Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Norway - The Reality Behind the Beauty


What an amazing country to visit for so many reasons.  

In May, the girls had a week off of school at the end of the month.  My sister Sheryl and her husband Bob were here visiting us in England and we all travelled to Norway together.    

Aren't they cute!

If we hadn’t been living here in England for two years, I’m not sure I would ever have made it to Norway. Before I came, I knew Norway was beautiful, but there are so many places in Europe to visit.  It just wasn't at the top of my list and let's face it, how many trips to Europe does the average American get?  Most of us have to be a little choosy. 

And then we moved to England for two years and that changed things a bit.  Now, I live a mere 1 1/2 hour plane ride away from Norway.  Getting there is so much easier. 

Besides the scenery, there was another draw for us - we have some Norwegian blood in us.  Being from Wisconsin, there are lots of Scandinavians around.  In fact, the town my sister and I grew up in has a sign when you enter saying "Velkommen til Woodville" (that's "Welcome to Woodville" in Norwegian in case you haven't already figure that out).  

We grew up celebrating Syttende Mai (the 17th of May, Norway's Constitution Day) and eating lefse, rommegrot (good luck pronouncing that one if you aren't familiar with it), and smelling lutefisk (because I've never had the courage or desire to taste it).  Every Christmas Eve, the pastor at the local church we attend in Woodville has at least one good Norwegian joke to share during the sermon.  It's in our blood.  We wanted to go and see this country that we grew up learning about from some 4000 miles away.  And we were curious to discover why so many people would leave this stunning scenery behind to move across the ocean to the America.

The scenery is Norway is beyond beautiful - indescribable really.  

We visited the fjord region which is along the western coast.  Gigantic majestic snow covered hills surround the the deep water of the fjords...

and river etched valleys that are a mixture of lush green and hard gray rock at the same time.  

There are waterfalls in every direction.  

Seldom are you not within view of at least one waterfall, and often you can see several at the same time.  

At one point, we counted eleven waterfalls that we could see out the car window.   

But it's the very majesty and beauty of this incredible place that also makes it a very hard place to live.  These hills are steep and rugged.  Except for down in the the flats of the valleys, the soil is shallow making it difficult to grow food and crops.  And we saw signs of rock slides everywhere.  On our first day in Norway, as we tried to make the two hour drive from the airport in Bergen to the little town of Flam where we would be spending the first five nights, we found our way blocked by one of these rock slides, a common occurrence.  We found an alternate route, the ONLY alternate route available for us, and several times the road narrowed to one lane because the other lane was covered by more rock slides.

And that's why so many people have left Norway looking for more promising land. It's just hard to make a living here on this magnificent land.

An abandoned farm sitting high up the rocky slope above the house we stayed in.  What exactly they farmed, I'm not sure.  My guess would be sheep because you certainly aren't growing much for vegetables or crops up there on that hill.  

But where the families that lived here would have allowed their sheep to graze throughout the year is puzzling, especially during the long hard cold winters.  

Another abandoned farm.  

This waterfall was gushing down the hillside just to the right of this farm.  An amazing setting, but that rocky slope.  In Italy we saw plenty of seriously steep slopes turned into productive vineyards, but here in Norway, that is not an option.  There was a pensive sadness about these abandoned farms.   To think that someplace can be this impossibly beautiful, but so impossibly harsh at the same time.   

Several Norwegians told us they've visited their relatives in the US - mainly in Minnesota and Oregon.  Oregon surprised me.  I didn't know there were lots of Norwegian immigrants in Oregon, but then I asked the lady driving us to the ferry landing where we would be catching a boat for a tour of a fjord from the water about this.  She said that when her ancestors first immigrated to the US, they settled in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, but it was too flat for them.  When you are use to this....

and this...

you can understand why they moved to Oregon to feel more at home.  

I've got more of Norway to share with you tomorrow, but I'll leave you today with some cute pictures of sheep and kids because...

Norway may win the price for the most adorable sheep....

(Look at these guys!  Don't you just want to pick them up and take them home with you?)

(I promise, this is the last sheep photo, but I couldn't resist sharing the black sheep of the family picture because they are all so darn irresistible.)

(Okay, I lied - just one more and I promise I really am done this time.  This is just funny.  And cute.  Sheep have one expression and only one, no matter what they are doing.)  

and Norway may win the prize for the most stunning playground location!

How can this not be fun...

And this... 

When you have waterfalls above you...

And a fjord lined with snow covered hills behind you...

And there's nothing like family to share it all with.


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