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Early History

Burtigarden farm at Alstad was one of the largest farms in Norddal municipality. The farm and its people are documented in local history and parish registers as far back as the16th century. These sources refer to the unusually fertile land of the Alstad farms which yielded good seed corn – so good that people from settlements to the east of the mountains came here to acquire it for their fields.

The farms in this productive area are located at the natural approach to the West Norwegian Fjords, which in 2005 was inscribed in Unesco’s World Heritage List as the first natural heritage area in the country. Reinheimen National Park, which is a wild and varied mountain region, practically extends all the way to the back gardens of this small community.

Constant change

The photo shows Burtigarden in around 1880. At that time the main road cut directly through the farmyard, as was commonly the case for most valley farms. It was important to live close to the main road. The small house to the left of the farmhouse was moved to another place further along in the valley, where it served as a schoolhouse for the community there up until modern times. The barn to the right of the farmhouse no longer exists – the one that stands in the yard today was built in 1914.

Right below the old house is the remains of an old barn with a turf roof. It is no longer standing today, but the trestle frame technique used to construct it is still part of local building tradition.

 

Gudbrandsjuvet gorge
Behind the pine-clad rock in Burtigarden lies the famous Gudbrandsjuvet gorge. Here the Valldøla river flows through a narrow ravine, where meltwater from glaciers has formed many large potholes over thousands of years. Gudbrandsjuvet is a popular stop for those who want to enjoy the sight of the powerful, surging volumes of water, particularly after the road over Trollstigen was built and opened in 1936.

According to legend, the gorge owes its name to the outlaw Gudbrand, who settled in a small valley – Gudbrandsdalen – on the mountainside above Alstad. The legend says that Gudbrand was a daring and athletic man who leapt over the gorge at its narrowest point. Was he fleeing from the sheriff or bailiff? Or had he kidnapped a bride and leapt over the gorge with the beautiful bride in his arms? Or did he really just put the trunk of a pine tree across the river where the Gudbrandsbrua bridge was later built? We may well wonder, but Gudbrandsjuvet is a magnificent sight regardless.

The picture shows the Gudbrandsjuvet gorge after the improvements carried out by the National Tourist Routes. The same architects designed both the “new Gudbrandsjuvet” and Juvet Landscape Hotel.

 

Saint Olav
When King Olav Haraldsson passed through Valldalen on a flight eastwards towards Lesja and Sweden in the winter of 1028/1029, he spent several nights under a rock at Alstad. Many strange things happened there, according to the Icelandic chieftain, historian and bard Snorre Sturlason (who died in 1241), and who depicted the events in his sagas of the Norwegian kings. The king and his men managed to clear the way through the impenetrable Skjervsura scree and, inexplicably, his whole cohort succeeded in feeding themselves there despite the scarcity of food.

Olav Haraldsson was mortally wounded in the fight against the peasant army at the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. In the following year, he was canonised as a saint and then venerated throughout the Nordic countries.

The local folklore about Saint Olav is richer than the historical chronicles of Snorre, and Olavshelleren (Olav's cave), Olavsvegen (Olav’s road) and Olavskjelda (Olav’s well) are today vivid cultural monuments to Saint Olav’s travels through Valldalen. It is of course worth mentioning that the water we drink and wash in comes from Olavskjelda. Legend has it that those who drink from this well will be cured of illness and remain youthful.

The illustration shows King Olav and his men at Skjervsura. The local artist Johannes Smogeli painted this fresco and many other paintings of the travels of King Olav directly onto the walls of the old Hotel Sylte down by the fjord. The hotel was in operation between 1870 and 1965, and has been a private residence since its closure. Local historian Astor Furseth has taken photographs of all the paintings.