Oaxaca mural

Oaxaca mural

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Where the Dragons Live

I first noticed it in the center of Balestrand... a building fancifully decorated with dragons' heads in a manner similar to the prows of Viking ships or the medieval stave churches.

It is a style of architecture that was popular along the Norwegian fjords in the late 1800's.  Oddly enough, it is referred to as the "Switzerland style".  Although a few of these houses look like  Swiss chalets...

... for the most part this style of architecture has nothing to do with Switzerland.   Another, more appropriate name given to it is the "dragon style".  In the late 1800's there was a resurgence of Norwegian nationalism and a romanticized interest in the Viking sagas.  Well-to-do Norwegians of the era built homes and fjord-side villas which combined Victorian "gingerbread" with Viking "Valhalla".  There was a company in Trondheim, Norway, which mass produced these decorations, and home-owners could select the dragon heads and other adornments that suited their fancy.

Yesterday afternoon I took a leisurely stroll along the country road that heads out from Balestrand along the fjord.  I found several examples of the "dragon style"...

Back in the center of Balestrand is one of the ultimate expressions of this fascination with Norway's past.  

The little church of St. Olav might, at first glance, be mistaken for a medieval stave church.  In fact, it was built in 1897.  Margaret Kvikne, the English-born wife of one of the members of the Kviknes Hotel family, wanted an Anglican church in Balestrand.  She died before the church was completed, but to this day English services are held here in the summer.


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