Scandinavia Blog: Norway – Solvorn


Today I took the twice daily bus and went half an hour down the road to the town of Sogndal to find Valfar’s grave. Okay, I’ll give you a bit of history about the man I’m speaking about. Terje “Valfar” Bakken was the man who founded Windir, (ancient Norse for warrior) a folk black metal band whose music, based on the legends, myths and rural life around Sogndal and the Sognefjord, has inspired a number of other bands in the area to form also over the years, creating a wealth of bands coming under the heading Sognametal. Valfar died tragically in a snowstorm in January 2004, at the height of his prime. Here’s a link in case you’re interested.

Anyway, I found the grave quicker than I’d expected. Less than five minutes actually. It was a surreal and quite upsetting experience, to be honest, standing there at a grave of someone who died far, far too young, and for whom you had such great admiration for. This was a time I could have really done with some company. It was too quiet.

I had a wander around Sogndal’s ‘spectacular’ mall, home to a candle and home decoration shop, a carpet shop, a small food shop, a bed shop, another candle and home decoration shop, a discount book shop and a puny little music shop. I found one Windir album, and it was the tribute album at that, made shortly after Valfar’s death. I was shocked and appalled, not only at the lack of Windir albums but the significant lack of ANY promotion for Sognametal, whatsoever, on the shelves and on the walls. And the sad thing is, the lady behind the till worked with Valfar in that same shop. She worked with this musical genius and wasn’t singing his praises. Absolutely remarkable. The town seemed to prefer to forget that they have some of the most outstanding Black Metal musicians in Norway living and working on their doorsteps. Anyway, I spent an invigorating 43 minutes searching for a new notebook and instead found an overpriced salad spinner, coffee makers and bed linen, in a variety of pastel shades from pink to baby blue. I’m convinced the teens of Sogndal and the surrounding villages which use the town as their place to ‘hang’ have a seriously way out time ‘hanging’ in front of bed displays and stacks of discount washing powder. One interesting thing I noticed was someone passing by outside with their arm pressed against the window. It looked very much like a ham. I had an hour and a half before the twice daily bus came to take me home.

Today I realized I was in serious trouble. My reading material was down to a bare minimum. I knew that before long I would be reduced to reading my camera manual and the index in my Rough Guide to Scandinavia.