Well, we had plenty of ‘wow’ in today’s scenery. It was raining off and on until lunch time but by the afternoons it cleared and we had a mild, although cloudy, day. The temperature was around 18C.
We left the little white hotel by the fjord in which we stayed last night, at around 9.00 and had a little look around the neighbouring area. For some reason this area is famous as a ‘book-town’. All along the road were cute little buildings with stacks of books for sale or for exchange. Maybe there is little else to do here in winter but read??
There were some very cute houses and some with sod roofs. These are a traditional style of building in rural areas and are made from sod on top of several layers of birch bark on gently sloping wooden roof boards. These grass roofs have a number of functions. Their weight helps to compress the traditional logs and makes the walls more draught-proof, they make a good form of insulation and they are also inexpensive (apart from the medical cost when you off while mowing them). Seriously, these days the grass roofs are built out of tradition, and also because they look nice and fit in with the Norwegian countryside.
We travelled along a long fjord all morning as it rained, with just a few occasional breaks in the weather. We had lunch in a little town called Stryn (which we converted to Strine, recognising the language that Bogans back home use).We must have driven through another dozen tunnels again today – the longest being about 6 km. It is clear to me that the Norwegians are the tunnelling kings of the world.
The main excitement that we had this morning was to come across a couple of hundred goats that were walking down the road, oblivious to all the traffic. Apparently, they are let out to feed in the morning and then return at night to be milked. Some of them looked as though they were well past due for milking already. These ones seemed to think that the grass on the other side of the road was greener!
From Stryn, we climbed up over a high mountain pass on our way to Geiranger. I would have been disappointed not to be able to see anything in this area should it have been in cloud, but fortunately the weather had cleared and we had good visibility. The scenery in this alpine area was stunning. It had been glaciated in some past era and the enormous bare rock outcrops and mountains were stark and scenic.
Finally, we reached Geiranger. It lies at the head of the Geirangerfjorden, which is a branch of the large Storfjorden. Geiranger is the jewel in the crown of fjord scenery in Norway. It is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and has been named the best travel destination in Scandinavia by Lonely Planet. Since 2005, the Geirangerfjord area has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Before reaching the fjord from the south, a viewpoint provides a wonderful view of the upper valley. This is rural Norway at its finest.
Further along the road is a spectacular view of the village and fjord. It is a common destination for cruise ships but the fjord was free of them today. The fjord is 260 metres deep while the surrounding mountains are 1600-1700 metres high. The fjord is also known for its spectacular waterfalls and deserted fjord farms high up on the steep cliffsides.
Once in the village, we could see the road that leaves the fjord and climbs back up to the highlands and more farming country. There were a lot of hairpin bends and we met a vehicle coming in the other direction on almost everyone of them..
Tonight we are staying at a country house about 22 kilometres from Geiranger in a little location called Hesthaug. This is an old farming area with a lot of history.
The house in which we are staying is on a property that has been in the same family for over 400 years. The current owner (like many other Norwegian dairy farmers) found that it was uneconomic to continue farming, so he built a lodge and some cottages as an alternate form of income. He explained that a traditional dairy farmer here owned a herd of just sixteen cows. They were unable to feed anymore though winter. In previous generations, sixteen cows gave enough milk on which to earn a living, but not any more. That’s a tiny herd by anyone’s standards, but 400 years of family history is very impressive.