The following are photographs and commentary from our trip, including a series of images of the Norwegian section of the EuroVelo, a network of popular bicycling routes throughout Europe.
|ONE OF MANY BEAUTIFUL FJORDS|
A day in Sognefjorden and the fishing village of Flam
"Do you live in Flam?" I asked the woman sitting next to me on the train, as we started our ascent to Myrdal. I figured she must be local since she carried a lunch sack, and while the rest of us stared in awe at the amazing scenery around us, she seemed rather bored. She said she lived in Flam but worked on top at Myrdal, where she rented bicycles to tourists, who preferred descending by bike rather than the train. That's when I wished I'd researched more extensively on the train ride before buying our tickets in advance because biking down a mountain road surrounded by gorgeous alpine scenery seemed more appealing to me than returning by train. The Flamsbana Railway, an engineering wonder, is one of the steepest train lines in the world, where almost 80% of the journey is at a gradient of 5.5%, taking you from ocean level at the end of Sognefjord in Flam to the scenic mountain top called Myrdal. The train travels through twenty tunnels, and there are stunning waterfalls and multiple viewpoints.
|FLAMSBANA RAILWAY, A 20KM LONG ENGINEERING WONDER, STOPS IN MYRDAL|
|A VIEW OF THE TRAIN FROM THE TRAIN|
|SOGNEFJORDEN FROM STEGASTEIN VIEWPOINT, FLAM|
Surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords, Bergen is a charming city, well known as a major northern outpost of the Hanseatic League, a 13th century trading group based in the city states of Germany. At its height the League had over 150 member cities and was northern Europe's most powerful economic entity. Bergen's oldest quarter runs along the eastern shore of the harbor with rows of colorful gabled buildings dating from the Hanseatic era. Most of the day we explored the inner city, visited one of several museums and walked the wharf where we took photos in the fish market and watched performers doing their thing on city streets.
|COLORFUL RESTORED HANSEATIC TRADING BUILDINGS ON BERGEN'S WATERFRONT|
|THIS STREET PERFORMER ATTRACTED MANY TOURISTS|
|COOKING UP SOME VEGETABLES AT ONE OF THE OPEN FISH MARKET RESTAURANTS|
In 1904, a massive fire burned the fishing village of Alesund. When the city was rebuilt, the Art Nouveau style of architecture was flourishing in Europe, and today's visitors to Alesund enjoy a city of concentrated Art Nouveau beauty. Spread over seven different islands and connected by bridges and undersea tunnels, Alesund relies on its fishing industry and provides cod and cod liver oil to Europe and the rest of the world. It is also a favorite stop for tourists who either visit by car or by cruise ship, like we did. We spent most of the day on foot exploring the picturesque town,
marveling at the elegant designs and geometric forms, but we opted to take the Hop-on Hop-off bus to the Aksla Viewpoint rather than walking the 418 steps.
|BEAUTIFUL ALESUND FROM AKSLA VIEWPOINT (if you look to the left you will see the Seabourn Quest)|
Draped across the turbulent waters of the Norwegian Sea, an archipelago called the Lofoten Islands sits far above the Arctic Circle, which this time of year means 24/7 sunshine. Arriving at the port of Solver, we rented a car and explored some of the bridge-connected islands, indented by numerous inlets and fjords. With blue skies and a few puffy clouds, we were offered an unobstructed view of a beautiful landscape with majestic mountains, and small fishing villages where you could stay in old fishermen's cabins and eat stockfish, made from spawning cod.
|ONE OF MANY ROCKY INLETS AMONG THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS|
|A REAR VIEW|
With our ship's onboard credit, Bruce and I decided to sign up for one of the pricey excursions. Although this meant setting our alarm for 4:30 a.m, the opportunity to photograph puffins and other seabirds was too tempting to pass up just so we could sleep in.
|A CLOSE-UP VIEW|
THE NORTH CAPE (NORDKAPP)
Barren and rocky with not a tree in sight, the North Cape (or Nordkapp as it is called by Norwegians) is a destination that many travelers brag about so they can say they traveled to the furthest northern point in continental Europe. Although 200,000 visitors come to Nordkapp every summer, very few Norwegians actually live there year round, except for those people involved in a very robust fishing industry about which I will write a separate post. Despite its remote location and small year-round population, the government has constructed the most amazing highway system with not a single pothole or frost heave. From our car we could see miles and miles of empty paved roads that stretched out way beyond us. We often saw more bicycles on those roads than cars.
|DRIVING THE NORTH CAPE LANDSCAPE|
|TOURISTS GATHER AT THIS MONUMENT AT NORTH CAPE, WHERE THE SUN NEVER SETS FROM MID-MAY TO LATE JULY|
When exploring by car, it seemed we were always buckling and unbuckling our seat belts so we could get out and take photos. Often we talked to the locals who lived in fishing villages, and we enjoyed chatting up self-supported cyclists, when they stopped by the side of the road to take a break. All of the cyclists with whom we spoke were Europeans from cities like Amsterdam, Munich and Vienna. We never met any American cyclists, although I'm sure they were there. These cycling athletes were touring Scandinavia and riding the EuroVelo I circuit for 30 to 60 days, all the way from their home in Europe to the North Cape. In Norway this demanding endeavor is at least a 2500 kilometer bicycle adventure that only the most physically and mentally fit cyclists can undertake. It requires biking long distances daily and carrying heavy gear in panniers and packs attached to their bicycles. This is known as self-contained cycling. One man we talked to said he was carrying 65 pounds. Another cyclist we saw taking a break and puffing on a Lucky Strike admitted she didn't smoke very often. How anyone doing a ride like that could even think of smoking--even infrequently--just amazes me.
The following five images are two cyclists we saw riding above the Arctic Circle near Nordkapp. I wish I could tell you that these photos were me biking with a friend, but you would know it wasn't true because I'm not blond nor could I pass for 50. But truth be known, self-supported bike touring has never been something I've wanted to do, especially at this stage of my life. Instead I would prefer that someone transport my gear, and serve me delicious meals. Taking a hot shower at the end of a long day in the saddle would also be required, and I've never been comfortable on the ground in a sleeping bag unless I had a blow up mattress which would be another heavy item to carry on a bike. No one would call me high maintenance, but the moniker of princess might be appropriate when it comes to self-contained, multi-day bike tours.
|CYCLING THE EUROVELO 1 -- 2500 KILOMETERS IN NORWAY|
|IF THIS WERE ME I WOULDN'T BE SMILING|
|THIS IS WHAT IS MEANT BY SELF-CONTAINED|
|CYCLNG ON TOP OF THE WORLD AT NORDKAPP|
|THE END OF A LONG DAY IN THE SADDLE|
And so I say so long to the beautiful land of the Midnight Sun.
The adventure continues..........