Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Western Fjords

One week in and our greatest impression of Norway so far is the landscape and the light: high and sheer snow-topped cliffs, rising vertically out of deep clear fjords, with small villages and isolated buildings perched at the water’s edge. Above it all are such enormous skies, and daylight until almost midnight. It’s been amazing and just keeps getting ever more beautiful as we head further north.

We started in Bergen in the Western fjords, a bustling and hilly coastal city (think quaint wooden shops and houses, which (just) avoids being too twee thanks to a bustling little harbour complete with fish market). Exhausted from our final weeks in London we didn’t do much our first day, but spent the second climbing one of the seven mountains visible from the town and walking back to town across the hills, with stunning views into the mountains and out to see.

Next stop was Flam, a tiny village at the head of a fjord. Its major attraction is a railway which descends 900m over 20km, and the village apparently draws over 500,000 a tourists – mostly day-trippers – a year. There were certainly a lot when we were there but as there isn’t a lot in the village and the weather wasn’t great most of the ones we saw seemed to be hanging slightly aimlessly around the gift shops outside the train station, where we joined them on our second day as the persistent heavy rain made us abandon the walk we’d planned.

Balestrand – a tiny village at the confluence of three fjords - was even more beautiful than Flam and much quieter, with a great campsite sloping down to the fjord. Again we headed for the hills, climbing a 1000m mountain above the village with views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks and clear blue fjords below, before going for a refreshing if rather chilly swim!

So overall we’ve had a fairly quiet and wholesome start to our trip, with lots of walking and fresh air and just one beer (at nearly £10 a pint this first month is set to be pretty much alcohol free) and are feeling well rested and inspired by the outdoorsyness of Norway – walking or off road running seems to be the national pastime and Norweigans walk faster than anyone we’ve ever seen before (we’ve had several embarrassing moments being overtaken by 10 year olds out on walks..!)

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