Day 179 (7.11.17): Nærøyfjord and Bergen

This morning was another early start, as we had a ferry to catch.  The boat didn’t leave until 9:00 a.m., but we needed to get packed and to drive from Hafslo to Kaupanger, which was about 30 minutes away.

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It was a special morning as we drove along the banks of Barsnesfjord.  The water was glassy smooth, providing crisp reflections of the farmland and mountains.

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We arrived to the ferry with plenty of time.  Though it was Tuesday, we *somehow* managed to avoid the hectic rush hour traffic.  We had a light breakfast at the tiny marina, starting with a feast of dry cereal.  There was also a gentleman in a small booth selling Norwegian pancakes with jam, which the girls scarfed down.  We ate looking out toward the fjords we would soon be passing through.

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Next to the marina, there was a three-story platform for jumping into the frigid water.  You can see the edge of the designated swimming-no-ferries-please area on the right in the picture above.  It was a testament to both the hardiness of the locals and the depth of the fjord that the platform only extended a few feet from shore.  Since we would shortly be boarding the ferry, we decided to leave swimming for another time.

Soon, it was time to drive onto the ferry and to find a place to sit for the 2 1/2 hour journey.  We got lucky, finding a spot for four on the port side of the top deck with good seating and largely unobstructed views.   The ferry started by heading west (towards the ocean) through Sogenfjord, which for good reason has been nicknamed “the King of the Fjords.”  It’s the longest fjord in Norway, stretching 127 miles from the coast deep into the interior.  Sogenfjord is also the deepest fjord in Norway, with a maximum depth of 4,291 feet.  Don’t drop your sunglasses.

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Julie and Lydie were stunned by the beauty of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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After about 45 minutes, we left Sogenfjord, turning south into Aurlandsfjord, which we followed  for another thirty minutes before turning into the narrow mouth of Nærøyfjord.

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Nærøyfjord is surrounded by mountains, some of which are over 5,000 feet tall.  The name of the fjord naturally comes from its narrow profile.  The fjord is only 750 feet wide in some places.  Between the high mountains and the narrow fjord, the sun never shines during the winter in parts of the fjord.  Lucky for us, it was July, and the sun was shining (so much so that Cassie couldn’t keep her eyes open).

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The ferry continued down the fjord, as we admired the cliffs and occasional waterfalls.

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Nærøyfjord is one of only two fjords in Norway that have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The photos really don’t do justice to the beauty and power of the scenery.  Apparently, Disney was so impressed by Nærøyfjord that it was the inspiration for Arendelle, the imaginary kingdom from Frozen.

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We finally reached the end of the fjord near the small village of Gudvangen, where there were crowds of people waiting to board the ferry and other sightseeing boats.  Tourists staying in Bergen can day trip to Gudvangen to visit Nærøyfjord.  Starting at the northern end of the fjord and working south turned out to be a great idea.

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We grabbed a quick lunch in Gudvangen, and then set off.  After travelling for days through remote areas, it felt odd to see even the light development we saw on the road to Bergen.

To.Bergen

By mid-afternoon, we reached a very cloudy Bergen.  We were lucky to have a cloudy day, as it rains very frequently in Bergen, so much so that it is said that babies there are born wearing raincoats.  In fact, we later learned that in June it had rained for 29 of 30 days.  We dropped our luggage at the apartment we had rented through Airbnb, and set off to explore the town.  Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, which is some indication of the country’s small population.  Though there were some brief showers, we stayed mostly dry.  We started by walking through the fish markets down by the water.  From there, we reached the Bryggen, a collection of colorful wooden houses dating back to the Eighteenth Century, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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In among the old buildings, we found a giant fish, which the chickadees did their best to wrangle.

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One of the fascinating features in the Bryggen was the use of the “elbows” at the base of trees to provide support for the covered walkways.  Apparently, these parts of the tree are stronger than attaching together multiple pieces of wood, particularly using 18th Century materials.

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And, just like Trondheim, Bergen had great sewer covers.

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We enjoyed Bergen.  It’s a charming seaside town.  But coming back to an urban area after spending so much time exploring the wilds of the fjordlands was hard, and I must admit that it left me less excited about Bergen than I had expected.  It was also hard to compare Bergen to Trondheim, where we had been fortunate enough to have amazing weather.

We finished up our exploration of the Bryggen and had dinner nearby.  Afterwards, we walked back to our Airbnb apartment.  When we arrived, we took a little more time to look around the place and were dismayed to realize that the apartment was uncomfortably dirty.  We called Airbnb and sent them some photos of nastiness.  Meanwhile, I found a hotel nearby where we could stay and made a reservation.  Airbnb quickly cancelled the apartment for us and gave us an extra $50 to put towards the hotel.  In the end, we saw the housing shuffle as another confirmation of our travelling mantra:  There are no mistakes in travelling.

-Will

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