Thursday, July 9, 2015

Some Serious Norwayness

(if you click on the photos they get bigger and you can scroll through like a slideshow.)

So, here's where it gets reallllly Norway-y. Ready?

From Oslo, Jim, Clementine, Tone, Magnus & I jumped on a plane for Alesund, up in the...northwest-ish part of the south-ish part of the country? Do you like my geographic sense? Actually, I have a pretty good sense of geography, but Norway really throws everything off by being so looong and going about as far north as a country can go. And being all coastline, yo. I read this crazy number that says that if you measure the actual coastline in all its fjord-riven,'s like 50,000 miles. It sounds like I made that number up. To make it sound more like I made it up: Norway has about 50,000 islands. Really.

The view from the airplane was crazy gorgeous.

And Alesund wasn't bad either...

Right? Alesund is known as the Art Nouveau city, on account of having burned down in the early 19th Century and being rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. I would say that if a city had to burn down and be rebuilt, 1904 was a good time to do it. Also, um, that situation? Kinda reminds me of Arendale in Frozen, which makes sense, because: Norway.

The flight was about an hour, and we rented a car at the airport for a few days of driving around. We only spent a morning in Alesund, and then made the goooorgeous drive to one of the most famous places in the country.

A fjord along the way:

We were so so lucky to have blue skies on this day! The colors! The light!

Oh. I mentioned a few posts ago that we saw like a hundred thousand lupines over the course of our trip? Here are a few. So. Many. Lupines. I wanted to make the hugest bouquet of lupines ever gathered, but was never in flower range and vase range at the same time.

This house! This abandoned house! Look how pretty!

After a bit of a meander, we had our first of what would be many car ferry experiences. 
Norway knows how to do car ferries. Easy, frequent, on time.

And not long after that we reached our destination: Geirangerfjord, aka fjordorama. 

First glimpse. That's a cruise ship. You know, I put it there for scale.

Next viewpoint. Wow. 

Embiggen this. This place. Wow. It's not one of the bigger fjords. On the map it's quite wee. But it's perfect. The sheerness of the cliffs, the magnitude of the waterfalls. I don't know.

I'd made last-minute reservations at the big Geiranger Hotel, and was surprised to be able to get "fjord-view rooms." But when we checked in and were given our keys to the second floor, we thought, well dang, that can't be much of a view...

And then opened the doors to this:

So okay. No complaint there.

This was our first night further north than Oslo, and it was also June 22, which is almost the longest day of the year, and the sun just stayed and stayed and stayed in the sky.

(the water was SO COLD.)

View as the sun finally reached the mountains:

The next day we found out how lucky we'd been to have that blue sky! 
We took a fjord boat in the morning, and it was like this.

Beautiful in a different way altogether. Again, cruise ship for scale. Convenient. 
(You can pretty much always find a cruise ship in Geiranger.)

Okay, but this is more fun for scale. See the waterfall below?
There's a mountain farm next to it.

Here it is, a little closer.

These farms! These intrepid people who farmed on cliffs!

No one has lived in these homesteads since the 1960s, though you can visit some of them. The king and queen of Norway celebrated their silver wedding anniversary at one of these. 

The boat tour narration told how this farm had lost seven inhabitants to landslides in the day. *shudder*
Also how they had to tether children to keep them from falling off cliffs.

So there's some super Norwayness! So stunning! Every moment as you drive the landscape takes some new sight out of its pocket and holds it up to the light. 

Still more Norway to come! 

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Back to Norway!

So, from Bergen we took the train over the mountains to Oslo. This is a stunningly beautiful journey, during which snow merged with clouds, from white to white to white, a ghostly austere landscape. Then the train eased down into green lands again and we had our first of a hundred-thousand lupine sightings. Lupine lupine lupine, blooms as long as my arm. I've never seen so many wildflowers in my life!

And then we were in Oslo, reunited with the main reason for our trip: Tone Almhjell!

Tone and I met right here on my blog! If you're a regular reader of my blog you probably know Tone already. She was a kindred spirit who wrote so beautifully in English, which was not her native tongue, and who had a baby at the same time I had Clementine, and who had a knack for making any discussion both deeper and lovelier. She was writing her first novel, which, to my dismay, was in Norwegian, and thus out of my reach. Then fate intervened! Long story short, circumstances conspired to persuade her to begin translating it into English! And it was as wonderful as I knew it was be. And I introduced her to my agent, Jane Putch, who agreed, and who signed her, and sold this wonderful book, which is in the world for you to read!

If you haven't, please do. It's exquisite! See more about it HERE. And the companion will be coming out next year. I've read it, and I can tell you it's fantastic, and I'll share more about it as it gets nearer to publication. I don't think the title has been revealed yet, so I'd better keep mum. But it's awesome.

So, Tone and I have gotten to hang out in person in the US on two different trips (like this one where we met in person for the first time), and Clementine and Magnus became fast friends, and we decided a winter or two ago that this summer we would go to Norway and visit them there. And we did! And it was GREAT! 

Without further ado, Oslo!


Aside from just hanging out with Tone and her friends and family, I had three favorites in Oslo.

1. Outland bookshop
(or as Tone calls it, "the nerd store". It's a wonderful SFF/comics/manga/gaming shop in central Oslo. And to warm my heart, they had this display up with even knowing I was going to come in!!)

Here I am with Thomas and Madeleine, who work there. I think Thomas is the books manager, and Madeleine is, in the eyes of Magnus, age five, the "High Priestess of Legos and All Things Awesome." 

2. Vigeland Park

I'd seen pics on Pinterest of some of the more outlandish statues at this enormous sculpture park...

But seeing pics can't give you a sense of the feeling of this place, which feels like a celebration of humanity and human relationships, all the ways that people are connected to each other, and the gamut of emotions.

It's the world's largest sculpture park where the work is all by one artist. Gustav Vigeland lived from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, and created over 200 sculptures in bronze and granite for this park. 

Love these gates:

3. The Norske Folkemuseum

This place is my favorite kind of tourist attraction. It's an open-air museum (the world's oldest and largest) that collects historical buildings from around Norway (something like 150), assembling them by region, complete with interiors, so you can see how people lived in Norway in the last century. 

It's a fantastic place. All these streets to wander, horse cart rides, ice cream, nice food, a playground, farm animals, things to climb. 

Even a stave church!

A reconstructed children's room:

I adore the elaborate yet rustic woodwork on these farmhouses, bunkhouses, storage houses. 

And of course the grass and wildflower roofs!

On our way out...

Oh, and it didn't make my top 3, but the Viking Ship Museum was pretty cool too. It's a grand and simple affair. They have three of these guys. Three real-deal Viking longships. Showstoppers.

There's lots more to see in Oslo! We also enjoyed the Akershus Fortress, and just meandering around Grunerlokka eating and shopping. But then it was time to hop on a plane and see some more of the country. 

Next time!

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