As his last proper trip to Norway - to attend Gåte's final concert in Oslo - was already three years ago, Burkhard had planned to make another trip to Norway in 2013 in connection with one or more concerts by one of his favourite Norwegian artists.
Originally, he had hoped to attend a performance of "Soloppgang", a cantata based on lyrics by Edvard Munch and composed by Ketil Bjørnstad., who had already written the music to some of Munch's poems on the fantastic album "Løsrivelse" by Kari Bremnes which was released 20 years ago. "Soloppgang" had already its première in 2011, when it was performed with the Oslo Kammerkor and Kari Bremnes as soloist. However, since the release of "Soloppgang" had been postponed to autumn 2013 (even though it had already been recorded in spring 2012), chances for another live performance before that point of time seemed rather slim. Well, I think there were one or two, but not with Kari as soloist.
Unlike in previous years, there were also no concerts by Bergtatt, one of Burkhard's favourite Norwegian bands, in sight this summer. OK, there was one at Midnattsrocken, but this festival is so far up north that it probably would have taken a week to travel there by car and another week to return home.
Luckily, a few months ago, Burkhard noticed that his favourite singer and live artist Kari Bremnes had announced two concerts in July at a place called Baroniet Rosendal (The Barony Rosendal) on her website. Judging by pictures of concerts Kari had played there in previous years and by pictures on the website of this venue, it seemed to be a very special place with a very special atmosphere. On the website of the venue, there were also different offers in connection with these concerts. The most expensive one included bed and breakfast at the home farm, the concert itself and a 3-course dinner, being served right after the concert. The price for this package was NOK 1,400.00 per day/concert. Not exactly what you'd call cheap, but probably still moderate by Norwegian standards, bearing in mind that Norway is allegedly the most expensive country in the world.
Soon after these two concerts had been announced, another two - following right afterwards - were added, the first one taking place at Falnes Kirke, a church in Skudeneshavn, and the second one at Ulefoss Hovedgård in Ulefoss. All in all, four concerts in a row by your favourite live artist - that's an opportunity you simply can't let slip, can you?
So tickets, hotels and the ferry from Denmark to Norway and back again were booked as soon as possible. Since travelling long distances alone can be very boring, Burkhard asked Bjørkisen, Dwarf Vader and me, if we wanted to travel with him again - as we had done three years ago - and thinking about the fond memories we had of our last trip, we happily accepted his offer.
Our trip started on July 1st. Just like the last time, Burkhard wanted to take the fastest ferry-connection from Hirtshals (northern Denmark) to Kristiansand (Norway), but this time he wanted drive to Hirtshals in one day. Since we had to cover a distance of about 925 km , we had to get up early and departed at 7 a.m. Neither Bjørkisen nor Dwarf Vader nor I have a driving licence, so Burkhard had to drive the entire distance all alone and thus to allow for some stop-overs to make sure he wouldn't get too tired. Otherwise the journey might have ended, before it had actually begun.
On our way, we listened to our favourite albums. In addition to "Terrestrials" by Atrox (Burkhard's most-played album by now), these were "Deadlands" and "Eight Ways" by Madder Mortem, "Nordlys" and "The Metamorphosis Melody" by Midnattsol, "There Be Squabbles Ahead" (Burkhard's most-played album during the last 6 years) and "Naught" by Stolen Babies (one of the most original bands around!) and "Murder Death Kill" and "Origin Of Extinction" by the rather new female-fronted Canadian Thrash Metal band Mortillery. Burkhard says it must have been more than 20 years ago since the last time he enjoyed listening to a new Thrash Metal band that much - in spite of the fact that in his opinion at least some of the lyrics are a bit too clichéd. However, this didn't seem to bother Dwarf, because when the vocals on the title track of Mortillery's debut album set in, you could hear him cheerfully chanting along: "Morrrdorrr!!!". When I told him that it was "murder" and not "Mordor", he said: "Oh, is it? I had already been wondering why a Thrash Metal band would use a name from fantasy literature in their song-title." "Well, the British Thrash Metal band Sacrilege once actually did this in their song-titles 'Shadow From Mordor' and 'Flight Of The Nazgul', but neither of them referred to the novel in question. 'Mordor' and 'Nazgul' were instead used in some kind of metaphorical way." (If you should think that this is an awful lot of talk about Thrash Metal and other stuff you never wanted to know and didn't expect to read in a report about a trip to Norway and concerts by Kari Bremnes, you all know the German saying: "Wovon das Herz voll ist, davon läuft der Mund über." Well, if you didn't know it, you do so now.)
