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Scandi-Trip Part II

We are spending one week and half in Norway and starting point for us was Oslo. First impression: wow. Word “city” redefined. One of the best places for living I have seen so far. Ok, city centre looks quite normal, but the city area as a whole…. it is more like mountain tourist resort (a la Tatranska Lomnica). Houses spread across hills separated by lot of trees. Most of the inhabited area is basically forest with “cottage style” houses. Public transport solved by metro system called T-Bane goes under ground in the centre, but outside it looks more like mountain tram in High Tatras. And on top of that, everything is by the sea, with nice views to surrounding islands. What I did not expect is diversity of nationalities / cultures living here – similar to London (what was the major sort-of drawback I have seen). But I could imagine to live here, everyone understands English (even seniors).

We spent one day and night there parking and sleeping close to church near last T-Bane stop. Interesting parts of Oslo sightseeing were: Vigeland park with many full sized sculptures of variously interacting men, women and children; modern opera house by the sea, roof of which was fully accessible to visitors (and I must not forget luxury toilet experience in the opera); then visit of Ski Jump (plus skiing museum) with nice view of Oslo; museum with three preserved Viking ships; public transport boat cruise; royal palace and cathedral in front of which there is still lot flowers dedicated to victims of recent Oslo killing. It was sunny and warm, both locals and tourists were enjoying the weather and streets were full.

Oslo was the last city for a long time going forward. Nature follows. Next three days we spent in southern part of Norway (to the west from Oslo). No big towns any more, just mountains, forests, lakes, fjords and villages. Driving here was an exciting experience – Norwegians do not have highways and they are completely ok with it. Most of the roads are very narrow, so often it is impossible to pass another vehicle with similar size going opposite direction without waiting on place where road is little bit wider. We had some “almost-collisions” when it took us couple of minutes to pass by another car without damage (so far only one mirror contact occurred which is great). And while doing this, we had to get rid of sheep which were attempting to eat our caravan when we slowed down (really) without harming them. Traffic is not very dense, max. speed is 80 km/h often reduced to 50. Roads go through big height differences, sometimes from 0 to 1000m (fjord-mountain), they are steep and turns are often 180 degrees (usually several of them in a row). There is plenty of tunnels which sometimes form spiral to achieve big climbing on small space.

Driving itself and observing the country is wonderful. At first nature was similar to slovakian (mountains, forests), on higher places it was more raw, rocky and empty like Scotland. But it was also unique too – for example such a big number of lakes I did not see anywhere else. And that was before fjords. Fjords are the best of all natural wonders here, so driving by them, crossing them by bridges and ferries (later more common than former) is very eye-appealing.

We have two navigation devices competing in offering us the best service. Sometimes we pick decision of the device which finds the worse alternative and we end up in woods on some gravel rally-style road (at night it is quite scary and we were
expecting some Breivik’s training centre in every lonely cottage). BTW, for the first time in my life I have seen road crossing the airport runway (in the middle of it) – it was like rail crossing but with runway instead of rails.

While driving, weather was sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy and rainy. Nights we are staying (with other caravans) on various parking places for free (usually nice ones with toilets, place to sit outside and fjord or waterfall next to it).

Among man-created wonders what we have seen, I must mention system of wooden locks on connected water channels in Telemark area (sometimes multiple locks forming unique water staircase for boats).

And what was the best and most exciting? Definitely two hiking trips what we have done. It is hard to describe them in words – we are making lot of pictures and surely I will publish them later. First hike was to Kjeragbolten (5 hours roundtrip, 700
m elevation) which we initially started at 6pm. But all hikers returning back we met, were knocking on their heads and asking whether we have torch with us… after this we rather returned and postponed the hike to next early morning. Although it was cloudy, it was great – steep walking and often rather climbing (supported by chains) in raw rocky country without trees, occasionally meeting sheep begging for food. The whole hike was basically on the edge of Lysenfjorden 1 km above fjord. Stunning height, hard to describe. The actual Kjeragbolten is rock stuck between two cliffs with 1000 m long potential drop to fjord underneath (very popular place for base jumpers). All of us were brave enough to stand on it (one by one – it is small), but it really required steady feet, mental focus and strength to cope with possible death (of my friends obviously, I would not fall :-D).

My knee was surprisingly better (thanks to hiking sticks and knee compression wrap) and after mix of endorphins and adrenaline I got, I did not care much to be honest.

Second hike was to Preikestolen (4 hours roundtrip, 330 m elevation), forest, rocks, worse weather (but good is that heavy rain started after we returned) and annoying crowd of people (reminded me Oxford Street on Sunday). Again it was on the (other) edge of Lysenfjorden and the point of the hike was possible casualty again – this time 25 x 25 m flat square rock hundreds metres directly above fjord. Not every tourist could handle sitting on the edge with feet hanging from the cliff, but I think it’s not required to explicitly say whether I did it or not šŸ™‚ This adrenaline dose was pure pleasure and I am becoming addicted (base jumping next time? :-).

Ok, let’s continue towards north… still a long long way to arctic circle…

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