England and Norway 2015 (3) – Norway

Norway

Holland America offers two 7 day cruises to Norway, Norse Legend and Viking Saga. Norse Legend sails out of Harwich, England and Viking saga, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Norse Legend stops at Bergen, Geiranger, Alesund and Eidfjord, staying close to Norway’s west coast. It won me over because it seemed to offer better scenery, apart from interesting cultural opportunity. At the end it worked out nicely, in addition to some learning about Norwegian history and culture, we got to see some of the most magnificent sceneries in the world.

Geiranger Fjord is arduous, grand and majestic, Eidfjord, gentle, tranquil and delightful. While Bergen appears to be a larger and wealthier city than Alesund, both are set in equally picturesque landscape.

Norwegian scenery is reminiscent of Alaska in some way, with a noticeable distinction of course, it appears that there are more snow and glaciers in Alaska. First time I saw caribou meat served was in Alaska, first time I saw deer meat served was in Bergen, Norway. People certainly do make what they can of nature. Culturally, there seem to be more difference than similarity. I was amazed every time I saw a home or farm perch atop a cliff that seemed halfway in the sky and uninhabitable, but people there seemed to have made it work.

The ship MS Ryndam is probably the smallest and oldest cruise ship we’ve been on. The veranda suite we had on the ship was however the best we’ve had. In comparison the on board program did not have the same energy of the other cruises, on the other hand it was more relaxing. Many of the passengers were middle age and older vacationers from UK; we got to meet some interesting people at dinners. Interesting how different English can be between UK and US. The casino was empty most of the time. We learnt from an English man that UK had had tight regulations on gambling until recently.

Bergen

We crossed path with wintery weather in Norway, with high in the low 50s. Winter that had been mild in Norway this year seemed to be getting its way in the late spring. Our ship docked next to Bergenhus, i.e. King Haakon’s Hall, and was a short walk to many top attractions in the city. We walked around the harbor to Bryggen, the historic Hanseatic area on the wharf, Fish Market, Tourist Center and took the funicular to Floyen view point. The town is beautiful around the wharf. It was chilly waiting in line for the funicular but it was worthy, the view from the mountain top is a wonderful bird’s eye view of both the town and the scenery beyond.

Hanseatic District

Hanseatic District

Floyen

Floyen

Geiranger

The next morning, we sailed by some of the most beautiful scenery on this cruise. Everywhere I turned, there was a dramatic sight, fjord, waterfalls, snowcapped mountains and a dash of a rainbow hanging halfway of a mountain side. Ships ahoy, we arrived at Geiranger Fjord.

Unlike in Bergen, one cannot accomplish much by foot in several hours around Geiranger. The tiny town is picturesque and I’d recommend a walk along the roaring water fall cutting through the village. To see the best of Geiranger however, it is necessary to have a car. We booked a bus tour through the ship, the town also offers bus tours of various itinerary. Some people drive themselves.

The tour was great, nice scenery all the way and we made multiple stops. View point Fydalsjuvet is situated above the town at the eastern tip of Geiranger Fjord where you see town, fjord and the zigzagging Eagle Road in its entirety, with all its 11 hairpin turns. The famous Ornesvingen view point, is much higher up and offers a sweeping, spectacular view of the fjord, waterfalls and snowcapped mountains, and the town in the distance.

For the last leg of the tour, we rode up to mount Mt. Dalsnibba. As we cruised on, the vista changed, the surrounding became whiter and whiter. The road was sometimes flanked by snow walls as tall as the bus on both sides, imagine the snow they had to plow to clear the road. Near the top, there is a lake but it had not broken and looked like nothing but a vast, flat, white sheet. The road became narrower closer to the peak, and buses stopped or reversed to make way for ones coming from opposite direction. With some certain turn, I looked down, the glimpse of the sheer drop of the mountain below the road was quite dizzying. Eventually, we reached the summit, which is more than 4800 feet above sea level.

Geiranger Fjord

Geiranger Fjord

Geiranger Fjord

Geiranger Fjord

Ornesvingen

Ornesvingen

Fydalsjuvet

Fydalsjuvet

Mt. Dalsnibba

Mt. Dalsnibba

Geiranger Village

Geiranger Village

Geiranger Village

Geiranger Village

Alesund

The weather was dismal for Alesund, it was overcast and rain poured most of the day. We had booked a tour that includes nearby islands Giske and Runde, Art Nouveau District and the Aksla view point in the city. The show went on and tour we did. We rode through the city and multiple channels and reached the islands. However the rain was so heavy and visibility so poor, there was no point stopping and getting out, and the bus immediately turned around and headed back to the city. Back in Alesund, the rain abated somewhat and we were able to make a brief stop at the view point on Mt Aksla. Although we couldn’t see much beyond the harbor, we saw enough to know that it is quite pretty and interesting. At the end, I considered it a successful day. I had almost not booked the tour, thinking of rambling on our own, which would have been impossible on that weather. So it turned out as good as can be.
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Eidfjord

After the wet and overcast day in Alesund, the brilliant weather waiting for us at Eidjord couldn’t be more welcomed. We had a wonderful day exploring the tiny village of 200 residents on our own.

Eidfjord is divided into two parts by a river, the highland, Hæreid, and low land, Læreid. Walking paths are marked by a stripe of color on the trees or sign posts, yellow for Hæreid and Blue for Læreid. Each is a circular walk and both are delightful walks. Despite the cruise ship and the tourist, the village was not crowded, it was quiet and serene, and everywhere you look, it is a postcard like picture.

Blue path walking through Læreid is shorter and smoother. Among other things, it leads to the two churches in the village, a new one from 1980 and old from 1309. Across from the new church is a school which I believe is probably one that is most beautifully and happily situated. As you come to the end of the path, there is a delightful view of the fjord.

The terrain being more drastic for Hæreid, the yellow path goes further and higher up and is overall more interesting. The path starts by the bridge near the ship, connecting Læreid and Hæreid. It follows the river through an open area before entering the woods. You can hear the rambunctious river the entire way, then at some point, it broadens drastically and becomes The Eidfjord Lake. The lake is screened by big mountains and surprisingly has a beach, a delightful little secret.

The path subsequently continues through the woods and clambers up, with nice views and interesting plants along the way. At one point, I followed the lead of another hiker and noticed the colorful speckles coming off a patch of low growing, apple green grass, as if it was sprinkled with tiny glitters. Checking close up, what I saw were tiny water bubbles. It must have been the effect of the sunlight.

Soon afterwards, we came out of the woods and reached Hæreid Mountain Plateau. There we were greeted by a wonderful vista, field of green grass, yellow and white wild flowers, snowcapped mountains, little red farm house and barn and two gorgeous black horses, all so heavenly serene. What a view day in and day out for the small community of people who live up there.

There are a few Iron Age graves on the plateau along the path. At the end of the plateau, there is a fantastic view point overlooking the fjord and the ship. After that, the path zigzags its way down through the village and back to the bridge, cute houses and delightful views along the way.

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