Oslo

August 30, 2014

After we arrived at the Myrdal station from Flåm, we had to wait more than half an hour for our connecting train to Oslo. When it arrived we boarded and off we went. The scenery was beautiful, or at least it would have been beautiful if the line hadn’t been almost entirely in tunnels and under snow sheds. But when we got to Finse—where we had started our Aurlandsdalen walk four days ago—we came out of the tunnel and we could see clouds down over the glacier and rain pouring down.

Myrdal station

Our journey to Oslo took about five hours, first through tundra and then through forests and then through farming country. We passed numerous small lakes along the way, as well as several small towns. After a while they announced that because of work on the tracks the train would skip several stations and go direct to Oslo via Hønefoss. This meant that we arrived in Oslo a bit early. We shouldered our packs and headed out of the side door of the station, and then walked the short distance to the YHA.

After checking in we took the elevator to our room on the 6th floor, where we got settled in. Rosemary checked the internet and to her surprise saw a Strava segment for a walk which Caroline had done in Oslo earlier in the day! Lo and behold, she had flown over for the weekend! (Caroline had originally thought of flying to Tromsø to surprise Rosemary on her birthday, but that was far too expensive, so now here she was as a surprise.) We brought her up to our room, and then went around the corner to the food shop so she could buy something to eat. Once back we sat in the hostel kitchen area and chatted until bed time.

Our room was rather noisy because the neighbours seemed to be screaming at each other a lot. After a while there were a lot of loud bangs. Gunfire? In Oslo? Surely not—and there were no sirens, so they must have been fireworks or something like that.

August 31, 2014

The hostel provided breakfast, so we went downstairs to meet Caroline at 8:30 am. Today was Sunday so no shops would be open, but the museums were. Our first step was at the new Opera house, which was apparently enormously expensive to build. It’s very attractive, being a shining white iceberg-like building. The lobby was supposed to be open at 10 am, but it didn’t open so after walking over the slanted roof we continued along the refurbished waterfront and a really nice sea wall.

Oslo Opera

The day was overcast but luckily not raining, so walking around Oslo would not be a problem. Around the corner was a monstrous cruise ship, the Royal Princess, which could hold up to 3,700 passengers. There were flocks of tour leaders shepherding bunches of them into a fleet of tour buses, so we squeezed through and hurried away. Farther along we came to Aker Brygge, a new and rather trendy area of shops and restaurants and apartments. The shops were mostly closed so the area was rather empty, but we walked around and checked out the architecture.

Aker Brygge

From there our route took us to a bakery on Incognito Terrace which had been recommended to Caroline. Here we had coffee, hot chocolate, and buns for a mid-morning snack. After we had finished we walked to the Saga Hotel where we had stayed 24 years ago—it was still there—and then down to the Royal Palace. It was nice to walk around the royal residence and see only a few guards standing on duty. It was too early for the changing of the guard, so we carried on back into the city again.

Training the guard

Not far from the palace was the National Gallery so we went into that. It turned out to be free on Sundays, which saved us some money but made it more crowded. This was a serious museum—one of the paintings was Munch’s “The Scream”. There were several other Munch paintings but most people seemed only interested in The Scream, lining up to get their pictures taken with it. There were also some Picassos (early ones) and Matisses. We recognized several artists from the gallery in Lillehammer which we had liked, and we did find the painting which was the view from Bjønnstigen in Aurlandsdalen and noted that birch trees had grown up to obscure the view since the 19th century!

Bjønnstigen view

After a few minutes in the museum shop we headed across Oslo again, walking through the streets towards the Grünerløkka area. Near a building with a blue “Ibsen lived here” plaque we stopped at another bakery for a bun and coffee, after which we walked up to the main cemetery to see the graves of Munch and other famous Norwegians. Continuing our walk we did a quick trip through the botanical gardens; by this time of year the gardens were almost finished but it was a peaceful place to wander around. The Munch museum was nearby, but 1,100 items of Edvard Munch artwork seemed overwhelming, so we decided to skip that one and headed back to the hostel.

Caroline had made a dinner reservation at a restaurant named Bølgen and Moi, in the Aker Brygge area, so we walked over there for 7 pm. It was a very good restaurant in a nice location and not too expensive, by Norwegian standards anyway. Caroline had a bowl of fish soup with a variety of fish and shellfish, and Paul and Rosemary had Angus beef burgers. Rather than paying 120 NOK for a dessert, no matter how excellent, we decided to go to the ice cream kiosk nearby and get ice cream cones for more like 30 NOK. Back at the hostel we had tea and worked on figuring out our upcoming trip to England.

September 1, 2014

Caroline had left this morning, catching an extremely early flight in order to be back at her desk by 9:30 am in London. So there’s just the two of us again. After a restful sleep we went down to the breakfast buffet at 8:30 am and made plans for our last day before flying home.

We had been looking at the possibility of walking the Pilgrim Way, a 640-kilometer route from Oslo to Trondheim. We hadn’t found much information about it in English, but its headquarters was here in Oslo. So we headed over to Kirkegata 34A, which turned out to be at the Oslo Cathedral. But when we got there we saw a notice saying that it had moved to the Gamle Kirke. So we followed the instructions, past the cemetery where Ibsen and Munch are buried. Initially we looked in the church but after walking around the building Rosemary noticed that the Pilgrim Centre was across the street.

Oslo architecture

The man there was very helpful. He told us that the Cicerone guide to the walk, which was out of print, was going to be republished, but by a different publisher. So we’ll have to keep an eye out for it. He also told us that if we wanted to go on the guided walk we should watch the website for more information early in February. The price he mentioned seemed extremely low by Norwegian standards, and he said that was because it was supported financially by the government.

From there we headed back to the shopping area to look at the sporting goods stores, and then we went to the grocery store to buy food for dinner. We went back to the hostel for lunch and then relaxed for a while before heading out for an afternoon wander.

Small parking space

We decided to walk up to Frogner Park, and on the way through the palace grounds we noticed it was just coming up to 1:30 pm. So we stopped to wait for the changing of the guard. This took about 20 minutes, with a lot of marching and turning around and stamping of feet. When it seemed to be more or less finished we carried on. The route we chose took us through Majorstuen, which is a noisy suburban area with big-box stores and shopping centres. More by luck than by planning we happened to find ourselves on a path which led directly to one side of Frogner Park.

