NORWAY 8.20.10

RTW Report NORWAY 8.20.10
Our introduction to Norway begins in Oslo, a fine city with parks, trees, and seaport. The center of town has an elegant palace with two guards who appear to have been trained by Queen Elizabeth’s beef eaters. In the tourist hotel area, there’s been an Americanization featuring: TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Café and a few related cousins.
There’s a bustling rather trendy looking populace. Local Norwegians seem to come in one size – tall, mostly blond, and extremely friendly. So much is imported from elsewhere that life is expensive. The cheapest cup of coffee is about $3 and I’m not talking about a designer brew. The modern buildings have a profusion of glass. I wonder if this is to capture the maximum light in a city with a long season of dark,
Although Oslo has a profusion of museums, we are out to explore the fjord countryside before meeting our bike group.The drizzly gray day explains all the omnipresent greenery. We’ve never experienced an area as forested as Norway. Every town, settlement, and road lies deep in a valley and often follows the adjacent fjord. Above this scene climbs the forest stopping only when the rocky canyons can no longer support vegetation. Few clear cuts seem to exist. Grass is a huge crop and everywhere there are enormous white vinyl barrels filled with the winter food for animals. Wild flowers abound in all colors and every house has plantings and window boxes. Orchards laden with fruits abound and the raspberries are the best we’ve ever eaten.
Our first day driving is rainy. When we climb a high mountain pass, the panorama is spare and desolate while the temperature drops. Only in Alaska and Iceland have I seen this landscape. Perhaps, this is one of the places where the world began
As we descend there’s a sign for the Fossli Hotel in the hamlet of VØringfos. We climb the kilometer to a lovely structure reminiscent of the last century. Actually the hotel was built in 1867, with several remodels since then (thank goodness). Our 4th floor view is into an enormous rocky gorge where clouds linger and then disperse. Think Ah-Wahnee Hotel view, except that Yosemite has no greenery.
The next day, the rain stops, the sky has some blue and the wind clears away the clouds. The view into the gorge is heart-stopping as a high waterfall thunders over the rocks for several hundred feet. From the hotel we set out on a hike. The climb gives us fine views of the canyons and the hillsides. As we descend into the next village, we realize that we missed the correct path so we retrace. Our new trail has wooden planks to avoid the mud and is quite single track and filled with bogs. We follow a set of small rapids that move swiftly over the rocks. Wet and muddy shoes are part of the scene. Once we see two ice-blue glaciers on the distant mountains.
Leaving the wet shoes at the hotel, we head for the Nature Center and an amazing interactive set of exhibits. There’s an exciting film of the area with glaciers, waterfalls, and rapids − done from a helicopter and projected on a wrap-around screen.
Next morning we are on the road to Bergen. Here we will meet the cycling group. The “road” follows the fjords and is often as wide as a bicycle path. When two cars meet both pull to the side and go slowly. (Don’t even ask about oncoming trucks.)
Each of the settlements along the way, seems to have a postcard-perfect planning prescription. Houses are constructed of wood with shingle roofs. In some areas, insulation has been enhanced by grass growing on the roof. Norway wins the cleanliness award and that includes roadsides and public rest rooms. Across the fjord rise high mountains dotted with glaciers and water falls.
Bergen is a bustling town with many university students; another very hip population and loads of tourists. Tomorrow we meet our cycling group.

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