This past summer we took our first trip to Scandinavia, to include the southwestern area of Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark. As Scandinavia is infamously expensive and we like stopping where and when we like, this turned out to be a very long road trip. We loaded the trunk with nonrefrigerated food to cut food costs, and wine and beer to cut alcohol costs, and hit the road.
The last time we road tripped like this was May of 2011 when we spent a couple weeks driving across New Zealand, so it makes some sort of strange sense that we should do the same across a part of Norway. Our focus in Norway was seeing the fjords, after all, the very thing that many compare between Norway and New Zealand. Which country has the most breath-taking fjords? We're lucky enough to have the chance to see.
We drove up to Kiel on Germany's northern coast and caught an overnight ferry to Oslo. Being forced to sit back and relax while we were carried over the Kattegat to Norway was tough, but we somehow made it through.
Not bad for a ferry. The ship we took was a small cruise ship with the capacity to carry vehicles, so there was a promenade with shops and a few places to eat, as well as a movie theatre and lounge with live music show. We've never been on a real cruise before, so this was the closest we've been and it was good for a night.
The ship left Kiel Saturday afternoon and we had a few hours at sea before the rain bullied us back inside. This bridge connects bits of Denmark together. Big bridge.
Passing by Denmark - our first glimpse of this country.
We arrived into Oslo Sunday morning and immediately hit the road, the coastal town of Ålesund being our destination by the end of the first day.
The first stave church of the trip was Ringebu Stave Church, built 1225-1250. Stave churches are medieval wooden structures named for their beam and post construction, and Norway has the all but one of the remaining Stave Churches in the world. Walking around inside of Ringebu was a completely different experience from being inside one of her Catholic sisters in Italy, where most of our church/cathedral viewing has taken place. Clearly this place is a fraction of the size of Italy's more famous cathedrals, but the difference in our reaction to it had more to do with its wooden interior. There was a warmth here that I've never felt even in the coziest churches elsewhere; it was nice.
Monday we were up early to walk the streets and take our first stop on this Norwegian road trip. I love being near the sea, so I felt right at home in this little city.
It's funny, no matter where I am in the world, Florida, Istanbul, or Ålesund, Norway, the sound of a seagull laughing makes me feel at home.
Ålesund's original church was damaged by the Town Fire of 1904, and rebuilt on the same spot, opening in 1909. Again, we were lulled by the wooden ceiling and beams, but what I love the most about all of the churches we visited were the miniature Viking ships hung in each one. When I asked about the significance of the ships, I was told that they are to remind us that we're on the same journey to Heaven.
This was at about halfway up...
And this is from the top. Even with the angry looking clouds rolling in, it was a beautiful sight. We got an ice cream and hung around awhile, tempting fate and rain. In the end, we made it back all 50,000 steps and back to the hotel before the sky completely unzipped. We ducked into our room for a bit to freshen up and figure out where we'd be having our first real dinner in Norway. (We were too tired and gross feeling from the long day in the car the first night to venture out, so we ate from the trunk.)
THIS beautiful example of fine cuisine was what I ended up with...reindeer fillet with fresh steamed veggies and a redcurrant sauce.
It was good.
Chris tried that which the region is known for, bacalao, a local fish dish that I actually tried (I'm not a huge fish fan), and it was delicious, too. And even though we were full of fabulous food and wine, we couldn't resist this dessert - the chef's choice - consisting of, starting at 12:00 on the plate, warm berry compote, mini-crème brûlée, some kind of chocolate fantasy brownie over strawberry goo, and raspberry sorbet.
Oh yeah, you know your mouth's watering.
It was the perfect way to end our day in Ålesund, and we waddled back to our room to pass out. There may not have been a lot to do in this town, but it was a nice way to start the trip. Up ahead, the Troll Road, waterfalls, ferry rides on fjords, hiking and whale for lunch!