When the National Trust of Norway was founded in 1844, one of the main missions was to save historic buildings from decay and destruction. The trust acquired some ruins and a couple of stave churches along the way. As often happens with collecting, the trust’s founding fathers got excited and picked up a few other places too. They were perhaps the equivalent of Asbjørnsen and Moe for collecting properties and buildings important for the history of Norway. Melissa works for the trust’s properties and her designated playground spans from Trøndelag north and includes everything from medieval ruins to a lighthouse and a coastal Sami farm.
We can thank our lucky stars and stone foundations for preserving the Urnes Stave Church located on a hill above Sognefjorden. It is one of Melissa’s favourites and a Unesco World Heritage site:
There used to be around a thousand wooden stave churches all across Norway, but just a handful have survived.
Melissa recommends taking a ferry from Solvorn when the apple trees bloom on the beautiful headland around the church. The entirely wooden structure looks remarkably fresh after standing outside for 8 million hours without a raincoat. That is roughly 888 years of bracing the elements.
For the past five years, Melissa has also braced the elements in Oslo while walking the length of Dronningens gate to her office. At lunchtime she joins her colleagues in the upstairs salon for some Earl Grey. For the crew at the National Trust, this is a daily tradition and traditions are important.
Her team is a fountain of knowledge and there is a little doorbell on the rosy brown building just below where the wall anchors form the date 1647. With one press of that bell, doors open for anyone in need of advice and encouragement on their own heritage activism project, whatever the scale.