The Hidden Pearl: Modalen, Norway


COMMUNITY

Writer + Photography:
Ösp Egilsdóttir

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1. Modalen kommune is a hidden pearl in Hordaland, 1.5 hours away from Bergen and with under 400 inhabitants, making it the next smallest kommune in whole of Norway.

Over the past few decades, Modalen has become known for it’s hydropower and is often called the electricity valley.

 
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2. Throughout the last years Modalen has blossomed and changed rapidly making the valley one of the richest communities in the whole country. Not so far back the situation was very different. The entire valley was hidden and closed off, with no connection to the road network and all travel via boat.

This all changed in 1976 when the first tunnel through Eksingedalen was made. Later, in 1996, the most important tunnel was built and large changes ensued in Modalen where the tunnel through Romarheim provided easy access to the hidden pearl. The positive changes that came along after both the tunnels were built led to a flourishing fresh start for the Modalen community.  Both the economy and culture boomed and suddenly Modalen wasn’t a hidden, old fashioned place anymore, but a thriving modern society.

Today the people of Modalen are what makes Modalen so special, where they embrace both the new and the old, holding onto traditions but also welcoming change. 
This book is a testament to my love and respect to the valley. 

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3. The younger generation of Modalinger have high hopes for the future. Alva Nåmdal Kjensli, Amalie Neset Heimly and Oda Mo Eikefet are long-term friends and are some of the strong upcoming voices. They all agree that Modalen is a fantastic place to live, where safety and nature play an important role. 

The girls have strong opinions and want to contribute in the near future in the local politics and be a part of helping Modalen to continue its strong growth. “It's natural for us to play a role in the local community, because without engaged and involved people there won't be a rightful democracy.”

 
 
 

4. Husband and wife Jostein Farestsveit and Astrid Farestsveit have lived most of their lives in Modalen, where Jostein is originally from.

They met in the mountains of the valley, where Astrid was working with goats. They fell in love and Astrid never went back to her hometown in Lindås and instead married Jostein and moved to Modalen for good in 1965.

The couple have always had green fingers, a passion for flowers and have run their own gardening business for many years now. 
Before the tunnels arrived it was too far away and difficult for locals to get flowers and so the Farestsveit’s decided to use that to their advantage and open their own plant and flower nursery.

Throughout the years they have contributed in making Modalen more beautiful with their flowers and plants. In 2012 they were rewarded with the honorable Modalen prize for their good work in the local community.

 
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5. Britt Farestsveit and Kristin Nåmdal are both born and raised in Modalen and have know each other their whole lives. They share the same passion for food.

They both like to contribute to their dear valley and try to make some interesting things to do. They love their nature and try to utilise the woods where they find some good ingredients to work with in their cooking, such as berries, herbs and mushrooms. 
Through their shared interest and love of Modalen their dream is to make a book with local recipes.

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6. Jarle Heimdal has lived in Modalen since 1980 and has had goats since 1987.

Jarle is the only farmer in Modalen that has goats. The majority of the goats milk is sent to USA and the rest is sent to Byrkjelo Dairy Farm to make the Norwegian traditional brown cheese.

Jarle is an untraditional farmer that likes to go his own way. He wants to be his own boss in a place where he can live in peace away from noisy urban areas. Here in Modalen he has the space to do that.

“Modalen is a good place to live in if you care for nature and animals” he says.

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7. Knut Mo is born and raised in Mo, Modalen and has always been interested in politics.

Knut was an engaged politician in Modalen for 24 years and served 12 years as the mayor, until 2015 (when this photo was taken). Knut thinks it's important to focus on business development within the commune to create more variety in the working market. That way it gets more tempting for the young people to return to their hometown after their education. 

“Modalen is a safe and solid community that has managed to turn itself around into becoming a modern society.

 
 
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8. Roger Fure and Ning Fure are a married couple from Norway and Thailand.

They found love in 2011 and moved together to Modalen where they built their house together in the centrum, Mo. They enjoy the local community and agree that it is easier to get to know people in small places like Modalen where everyone knows one another. 

They work together in the only grocery store in Mo centrum where Roger is the manager. 

 
 
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9. Egill Kristjánsson og Guðbjörg Vilhjálmsdóttir are a married couple, originally from Reykjavík, Iceland.

After the Icelandic financial crisis hit in 2008 the couple decided to take a chance and move to Modalen after receiving an offer from the community to take over Mobryggja, the local hotel and restaurant. 

Since they took over the place there has been a lot of changes, where they renovated the whole place and added an art gallery along with a shop. They have integrated well into the community and play an important role there. Their dream was to combine Icelandic and Norwegian culture together to create a good and new atmosphere in the valley.

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10. Princess Dayo Williams is originally from Sierra Leone.

She came to Norway at the age of 6 years old and moved to Modalen when she was 11 years old. Moving to little Modalen was a very big transition and a but tough for a small girl, coming from a big place. But looking back she says that the valley was the nicest place she has lived in so far, with its amazing nature and calmness.

Today Princess is very proud to be both Sierra Leonean and Norwegian. 

 
 
 
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11. Endre Mo, Linda Neset, Ida Mo, Hannah Mo and Lisa Mo are a family originally from Modalen.

After living in the city for awhile they decided to return to Modalen to take over Endre's family farm in Mo. 

They all really enjoy the country life and live the good and quiet life with their animals. The whole family participates in the daily chores, where they care for 30 sheep, 3 horses, 2 rabbits and a deaf cat named Pusi.

12. Ann-Jorunn Farestsveit, born and raised in Modalen is a farmer who loves to combine together her two passions in her everyday life which are her farm and singing.

She inherited the garden of her parents and started taking over it at the age of 21 years old. Ann-Jorunn says she want´s to be a farmer for the rest of her life because she loves animals and is proud of her occupation and farm. 

“I'm a leader of the board of the Modalen farm association and it's very important to me that there should be an active agriculture with active farmers both in Modalen and all over Norway.

 
 
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13. Hunting is something people in Modalen have been doing for centuries and is a part of the history.

In the past it was mostly men that hunted wild game but now the times have changed and more women have started hunting as well. One of them is Liv Anne, who has lived in Modalen for over 10 years an now runs two small businesses. One of her business, Active in Modalen, focuses on outdoor lifestyle, tourism and business in the valley. Active in Modalen was the first to arrange hunting for women in collaboration with Jarle H.

“I use quite a bit of my time outside the hunting season to work with things relevant to hunting such as getting more familiarised with the terrain, processing meat for traditional spekemat (cured meats) and refining my own hunting skills”. 

 
 
 
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14. Inger Moe and Bjarne Moe are a married couple that have lived most of their lives in Modalen.

Bjarne is born and raised there but Inger is originally from Sogn and Fjordene.They are both very happy in Modalen and could never think about moving away to another place. They have experienced life in Modalen both before and after the tunnel through Romarheim came to be. They say that the changes were enormous. 

“Before the tunnel came alive people had to wake up during the middle of the night to take the boat that came only once during the week to Bergen. Modalen was very isolated and people started to think that it would always be that way and started to move away. 
After the tunnel came things rapidly changed and people started moving in again, there was more life in the valley and the place started to really blossom.”

 

 

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COMMUNITYJustin Levesque