Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S.A. – July 19th, 2010
I had been puzzled by the billboards and flyers touting a Norwegian Stavkirke in South Dakota’s Black Hills. I had seen one or two of the old wooden churches in Norway, but why would there be one in South Dakota? What could it amount to? On our way back to the interstate from seeing Thunderhead Undergound Falls, I saw a sign pointing off to it and made Liisa pull off the road. Whatever it was, I couldn’t pass it up when it was right in my path.
Called the Chapel of the Hills, the church is an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke in Norway, and together with a tiny museum, giftshop, and prayer walk, is supported entirely by donations and wedding fees. The arrival of a real Finn was something of a surprise to the friendly women working there, who were happy to tell us all about the chapel, how all the local high schoolers go there for their prom pictures, and how the authentic stabbur that houses the gift shop was brought all the way from Norway.
The chapel was lovely and put me back in Norway instantly, but Liisa and I were even more thrilled by the giftshop, which was filled with all manner of Nordic goodies, from books of Scandinavian-American jokes to chocolate and jewelry brought from over the sea. The two of us are certainly biased, but we found this stop better than the average tourist trap – you’d have to travel several thousand miles to get any closer to Scandinavia!