Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hegra Festning

It is raining and promises to rain all day. We drive to Hegra anyways, all 7 of us in the old Mercedes station wagon. It's a lovely drive through the wet. Construction traffic at the Hell bridge convinces us to take to the country roads and navigate with an atlas. It turns out to be a fine decision, along country roads along a river, past giant beauiful barns, to the festning.

The rain stops when we reach the festning. It's as amazing as ever, on top of a beautiful wooded hill with all kinds of outdoor corridors and indoor tunnels to explore. The leaves are changing colors and there is an abundance of blueberries, ripe even though it's very late in the season.

It was built in 1910 to defend against an attack from Sweden from the east or north. Norway had just declared its independence from Sweden. After 30 years, it was clear that Sweden was serious about Norway being its own country, and so the festning became overgrown and not in use in 1940, when the Germans attacked. Local militia groups (everyone in Norway is a soldier) convened at the fortress, restocked weapons on risky missions, and held out against German troops who couldn't even find the castle under the snow. After a good run of several months keeping the nazis at bay, German command got ahold of maps which showed areas of weakness in the fortress. They brought in howitzers and shelled the fort continuously until the soldiers surrendered.

We've never taken a tour of the festning, and I'd like to sometime, but I'm glad we haven't yet. The fortress is nice to explore, discover what is around and beneath this fantasy-scape.

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