live slow, love nature, be adventurous

Monday, October 27, 2014

NORWAY | Cruising on the Magnificent Sognefjord

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I’ve recently had a look through my archives and realized that I somehow have never written about the Sognefjord before. How could that happen? As the largest fjord in Norway and one of the country’s prime tourist attractions, it could hardly have slipped my mind. The first time I visited this fjord was over a year ago during a road trip with my parents just before I moved to Bergen and while it's not my favorite fjord in Norway (that trophy goes to the Hardangerfjord which I coincidentally  haven't written about so far either), it is definitely a special place.

We were planning to take the ferry from Kaupanger, located almost two hundred kilometers away from the coast at the very end of the Sognefjord, to Gudvangen and because we arrived early we took some time to explore the village a bit. It was an uncharacteristically beautiful summer's day - don't let the pictures on my blog fool you, sunshine isn't that regular an occurrence in Norway - and as we sat on the shore waiting for the ferry to arrive, I marveled at the incredibly blue color of the water that despite the sun's earnest efforts was still icy cold. Not that the cold temperatures kept the local kids from jumping into the fjord over and over again! 

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The ferry ride was about two hours long and as we sat down on the upper floor of the boat to take in a panoramic view of the landscape, I quickly realized that it was going to be a chilly ride despite of the constant sunshine. The wind was blowing through my hair harshly and as I snuggled into my trusty fleece, I watched some people held out snacks for passing seagulls, apparently unconcerned for the safety of their fingers. The main arm of the Sognefjord is so broad that it looks a bit different from the image typically associated with the term Fjord, but this quickly changed when the ferry took a turn into the much smaller Nærøyfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord and what may just be the most visited Fjord in Norway. 

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The Nærøyfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it's easy to see why: How many places can there be that are more beautiful than this? Just looking back at these pictures makes me wish I was still living amidst such amazing nature. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: Norway is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. Period. Even when the weather is not as obnoxiously perfect as it was on my first cruise through the Nærøyfjord, this country is too beautiful to put into words and hence makes me resort to one cliché statement after the other. But if you can't call this place stunning, when can you ever?

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The Sognefjord may be the largest fjord in Norway, but the Nærøyfjord is one of the narrowest in the country. Measuring only about 250 meters at its narrowest point, the mountains were towering over us like giants and the water that shone so mesmerizingly blue just minutes before now gleamed in a mysterious dark green color. As a constant dreamer and fan of fantasy, I would not have been surprised to find a colony of elves on the shores of the fjord. 

The sun has to stand at a certain angle in order to properly cast its light on the water and as a result, large parts of the fjord are in the shade for most of the day. I'd definitely recommend bringing a scarf, a hat and some mittens along if you want to brave the elements! This goes for any other Norwegian fjord I have ever visited, by the way - it's always going to be much colder than you think!  

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We spent the night in Gudvangen, a small town at the end of the fjord, before we made a short stop at the Hardangerfjord and then finally drove to my new home, Bergen. I still remember lying in my bed in the camping cabin at night and feeling nervous about living in Norway. It was a mix of excitement over travel and hiking opportunities and fear of being lonely and not being able to cope with a long-distance relationship, but looking back now, I can say with certainty that my year abroad in Norway has definitely been one of the best years of my life. There were challenges and there were downs, just as there always are in life, but there were also so many great moments and I ought to remember that that is the case whether I live in Norway or in another country. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life's Little Moments

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One problem with falling out of a regular blogging schedule is not quite knowing what to say once you’re ready to re-commit. I've written about twenty different hooks for this post, or at least that's what it feels like, and they all felt wrong, so I've decided to just sit down and have a little chat with you all. That's what blogging really is about after all, isn't it?

I've been spending the past few weeks working on a paper for uni and it required so much time and energy on my part that I was barely able to do anything else. Work out? No. Blog? I did in the beginning, but had to re-prioritize. Socialize? Great joke! Sometimes I feel like I am not able to focus on more than one thing at a time - let's hope I get this figured out before I'll have to get really serious about studying again in a couple of weeks! The paper is handed in now, though, fortunately, and I'm looking forward to having a life again. 

There hasn't been a whole lot else going on, but I have been better about bringing my camera along and going out on photo walks when I need some room to breath. Fall has finally hit up Germany and while the first half of October has been outrageously mild, the temperatures are starting to drop, the wind blows harder and the days are noticeably shorter. I love this time of the year! 

