Nutty Norway (Fjords to Sweden)

I am really fascinated by Norwwegian settlement patterns.

Everywhere we went there were people living in remote villages behind mountains, on an island…yet still clearly had power, roads (tunnels and ferries everywhere) water, and most importantly: mobile phone coverage. You quite clearly need to be a very rich country with very high taxes just to service such a small population spread over such a large area.

For lots of the little settlements where self-sufficiency looks to have been a realistic prospect, though I am not sure how they make a living now: tiny fields, and no stock that I could see. Perhaps they are all summer homes, or perhaps the number one priority for those who first settled the area was finding somehwere dramatic and scenic, and figuring out how to get food, clothing and shelter later on. Smart buggers probably anticipated the money tourism would eventually bring in!

But, the villages only represented an very small part of the scenery…

The public bus into Geirangerfjorden was a bargain, especially for the mind-boggling views from Eagle Rd (?) into the fjord, with the gigantic cruise ships docked in the fjord looming larger with each of the 11 hairpins. For a while, I was not sure why there weren’t more people on it the bus, until the bus driver was talking on her mobile, yawning, and turning to joke with an elderly passenger while avoiding goats and sheep on a road where I coudln’t see the bitumen below the wheels.

From our tent in Geirangerfjorden we had one of the ‘most scenic views on earth’, easy acces to beer-cooling glacial water, and were surrounded by some great walks up the walls for a different perspective. Tragically, we spent a sunny afternoon planning the next leg of our trip, then awoke the next morning to low fog for our walk up to the waterfalls and viewpoints.

Once out of Geiranger, the phenomenal sights continued courtesy of the public transport: massive, sheer granite faces near Skei, amazing views back into the southern arm of the Glacier atop the easter part of the fjords, peering curiously into the depths of Sognerfjorden (the water is 1300m deep), and feeling queasy while sitting in the back of a packed bus creeping up a 20% grade road.

After some great whitewater rafting in Voss, Bergen signalled the end of our fjord experience. Loads of tourists kept us company through the old wooden buildings precariously balanced on the water front, and up the funicular railway. Though strangely, I was left alone in the Norwgian fishing museum. At least it gave me time to have a decent discussion with the guide about aquaculture , disease and climate change!

Bailing out of beautiful Bergen, the train trip to Oslo was brilliant. Especially beautiful was the ice-cap and alpine areas, where I was surprised to see more cycle tourists than I have ever seen in my life: along the trail parallel to the rail-line, there was a cyclist every 10m or so! I can see how it is a popular trip, and reckon the downhill to Flåm must be pretty good!

Oslo was great, with the Thor Heyerdahl museum (Read his books: Kon-tiki, Ra, etc!!!!), and as Jason Smith called it ‘one of the best overviews of contemporary art’, in addition to the sister exhibition on populism (mentioned in previous Finland blogs). I’ve momentarily forgotten what else we did in Oslo; anyway….

In making arrangements to leave Oslo, I wondered whether we were developiong a habit: that is of painstakingly researching (using books and internet time) detailed bus and train connections to get to our next destination, THEN dramatically abandoning our plans for some other option. In this case it was deciding to dash to Copenhagen to try and get our shipped goods, rather than using our pre-booked (and non-refundable) reservation to Stockholm!

Minor highlight of the train trip to Copenhagen was catching glimpses of the famous ‘Mormon underwear’ being worn by our sleeping cabin buddies from Utah. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you should (and everybody should, even non-Aussies) watch John Safran Vs God on DVD.

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