Quaint and Quainter
“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”
Those words were written by Emily Dickinson, the acclaimed American poet, in a letter to Dr. and Mrs. J.G. Holland in 1864. Ponder them as you enjoy the tireless summer sun that refuses to yield to the night. Thankfully your journey along this sculpted Norwegian coast takes place when last November is a distant memory and the next is far from your present thoughts. The moment for discovery is now.
A Sight To Please Norse Gods
As the midnight sun sweeps higher in the sky, a thousand photo opportunities will come and go, slipping silently past the ship's bow. All around, the waters are still and smooth like a blue-grey satin sheet ... the only ripples are those trailing from the ship's white stern. Just beyond the reach of your floating vantage point, is a sheer cliff of jagged rocks capped in a light dusting of winter snow. Beyond, a ribbon of waterfalls cascades past hand-tilled fields like a summer garland in a young girl's hair. A blast of the ship's whistle echoes between the chiseled overhangs announcing your arrival in some of Norway's most spectacular scenery.
A Snowflake Falls
Fjords, sometimes spelled fyords or fiords, are "narrow, generally deep inlets from the sea between high cliffs or steep slopes", or so defines Webster's Dictionary. It's such a lackluster description for one of Mother Nature's most impressive accomplishments that Mr. Webster should be chastised!
Fjords are waterways created, geologists say, by receding glaciers that carved deep troughs that were then compacted under the massive weight of the retreating ice. These glaciated valleys were drowned by the incoming sea that surged inland during the final days of the Ice Age. Oddly enough, the far end of the fjord is often deeper than it is at its inlet.
Geirangerfjord, which comes from the Old Norse words geirr (spear) and anger (fjord), enjoys the luxury of ice-free, year-round navigation due to the fact that the "warm" waters of the Gulf Stream are carried along on the Norway Current. "Warm" is a relative term, by the way, and one might think twice before swimming in these waters! It is one of the smallest fjords and is actually a serpentine-shaped appendage of the Storfjord. Nine miles long, over 800 feet deep, some 700,000 visitors come to take in its majesty every year.
The Village of Geiranger
Tiny Geiranger is a famous little village perched at the end of this magnificent fjord. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s so glorious that most travelers want to view it from above. From the Dalsnibba Observation Point, 5000 feet up, the spectacular setting is breathtaking. Geirangerfjord, in all its splendor, lies sprawling at their feet. Photography buffs have been known to shoot till their fingers cramped, catching the ever-changing landscape as clouds drift past casting a grayish shadow on the green-blue waters.
But the classic photos of Geirangerfjord are shot from a spot called Flydalsjuvet, or Flydal Gorge. This dramatic rock precipice, one of Norway's most photographed vistas, lures visitors out to witness the world below. From here you view all of Norway's natural spectacle--frothy white waterfalls, a wall of endless green, the tiny village of Geiranger, plus your ship at anchor below.
Another important lookout point is Eagle's Bend, up a narrow mountain road that twists to conquer the steep terrain in eleven hairpin turns with the uppermost bend known as Eagle's Bend. Roads can be crowded so independent travel to these spots need to be timed carefully.
It’s On to Oye, Is It?
Oye is a tiny little hamlet of 1500 people, give or take. Of course, that number swells in summertime with visitors who are there to take in its one important landmark, Hotel Union Oye. Dating back to 1891, it sits beside the sculpted Jhørundfjord with the Sunnmøsalpene peaks forming the backdrop. Its rooms are named for the members of royalty and aristocracy whose visits are memorialized in the hotel guestbook including Norway’s Queen Maud and King Haakon VII, Netherlands’ Queen Wilhelmina, Germany’s Emperor Wilhelm II, even Karen Blixen who wrote “Out Of Africa”.
If you wish to take all this in from sea level rather than from some lofty height, simply buy a picnic of local sausages, smoked salmon, hot-from-the-oven bread with fresh butter, mountain cloudberries, a Norwegian waffle with jam and sour cream, the peanut-butter-like brown goat cheese, and a chilled pils beer. Find a bench, stare at the sky, and celebrate your day in Norway's little bit of heaven. Remember to take along a warm jacket for the day can turn rather cool in a heartbeat. You are, please recall, in the land of the mighty Vikings!