But back on track: At about half past one, we arrived in Tarp (a place in northern Germany, not too far away from the Danish border), where Burkhard had lunch in a good Italian restaurant, and continued our journey about an hour later. At a quarter past 7 we eventually arrived at the Motel Nordsøen in Hirtshals, which Burkhard had chosen because it was just a few minutes away from the ferry terminal.
Dwarf seemed to be in a very playful mood again, because as soon as he had spotted two beakers with tea lights on the windowsill, he put one of it upside down, put the other one on top of it and started some artistic exercises. "Look at me! Just one hand!"
After Dwarf had finished his acrobatics, we went to the harbour where a ferry - not ours though - was just being loaded
and to the nearby beach where we spent a few moments in the evening sun.
Back in our hotel, Bjørkisen tried out the bed.
Then Burkhard unfolded the map of southern Norway, so we could already check which way we would have to drive the next day after our arrival in Kristiansand to get to Sandnes, our first destination in Norway.
Checking the way from Kristiansand to Sandnes
The next morning, Burkhard had breakfast already at 7 o'clock to make sure we would reach our ferry in time. On the ticket it said we should be there one hour before departure. Departure time was 10 a.m. and we arrived at the terminal at 20 minutes to 9. However, it took about an hour until we eventually were on the ferry.
View from the ferry over the terminal
Another ferry - I think it's the one to Stavanger
It was the same ferry we had taken on our trip to Norway in 2010, the Fjord Cat, which takes just 2 hours and 15 minutes from Hirtshals to Kristiansand.
The weather was fine, the sun was shining and there were only light waves - I think the captain said something about up to 1 ½ metres.
Leaving the harbour of Hirtshals
On the ferry there were monitors hanging from the ceiling which showed the exact position of the ship on its way to Kristiansand and also its current speed.
Nearly in Kristiansand, current speed: 34.41 knots (about 64 km/h)
The cars were tightly packed on the car decks, so people suffering from claustrophobia might feel a bit uncomfortable there, but I think you're not allowed to stay on the car decks during the passage anyway.
Waiting inside the car to disembark
Bjørkisen checking the map
After our arrival in Kristiansand, it took about half an hour until we finally had left the ferry. We took the E39 going to Stavanger. After a while, Dwarf met some old acquaintances from our last trip to Norway he wished he didn't know: the creeps, the willies and, not to forget, the heebie-jeebies. For those who haven't read my report of our trip to Gåte's final concert in 2010: In spite of his dwarfish nature, Dwarf Vader suffers from what could be called tunnelphobia, the fear of driving through long and often rather dark tunnels. And that is what you get heaps of when travelling through Norway. From Kristiansand to Sandnes you get - I'm omitting those 17 tunnels with a length of less than 500 m - Kirkeheitunnelen (849 m) , Vatlandstunnelen (3184 m) , Teistedalstunnelen (1925 m), Fedaheitunnelen (1434 m), Fosselandstunnelen (612 m), Austadtunnelen (1040 m), Drangeidtunnelen (767 m), Logatunnelen (833 m) and Skjeggestadtunnelen (585 m).
It was only about 220 km to Sandnes, but since you couldn't drive faster than 80 km/h - often less - and since Burkhard stopped several times to take some pictures, it took about four hours until we arrived at our hotel in Sandnes. At some places the sky was clouded, but when we eventually arrived in Sandnes, the sun was shining.
