Searching for the Vikings

Friday, August 18 - Day 17: Cruising the Hardangerfjord and stopping in Eidfjord

I woke this morning to the sound of a zipper being zipped up. No, that wasn’t supposed to be kinky. Donnie was putting on her jacket and going out to our balcony to take pictures of the Hardangerfjord. We are cruising through the Hardangerfjord this morning early and stopping at the little town of Eidfjord, which means “End of the fjord”. It’s overcast, but still, this is the first Norwegian fjord we are seeing that isn’t obscured by pouring rain.

After we dressed, we first went to our secret deck six overlook, with first one, and then two other people, but after a few minutes, the sun came out and it was right in our eyes, so we really couldn’t take any more pictures, and since it was a little cold and windy, we decided to go inside into the Crow’s Nest and watch the fjord go by from the comfortable chairs in there. After a while, we went and did morning stuff and had breakfast. We eventually took a tender into the little, charming, beautifully situated town of Eidfjord, population 1000.

The sun was out, most of the sky was blue, with low-hanging clouds in front of the mountains making for beautiful pictures. It was so warm in the sun that we wore short-sleeve shirts. Later we found out that this weather was incredibly rare. We were supposed to dock at the Eidfjord dock, but we had to take tenders instead because the dock was occupied by a large ship, the Viking Sun. No, it isn’t a Viking war ship with guys in helmets (no horns) and axes. This is a cruise ship owned by the Viking cruise line, who until recently only did river cruises. The Viking Sun is very new, and much bigger than the M. S. Rotterdam. We have heard very good reports about the Viking cruise ships. Maybe we’ll try a cruise on one some day.

We walked around town taking many, many postcard-like pictures, until all the beauty became so boring (joke). So, we went to the local COOP supermarket where I bought some licorice and yes, little chocolate-covered marshmallow teddy bears, but not a whole suitcase full. We walked some more and Donnie spent a few minutes buying gifts for our granddaughters. Well, when I say a few minutes, it was more like an hour. By then it was about noon, and we really didn’t want lunch, so we went into a little cafe and had really good apple-cake, and some really, really good coffee. Oh, and of course, the cafe had free WIFI.

At 1:30 we had tickets for an excursion, called “Waterfalls and Waffles”. After getting everybody on the bus, a difficult endeavor, our guide Pilar, from Spain of course, narrated our drive through very narrow, very curvy Norwegian roads that went through many rock-cut, long tunnels through the mountains that lined the fjord. We, on our previous trip to Norway, had driven through similar tunnels, including one that is the longest road tunnel in the world, fifteen miles long, and in the tunnel were three wide, high domed areas that were lit up blue, where you could pull over and stop. We called them the “Blue Grottos”.

The bus finally pulled into a parking lot at the Voringsfossen, which means the Vorings falls. What Vorings means, I don’t know. The falls were spectacular. So were the narrow, precarious, sometimes slippery walkways between the viewpoints. We spent a photogenic half-hour and were back in the bus on our way to the next stop, which sounded not very interesting. A dam, called the Sysendam ( not the name of a Holland America ship). What an incorrect assumption. The dam itself was fascinating, being built entirely of rocks and gravel and glacial moraine (dirt and sand), no concrete. But, from the same spot you had an incredible view of a giant glacier, Hardangerjøkulen . Pilar told us it was the sixth largest glacier in Norway.

On to the final stop of the tour, Waffles. We drove to a cafe, which served us coffee and Norwegian waffles, with sour cream and some kind of berry preserves. The waffles were very good, the sour cream was great, the preserves were wonderful and the coffee was fantastic. The ride from the glacier to the cafe was also very interesting and scenic and reminded us of our previous trip to Norway. It was on a high plateau, which is above the tree line. There were gentle rolling hills, covered with nothing but short grass and lichens and moss, almost like green carpeting, no other vegetation or trees, and lots of rocks, randomly sitting on the moss, from tiny to large, like something from another planet, and many of the houses we passed had turf-covered roofs. We had seen all this on our previous trip, when we drove along this plateau from Oslo to Bergen. It was barren and yet beautiful.

By now it was twenty minutes to 5:00 PM, and the sign at the tender port said that the last tender back to the ship left port at 5:30. We had to drive back all the way past all of the previous stops of the tour, on the narrow, winding Norwegian road through all the tunnels, passing other vehicles, including other tour buses and trucks, when the road wasn’t really wide enough for both. It was interesting. The driver almost made it on time. We got back to the tender dock at 5:35. Of course, we made it. They didn’t abandon us in Eidfjord (Darn!). In fact, they had to run one more tender for the passengers of a bus that pulled in a few minutes after ours, so we were spared the necessity of feeling guilty. When we were on the elevator on the ship, going up from the lower deck where the tender platform was, several of the four and five star Navigators were bemoaning the fact that they were going to miss their 5:30 dinner seating (it was now about 6:00), and even worse, they might not get their table. They practically elbowed us in the ribs to get off the elevator at the deck for the dining room.

The “Waterfalls and Waffles” excursion was wonderful. The weather was exceptional. In fact, while we were at the dam and glacier, we noticed the bus driver taking pictures. Pilar said that it is almost always raining here, and that the bus driver had done the trip for over ten years and probably had been there over a thousand times, and this time the weather was so good he had to take pictures. We had warm sun and pretty clouds all day until we got back to the ship, when it got overcast again and started to rain as the ship was sailing away from Eidfjord.

I’ll say it again, I love Norway. Donnie explained it, it’s like Switzerland with water. I have loved Switzerland for a long time. At one point this morning, I was sitting on a bench right near the water, looking at the beautiful fjord, and the mountains, and the little low-hanging cloud in front of the mountains, and the little pretty houses nestled among the trees up in the mountains, and I told Donnie that I’m not going home. Eventually, common sense, the reality of Winter in Norway, and the probable objections of the Norwegian Immigration authorities made me come to my senses, or as close as I can come to having any sense. I had this feeling once before in Grindelwald, Switzerland, where we had a hotel room with a balcony that looked out directly onto the foothills of the three giant Alps very near the town. I guess I have a thing for very big, steep, rocky, snow-topped mountains.

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