Blueberries and other gems of the south

There’s something which is equally rewarding or more than to discover new places and this is to reencounter old friends.

It was probably about 15 years ago that I had seen Hilde for the last time, and Pål, that was barely 3 or 4 yers old, and now is he is almost 18. It was like if it had been yesterday, we had a wonderful weekend. Where to start? Maybe at the nice home cooking that we enjoyed during the whole weekend, from traditional Norwegian autumn stew, to prawns and crabs, without forgetting the wonderful apple crumble baked with apples that we had just taken from the garden. We surely gained some weight over the weekend, even if we compensated with a nice walk on the forest towards Hilde´s family wooden cottage. Along the way, we stopped to pick (and eat) some blueberries which were delicious.

The cottage, in the middle of the forest, overlooking a lake, is surely a private, quiet paradise. We felt very privileged to be able to spend some time there, drinking hot chocolate and playing table games, while sitting next to the comforting fire place. All we can think is that we would like to come back and stay there a bit longer.

This was of course before we decided to follow Hilde out of the walking paths, across the dense forest, to find the house of a beaver, somewhere upstream, blissfuly unaware that the heavy rains from the previous days had flooded most of the ground and there were plenty of improvised streams everywhere. I’m still surprised that, hours later, we actually made it home, with just some stains of mud in our trousers and me a few scratches in my face, from falling flat on the muddy grass. This is when one appreciates the sturdy goretex boots and clothes. I also don’t remember laughing so much. So thank you Hilde and Pål for your immense hospitality.

With our spirits high and our stomachs (over)full, we head out to Heddal, to visit one of the most impressive stave churches in the country. The outside looks like an enchanted dragon that was transformed to wood by some sort of enchantment, back then in the 12th century. The roof tiles are like scales, the columns like bones, the towers like heads. Yes, it must be an enchanted ancient dragon. 

Stave churches are characterised by the “staves,” thick wooden posts, that hold them up. Using the same techniques  that made the Vikings such good shipbuilders, stave churches were often built using nothing more that crafted joints and joins, with no nails.

The interior is somehow more simple, with bare wooden pillars and painted walls, even if it´s also worth mentioning the beautiful furniture pieces carves in wood.

Our next stop is Oslo, where we spend an evening at the Opera, enjoying the sunset and a beautiful rainbow. The Opera building is designed to appear like an iceberg floating in the waters of the fjord. The exterior is a beautiful combination of Carrara marble, granite, white aluminium and glass.

The lobby is surrounded by huge windows with minimal frames, the columns are also built minimalistically, not to interfere with the views to the water. The wooden structures in the interior bring warmth that contrast with the coolness of the exterior. Quite a beautiful building.

From there we stroll through the Barcode neighbourhood, with lots of modern office buildings that give opportunity to Christian to play with the lights of the night.

The morning after starts walking along the promenade of Aker Brygge, towards Tjuvholmen, where we curiously walk around the modern Astrup Fearnley museum, anchored at the edge of the water, and take some snapshots from the surrounding modern architecture.

From there we go classic and take a look at the town hall building, that for some is the ugliest building ever, but I kind of like it. Also significant since it hosts the Peace Nobel Prize ceremony every year, since 1990. We also have some time to admire the Parlament building and neighbouring Grand Hotel, before entering the National Gallery to admire some of Munch´s famous paintings and quite some beautiful Norwegian Romantic Landscape painting, amongst other. Very advisable for a couple of hours of time travelling through art.

Our shoes are unstoppable and take us through Gamle Oslo, Grunerlokka and Majorstuen back to the Opera and Aker Brygge.

Quite a walk that symbolically marks the end of our trip in Norway. So it´s time to think about Norway´s Top 3.

Christian’s Top 3

The Light. Nordics magnificent light is just stunning – not only for photography but also to just admire the changing light throughout the day and night in summer. Norway, for me is still one notch up! Especially the Lofoten islands with their beautiful nature are just stunning. Reflections in the crystal clear water and the color of the houses – I love it…

Tunnels. Well what can I say – I thought that I had seen it all. Coming from Austria with plenty of mountains and tunnels, and after our visit to Island where I encountered the first tunnel with an exit  to a small village right in the middle of the tunnel. Having said that – here comes Norway! Tunnels, a lot of Tunnels! Tunnels with roundabouts, tunnels with picnic areas in the middle (no kidding there is a 24,5 km long tunnel with picnic areas every 6 km), tunnels illuminated in rainbow Colors and my absolute favourite, a tunnel like a cork screwl!!! Once you have the steering wheel in the right position you keep going and going and after minutes you leave the tunnel on top of the mountain. Engineering at its best.

Ferries.Obviously there is a lot of water in Norway. The land of the Fjords with it’s stunning nature comes at a price – literally! You can either drive for several hours on one side of the fjord land inwards to to the same again on the other side of the fjord towards the coast while both sides are only a stone throw from each other. Or you take one of Norways countless ferries. Some are reasonable priced, some others not so much. One thing all of them have in common thought is the service and and the speed how they load and offload cars, trucks and passengers. Stunning. And most of them run on the dot that you can set your clock. All in all, a costly but still worth to do (or sometimes have to do) adventure.

Isabel´s Top 3

Rough Nature. Norway is not a country of flat lands or straight roads. It´s a country sheer coast, precipitous hills, rocks, fjords, more rocks. Trees, lichens, bushes, ferns, flowers, moss. Rivers, lots of rivers, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, lots of waterfalls, the cold Arctic Ocean. Trolls, reindeers, moose, musk oxen, eagles, whales, foxes, fishes, lots of fishes. Who saw the trolls?

Stockfish. The history and economy of the country have always been closely tight to fishing and trading with the dry fish. Most towns in the Lofoten islands smell like fish. In a good way. The way tradition, hard work and subsistence smell, the way home cooking and hospitality smell.

True North. A country proud of its latitude, because in summer there’s midnight sun and in winter Northern lights and really, Cape North is a stone’s throw from the North Pole.