Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

Our last day on the road as tonight we are back in Stavanger. We needed to be away fairly promptly as we had found a few places we would like to visit on our way as well as needing to catch a couple of ferries. We drove some way to Kvam/ Norheimsund to find the old ship building museum. In the town, we couldn’t find anything, but we had a good walk round and even stopped for coffee. We found a lovely craft shop close by and spent some time looking at their stock. It turned out that the boat building museum was further down the road, and so we drove on and in no time we were turning into the car park. We were invited to take a tour with the guide at midday, which was fine with us. She was very informative and we saw some wonderful examples of the work they carry out at the yard. Their pride and jot is the Mathilde, a sailing ship that was completely renovated at the yard. But we were not able to see her as she was away sailing that day. We did see the rope making loft and tried our hand at making a length of rope. This you can see in the slide show.

The yard also had a great cafe and they made us delicious sandwiches for lunch. The people here recommended a pottery just down the road, so off we went to find it. It was a bit off the beaten track, and we quite like the pottery, but the highlight was the flock of white turkeys in an adjoining field. These were not all happy and we did witness some fisticuffs between a couple of them. Now we had a long drive to get to the ferries as we headed for Stavanger after a great tour of some of the best scenery in Norway.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

We woke to see the mist swirling in again. One minute we could see the view, the next, the mist was up against the windows. Quite amazing and eerie. After breakfast, we drove down to Undredal to see the stave church there. It is the smallest church in Norway and is quite different from other stave churches we have seen. It is painted white with red windows and doors. The mist was still swirling around, and there were moisture droplets on the spiderwebs on the plants nearby. Our plan was to walk up the valley to see the Naeroyfjord, up which we sailed yesterday. We found the start of the trail, left D in the car and began our ascent. It wasn’t too bad to start with, but gradually got steeper. The sun came out and soon we were all getting pretty hot. Perhaps we were all tired, but it was obvious that we weren’t going to make it all the way to the view as we didn’t seem to be making huge progress on the track. We did get to a lovely waterfall and decided to stop for our lunch here, and then walk back. We could see the track going on and on, with no sign of a view over the top. We found some wild berries and lots of flowers again – and also a chubby beetle.

On our way down we met some goats – fine, but then they started following us. This was also OK, but then they started pushing us off the track, leaping ahead and waiting for us to do it all again. This wasn’t any fun as they brushed against us leaving their strong smell behind, too. We were very pleased to get back down to the car, from where D had been watching us and the pesky animals. We decided to take a drive to Flam for refreshments. This is a busy town, with its ferry and the Flam railway, it is full of tourists. We found a not too busy cafĂ© and enjoyed a cup of tea looking out over the pedestrianised quayside. There were lots of shops selling Norwegian sweaters and trolls – yes, very touristic!
So we headed back to Stalheim, through the tunnel and up the old track, which twisted steeply round the hillside. We stopped for pics of the waterfall, and even managed to spot the hotel up above us.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

Today we left early, leaving most of Lom having a Sunday lie-in! Our first stop would be at Urnes Stave Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS), but first we crossed the Sognefjellet with spectacular views of the Jotenheim and the glaciers. Here the snow is stained pink by the lichen growing on it. Road 55 is quite famous as it snakes across the mountains, eventually dropping down to the fjord. We were lucky to be able to park up by the church as there was a small market being set up outside it. Dougal’s crutches worked wonders! We bought our tickets to enter Urnes Stave Church and waited in the church yard for our tour of the beautiful little church. It was declared a WHS in 1979 and is the oldest preserved church, dating from the 12th century. It is now owned by the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. Although there are 28 of these ancient churches left – from an original 1000, Urnes is the oldest and the most decorated. You can see how lovely it is from the surviving carvings on the outside and the interior lives up to expectations, although no photographs are allowed inside. If you want to know more, visit the Society’s website .

