Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Essence of Norway - Stryn to Geiranger

Wednesday 7 August 2013. We left Stryn behind in the previous entry and now we start to climb up into the mountains. The first photo stop comes a few minutes later.

We had been following a glacial river and the coach pulled to a stop by a bridge crossing the river just above some white water rapids. However, a few seconds ago we passed the rapids tumbling over a small fall and I thought that would make a much better photo. So John from Poulton and I rushed downstream and ended up on a small T-shaped platform of wood, totally unrailed and over the rapids!

We got the photos but if you look carefully you can see that the bridge is empty of tourists and so we were the last back to the coach!

We stop for lunch at the Jostedalsbreen National Park Centre in Oppstryn, about 14 miles from Stryn. Jostedalsbreen is also the name of the glacier that we can see above us, which is the largest glacier on mainland Europe. The centre is another of those grass-roofed buildings and in dire need of a goat...

Our dinner, meanwhile is served in a large conservatory, the gables of which can be seen to the right of the photo. We were four coaches on the tour and it fit us all. The tables were large enough to take four couples each. The benches were covered with reindeer skins. We sat with John and Sue, facing two other couples. The table was generously loaded with bottles of beer, Pepsi, and other drinks. We were against the window so Sue got the honour of being table monitor and passing the dishes out. Soup was followed by freshly poached salmon in a white sauce and rice - yummy! Tea and coffee followed.

After that we went outside to look at the lake and the collection of huge rocks. You can see these on the photo of the centre - each rock had a one foot square on its surface polished to show what it would look like as a floor, worktop or whatever. We admired the lake scenery for a bit then looked round the centre itself which sold reindeer skins and trolls and had record-breaking queues at the toilets... Even the Gents had a queue - which the ladies seemed to find quite gratifying for some reason.

We got back on the coach and started to climb. Lots of hairpin bends and we were on a very narrow road. A few cars were passed going the opposite way. This entailed slowing right down to a crawl and judging the right spot to allow the vehicles to pass.
"Do coaches only go one way along this road?" asked one passenger nervously.
"No... answered the driver. "But don't worry - I'm hoping to get my license next week..."

The guide tells us of an incident from World War II. A British plane and a German bomber had an aerial fight over the mountains one winter which resulted in both of them crashing. On the snow covered mountain survivors from both aircraft met in the same mountain cabin and had to live together to survive, becoming friends. The German bomber was still on the mountainside.

In fact, not long afterwards... But no - this turned out to be a replica. The story of the airmen was made into a film in 2012 called Into the White. Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter films) plays one of the British crew. This is a prop from the making of that film. However, the real bomber still exists somewhere in the mountains, whilst the British plane was recovered from a nearby lake and is now on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil, Somerset.

There are lakes a-plenty in the region. We had a photo stop at the side of this one next to a cafe and hotel with the rather quaint name Dupvasshytta. Don't knock it - 5-star reviews and all. Now we start to climb in earnest. No, not the coach's name...

This little (but 2-way) toll road is taking us to the viewpoint on the top of Dalsnibba mountain, from where we should be able to look down on Geiranger, the town at the end of Geirangerfjord, the fjord and the Thomson Spirit, the ship... The Jostedalsbreen glacier can be seen on the mountain tops and the road down can be seen... down...

We are 1500 meters above sea level - which is also fjord level seeing as we haven't gone through any locks or climbed any hills in the ship. The Thomson Spirit is there but partially hidden on the left of the fjord by an outcrop halfway down. Luckily we will stop again halfway down which will allow the following view of the ship which we last saw in Hellesylt first thing this morning.

We are late returning to the ship. It should have sailed half an hour before we got back to it and we were the first of the four coaches. One of the advantages to being on an official ship excursion is that it will wait for you to return. If you go off independently there is no such guarantee.

Large versions of the photos: all the photos from the holiday can be found in this set at Flickr. These are still being uploaded at time of writing.

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