Views from a vantage point a few kilometres before Flekkefjord
Same vantage point - view into the right rear mirror
Lay-by near Tronvik
A rivulet (Bringedalsbekken) at the same lay-by
Views from a vantage point at Bilstadsvatnet
Same place, opposite direction
Lay-by in Vikeså
Another lay-by just a few kilometres further
Arrival at our Hotel Kronen Gaard in Sandnes
After checking in at our hotel, Burkhard drove into the centre of Sandnes to get some cash at a cash dispenser (they are called "minibank" in Norway) and to buy some stuff. Talking about cash dispensers, this gives me the opportunity, to show you one with a special name Burkhard saw in Kragerø two years ago:
The "å" in "Jånni" is pronounced like "o"
First we went to the post office. Earlier this year, the Norwegian Post had issued a set of four stamps and a miniature sheet featuring parts of some of the most famous paintings by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (who would have celebrated his 150th birthday this year, if he had been still alive). Burkhard wanted to use some of these stamps on postcards to some friends and relatives. Unfortunately, he only got three out of four stamps (he didn't ask for the miniature sheet), because the stamp with the most famous motif - "Skrik" ("The Scream") - was sold out.
The Norwegian Munch-stamps (+ mini sheet) issued in 2013
The next thing he bought were the current issues of the monthly comic magazines Nemi and Kollektivet, his two favourite Norwegian comic series, and he also bought the newest Nemi-book "Princess of Darkness", containing Nemi-strips from 2005 and 2006 and a foreword written by Tori Amos.
After Burkhard had eaten something, we drove back to our hotel, where Bjørkisen, Dwarf and I began to read the Nemi-book, while Burkhard was taking a stroll outside to take some pictures.
Reading Tori's foreword in the new Nemi-book
Some sheep somewhere near the hotel waiting for the bus and looking sheepishly (Sorry, couldn't let this one pass by, could I?)
The view from our hotel room
The hotel was very nice and the price of our room was - by Norwegian standards - very cheap - just NOK 495 for one night including breakfast. The latter was very good and perhaps one of the best Burkhard had on this trip.
We left our hotel in Sandnes the next morning at about 9 a.m. Even though it was only about 220 km to our next destination, Rosendal, it took some time to get there.
Unfortunately, the weather had changed and it was raining - as had already been predicted about a week before. On our way from Sandnes to Rosendal we had to take two ferries. The first one went from Mortavika to Arsvågen. However, to get to Mortavika from Sandnes, you have to drive through two long tunnels connecting some of the countless Norwegian islands along the west coast. The first tunnel goes down under the Byfjord and the second one under the Mastrafjord. The first one is about 6 kilometres long and the second one is still about 4 kilometres long, so for Dwarf this meant heebie-jeebies galore! What made these tunnels even creepier was the fact that they went down the first 3 resp. 2 kilometres and then up again the second 3 resp. 2 kilometres.
When we entered the first tunnel, Dwarf started moaning: "Oh nay, we're all doomed! This will lead us straight to the centre of the earth!" A slight exaggeration, considering the fact that 223 metres below sea level, which is the lowest point of the first tunnel, is still a bit away from the centre of the earth, but I must admit that travelling through a tunnel below the sea doesn't exactly rank at the top of the things to make you feel relaxed. The fact that the lowest point of the second tunnel is only 133 m below sea level doesn't make you feel much more comfortable. Thankfully, both tunnels seemed to be broader and better illuminated than most of the other tunnels we drove through in Norway.
Waiting for the ferry in Mortavika
On the ferry leaving Mortavika
On the ferry there was a model of the ferry
Bad weather behind us and ahead of us
The ferry-passage took about 20 minutes. We continued our trip on the E39 to Aksdal. At a crossing in Aksdal we stopped by at a petrol station where Burkhard had to fetch his ticket for Kari's concert in Falnes Kirke two days later, which he had ordered online. After that, we continued our trip on the E134 via Våg, Isvik, Ølen - when Dwarf read the sign saying "Ølen" he immediately startend laughing: "Haha, a place called 'The Beer', people here probably get drunk a lot!" - and Etne.
