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Published: July 18th 2009
Easily a place on my list to come back to.
Those 120 degree days and 85 degree nights seem a long way from where I am now.
At 62 degrees north, I'm the same latitude as a point between Anchorange and Denali Nat'l Park in Alaska. Ironically enough, 62 degrees also happens to be the temperature up here as well - awesomely comfortable.
My first day in Oslo, the 14th, I got a card from the tourist office which you can use to rent a bike. There are racks all over town, so when you get somewhere you just put the bike back, then get another one when you're ready to go. Only 3 gears, and not the fastest things on the road...but they definitely did the job!
The main attraction here were the Edvard Munch collections, at the National Museum and the Munch Musset. Very, very cool to see those - though I was surprised that the National Museum doesn't have much in the way of climate control for their paintings.
That evening I took the Metro to Sinsen and hiked up to the hostel, which sits out in the 'burbs at the top of a hill. It was cheap. However, out of the 5 people
Rent one of these guys to shuttle you around town!
in our room, 2 were trying for the world-record in annoyance with their snoring, so not a pleasant night. It's amazing the horrible, horrible thoughts that go through my mind at 2 am with two snorers in the room. Whereas I was a completely rational, caring human being just a couple hours before...
The 15th I picked up my little Peugeot rental car and we started north. I got to Rondane NasjonalPark early afternoon and did about a 9-mile hike to the lake. Though the car park was crowded, it was also very small and isolated, and it was easy to find yourself alone with the mountains and the river. This park is kind of off the tourist trail, so apart from some German and other European tourists, it felt like mainly locals sharing these ancient hills with me.
One thing about rural Norway, is that accommodation books up and it isn't cheap! I ended up reserving rooms in Lillehammer ('94 Olympics) all 3 nights up here - the 1st night was at the HI hostel, though it was almost all families staying there.
The 16th I headed west to the Jotunheimen NasjonalPark. I was looking for
The Edvard Munch museum, kind of off by itself in a weird part of town but definitely worth it.
a great hill hike, but instead found myself along the shore of the Lake Gjende. Again, absolutely stunning, the water here is this pristine aqua blue. On my way back, I stumbled upon the correct trail, and made it most of the way up the mountain before turning back due to time. A lot more European tourists here, I didn't run into any Americans.
Norway is like the Colorado of Europe - everyone is really into the outdoors here, and they also get a lot of folks visiting from mainland Europe further south (esp. Germans for some reason!"). And, aside from Olso, the land is so sparsely populated that you even feel alone on the main roads sometimes.
Which, speaking of roads...even the "motorways" are slow going, 2-lane roads. In this sense, like many others, Norway reminds me of Scotland. The pace of everything is slower up here, and it's not uncommon to have to stop (on an expressway or major road) to shoo sheep or cows off the road. So stuff that looks really close together on the map may also have a 1000 m elevation difference, switchbacks, and single-track roads.
I realized the truth of
this yesterday, when after staying at the Radisson in Lillehammer (the hostel was booked - and the Radisson was disturbing, overpriced, and a disquieting throwback to the 60's idea of a luxury hotel...but time escapes me to write more on that!) I headed west to the Sognefjord. The road there was easy enough, then everyone loads up on a ferry to cross the fjord...at which point things get interesting. A single-track road for miles along lakes, negotiating campers (mostly German), trucks, and oncoming cars going *way* too fast before using those same single-track roads to climb from sea level up to about 5000 feet into the wilderness of the Jotunheimen. The 122 miles from Sogndal to Otta back at the E6 took me almost 4 hours! Totally amazing drive, of course, and an absolute adventure.
Sunset last night was around 11 pm, and it never got totally dark - and by 2 am or so, it's starting to get light again. The arctic circle is only a couple hundred miles from here.
Today I head back to Oslo, drop the little car off, and back to the (ugh) hostel in Oslo before catching my flight to Glasgow tomorrow.
Sorry this entry is so choppy, but I had a lot to get down! Norway's brooding hills, isolation, and strange light give the whole experience of visiting kind of an almost sacred quality. Hopefully the pictures will do justice to what I haven't written in text. - steve g
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