World Trip HomePost Ten

Post Ten - Norwegian Fjords

Borgund Stave Church, West of OsloBorgund Stave Church, West of Oslo

Scott's love of churches put four famous stave churches on our itinerary. They're pretty rare these days, due to remodels, general deterioration, fire, and the expense of preservation. These churches were most impressive on the outside, decorated with ancient carvings, elaborate finials, and impressive craftsmanship. The interiors were relatively simple, the walls sometimes painted with murals, the furnishings made of carved wood.

As we stepped out of the church, people in colorful folk costumes began to congregate outside, including women carrying bouquets. A wedding was about to take place! Mom and I hung around shamelessly for 20 extra minutes, waiting until the bride arrived in her bright red traditional costume, her corn-silk hair wreathed in baby's breath.


We laughed at ourselves as we drove along this fjord, craning our necks to see the beauty around us. This fjord was mentioned as a "small side fjord" in our guidebook, and yet we kept stopping to snap pictures. What would the famed Sognefjord look like?

The geology is exposed, apparent, just like in the Nevada's Basin and Range region, or the Columbia River basin. When you see the snout of a receding glacier glistening at the end of a fjord, it's clear that this river of ice obviously cut the chasm before you.

Quiet ContemplationQuiet Contemplation on the Sorfjord

Before dinner at the Ullensvang Gjesteheim, we walked down onto the dock and watched the afternoon slip away, willing the fresh air to give us good appetite. This bed and breakfast was touted as an out-of-the-way treat by our guidebook, and so far it hadn't disappointed us. The house was decorated in beautiful Norwegian folk designs, with richly carved wooden furniture, checked curtains, a spacious sitting room for guests, and comfortable, neat rooms. The owner, a hulking, gruff, red-haired lumberjack of a man, checked us in, and invited us to have dinner downstairs.

The smells from the basement dining room lured us down the staircase, where culinary diplomas and certificates lined the walls. in the dining room, dozens of commemorative plates from culinary competitions and special events lined the walls. Then the red-haired giant appeared again, this time in full chef's togs, to take our orders. The owner actually was a highly skilled chef who had decided to step out of the culinary rat race and open a bed and breakfast with his wife on a fjord.

Sitting in that warm, cheerful dining room, eating tender, flaky salmon in cream sauce washed down with bitter Norwegian beer, we silently thanked him and his wife for Ullensvang Gjesteheim.

Boat on the WaterBoat on the Water

The fjords can be eerily still. No tides ruffle the surface of the water, and when there's no wind, the water mirrors the sky.

Any movement on the water is a stark contrast. I can still feel the stillness being broken when this fisherman motored past us down the fjord. His engine blared, the sound cutting the stillness like a knife. As he drove away, the slice of his wake rippled silently outwards to the fjord's shorelines.

Dad with the A-ClassDad with the A-Class

I'm amazed that Mercedes doesn't sell their A-Class (nickname: "The Egg") in the United States. It gets excellent gas mileage, the car sat all four of us comfortably with bags in the back, and the ride was surprisingly quiet for such a small vehicle. The car also has that sturdy, Mercedes build and includes all the safety features available. Plus, it's affordable. It was a pleasure driving it around for a month.

Mom, Dad, and I in BalestrandMom, Dad, and I in Balestrand

If the name sounds English, that's because it is. Many Brits settled in Norway at the end of the 19th century, and Balestrand is one of many small towns from that era skirting the Sognefjord with its neat, wooden buildings. A wealthy Englishwoman adopted it as her home and built a sprawling Victorian hotel on the water. We were headed to the hotel's sitting room for a glass of wine when we stopped on the pier to watch an amazing rainbow.

After the RainAfter the Rain

You almost could feel warmth from this rainbow; it was that bright. I've only seen one other rainbow this intense, when Scott and I were bicycling up the Loch Ness in Scotland six years ago on a grey, drizzly day like this. This one glowed for ten minutes, briefly reflected a pale twin on the dark clouds behind it, and then finally faded into the emerging sunlight.

Which Way is Up?Which Way is Up?

It was as tranquil as it looks.

Next Up: Fjords to Finland

Copyright 2001
Scott & Karen Semyan