Saturday, July 23, 2011

Some of the prettiest countryside in the world . . .

So Sarita and I had the privilege of visiting Norway for almost three weeks. We took off on June 21st and returned on July 11th.

As I have told several friends: It's an absolutely gorgeous place to visit, but I don't think I'd want to live there.

We took off from Denver late Tuesday afternoon, June 21st, landed in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning (the equivalent of about midnight here); five hours later took another flight to Copenhagen; spent the evening exploring Tivoli Gardens--the place, we were told, that inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland. After a good night's sleep, we walked to city center and took a two-and-a-half hour bike tour. Then walked to our ship, the Oceania Insignia.

From Copenhagen, we traveled around the southern tip of Denmark and Norway and began our journey up the west coast of Norway--far past the tip of the mainland out into the Barents Sea . . . to Svalbard (halfway between the northern tip the mainland and the North Pole) and then on to the Arctic ice barrier.

Returning south, we headed slightly east, to visit the Russian "Hero City" of Murmansk, then back west, down the coast of Norway, visiting a few additional cities, and finally ending up in Dover, England, on the morning of the 11th. With the aid of high-speed travel chasing the sun, we were able to land in Denver just as the sun fell behind the mountains that evening.


I thought I'd share a few photos and videos with you.

Probably to set the "mood" (though this was by no means "typical Norway"!), let me share a few photos and a video from our entrance to Geiranger on the morning of July 7th. These were taken from the back deck where Sarita and I ate as often as we could (until the temperature dropped below about 55 degrees, and the staff would no longer let us go out there!). This was the first day in over a week that we were permitted on the back deck again. And it was gorgeous.

First a video.

Can you imagine living on that farm?

A mile or two further up the fjord:

Yes. The air is amazingly clear and clean. So is the water.

Geiranger, they say, is probably the most photographed area of Norway. And you can understand why.

This shot, of the Flydalsjuvet [best approximation of pronunciation I can offer: FLEE-dall-syu-vet], in particular, is famous. To get here, we walked at an unbelievable clip, pushed by a couple close to our age that we had agreed to spend the day with. . . . We walked up the road from the city (yes, very much up the road!), taking shortcuts across major switchbacks, through a churchyard and a couple of campsites to arrive at this site, 4km from city center, about 45 minutes after getting off the boat--and about 15 or 20 minutes before the tourist buses from the boat began to come.

I should note: the "city" of Geiranger has, we were told, a year-round population of only about 250. Our cruise ship carried 680 passengers. Geiranger receives somewhere between 150 and 200 cruise ships each year during its four-month tourist season--somewhere, I am told, around 600,000 visitors. Considering that our ship was first in and alone for the first two hours we were in port, we had the town almost to ourselves . . . except for the few hundred Scandinavians and other Europeans who were there for a more relaxed, extended holiday.

See Sarita standing in the upper right-hand corner of the photo above, on the rock outcropping? No? (Click on the photo to see a full-screen rendition of the photo.)

If not, here's a telephoto picture:
And here's a shot from about 100 feet or so below where I was standing, showing how the Flydalsjuvet outcropping used to be before authorities had to worry about tourists suing them because of their (the tourists') foolish behavior:
(For some more thrilling "before" photos, check out the Geiranger Tourism site and click on the grayed-out thumbnails at the bottom of the page.)

After Flydalsjuvet, we hiked a short way back down the main highway and then up a side road to visit the Westerås Farm. There, at least while we were close to the farmhouse itself, we encountered some sheep and goats and--on our way back from the farthest point we traveled--just a few other hikers:

(The man in front of Sarita was the male half of the couple we hiked with.)

As we went to the farthest point to which we wanted to travel, we had some great views of the fjord and our ship:

. . . and the other ship that came into port that day, from Portugal:

As we began our descent, we bumped into a couple--an older couple; he had retired just a few months before--who were from New Zealand. Somehow we got talking about how we had arrived there in Geiranger.

"We drove from Hong Kong," she said.

"Hong Kong!?!"

"Yes. We shipped our vehicle from New Zealand to Hong Kong, and have been driving for the last three and a half months--across China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia . . ."

They said the hardest thing was to get their itinerary all pre-set in China. The Chinese government wouldn't permit them to enter unless and until they had established a complete itinerary, including confirmed and prepaid reservations at every point along their route. They had to bring a government-approved guide along to accompany them all the way through the country as well.

They said it took them 18 months to plan the trip and they began almost as soon as he retired. Three and a half months later: Here they were in Norway.

They intended to garage their vehicle in Denmark, and then their son and [about-to-be?] daughter-in-law would pick it up in another month or so to do their own touring around Europe.

As we made our way down the path and into the parking lot at Westerås Farm, we found their vehicle:

I would have posted this 10 hours ago, but I have spent a goodly amount of time today trying to find the scrap of paper on which we wrote the URL for the Kiwis' blog about their trip. I can't find it. And I want to post.

If and when I find the URL, I will create a separate post for that alone.

Finally, if you're interested: Here's a map that shows generally where we walked (with special thanks to As always, to see the details, feel free to click on the image to expand it:

And where is Geiranger? Here's a map of southern Norway that should help you find it. (While we're at it, notice Oslo at the far right, at the northern tip of the Sandefjord. Also Kristiansand, at the southern tip of Norway. We stopped at Kristiansand on our first day out of Copenhagen, and at Oslo on our last day in Norway--two days before we made it to Dover.)

blog comments powered by Disqus