August 11, 2012
ABOARD THE MS NORDLYS — It was like having my mother onboard.
She was standing at the door as we came up the gangplank of the Hurtigruten ship last night at the start of our Norwegian cruise.
We expected the usual safety lecture on how to put our life jackets on, but we didn’t realize we’d have to wash our hands before stepping aboard the MS Nordlys. Two hours later when we arrived at the dining room for dinner, there she was again and she still meant business.
“Have you washed your hands?” she asked, pointing to the disinfectant machines by every door on this ship. “You can’t go in until you do,” she admonished.
We did as told. Then, with clean hands and clear hearts we headed out of Bergen’s harbor during dinner toward what has been called possibly the most beautiful fjord in the world, the famed Geraingerfjord.
First stop was the most beautiful town in Norway, as many have called little Alesund. The town burned down (as have so many in this country) in 1925, and by 1927 the entire town had been rebuilt by professional architects, in the art nouveau style. The pastel buildings along the little harbor are decorated with the lovely ornamentation of that period, and it is a joy to walk along the wharf and see pastel condominiums and restaurants and shops where once old wooden factories sat.
As we headed toward Gerainger, the mountains seemed to grow larger, the dark green Norway spruces (we call them Christmas trees at home) more plentiful as they reached down to the blue waters of the fjords, and the little bits of snow on top of the mountains, on this August day, more pristine. Words cannot describe the incredible beauty of sailing into a pristine and massive fjord….but that’s all I have, and the sight was astounding. Every so often, a massive waterfall came pounding down a gorge. Each has its own name, and the most famous are the Bridal Veil waterfall and the Seven Sisters waterfalls, which all come crashing down to the fjord in a beautiful display of waterworks.
Every now and then a tiny red cottage clings to the side of the mountains along the fjord, but they are few and far between, and although their inhabitants must get lonely, the spectacular vista they have from their windows must make up for being so alone.
They call all of Norway a village, because the towns are so separated from one another by mountains and fjords. Each area has its own dialect, its own customs, costumes and idiosyncrancies, but they are all, we’re sure, happy to be Norwegians with the privilege of living in such a gorgeous area. Henrik Ibsen lived and wrote in one of the towns on this fjord and we can understand how inspired he must have been by his surroundings.
When we reached the end of the Gerainger fjord and went into the town (pop. 300) of the same name, we jumped on a bus to take us on a winding road up and up and up to the top of one of the mountains for an even more amazing view of the panorama below us. We then proceeded to go over and under more fjords by a system of ferry boats and tunnels, marveling as we went along at the scenery, until we got to the Romsdal Alps, so called because these mountains, the highest of which is more than 8,000 feet high, look like the Alps of Switzerland and Italy.
Then, as if on a roller coaster, we went down the Trollstigvegen Road, open only in summer because it is so precarious, with 11 hairpin turns and closer than ever to the powerful waterfalls that dive into the sea with ferocious force. Each turn on the road has its own name, as have many of the more distinctive mountains here…three of them are called the King, the Queen and the Bishop.
At the bottom of the road we came to the National Park of Reindeer, and although no reindeer showed up, we saw the salmon spawning waters in one town, the sweet strawberry farms in another, and the most unusual rooftops we’ve seen in a long while. The roofs, covered in tall grass and an occasional tree, are owned by wealthy farmers, we’re told, and are not only valuable, but ecologically sound, being made by a very difficult, time-consuming and expensive process of adding seven layers – one of them birch bark – to the top of the house. They say these roofs last forever and do not leak Why don’t we try them at home? They’re cute, as well as green!
Photos by Timothy Leland