Glaciers and Animals

Monday, Oct 14

We left Alnes island today and headed inland to the shores of the largest and deepest Fjord in Norway: Sognefjord.  It was another nice, sunny day. Norway’s fall colors consist mostly of brilliant yellow trees. Today they glowed golden in the sunshine.  It was about a 5 hour drive. We stopped a few places along the way to take pictures.  

About an hour before our final destination, we emerged from yet another long tunnel, and spotted 2 glaciers on top of the mountains to our left.  There was a small road leading off in their direction, so we decided to take it and see how close we could get. It turned out we could get pretty close, indeed!  Best of all, we were the only people there – no tour buses full of cruise-ship tourists. This glacier is called Bøyabreen; it’s another finger of the large Jostedalsbreen glacier that we were at last week.  We parked and walked to the edge of the lake that inevitably forms below any glacier. It was just as lovely a turquoise color as the one we saw the other day. This glacier was bigger and not as high above us.  But, it was initially difficult to see how the water was getting down from the glacier to the lake. When we looked a bit closer, we saw and heard a waterfall inside a crevice of rock off to the right of the glacier.  It looked like we might be able to walk around the lake and get closer to see the waterfall. I was not wearing appropriate footwear; a pair of motorcycle boots instead of my hiking shoes. But, we decided to give it a try.  It was very rocky and muddy and at points we had to push trees out of our way that bent down toward the water’s edge. I came away with some mud on my leggings and some on my boots, but managed to make it around the lake. To our surprise, there were 2 chunks of glacier at the lake’s edge.  Rob climbed up on one of them to inspect the crevasses. Ginger and I inspected the base, taking photos and videos. We weren’t able to get close to the waterfall (I blame it on the inappropriate footwear), but it was really cool to see those bits of glacier up close. Rob even slid down, haunched over into a ball.

After making our way back to the car, we continued on to our place outside the village of Kaupanger.  At one point, we encountered a flock of goats just lounging on the road. There were probably 20-30 goats laying in the road,  At least they were kind enough to stay in one lane, leaving the other open for traffic. 

As the sun set, we spotted 4 female elk in a field near the house we’re staying in.

A Surprise Find

Sunday, Oct 13

I arose very early this morning, well before daylight, and was rewarded with a view of the bright orange moon setting over the water with tendrils of clouds attempting topull it under.  I ate breakfast while watching it descend to the horizon. A bit later, as the sun was rising, there was a large cloud bank just out above the water in front of our house. As the colors of the sunrise cycled through their pinks, the cloud bank reflected the pink, both in the cloud and on the surface of the water below.  I was secretly pleased to have these 2 fleeting views to myself while my 2 traveling companions slumbered in their beds.

Once the others rose, we were all glad to see the sunshine outside with only a few clouds dotting the sky.  Our destination for the day was to be the aquarium. We drove over around noon, and as we approached the parking lot, found that it was full.  Even the overflow parking was rather full. It seems lots of other people had the same idea as us. After some deliberation, during which no one really wanted to make a decision, we set off on a hiking trail near where we parked.  It turned out to be just the right decision. As we climbed up the hill nearing the water, we stumbled upon an old German gun battery from WWII. There were no signs or plaques to explain what anything was, so we had to just guess. It was kind of fun to guess, though. Later we found out it is called Tueneset Kystfort. One of the first things we stopped at was an anti-aircraft gun made in America by Kimberly-Clark. It was in very good shape. And incongruous in a German battery. Our theory is that the gun has been added recently by those seeking to preserve the area for its historical significance.  Later we came across a field oven that looked just right for baking pizzas. There was one more bug gun – this one likely for taking out ships – and lots of mystery bunkers.

Once we’d had enough of the bunkers, we headed back to the island we are staying on to check out a lighthouse that we could see from the bunkers.  We found it on a working farm. If you are respectful, you can walk through the farm and out to the rock jetty that the lighthouse sits on. Along the way, we passed an ancient burial mound from Roman times.  It was pretty tall, about twice as tall as Ginger. The farmer who owned the land discovered it was a burial mound in the 1930s when he was trying to clear it of rocks. Several items were found inside that suggested the occupant(s) were wealthy and traded with areas outside of Norway.  A little further on we walked down a long, rock jetty and out to the lighthouse. It was a pretty standard, round lighthouse. On the walk back to the car, Rob spotted a sea otter eating a fish. He grabbed the binoculars and was able to see him pretty well before he finished his dinner and slid back into the water.  Unfortunately, it happened so fast that Ginger and I didn’t get a chance to see him. Rob says he was really cute!

