From Munich to Sognefjord – Day 5. Lavik – Hopperstad Stave Church – 240 km
Updated: Apr 18
Black clouds broke into the land. Heavy rain is knocking on the windows. It´s 8 o´clock in the morning and a man runs through the door to the hotel´s reception, shaking the rain off of his coat. The cameras are constantly clicking on the terrace, hoping a ray of sunshine will break through the thick clouds.
As we sip our hot coffee we check the weather forecast hoping for a pleasant autumn sunny afternoon. Rainy, windy weather is promised for the whole day. We see no chance going back to Fuglefjellet and climbing the summit we missed the previous day. The terrain was quite difficult the day before, it would be even harder and riskier to climb it in rain and wind, besides the fjord will be barely visible if the clouds obscure it.
What should we do then? We are here in a wonderful location, surrounded by beautiful mountains, fjords, waterfalls, lakes and glaciers, yet the rain soaks up our plans. The owner of the hotel mentions that there are very good boat trips along the coast offering beautiful views of the fjord. His dear wife is also quick to look at the cruise schedule. It turns out that the next cruise will depart next spring, as the tour only runs during the tourist season, from May to October. We, on the other hand, arrived long after the tourist season, when most tourist attractions only open on special requests and for ten times the price. Tourist boat trips are inaccessible at this time.
There are a few towns nearby, but none have special attractions. After long consideration, our choice ultimately falls on Hopperstad Stave Church, which is located about 125 km southeast of Lavik.
We would drive the distance on the German highway in an hour and a half, on Norwegian roads however this trip takes much longer. We approach the town of Vikøyri from the east, crossing the towns of Vadheim and Hoyanger along the fjord. Despite the rainy weather, the landscape is amazing, the fjord is on our right side, the high mountain peaks on our left side. Streams of water wash the already damp mountains. Our journey to Hoyanger is hampered by a tunnel construction and that means an additional half an hour delay. After a long wait we finally get through the tunnel and arrive at Dragsvik where we take the ferry and cross the fjord. From Dragsvik we drive 10 more kilometers towards the South until we reach Hopperstad Stave Church.
A fence made of mossy stones surrounds the cemetery and one of the oldest stave churches in Norway.
The original structure was built in 1130 and looked like a two-story average wooden cottage.
Its current form is due to Peter Andreas Blix, who rebuilt and restored the old church between 1875 and 1877. The new church received a bell tower and dragon ornaments on the roofs, and on the east side a rounded back was added. The new church was built in Borgund style with three naves.
The west gate was given a beautiful medieval wood carving decoration. Like the Heddal Stave Church, the Hopperstad Stave Church was not open at the time of our visit, but its exterior is interesting enough to make us content and certain our journey was not in vain.
We go round the church several times, investigate every part of it. Our visit does not bother anyone, only a caretaker is nearby and our presence doesn´t seem to bother him. The place is almost entirely ours: we have time to take photos and make videos, to look for new angles for photography and enjoy the landscape. Even the rain turns into a light drizzle. After about an hour the silence is broken by a flock of sheep, approaching us in a march as if they wanted to crush us.
The stone wall, standing between us made them divert from their original plans and head towards the fresh grass awaiting them for lunch. The thought of hot food and drink makes us thirsty and hungry and we decide to return to the hotel. After a 3 hour drive and cruise with the ferry we arrive to the hotel where we end the day with a delicious Norwegian hot meal.