For a more recent drone’s-eye-view of Ytre Arna, check this short video:
Ytre Arna is the little village nestled into the side of one of the mountains surrounding Bergen, Norway. I’ve been lucky enough to visit there and the stories I visited with friends from the “war years” generation. Their stories inspired my research and writing, set in Ytre Arna. My recent web-touring of the Arna region turned up several images to help readers visualize the community while reading.
Arna is a region divided by a large fjord, with Ytre Arna on the banks further from Bergen. “Ytre” means “outer”. On the near side of the fjord are Indra Arna (Inner Arna) and Garnes, two much larger communities. The pictures I found are fairly current. Since the war years, housing and population have expanded, but many of the homes, streets, and shops have been there for a hundred years and more.
In the early part of the twentieth century, just before the war years, Ytre Arna was renowned for it’s weaving factories. For generations they produced highly desirable and high quality fabrics for the country and for the world market. Their location on the fjord offered easy access to the ports at Bergen and the sea beyond.
The most exciting discovery I made during my web-cruise was a YouTube video. (Yes, YouTube has something besides cats and TED talks.) It offers a windshield view through the streets of modern Ytre Arna. Many of the homes, business, and other buildings are ones I saw during visits there. Early in the ride you can see the white church and steeple I had in mind while writing rise into view on the left. Take a few minutes and enjoy the ride:
You may wonder why an occupying German army would bother with such a tiny village, especially one whose principal industry was making fabric. Its location on the fjord is part of the explanation. In addition, the presence of German encampments, the numbers of soldiers, and their expanse into every Norwegian community assured their complete control of the country and its resources. It sent a clear message that, as Star Trek fans would say, “Resistance is futile”.
Germany claimed not to be invading, but to be occupying for the safety, protection, and defense of kindred spirits. They claimed Norway as a sort of “blood kin”; members of the “Aryan Race” who were destined to one day rule the world. They were even met by some Norwegians who welcomed them.
There’s an eerie similarity between what happened then to Norway (and other countries) and to what is happening now in Crimea. As I watch Russian troops land, expand, encourage local support, and insist they are there as protectors I feel as if I’m viewing my research come to life.