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From Bergen to Utne

 

Since we’ve done the Bergen tourist loop multiple times now, we decided to do it a little differently with the Hills. We used Bergen as our jumping off point as usual, but this time rather than doing the actual Norway-in-a-Nutshell tour for the third time (you can see the previous 2 times here and here), we decided to turn the route into a little mini road trip in our own vehicle so we could travel at our own pace and to allow us to deviate from our path whenever our whims fancied a detour. And our whims fancied a lot of detours!
We traipsed all over the Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord regions, starting in Bergen and traveling from there to Norheimsund to Øystese to Aurland to Voss to Utne to Odda and back home. We visited apple orchards and had the best home-baked apple cake I’ve ever had in Norway with vanilla ice cream at Steinstø Fruktgård. We saw lots of waterfalls and gorgeous fjords. We perused some local museums. We walked up and down the misty shorelines of the fjords and we ventured to the tops of the mountains. We nibbled on lefse and we stopped at as many roadside cherry stands as we could to pig out on delicious Hardanger cherries. We traveled by car, bus, and ferry along many twists of both the road and fate and truly had a grand adventure.
Steinsdalsfossen Waterfall
(I feel ridiculous writing that because in Norwegian ‘foss’ means ‘waterfall’, but when I’m writing everything else in English it just seems weird not to include it!)  It looks small from far away, but close up…
it was a ton of crashing water! Out of all the waterfalls we saw on our trip this one was particularly cool because you could walk behind it.

It magical to get off the beaten path of the Norway-in-a-Nutshell tour and explore the rest of the region. You do get an awesome perspective on Norway in a short amount of time doing the tour, but it doesn’t beat getting to take things at your own pace and being able to stop and smell the cherry blossoms (and sample the apple cake!).

Next stop, Aurland!

 

Bergen with the family Hill

Bergen will forever remain one of my favorite Norwegian cities, no matter how many times we visit. It has the perfect combination of big-city-grandeur and small-village-charm with its eclectic architecture and fascinating history. So when the Hills wanted to see Norway we knew Bergen was top on the list of places to take them.

 

Emma gave herself a photo challenge for the duration of her trip to photograph as many flowers as she could. Here she is living up to her challenge and photographing some Bergenese flowers.

 

Mom loves to sew and is a part of a local stitching club. One of the stitches often talked about in her club is the Hardanger Stitch, so we knew we had to focus on the amazing artistry of embroidery on the Hardanger region bunads. We found an awesome shop that makes custom bunads and I think she was in her own personal heaven!
The rest of the family wasn’t so thrilled that so much time was spent in a sewing shop ;)
Exploring the outdoor fish market. Emma and I got to try samples of roasted whale!
These crabs were as big as small dogs!

 

The past two times Chris and I have been in Bergen we have passed this antique/flea market shop and each time it has been closed. This time it was finally open and we got to explore the treasures within! It was worth the wait! So many cool things crammed into every nook and cranny. Some of my favorites were antique newspaper letterpress type blocks and old nautical charts from WWII. Chris found a bunch of cool swords and Mom and Dad loved the antique coins. It’s probably a good thing they don’t have something like this in Stavanger because I would waste so much time just combing through everything in the store and trying to imagine its history. And of course, despite having a flea market feel, the prices were still Norway prices. Which, again, is probably a good thing because we would have left with half the store if they were cheaper :) If you are ever in Bergen and need a good souvenir, I would definitely try this place over any of the “tourist” shops any day!
The view from the top of Mt. Fløyen
Brother and sister.
Brygge
Chris and his almost dream boat (This was the Hallberg-Rassy 62 and his dream boat is the Hallberg-Rassy 64). Someday when we have a million $$ or two just lying around burning a hole in our pocket she will be ours :)

In typical fashion, we used Bergen as our launching point for a grander Norwegian adventure into the mountains and fjords. More on that soon!

 

Preikestolen

After getting back from our fantastic weekend at Bjergøy we had a day to “rest” before we jetted off on the next round of our adventures with the Hills in town. And by “rest” I mean mom and dad Hill got to rest while we dragged Emma up a mountain to sit on top of a cliff. Because that’s just what you have to do when you visit Norway!

Summer was definitely in full swing! We’ve never seen so many people swimming at the swimming hole!
The traditional feet-over-the-edge shot.
Queen of the rock, Emma!
Hello little baby bump! Glad you could join us on this lovely summer day now that your secret is officially out in the open!

 

Waaaaay up north

When someone asks if you want to be part of the crew on a sailboat to go hunting for icebergs in the Arctic Ocean, you say “yes”. Because really, that’s how all great adventures start.