Changing of the Guard

Here were the famous statues by Gustav Vigeland. The park was very large, but was a good location for displaying the large bronze statues. Most of them were of nude people in various positions. The sun was shining so it made for a good spot to spend the afternoon. Heading back to the city we walked along a side street through an area with beautiful houses, which led us back to Karl Johans Gate. We stopped in at a large book store to look for a Norwegian cookbook written in English. The man there was very helpful and after some more looking around we bought a Scandinavian Christmas cookbook there.

Vigeland statue

We looked around the town a bit more before heading back to the hostel for dinner, our usual pasta. Tomorrow we would finally be going home.

Posted in Norway | 1 Comment

Finse

August 24, 2014

Our train arrived in Finse late in the afternoon. It was grey and gloomy and the wind was blowing heavy rain at us, so we paused under an overhang to put on rain jackets before walking the 400 meters to Finsehytte. Finse looked much like it did the last time we were there, 24 years ago. The interior of the hut looked similar, too, but they had renovated the place in 1993 and it was much newer-looking.

Train at Finse

Luckily it was Sunday, so the hut was not very full and we got our own two-bed room with a view across the lake to the glacier. It was still raining out there but our room was comfortable. And anyway the weather forecast said it was going to get better, and when we start walking the Aurlandsdalen trail it’s even supposed to be sunny!

Finsevatn in wind and rain

Dinner was at 7 pm, and it was very good as usual. But unlike other DNT huts, they served us the first two courses and just put the desserts on a table for us to help ourselves. After dinner we sat in the lounge and caught up on three days of journal-writing, and bed time was finally at 10:30 pm.

August 25, 2014

We had the whole day at Finse, and we could do as much or as little walking as we wanted. Yesterday’s rain and wind had gone away and instead we had mixed sun and cloud with only a light wind. So we decided to walk to the Blåisen, to see how far it had retreated since we were last here in 1990. Our route took us across the dam at the end of Finsevatn, and from there we walked along a rocky trail, climbing, levelling out, and then climbing again. Along the trail we saw numerous lemmings which scurried away as we approached.

Lemming

It only took about an hour and a half to reach the glacier overlook point, which was marked by a fresh pile of orange peel. From here we looked down at the glacier and decided not to descend the moraine to get any closer. So we sat for a while, having some tea and cookies and enjoying the views and watching a pair of Rough-legged Hawks circling by the cliffs. The wind was a bit nippy but when the sun came out the temperature was very nice.

Blåisen

We headed back down the trail and decided to have the rest of our lunch on the last high point of the trail. On the way down from there we noticed that the trail had been moved slightly, so that it crossed a river on a new-looking bridge. Did we have to jump across the river back in 1990? We didn’t remember doing that. Later we saw a weasel run past, and then after that, strangely, the lemmings were much more visible, staying out in the open for much longer.

Rough-legged Hawks

New bridge

Back at the hut we put our packs in our room and then went out for a short walk to see what there was to see in Finse. Basically nothing, as it happens. One train station, one hotel, and the Red Cross search and rescue headquarters. There were no shops to check out, so we headed back to the hut again, where we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. As we looked out at the lake Paul said “These big lakes never seem to have any birds on them. You’d think there would be a loon or something.”

Finsehytte

Dinner was served at 7 pm again, and tonight we were assigned to particular tables. Dinner started with cream of celery soup, followed by grilled salmon with potatoes and carrots. The salmon was cooked perfectly, which was a surprise given the number of pieces they prepared. Once we were finished dessert we went into the lounge to drink our tea and coffee. It had clouded over in the late afternoon, but so far there was no rain so once we finished our drinks we got our coats and went out. As soon as we stepped outside the rain began, so we retreated back inside, but not before we noticed a bird swimming on the lake—which turned out to be an Arctic Loon!

Rainbow over Finsevatn

From the window in our room we could see a lovely rainbow at the western end of the lake. We had opened the windows to take some photos, but that caused a bit of a problem because we couldn’t figure out how to close them. We finally managed with a bit of pulling and lifting at the same time.

Posted in Norway | 1 Comment

Kongsberg

August 20, 2014

There was not so much rain this morning. But we were leaving Lillehammer today, so after breakfast we checked out and went downstairs to the train station. Staying upstairs from the station does have its advantages! Our train to Oslo departed at 10:10 am and followed along the shore of Lake Mjosa almost to Eidsvoll before we started travelling through farming country. It was a very scenic trip, especially as the sun was shining.

Lillehammer station

Upon reaching Oslo Central station we bought our tickets to Kongsberg and sat on platform 8 for 35 minutes, buying a chocolate bar from a vending machine to serve as lunch. Our next train left on time as well and by about 2:30 pm we were in the station at Kongsberg, wondering where to go. But our Lonely Planet book had a small map of the city, and amazingly we were able to navigate our way to the youth hostel, which was only about a kilometer away on the other side of the river.

Art installation

Our reservation was in the hostel’s computer, so we checked in and got our room. This hostel was quite a modern one so we had our own bathroom and quite a bit of space. We dumped our packs and then headed out to look around and do some food shopping. We stopped at the tourist information place to pick up some brochures and then carried on to the Kiwi grocery store to pick up supplies for the next two days. Back at the hostel we labelled our food and found space in the fridge to store some of it. We were both hungry because of the inadequate lunch, but we decided to hold off making dinner until 5 pm. The kitchen was quite small, but luckily we had it to ourselves.

At 7 pm we went out to meet Kjell and Hanne, who are Rosemary’s new-found half-nephew and his daughter. And there they were, waiting for us in the lobby. We sat for a while in the lobby chatting away and looking at old photos, including some of Nordis, who was Kjell’s mother and Rosemary’s previously unknown half-sister. We hit it off right away and it was as if we had known each other our whole lives. After a while we went out to a restaurant for dessert and coffee or hot chocolate. What a great evening we had!

August 21, 2014

This morning we didn’t need to make breakfast because it was included in our room price. The buffet was a good mix of food and even included batter for waffles. Neither of us made waffles but instead had eggs and bacon, fruit, and yogurt. After breakfast we headed out for a day of research.

