A tourist trip to the best scenery in Norway. (Photo)

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Kjesen is known as one of the most isolated populated areas of Norway. And while getting here is a strange adventure, the views from the top are truly soul-stirring.

The road to Kjesen, a mountain farm deep in the fjords of western Norway, looks like a road to nowhere.

Hugging the coastline of Simadal Fjord, a tiny arm of Hardanger Fjord, the road winds from the village of Eid Fjord past wooden seaside houses and red farms.

The outlook for the trip ahead is not promising. Precipitous rock walls, so steep that they leave the valley floor in shadow for months every year, seal off Simadalen Valley from the rest of the world on three sides. Where the fjord ends, the road passes through pine and fir forests, crosses a raging stream fed by waterfalls, and then reaches a crossroads. Turn right, and soon the road will be in the forest, its further path blocked by rocks hundreds of meters high. Turn left towards Kjeåsen and the journey seems equally hopeless due to the lack of any obvious way forward.

I walk this road because my destination is no ordinary place. Kjesen is located 600 vertical meters above the Simadal Fjord, and its small collection of outbuildings is known throughout Norway as one of the most isolated inhabited corners of the country. For most of its long history, there wasn’t even a road to the site, where it sits on a narrow grassy ledge, hidden from the outside world but ensconced in one of the country’s most stunning views.

It wasn’t until 1975 that the farm was connected by road to the rest of the world almost 600 meters below (Image credit: Heidi Kvamsdal)

It was then one of the most difficult and beautiful places in Norway. To get to Kiessen, it was necessary to make a dangerous two-hour ascent on rope ladders and rope bridges across the ice-covered landscape. There were once 13 children in Kjesen, and their daily trip to school in Simadal was a perilous four-hour round trip.

To live there by one’s own will, cut off from the world, must have been a conscious act of escape or solitude.

There are many theories about the first people who settled here. “One of them is that it was a soldier who deserted from the Swedish army,” said Heidi Kvamsdal, a photographer, local historian and Eidfjord native. “Another theory is that the first settlers were trying to escape the Black Death [у 14 столітті]”. After that, Kvamsdal said, people left Kyeosen for more than 150 years. But “we know that there was a permanent settlement there from the beginning of the 16th century.”

News of Kjeåsen first reached the enchanted outside world in the 1950s, when Swedish author Bror Ekström visited and wrote a book called Folket på Kjeåsen (People of Kjeåsen). The book told the story of a farming community, a unique and tiny, special world; mountain families, cut off from the outside world, but somehow surviving against the elements. It was a story that contrasted inaccessibility with amazing beauty. And their stories of isolation and resilience captured the public’s imagination.The farm complex is now empty for most of the year, with the last permanent resident leaving in 2019 (Photo: Adonis Villanueva/Alamy)

The farm complex is now empty for most of the year, with the last permanent resident leaving in 2019 (Photo: Adonis Villanueva/Alamy)

In 1967, a woman named Bjorg Wijk moved to Kjesen to help her aunt take care of the farm and was joined by her sister Guri in 1975 when their aunt died. The two sisters, formerly from Oslo, lived here alone until Guri’s death in 1999. Bjorg lived here year-round until 2019, when she was in her 90s, and still returns with family members to spend the summer.

The 8-kilometer access road was not completed until 1975. But this road did not diminish the mystique of Kjesen. Instead, it was like an open invitation to the curious. Elin Kavale, a local guide who arrived in Eidfjord in 1975 while her husband was working on road construction, would later take the first tourists to Kjesen. She recalls how “all kinds of people came: some in wheelchairs, some very old, even blind people. They all had a common goal: they needed to visit this place. Most people have read the book, some more than once. They felt that they were walking on holy ground.”

