Hytte | the ancestral call from the mountain cabin | Norway

The traditional Norwegians are drawn to their cabins, whether it be in the mountains, in the forest, or by the sea. Some would say that they are a people obsessed.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
The mountain cabin Rollstadbu - at Dovre, Oppland, Norway - in 1920. | Photo: Anders Beer Wilse - Norsk Folkemuseum DeOldify cc pdm.
The mountain cabin Rollstadbu - at Dovre, Oppland, Norway - in 1920. | Photo: Anders Beer Wilse - Norsk Folkemuseum DeOldify cc pdm.

Pronunciation

Hytte

The Norwegians have a rural soul

Today, 80% of all Norwegians reside in cities or urban areas. But as late as in 1946, almost 50% of the population still lived in rural communities. For millennia, the Norwegians were hunters, fishers, gatherers, and farmers – settled on farms or in cottages and huts scattered across their long-stretched country.

Even the modern-day city-dwellers have roots that are deeply connected to the ancestors and their way of life; whether the urbanites consciously realise it or not. There is nothing more fascinating than to sense how a dinner party’s atmosphere shifts when someone starts talking about their log cabin in the mountains. The Norwegian word for cabinhytte – works like a call from the ancestral home, a signal for everyone to sit up straight and listen attentively – and immediately feel the longing.

Til fjells

Norwegian words and expressions like på hytta – meaning at or to the cabin, til fjells – meaning to the mountains, til skogs – meaning to the forest, are etched into the Norwegians’ hearts.

The next time you stumble across a Norwegian with a pair of skis on her shoulder, ask her: Skal du til fjells? – are you on your way to the mountains? I guarantee you, her eyes will get a different glow.

Once a simple abode with a purpose

Historically, the Norwegian mountain-, forest-, and seaside cabins were simple and crude. With some beds, a fireplace, and possibly a table and some chairs. Somewhere nearby was often a small outhouse for the occasional freezing and not so odourless visit. Prior to the age of leisure and self-realisation, the cabins had a purpose. They were a shelter for the night when:

  • you crossed the mountains
  • you went fishing
  • you were making hay in a mountain or forest hayfield
  • you were gathering moss for the animals or peat for the fire
  • you went berry-picking in the late summer
  • you were rounding up sheep or hunting in the autumn
  • you were cutting trees in the winter,
  • and so much more

A crackling fire

The water you needed for your cabin stay came from a nearby creek or well, or you melted snow in a pot on the fire. And your dinner was possibly a freshly caught trout from a river close by – with some melted butter and potatoes that you had brought with you in your rucksack. No cup of coffee tastes as good as the one you make after a long and demanding day in the mountains. And no bed is better to lie in than a makeshift cabin bed, with the sound of a crackling fire lulling you to sleep.

Beware the word simple

Today, the Norwegian cabins are often a home away from home, with all the mod cons you can imagine. But to be on the safe side: if you are ever invited to visit one, be sure to ask whether the cabin is of the traditional or modern variety. If they say it’s simple, prepare for very simple. Don’t forget your skis in winter – and warm, and wind- and waterproof clothes and boots all year round. And food and drink – and toilet paper. And if you are afraid of mice, you might want to reconsider, and stay right where you are.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

Norway is a land of water, with almost 1 million lakes and ponds of all sizes. Join us in exploring the 5 largest of her lakes, and some more Norway facts.
Here are 12 historical photos representing the fascinating Sami culture - with deep roots in the Norwegian and Nordic landscape.
In the year AD 1537, King Christian 3 of Denmark-Norway embraced the Lutheran Reformation, and the Norwegians went from being Catholics to Protestants. The king confiscated the Catholic Church’s considerable wealth, a welcomed addition to the royal coffers. Norway more or less ceased to exist as a sovereign state and became a province under Denmark.
For thousands of years, milk from the domesticated animals has had a dominant position in the Norwegian diet. People used milk from the cow, the reindeer, the sheep and the goat.
With the Bronze age came a new and important phase in human history and development: mankind learned how to make tools and other objects from a metal they called bronze.
Are you looking for a Norwegian-to-English dictionary that includes old-fashioned words and dialect words? Then Einar Haugen’s book is your best pick.
Kløvhest is a Norwegian noun that means packhorse. Well into our own time, the Norwegians used horses to help transport goods through a challenging landscape.
In 1836, milkmaid Kari Moen from the community of Sauherad in Telemark, Norway, was attacked by a bear. She almost lost her life that day.
One of the oldest Norwegian instruments is the birch trumpet. But is it really an instrument at all - or did it originally have a completely different purpose?
Our foremothers were hardworking and inventive. Here you can read more about how the laundry was done on a Norwegian mountain farm in the late 1800s.
Myrmelk is a Norwegian noun that means milk conserved in a container buried in a mountain peat bog, left there for herders or others to drink at a later stage.
The wild ocean world of Værøy in Lofoten, Norway, was the birthplace of Mimmi Benjaminsen – born in 1894. Here are some of her childhood memories.
A loved child goes by many names, says a Norwegian expression. This certainly applies to the country Norway. But what does the name really mean?
What beautiful needlework. A bonnet from the collections of Slottsfjellsmuseet - in the city of Tønsberg.
The word ski comes from the Old Norse language, with the meaning cleft wood. The old Norwegians were master hunters, and have been skiing for over 5000 years.
Like all buildings on the old Norwegian farm, the stabbur had a clear purpose: it was a building designed for the storage of food.
In 1938, Queen Maud died unexpectedly during a visit to the United Kingdom. But what happened to her unentombed coffin when the Germans attacked Norway in 1940?
At Easter in 1906, renowned Norwegian photographer Anders Beer Wilse took this series of photos on a trip with a group of friends.
Once upon a time in the distant past, imagine yourself sitting in a small boat, facing this mighty gateway into the bowels of the land.
Norway’s full independence came in AD 1905, and was the culmination of a process that had lasted for several decades.
When there were no makeshift or permanent dwellings nearby, the Sami hunters and herders sometimes slept under the open sky.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history