First we went into the Rådhus (city hall) to inquire whether they could find out where Rosemary’s father and grandfather were living in Kongsberg 100 years ago. The lady at the front desk was a bit baffled by the request but sent us upstairs to the “Geo Data” department. A very helpful man did some research but came up empty, and suggested we come back after 3 pm when one of his colleagues, who had lived in Kongsberg for a long time, would be back. He gave us some nice maps of Kongsberg and the area, and we headed out.

Kongsberg church

Kongsberg church interior

By now it was after 10 am, so the church was open. From the outside the church is a large brick building but once inside it is ornately painted and decorated. The altar is on the long wall with the baroque organ pipes above it. From the ceiling hang three very large chandeliers. We were greeted by a man who handed us laminated brochures in English which described the church and then left us on our own. Standing under the main chandelier and looking up was quite something. The organ, we found out, had been recently restored so it is now playable, and there was a concert scheduled for tonight which unfortunately we couldn’t attend. The walls and ceiling were painted a light grey-blue with detailing in cream and rust-red with gold highlights. All very beautiful.

Chandelier in Kongsberg church

After leaving the church we headed over to the museums. We paid our admissions and then looked around the mining exhibits, coin displays, and the ski museum. In the mine museum we saw the old wooden “Bergmann” statue which had been made by Rosemary’s great-grandfather and donated by her grandfather. There was a mural on one wall, an old photograph of mint employees, and one of the people was Rosemary’s great-uncle Paulus Wigant. And in the ski museum it was amazing to see all the display cabinets full of silver trophies, a few of which belonged to her father. Worth lots of money if melted down!

Bergmann

Paulus Wigant

It took us quite a while to see all the displays so when we finally finished it was lunchtime. We walked back to the hostel to eat our lunch and also to have a look at the map to see where Rosemary’s father might have lived. There were a couple of brief rain showers but soon the weather cleared up and we went out to explore some more.

Numedalslågen River in Kongsberg

This time we went back across the bridge into the main part of the town to look around the shops. Rosemary bought a Hardanger Christmas ornament kit, and Paul bought some walking socks at a good price, to replace some socks at home which had worn out. Once we had walked all around the town we headed back across the bridge to see if we could find the house Rosemary’s father had lived in. Based on vague recollections from the last time we were here, 24 years ago, we chose Bergsbakken, a short street which climbed up the hill. None of the houses there looked familiar, but then houses can change a lot over 24 years. So we gave up and headed back to City Hall to see if the man there was more successful. No luck there either, so we headed back to the hostel.

Kongsberg house

Hanne picked us up at 5 pm and we went off for more visiting. The drive to Kjell’s house didn’t take long. It was a 1960’s bungalow with a big back garden. We met his partner Frøydis, who was very friendly and welcoming. We decided to drive to Nordis’s house first and then go to the cemetery to see her grave. The view from the church at Hedenstad was very beautiful and peaceful; most of the graves are carefully tended with flowers planted in the spring and lasting through the summer. Frøydis tends Nordis’s grave, which was beautiful with bright orange marigolds. Paul had a Canadian quarter so Rosemary buried it in the small garden with the marigolds.

Nordis’s grave

After that we all went back to Kjell’s house, where we were treated to a huge spread of waffles, romme, and strawberry jam plus tea and coffee. Once again we felt at home with the new family we had only just met. Hanne drove us back to the hostel, where we carried on with our research on the internet.

Hedenstad view

Kjell had been searching on the internet for Rosemary’s father (his grandfather) as well, and found a city register from 1910. Later we tracked down that same page, which said that his family lived at “Bergsbakken 270” in that year. So our guess had actually led to the right street! But the house numbers to Bergsbakken only go up to 10 today, so 270 must refer to some other list. So it’s still a mystery, although we stayed up until nearly midnight trying to puzzle it out.

August 22, 2014

Hanne was coming to pick us up after noon, so we had the morning to look around Kongsberg. And surprisingly there was blue sky, so we checked out of the hostel and asked them to store our packs for us.

Just like yesterday we headed up Bergsbakken, confirming that there really wasn’t a house numbered 270 there. At the top of Bergsbakken there was a hiking trail which led up into the woods, with sheep in the fields on either side. Soon the trail came to a road, and just up the road was a collection of crowns which were painted on a large flat rock face. Every time a King of Norway visits Kongsberg his shield is painted on this rock, the earliest being from Christian IV in 1624.

The crowns in Håvet

From here we continued uphill on a loop trail on Storåsen, through a beautiful birch forest towards a lake which was dammed to produce electricity. Coming back along the other half of the loop took us by a viewpoint over Kongsberg. This viewpoint dated from the 1820’s when carriages would bring people up there to enjoy the view and have a bite to eat. The view today was overgrown with trees, whereas back in the 1820’s the trees had all been cut down for fuel.

View from Storåsen

Back at the hostel we collected our packs and then sat outside to eat our lunch and wait for Hanne. She arrived about 1:20 pm and then we headed off to her mountain cabin.

Posted in Norway | 2 Comments

Flåm

August 29, 2014

After a good night’s sleep we got up at 8 am and made our own breakfast. We didn’t have nearly the variety that Norwegian breakfast buffets had, but we had what we wanted. It was nice to be able to relax over breakfast, knowing that the walking was finished.

Once we had finished breakfast we walked over to the tourist information centre. There were a lot of things we could do today in the area around Flåm, but they all involved taking buses or boats. The girl at the desk gave us a helpful brochure about transportation options, and using that it took a bit of figuring but finally we decided to take the bus tour to the Stegastein Lookout. That’s a viewpoint which was built out of Scandinavian-furniture wood high above Aurland a few years ago. We had seen it on the web and decided it looked like an interesting thing to see, but we hadn’t been able to figure out how to get there. So the bus tour was just the thing.

Downtown Flåm

We bought tickets for the noon tour, and while we were waiting for that to leave we walked around Flåm, checking out the souvenir shops at the wharf and watching the ferries go in and out. The tour was scheduled to last an hour and a half, which meant half an hour to get there, half an hour at the lookout, and half an hour to return. The day was lovely with mainly blue skies and the odd white cloud, and there were only 7 people on the tour including us, which was good.

