National Geographic : 1971 Jul
"Even the local bus stops here to let the passengers watch us dig." I headed my rental car toward S0rlandet the Southland-a region as lovely as it sounds when spoken in the melodic Norwegian tongue. In summer this coastal strip is suf fused with warmth and the faint aura of forgotten grandeur. Quiet towns like Lillesand, Mandal, and Farsund, with their narrow, crooked streets and white-painted houses, seem still to reflect clouds of canvas, for these Lilliputian ports bustled during the age of sail. Here, too, im pulsive young rivers tumble to the sea, and thousands of skerries-rocky islets-shelter tranquil coves and beaches. A Foreign Office spokesman in Oslo told me that the rural population of the south coast is shrinking, and indeed I passed a few boarded-up farmhouses along the way. But the powerful Norse longing for sun and scenery won't let S0rlandet sleep; vacation huts abound, and campers' colorful tents spring up like wild flowers. To assure everyone access to an unspoiled coast, a law prohibits new buildings within 100 meters of the shore. By tradition, campers and hikers roam freely over unfenced farms and private lands; few abuse the privilege. I was surprised, on a Sunday afternoon in S0rlandet, by the number of picnic parties I passed near the edge of the road; they could easily have chosen more pleasant and secluded spots. When I mentioned it later to a Nor wegian friend, he laughed. "It wouldn't do to boast," he said, "but one can't help it if others see the family's brand new car as they lunch beside the road!" Curving around the southern bulge of Nor way and up the western coast, the road led me to Stavanger, the fourth largest city (after Oslo, Trondheim, and Bergen). "Think of it, 80,000 people and only two Vinmonopol-state liquor stores," said Mr. Erling Herstad, a lifelong resident who of fered to show me around Stavanger. "You should see the queues before Christmas!" We drove a short way out of town to a windy knoll above a broad bay that opens on the sea. This was Hafrsfjorden, where a crucial page of Norse history was written. Here, about A.D. 900, Harald Fairhair en gaged other Viking chieftains in a climactic sea battle. A skald sang of "the wolf-coated warriors howling, and the irons clattering." When the wild death sounds had stilled, Har ald had, for the first time, united all Norway. KODACHROME U()N.G.5. Looking before he leaps, a youngster vies in an Oslo jumping competition. Donning skis almost as soon as they can walk, Norwegians traditionally excel in the jump and in cross-country treks. Sports-loving king, center, congratu lates the victor of a cross-country race at Holmenkollen. As a young man, Olav V, Norway's monarch since 1957, was a noted ski jumper. His son, Crown Prince Harald, in background between King Olav and skier, has twice competed in Olympic sailing events. Harald's sister, Princess Astrid, stands at right.