Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Breathtaking Norway

Norway was probably the most incredible place we have visited yet. Call me crazy, but the outdoorsy, naturally beautiful Nordic country is just as exciting as a sandy beach in Spain. Norwegians have a lot of pride for their country and certainly do not take it for granted. They keep themselves healthy by eating tons of fresh fish, striving for self-sustainability through hunting, farming, and gardening, and staying active by exploring every inch of their country. 

We arrived in Bergen late morning. After checking into our hotel, we walked over to the main harbor to grab lunch at the fish market. Several people had told me that Norway is an expensive place to visit, but it wasn't until lunch at the market that we actually realized this. Let's just say it gave us a whole new perspective on the pound sterling. 

The Bryggen is an iconic row of wooden buildings right on the harbor. 

The next morning we had an early departure from Bergen. Our journey would take us up along the west coast of Norway and into the Sognefjord. 

We had a four hour boat ride to the village of Balestrand, the location of our first overnight along the fjord. The beginning of our journey had striking similarities to The Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. I guess it makes sense when you consider the latitudes of Canada and Norway. As we witnessed all of the tourists flocking to the outside deck of the boat to capture their pictures of water and green trees, it definitely reaffirmed how lucky we are to be from the PNW. 


Soon the waterway started to become more narrow and the trees were gradually replaced by steep rock formations. Now it really started to look like Norway.

And the temperatures rapidly dropped!

Charming Norwegian villages tucked away between the fjords.

The village of Balestrand is quiet and serene. It has a Swiss feel to it with the architecture and the backdrop of the mountains. There wasn't a whole lot going on when we were there, but that was completely fine with us.

Especially when you get to wake up to this view! I think the clouds and drizzles of rain added to the ambiance.

After a leisurely afternoon of strolling the village and watching the boats come in and out of the tiny harbor, we had a traditional Norwegian dinner at one of the local restaurants. All of the ingredients were locally sourced which was quite a treat. The next morning, we were up early to catch the boat that would take us deeper into the the most narrow parts of the fjord while en route to the village of Flam.

This is when we finally had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the view we had been waiting for. The beauty was utterly surreal.

As we arrived in Flam, our next overnight stop, we quickly realized it had a completely different feel to it than Balestrand. With a cruise ship docked there, you can imagine there were many, many tourists (and all that comes with that.)

Regardless, we still felt incredibly lucky to be there and were eager to make the most of it. We quickly checked into our hotel and got geared up for our kayaking excursion. I was excited to escape the masses.

We kayaked in the pouring rain for 2 hours, but it didn't bother us one bit, considering we were in the middle of an enormous fjord. It was an incredible vantage point. Turns out, our guide was a Canadian gal who, on her way to graduate school in France, decided to make a quick stop in Norway for a little sightseeing. She fell in love with it so much, she ended up staying for several months. I can imagine that wouldn't be hard to do!

After a long afternoon of kayaking, we dried off, freshened up, and had a delicious dinner at the local brewery. 

The next morning, we boarded the Flam railway that would connect to the main railway network and eventually take us back to Bergen. The specific section of the Flam railway ascended 2, 831 ft over a period of 12.6 miles. The journey is very steep, but equally picturesque. 

On our final day in Norway, we were back in Bergen feeling completely fulfilled with our journey into  the Sognefjord. We did some strolling through the shops and sipped on delicious coffee. 

We rode the Funicular up a very steep journey for panoramic views of the city. It was a wonderful way to take in more of the country's beauty before heading to the airport.

Norway, you really took our breath away! 

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