Mundal has a surprisingly well developed tourism industry.  In addition to two hotels, a church, a miles of beautiful scenery, Mundal is also home to the Norwegian Glacier Museum and Norwegian Book Town.  In today's high tech age where most of us buy e-books (myself included), I love the idea that there is this three mile stretch of shops, kiosks, and even bus stops where used books published in a variety of languages are sold.  (As we discovered, Internet service is slow and spotty here so maybe paper books are the way to go).  Dodging an evening shower which did little to keep anyone indoors, we wandered through the church grounds (almost all of the headstones had the surname Mundal), threw rocks into the mirror-like water (OK, only two of the three of us did that), joined locals at a bake/book sale (where one of us ate a hotdog), and took in the natural beauty that surrounded us.  The glass like fjord gave way to lush green fields then mountains still covered with pockets of snow.  If you didn't look up at the power lines and ignored the occasional Volvo, the whole experience was as though time had stood still decades ago.

Hotel Mundal from across the fjord
We spent the night at the Hotel Mundal.  Like the rest of the village, it is old, well maintained, and completely charming.  With its squeaky gray floorboards and wide hallways, this family owned inn reminded me of my old four-room elementary school in the rural Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  The warren of common rooms and hallways were filled with comfortably worn antiques, working fireplaces, photographs, and other village memorabilia (including a plaque commemorating Walter Mondale's visit).  Everything was miss-matched yet it coordinated in a way that would make shabby-chic proud.  Our room was oddly comfortable (once you got past the sink in the bedroom and the single down comforters that seem to be ubiquitous in all Norwegian hotels).  The lack of a television- in both our room and the common rooms- was a welcome reprieve from the noise that seems to fill our lives on a daily basis.  Dinner in the dining room was a set menu of local foods that on our visit, centered around fish.  I loved every bite of it, Glenn was pleasantly surprised that he actually like the cod (he told me that if I could cook fish the way the chef did, he would be willing to eat more of it at home), and Sidney turned his attention to the bowl of fresh strawberries that was brought out to him by the accommodating waitstaff.  I dare say that to date, this was the best meal I have eaten during our travels this summer.

Our all too brief stay in Mundal was a welcome treat. I wish we didn't have jobs to return to since there is just so much we could see and do in this beautiful part of the world.  Just when I think I've seen the best part of Norway, it keeps getting better.  What will we see next and how can it top what we've already seen?

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I couldn't see any way of contacting you via email, so I thought I would leave a comment. My name's Chris Morgan, I am the producer of a major new war film, called 'Coup', which may be of interest to your readers. Tagline - a rogue General stages a military coup in America. We have already raised over £750,000 towards our target of £3m via Wefund - . We are raising further awareness of the film and seeking to raise the rest of the money via the crowdfunding site above. Please follow the link to follow the project or pledge money via crowdfunding. You can also email me for more info and a copy of the press release.