Aurland

After the bus went through Aurland it headed up the road which goes over the fjells to Lærdal. This is now the scenic route since they built the 24.5- kilometer tunnel to Lærdal back in 2000, so it doesn’t really matter that it’s only one lane wide. When we reached the viewpoint, 650 meters above the fjord, there were very few other people there. The viewpoint was built cantilevered over the cliff-edge like a diving board, and had clear glass at the far end, so it looks like you could go straight off the end. It was positioned so that you could see along the Aurlandsfjorden in both directions, and so the view was spectacular.

At end of Stegastein

Through end of Stegastein

On the way back to Aurland we met a much larger tour bus coming up the road, so our driver backed up to a slightly wider spot so that both vehicles could pass each other. About halfway down there’s another viewpoint, and our driver stopped there. From this one we could see all the way down the fjord to Flåm. We got back to Flåm at 1:30 pm, where we sat on a bench by the dock and ate our lunch.

Aurlandsfjorden

Part two of our plan for today was to visit a farm called Otternes. This didn’t require any buses; we would just walk along the foot/bike path which paralleled the road along the fjord. After walking about four kilometers along the path we had to climb about 500 meters up a very steep side road to reach the farm. The weather was still defying the forecast and it was rather hot, so we were pretty sweaty by the time we finally got there.

Boats docked at Flåm

Otternes was an old farm community on a bench above the fjord, and it was being restored to show people what life was like a few hundred years ago. After paying our admission we were given a laminated card which explained what the various buildings were. At one time there had been four families living here, and so there were a couple of dozen buildings being restored. The place resembled a small town with a footpath between the buildings acting like a main street. It was interesting to look into the different buildings, especially the houses where we saw furniture from times gone by. Before we left we bought some delicious freshly-made strawberry and blueberry ice cream, sitting outside to eat it and enjoy the fantastic view.

Otternes

It didn’t take long to walk back to Flåm, and it was cooler because it was later in the day. We saw a seal swimming in the fjord—it’s strange to realize that the fjord contains salt water even though the ocean seems so far away. Before heading back to our stabbur we stopped in at the Flåm Railway Museum, which was at the station. The museum chronicled the making of the Flåm Line, which was the main access to the fjords from Oslo. Nowadays the line is totally devoted to the tourist trade, and it seems to be doing very well serving the cruise ships which come and go daily in the summer.

Violets

After dinner we realized we would need more buns for our lunch tomorrow, but when we headed over to the Coop we found that it had closed at 8 pm. So since the rain which had been predicted hadn’t yet arrived, we walked down to the fjord for a bit before heading back. Tomorrow we’re off to Oslo for the last few days of our trip, but our train doesn’t leave until 12:20 pm so we won’t be in a rush.

August 30, 2014

When we got up this morning we looked outside to find that the predicted cloudy weather had arrived, but that didn’t matter because we would be travelling most of the day. We had breakfast, cleaned up, packed up, and headed out the door sometime after 10 am. We still had a couple of hours before train time, so Rosemary had a last look around the shops. She ended up buying a soft-shell jacket which looked quite good for skiing.

Rallarvegen and tunnels

About noon we walked over to the train and lined up to board. Most of the train was booked by tour groups, so only half of one car was available for random travellers like us. The train departed on time at 12:20 pm and we sat back to enjoy the scenic route up the hill to Myrdal. The trip took almost an hour as we wound our way upwards, climbing 886 meters and going through several tunnels including one spiral tunnel. We watched people descending the Rallarvegen, either walking or cycling. Just as it did on our trip with the kids in 1990, the train stopped at Kjosfossen and let us off to see the water nymphs dance to music. Finally we reached Myrdal, the end of the line, and found a somewhat sheltered spot in the station where we sat and ate our lunch.

Water nymph at Kjosfossen

Posted in Norway | 1 Comment

Aurlandsdalen

August 26, 2014

We had heard good predictions for today’s weather, and when we got up the lake was very calm, although it was still rather cloudy. This was good news because today was the first day of our Aurlandsdalen trek. (The route is an ancient connection between the coast and the interior, and now it’s one of Norway’s classic hikes.) So once we had had breakfast and packed our bags we set off to walk the short distance to Finse. The start of the trail was easy to find, and we crossed the tracks, went through the gate, and started uphill.

View over Finse

By now the weather was sunny with a few clouds in the sky, so it was perfect for walking. And it was warm enough for us to not need jackets. The first part of the trail went uphill fairly steeply, through lemming-infested meadows, and then it levelled out through rocky areas before going up again. This was the pattern for the morning. The views back over Finse were quite spectacular and as we climbed we could see more and more of the Hardangerjøkulen glacier.

Wobbly bridge

There was a wobbly, but apparently well-engineered, bridge crossing the upper Finseåa River, and then just before noon we reached the Klemsbu hut. So far “Klemsbu” had only been a name on the map, but it turned out to be a winter shelter which belonged to the ski association. It was locked, but it was slightly sheltered from the wind so we stopped there to sit outside and eat lunch. We met two Danes here who were walking only part of the Aurlandsdalen trail; like us they were going to Geiterygghytta, but they would be returning to Finse tomorrow.

Hardangerjøkulen view from Klemsbu

After lunch we continued on, and soon we reached the high point of the day, near the Sankt Pål summit. Once we went over the pass the scenery changed quite dramatically, very much like going over the Chilkoot Pass, and now we were walking in a much drier environment with green, brown, and grey hills. Because of this there were not as many lemmings here. We descended from the pass, crossing three or four late snow fields and several boulder fields, before reaching a lush marshy area beside a lake.

Valley near Geiterygghytta

Now we were seeing many more lemmings, including one lemming which stood its ground at the edge of the trail and hissed at us, showing its teeth. We guessed it was a mother lemming defending her den, and we ended up giving her a wide berth. We had read that female lemmings can raise four litters in a summer and these lemmings seemed to be out to break the record. As we passed the lake Rosemary saw something swimming across it. We used the telephoto lens on the camera to look, and it turned out to be a lemming! We stood and watched it as it swam across the entire lake.