We headed back to the house for dinner.  After dinner I snapped a great shot of the other lighthouse on this island, the square one that is next to our house.

Ambling around Ålesund

Saturday, Oct 12

Today is Ginger’s first day in Norway.  It’s a bit rainy, but we want to make the most of her time here, so we set out to explore Ålesund.  It is famous for its Art Nouveau buildings. There was a widespread fire in the city in early 1904 that ruined nearly everything.  Major support poured in from all around Europe to help Ålesund rebuild. And so they did rebuild, with nearly all the buildings in the downtown area in the Art Nouveau style.  As in Trondheim, many of the buildings are painted pleasing colors that compliment each other and photograph well against the water, even with heavy dreary skies above. There are interesting details in the wrought iron railings, carvings on doors and pillars, and in relief along building facades.  The architecture was interesting, fewer in number than I was expecting. Being a Saturday, there were very few people out and about at just after 10am when we arrived. The rain picked up now and then throughout the day, and so did the number of folks out in the streets.

It was a bit difficult to find a place to eat lunch.  I had been expecting lots of little shops and restaurants, but there were only a few of each.  We managed to find a little cafe in a small mall that served up fiskesuppe (fish soup) for me, kanel snurr for Rob, and a skinke and ost (ham & cheese) croissant sandwich for Ginger.

After lunch we braved the rain to climb up 418 steps to Aksla Viewpoint, one of the mountains heming Ålesund in.  It was a lot of stairs and a long way up, but the view from the top was worth it. From there, we could see out to the peninsula on the island of Godøya where we are staying.  There is a lighthouse right next to our house, which we could just make out from on top of Aksla. The views and pictures of Ålesund taken from partway up were perhaps even better than those from the top.

After descending from the Aksla viewpoint, we wandered around a few more streets.  The rain had finally stopped, which was nice. We never really found much for cute shops, interesting shops.  By late afternoon, we were back in the car heading home. At home, we found that our internet had gone out, so my blog posts may be a bit delayed.

Glacier Gandering

Tuesday, Oct 8

Our outing for today was an hour and a half drive to the Briksdal glacier.  On the way, we drove past a lot of beautiful turquoise glacier water in lakes and rivers.  The color reminded me of Great Bluedini Kool-aid or the turquoise waters at Rotorua thermal parks in New Zealand.  I normally don’t like blue, but this was really amazing, probably just because it was so unusual to my experience. The nearest town to the glacier is Olden.  As we neared Olden, we saw a small cruise ship at the dock. And several tour buses waiting just outside the ship to carry its passengers on to the glacier. So, we hurried along, skipping the souvenir shops in town to try to get to the glacier before the buses.  We were happy to be successful. We pretty much avoided the cruisers the whole day.

You have a choice at Briksdal whether you want to take a 45 minute walk up from the parking lot to reach the glacier or take a troll car, which will cut off about ⅔ of the walk, leaving just 15 minutes walk up.  A toll car is a kind of super all-terrain golf cart with a train of open-air seats pulled behind. Being young and fit (ha, ha) we opted for the walk. The path took us along the glacial river flowing over rocks and waterfalls.  It was a pretty walk, but definitely got my heart rate up! There were a few informational plaques to read along the way. I was most interested to learn about the Little Ice Age that took place from about 1750 to the mid 1800s. I’ve always wondered how people of that time period could wear so many clothes all year round and not be ridiculously hot.  But, if temperatures were significantly cooler than they are today, that could explain heavy coats, long, full-skirted dresses with long sleeves, wigs (on both men and women). The last 15 minutes, we passed most of the cruisers on their way back from the glacier. By their accents, it must be a British Cruise line. When we reached the small lake below the glacier, there were only about 5 other people there; great for taking pictures!  We wandered around the lake a bit. The land around it was covered in very small rocks, almost sand-like. There was very little vegetation, mostly just some short, scrubby bushes. The water was, once again, a lovely turquoise color. The glacier, itself, hung down into a crevice of the mountains, not coming any where near to the flat part of the land that we were on. We saw a postcard later of the glacier spreading right down into the lake, but the men swimming in the lake in the picture were wearing very 80’s swim trunks.  It looks like it’s been a long time since the glacier reached the lake. When we had finished taking our pictures, we sat on a rock to have a little snack and some water. I was only halfway through my Larabar when Rob felt sprinkles on his leg. I felt the possibility of rain looming over us the whole way up the mountain, so was not surprised to see sprinkles. We made quick work of the walk back down the mountain, just in case the skies opened up, but they never did more than sprinkle.  