We needed to get our ferry, so drove just over the road to the terminal and took the short ferry across the fjord; then off again, as we had our second ferry to catch that would take us up Naeroyfjord, another WHS. This is a very dramatic fjord, which is narrow with steep sides. On a sunny summer’s day the beauty of its landscape must be breathtaking. On our trip, it was rainy, misty and mysterious. The cliffs soared up into the clouds; waterfalls appeared out of the mist; and the water was grey and still. But it was quite an experience.
Our destination was Gudvangen, from where we drove up to the historic hotel, Stalheim. The road itself is an experience with hairpin bends to test the driver and several spectacular waterfalls. Our rooms overlook the terrace with views right down the Naeroy valley, which is alternately filled with mist and cloud, then clear enough to see the winding road down the valley following the river.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

We began today by looking round the interesting Stave Church at Lom. This is very popular and many people had the same idea. Nevertheless, we were able to look round before the church closed as there was going to be a wedding in the afternoon. We enjoyed a coffee and cake inside Bakaret as the rain came on. It was hopping in there, but Dougal found us a table where we could sit sipping our coffee and nibbling our cakes.

We thought we would try and take a drive up into the mountains, but wherever we went, the weather was fairly bad – no views. We did get to cabin where we stopped for tea, looking out across the lake to the peaks. Eventually we came back to the main road and called in to see the Saga Column, which was erected in its present position in 1992. It had been intended to sit outside parliament when it was designed in 1926. and it represents Norwegian history from 872 -1814. There was, apparently some controversy about it and it wasn’t until 1992 when Mr. Elveseter gave it a home here in Bovredal. It is 34m high with Viking lord on the top.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

Our walk began from the Spiterstulen Cabin, where we left D to his own devices. We took lunch and aimed to walk up to a tongue of the Heilstugu Glacier. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed the trek - very few other walkers, and those that we did come across were soon lost in the huge scenery. The views around us were stupendous, and we turned left up the hillside just before a bridge. Up and up we walked, and came across a gushing waterfall - no doubt melt water from the glacier. As the path bore round to the right, the glacier was visible looking up this valley. It must have retreated in recent times as there is a large gravelly area in front of it. We lunched and looked around us, and spotted a herd of reindeer across the valley high on the far hillside. We counted about twenty five altogether. We also saw many flowers in this alpine area.

Returning to the cabin we found D sunbathing with his Tshirt off - it was good weather! But no sitting around, we headed off for Galdhoppingen for some spectacular scenery. This drive is up a twisting toll road, climbing to 1900m from where you are surrounded by snowy peaks. The Cabin is home to a summer skiing area. On the way down again, we saw even more reindeer - maybe about 40.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

We left 'Musk Ox Country' and drove towards Vaga. We took a few side tracks to look at the mountains and the views. In Vaga we visited their lovely stave church. They are having the roof repaired and there were stacks of new wooden tiles ready to go on. Years of preservative has stained the wood, so it almost olooks burnt and the 'door furniture' must date from the eighteenth century, along with the church.

We can't go too long without a coffee or some other refreshment, and found several places to choose from in the village. We eventually had coffee and delicious cakes at Verstaahjornet Kafe from where we bought mandelstang for later! What a beautiful morning, sitting in the sun.

Back to the car and a little more driving brought us to Glitterheim with its wonderful vistas, cosy hytte and tasty waffles. Coming away from the hytta we found some reindeer, including one quite unusual white one. Then we drove down on to Lom, where we are staying for the next few days, at Fossheim Hotel. We had plenty of time to walk through the town to the National Fjellmuseum, where we discovered all about the fauna, flora and geology around us.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

We drove down one of the side roads recommended by the guide; and we found a herd of musk oxen, so D got to see them at last! He also pointed out some of the huge peaks around us, including Snohetta, the highest peak in Norway outside the Jotunheimen.
But waffles were calling, and we made our way across to Galdhopingen along roads with spectacular views and wildlife. The people at the Galdhopingen hytte made us some delicious waffles in their cosy place.

Then we drove through Grimsdalen - where the bench provided a great place to see the view from. And we came out of the toll road which was marked with the different post decorations! So we came back for our last evening at Kongsvold, which did not disappoint and even provided this lovely sunset as a farewell present.