Article about Vang, Valdres, Norway

By Blaine Kjorlien
January, 2011


During the summer of 2010 we had the opportunity of visiting Vang area in Norway - the place our Vang Church was named after and the area where my own ancestors once lived. I am writing this to share some of the things I learned from our trip.

Sincerely hoping everything I share here is accurate. Some information was received verbally and other parts were translated from Norwegian documents.
Anyone, please feel free to correct me if I got something wrong.

We drove about 200km from the main airport north of Oslo to get to the Vang, Valdres area. The road was all paved 2-lane highway winding through the mountain valleys. Most of the distance was travelled at under 80 km/hr.
We were very careful not to exceed any speed limits in Norway. I was told that drivers can be ticketed once they exceed the posted limit by only 3 km/hr and the fines are very high.

Everything was nice and green. Numerous small waterfalls could be seen cascading down from the mountain ledges above. The whole area was very clean and well kept. I wouldn't doubt you could drink the water straight out of many of the streams.

I was told there are numerous smaller hydro-electric power generating stations in the area, which benefit the local economy.

The people we met were all super nice and very helpful. Many folks in the area either know English or can get along pretty well in English so communication was not any big problem. I also understand that for a around generation now, English has been taught in schools throughout most of Norway so most young people know it well.


Our visit focused on two small neighboring villages, Vang and Ryfoss. They are located in a beautiful mountain valley in central Norway (Oppland). Vang and Ryfoss are side-by-side villages, perhaps 8-10 miles apart, and both are located in the Vang municipality, which is about 30 miles long (East-West) by 35 miles wide (North-South). My own ancestors actually lived near Ryfoss. It appears that the origins of the original members of our Vang Church was actually split between these two communities.

Unfortunately we were in the area for only around 24 hours. As much of our time was spent near Ryfoss, that is most of what I have for you in this article. I would certainly want to stay longer next time, as should you if you visit there. There is so much to see and learn. The people of the area also seem to take great pride in their history and in preserving many of the older houses, buildings and historic locations in the area.

VANG is located on the south side of a lake at the bottom of the valley.
One place we visited at Vang was the Vang Kommune (kommune would be like town hall or county office over here). At the Kommune are books where you can trace back the history of the area and people. Some are available for purchase. These books are in Norwegian though so you need to get someone to translate them for you. The people at the Kommune were very friendly and helpful.

RYFOSS is a small village about 8-10 miles east of Vang, the next community east. To get a rough idea, you might kind of compare Vang and Ryfoss over there to Gwynne and Bittern Lake here, just with mountains in Norway.

Uphill from Ryfoss is where my own ancestors lived. Their last name was actually Kjos going back to the 1600's. Our last name changed to Kjorlien in 1853 when my great-great grandfather, Ola Kjos, bought the Kjorlien farm a short distance away and moved there. His last name then changed to Kjorlien.

At that time your last name was the name of the farm you lived on. If you moved, you took the last name of your new farm.
The names went like this:

  • If your name was Ola, your father was Tosten, and you lived on the Kjorlien farm, your full name was Ola Tostenson Kjorlien.

  • If you were a girl and your name was Berit, your father's name was Johannes and you lived on the Skrebergo farm, your full maiden name was Berit Johannesdotter Skrebergo.

    The Kjos and Kjorlien farms are located uphill from Ryfoss on the north side of the valley.
    The Kjorlien farm is recorded as the second highest farm in elevation in the entire valley.
    The Kjos farm would be about a mile or so downhill from there on the windy road.
    The Kvien farm is right beside the Kjorlien farm.


    Also uphill from Ryfoss is the HÝre Kirke (HÝre Church) which we visited. This is the church where my own ancestors actually attended.

    The HÝre Church is an old Stave church originally built in 1179.
    My sister Cathy (Cathy lives in Norway near Stavanger) explained that Stave churches are recognizable by the vertical blackened planks covering the outside of these churches. The black color came from a natural resin the planks were treated with to preserve them.

    The inside of the HÝre Church was majestic, fascinating and full of history.

    In the HÝre Church graveyard there are numerous names the same as some of the people who have lived here in our Vang community - Kjos, Kjorlien, Kvien, Veflin (Weflin), Berg and Framstad.

    Other last names familiar to us over here at Vang in Wetaskiwin, like Jevne, might be at the Vang Church at Vang, as we didn't see any Jevne gravestones at Ryfoss. There is a Jevne farm very close to Vang. However, there is apparently an old Jevne farm a mile or so overland just west of the Kjorlien and Kjos farms so I'm not certain. If you have Google Maps you can now find these three farms by simply searching for Jevne, Kjos or Kjorlii (for Kjorlien).
    We didn't get to the actual Vang church on this trip. Next time for sure.

    The Vang Church in Norway is of more recent design. The original Vang Stave Church was sold and moved to Poland in the 1840's. It is located at Karpacz, in western Poland, very close to the border with Germany. There, it has become a major tourist attraction, visited by about 200,000 visitors each year. See article about Vang Stave Church, Poland)


    We were in the Vang area for about 24 hours, arriving one afternoon and leaving the next to continue on our trip to Stavanger where my sister Cathy lives.

    The road onward from Vang to Stavanger was very scenic and beautiful as well. The drive was longer than a full day and took us through numerous mountain valleys and over several ferries.
    One highlight was a trip through what was at the time the world's longest tunnel (24 km through a mountain). That title was lost a few months later when a longer one was completed in Austria.

    Should anyone be thinking of a trip to this location in Norway, please feel free to contact me for a list of some very helpful and terrific people from Vang and Ryfoss who you could contact and perhaps visit over there.
    I have intentionally left out most of the names in this article for internet security reasons, but do have them.


    For more information please view the photos below along with the comments.