Driving Through the Countryside

Sunday, Oct 6

Not much to write about today.  It was another cold start to the day, so Rob and I hung out at the flat until just after lunch.  We ventured out for a walk along the waterfront. It was nice, but nothing much to write about that.  We walked for 13,000 steps, according to my Fitbit. On the way home, we stopped at the Dromedar Kaffebar; I wanted another mug of their dark hot chocolate before we leave the city.  Nothing but cafes and restaurants are open on Sundays, so the cafes are pretty full. Lots of Norwegians were also out for walks on the nice walking paths around the city. It’s cold, but it’s sunny.  I figure the folks here must want to get the most of the sunshine while they still have it.

Monday, Oct 7

We left the city of Trondheim behind us today and set out for our last really long drive (5.5 hours) of our Norwegian travels, heading south and west.  And, boy, were were surprised by the beauty of our drive. This is the Norway we were expecting all along. We drove through lush farmland. The farmsteads here are much larger with 4-5 buildings.  More on farms later. I noticed a stream of large trucks going the other way all carrying equipment for a carnival. I think there were at least 10-15 carnival trucks that we passed. Then we drove up, and up, and up.  Our car’s navigation system includes an altimeter. We reached an elevation of 1032 meters above sea level. For my American readers, that’s 3400 feet. For context, Asheville sits at 2400 feet. There was snow on top of many of the mountains that we drove through.  It was very picturesque. The road followed a mountain river with clear blue water and sometimes chunks of ice floating in the shallows. We passed hundreds of frozen icicles clinging to rock walls lining the road. To our surprise, there were small groupings of houses, even way up on the mountain.  We figure they must be vacation houses, clustered together. The folks who use them probably do a lot of cross country skiing and snowmobiling. There weren’t any shops or other industry, just groups of houses.  

We stopped for lunch at the little village of Oppdal with a downhill ski resort.  It had a small bakery and gift food shop. It was a happening little place, lots of other people were having lunch there, too.  Shortly after we sat down, a bee started pestering us. One of the workers came over with a fly swatter, although she was really scared of bees, but it flew off.  We tried moving to another table, but it just kept coming back. It seemed especially interested in the blueberry drink that I had, so finally I decided to let it climb inside the bottle and try to trap it.  It worked really well. The bee walked around the mouth of the bottle a couple times, then slipped inside. Once inside, Rob grabbed the bottle, threw a napkin over the top, and shook so that the bee fell into the juice, where he got stuck.  We showed the worker that we’d captured the bee, and she very kindly offered me a new drink, since I had only drunk about ⅓ of it before we trapped the bee inside. We figure we did the other diners a service by trapping it so it wouldn’t continue pestering people inside the restaurant all day.  On our way out of town, we noticed that this little ski village had seen enough snow in previous days for there to already be a 4 foot tall snow pile at the back of the parking lot (from being plowed there).  

We continued on through more snowy land, stopping occasionally to take pictures of some interestingly shaped country churches along the way.  See my Instagram or Facebook feeds for photos of them. Eventually, we drove through a series of tunnels through mountains, each one dropping us about 100 meters, all the way back to sea level.  We’re staying in a cute old fashioned farmhouse, right on the shore of a fjord near Stryn.

