Friday, July 1, 2011

NO - Fjærland

July 1                     Sunday                                 Norway                                Fjærland             

It was drizzling when I awoke, which was moments before my alarm… I’m never sure whether I should be relieved to dodge that hateful noise or annoyed that I missed out on precious minutes of sleep.  Sure, a couple more minutes probably wouldn’t have made any real difference; but it’s how it feels when you feel like you’ve been robbed of sleep time.

I tossed together an open-faced sandwich of veggies & cold cuts for breakfast, briefly attempting a bowl of muesli with milk that smelled fine but poured like yogurt.  WHY, SCANDINAVIA, WHY??

The Chinese were first to depart, filling a bus and suddenly leaving the hostel quite blissfully calm.  I boarded the second bus with the Ukrainians & Dominique for the ride south to Geiranger.  We stopped in town to pickup a couple folk from the train station, one of which was an older woman – but I say “older” lightly – who sat in the other front-row seat across from me.  From the wrinkles in her face I’d hazard a guess that she was in her late-30’s or perhaps early-40’s, but holy cow had she aged well… perfectly fit and looking like a slightly older Kristin Kreuk (a longtime celebrity crush of mine ever since the first season of Smallville).  Named Linda, she’s an Australian (from Brisbane, if I recall) who works with weddings on cruise ships & had just finished a job in Italy when she came to Norway for vacation.  I was quite bummed when we she alighted in a town just before we ferried across one of the fjords.

The bus ride took us through Trollstigen, which includes some sheer towering cliffs above the road & also a very dramatic series of switchbacks as the road climbs one of the slopes.  Once again: one of those things I’d love to see in clear weather, but I made the best of the gloom as I could.

Our arrival into Geiranger was quite dramatic, with stellar fjord views along the whole descent into town.  From there we all switched to a ferry to Hellesylt – often credited as among the best ferry trips in all of Norway.  It was certainly with its charm, but again: the low-hanging clouds surely limited the views of the mountainsides.  It did kind of feel like I was entering Jurassic Park, though… a recurring issue with a couple more fjord cruises being that the Jurassic Park theme song gets stuck in my head.  But I love that piece; so it’s OK.

As our ferry passed by the Hurtigruten ferry: ours took the lead in a brief foghorn duel, causing everyone on the top deck to leap with surprise at the first sound.

Once in Hellesylt we all switched back to a bus, where we’d soon be parting ways.  While waiting, however, I finally struck up conversation with the Ukrainians.  There was one woman clearly enthused to have the opportunity to practice her English, though her English was only marginally better than my Russian… and I was equally excited to throw out a couple Russian phrases.   The two young girls with the group (I’m guessing the woman I was talking to was their mother?) were especially excited, and clearly they’d had some English courses in school.

The youngest was likely in elementary or possibly middle school… definitely around the 10-12 mark.  The sister (or I assume sister) looked to be about 17-18 and downright cute.  It may have been lost in translation, but I think she is either entering into her final year of high school or just graduated.  She seemed shy at first, but once she got to talking she became downright garrulous.  Even then, however, it was clear that English wasn’t her strongest point… but she was certainly the best English speaker of the group & quickly became my translator.

I posed for a photo with the smallest one as we each read our Norwegian guidebooks – one in Russian; the other in English – and I gave my card to the woman and asked if I could get a copy of the photo, but I feared the request was lost in translation.  Hopefully she’d just give my card to the older girl, who’d well enough know to send an email & I could follow up from there.

The Ukrainians disembarked in Olden and I ultimately left Dominique in Skei.  While I gave due farewells to the Ukrainians, I felt like I hadn’t properly thanked the tour guide for his help; and even in Skei I had totally forgotten to say anything to Dominique as I’d been fixated on trying to figure out my next transfer.  I felt kind of bad about that…

My final destination was only about 30 minutes past Skei: a tiny town called Fjærland.  Well I wasn’t even in the town… that was still about 3 kilometers from the bus stop, but fortunately my campsite was right at the bus stop.  The two teenaged girls at reception were exceptionally helpful at helping me plan out the next day, providing me with bus schedules and ferry scheduled for whichever mode I should choose.

Dinner was at the Glacier Museum immediately next door.  It was the only option… open for another hour; whereas everything in the slightly-distant town had just closed.  The café certainly didn’t serve world-class fare, but in my famished state: the cheeseburger served well enough.   I took heed of the server’s white pants… not specifically out of ogling her or anything; but just that a lot of Scandinavian women wear white pants; and what more: they wear it well.  White pants are hard for a lot of women to pull off.

I settled in for the evening in the attic dormitory, ultimately having the entire room all to myself… turns out tiny Fjærland wasn’t quite the tourist haven at this point.  At about 11pm I took heed that the skylight was sunny… the sun!  Sunset!  Yay!  It was a very pretty sunset, and with a 24/7 rooftop plaza on the museum next door: I had a great vantage point to capture the surrounding landscape of the tip of the fjord.

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