Having a cabin, or a “hytte” as we call it in Norway, is very popular.
Most Norwegian families, not to say all, have access to at least a cabin. I say “at least” because many cabins were built one, two or more generations ago and the people who built them are now dead. But nobody want to let go of the cabin, and this is how one person can own a part in several cabins with other family members.
Norwegians spend most of their weekends and holidays at their cabin.
Generally, cabins are located near a lake and/or a mountain. And the more remote the location is, the best it is. It’s a place where we go to forget the daily life, relax and reconnect with nature. The main activities generally are: fishing, hunting, hiking and skiing.
Some people have a new or a refurbished cabin with all modern commodities whereas some other, like us, have decided to keep a traditional cabin.
To give you an idea of a traditional cabin, I didn’t find anything better than my favourite song from Ylvis: “The cabin”.
My cabin doesn’t look the same than in the video but matches the description in the song, except for the skis on the walls!
After this little introduction, I will do my best to introduce you to the true Norwegian cabin life!
Each cabin has an history and everybody has a unique story with the cabin.
I first came to my cabin when I was only 3 weeks old, or minus 1 week old as my father likes to say (I was born 1 month early). Which makes me the youngest person who ever stayed at the cabin. I’m very proud of this record even if it didn’t depend on me.
I came almost every year until I was 18 and then every 2-3 years on average. But I would definitely like to find the time to come every year again because I really need this break from the civilisation and the modern life to recharge.
Our cabin was built around 1908 by my oldefar (great grandfather) but we don’t have any record to give us a more precise date.
What we know for sure is that, in 1918, a dam was built and our cabin had to be relocated. However, it was rebuilt exactly as it was before. The numbers the beams, still visible today, testify that.
At that time, it was only possible to reach our cabin by boat.
The journey was made simpler in 1954 when a communal road was built. It was then possible to park about 1 km from the cabin. The last kilometer had to be done on foot though. I remember this period. when we had to carry our luggage to the cabin and used a wheelbarrow when it was too heavy. I can tell you that I complained a lot at that time because I didn’t like walking.
In 1991, my bestefar (grandfather) started to be old and tired and was granted the right to build a way until our cabin.
I was happy at first but I quickly missed the walk to the cabin. After all, it was part of the whole experience.
But inside the cabin, almost nothing has changed since 1908. Only small things such as mattresses, duvets, pillows and cushions, placemats… This year however, we changed the kitchen bank. But my aunt Ragnhild and my father chose it so well that it’s like it had been there for ever.
Our cabin is quite big compared to most cabins.
It has a kitchen, a living / dining room, 4 bedrooms which can sleep up to 15 people, a pantry, a cellar and an attic.
The kitchen is large and equipped with 4 gas hobs, a gas oven as well as a wood burning cooker.
The first bedroom is small. This is the bedroom I get when we have guests and I don’t really like it because it has small bunk beds and the view on the lake is limited.
The second and third bedrooms have the same size. They both have new bunk beds (the lower bunk actually is a double bed) and an amazing view on the lake. The second bedroom, which is normally mine, can sleep up to 5 people and has a direct access to the kitchen.
The third bedroom, which is normally my father’s room, can sleep up to 4 people and has a direct access to the living / dining room.
The fourth bedroom is located in the attic and can sleep up to 4 people. I loved to sleep there when I was younger but one day my father decided that it was too dangerous in case of fire.
The living / dining room is a very nice room full of history. The walls are decorated with newspaper articles, a reproduction of the biggest trout ever caught in a lake in Norway (by my father and bestemor (grand mother) in 1982 = 16,5 kg!), a dead fish head (yuck! it’s creepy!) , reindeer antlers, and many pictures of family members. Me included. The pictures of me are from my first stay at the cabin and were added this year. I have to admit that I had small tears in my eyes when I found out because I’ve always secretly wanted to have my picture hung on the cabin’s walls!
When I’m inside, I particularly like to stay near the fireplace (when lit) or to sit on the rocking chair near the wood burner stove.
The veranda has a wonderful view on the lake and is protected from the wind on one side. It’s the perfect place to relax as it’s exposed to the sun almost the whole day.
The seat near the barrier is everybody’s favourite, mine included, so it works on a first come first sit basis.
Going to our cabin is like stepping back in time, at the beginning of the 20th century.
We don’t have electricity and running water and we don’t want it to change.
So how do we live concretely?
It’s not that difficult because for us because we’re used to it but it can be quite disturbing for a first comer.
Having no electricity means that we don’t have heating, lamps and fridge.
We heat the cabin thanks to the wood burning stove located in the living room and, when needed, the fireplace.
There is also a wood burning stove in each bedroom but we never use them, and a wood burning cooker in the kitchen that we sometimes use.