Somewhere near Våg/Same place, view to the left
Same place, a few grazing sheep
On our way to Isvik, there was a slightly dramatic scene. A car driving in front of us had suddenly stopped and we soon found out why: About 150 metres ahead of us, there was a car standing on the left side of the road and it looked as if its engine had caught fire. Someone tried to extinguish it with a fire-extinguisher. It seemed that this wasn't enough, because soon there were flames coming from the engine again, so another two people came running with fire-extinguishers and this time they eventually managed to put out the fire for good.
A burning car somewhere near Isvik
We continued our trip and halted shortly in Isvik.
Halting in Isvik
The way to Rosendal would have been shorter, if we had turned left in Isvik and taken the road to Utbjoa and from there the ferry to Syndnes. However, Burkhard had been wise enough to check the timetables of the ferries before our trip and found out that there was no ferry going from Utbjoa to Syndnes between 10.50 h and 15.50 h, so he had decided to take the ferry going from Skånevik to Utåker over the Skånevikfjord instead. To get there, we continued our way on the E134 until Håland (this name might make Dutch people feel at home), where we turned left onto the road to Skånevik. Unfortunately, when we reached the landing the ferry leaving at 13.20 h had just cast off. Since the next ferry wouldn't leave before 14.30 h, Burkhard decided this was a good opportunity to have something to eat and take some pictures.
A map of Kvinneherad kommune in Skånevik
Standing at the shore near the landing in Skånevik
From the shore in Skånevik you can see a small island not far away and on that Island you see a sculpture - the silhouette of a guitar-player. I think it has something to do with the Skånevik Bluesfestival.
Small island close to Skånevik
Dark mountains ahead of us
View to the west from the ferry crossing the Skånevikfjord
Safety instructions on the ferry
The passage to Utåker took about 20 minutes. From there, it took less than an hour until we eventually arrived in Rosendal. When we had reached what looked like the centre of Rosendal, a sign showed that we had to turn right to get to the Barony.
A sign in Rosendal showing the way to Baroniet Rosendal
After a few hundred metres, we had to turn right again to the Avlsgård & Fruehus which would be our accommodation for the next two days.
Our room was on the first floor, whereas the lavatories were on the ground floor and the shower room on the second floor. In our room, there was only a wash-bowl (and, of course, a bed, a table, a chair and an armchair). So if you expect the comforts of "ordinary" hotels, you better look for another place to stay. There was no telephone, no TV and no internet access. However, anyone who travels to this place to watch TV, make phone-calls or surf on the internet should ask himself why he didn't stay at home in the first place. We were here on vacation and we had a really beautiful and impressive view from our room.
The view from our room
After checking in, we went to the manor house (originally built in 1665), where the two concerts were going to take place in the yard. It was just about 300 metres away from our accommodation and surrounded by a beautiful park.
The manor house and the Renaissance garden in front of it
We have reached our destination
When we approached the gate to the yard of the manor house, Burkhard spotted a familiar face. Kari's drummer Helge was coming from the Garden Restaurant where he had fetched something to eat. You have got to be prepared for a concert. And if you are the drummer, you usually have the most tiring job and are the one to burn the most calories during the concert, especially if your name is Helge Norbakken. I mean, after the concert, Helge usually looks like a promising contestant for a "Mr. Wet-(T-)Shirt"-competition! (I hope he's not going to kill me for writing this.)
Burkhard and Helge greeted each other, before Helge went through the gate into the yard where the sound check for the concert was about to begin. During the sound check, Burkhard was strolling around the manor house and through the park, so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery around us while listening to Kari's music, sometimes only faintly in the distance.
The weather could have been better. The sky was clouded, there was no sun, but at least it wasn't raining (yet). Fortunately, some kind of tent roof span the entire yard, so the stage as well as the audience would be protected from potential rainfalls.
