Salzkammergut of the North

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Europe » Norway
August 26th 2014
Published: June 12th 2017
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Geo: 62.0855, 6.86769

We continued across a high arctic plain, past impossibly deep lakes (including the deepest in Europe) and just below the lips of several glaciers. We stopped for lunch at a hillside lodge, from where we made an easy hike right to the top of a waterfall that cascaded all the way down to the valley floor below us.

As we got lower and lower, and started to pass a series of small villages, the scenery took on an uncanny similarity to the Salzkammergut area of Austria, which is one of our most favorite places on earth. The tour made some obligatory stops for facilities, snacks, local lore, and of course shopping.

We started to enter a series of very long tunnels through the mountains, which was the only way to reach Hellesylt and our ship. Less than 20 years ago, the town was inaccessible by road. It was evident throughout our trip that Norway has done a tremendous amount of development over the past few decades, putting their oil wealth to great use in building and improving infrastructure. I will admit to not knowing before we left that Norway is the third-largest producer of oil in the world -- behind Saudi Arabia and Russia -- or that they only discovered oil in 1969. In addition to enhancing the social net for all Norwegians, they have pumped obscenely high amounts of money into infrastructure and public works.

We popped out of one last tunnel and there sat Hellesylt, which is even smaller than Geiranger, and our ship was anchored and awaiting the steady stream of buses all now converging on the tiny dock area. The weather remained perfect and part of me hoped we had been able to keep our original order of arrival and now sail all the way out from Geiranger, but it was not to be. Plus, there were two other cruise ships in the fjord with us that day, and with only one dock in each town, the other ships had to anchor offshore and tender people on and off, which is always a pain. In hindsight, we got the better end of the deal.

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