Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014 – Skjolden, Norway – Cloudy and Rainy – 59F

Distance from Reykjavik, Iceland to Skjolden, Norway:  1042 Nautical Miles

Still looking for the Sun…

Port Information.  Skjolden, a tiny village with Viking origins, lies along the Sognefjord.  You must navigate about 124 miles up the fjord to get to the town (the world’s longest navigable fjord).  Skjolden, which has been a port for just a few years, has a population of 400.  Skjolden is the gateway to the Jotunheimen National Park (Jotunheimen means “Home of the Giants” (24 peaks greater than 6560 feet in height).  Lom, on the other side of the mountains, has been voted “Best Place to Live in Norway”.  Norway is not a member of the EU because the country feels being a member will hurt the fishing industry by opening up waters to other EU countries.  Norway’s Hydroelectric plants supply 97 percent of the countries power; on the other hand, Norway only has 2-3 percent arable land.

On tour today - “Jotunheimen National Park, Lom Stave Church, and Waterfalls”  Ellen is on an afternoon tour - “Urnes Stave Church and Scenic Drive”. 

Before the tour, I took some pictures of the Fjord and Skjolden from Deck 5.

 20140717_Sognefjord (Small) 20140717_Skjolden (Small) 20140717_Skjolden 1 (Small) 20140717_selfie at Sognefjord (Small) 

The Sognefjord and Me

Our Guide: Anders – Driver: Jan-Henri (I think).

The bus left Skjolden and headed up the winding Sognefjellet National Tourist Route to the Jotunheimen National Park Summit (4700 feet – Northern Europe’s highest pass).  The road is a single lane, well maintained road which carries two way traffic.  There is no line down the center of the road.  When the bus encounters other vehicles – especially on a tight curve – either the bus or the car or truck has to back up so they both can pass each other.  It was a little scary since there are no guard rails in many stretches of the road.  You can be that seat belts were fastened on this trip (besides being mandatory, I believe).

It was very cloudy and foggy on the way up the pass and the reason there are no pictures.  Once at the top, the fog cleared and the bus stopped for a terrific photo op – glaciers, peaks of the Hurrungane Mountains, and snow fields.  There was blue ice in the glaciers (they don’t show up too well in the pictures).  And it wasn’t too cold at the summit – even with all that snow

20140717_glaciers at the summit (Small) 20140717_jotunheimen glaciers (Small) 20140717_ glaciers at the summit 1 (Small) 20140717_ glaciers at the summit 2 (Small) 20140717_ glaciers at the summit 3 (Small)

Above – views at the Summit

20140717_hanging glacier at summit (Small)

A “Hanging” Glacier at the Summit

There are very large boulders found along the pass and in the park.  These boulders were moved to their location by glaciers and ice but the locals thought they were tossed by giants in their ongoing battle with Odin, Thor and the other Norse Gods.  I think the latter explanation is more interesting.

Back before this road took people over the mountains, travelers used ancient road markers – Cairns or “Vaders” – to mark the path.  The markers can still be seen along the roadside.

20140717_Cairns road markers natl park (Small) 20140717_Cairns (Small)

Cairns to mark the way

The bus then headed down the pass along the same narrow and very windy road.

20140717_the summit (Small)

20140717_heading down the pass (Small)

Heading down the Mountain Road

In the valley below, our next stop was the Saga Column in Elseveter (an old farm/hotel). 

20140717_ wilhem rasmussen statue 2 (Small)

20140717_wilhem rasmussen statue (Small)

20140717_ wilhem rasmussen statue 1 (Small)

The Saga Column

The column (131 feet high) was constructed by Wilhelm Rasmussen.  The saga column was erected in 1992 (depicting Norway history form first kind Harald 872 to the National Congress in 1814). It turned out that Rasmussen was a Nazi sympathizer so no one wanted the column.  Eventually, the hotel placed the column on its grounds.

We also thought we lost one of our passengers at this venue.  After an exhaustive search of the grounds and hotel, we left without “him” (everyone was sure there was a person missing and the initial count was consistent with someone missing).  Anders said we would pick him up on the way back – I insisted that Anders call and check on how many actual tickets were collected for his tour.  He finally got that info later and no one was actually missing – some kind of mass hypnosis.  It was exciting for a while.

While searching for the “missing passenger”, I came across a vintage gas pump.  Check it out, Mike and Frankie.