The concert was to begin at 7.30 p.m., but the doors - or in this case the gate - already opened about an hour before. Since he had nothing better to do, Burkhard went in. As we all know, the early concert-goer catches the seat in the first row (unless the seats are numbered and he bought the ticket rather late).
In spite of the fact that Kari's sound engineer, Asle, had told Burkhard over and over again that it's not in the first row but close to the mixing desk where you get the best sound, Burkhard went for the first row, where he sat down nearly right in front of Helge's drum set. The first row was so close to the stage that you had to be careful not to knock your shins against the stage.
At probably any other concert, the decision to sit just about 1-2 metres away from the drummer and the loudspeakers might have fatal consequences for your ear, unless you should use earplugs. But Kari's concerts are not like any other concerts and her sound engineer Asle Karstad is not like any other sound engineer. Burkhard said that sometimes he's got the impression that Asle is the only sound engineer who actually knows what the knobs on the mixing desk are for and how to operate them in a way to achieve the best results possible. After the concert, Burkhard said - and I fully agree with him on this - that even in the first row the sound had been absolutely perfect and not too loud. Even after "Skrik" with its finale furioso, you didn't have the impression that everything around you just sounded muffled.
In spite of the title of the first song - "Tidlig", which in English means "early" - the concert began about 10 minutes late. "Tidlig", the final song on Kari's current album "Og så kom resten a livet", is a very calm song and starts with some childhood memories of her and her mother sitting at the breakfast table on the veranda in the early morning sun on a summer's day.
Just in case someone looking at the picture of the bass-player should wonder "What happened to Sondre? He didn't look that bad that he had to undergo plastic surgery!", there's a very simple explanation: the guy in the picture above isn't Kari's regular bass-player Sondre Meisfjord, but his stand-in Tor Egil Kreken. I'm not a bass-player, but I think he did his job as good as Sondre would have done it.
The next song was "Togsang" ("Train Song"), an old song which she hadn't played on her German tour last year.
What followed was one of our favourite songs from the current album, "Mann på rommet".
Mann på rommet
Flower matching with the place/A happy smile
Bengt smiling in the back
The next song was one of only two songs from her current album she hadn't played on her German tour last year, namely "Trist når du får tenkt dæ om" ("Sad, if you start thinking about it"), also a very personal song, this time about memories of the time when her daughter was still a little child, and now she has grown up and shall move out, and about the time when she herself was 15 and now has become old, yet still has the same smile.
"Heile mett hjerte" has become one of those songs Kari sings at nearly all her concerts. It's about regretting things you have done and not - as in the case of many other people - things you haven't done.
Heile mett hjerte
The next song "Denne veien" is very calm and really soothing and probably one of the most beautiful songs Kari has written thus far.
After that, we got to hear an older song, "Fantastisk allerede", which Kari hasn't played for quite a while (at least at her concerts in Germany).
Then came one of our alltime faves, the first song Burkhard ever heard of Kari and which got him immediately hooked way back in 1999, namely "Sangen om fyret ved Tornehamn", the opening track of her fascinating concept album "Svarta Bjørn", which was her first album to be officially released in Germany in 1999. Way back then, the atmosphere of the song impressed Burkhard so much that it even inspired him to paint a picture. I've already shown it in my report of Kari's concert in Küsten 8 years ago, but I'll show it again here:
Burkhard's painting inspired by Sangen om fyret ved Tornehamn
At the beginning of this song, Helge proved once again that he is a very special percussionist by using a bunch of keys hanging on a line to produce a faint tingling sound. I think that when listening to this song you can actually feel the vastness of the landscape (in Northern Sweden) where the story being told on the album "Svarta Bjørn" took place.
Even keys can be used as a percussion instrument
The next song "Søvngjengersken" is to be found on "Løsrivelse", which is Burkhard's favourite Kari Bremnes-album as far as the music is concerned. As already mentioned before, the lyrics on this album are poems written by the famous Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, and based on these poems he painted some of his most famous paintings.
