Stave church outshone by toilets

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Each year, around 100 000 tourists make a stop at Borgund stave church at Lærdal in the mountains of Norway, but not necessarily to see the historic national landmark. A lack of alternative rest stops along state highway 16 means that busloads of visitors are more interested in touring the bathroom facilities than a wooden church built in the middle ages.

Borgund stave church was recently selected as one of the ten most beautiful churches in the world, but most of its visitors are there for the toilets. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons/Eduardo

The 830-year-old structure was recently deemed one of the the top 10 most beautiful churches in the world by travel website budgettravel.com, but it is neither its beauty nor its history that is attracting visitors. Tourist buses stop so that passengers can stretch their legs, and the five toilets at the nearby Borgund center are overrun with needy, non-paying customers. Now, the staff at Borgund have had enough.

“This has gotten completely out of hand,” general manager Tanna Gjeraker told newspaper Verdens Gang (VG). “Bucketloads of tourists come here to use the toilet.”

According to Gjeraker, the 40,000 paying customers who visit Borgund each year, pay for a tour of the ancient structure and often enjoy a cup of coffee and lunch at the center’s small cafe, but then are forced to wait in line in order to use the bathroom.

Gjeraker wants to prioritize these paying customers and says the state highway department needs to build more rest stops along the state route E16.

Division manager Eivind Ytri at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration is sympathetic to the dilemma, but says the  main focus of the department is the planning, construction and operation of roads – not toilets.

Views and News from Norway/Liv Buli
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