No blogging can only mean one thing: Gina is hiking in the mountains of Norway and has neither access to her laptop nor the internet in general.
I will try and make this brief, but informative, and hopefully a little interesting.
Our travels began in Oslo, Norway, where we quickly learned that the convenient store of choice is the 7-Eleven. No street or train station was without one. And I wondered if they called it a seven-eleven, or sju-elleve. Stacy thinks they say it in English, but I’m not so convinced.
We stayed at a cute little pension, which was situated right behind the royal palace! We walked through the park to the palace and watched the guards march back and forth in front of the entrance. But, Nicola, we did not get obnoxious pictures with them. Actually, the guards moved their heads quite a lot, anytime there was a stray sound coming from somewhere other than right in front of them. So we would be walking along the side of the palace, minding out own business, when all of a sudden we would get the stare down from the palace guard. Hmmmf!
Oslo has many strange sounds at night. Beating drums and loud music. The sun doesn’t start setting until 10 o’clock, and it is finally dark around midnight. That’s when the party happens. The streets settle down around 2 or so, but the sun comes up at 4 am.
Hotdogs are the national kiosk snack. Every Norwegian eats hotdogs. The food otherwise is expensive and not very good. There is no food that they are really known for, except maybe salmon. But, to give you an idea, a hotdog cost about $9. Coffee is about $5 – and that’s just a little one. Maybe that’s why the 7-Eleven is such a hotspot.
For those of you who don’t know, Stacy and I planned to hike in the Norwegian mountains. We began our hike in the town of Finse, which is situated just below the Hardangerjokulen glacier. Yes, you read right, I said glacier. Our hike, which the Norwegians just call a “walk”, took us five hours on the first day. The mountains were rock, mostly sedimentary or shale, and there was no sign of life. We hiked along the snow fields, and you could hear the rushing water beneath them. Sometimes we’d come across a huge spring, and the water would flow under a snow field, creating this type of cave under the snow. Sometimes we’d be hiking along the (very well marked) trails, and I’d wonder if we’d ever make it to our hut.
Our first hytta (hut) was the Gkadhsfjkahytta, which is not its real name, but it might as well be. It will be remembered as the hytta with very luxurious outhouses. They are in the cabins, like toilets are, and built out of wood. But there is no flush, and the waste just drops. So I did what any civilized, modern person would do – I wrapped a bandana around my nose and pretended I was in the Ritz.
Funny side note about the Norwegian names. Stacy and I could barely pronounce them, and so we started calling anything that we couldn’t pronounce Borkdebork, in manner of Swedish chef. So, for instance, we walked down Borkdebork street or ate at Borkdebork restaurant. I’m sure it will continue while we are in Sweden.
The second hytta had flushing toilets and free showers. And sheep. We met Ola, a Norwegian, along the hike and hung out with him at the hytta. He bought us very expensive but very good beer and talked about his alcohol problem as a kid. Stacy played the guitar for all the hikers, sticking to Beetles and pop tunes, which they seemed to enjoy.
The third hytta had stuffed animals, including a HUGE polar bear. I left my shampoo at the hytta, but have since bought a $5 (small) bottle of Herbal Essence.
Our last hike is the famous one; the one that the day hikers and tourists do. It’s the one through Aurlandsdalen. Now we are down in trees and wooded areas, with unique flora and sheep. On this hike you have two options, stay on the path along the river, or climb the cliff and then come back down. Stacy and I hiked the latter. Up, up, up… not so bad, hard on the legs. And then you walk along the ridge for a long time, staring out at views of the valley below. It was a little foggy the day we hiked, but it was still beautiful.
And then you have to go down, and there is a cliff face you have to descend, with a wire cable to help you. It was rainy, and the rocks were wet and muddy. We had been slipping along on the flat parts, and now we had to somehow get down these rocks. I tried to play it cool, but I was terrified, and Stacy got it all on film. Of course, we made it down and spent the rest of the hike enjoying the abandoned farms, sheep, wooden bridges, and the waterfalls that cut into the cliffs. All very amazing.
Four days and over 50 kilometers later, our hike ended, and we took a bus to Flam, the very touristy town on the Sognefjord. On the bus, we talked with one of the other hikers, who was from the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Her name was Beatrice, and she was traveling for a few months by herself and decided to hike. In Flam, the hostel and every hotel in the town were full, so the very helpful tourist info lady hooked us up with some private digs. So the three of us – me, Stacy, and Beatrice – stayed in a little cabin right along the fjord. Needless to say, it was one of the most stunning things to wake up to.
I am writing to you from Goteborg, Sweden, and I have to tell the tale of how I got here, but not now. We are visiting with friends from the States, and I am being a very anti-social hermit. I will write more soon!
~ Gina Marie