That brings me back to my observations on farmsteads in the region we drove through.  These were in the county of northern Oppland County. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop to take a picture of one, so my text description will have to suffice.  It was strange just how uniform they were through the middle part of our drive. The farms in the last part of the drive started to diversify a bit more. Nearly all the farms, all 4-5 buildings, were painted dark brown.  There was always a really big house, usually 2 stories with 4-6 windows across on each floor, in a rectangular shape. Some of the houses had traditional scrollwork wood trim around the windows painted red or white. Many had a set of antlers mounted on the wall of the house, sometimes over the door, sometimes just on one wall.  There was always one large barn, usually with that same ramp and bridge up to the second floor. There was also usually a second barn, smaller and more square in shape, but still with 2 stories that sat up on small cement pilings, maybe 1-2 feet off the ground. Our best guess is that it’s for storage of something that needs to be kept off the ground to keep rodents or some other pest from disturbing it.  The barns and storage buildings often had sod roofs, while the house usually had a slate or other non-sod roof. The predominant crop (at least at this time of year) was hay and the predominant livestock was sheep, although we did see several cows. Most had huge wood piles stacked outside, suggesting the use of wood stoves or fireplaces for heating their homes. I was happy to see more “traditional Norwegian” look to the architecture through little details around windows, or interesting color combinations in trim.  The architecture in northern Norway was much more plain, very unadorned and simple.

Tubas, Trumpets, and Trombones in Trondheim

Saturday, Oct 5

We awoke this morning with frosty windows.  The temp outside was a frigid 28 degrees. Bearing this in mind, we hung out at home for a while before setting out.  We didn’t have much planned for today, really we were just going to wander through some other parts of the city center that we hadn’t made it to yesterday.  I wanted to check out a yarn store and a couple of touristy shops. So, we set out. Just below our flat, there is a cordoned-off section of canal that was totally frozen over.  Rob threw a screw that he found laying on the ground onto it, and it didn’t break through. It was frozen enough to support the weight of a screw. We saw steps on the other side leading down to the water,  so we figure it’s probably used for ice skating in the winter.

It was a cold walk through the streets of Trondheim.  We tried to stay on the sunny side of the street, which helped a bit.  I did get quite a bit of nice Norwegian yarn at the yarn shop, while Rob sat playing iPhone games at the table near the front of the shop.  We wandered on until lunch time. A menu outside one restaurant (all in English) caught Rob’s eye. The Bror Bar & Grill had house-smoked bacon as a side order item.  He was intrigued and feeling the pull of bacon, so we went in for some lunch. I was a bit hesitant because all the menu items were really American: burgers, tacos, wraps, and fries.  But Rob isn’t often intrigued by a restaurant’s menu, so I figured we should give it a try. Well, it turned out to be a pretty disappointing meal. I ordered a cider that had (what I thought) was a Norwegian flag next to it on the menu.  When it arrived, it was an English cider. Shame on me for mixing up the Norwegian flag with the English flag, but in my defense, it was the English flag and not the Union Jack that I’m used to seeing in all the places and websites that you click on to get the English language menu/website, etc.  Since I’ve had lots of English cider, I was a bit disappointed. I wasn’t very hungry, so ordered sweet potato fries with a side of truffle mayonnaise.  They were fine. But, Rob’s double order of bacon was not at all what we expected. Since arriving in Norway, we’ve seen bacon in several places that is just like American bacon, so that’s what we were expecting.  We were not expecting huge cubes (1”x1”) of pork fat with crusty bits on each end. They were so fatty as to be gross (at least to both of us). Rob valiantly took a bite, hoping for that crispy smoky bacon taste to come through despite the unusual shape.  It did not; that was Rob’s first and last bite. I used a knife and fork to cut off any small bits of meat I could find, which wasn’t much. So, not a great success for lunch.  

We had to cleanse the palate, so found a chocolate shop nearby, then searched for 2 blocks to find a bench in the sun that we could sit on to eat our chocolate without freezing.  We found one that had dappled sunshine, the best we could do. We each only ate 1 of our pieces of chocolate because it was too cold to have our hands out of our mittens long enough to eat any more.

From our bench, we proceeded to Nidaros Cathedral for the Saturday afternoon organ meditation (Thanks, Abby, for the suggestion).  They have 3 different organs, but only play one during any given Saturday. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t play the big one with pipes on our end of the cathedral.  They played a smaller one located in the transept a bit farther away from us. It was still a nice service, lasting about 20 minutes. After the service ended, we looked around the cathedral.  It is made of dark soapstone, and is rather gray and dark in a beautiful way. Much darker than other cathedrals I’ve been in. The dark gray color makes the colors of the stained glass windows stand out that much more.  Maybe also helped along by the fact that it’s a sunny day today.