Swimming lemming

From here we could see the hut, Geiterygghytta, but it still took almost an hour to reach it. We had to go to the end of the lake, cross a small river, and then walk back along the service road. The location of the hut was quite spectacular, with a lovely lake in front and several hills surrounding it which would make it a good base for day walks. We were assigned our room, “Gulsildre” (a yellow saxifrage). It looked like we were one of the first to arrive, but it isn’t busy at mid-week at this time of year.

Geiterygghytta

As we had been walking it had been getting sunnier, so we went out to sit on the deck for a while. At the hut were several chickens, rabbits, sheep, and surprisingly a young reindeer. Apparently the mother reindeer didn’t have enough milk, so he was rescued and reared by hand. He was quite tame and allowed people to pet him.

Young reindeer

Dinner was good as usual, with a pea soup for starters followed by meat loaf, potatoes, and veggies as the main course and chocolate pudding with vanilla sauce for dessert. We sat next to the Danes who we had met back at Klemsbu. They had done quite a lot of hiking in the Canadian Rockies, including several hikes which we had done. After dinner we sat in the lounge and played cards for a while. It took us a while to get used to 10-Kn-D-K-E for the face cards, and it wasn’t until we were tired of playing that we checked the deck and found that several cards were missing!

Sunset at Geiterygghytta

Afterwards we went to our room to organize our packs. We had found that the hut offers baggage service, so we decided to pay 90 NOK each for them to take our packs to Østerbø tomorrow.

August 27, 2014

The sky was mostly clear when we woke up, and outside our window there was a little bit of frost on the roof. After breakfast we checked out and left our packs by the blue van, to be delivered to Østerbø Fjellstove. This enabled us to carry only our day packs, which would be much easier on our knees.

Power lines

We left the hut at 9:10 am and headed out along the service road for a short distance before climbing up a trail, gaining elevation for quite some time until we reached the tundra. Here there were a lot of lemmings, but no reindeer that we could see. The trail undulated up and down, but it was noticeable that we were losing elevation as the morning progressed. After a couple of hours we arrived at Steinbergdalen, which was a DNT hut but which is now closed. This was a good time for lunch, so we sat on a wooden rail to eat. There was a picnic table, but it didn’t have any benches and had lots of flies around it due to all the sheep droppings.

Tundra area

From there the trail climbed back up again, but this time it started side-hilling across a steep wet slope. The route paralleled the road below and also the power lines, so we were constantly aware of them. The scenery was very beautiful but we continually had to watch where we were going, because the footing was terrible and we were always hopping over muddy patches or climbing over rocks. There was almost nowhere which was a regular trail to walk on.

Trail below the cliffs

Although it didn’t seem like we were descending, the willows beside the trail started to become larger and we started seeing birds which don’t live in the tundra. After a couple of hours we came to a Hawaiian-style waterfall cascading down over the cliff above us, and this was a good place to drink and to refill water bottles. Finally we came to a view down the valley and we could see Østerbø in the distance. Our objective was in sight so that made us feel better. Of course it still took well over an hour to reach Østerbø, including a kilometer of road at the end, but the hard part was over. We did make it in less than 8 hours so we felt good about that.

Østerbø in the distance

We checked in at the Østerbø Fjellstove, where we had a cabin reserved. We were given cabin number 9, which smelled of stale cigarette smoke. It was also bigger than what we needed, but it had been all we could find when we were planning the trip. We had arrived a bit before 5 pm and dinner was at 6:30 pm, so we had plenty of time to sort out our packs (which were waiting for us in the hall) and have much-needed showers.

Our cabin at the Fjellstove

We met the German couple who had been at Steinbergdalen with us and chatted a bit with them, asking them about the two American girls. The girls had taken quite a while yesterday to reach Geiterygghytta so we wondered how late they would arrive at Østerbø. Dinner was the usual three-course meal, and it was really good, especially after walking all day.

After dinner we walked over to look at the old cemetery where people from the area had been buried since the 19th century. On the way back to the hut we met the American girls who were just arriving, three hours later than us. We found the German couple setting up their tent in the campground so we let them know about the Americans and chatted some more with them.

August 28, 2014

Breakfast started at 8 am today, so we were over there at about 8:15 am. There was a school group staying at the Fjellstove, so the breakfast room was a bit crowded. The food selection was the usual buffet, except that they didn’t have any porridge so we had to have cereal instead. After making our lunches we headed back to our cabin to finish up packing and also to clean the cabin, to avoid being charged the cleaning fee of 350 NOK.

Lake at Østerbø

Like yesterday we decided to have our packs shipped, and today it cost 100 NOK to send a pack by bus to Vassbygdi, where the trail ended. We were out on the trail by 9:30 am and we soon encountered all of the groups we had met on yesterday’s walk. But today we met numerous other people, because it’s possible to take the bus from Vassbygdi to Østerbø and then walk the trail back to where you parked your car. This section of the Aurlandsdalen was also good because it gave distance markers counting down the kilometers to Vassbygdi.

Ruined building

The first part of the trail was good to walk on, a nice path around the lake and then through the woods. We caught up to the two American girls and chatted with them for a while before carrying on. Soon the trail went past Nesbø, which had been a rather successful farm back in the 19th century according to the sign there, and then along a rocky section which had been blasted out from under a rock overhang. It was at the three-kilometer mark that we came to a trail junction, where we had the choice of taking the low route or the high route. The weather was fantastic for walking so we decided to take the upper route, which only added about 250 meters of elevation.

Bjønnstigen view

The upper route followed paths below the cliffs, like yesterday’s trail, and the views were quite good. There was a cairn at Bjønnstigen, the high point, and apparently the National Gallery has a painting of that view back in the 19th century. So perhaps we’ll look for that when we’re back in Oslo. The descent from here was done by hanging onto a cable and clambering down some very steep steps. It took us a while to get down that, and then the rest was a very steep trail with switchbacks. Taking the upper route probably added an hour to our walking time.

Bjønnstigen descent

Once we were finally down we found a level spot and had our lunch. The trail after this was very well graded and for the most part easy to walk along. Along the trail were several signs pointing out places of historical interest. We passed a few farms which had been abandoned, and after a while we climbed up above the river to a farm called Sinjarheim. Like all the other farms it had long been abandoned, but now it’s in the process of being restored. We chatted with the guy doing the log replacement for quite some time; he said that it was a slow process but that it wasn’t for lack of money, because the Norwegians were willing to donate a lot to this kind of project.

