What’s not to love? Water? Good. Mountains? Good. Waterfalls? Good. Snow-capped mountains? Good.
A few eyebrows raised when we told people we were going to Norway. Norway? What made you choose that? Well it all started with a fjord, and back to the day I didn’t even know what a fjord was. Fjord (pronounced Fi-yord) was just one of those words I would have nodded along with if someone was talking about it, eyes glazing over because I didn’t really know what they were talking about.
But a few years ago I made it to my first Fjord, which is basically a steep canyon cut by glaciers and plunging a mountain into the sea – or, put another way, a sea inlet surrounded by steep mountain cliffs. Translation: my idea of perfection.
My first Fjord experience was in New Zealand – another land rich with, well, EVERYTHING GOOD AND LOVELY. Including a Fjord called Milford Sound. Words fail to describe the happiness I experienced in that majestic place, especially amazing considering the deep unhappiness that had settled in my heart in that life-stage.
I was basically spinning and dancing in glee in that magical place, and my amused husband laughed as I exclaimed “Fjords are my new favorite!” With a twinkle in his eye, he introduced me to a whole new wonder: There was a LAND of Fjords called Norway. Norway? As in, my place of heritage? (My mother’s name was Berg, Norway’s second biggest city is Bergen, so basically, I might be a long-lost Norwegian Princess. All things are possible.). At the least, perhaps a love of mountains and ocean plunged together is just part of my DNA.
And so was born the dream to come to Fjordland, Norway.
We didn’t know if we’d pull it off on this trip, but a string of luck and google diligence and hope all blended together to get us on a cruise ship heading TO and THROUGH Norway’s Fjordland at a fraction of the cost it would take for us to backpack our way through the majestic landscape. We booked the tickets under a “last minute special” about a month prior to sailing, and it took all of my willpower not to mentally check out between the time of booking until the time of embarking.
I was going to Norway. To Fjordland. On a boat – a LUXURY boat! That would carry me and my love and all our STUFF and FEED US and oh heaven smile down.
And Norway delivered. Amidst both rain and shine, in true Nordic fashion, my heart was lulled and wooed by its ever-changing landscape. It felt like cruising through a storybook – with up to ten waterfalls sometimes in view, with my heart and mind racing to catch up with what my eyes were seeing, with days of sun for my feet to traipse and days for my heart to be quieted by the rain.
Our first stop was in Eidfjord, a small town with big views.
And perfectly marked hiking trails. Their slogan should be “Welcome to Eidfjord. If you get lost here, you’re an idiot.” But seriously. Trail after trail, some back to mountain lakes, some alongside the river, some winding through farm and field, and some stumbling through ‘rough pastureland’, filled with too many colors of green for me to count, where the loudest sound was my own footfall. Where, as I took in the new landscape, I actually said out loud “I wonder if this is how babies feel all the time – when they are seeing something new for the very first time?”
Oh, and the red homes – painted that way because once upon a time it was the cheapest color you could get your hands on. Left over waste from copper mines or something. Don’t quote me, but something like that. And here I thought it was a way to compensate for the often gloomy weather. Nope, just good economic sense. But still, a cheery and distinct flavor of many Norwegian homes.
The next day brought us further north to Alesund. The clouds were high, but ever present, keeping us close to town instead of exploring the further wildlands of this area. Which was okay because Alesund’s true claim to fame is its Art Nouveau architecture.
Here’s the story: In 1904, the town burned down. The whole thing. All of it. Charred to bits. Because an oil lamp was knocked over. The Germans were among the first to respond with help, and determined to help them rebuild. Art Nouveau was apparently “the rage” with its intricacies and distinctions, and that became the dominant focus of their new architecture. The effect has stood the test of time. It’s truly whimsical. A town of 40,000, it’s one of Fjordland’s biggest cities, but their downtown still has the fairytale feel. Our big event of the day was a 418-step climb to a viewpoint that really did pay off.
And then, oh then … Geirangerfjord.
We were on the first tender boat off to explore this great land, and before the sun had risen over the tallest mountain peak, we were a-climbing. Again, as in France, giving me the heights in meters is so helpful because I always say “that’s nothing”, until I’m huffing and puffing my way up a serious climb.
Geirangerfjord was like melting Switzerland into the sea.
We climbed a total of 750 meters (see, doesn’t that sound way better than 2500 feet when you’re standing at the bottom and looking up?) to Losta viewpoint and then to something-something-fossen, which means Waterfall. My Norwegian is pretty awesome. After then RACING back down the mountain (ouch), we caught a local bus to experience the famous “Eagle Bend Road” with 11-hairpoint turns
THEN (yes, Geiranger was a FULL DAY) we stayed on the bus up towards Mt. Dinalsnibba, which was still closed for the season due to snow still being unstable, but we made it about 2/3 of the way up, to about 1000 meters, and enjoyed a few minutes in a winter wonderland, where yes, Jason got smacked with some snowballs due to my awesome aim.
That night’s cruise through the Fjord was just beyond words. I mean really. We eventually stopped taking pictures and just soaked it in because it was just like “Really? Really? Just more and more of the pretty.”
And then Bergen. Bergen only gets 60 days of sunshine A YEAR, so my expectations were pretty realistic there. Actually, I was kind of excited to experience it in the rain because it’s known as one of the wettest cities in the world. And boy was it! Poured on us the whole time, so we didn’t go too far, but we did have fun sloshing through its streets, picking up a Christmas ornament, one of our favorite things to collect as we travel, and shaking off the wet as we returned to our “cozy” ship.
All that, and every night on a luxury liner with five-star food, four-star accommodations, and the best company of all. And no, I don’t just mean the chocolate martini and the live violin music. Though that was also a nightly favorite.