|An epic journey through Norway's fjord country. Fjærlandfjord, a tributary of the Sognefjord, is just one of the many spectacular places we'll explore! Photo: Wikimedia.org.|
The land of the midnight sun … where northern lights dance with the stars ... where intrepid Vikings sailed a thousand years ago ... where majestic mountains cradle the fjords that beckon for gentle sails upon their waters so serene … this is allure of Norge or Norway—a land steeped in mystery and natural splendor, and a place I have until now, only dreamed of visiting! It is with those images in mind that I announce that this summer, I will embark on this intrepid journey to discover the land that is Norway. Thanks to my friends at Visit Norway, I have been invited on a tour this summer that will introduce me to Norway's scenic wonder, captivating history, intriguing culture, regional cuisine and for the first time ever, the midnight sun! Euphoric doesn't begin to describe the excitement stirring within and the mounting anticipation that's growing exponentially by the day! At the end of June, I will join a small group of travelers and together we will embark on an epic voyage through the fjords of Norway.
A Taste of Things to Come
|The awe-inspiring Hardangerfjord on Norway's west coast. Photo: Tacker.|
We'll cruise through waterways once traversed by the Vikings. We'll hike along icy glaciers and craggy precipices to behold jaw-dropping views of Norway's fjords—turquoise waters cradled by towering mountains that seem to stretch on forever. Then we'll zoom in for a closer look as we ply those pristine waters and revel in the serenity of nature's striking beauty. And along its shores, we'll disembark into enchanting coastal villages and even climb aboard one of the world's most scenic railways to get there!
|My charted course from Stavanger through the fjords and back to Bergen where we'll say good-bye to Norway.|
With that said, here's an overview of some of the places we'll visit on this intrepid voyage through Norway and be sure to follow my fjordfaring tales on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter too!
Welcome to Norway—land of the Vikings!
We begin our Norway adventure in Stavanger—the 2008 European Capital of Culture! We'll scale the craggy peaks to the top of Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock that will surely leave me breathless, literally as well as figuratively! Once we descend from our lofty perch, it's a cruise through the scenic Lysefjord for our first encounter with the fjords! Perhaps we'll happen upon one of the legendary trolls who populate these lands too? It's a mystery!
Pulpit Rock—top of the world!
Haugesund and the Norwegian Viking Center in Avaldsnes
In Haugesund, we'll travel back in time to the Viking Age and discover this homeland of the Viking Kings and explore what little remains of these seaborne raiders whose influence stretched across Europe, Iceland and as far as North America.
We'll visit the Avaldsneskirken or Saint Olav's Church in Avaldsnes to see a medieval chapel and learn of the legend of the Virgin Mary's Sewing Needle—a 7.2 meter stone monolith that appears to be leaning upon the church's exterior wall but should this leaning stone needle ever reach the church's exterior, it's doom's day for all, according to legend anyway. But fear not, throughout history, priests have slowly chipped away at the top of the stone to prevent the impending doom. [Thank God!]
Hardangerfjord—the Queen's Fjord
|Trolltunga or Troll's Tongue Rock—a rocky slab that juts out precariously over the fjord valley. I can only imagine what this is going to be like! Photo: Reisemål Hardanger Fjord/Terje Nesthus/FjordNorway.|
Renowned for the Folgefonna Glacier and the Vøringsfossen Waterfall, Hardangerfjord is also home to the Trolltunga or Troll's Tongue Rock—a rocky tongue or slab that juts out into the fjord valley and beckons to all who seek spectacular vistas after ascending dizzying heights to astonishing views of Queen's Fjord. In town, we'll explore art and maritime museums, medieval churches, country farms and more!
Ah, but the piece-de-resistance after such an exhilarating day in Hardangerfjord, will be where we hang our heads by night—the Hotel Ullensvang—renowned as one of Norway's finest fjord resorts which happens to be owned by the same family for more than 150 years. Talk about family traditions!!
|Along the shores of the Hardangerfjord is where we'll hang our heads that night at the Hotel Ullensvang—renowned as one of Norway's finest fjord resorts. Photo: Courtesy of Ullensvang Hotel.|
The Flåm Railway
From the Hotel Ullensvang, we'll cruise to Voss where we'll catch the train to Myrdal and then board one of the world's most scenic railways—the Flåm Railway to where else but Flåm of course. The Flåm Railway is one of the world's steepest normal gauge trains and travels for 20 km from the mountain village of Myrdal to the Aurlandsfjord, a tributary to the world's longest fjord—Sognefjord or King of the Fjords, which is on our itinerary as well.
|We'll climb aboard one of the world's most scenic railways—the Flåm Railway from Myrdal to the Aurlandsfjord. Photo: Innovation Norway.|
|The picturesque village of Balestrand, Norway, has lured artists, writers, photographers and tourists alike for decades! Photo: Nelson Minar.|
After cruising down the Sognefjord (King of the Fjords), we'll disembark in Balestrand, a quaint fjord-side village steeped in cultural history and arts. This tiny hamlet has long attracted artists, writers and tourists since the 19th century because of its picturesque surroundings and unique quality of light—sounds like Provence. How could one not be inspired by surroundings like these?
|Kviknes Hotel – The Jewel of the Sognefjord, is where we'll spend the night in Balestrand. Photo: Nelson Minar.|
Fjærland and Bergen
|Another stop along our intrepid journey brings us to Fjærland on the shores of yet another tributary of the Sognefjord—Fjærlandfjord. Photo: Frithjof Fure - Visitnorway.com.|
After Balestrand, it's a fjord excursion to Fjærland and the Norwegian Glacier Center before we embark on a 4-hour cruise the following day to Bergen—gateway to the fjords. Second largest city in Norway after Olso, Bergen is renowned as the big port city with small-town charm. Located on Norway's western shores along the North Sea, this maritime port is not only a major commerce center but popular with the cruise industry as well. Some of the highlights include the funicular that ascends to spectacular views of Bergen; the North Sea and the surrounding fjords; the Edvard Grieg Museum—more fodder for my ArtSmart Roundtable; the fish market; and the Fantoft Stave Church—among others.
|The vibrant Hanseatic wharf in Bergen, Norway. Photo: Andrea Giubelli - Visitnorway.com.|
|Bergen is where the sun will set upon our Norway adventure. Photo: Bergen Tourist Board / Per Nybø - visitBergen.com.|
And so for now, I leave you with a stunning video—Impressions of Norway. Make sure you view it full screen.