Sinjarheim repairs

We continued on down the trail, still following the river. By now the birch trees were getting larger and our trail felt narrow as it made its way through the forest. But eventually the trail turned into a dirt road through the outskirts of Vassbygdi, and soon we found ourselves at the Vassbygdi Servicebygg. This was a convenience store which had toilets and showers out back, and it was where our bus to Flåm would stop. And as we expected, there were our packs leaning against the front of the building. After we plunked ourselves down on one of the picnic tables outside, the first thing we did was to buy ice creams to eat along with our tea and the rest of our lunch.

Almost there!

It was just after 4 pm, and if today had been Friday then there would have been a bus scheduled to leave at 4:25 pm. (Actually only if today had been a Friday between September 12 and 26… the Norwegian bus schedules sometimes overwhelmed us with their complexity.) But since it was Thursday, the next bus wasn’t until 7 pm. After about half an hour the German couple arrived, and soon the idea of taking a taxi came up. Luckily for us there was a local man there who offered to call a taxi for us. When we found out that the fare would be 400 to 500 NOK we all decided that sounded pretty good when divided by two.

The Stabbur

The taxi was there in about 10 minutes and it took us about half an hour to get to Flåm and cost us 220 NOK. That was good because we saved about an hour and a half of waiting for the bus. We signed in to the hostel and found that we had been given a little house called “The Stabbur” for the two nights. A stabbur is a small farm building used to store animal food, but our stabbur had been redecorated and was a very nice place, even with its own kitchen. This was a great deal!

Our neighbours

We changed our clothes and then went over to the grocery store to stock up on food. Right next door to us was a small farm with two designer pigs and a sign opposing cruise ships in Flåm. We bought the usual stuff at the Coop and then went back to make dinner. We had just finished our dinner when we saw the bus arriving from Vassbygdi, so taking the taxi had definitely been the right decision. After dinner we walked down to the town centre by the docks and looked around the very large souvenir shop, but nothing really interested us. But the hike was finished and tomorrow we would be tourists again.

Posted in Norway | 1 Comment

Geilo

August 22, 2014

Hanne arrived at about 1:20 pm to pick us up from the hostel, and then we headed to the barnehage (kindergarten) to pick up her younger son Andreas. His school is located next to Birger Ruud’s ski cabin so each of the different age levels were in groups named after the Ruud brothers. We then carried on to Hanne’s house to pick up things to be taken to the mountain cabin. There we met her partner Haakon and her older son Christian, who were off to their other cabin by the sea, and then we were off to the cabin.

Hanne and Andreas

The route took us up through the Numedalen valley, which was very beautiful, and along the way Hanne showed us various points of interest. We stopped at Rødberg to stock up with groceries, which took about half an hour; the two of us went for a walk around the village while Hanne and Andreas did the shopping. The rest of the journey had us climbing and switchbacking up the road until we reached the turnoff to the Vasstulan cabin area. We were quite surprised at the number of cabins—around the ski area there were several subdivisions containing a few hundred cabins. They were fairly close together, but with the grass roofs you didn’t really notice that.

Hanne’s cabin

Through the front door took us into a very beautiful log cabin. The kitchen was very modern with all the amenities you might want; the main sitting area had a long dining table on one side, and the other side contained two long leather couches. The view through the large windows looked over the cabins below to the valley and across to the ski area. We unpacked the nine or ten bags of groceries from the car and then put our packs into one of the bedrooms.

Kjell

Andreas all the while was having a great time being reunited with toys that he last played with in the winter. Hanne set about making dinner, and at 5 pm we had a “middag” of hot dogs. We had thought of going for a walk, but the rain was coming down quite heavily so we contented ourselves with sitting by the fire. Kjell and Frøydis arrived about 7 pm, and we had dinner. Hanne had made chicken wrapped with bacon along with roast potatoes and veggies, and Kjell had brought a bottle of red wine from Lebanon which went very well with our meal.

August 23, 2014

We woke up to see the valley filled with clouds, which meant it wasn’t raining. After breakfast we headed out for a walk. It took a while to get everyone organized, but eventually we went out the front door and up the road to where the trail started. There were a lot of small trails up on the fjell which went in all directions, but the main trails were quite obvious and some of them were marked with the familiar red T symbol.

On the trail

Once on the trail we continued towards Nordis’s cabin. Andreas liked to run—we almost never saw him walk—but mostly Hanne carried him in a backpack. The most amazing thing about the area was the silence; no cars or airplanes could be heard so it was very still. It was about 3 kilometers to Nordis’s cabin, which was close to the nearby main road. It hadn’t been changed since the 1960’s, so it still had no electricity and no running water, so it was very much like our mountain cabin. Kjell and Hanne had fond memories of staying there in the old days, but it seemed like those days were past now. It was very strange and very sad sitting in the cabin and realizing Nordis was no longer alive and that we could never meet.

Nordis’s cabin

After we locked up the cabin we walked along the road a bit, and then headed up to a high point on the ridge which overlooked the area. Frøydis went back to the cabin instead, and we could look down and see her walking along the road. From the high point the view was very good, looking north over the fjell and south over the downhill ski area. We had been lucky with the weather and hadn’t had any heavy downpours while walking.

Kjell and Frøydis

Back at the cabin we had hot dogs for middag again, before settling down to do not much for the rest of the afternoon. Kjell and Frøydis were returning to Kongsberg so they stayed and chatted for a while before leaving.

Cabin community

We were invited out to dinner tonight, to the cabin of Hanne’s mother Jorunn and her stepfather Eber. It was just next door, but even so we were very wet after walking there in the pouring rain. Their cabin was very beautiful as well; it consisted of an older section which was made of logs and a newer section which was made of staves. Both sides had a kitchen so when their children came for Christmas there would be plenty of room for everyone.

Kjell and Hanne

We had dinner in the newer section, which also had a great view of the valley. We had meatballs, cabbage cheese soup, and potatoes for the main course. We were firmly told that Norwegian meatballs and Swedish meatballs were very different, but all we could tell was that the Norwegian meatballs were larger. They had come across some cloudberries (moltebær in Norwegian) while out walking, so we had those in crème fraîche for dessert. The evening was very enjoyable as we sat around the table and chatted. Andreas had a great time playing with Kira, their dog, and also washing up the dishes with their high-tech tap.

