The County of Oppland, Norway

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Oppland extends from Sør-Trøndelag in the north, and has seven counties which neighbor it to the north, south, east and west.  The main road E6 connecting Oslo to Trondheim runs across the county.  Travelers on this road have historically varied from the meanest peasants and peddlers,  pilgrims, soldiers at war to future kings on their way to coronations in Nidaros, the medieval name for Trondheim, the capital of Norway’s first Christian kings.

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The climate is typical for the inland part of Norway, hot in summer and cold in winter. There is an impressive collection of high mountains located within the boundaries of Oppland, despite the fact that half the county is very high – much is above the tree line.  Oppland has some of the country’s largest agricultural and forestry areas. With so much good soil, it is not surprising that we find early traces of human settlement here.

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs indicate that people stayed here about the same time as Isaac and Jacob went to the land of Canaan.  Later, kings and princes cast their eyes on this district, and subjugated large areas.

Anne Haav, inventor of the Gudbrandsdalen cheese
Anne Haav, inventor of the Gudbrandsdalen cheese

Oppland County has traditionally been one of quickest to adopt the latest agricultural technology. The people started to grow early potatoes, and by the 1800s this became a major industry, leading to increased moonshining until it was banned by law in 1848.  Potatoes were still a staple at the dinner table though, saving on other things, such as for example turnips.

Salt-boiled new potatoes
Salt-boiled new potatoes

Potatoes were also used for milk food of various kinds, and of course with meat and freshwater fish. Raw grated potatoes were mixed with barley flour and a little salt and boiled in lightly salted water. Bits of bacon added to the mixture resulted in cheap and good food. The boiled water was then used as a soup, usually with added turnips, onions and thyme – making it rich and flavorful.

Mountain pasture Nordangsdalen
Mountain pasture Nordangsdalen

Mountain pastures have centuries-long traditions in Oppland. Many farms had several mountain pastures and it was not uncommon for the housewife to bring the children with them to stay there in the summer, both for variety, and of course, to work alongside the servants. On the mountain farms there was always good food of many kinds; butter and soft, sweet, brown whey-cheese, porridge and fresh fish – as these small mountain pastures were often located near lakes.

High mountain farm near freshwater
High mountain farm near freshwater

Gudbrandsdalen (the valley) has for many people been a symbol of Norwegian national dishes. Gudbrandsdal cheese is familiar to many, both at home and abroad. This famous cheese was invented by Anne Håv, who received the King’s Medal of Merit in 1933 for what the cheese has meant to Gudbrandsdalen’s economy. Its secret lies in the combination of new thinking, looking to the future and at the same time taking care of the old. This must be the right way to go – taking care of traditional Norwegian national dishes, but also to let these be the basis for innovative dishes.

Seremony at winter olympic games in Lillehammer 1994
Seremony at winter olympic games in Lillehammer 1994

Oppland County has experienced a significant development from a unilateral operation in the traditional industries to what is now happening. Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994 were a grand experience, putting Norway on the world map in more ways than one. Tourism experienced a flowering increase: carpentry and rose painting took a leap from being a domestic industry to becoming a very lucrative multimillion-dollar business. Still the inhabitants do not feel that they are selling their heritage – it is so deeply rooted in the people that generations to come will be able to enjoy national treasures in the same way as does the current population.

Knut Hamsun
Knut Hamsun

Artists and cultural people also have a strong foothold in Oppland, and many have their roots here. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson lived for a time in Gausdal, and Knut Hamsun was born on the farm Garmo in Lom. Hans Aanrud from Gausdal is a well-known author and the man behind “Sidsel Sidserk” (Sidsel Longskirt -a Norwegian children classic), also having written the joyful story of the farmer’s son from Evenstad, a son who was so spoiled that he only wanted to eat “lefsklining” (flatbread with butter).

Sigrid Undset 1928
Sigrid Undset 1928

Sigrid Undset was from Lillehammer. We can still find many of the big farms from “Kristin Lavransdatter” and other novels – such as Formo, Romundsgård and Sandbu in Vågå.

Norwegian folk tale collectors Asbjørnsen and Moe
Norwegian folk tale collectors Asbjørnsen and Moe

The folk tale writers Asbjørnsen and Moe collected much of their material from this area and were inspired by the German folktale collectors  the Brothers Grimm In “Rensdyrjagt at Rondane” (Reindeer Hunt at Rondane) – one of the more unknown fairy tales – in which we find Peer Gynt, who later is better known as one of Henrik Ibsen’s figures.

Heritage and tradition is strong in Oppland.

The County of Oppland, Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg

Related article
The Inland Counties in Eastern Norway