We are staying on the Raulandsakademiet campus which is in a rather remote area in the west of Telemark County. Many of the wood cabin structures have sod roofs. The terrain is a bit mountainous, full of spindly spruce trees mixed in with birch and poplar which are just now greening up. Fairbanks, Alaska is at Latitude 64°8, and here in Rauland we are at 59°42. If my Alaska friends just look at this picture below, they will see the immense similarities.

We boarded our coach and visited what is Norway’s most expensive hotel, Hotel Dalen. Once a popular destination for royals at the end of the 19th century, the Hotel Dalen is one of the largest wooden buildings in Norway. The Hotel Dalen looks out over Lake Bandack in what is an absolutely breathtaking view. The owners also run a ferry service on the Telemark Canal, taking visitors to the hotel. And the original Dalen Hotel Van is still in use. Check out the pictures below:

The students went down to the Soria Moria Sauna and sang Lutkin’s The Lord Bless You and Keep You conducted by Senior, J’Kobe Wallace.

We found out that the Dalen Hotel was also used as an officer’s quarters during the Nazi occupation. The janitor at the time was responsible for saving all the portraits of the royal families that visited the hotel, and preserving much of the interior’s treasures from being looted and destroyed by the Nazis.

Right before the Nazi’s fled the Hotel Dalen, one of the officers made an attempt to destroy the beautiful glasswork roof that the Hotel Dalen is known for by shooting it full of holes. The janitor, again saved the day by telling him that the glass was actually German-made in Berlin, which it was, and the officer holstered his weapon.

Such a glorious place was not left easily. We boarded our coach which took us up the mountain to visit the Eidsborg Stavkirke, one of the few Stave Churches that is so well preserved from 1250-1300 AD. We sat inside as parishioners might have in centuries past and the guide told us about the church and its history. The church’s patron saint is St. Nicholas, and I couldn’t help but remember the Medieval plays about St. Nicholas: Three Students, and the Old Man and His Daughters from Professor Fassler’s class, which kept me entertained.

We sang our Lutkin, The Lord Bless You And Keep You; in this starkly beautiful space, the prayer seemed to connect us with the faithful who had come centuries before us. Our guide, Mary Anne Roppe, then spoke the text that we had just sung, in Norwegian, which had a profoundly emotional effect on the choristers.

Then we walked to the museum, where the mayor of Tokke (the municipality of Dalen, Eidsborg, and West-Telemark) met our mayor of Minot, Sean Sipma, and the City Manager, Tom Barry. Mayor Jarand Felland spoke to us about the politics of Norway, the challenges of the coming century, with a bit of a powerful polemic about the death of the “American Dream.”

We drove back to Raulandsakademiet where we had a brief rest before our joint concert with the local Vinje women’s choir, Fyellrost, in Eldhuset. They were a group of about 22 women, in full Norwegian bunod who sang the first half of the concert, led by Lena Øygarden. Lena sang, played guitar, and conducted her group in some folk songs, and American pop standards, including Elvis’ I can’t help falling in love with you, which was in many ways symbolic since it was the song that accompanied the marriage proposal in the fjords.

Then the Minot State University Choir sang our set, which included a beautiful rendition of Danny Boy by the student group, Vox Humana. We finished our set with a joint performance of the Norwegian anthem with both groups. It was a full house and was very well received.

After the concert we walked about 2 kilometers down to the lake which was the perfect way to wind down our day.