Think you can find a more beautiful country than this?? Norway, José!!

One of the things we like to do when the whole family is here visiting is to take advantage of Geneva’s proximity to other fun European destinations and to go there for a few days. One time it was Berlin. Another time it was Paris and Amsterdam. Last Christmas, Pat suggested that we spend part of our summer together in Norway. So in early August, the four of us boarded a plane to Oslo for a week in that beautiful country.

After a late arrival in Oslo which required that our first night be spent near the airport, we headed north in our rental car, our destination: the town of Stryn. Our route planner wisely included a ferry ride through the Norwegian fjords for one segment of the trip.

Further on up the road, we encountered an architectural feature unique to Norway: the stave church. A stave church is an elaborately carved wooden church. It gets its name from the wooden “staves” that are the wooden corner posts that support the “stave walls” made from a framework of timber with wall planks standing on sills. My research indicates that these wooden churches were a byproduct from the Vikings woodworking craftsmanship in ship building.
We turned off the main road just to get out and take a closer look at this smaller one.

Norway wooden church

These wooden “stave” churches are a thing in Norway

Regular followers of the Swiss Sojourner, know I like to hike. So when we embark on an adventure to a place like Norway, there will be hiking. And if you are going to hike in Norway, it’s best to take advantage of all that Norway hiking has to offer. For instance, why not combine a hike with two of Norway’s coolest natural features, fjords and glaciers! So we arranged a guided day trip that involved kayaking 5 kilometers to a great big glacier, having lunch, then strapping on the crampons, guide ropes, and harnesses and hiking along a glacier, pictured below. Then we had to paddle all the way back in the rain and into a headwind, and even that was fun, sort of.

Norway Glacier

We kayaked to this glacier, then hiked on it!

On another day, the four of us began a day of hiking by riding a gondola part of the way up a big mountain just outside of Stryn, comforted by the thought that it wasn’t going to be too demanding a hike since we were taking the gondola most of the way up, right? Well guess what, we wound up hiking uphill another 600 or so meters (vertical ascent, I mean… the whole hike was probably 7 or 8 kilometers round trip) to the summit of the mountain. From way up there, we had a glorious 360 degree view of the whole region.  Here’s a shot I took as we were just getting started.

Fjord view

We rode a gondola, to this level, and started our hike here.

On our last full day in Norway, Pat and I decided it would be fun to test ourselves against what the tourism brochures describe as “the longest/highest uphill hike in all of Norway”, that being the hike from Loen all the way to the top of Mt. Skala, a vertical ascent of 1,848 meters, which for those of you unfamiliar with the metric to feet conversion, is over 6,000 feet. What makes this such a challenging hike is that it’s a mere 8 kilometers from Loen to the summit, which means the hike consists of an average grade of 23%! That’s very steep! And then you have to hike back down, once you get up there. But Pat and I agreed that one of the things we like best about extreme hiking is the pain, and how good it feels when its over, so we were all in. Here we are about to head up.

Mt Skala

Sadly, due to poor pre-hike planning on my part, my camera ran out of juice on the way up. But I did find this 2 minute video on the Norway Tourism website that shows a very well produced video of some of the highlights of this hike. Seriously, its worth checking out to get a sense of this hike and this amazing country.

My favorite Minnesota-based rock band, the Loons, rock the Twin Cities Marathon

[A note to SwissSojourner followers: I recently had cause to return to my home town of Minneapolis/Saint Paul for a few weeks. While visiting, I decided that although this blog has been exclusively devoted to my experiences here in Switzerland and its environs across Europe, from time to time I will break tradition and focus on other “non-European” topics or experiences that interest me. This post – and the one that will follow in a couple days – will be of particular interest to my family and friends back in Minnesota.]

Each year, the Twin Cities hosts what is billed as “the most beautiful urban marathon in the United States”. The marathon takes place in early October, when the fall colors in Minnesota are at their peak. Here is a photo I took of some of the runners with about 3 miles to go.

Twin Cities marathpn

These runners are jamming to the Loons at the 23-mile mark!

One of the neat things that the marathon sponsors do to support the runners is to select a number of musical bands, who volunteer their time, to play along the course’s final five miles. This year, my favorite local band, the Loons out of Eagan, Minnesota, were among the bands selected for the honor. Continue reading