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I also still don't have any travel plans for the foreseeable future -  I've just usually been too tired to do more than day-dream and add destinations to my Places to Visit map on Google. Reading Wanderlust Travel Mag has my longing to travel soar, though - I think I just need a kick to go book some flights! What's your favorite travel magazine?

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I'm beginning to turn all hipster and have discovered the joy of Farmers' Markets. With all the amazing produce that comes available in the fall, it's hard not to! Fall is definitely one of my favorite seasons and that's not in small parts because of thoughts of steaming bowls of pumpkin soup and baked Apple Cider Donuts. 

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Has fall always looked this pretty? 

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What have you been up to lately? I hope you're experiencing a beautiful - and calm! -  fall wherever you are! 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Norway | A Hiking Trip to Iconic Preikestolen

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August 2013

If you have read my blog for any duration of time, you have probably come to notice that I love hiking. Being in the great outdoors never fails to make me incredibly happy and while there have certainly been hikes that have pushed me to my physical and mental boundaries, I love how nature regularly shows me that we are capable of much more than we think. It should come as no surprise then that I actually have a hiking bucket list and there was obviously no better place to start it than Norway.

If you have ever googled pictures of Norway, you have probably seen the iconic Preikestolen before. Known as Pulpit Rock to English speakers, it majestically rises 604 meters over the Lysefjord, overlooking the surrounding mountains and automatically making it’s way on every travel wishlist I can imagine. With an estimated hiking time of just about four hours and just under an hour away from the city of Stavanger, the Preikestolen may also just be the easiest to reach classic Norwegian hike – it’s certainly a great deal more accessible than the wonderful Besseggen Ridge in Jotunheimen National Park.

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During the summer months, the Preikestolen is very easy to get to from Stavanger by Public Transport. The Preikestolen is one of the prime tourist attractions in the area, so you're not going to have it to yourself, but do try to take the earliest ferry you can manage: The hike is crowded in the morning as well, but it's not nearly as bad as in the afternoon!

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So, just how difficult is hiking the Preikestolen? Accounts on the internet vary from super, super easy to incredibly hard, so it will obviously depend on what kind of hiking you're used to. S and me are experienced hikers, but I am also very much not a fit person (not kidding, I struggle to run a mile) and I found the hike pretty easy. Yes, you're going to have to walk over boulders and yes, you'll have to walk up a mountain - but compared to many other hiking paths in Norway, the way up the Preikestolen is extraordinarily well walkable. We finished the entire hike in about three hours instead of the four hours that are usually suggested, though we did hurry on the way down. 

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If looking at the picture of the path above made you question my sanity when saying that the path to the Preikestolen is extraordinarily well walkable, then let me defend myself by saying that just knowing where you're supposed to go can be a big luxury when hiking in Norway. It's part of what makes the Norwegian outdoors so great, obviously, but something has to be said for a hiking trip where you don't constantly have to wonder if you're still on the path or, well, any path at all for that matter. I will say, however, that you have to make sure to wear proper shoes. No ballet flats, flip flops, high heels - if it belongs to the beach or a catwalk, it probably doesn't belong on a hiking path! 

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I'm ashamed to admit that the above picture is the only proper picture I got of the Preikestolen. Do yourself a favor and google some others right now to get an idea of what this place actually looks like! Here's the thing, though: The Preikestolen was uncomfortably full with people and that kind of made me more concerned with not tripping and falling down than with getting some super stellar shots. People do some extremely stupid stuff up there and I'm surprised that (thankfully) there have been so little accidents over the years, but I'd be lying if I said that standing on the Preikestolen wasn't at least a little bit scary. We did, however, have the most amazing view over the Lysefjord - is there anything that compares to the view above the world from a mountain? I'm not sure. 

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Natural sights in Norway never tend to feel particularly overrun: Many of them are simply so far out of the way and require so much time and physical effort to get to - hello twenty-two kilometers Trolltunga hike! - that they're not the tourist destinations that they really deserve to be. I don't think I have visited one place in Norway aside from the Geirangerfjord that was as crowded as the Preikestolen. This speaks words for how impressive it is, obviously, but the crowds got too much for us soon and so we decided to head back down. 

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In comparison to the hike, our ride back to Stavanger seemed very quiet. The Preikestolen is definitely an impressive sight and one that I would recommend to everyone visiting Norway. That being said, though, I'm sure that the Preikestolen would be even more beautiful and more impressive if there weren't so many people. If experiencing a little bit more solitude there is important to you (though I'm not sure that's actually possible), then make sure to do the hike very early in the morning or don't visit during the middle of Peak Season.

What's an iconic sight where you live?

linking up with Bonnie, Amy, Jessi & Camila

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