Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stavanger and Jorpeland

I loved Norway in a way I never expected to. The rolling hills, deep fjords, and ever-changing skies have been impossible to forget. Of course, hiking Preikestolen was the most momentous part of my trip, but exploring Jorpeland and Stavanger were quietly perfect as well. You may want to leave this to load for a few minutes, because it's about to be a VERY picture heavy post!

Growing up with Lake Wallkill, Cayuga, and Keuka have given me such a love for being on the water. I love the way the air smells near lakes, and the contrast of the water and sky, whether it's a bright and sunny day or dark and stormy. In Norway, we were never far from some beautiful body of water or another, beginning with our journey from Stavanger to Jorpeland. Though we were blown around like crazy, we spent as much of the journey outside as we could. One of my favorite views in the world was so prevalent during that ride, and would be for the rest of the trip as well. I am a little obsessed with how hills look as they overlap in the distance. To me, the way that the colors mesh together and fade away is incredible!

Jorpeland was cute but teeny. 

It was a very residential neighborhood, and the first Airbnb I'd ever stayed at where the family was literally right upstairs the whole time. We spent that first day in the car, driving through the hills. Every 15 minutes or so someone would say something along the lines of, "Oh my gosh, look at that!" and we'd stop, unload ourselves from the car, and take in whatever beauty we had found. We took it all in with such giddy excitement, whether it was a little lake nestled into a valley or a family of precious little sheep. 

In part because the scenery was just so breathtaking, the sunsets were mind-blowing. One night in particular, we were exhausted yet exhilarated from a hard day of hiking. We set out for a picnic with the strangest assortment of Nordic snacks,  including curry-flavored tuna and pear cider. Along the way we stopped at least 6 or 7 times because the sunset was just too incredible from whatever new angle we were at, and we couldn't let it pass us by. 

Jorpeland is close enough to Stavanger, but it is about an half-hour ferry ride away. 

We had rented a car, arrived in Stavanger late at night and were leaving early in the morning, so it made sense for us to spend our first and last nights at the Stavanger airport hotel. It worked out perfectly and gave us enough time to see the city! Stavanger was so different from Italy. The port city is full of white, 18th century homes and shops, offset with colorful flowers and bright street art. We stopped for the best seafood meal I could possibly imagine. I ordered a shrimp sandwich, which honestly sounds pretty gross. It was citrusy perfection, and couldn't have been tastier. I would love to figure out how to recreate it! In high contrast with the bright city was the rock festival that was taking place during our stay. As a result, we explored the city with a soundtrack of intense guitar-solos and scream-o vocals, which somehow didn't detract from the experience. 

From Stavanger we found a boat cruise through the fjords. 

At this point, you should probably know that I will forever be a seven-year-old at heart with my love for Disney, which makes the fact that we sailed by King Olav's council island (Tingholmen) extra exciting (Olaf... Norway... I'm basically Princess Anna from Frozen). We cruised down the Høgsfjord and Lysefjord, the latter of which was home to our lovely Preikestolen. It was crazy to see it from below; what had looked so massive from above was such a minuscule piece of the fjord from below. 

Small geology lesson: Fjords are deep strips of water surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, and are open to the sea on the fourth. Like the Finger Lakes in NY, they were carved away by glaciers 10,000 years ago. These glaciers were often as giant as 2,000 meters of pure ice! There is a 'sea threshold' at the mouthes of the fjords, which is much shallower than the rest of the water. This helps to maintain calmer waters than out in the actual sea. 

Lysefjord and Høgsfjord were such impressive examples of nature's power. We passed rocky islands covered in pine trees, which were once home to King Harald, Norway's first real king from 872. Cliffs rose above us up to 1,000 meters high. Trees grew from every surface they could cling to, spilling out from ravines and down the waterfront. You'd never think that plants could grow in such a rocky landscape, but, to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Life will find a way." 

One of our stops on the cruise was at the Vagabonds' Cave, where a group of (what else) vagabonds once hid out while being chased by the local police. As the boat circled through the seemingly too-small cave, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" began to play loudly over the speakers. It was super corny, but I absolutely loved it because of some  childhood memories with my sisters. We had a game where we'd play the song (through Encarta '95, not to date myself) and each of us would be a different sneaky character, and we'd chase each other through the living room. Silly, I know, but it completely fit with the whole idea of Norwegian trolls and vagabond hideaways! Shortly afterwards, three little goats (Three billygoats? Were they gruff ones?) came down to the waterfront (well-trained to expect good things when they saw our ship each day) which only added to the fairytale vibe. 

Leaving was hard, but Norway gave us one last gift in the views from the plane. I've never had a more interesting view from above! Narrow rivers snaking through rolling hills to thousands of oddly shaped lakes- long and skinny, big, small, filled with islands, random patches of snow- Norway's topography is a geologist's dream!

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