Despite the road, Guri and Björg never learned to drive, preferring to walk or, if they needed things, ask friends in the valley. In any case, even the road was no match for the depth of the Norwegian winter. As recently as 1994, the sisters were cut off from the outside world for more than a month by 3 meters of snow. Provided they planned carefully and stocked up, the snow was less of a problem than the strong, icy winds that can rage at these elevations: to this day, the roofs of all outbuildings here are held in place by anchored steel cables. And one day, when the sisters fell ill with the flu, being in a place cut off by snow, a helicopter had to deliver medicine and food to the affected residents.Due to the narrowness of the road, vehicles can only travel in each direction once an hour (Image credit: Heidi Kvamsdal)

Due to the narrowness of the road, vehicles can only travel in each direction once an hour (Image credit: Heidi Kvamsdal)

“Autumn has always been Bjorg’s favorite time of year in Kiesen,” says Cavale, “and when I start my own drive here on a cold and gloomy November morning, the road seems deserted. But before I begin, I must wait. The road is so narrow that a one-way system works: cars going to Kjesen must do so every hour; those who descend leave in half an hour.

The clock is ticking, without a single car in sight, I turn onto the Kjesen road and start to climb. Under the high rocks, the road cuts a winding path, bend after bend, turn after turn, all the time gaining height. This section of the road is only 2.5 km long, but the valley is far below.

At the top of the road, there is suddenly nowhere to go, and so it plunges into a tunnel roughly cut into the rock, rising through the inner chambers of the mountain. The tunnel is only 2.5 km long, but it seems longer because this dark corridor through the mountain is known to be all that connects Kjesen to the outside world.

When I step out into the light, it takes my eyes a few minutes to adjust. Clouds swirl through the treetops. A mountain river roars over large boulders. There are no signs of life.Kjeåsen became famous in the 1950s with a book called

Kjeåsen became famous in the 1950s with a book called “Folket på Kjeåsen” (Image credit: Heidi Kvamsdal)

Kjesen’s close cluster of wooden huts with stone foundations is as deserted as the road. Above the huts, the mountain slope descends steeply into the cloud forest. Below, the narrow grassy fields where Björg and her sister kept sheep and grew their own food, descend steeply and here you have a view!

For a moment, the clouds part, and a near-perfect picture of Norway’s fjord country stretches across waters that have turned turquoise in the sun. Incredibly steep rock walls rise into the snow, and Eidfjord can be seen in the distance. For a moment I would like to live here, on the heights of Kjesen, and sit for hours without interruption, gazing in wonder at this, one of the most beautiful landscapes in Norway.

And then the clouds close in again, as it often happens after a short summer window. The landscape has disappeared and I am here alone, cut off from a world that suddenly seems very far away. I shudder. But there is a wild charm to the isolation, a wonderful feeling of being outside the world and its noise and being in this special place all to yourself.

For the first time, I realize that for those who lived here, isolation was never an enemy and only rarely an inconvenience. In fact, the whole point was remoteness, a precious way of life that depended on closeness to nature and separation from the larger world.

“Most winters were just good days,” said Cavale, who knew the Wiik sisters well. “They took care of the sheep and all the birds and other wild animals.”In winter, bad weather can shut down a farm for weeks at a time (Image credit: Anthony Ham)

In winter, bad weather can shut down a farm for weeks at a time (Image credit: Anthony Ham)

And in the summer, their life was the envy of those down by the fjord: “In Eidfjord, the soil was not so fertile and the sun stayed away for months,” Kavale said. “Kjesen has sun all year round, the soil is more fertile, and it was much more nutritious for reindeer. It was important for their livelihood, as it was for the fish in the mountain lakes.”

Björg once told Kavala: “It’s easy to dream while sitting near the house on a nice sunny day in autumn. The air is so crystal clear. Complete peace.”

Kavale recalls that during her frequent visits to spend time with Björg in her home, there was a “very special atmosphere of calm and peace”. Björg visited her childhood home in Oslo about once a year. “But after a few days, she wanted to return to a calm and good life in Kiesen. Björg often said that Kjesen was her paradise.”

Here in the quiet meadows, it takes very little imagination to understand why.

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