We were heading in search of small things – spindle whorls, keys, beads, and linen smoothers – but a building in the distance caught our attention, and before we knew it we had stumbled across the biggest, most incredible view. A wide sky, water below, and mountain upon mountain in the distance. We had reached Stavanger’s Valand tower, and from the flat concrete top of the nineteenth-century water tank next to it, we surveyed the landscape beyond.
We did of course make it back to our original destination – Stavanger University’s archaeological museum – to see the little things as well. The displays have changed since our last visit and while they highlight new and interesting narratives many of the objects I’d wanted to see again are no longer on show. But it’s still an absolute gem of a museum.
Throughout our travels the big views and wide open spaces were constantly juxtaposed with tiny treasures: the cycle ride from Myrdal to Flam flanked by the snow-topped mountains of its macrocosm, and the cranesbill, bilberry flowers, and water avens of its microcosm; the walk to the Briksdal glacier, where summer’s wildflowers erupted in stark contrast to the vast, barren, frozen waste above. I crouched to photograph the individual florets of orchid stems, feeling small against the backdrop of mountains and the mesmerising blue of the glacier.
From Bergen we took the tram to Troldhaugen. There we looked out across the lake that stretches beyond Edvard Grieg’s little cabin, before exploring the tiny proportions of the house he and his wife Nina shared.
Along the coast, miniature islands looked out to the horizon across the expanse of the ocean.
Along the fjords, tiny settlements nestled in great sweeping valleys with giant mountains looming behind.
Everywhere, the landscape provided a tonic. The views, the sense of space, helped us let go.
And the little things we encountered along the way added to our sense of wonder.