Friday, September 3, 2010

Norwegian Experience: Day 4

Today we have a great report from this year's Norwegian Experience winner! It sounds like Bruce is having the time of his life! Here's what he had to say:

We have been traveling up the Sognefjorden, the western part of Norway. Today we went on a 3 hour tour through the Jotunheimen National Park. The road was very narrow and very steep and we went up 4,600 feet. They had snow up there about a week ago and the roads had to be plowed before the buses could travel back down. We saw beautiful glaciers and waterfalls. The road is called the Sognefjell mountain road and is a national tourist route and the highest mountain crossing in Northern Europe. It is a very winding road up to Turtagro and we went all the way to the top, coming down we met a bus going up and our bus had to back up this very narrow road and we were very close to the edge of the cliff looking down the side of this very high mountain, a little scary I must say. This is where the alpine sport started in Norway. International teams come here in late spring and early summer to practice their cross-country skiing as the snow remains here until quite late.

Along the road are tall sticks and that is how the snowplows know where the road is so they can plow in the spring. The road is closed in the winter. There are also large round stone piles with a stick in the middle. That was how people hiked through the mountain going from pile to pile and the stones had compass direction carved into them.

The road is also called the hand made road as the government was slow to act so the farmers from each side began building the roads themselves by hand so trade could take place from east to west to bring and sell their fish and other commodities.

The areas has mostly farming and produce mostly meat and milk. They have lots of sheep and cows. They have to move the animals to other places soon as they only use these farms in the summer months and government makes them move the animals before winter.

Only about 2.5% of the land in Norway is used for farming, 25% is forest and the rest is lakes, rivers, mountains.

It was cold in the mountain summit today but really beautiful with the sun shining on the glaciers. Some people come here to hike in the mountains and they have little camps that you can pick up a key at the hotel and use the cabins. Payment is by the honor system, you leave whatever amount you think is right in the cabin and return the key when you leave. This is a new port of cruise ships and the roads are just being build along the pier. Many buildings are being constructed and the road will be completed by next year so area will see lots of new growth with the ships coming in.

Upon the ships arrival this morning a man was standing on the pier playing an accordion and two Norwegian ladies waving the Norwegian flags. The Norwegians seem to be very happy to have the smaller ships visit Norway as they can come up the Fjords and stop at small villages. This is a great way of seeing Norway. We passed an old Stave Church today that we could see from our ship. The captain is Norwegian and does a great job of coming onto the PA system to let us know when areas of interest can be seen such as the church or waterfalls. Most of the stave churches no longer exist near the ocean because of the salt. The one in this village was destroyed by arson about 10 years ago. Their are less than 25 left in Norway and Sweden.

As I finish this post, we are sailing along the Sognefjorn and will continue for about six hours before entering the North Sea again. I'll e-mail more tomorrow.

Well, thanks for the great report, Bruce! Make sure to check back for more tomorrow!

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