444 nights : 16,461 miles travelled : countries visited : 20
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, this is what it is to be happy” Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
There’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that Norway is the most stunning country we have trailed around. The bad news is that no words or pictures taken on our battered point and shoot camera can portray the natural beauty.
It’s as Graham says, you never ‘arrive’ anywhere in Norway. You gasp and then push on to see another wonder around the next corner. Here, the journey is the joy. We have spent hours on end travelling through scenery that makes you smile from the inside out. I daren’t glance down as we drive along for fear of missing another scene of unframed art.
One of our first stops was Lillehammer, a surprisingly modest town, which was the setting of the 1994 winter olympics. We remembered the flame being launched down the ski jump, a feat even more impressive when seen up close.
We passed through hours of forests of many shades of green giving a textured 3D effect. Norwegians are very skilled at using timber in construction (even posts for armco barriers are wooden!) and most of the wooden ‘stave’ churches that have survived in Europe are in Norway. The staves are the corner posts and finials and doors are decorated with intricate carvings. Lom Church dates to around 1160 and is one of the largest stave churches still standing.
Norway has created 18 national tourist routes, many of which Graham rejected after studying the maps….he gets very jittery when he smells the brakes burning! So I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to Sognefjellet, the highest pass at 1434 metres. It was an exhilarating day, from sun filled valleys to snow covered tops.
We drove back to fjord level again and relaxed in Luster in glorious weather, ready for another day of wibble wobbling our way around breathtaking scenery.
Just as you feel you are adjusting to the unrelenting loveliness, drama is added to the mix. We turned a bend, preparing to go into a tunnel when we saw a huge tongue of ice draped between peaks. We were driving around the edge of the Jostedal Glacier, the largest in continental Europe and decided that we wanted to see a bit more.
But not before we gazed at Fjaerland Fjord. Another day, another lovely lunch stop.
Briksdalsbreen is one of the most accessible arms of the Jostedal Glacier and we were fascinated by the skeins of tour buses bringing cruise ship passengers to the bottom of the 3 km path to it’s base. They were then transferred into ‘troll cars’ for the final leg. We trudged on foot, sticking to two at a time; apparently trolls can move as fast as wolves on all fours!
Our walk took us past even more powerful waterfalls….however fanatical swimmer Kipper hated getting splashed with spray!
Nevertheless, once at the top, he hassled us to let him into the icy water below the glacier.
The road approaching Geiranger became increasingly clogged with coaches as we drew closer to the village and the reason became clear as we arrived. Brian felt dwarfed by the cruise ships, but we were delighted to see one leave from above and the ship was dwarfed by the fjord in turn .
We took the ferry through Geirangerfjord to see misty waterfalls stripe steep sided mountains. Under grey skies it still felt magical but even my old romantic(!) hubby was surprised when the young man next to us got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. I only left the deck to get coffees and missed the all excitement.
Ålesund was largely destroyed by fire in 1904; a hazard when there are so many timber buildings. Much reconstruction was in the Art Nouveau style and we loved it’s setting across islands. This watery town was a key part of the escape route to England for resistance fighters from occupied Norway during World War II; Ålesund was nicknamed Kleines London by the Gestapo. Our trail continues to cross paths with the history of this conflict.
The days are wonderfully long and light but we are aware that the summer is short so we point the snail north and find the main E6 again. There are occasional urban ring roads but we mostly enjoy scenic driving and delightful overnight stops next to mirror still water and heavenly skies.
“Shop and pack as if we are going to the moon!” Graham did his research before we left and was concerned about the cost of living in Norway and indeed, reading the prices of goods in the shops brings tears to the eyes. We have provisions stashed in every nook and crannie and we’re becoming ever more inventive with pasta sauces. Yet travelling around this fabulous country is priceless and puts concerns about the costs into the shade.
M & G xx
Treat of the week: Yes it is summer but we have been amazed by the wild flowers in Norway. Lupins fill ditches and everything else seems to be framed by a purple fringe of willowherb.