The hamlet of bakka

The small hamlet of Bakka includes the farms of Bakka and Tufto. When traveling inland in the Nærøyfjord, these farms will be the last that the boat passes before arriving at the end of the fjord in Gudvangen. The hamlet is probably most famous for its white church, which was designed by a famous 19th century Norwegian architect named Christian Henrik Grosch, who was also responsible for a large part of the urban development in the capital, then known as Christiania. The hamlet is also known for the popular World Heritage Hike which takes place every year and has its starting point between Bakka and Tufto.

BORGA, The fortress

Directly southeast of the building with bnr.(property registration number)2, furthest south in the hamlet you find a small elevation named “Borgahaugen” (translates as the Fortress Mound). Oral traditions state that there used to be a “bygdeborg” on this mound, an old-fashioned elevated line of defence. Whilst this is an exciting tale, when looking at the placement of the mound, it differs from the traditional placement of a bygdeborg. In order to make an appropriate refuge, such a fortress should be on a peak in the terrain, preferably with a very steep incline leading to it, making it easy to keep enemies out by erecting stone walls in places otherwise accessible. Norwegian archives may offer an explanation for the Borg name, as it was also sometimes used in relation to burial mounds and cairns, and apparently Borgahaugen at some point was home to a cairn.

Female cairn and weaving

Several loom weights were discovered in a second cairn, approximately 200metres (approximately 219 yards) north of the farmhouse. The loom weights were most likely shaped from soapstone or slate, and were used as weights at the bottom of the warp on a warp-weighted loom. The warp-weighted loom was primarily used towards the end of the Iron Age and during the Viking Age, and weaving was seen mainly as women’s work. The principles of the technique is that the person doing the weaving remains standing throughout performing the work, no shuttle is used, and the shed is changed by using the hands. In addition to this the weft thread is pushed into place with a beater.

a decent farm by the fjord

It’s relatively certain that it can be assumed that Bakka and Tufto were originally parts of the same farm, seeing as they are referred to as inner and outer Bakke in written sources up until the 17th century. Outer Bakke (Tufto) wasn’t made a separate farm until around 1750, although at the turn of the century the farm had a much larger population compared to the other farms by the Nærøyfjord. This indicates that the farm was relatively big. The fact that the owners of Tufto in the 18th century were viewed as affluent people also indicates that the farm did well financially. Apparently the riches of the farmer on Tufto was so grand, that there were rumours that he had gotten said riches from the cairn at Holmo, on the other side of the fjord. More likely however to be the truth is that people on Tufto were very proficient both as workers, and as traders.

Utilising the outlying Fields

The farms in the hamlet of Bakka made a lot of their income on the outlying fields, the seasonal farms were especially important in determining how many animals the farms were able to keep and feed. All in all, there have been six seasonal farms attached to the two farms: Flåtane, Seltuft, Stølsnes, Rimstigen, Breidalen and Røyrdotten. The road to the mountain farms were originally well developed paths formed from the traffic of the hoofed farm animals, in places supported by built up walls of stone. The path shares its names with one of the farms; Rimstigen. In Johan Fritzner’s Dictionary of the Old Norwegian Language he describes the word link –rim as an Old Norwegian word meaning a long, thin chip of wood or a strap. This indicates that the road’s name may be a wordplay on something that is long and narrow.

Place names often tell the story of what took place on the farms and in the outlying fields in the past. At Bakka we find a place known as “Kolmilebakken”, kol meaning coal, which indicates that charcoal produced from wood probably served as a source of income generated from the outlying fields at some point. Along the path to the seasonal farms there are several elm trees that show signs of pollarding. This was likely mostly utilised as a resource by the many tenant farmers, whose other resources included mowing of the outlying fields as well as fishing. The houses of the tenant farmers were found right by the water and the plots and stone walls are still very much visible, along with several of the old boathouses.

The White church

Sources from the 14th century tell us that the church in Undredal was the landowner and they received rent on the land from the farm of Bakka. Towards the end of the 18th century the farmers were given a chance to purchase the church and the land from the king, and thus became the freeholders. After having spent several centuries under the parish of the church in Undredal, a lot of discussion was had in regards to the size and location of the church. For those who were under the parish of the church, but resided along the Nærøyfjord or in the valley of Nærøydalen, the road to the church was both long and treacherous, especially during the winter months. One suggestion was to move the church from Undredal to Nærøy. In 1855 however, a decision was made to establish a separate parish for the Nærøy area, a decision made as a result of it becoming a legal requirement for the church of a parish to be able to hold 1/3 of the population of that parish. The decision was then made that the municipality would take over the church in Undredal on the premise that the farmers of Bakka funded a new church there. The church in Undredal remained where it was, and a new church was designed by the famous architect Christian Henrik Grosch. The new church was consecrated in 1859.

A distinctive environment

Many of the buildings at Bakka look the same today as they did when they were built in the 19th century or in some cases even earlier. As a complete picture these houses make a very valuable environment, however some of the houses are also quite valuable as single entities. As an example, this is true of a large boathouse found in the bay of Blombakkaviki, which has massive walls of stone and wooden gables. The boathouse is most likely the oldest in the hamlet, and the type of construction used in building it is one that stretches far back in time. The farmhouse on bnr.(property registration number)5 is an early example of the farmhouses that had a hallway going through the middle of them, named “midtgangstype” “midtgang” meaning aisle. The house has a classical entrance and an arch in the middle of the front of the house, something which indicates that it was built at the start of the 19th century. Despite this parts of the house may very well be even older.

A visit to Bakka offers experiences in a well preserved building environment, and a cultural landscape that matches it. By travelling up Rimstigen, one gets the opportunity to consider what the seasonal farm life brought with it in the old days, as well as experiencing the incredible nature. Although the hike is considered to be quite demanding, both in regards to the incline and the length, it remains a popular choice for both locals and tourists alike.


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