My parents built their cottage almost 11 years ago, pretty much right after I moved to Canada. Despite the fact that they spent 25 years of marriage talking about getting a cottage, only to build one the second I left the country, I carry no grudge and have been a regular visitor. I am not one to let such insignificant issues such as...eh..5000 km stand in the way.
My visits have been limited to the summer and fall, when the boys' school schedules allow for a trip across the Atlantic. The "hytte" is the perfect place to escape from the heat of a June or July day. The sun barely dips down behind the mountains before it rises again, which may make it hard to sleep, but also promotes fun and games outdoors at all hours of the day - and night.
A September outing is equally thrilling with its crisp air and spectacular glimpses of Mother Nature's full colour palette. A final gala, if you will, before the trees and bushes, the grasses and flowers go to sleep for the winter. Even the sheep seem to sense that they are grazing on borrowed time, and are much braver in their attempts to check out your picnic lunch. Soon they will be rounded up and brought down to the farm.
Until now, these have been my experiences at the cottage, and I've always thought that I was seeing the mountains at their best. I didn't miss not going in the wintertime or even the spring. But today, I'm no longer sure, because this weekend was my first taste of what winter is like at the cottage. And from what I can tell - it tops both summer and fall.
I noticed a difference from the moment we started the 3 hour drive up on Friday afternoon, when a brand new blanket of snow gave the landscape a scrubbed, just cleaned appearance, lined with snow-covered fern trees glistened as if decorated for Christmas. The rivers and lakes had the ice-blue colour of glaciers, with the occasional sparkle of newly-formed ice crystals.
As darkness crept in, the snow lit up our surroundings, like nature's own sunshine. It was pure and untouched, without footsteps and almost void of tire tracks, and none of that ugly black yuck that piles up on the side of the road after too many cars, or too much salting. I imagined we were the only people in a winter wonderland.
My parents were already at the cottage, greeting us with lit lanterns by the doorstep, a roaring fire, and the delicious smell of fresh waffles. Yum. (I have informed my parents that we are now forever spoiled and can never go back to the cottage without someone arriving first to prep and get everything ready. Once you've tried First Class, you can never go back).
The temperature outside was a cool but not ridiculous -5 degrees C. Our bellies full of waffles and hot tea, we bundled up and headed outside. Grabbing a couple of "rumpebrett" (literal translation - "bum trays") on the way, we headed out into the darkness, to hit the tobogganing hill for an hour or two.
It was magical! The sky was clear and the stars overhead seemed so close, I felt like I could reach out and steal one. The largest full moon I have ever seen lit up the horizon like a miniature sun. From our vantage point, there were no electrical lights anywhere, only the gentle light cast by the lanterns outside our cottage in the distance. The soft snowy carpet muffled all noise, except the occasional squeals of delight as we all slid down the hill and ran up again. And again, and again.
After a delicious dinner, we soon tucked a couple of tired boys into bed, still with rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. It didn't take long before I followed suit. All that fresh air wears you out!
The next day began with an incredible sunrise. Pictures do not do it justice, but here's our best attempt:
Outside was a chilly -12 degrees C when we woke up, but the cottage was nice and toasty with a cosy fire (OK, and the heated floors, too. We are not exactly roughing it). The temperature began to rise as the sky filled with heavy clouds, and though the snow fell slowly at first, majestically and silently, it wasn't long before our cars were covered. It wasn't until the snow began to come down fast and furious that we realized there was only one thing to do:
Bundle, bundle, bundle. Hats, gloves, mitts, scarves, snow pants, coats, extra socks and boots. Phew!
Hot and sweaty, we finally made it out to a winter scape overflowing with opportunities for snowball fights, angel making and general mayhem:
When we were thoroughly soaked and content to take a break from all the goofing around in the snow, Mormor and the boys baked gingerbread cookies and decorated the cottage for Christmas. The rest of us watched skiing on TV, while sipping lovely hot mulled wine with almonds and raisins.
Sunday morning, our final day at the cottage, Mike decided there was just enough snow for the boys to try out their new downhill skis for the first time. He even built a small jump for Christopher. The incline wasn't steep enough to keep the boys' attention for long, which was probably not a bad thing, considering poor Mike had to pull B boy back up the hill each time. Hopefully we'll get an opportunity to try the skis out at a real hill next weekend.
Still, it was a fantastic winter weekend. What I loved most about it was that the focus was on family and playing. And I hope it was only the first of many such weekends to come this year.