Yesterday morning I went to visit the oldest remaining church. The Hopperstad Stave Church was probably built around 1140. At 8:00 I hopped on the passenger ship and took a fifteen minute ride across the fjord to the next stop, the town of Vik. (The word "vik" in the old Norse language meant fjord, and it is from that word that we get the word Viking.) From Vik I walked for about twenty minutes to the rural village of Hopperstad. There, like an apparition from the Middle Ages, stands the stave church.
The roof is decorated with gargoyle-like projections of dragons' heads which are reminiscent of the prows of Viking ships.
The church did not open until 10:00, and I still had an hour to wait. So I took a leisurely walk down the road through the Norwegian countryside.
As luck would have it just as the church opened, a tour bus pulled up. The unique medieval atmosphere of the church's small, dim interior was not the same with a group of around thirty tourists and a tour guide giving her spiel. I waited for them to leave.
The church's interior is noteworthy for its austerity. Very little has been added since it was built. There are not even any pews. Early worshipers stood throughout the service. Only the sick or elderly were seated on benches along the walls.
Here you see the staves or thick wooden posts which hold the structure up.
Gazing upward, the construction of the roof looks like an inverted boat, a reflection of the culture's boat building heritage.
After my visit to the church, I walked back to Vik, and took the next boat back to Ballestrand.