In steep sided fjords the pine trees cling to bare rock,
and hidden huts hold secrets of trolls in mountain halls,
and snows lie late, on speckled tops, among cotton ball clouds,
and tourists flock to see these famous sights of natural beauty.
Tall ships dwarfed by towering cliffs, square rigged relics from the past,
explore these fjords beside hideous cruise ships, floating hotels.
Sea-green water shades into swathes of spruce, black clefts hide waterfalls,
rust-red wooden houses cling to the meeting of cliff and sea.
White ribbons drool down the mountains like veins down an arm.
The glacier sits, coolly, on the apse of an enormous natural cathedral,
while awe-struck sight-seers gaze upwards, as thundering, an ice-avalanche
tumbles down onto the pile that forms the secondary glacier.
Along the fjord lies a folk museum of ancient farmsteads,
guesthouses for visiting townsfolk up for the harvest,
smart house for the sheriff, complete with jail,
a Dutch walnut cabinet proclaiming his wealth,
and fashionable blue and green wallpapers
where the farmhouses had bare beech wood planks.
They kept cold winters at bay with low doors, tiny beds,
a central stove, the smoke escaped only when they let it out,
through insulating turfs on the roof. Or by sleeping above the cows,
whose massive metabolism warmed their human lodgers.
In this living history, pigs perpetuated an ancient strain,
and cream coloured stallions showed off their fjord horse ancestry.
Modern Norway tries not to forget its past,
with museums for every aspect of its life:
museums for the Norwegian Knitting Industry, for fishing, and shipping,
and the Leprosy Museum, in the very buildings where doctor Hansen
discovered the leprosy germ, in eighteen seventy-three,
and the ghosts of a hundred former patients haunt its empty halls.
Peter Campion, August 2008, after a holiday in Western Norway.