- Katherine Sirvio
Chill at Nærøyfjord
Andy and I just came back from an amazing adventure in Scandinavia. I say Scandinavia because as always we had no plans and didn't know where we would end up. We flew into Copenhagen, Denmark (or should I say Kobenhavn). We had a rental car planned and nothing else. The night before we flew, Andy had been in touch with very dear family friends - Ninni, Mikka, and Helmi from Helsinki, Finland. Ninni and Mikka are accomplished musicians and their daughter Helmi would be in tow as they played at a small venue in Salo Finland. So we decided that had to be in our future. In order to get to Finland, we had to leave Denmark and cross over Sweden. This is how we started our journey that took us in a large circle around Scandinavia from Denmark, to Sweden, to Finland, back to Sweden, to Norway and finally back to Denmark. So we had an adventure in Scandinavia.
Unfortunately, we only had time to visit a few places and touch on the countries by road tripping and crossing water on large cruise/ferry ships. The ships became a great way to travel as you drove the car onto the boat and then went to your state room and slept while making good travel time. The boats also had wonderful restaurants, live entertainment and plenty to do, just like a regular cruise ship.
Anyway, after visits elsewhere, we had made our way to the fjords of Norway and did not want to miss out on the two that have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The first one we came to was the Geirangerfjord. We entered via the north and wandered up and down switch back mountains across rugged terrain and at times in the glacial mountains that surround the fjord. It was stunning. This is one of those times that a picture just does not do it justice. There is no way to communicate how dwarfed you feel by the encompassing mountains as you sit in the bottom of the valley in a waterway that is created by ocean and snow capped mountain run off. It is awe inspiring and breathtaking.
We were fortunate enough to find a lovely hotel called the Grande on Booking.com and get a waterfront room with a balcony. The Grande is nestled into the mountainside with a stunning view of the water, mountains and we counted 5 waterfalls from the balcony. After a beautiful dinner at the hotel, we sat on the balcony watching the clouds roll in and drinking wine for a good portion of the evening. During the summer, this is the land of the midnight sun, so it did not get dark until very late. We enjoyed every minute of daylight that was afforded to us. As we took this all in and ventured out to the water for an evening stroll, we realized we could rent a small boat and discover the fjords first hand in the smallest way possible, by ourselves. So the next day we rented a small boat with a 20hp motor and took off to see the waterfalls up close and personal. Andy was the captain and I was the passenger. On our adventure, we saw Porpoises in the water which was very exciting to me as an animal lover. Though we did see people swimming and skiing in the water, which at times was like glass, there was no chance I would be entering - the snow cap melt and air temperature kept me in layers of clothing for my time in the fjords.
After such a lovely time in Geirangerfjord, we decided to go to the next UNESCO fjord called Nærøyfjord. We wanted to spend more time here and get to know a small town and what it would be like to live in a place like this. We rented a cabin on the water - literally, the balcony was over the water and spent a few days in Aurland. This is part of the fjords in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. The cabin seemed to be new and that suited us fine. We had the wonderful balcony, views of the fjord, mountains and many waterfalls again. The kitchen had a dining table and there was a small sitting area. The bedroom and bathroom round out the cabin with a loft above for an additional sleeping area. We wandered through the neighborhoods, ambled over to the grocery store, and window shopped in the little town. It was delightful.
Heading up the mountain we quickly came to a portion of the road that was one lane with severe switchbacks that were a little hair raising at times. On several occasions, we had to back the car up to let a larger car or camper van pass us. We saw enormous buses with tour loads of people on these roads and counted our blessings that we didn't run into one of them at an inopportune time. Close to the top of the mountain was a breath taking outlook over the fjord. They had built a boardwalk out towards the water to give an unobstructed view. We had seen many pictures of this on the internet, now we know why, it was worth the trip. A quick journey further up the mountain and you were in the snow capped rugged countryside home to sheep and small lakes. We tossed rocks into the perfectly still water and watched the ripples continue for what seemed to be hours. The landscape was so vastly different from the small town we were staying in, it felt like you were far away, but we were only a few minutes drive back.
The next morning, Andy showered and I made breakfast. What a wonderful way to start the day with breakfast on the balcony overlooking the mountains and water. Andy and I made a deal, he would clean up the dishes while I took a shower. In less than two minutes in the shower, I had a surprise. The water had turned very cold, it was unlike anything I had felt before. I shouted out to Andy in a panic that he had to stop doing the dishes, it was affecting my hot water. He told me he had finished already. Suddenly the water felt like the snow capped run off from the mountains. We determined that the hot water tank must be empty. I was fully soaped up from head to toe - I was committed and freezing. I turned the water off and sat down on the shower floor. Andy came to see this pitiful site and asked what I was doing. I told him waiting for the hot water. He laughed and told me to tough it out and just finish the shower. The goose bumps were evident all over my body and I said 'no way' as I shivered in the bottom of the shower. I can only imagine how silly I looked and wondered exactly how long would it take to heat the water. Andy came to my rescue so I didn't have to wait. The stove was an incredibly impressive one, it heated a pot of water in just a minute or two. Andy brought me a series of pots filled with water and I finished my shower that way. We both laughed and I had a new appreciation for exactly how cold the water outside must be, as well as, not taking for granted the wonderful hot showers I enjoy.
It was so pleasant to bask in the sublime surroundings of the fjord-lands in Norway and we had such a wonderful time filled with adventure in the other countries we visited as well. I can only suggest that you take the time to explore Scandinavia, but be mindful of how long your shower is.
A Kayak tour dwarfed by the mountains
The look out at Stegastein over Aurlandsfjord