Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Norway - Touring the Fjord Lands, Part One

Driving from Bergen to the tiny village of Flam – this was one of the first waterfalls we passed. 

It’s huge!  Like jawdroppingly huge.  Many of the waterfalls have names, but I can’t remember exactly which one this is.  After about the 50th waterfall, they all start to blend together.  And I’m not exaggerating when I say we saw 50.  I’m sure we saw even more than that because there seemed to be a waterfall pouring down from on top of the mountains in every direction you looked.

We stayed just outside the little village of Flam in this adorable house.  We had the bottom floor and all the windows looked right out onto the Aurlandsfjorden - a branch of Sognefjorden.   

We liked to eat dinner sitting in front of these huge windows enjoying the gorgeous and peaceful view.

And those big windows made a great place to sit with your sister and make up games and stories.  

The furniture was by far the nicest furniture we've ever had in a rental house.  All the tables, chairs, couches, and desks were crafted from solid wood.  They were beautiful and sturdy.  The lady living above invited us into her house one day and she had the same furniture.  

And in the middle of the house was a beautiful slate fireplace.  The lady told us her husband had built the house (I think she said around 2000).  What a magnificent job he did!  These Norwegians do not skimp on craftsmanship.  

In the yard we could walk right down to the waters edge where Eric spotted a seal swimming around.  

And at night, we had to shut the curtains on our bedroom windows but still, the light got through.  This picture was probably taken around 11:00 pm.  It just never got dark outside.  

This is Flamsdalen Valley and the little village of Flam sits right on the waters edge at the end of this finger of the fjord.  Our first full day in Norway found us hiking back into the valley to the Brekkefossen waterfall.

The trail took us up a steep hillside where we passed through a forest littered with moss covered rocks.  Seeing these green rocks it wasn't hard to see where the creators of the Walt Disney hit Frozen got the idea for their little magical singing trolls.  

Trolls actually come from Norse mythology and we saw them everywhere in Norway.  We even had a three headed troll watching us while we ate at our rental house from the top of a shelf.

The Brekkefossen waterfall.

Taking a break after reaching the waterfall.  It was a beautiful spot to just sit and watch the waterfall or enjoy the view down into Flamsdalen Valley.  

I borrowed the camera from Eric for a few minutes to get a few shots of the photographer himself with his girls.   

You can't create a backdrop like that.  

Time to hike back down into the valley....  

because there is a lot more of Norway to see.

One evening after dinner we hopped aboard the train in Flam for the hour long ride through some magnificent valleys to the Myrdal station which sits some 2800 feet higher than Flam.  

The train was gorgeous, all decorated in wood.  

And the views from the huge windows that lined both sides of the train...  

Well, let's just say there is a very good reason this train ride is listed as one of the top 10 in Europe by National Geographic Traveller Magazine....  

And Lonely Planet named this the best train journey in the world back in 2014.  

At the top we were greeted by a winter wonderland.  

The snow was still so deep up at the Myrdal station that we saw a woman snow shoeing between two of the houses that sit up on top of this mountain.  

Remember - it was the end of May.  There were clearly people who live up here year around and they must be some hardy folk.  

And then it was time for the journey back down the valley... 

where we would see the same views but from the other direction.  

A spectacular train ride indeed!  I highly recommend it. And I think she would too.

It was mid afternoon when we set off for a hike back into the Aurlandsdalen Valley.  Our destination was an abandoned farm located 3 miles or so deep in the Valley.  To get there, we followed a trail that cut through not one, 

not two, 

but three major rock slides.  There are no roads back into this valley.  

The only way in or out is on foot.  What an amazingly beautiful hike as we followed the rushing river deeper and deeper into the Valley.

On some level, I can see the appeal of living here.  If it is peace, solitude and beauty that you seek, this is definitely the place.  

But then we arrived at the abandoned farm to find the little wooden cabin nestled under a gargantuan boulder.  

Why you ask did they build their house under a rock?  Well, the protect it from other falling rocks...

and avalanches because they have those here too.  Are you serious?  

And what exactly were they farming back here in this cold, isolated, rocky terrain?  They must have trekked out of the Valley to get supplies sometimes, but how do you make this trek in the winter when the snow is deep?  This farm was abandoned back in 1922.  I don't think it's hard to figure out why.   

Norway has more to share than just nature's beauty.  There are some architectural gems as well, such as the stave churches.  

This is the current church in use in the tiny village of Borgund located in the Laerdal region.  It's stunning, but this wasn't why we came to this tiny little town.  We came to see this.  

This is Borgund Stave Church.  It's quite remarkable because it's made out of wood but yet it's over 800 years old.  How can a wooden structure survive nature's elements for so long?  The same techniques that were used by the Vikings to construct their magnificent waterproof boats were used to build the stave churches as well.  At one time, these unique churches dotted the Norwegian countryside, but today only a handful remain.  Borgund is the best preserved of the stave churches.  

As we drove away from Borgund Stave Church, we spotted this beautiful and unique looking creature.  Ellie, the resident horse encyclopedia, promptly informed us that this is a fjord pony.  It's identified by it's small size, color, and the black strip of hair running down the center of it's mane and it's tail.  The mane is traditionally cut short, as with this pony, accentuating the dark strip.  

We also got to see this guy, or girl (I didn't look that closely) at some point during our trip (I can't remember when exactly - it's all sort of mushed together in my head).  I'm pretty sure this is actually a Scottish highland cow, but he was so cute peering out from under those overgrown bangs.  Someone needs a haircut. 

Last animal picture - I promise.   I'm guessing they are Shetland ponies (that was Ellie's guess too) and not native to Norway (although the Shetland Islands aren't very far away), but oh my goodness they are adorable.  They looked as if they were posing for a picture, just waiting for a sucker like me to pass by. 

Stay tuned for Part Two of our tour of the fjord land in Norway.  It's time to go make dinner.  I've got some hungry mouths to feed. 

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