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In the steep hillside in Hjølmodalen, a small side valley from Øvre Eidfjord (Upper Eidfjord), which has been a key entrance to the Hardanger Plateau, the hamlet of old farmhouses still lie clustered together. The yard is empty today, some of the houses are used in the summer, but the grass grows round all the corners.
Måbø is the uppermost farm in Måbødalen. This narrow and steep mountain valley has been one of the routes from the fjord communities up to the mountain plateau from times immemorial. We are not certain of the meaning of the name Måbø. Perhaps it has its origin in an Old Norse male name Mávi, from the name for seagull, már. The last syllable “bø” means farm. Today Måbø gives us a compact close-up of the subsistence economy: the small farm with the clearance piles, stone walls and a lane that guided the animals into the yard, at the foot of the great mountain expanse.
The farm Frøystein by the Ulvik fjord is commonly called Fryste. In 1614 the name was written Frøstemb – an obvious Danish influence – and the form Frøsten was used up until the land register in 1886 and 1907. It is probable that the name of the farm originally was Frystvin; a vin-name. Thus it has no connection with neither Frøy (Norse fertility god) nor stein (stone).
Folkedal, which today is like a small “detour” from the main highway, was in the Middle Ages centrally situated in one of the most important roads between Hardanger and Voss. This is the road that Olav Haraldsson travelled in 1023, when he came from the royal farm at Avaldsnes for a meeting with the Voss inhabitants about the new belief. The road passes across the mountain pasture Krossaset and down Bordalen to Vangen.
Norheim, “the farm by the narrow sound” is mentioned in a diploma from the Middle Ages and in an inheritance document. This is one of the large farms in Hardanger, of those that belonged to the powerful families; Sandven in Kvam, Torsnes in Jondal, Aga in Ullensvang and Spånheim in Ulvik.
Through Adolph Tidemand’s detailed close-ups of smokehouses in Kvam, the vicarage in Vikøy, where he lived during his painting trips through Hardanger, has obtained a central position in the Norwegian national romanticism.
The farm Vik in Jondal has been one of the earliest settled farms in Jondal; a good and fertile farm east of the river. Legends hold that mighty men have lived in Vik, and it is easy to imagine that the farm may have been a chieftain’s seat for some time.
The farm Jåstad, situated a few kilometres north of Agatunet, must have been a grand farm in medieval times. Torolf on Jåstad is mentioned as arbitration moderator in 1293, and in the vaulted corridor at Lyse Kloster Sigurd, farmer at Jåstad, and his wife Sigrid – the king’s kinswoman - are buried.