As we walked back toward the flat along the river, we heard a brass band in the distance behind us.  We turned around and saw clusters of people, some holding flags and banners crossing the river on the bridge far above.  Curious, we headed in that direction. As we neared the bridge, we ended up behind a group of students dressed in blue and white kilts.  Behind us were 4 young men in tuxedo jackets, short pants, black berets, and tall Norwegian socks. We wandered along through the Bakklandet neighborhood and encountered a few more groups.  I got a short video of one of them, with their brass band playing. Click here to see the video. They pushed a large blue sphere, probably made of papier-mâché with a large yellow “ribbon” around it. Another group had a replica of a space shuttle labeled “Space XYZ” that they pulled on wheels up the hill.  When we got home, we googled some of the words on their banners and found out this was an annual tradition for Trondheim students from 1915 until 2001. Various student organizations make floats (like the space shuttle or the blue ball), all congregate in one place, then set out in a train to the city center where they build a tower.  (The website was in Norwegian – we had to use Google translate, so it sounds a bit funny). This year it is being revived for the first time since 2001. It seemed the students were having a great time, so hopefully it continues for years to come.

Traveling to Trondheim

Thursday, Oct 3

Today we flew from Leknes on the Lofoten Islands to Trondheim on the mainland.  We are officially leaving the north of Norway behind. I didn’t realize until we got further south, just how far south we were headed.  As soon as we left the airport the landscape was much different. Gone are the full autumn colors, trees here are mostly still green, although some have changed.  There are also a lot more evergreen trees and more flat land that has been plowed for fields.

Trondheim is a much bigger city than we were expecting.  It feels good to be back in a city for a bit. We parked the car and have been walking instead.  People here dress more like city-folks. The coats they wear are more fashionable and less simply functional.  Our only real excursion in the city for today was to the famous Rosenborg Dampbageri (bakery). I had a really nice little pizza on really fresh, fluffy bread dough.

Our flat is the 6th floor of a really old building (my best guess is that it was built in the 1700s).  It’s been renovated recently so the finishings are modern. There are cool nooks and crannies, it’s built into the roof line, so slanting ceilings and skylights in all the rooms.  There is a nice little windowed alcove for the dining table that I’m sitting in now with views out over the lower buildings below. Since Norwegians never seem to close curtains/blinds at night, we can see at least 8 different TVs in various apartments around us.  Most were all watching the same show when we looked. Somewhat disconcerting is the fact that the building shakes and you can feel it wobbling from time to time, possibly when a large truck drives by on the street below.  

Friday, Oct 4

We spent some time this morning just wandering around the city center of Trondheim, and doing a little bit of shopping.  We stopped first at the Tourist Information Center and picked up some brochures. I’ve got one with some articles about the city that I’m excited to delve into.  We stopped for a little snack at Dromedar Kaffebar where I had a really lovely pistachio roll and a rich dark hot chocolate. I bought some jeans at a Trondheim jeans store (this is their headquarters) called Livid Jeans.  I probably paid too much for them, but they’ll always be my Trondheim jeans. 🙂

For lunch we stopped at Godt Brød bakery.  I had another mini pizza with super fresh ingredients on a fluffy bread base.  Rob had a large skillingsboller (cinnamon roll/knot). After lunch, we walked along the Nidelva river.  We stumbled onto some very old warehouse buildings painted in bright colors. One was in such disrepair that it was slumping downward, ready to crumbled into the river.  We crossed the river at the Gamle Bybro (Old Town Bridge built in 1681). Everyone on the bridge seemed to be a tourist, taking selfies and other photos. On the other side of the bridge is the Bakklandet neighborhood.  We wandered past lots of old houses. They seemed to be the typical style of house from early Trondheim history. They were 2 stories tall, built one right next to the other with no land in between, with 3-4 windows per story.  Each one painted a different color than the one next to it. The neighborhood seemed to be full of students walking about at 1:00 on a Friday afternoon. From there, we took another bridge across the Nidelva River and made our way back along that side of the river and eventually to our flat.  It felt good to do some walking again. We’ve been pretty sedentary these last few weeks, averaging less than 5,000 steps per day. Today we got in 13,000.