Thursday 13 April 2017

Norway diaries : Exploring World War II bunkers in Vedafjellet

Ant-tank installations Brusand.jpg
By kalev kevad from Stavanger, Norway - The Hitler-teeth, CC BY 2.0, Link

As our work session drew to a close at Hå Gamle Prestegard, the Old Vicarage of Hå, Jonathan, one of the young Norwegian teachers, asked if we'd like to go and see Hitler's teeth. I wasn't sure if something had got lost in translation, but it turns out he was referring to the anti-tank obstacles erected along the coastline during World War II. It seemed like a strange place to put them to me, but the Germans thought that an allied invasion would be likely here, due to its proximity to the UK.

The "teeth" were by the side of the road and we couldn't stop but we carried on a mile or so and parked in what looked like a typically unspoilt, rugged Norwegian landscape.

Apart from a huge modern residence that has recently been built into the side of a mountain - unsurprisingly, a rather controversial construction.

After a brisk walk up a hill, we came across the first World War II remains - a series of interconnecting rooms, with no roof.

What amazed us is that there were still old pieces of machinery lying around in the rubble - I'm sure if you came here with a metal detector, you'd find all sorts of things, because it all seems to have been discarded as it was, with nobody taking any interest in it.

There was a map screwed into the rockface, showing the locations of the various guns and tunnels that were placed here.

Little did I suspect that they would still be open for the general public to explore !

I'm used to seeing and even going inside the world war II bunkers along the beaches of Dunkirk, but they are nothing like the remains here, which are just like stepping back in time. Everything is still in perfect condition and seems untouched - it's all pitch black though and we had to rely on the meagre light from our phones and camera flash.

It's a bit freaky exploring the tunnels and imagining that Nazi soldiers were walking around in these exact same places several decades ago.

We had to be careful where we put our feet as there were lots of loose rocks and puddles, including some the size of small lakes. We had to laugh as we slowly felt our way along the walls, calling out to be careful on particularly rough areas, only to see a family come waltzing through without a care in the world, complete with head torches and a baby strapped into a carrier on dad's back ! Not somewhere I'd have felt very safe taking a small child, I must admit !

It was all quite exciting because we didn't have a clue where we were going, where we would end up or whether we were heading for a dead end. Whenever we came out into daylight, it gave us a chance to get our bearings.

The location finally made sense, as this would have been where Allied ships came in, if they were going to try to land here.

It's all very rugged.

But also quite beautiful.

It all seems so far from civilisation and bustling city life that it is hard to imagine anybody thinking a war could be played out here.

The people in the new residence certainly have good views of the surrounding countryside.

Time to head back down into the tunnels to see where the next one would lead us !

There is hardly any damage so it's like time has stood still.

As we scrambled over the roof of a bunker, I marvelled at the fact that everything is unprotected. If a child fell down this hole into the tunnels below, he would seriously hurt himself. Similarly, when we went climbing up the mountains and picking our way across slippery paths in Dalsnuten, there are no railings to help you or stop you falling. One of the Norwegians in the group laughed and said that it's natural selection - if you're stupid enough to fall off a mountain or down a hole, that's nature's way of saying you're too stupid to survive and to reproduce. This turned into one of our catchphrases for the week !

This pond was on the top of one of the bunkers. Nature taking over the horrors of war ?

That's our shadows, not the ghosts of Nazi soldiers !

Our shadows were starting to get longer so Jonathan said we should start to head for home.

There was just time for a quick bit of shadow play.

The rocks and sky were the perfect backdrop so we couldn't resist !

We headed back down through the trees.

And burst out laughing when we came across a pair of pants hanging from a branch ! We couldn't decide if it was someone who had got caught short or picked an extremely unromantic place for a bit of alfresco action !!


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