In 1962 , as part of my “year out” after 4 years nurse training, I had spent an idyllic  summer working in a hotel in Geilo, a mountain village in Norway We enjoyed it so much we had arranged to go back for the winter season, before going back to England to do midwifery training in the spring.

In the summer Geilo was a very quiet peaceful little village and we spent our time off walking, playing tennis etc. The tourists were mostly on tours of Scandinavia so only stayed one or two nights, but in the winter all that changed and the skiers arrived and stayed 10-14 days.  The village became much more bustling and the hotels put on far more entertainment in the evenings. In the daytime the slopes were full of gaily clothed skiers at various grades of competancy. Boys we had known in the summer working in the hotels or on the farms suddenly turned into those gods of the slopes, the ski instructors in their scarlet jackets and blue tight ski pants.

Christmas in Norway begins on Christmas Eve. Families try to be together so, in the few days before, we saw many sons and daughters  arriving on the trains from Bergen and Oslo. The shops and ski school closed at lunch time and the village went very quiet. The street decorations were simple, but beautiful. They had the perfect backdrop of snow covered mountains where the conifers looked as though they were painted on in blue/ black ink. A local artist had made a huge ice statue of a troll outside the youth hostel, and over all a beautiful blue sky. When darkness fell (about 4pm) the simple lights twinkled against the sky studded with a million stars. Many of the houses had candles at the windows.

The traditional meal is pork with red cabbage and  roast potatoes. The pudding is rice cream, a delicious concoction of rice, fresh whipped cream and almonds. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day they held an English service in the little wooden Lutheran church.

New Year’s Eve was party night. It started with a torchlight procession of the ski instructors skiing  through the woods and down the ski slopes. Some of the visitors went on sleigh rides to a mountain hut for a “Scandinavian Evening” where they joined in folk dancing and singing traditional songs. All the hotels had dinner dances and the youth hostel put on its own entertainment. As we counted down to midnight a bonfire was lit by the frozen lake and fireworks were  let off.  Again quite a simple display but spectacular because of the  magnificent natural surroundings.

I don’t suppose it is simple like that anymore as Geilo has grown and todays generation probably have more sophisticated tastes, but to me that was a magical time.

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