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. 


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