Featured Story: Hodal in Hodal
Welcome to Hodal.
Having forever found my Slovak surname clunky, I was more than a little surprised to discover that it was also the moniker of two towns in the world.
One Hodal is in Norway. The other is in India.
In 2008, I visited both. The Indian Hodal is a dusty town split in half by the two-laned highway that unites Delhi with Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. One side is devoted to agriculture and weaving, where small tipis burn wood fires and cow pats dot the green grasses and wheat fields. The other side is an industrial town where most of the people live, and where I happened to cause a head-on collision between two young motorcyclists. They’d never seen a blonde woman before.
One month later, I found myself traipsing through two feet of snow to visit my second alma ‘nomus’, Norway’s alpine hamlet of Hodal. It consists primarily of one crescent street, a dirt road then covered in crunchy white ice, which curved through pine trees and red and grey wooden farmhouses and stretched from a creekbed to a small chapel, where it finally rested at a small collection of guesthouses, popular during the summer, when the winter ice melts into a large lake. Hodal – also called ‘Hodalen’ in Norway, or ‘the valley of Ho’, which no one could explain – is just an hour from Roros, Norway’s oldest city and a gastronomical and visual behemoth. Dusk was beginning to appear on Hodal’s horizon when the only seeming inhabitants appeared out of nowhere, two octegenarians in what looked like Olympic space outfits, cross-country skiing on their way to the next town’s supermarket. “Hei!” they called out over the snow. “Hey!” I called back. “I’m a Hodal!” My cry echoed into the mountains and disappeared with the swooshing of their skis.