20140717_gas pump at hotel near statue (Small)

Our next stop was the city of Lom,

 20140717_near lom (Small)

Countryside near Lom

20140717_Lom 1 (Small)

 20140717_Lom (Small)

Lom, Norway

where we were scheduled to visit the Mountain Museum.  I didn’t spend a lot of time in the museum proper -  I did have a chance to check on e-mails using the museum’s free WiFi. 

After the museum, we had lunch at Fossheim Hotel.  The hotel, an interesting wooden building, has been designated a “Historic Hotel of Norway”.  It is housed in a building dating back to 1897.

20140717_Flossheim Hotel lunch (Small)

Fossheim Hotel

The lunch was a typical Norwegian Buffet – on the menu was lox (good), pepper salmon (excellent), smoked haddock (salty), baked salmon (good), shredded lettuce (with sour cream and mayonnaise dressings) (unusual), a dessert that tasted like cocoa puffs in whipped cream (unusual but good).  There were also bottles of real coke and very good real coffee.  

20140717_Lunch fish fish fish (Small)

My Buffet Plate

For the carnivores in the crowd, there was some kind of Salisbury Steak and Pork Meatballs.  All in all, a pretty tasty meal.

After lunch, we drove back to the area of the Mountain Museum to visit the Lom Stave Church (built in 1158).  Stave churches are medieval north western European wood churches that derive their name from the post and lintel construction used (the post is call a “Stav” in Norwegian).  With only a handful of exceptions, the surviving Stave Churches are all located in Norway.  Although the church is made of wood, it has survived all these years because Lom is in the driest part of Norway – essentially desert levels of rain- and the weather is cold (they also waterproofed the church with pine tar). 

20140717_Stave Church Lom (Small) 20140717_ Stave Church Lom 1 (Small)

Stave Church

Near the church and running through the town, the River Otta produces spectacular  rapids.  From the bridge, one can get great shots of the white water.

20140717_Lom Rapids (Small) 20140717_ Lom Rapids 1 (Small)

River Otta Rapids

After the Church, the bus headed back to the ship along the same Tourist Road so I had a chance to take more pictures of magnificent glaciers and mountains.  Note:  Rivers are greenish because of dissolved silt and minerals dragged down from mountains.

    20140717_heading back to the natl park (Small)

20140717_glaciers summit redux (Small)

20140717_Summit glaciers redux (Small) 20140717_ Summit glaciers redux 1 (Small)

Glaciers and Mountains Redux

We tried to stop at a view point called “Oskar’s Viewpoint” (named after King Oskar who over a century ago walked across the mountain.  He stopped at this point and declared it the “Most Beautiful View”).  Not today, Oskar – only clouds.

Our final stop, very close to the ship was the cascading waterfall, Asafossen Falls.

20140717_Asafossen Waterfall (Small) 

Asafossen Falls

Directly opposite the Falls, there was a spectacular view of the valley and the mountains.

20140717_gorge opposite Asafossen Waterfall (Small)

Ellen took some great pictures on her tour (the Fjord and surrounding areas – she took a circle tour of the Fjord including a ferry ride). 

One of her stops was at the Urnes Stave Church

20140717_Urnes Stave Church

Urnes Stave Church

The Church – constructed in 1130 – is a link between Christian and Viking architecture and the oldest church of its kind.  For its place in history, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ellen’s pictures – including a great shot of the Ocean Princess docked - are below.

 20140717_ ET scenic tour Skjolden 3 (Small) 20140717_Sognefjord 1 (Small) 20140717_ ET scenic tour Skjolden 2 (Small) 20140717_ ET scenic tour Skjolden 1 (Small) 20140717_ ET scenic tour fjord (Small) 20140717_ET scenic tour Skjolden (Small) 20140717_ET scenic tour (Small)

20140717_ Ocean Princess docked 1 (Small)

We finally made it back to the ship and the Captain confirmed that all passengers were on board (no one missing after all).

20140717_Ocean Princess docked Skjolden (Small)   

We had dinner in the Panorama Buffet.  From there, we could watch the fantastic sail away through the Sogneford.

  20140717_ Skjolden sail away (Small) 

Skjolden Sail Away

The Captain did a little narration as we moved through the Fjord including pointing out a magnificent waterfall.

20140717_sail away waterfall (Small)  

Showtime tonight featured Comedy-Vocalist Diane Cousins from Wales.  She was very entertaining (especially when she sang) but I could only understand about half of what she said (the accent was heavy and she spoke under her breath). 

We caught Tommy McPhee again in the Casino Lounge and I finally got a picture of Tommy.

20140717_Tommy McPhee (Small)

Tomorrow, we are in Bergen, a very large city (second largest in Norway). 

The weather promises to be great.

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