When we arrive at the cabin, the inside temperature can be below 0°C, especially in Easter. And it isn’t uncommon that the temperature inside is colder than outside!
We close all doors to heat the living / dining room faster and keep it warm. We don’t need the bedrooms to be heated because we, Norwegians, like to sleep in cold rooms. Depending of the temperature when we arrive, it takes more or less time to warm up. We never let the fireplace and the wood burner stove working during the night for safety reason so it’s always a bit cold in the morning and the first to wake up has to start a fire. But the temperature can easily reach 20 degrees during the day.
Heating the cabin with wood implies that we have enough cut wood at all the time. We cut the wood ourselves when the weather is nice.
We mostly come to the cabin in summer when the days are very long. But in Mars/April or September/October, the days are much shorter and we need more light.
We use candles and oil lamps in the living / dining room.
We also have a solar generator which lit some lamps in the kitchen and the bedrooms.
We use the pantry when the temperature isn’t “too hot” as it’s easier to access. The room must remain closed at all times to avoid mice to get in.
However, we keep all beverages, yogurts and delicate stuffs in the cellar, which has a constant low temperature .
Having no running water means that we don’t have any tap but also no bathroom and toilet.
The water of the lake is drinkable.
When we arrive to the cabin, we directly go to the lake to fill up 2 buckets that we put in the kitchen. When one is empty, we go to the lake to fill it up.
But the worst thing that everybody hates at the cabin is to wash the dishes. This is why we try to use the minimum of cutleries, plates and glasses.
When I’m alone with my father, we swipe our plates and cutleries after each meal so we can use the same set several days.
There is 2 possibilities to wash:
-The less courageous can heat water, put it in a basin and make “une toilette de chat” as we say in French, which means to wash a minimum without using too much water.
-But the bravest wash in the lake. The water in summer is generally between 9 and 19°C. It’s definitely too cold for me. I used to wash and even swim in the lake when I was a child but I don’t any more. But my boyfriend needs to wash twice a day no matter the conditions. So when he did it in early october one year, even my father thought that he was insane!
The 3rd possibility is to not wash during the stay at the cabin! I opt for this solution because the temperature is rarely hot and there is no pollution so I don’t feel dirty. But when I go back to the civilisation, I can tell you that I really enjoy my first shower!
We have a designed area to pee but I like to pee in different places as long as they’re not to near from the cabin.
However, like any traditional cabin, we have an “utedo”, literally translated as an “outside toilet”. It’s basically a deep hole mostly used to poo. It doesn’t smell bad because the place is aerated and we put some products to accelerate the process of poo becoming fertilizer.
This is generally what shocks first time comers the most. But our utedo has such a nice view that it helps them to overcome their disgust.
At the cabin, everybody does what he wants when he wants. It’s the total freedom.
We don’t have Internet so I only check my Facebook in the morning and in the evening but that’s all.
Otherwise, I enjoy the outside life.
The main activity for me is fishing. There are 2 kinds of fish in the lake: trouts and arctic chars.
I really like fishing and I’ve always been lucky. It might sound weird but what I like the most is to empty and clean the fish. However, I will never be able to put a worm on the hook.
There are many walking possibilities around the cabin. Generally, we go to Tunhovd to buy some missing groceries, to pick up some berries, to Langedrag Naturpark, to visit the “neighbours”…
The ground is covered by a special kind of light greenish / yellowish moss. Florists like it because you can keep it for years.
The cabin is the perfect place to read because you’re not disturb by the outside world and can really immerse yourself in the story. I read a lot at the cabin. I even once read a Jo Nesbø book in less than one week, which is my absolute record for a book in Norwegian.
When we’re protected from the wind, the temperature can be very pleasant and even hot. We use folding chairs and sun beds to enjoy the sun. A couple of years ago, I was so tanned at the end of September and nobody could believe I was on holiday in Norway!
My aunts are knitting pros. I’m far from their level but I like to knit too. I mostly do headbands, bennies and scarves. This year, I started my first chunky cardigan.
We have a lot of games at the cabin such as cards, Yatzy, Mastermind and China chess.
We mainly play when the weather is too bad or in the evening.
I like to sleep, it’s not a secret. But the cabin is definitely the place I sleep the best. It’s so quiet that I can sleep more than 12 hours each night.
But when the weather isn’t very nice, I tend to wake up as early as 7:00 to enjoy the windless morning. And I’m not bothered at all.
As you might have noticed, I’m very attached to my cabin, which is none the less than my favourite place on earth!
I’m always sad when I leave even if I know that I’ll be back because it’s never soon enough.
And you, is there a place you are particularly attached to? Where? Why?