A Bridge of Stone in Norway
by Robert Klopp
As my father turns 75 this week, I felt compelled to finally fulfill a promise to make a contribution to his Blog with a personal narrative, touching on some of his favorite themes: history, heritage, and family.
Several months ago I received an invitation to visit Norway to attend a conference. I usually would not attend such things, but I had some vacation to use up and going would give me an opportunity to meet up with a school friend that I hadn’t seen in almost exactly 20 years. So I registered and when the time came, I headed north.
Travelling in Norway can be strange sensation if you have grown up or travelled in British Columbia, as there are times you would swear you have just been teleported there. (There are of course many areas that are uniquely Norwegian.) Having visited the city of Stavanger, I was now driving east to Oslo where I had to be at the end of the week. The weather was what it should be near the beginning of spring, grey and rainy bordering on snow, so I was considering leaving the country roads I was on and getting on the main highway to drive through to Oslo, to spend an extra day there.
For some reason, shortly before getting to the highway, I decided to stop at a geographic tourist information point. The map contained many geologic points of interest of the area. I gave it a quick look and was about to go when something caught my eye: a place named “Terland klopp” and it wasn’t far from where I was.
So off I drove, curious to what I might find. As I headed inland, the landscape quickly changed. I crossed the main highway and the road became smaller and traffic almost disappeared. Thinking I had missed the location of which was likely to be only a small historic site; I was already looking for an opportunity to turn around. Fortunately this was not possible due to the road improvement work that was in progress.
Just then, over the river to my right, a stone pedestrian bridge appeared. Impressed at this beautiful simple structure in the middle of nowhere, I stopped in the only space available and got out. A sign, in three languages, provided some information. Terland klopp was built about 200 years ago – the longest bridge of its kind in Norway. There was no information on who built it – but I figured it could have been named after the builder, or perhaps one of the main users.
After having photographed it from as many vantage points as possible, I explored a bit more. Heading further up this valley, the dark granite walls on either side continued to rise and became steeper. I soon reached a pair of lakes. These mirrored the extreme calmness I felt around me. I stopped to take it in as everything, the lakes, mountains and fog blended into each other, part of each other.
Regular readers of this blog will know that my father lives in a fairly sparsely populated area of British Columbia. And while this particular region of Norway is more like the coastal areas of British Columbia, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps there would be something here that would explain the deep attachment of my parents to the place which they eventually made their home.
Egersund, which is the nearest major town to the bridge, is an ancient port on one of Norway’s best natural harbors. It was named after an Oak forest that used to exist there. Historically people have lived here since several hundred years BC. As a historical reference marker typical of Europe, the first church is mentioned in 1292. The ancient Norwegians (aka the Vikings) had travelled extensively and had been known to cross and settle in Northern Europe – perhaps there was some ancient link?
I finally got on the highway to Oslo. Later in the week, I hit the internet trying to find further potential links to this region, either through language, person, or history. It took some time. With some careful research over the next days the mystery was solved.
As it turns out, the key was located right next to the bridge.
Across the 42 “Sidalsveien” road I was travelling on is a smaller one called “Terlandsveien” that leads up a hill to some farms. In Norwegien, “-veien” is fairly common suffix that translates to –you guessed it- , road. So if “Terland” is the name of the road, it was also the name of the bridge. But Bridge in modern Norwegian is “Bro” and “Bru” in ancient Norwegian, so what exactly did the klopp mean? Again the solution lay nearby, a small group of houses named “Kloppa”. This translates to small bridge. Further searching also led me to “Kloppen”, which means footbridge in Norwegian. So, with slight bitter-sweetness, I had found the explanation.
Epilogue: As I was shutting down my computer, I found a reference for a small community incorporated into Tønsberg, not far from Olso. Tønsberg is generally regarded as the oldest town in Norway. In the late medieval period it served as one of three Hanseatic trading posts in Norway, with ties to Northern Germany. Tønsberg is a part of Vestfold, which is mostly dominated by lowland and is among the best agricultural areas of Norway. And that community is called Klopp. And there is not bridge anywhere in the vicinity….