We heard the legend of the Troll in Norway – a large funny looking creature with a long nose. The good trolls stay up in the mountaintops, shyly away from people. The bad trolls come down into the valleys to have humans for a snack. Trolls hide under bridges and in caves because if they are seen by a human, legend says the will turn to stone and break into pieces.
Even though we were on the lookout throughout our Norwegian adventures, we did not meet any trolls. Perhaps they were on holiday – like most the rest of Europe. We did meet a lot of lovely and hospitable Norwegian people, hundreds of goats, a few sheep and a cat.
Our 8-day Norwegian cruise was magnificent. The scenery is beyond spectacular – indescribable. The photos don’t do it justice. I expected it to look like Alaska. It does not. Although Alaska has its own stunning beauty, Norway is better, older and wiser – sheer cliffs of granite dropping into the fjord below; green and blue water in the 100’s of miles of fjords; waterfalls too numerous to count.
Bergen was our first stop and we spent the day wandering this historic seaport with a population of about 250,000. We tasted the famous local fish soup, a creamy and herby concoction as well as the local Skillinsbolle – similar to our cinnamon rolls but not as sweet. The highlight of the day was the funicular ride up high above the city and then hiking down the three very steep miles back to the city.
Flam was our next stop. One of the greatest things about cruising is waking up in the morning and looking out the window. You never know what you will see, and in Flam my jaw dropped. The view outside our room was an astonishing mountain scene with a bucolic little seaside farm and cabins. I couldn’t wait to get off the ship and explore. Luckily we had booked in advance to ride the Flam Railway, because we learned many guests wanted to make this trip but it was sold out. I can see why. The route of the hundred plus year old railway takes you through the most dramatic mountain scenery. Green and blue, we were blessed with fabulous weather, thundering waterfalls, lovely peaceful farms, and hundreds of goats. We left the train at Vatna Halsen and hiked seven miles back down the mountain on a steep and rocky trail. Along the way we enjoyed wild blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and lingonberries at the end of their season.
Gieranger was the next day, and the first day so far in our 24 days on the road we pulled out our raincoats. Not to worry, because the best part of this day was the five-hour cruise through the Gierangerfjord in the morning hours. This is where Tourism Norway takes the travel photos – spectacular waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet to the water below along the miles and miles of granite cliffs. At times the narrow passage had me thinking our ship would not squeeze through. But it did of course. The town of Gieranger was pretty, even in the rain, but by the time we stepped off the ship the rain had subsided. We spent the next five hours hiking up through a very muddy mountain pass to a thundering waterfall, where the path actually goes behind the falls. The noise was impressive and the view magnificent. We managed to make it back to the ship just as the rain arrived again in buckets.
Alesund was the port of call on day five where we were scheduled to do a morning kayak. However we were awakened very early by a phone call cancelling our trip due to high winds. When we stepped out onto our balcony we were surprised by the very warm weather, at least 65 degrees with a blustery blow. The city looked larger than any port we had been to since Bergen so we went a shore to explore the Art Nouveau architecture and winding streets. The town seemed exceptionally quiet and to be honest was not our favorite port of call. However we did walk to the observation tower, a 500-step climb, to appreciate the views. It was here we encountered the strongest winds, up to 70km and it nearly knocked us off our feet. We hiked some trails back down to the city.
That evening as we sailed to our next ports we had a very windy and rough passage, the only one of our entire trip. It made the dinner hour a bit difficult. I went straight to bed after, to try to avoid motion sickness. I slept like a log on the rolling sea.
Stavanger was yesterday’s port of call. We had planned to rent bicycles, but learned once we were ashore that the Tourism Info Center no longer has the bikes for rent. Instead we did a self-tour around the historic old town of stunning clapboard white houses from Stavanger’s fishing and canning boom days. We then happened upon a tour leaving for only 450 Krona so we hoped on. I am so glad we did because we were able to spend three hours on board a bus (with Wi-Fi) and see some of the beautiful Norwegian countryside, some unexpected views of fjords, the famous three swords sculpture, and Northern Europe’s largest boulder field. It was a great day.
Last evening we celebrated on board with all the other guests the end to our cruise with the formal night in the dining room. Today we are at sea all day and we will disembark tomorrow very early in Southampton where Chapter Three of our adventure will continue for five days in London.
I hope you will continue to follow along on the Grand Adventure. PS if you don’t want to miss any of our blog posts, sign up to receive the blogs via email.
Farewell Norway! You were all and more than I imagined! Skol!