After dinner we got to talking about Jorunn’s collection of 1960’s Santas, and the posters that they had on their wall, mainly featuring old-fashioned cigarette ads. As we left Rosemary noticed a painting of two trolls, which Jorunn had done, and commented how much she liked it. Before we knew it Eber was unscrewing it from the door it was attached to and insisting that she take it! It took a few minutes for her to accept it, and everybody was pleased when she did.

August 24, 2014

Today was moving-on day, so we packed our bags before having bacon and eggs and bread for breakfast. The weather was quite good so we and Hanne and Andreas went out for another walk in the fjell. This time we went a bit to the east, where there is a group of cabins which belong to the Crown Prince of Norway. There was a fence around them but no intrusive security system, and apparently the members of the royal family are often encountered walking and skiing in the area.

Crown Prince’s cabin

By now Andreas was getting tired so he and Hanne went back to the cabin while the two of us carried on up to a nearby high point. This place was called “Orange Top” because in winter families ski up there and stop to eat their oranges. We enjoyed the view for a short while and then headed back to the cabin for lunch, flushing a Rock Ptarmigan from under a bush beside the trail on the way. Hanne had made a large omelet and a salmon salad so again we ate very well.

View from “Orange Top”

Today we were planning to take the train from Geilo to Finse to start the next part of our trip, and Hanne very kindly offered to drive us up to Geilo, which took about half an hour. We had drinks at the big old hotel, Dr. Holms, because there was still a while before our train to Finse was due to leave. Hanne had a latte and we had warm chocolate, which came in tall glasses with a straw. Once we were done and train time wasn’t too far away, Hanne drove us over to the train station where we said our goodbyes before going into the station.

In the train station we tried to buy our tickets, but the machine said “Sold Out”! We had forgotten that it was Sunday and lots of weekenders would be going home. Luckily for us there was a lady in the ticket booth who sold us standing-room tickets. This was fine for us because our trip would take only about 40 minutes. The train arrived about 25 minutes late and we all piled on. We managed to get our packs onto the luggage rack and then stood beside them for the journey. It actually took more than 40 minutes because the train had to stop quite abruptly and toot the horn to shoo a flock of sheep off the tracks. But finally we were up to speed and shortly thereafter arrived in Finse.

Posted in Norway | 1 Comment

Lillehammer

August 16, 2014

Our cyclists came back at about 3:30 am, but they were quiet as they had promised. About 8 am we got up and quietly packed up and left them sleeping. We sat in the lobby and ate our breakfast—hard boiled eggs left over from yesterday’s lunch and some cookies we had bought in a bakery on Storgata yesterday. Our train was scheduled to leave at 10:34 am so we had plenty of time.

It turned out that they were working on the train tracks, so instead of taking the train we would be bussed to Lillehammer. This must happen frequently because the system was very organized. We were a bit unhappy about that, because train travel is somehow nicer than bus travel, but at least our bus went direct to Lillehammer. The route was a bit slow because the road workers were in the midst of a huge construction project on the E6. They were in the process of building massive tunnels, at least four of them as far as we could see.

Lillehammer hostel

Upon arrival we didn’t have to look far for the hostel because it was located directly above the skysstasjon. Our room had an excellent view over the bus station, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds because Oppland Trafikk seemed to have only brand-new buses. When we had originally planned our trip we had booked the hostel in Oslo before meeting Rosemary’s relatives, because the hostel in Kongsberg was fully booked. That was inconvenient for everybody, but we had found out that the Kongsberg hostel now had availability on the days we wanted. So we booked that, un-booked Oslo, and e-mailed Hanne and Kjell to let them know about the change in plans.

Sigrid Undset

It was now mid-afternoon, and our next task was to buy groceries for the next few days. We bought most of them at the Rema 1000, which wasn’t far away, and then bought veggies from the market stall which was set up in the central square. We headed back to the hostel to unload our purchases and then went out for a walk. When we had left Oslo this morning it had been raining, but now we had sunshine and it was very pleasant. As today was Saturday, the shops were all closing at 4 pm, so we went into a few to look at outdoor clothing before walking along Storgata to a park.

Birkebeiner

Back at the hostel we went down to the kitchen to make dinner. It was well-stocked with pots, plates, and utensils and we had the place to ourselves so making dinner was quite simple. The kitchen even had a dishwasher, but we didn’t know how to use it or even whether we should use it, so we washed our own dishes in the sink.

August 17, 2014

When we looked out this morning the rain was pouring down on the bus station and the clouds were down over the mountains, so we decided it was to be a laundry and museum day. We inquired about a laundry room and found that the hostel did have one, behind the unmarked door next to room 29. But the machine was already full of somebody else’s stuff. So we “borrowed” some towels from the room-cleaner’s cart and rinsed out various articles of clothing in our sink. We strung up our clothes line to hang most of them and used the coat hangers for the shirts.

Pink tractor

By the time this was all done it was almost noon, so we had lunch at the hostel. After lunch the rain had finally stopped so we walked up to the Lillehammer Kunstmuseum. The main exhibit there was “From Dahl to Munch”, a collection of paintings spanning about a century of Norwegian art. The earlier works, by Johan C. Dahl and other artists, were in the Romantic style and were quite amazing. Many of them depicted natural scenes with or without people, and these appealed to us quite a bit. At the other end of the century were several works by Edvard Munch, including “Portrait of Ida Roche” which was a tall painting of a woman dressed in a beautiful pink suit.

In another part of the gallery was a large and varied exhibition of photographs, mostly by American photographers including Ansel Adams. They were an interesting bunch but mostly they made us reflect on how digital photography has totally changed the art form.

Lake Mjosa view

By the time we were finished the weather was still okay so we walked around town a bit, looking for a place to do a little food shopping. We were a little surprised to find that almost everything was closed because it was Sunday. So we had to settle for the Norwegian equivalent of Kit-Kat bars from a convenience store.