 

This particular adventure for Chris happened to start when a friend of ours from church was looking for some assistants to accompany him on a 6-day trip up to the Svalbard islands to sail into the Arctic Ocean to collect iceberg core samples for a business venture. Basically, he’s creating a new brand of über-premium bottled water made from North Pole icebergs, called Svalbardi (apparently there is a really good market for that sort of thing. Who knew?) and he needed some able-bodied crew to come along and help him share the costs of the boat and aid in collecting iceberg core samples for purity testing.

 

When Chris heard the words “sailing” and “Arctic Ocean”, he immediately wanted in. Then he thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Then he thought maybe it was a great idea. Then he thought it was too expensive. Then he thought it was priceless. The timing of the trip was pretty terrible, what with it starting just after we got back from our trip to the States and overlapping a visit from his family at the end. And yeah… it was money we weren’t really planning to spend. But you know, there are always plenty of reasons NOT to do something and sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and say “yes” when life hands you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For us, we decided that 60 years from now the story of hunting icebergs in the Arctic is going to be worth all the money spent on the trip and more so Chris accepted and off he flew to Svalbard to catch his boat to the Arctic Ocean for 6 days.

 

Mmm…whale, reindeer and seal for dinner. Viking food.

 

Dead seal.

 

Alive seal.

 

Setting sail.

 

The total crew ended up being Chris, Jamal (owner of Svalbardi water) and the sailboat captain. The captain was pretty happy Chris was a certified Day Skipper with the RYA and Chris was pretty happy that he therefore got to do a lot of the sailing. And Jamal was pretty happy that he had someone to help out with the icebergs, because apparently it was a lot more work than expected to hunt down the ‘bergs. Happiness all around :)

 

(Unfortunately, Chris didn’t get any photos with himself in them, so the rest of the photos will include a lot with the captain and Jamal. We’re going to work on this in the future ;) But know that he was actually there as the man behind the lens. )

 

The weather was as good as could be expected (yes, it was July but you sure wouldn’t know it based on their outfits!) They had some gorgeous clear days and some horrible days with 20ft swells and accompanying seasickness. All in a week’s work for a sailor.

 

One of the experiences Chris talked about a lot when he got home was hearing the icebergs calve from the glaciers. All would be eerily silent except for the sound of the waves against the boat and then they would hear a huge thunderous CRACK. If they were close enough, they would whip their heads around towards the sound and catch the sight of glacier ice crashing down into the water. Sometimes they would sit and listen to what sounded like a thunderstorm in the middle of a clear day as iceberg after iceberg broke off and fell into the sea.

 

He also had a bit of a harrowing experience involving a capsizing iceberg. To get the core samples, Chris and Jamal would take a dingy from the main sailboat with all their equipment, sidle up to the iceberg and anchor the dingy tightly onto it with ice hooks and rope. They had just tied themselves off to one particular iceberg when Jamal realized they were missing a part for their core borer. They untied themselves, leaving the ice hooks in the iceberg to await their return with the needed part. Once they got back to the sailboat, however, they realized that the part they needed was actually attached to the core borer all along. No sooner had they turned to head back to the iceberg when a huge chunk of ice broke off from the iceberg beneath the water line and the entire iceberg heaved up and over onto its side before eventually righting itself again and crashing back down into the water. The Man Upstairs was most definitely watching out for them that day because if they hadn’t had gone back for the “missing” part they and the dingy would have been pulled under the frigid water as the iceberg tilted. They didn’t anchor themselves to any more icebergs after that.

 

“Iceberg right ahead!”
The core sample.
Bagged and tagged and now on to the next ‘berg. 

 

Most unfortunately, they didn’t get to see any whales or polar bears out in the wild (I was REALLY hoping Chris would get to see some wild orcas) but they did see a lot of seals, birds, walruses and puffins!
wpid-Photo-20150214105618958.jpg
One of the really cool things about being that far north in the middle of the summer was getting to experience the midnight sun. The sun never sets up there during that time of year. The two photos just above ^^ were both taken around 2am!

 

This sign was as serious as a heart attack…
And of course, they got to do a lot of sailing, which Chris loved. When I asked him what were some of the coolest memories he has of the trip he said, “Definitely getting to sail above the Arctic Circle. We went above the 79th parallel!”

 

Definitely an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

 

 

Baby sheep!
One Saturday in April I was finishing up a wedding cake delivery near Utstein Kloster (the ancient monastery on one of the islands north of Stavanger), when what should appear but….
LITTLE BABY LAMBS!!

I may have gotten a little overly excited and pulled off to the side of the road to grab the camera (which was luckily in the back seat of the car) to document the cuteness overload!
The area around Utstein Kloster is one of my favorite drives. I love it when I have a wedding cake delivery up there and have the excuse to make the trip. Even though it wasn’t quite spring yet, it was as idyllic as ever. Throw the sheep into the mix and I just couldn’t stop taking pictures! It was definitely one of those “I love living in Norway!” sort of days!