Thursday, 23 July 2015

Norway - Touring the Fjord Lands, Part Two and Beautiful Bergen

Norway Part Two continued…

And here we are back in Norway.  We flew into the city of Bergen and once we drove out of it, Norway became very rural very quickly.  

There were little clusters of houses here and there and occasionally we would pass through a slightly larger town that would have a few stores, but they were few and far between.  

Many of the little villages had their own small church.  We discovered this adorable little church in one such village.  

What a pretty picture this made with the red of the church, the gray of the stone wall and the green of the grass, moss and trees.   Such an idyllic setting.  

And surrounding the church we saw some quirky little buildings, like this shed...

and this house with a sod roof.  These may have seemed a little quirky to us, but in Norway these were common sights.  But at the same time, these houses and churches reminded us a lot of home, their style similar to what you see driving across Wisconsin.   

What is nothing like what you would find in Wisconsin are the tunnels we drove through daily to get around the fjords.  You felt like you were inside a cave as you drove through them, the rock making up the mountain exposed as we passed through.  

The longest tunnel we went through, which also happens to be the longest road tunnel in the world, is Laerdal tunnel which is just a little over 15 miles long - not the place you want your car to break down.  At three different intervals, the tunnel widens out for a stretch and the lights turn to blue creating a beautiful effect deep inside the tunnel .  My guess is that this is to keep people awake and alert because driving through a 15 mile long tunnel can be really boring quite frankly.  If you were by yourself, you would want these colorful diversions to perk you up.  

Early one morning, Eric, the girls and I took off to the little village of Gudvangen to catch a boat that would take us down to what is said to be one of the most beautiful fjord landscapes in the world, the Naeroyfjord.  It didn't disappoint.  

Oh, and I almost forgot - Nori came with too.  He's the moose.  Somewhere we seemed to have picked up an extra passenger on this trip.

There's a reason Naeroyfjord is on the UNESCO world heritage list.   

The scenery is quite dramatic and spectacular with the narrow waters surrounded by steep snow-covered mountains...

and waterfalls thundered down the steep slopes in every direction we looked.

We passed the house we were renting during the trip.  

And as the boat pulled back into the village of Flam to dock at the end of the trip, we were greeted by a huge cruise ship.  

It felt like it was going to swallow us up as we passed by in our tiny boat.  A few days a week these big ships full of tourist pull into Flam, letting the passengers disembark for the day.  By the next morning, they would be gone, on their way to another fjord.  

After our chilly boat ride, we stopped in Flam for a warm cup of coffee and some hot chocolate of course.

One afternoon we hiked back into the valley behind Flam again, but this time we followed the river that carved out this valley and flows into the fjord.  We spotted the Flam church.  

Sitting beside the church was this little sod roofed building with a hobbit like door on it.   

On the way to the Church we had passed the Flam Primary School that sits back in this valley as well.  It's a cute little school...

but do you notice anything odd about it?  There's no way to get to it.  There use to be a bridge, until this river flooded back in October of 2014 because of unusually heavy rains and the bridge got washed away.  The bus driver who took us to our boat ride lives back in this valley.  She was sitting in Miami Beach when the flood occurred.  She turned on the news and there was her hometown of Flam with her neighbor's red house floating down the river.  School was in session that day.  The river was rising quite rapidly she said when the school officials sent out an emergency call to all parents to immediately come to the school to get their children.  Some of the families live 25-30 minutes away.  She said one parent told her that the water was so high by the time she reached the school, she parked her car, ran across the bridge that use to span this part of the river, grabbed her own child and someone else's child as well and told them to run as fast as they could back across the bridge.  The school hasn't opened back up yet and the bus driver didn't know when it would. 

On our last full day in Flam, we set off from the quaint little village of Undredal for a hike right alongside the fjord.  We had passed by Undredal on our boat ride the day before and I couldn't resist going back after learning that prior to 1988, this little village of 100 people and 500 goats was only accessible by boat.  

If you look carefully, you can see some of these goats clustered around the little sheds.  Undredal is famous for the brown goat cheese that is still produced here in the traditional way.

There is a road leading back through the valley to this cute little village now, and it has it's own church...

and this building built into the side of the hill which we think is the church office.  

We followed a path that ran right along the fjord...

Scrambled over a rock slide...

And had to keep our eyes open for these giant black slugs.  We definitely didn't want to feel the squish of one of these guys beneath our hiking shoes.   

We stopped by this little creek for a snack...

Then scrambled over some more rocks...

And walked until the path ended at a little grassy open space with a camping sign posted by it.  

A little house sat by the water just beyond the camping site.  It was clearly still in use, but as far as we could tell, the only way to get to it was by boat or on the same muddy, rocky trail we had just hiked on.

Later that same day we took a drive down one of the steepest roads in Northern Europe, the Stalheimskleiva.  It's got 13 hairpin turns...

two large waterfalls...

and one amazing view which all makes for a dramatic descent.  

At the bottom of this crazy road we stopped for one last short hike back to another waterfall.  

The river we followed was beautiful, the water crystal clear.

The forest we hiked through was littered with moss covered troll boulders.

And on the way back to our house for the final night, we stopped to fill up the car with gas.  

Only in Norway could you have a view like this from a gas station.

Early the next morning, Eric snuck out for a few last shots of the fjord before we headed back to Bergen for a couple of days.  

This is the amazing Stegastein viewpoint.  We had stopped here a couple days before as well, but he went back to get a picture of this stunning platform that precariously juts out over the fjord.  This seems to sum up the fjords in Norway quite well.

Dramatic!  And that is Norway - such a combination of nature's finest and nature's fury at the same time.  An amazing place to visit!

I leave you today with photos of Bergen.  The first few photos are from the drive along the Hardangerfjord on the way back to Bergen, and the rest of the lovely city itself.  We spent a day and a half there wandering the cute little streets, shopping at the farmer's market, enjoying some good food, and it was there we said goodbye to Sheryl and Bob after spending two weeks with them.  I hope you've enjoyed the tour of Norway.  We sure did!

This is Bergen.
Even the manhole covers are cute in Bergen!

I love pretty food.
And I loooooove good goat cheese!