Mjosa close-up

About 4:30 pm the sun came out and we actually saw blue sky, so we decided to walk down to the lake. The trail along the Mesna River was not far from us, so we headed down that, past the old woolen mill which was now closed. Before we reached the bottom, though, we had to climb up to a road and follow some side streets down the hill. Once down we followed the trail to the lakeshore and along for quite a while. However there wasn’t much to see along the shore, only a few people camping and picnicking. There was a nature reserve but perhaps the birds had already flown south. So when we reached the city waterworks we turned around and headed back.

Manhole cover

Just before we reached the river mouth we could see a rain squall heading our way so we hoped we would make it back before it hit us. Luck was not on our side, though, so by the time we had worked our way through the parking lots of the big-box stores and found the trail we were rather wet. Back at the hostel it was dinner time, so we had our usual dinner. While we were eating it there was a thunder and lightning storm so we were very glad to be inside.

The laundry we had washed this morning was mostly dry, so we washed a few more things, figuring they would dry quite nicely overnight. We hoped for better weather tomorrow because we would like to visit the open-air Maihaugen museum and do some walking in the local hills.

August 18, 2014

We woke up to find rain pelting down, so we did a bit more laundry and also some shopping. Rosemary bought a cross-stitch pattern which was a map of Norway featuring many of the places we had been and the things we had seen. By the time we finished our shopping it was nearly noon, so we went back to the hostel for lunch. We can tell that we’re not the only ones using the kitchen, but we’ve pretty much had the place to ourselves.

Stave church

After lunch the rain had stopped and we could actually see some blue sky. Our plan was to spend the afternoon at Maihaugen, which was a large open-air museum at the edge of town. There are several such museums in Norway but Maihaugen is the largest and probably oldest, having been founded by local dentist Anders Sandvig over a hundred years ago. We bought a combination ticket which allowed us to go to other museums in the area, so along with the 25% discount coupon we had picked up at the Tourist Information we saved quite a bit of money.

Maihaugen in the rain

Sandvig had started Maihaugen as a private collection in the early 1900’s so that a history of architecture in Norway would remain intact. Most of the buildings were farming-related, because that was the primary land use for most of the area’s history. The oldest buildings dated back to the 1400’s and they were all pretty well preserved. There were very few repairs with modern wood to be seen. There was also a stave church and some more recent buildings from 19th-century towns and 20th-century residential areas, many of which had been moved from Gardermoen when the new airport was built there. It was quite odd to see houses from the 1950’s and 1980’s and compare them to our own recollections.

Fishermen’s huts

There were also a few interpreters who were ready to explain things to us, and also some farm animals. In one area was a family of goats with the large male looking exactly like the goats in the Three Billy Goats Gruff. And there were a few buildings with two-minute audio recordings for us to listen to. The whole site took us over three hours to cover, including the postal museum which we just skimmed through because it was only in Norwegian. All in all it was a very worthwhile visit and a great way to spend our afternoon.

Billy goat

By the time we got back to the hostel it was 5 pm, so we headed down to what we were now calling our “private kitchen” for dinner. We had pasta yet again for dinner because it was the easiest to prepare.

August 19, 2014

As usual when we woke up this morning it was raining, but after we had breakfast the rain had let up and the clouds were starting to clear. So we got organized and walked up the hill to Bjerkebæk, which is the museum and home of Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset. On display in the museum were her Nobel Prize medal and also the Order of St. Olav medal which she received from King Haakon 7 for her work for occupied Norway and Jewish rights. There were also copies of her books translated into all kinds of languages.

Bjerkebæk houses

Normally the tour of the house is given in Norwegian, but since the museum wasn’t busy the lady gave us the tour in English. The house was actually two houses, a modern building (early 20th century) with a large 17th-century house attached to it. The latter had been moved from somewhere up the valley; because of the success of Kristin Lavransdatter, Undset had enough money to do that and to have an indoor bathroom installed. Both houses were preserved to look pretty much the same as when she lived there. The tour was done very well and we both enjoyed ourselves. And really if you only look at the garden and the outside of the house, they tell you very little about the owner, so taking the tour is really mandatory if you visit the museum.

Sigrid Undset’s meeting room

For lunch we walked down the hill to the hostel, and then we marched back up the hill again to visit the other museum we had already paid for, the Norwegian Olympic Museum. It was now 20 years since the Olympics had been here in Lillehammer, but there were still signs of them. The museum was in the big building which was probably the ice-hockey arena for the Olympics.

Olympic mascot

This museum was very interesting because it showed the history of the Olympics from the first games in Greece up until modern times, ending with the London 2012 Olympics (and no doubt a section for Sochi was already under construction). Each display gave a brief summary of the Olympiad in question, with pictures of its heroes. (Or should we say “prominent figures”, such as Ben Johnson in Seoul?) Besides that there were samples of equipment used and clothing worn, such as Birger Ruud’s ski boots from the 1930’s.

Mailbox with trolls

Upstairs was a hall of Norwegian sports heroes, which wasn’t that interesting to us. But we wandered around the arena and watched some young people doing dry-land training for ski jumping. Outside the museum we walked up the hill to see the ski jumps at a closer distance. Unfortunately nobody was training on the jumps, but we noticed people climbing stairs between the jumps so we headed over to begin the climb of 936 stairs. At the top of the 90-meter jump you could look down the take-off hill and our thought was that we wouldn’t even want to ski down that hill, let alone land on it from a height. And that was only the small hill!

90-meter jump

At the top we had some options to get us down. We could walk back down the steps, pay for a chair-lift ride, or follow the “Lillehammer” sign pointing away down a trail. We opted for the latter, which led us down a ski trail and then through the woods to the Mesna River, which we followed back into town. There were some interpretive signs to read (this was the Culture Trail which we had followed down to the lake some days ago) and also some lovely waterfalls.

Mesna River

Back in town we had another look at the sporting goods stores, but the sale merchandise didn’t come in the right size. So we headed back to the hostel, arriving in the nick of time because the heavens opened and the rain poured down. We bought our train tickets for tomorrow morning, and then went in for dinner. Just as we sat down to eat dinner, some other people came into the kitchen to make their meal, which was a first for us. After cleaning up we headed back to our room to organize our stuff for tomorrow.

Posted in Norway | 1 Comment