"Du vet ikke hvor urolig jeg er om nettene "
At Kari's concerts, "Søvngjengersken" is often (though not always) also the song where Helge gets to play his drum/percussion solo, which was also the case at this concert. If you haven't already noticed it before, it's usually during this solo that you will realize that Helge not only plays percussion, but he sort of lives it, well, one could even say he breathes it.
Helge during his percussion solo
Kari obviously likes what she hears
and also Tor Egil is having fun
Another song which Kari performs at most of her concerts - unfortunately still in English, when she's touring in Germany - is "Gåte ved gåte", which usually features a longer keyboard solo by Bengt.
Some time to relax for Kari
"Være bare gåte ved gåte"
Now it was time for our overall favourite song, one of the best songs ever
written, the closest Kari Bremnes ever got to Metal and for Burkhard still
the ultimate highlight of every Kari Bremnes concert: "Skrik"! Edvard
Munch's eponymously titled painting is based on these lyrics.
It's during this song that Hallgrim gets to play two solos, a shorter one during the first part and an extensive one, which can last up to a few minutes and eventually leads to the climax of this song.
After this song, which usually also gets the most enthusiastic reactions from the audience, it was time to calm down again with "Nytt imellom oss", another song from the current album which is about something new happening unexpectedly between two people who have already known each other for a very long time. What could it be? Dwarf, trying a bit too hard to be funny, ventured: "A husband saying to his wife: 'Darling, I've taken out the trash today.'?" I guess not, but I will keep what I think to myself.
The regular set of the concert eventually ended with another one of our favourite songs, the first track on Kari's debut album "Mitt ville hjerte", namely "Mitt hjerte hamrer og hamrer", the lyrics of which are a poem by the Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen.
After the song had ended, every musician received a rose - well, what else do you expect at a place called Rosendal?
Hallgrim and Kari look very happy
Kari and the band also received standing ovations from the audience, so this couldn't be the end of the concert, could it?
The first encore was "Hurtigrute", another song which audiences in Germany unfortunately still mostly get to hear in English. The title already says what it is about, so I don't think it needs any further explanation.
The second encore and final song of this evening was "Alle vet jo det", a cover version of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody knows" sung in Norwegian, which is to be found on the album "Hadde månen en søster - Cohen på norsk" (i.e. "If The Moon Had A Sister - Cohen In Norwegian"), which contains 12 cover versions of songs by Leonard Cohen sung by seven female singers from Norway, Kari being one of them. Burkhard says he's never been a fan of Cohen, but he's enjoying this album very much and thinks "Alle vet jo det" is one of the best songs performed by Kari she didn't write herself and completely slays the original version! It has to be said that her current live version sounds very different from the studio version to be heard on the aforementioned album, but that's probably due to the fact that the album was recorded 20 years ago with completely different musicians.
alle vet jo det
Including encores, the concert lasted about 95 minutes, which was a bit shorter than the concerts Burkhard had attended on Kari's German tour last year, but it was OK. Burkhard said he also would have liked to hear "E du nord", "Med sin nydelige kone" and especially "På kanten av et liv" (a song about the tragic fate of Dagny Juel which can move you to tears), all from Kari's current album, but that - as Kate Bush already sang in "Suspended in Gaffa" about 30 years ago - "we can't have it all".
A few pieces of wood lying in front of Helge's drum set - a testimony of his fervent drumming
After the concert, Burkhard said hello to Kari's sound engineer Asle, but then left rather quick. As he hadn't had any proper meal since breakfast, he didn't want to miss the 3-course-dinner which was being served right after the concert in the tea room of the manor house. The dinner was really good, though the dessert was a bit too sweet for Burkhard's taste.
After dinner we took a last look through the still open gate to the now empty yard, where a beautiful concert had taken place just about 2 hours before, and then went back to our accommodation.
The manor house about two hours after the concert