Helsinki to Norway July 2016
Helsinki day 1  |  Helsinki day 2  |  Helsinki day 3  |  Stockholm  |  Stockholm to Kosta  |  Kosta to Kalmar
Kalmar to Copenhagen  |  Copenhagen  |  Copenhagen to the Ship  |  Aalborg, Denmark  |  Flam, Norway
Alesund, Norway  |  Molde, Norway  |  Geiranger, Norway  |  Olden, Norway  |  Bergen, Norway
Eidfjord, Norway  |  Stavanger, Norway

July 29, 2016
Geiranger, Norway

Hard to imagine a more dramatic entrance.

Geiranger, NorwayWe came into the fjord about 5 a.m. Around 5:30 the ship turned around slowly and moved into a main fjord branch headed to Geiranger. The fjord is narrow here and from Geiranger, Norwayour room we can see towering mountain walls on both sides of us. Absolutely majestic. What an unparalleled town greeting. Waterfalls are everywhere even though, so to speak, we're in the Norwegian dry season. The dry season around here means the 2 or 3 weeks in late July/early August when the previous season's snow has basically all melted and new snow hasn't started falling yet. Anyway, we sailed past through this towering stone corridor past so many waterfalls it looked like a celebration with streamers and we came to the town of Geiranger at the very end. It reminds me of towns in Italy along the Mediterranean which are almost inaccessible except by ferry.

I sightsee to experience new places and people. I was not looking forward to a trip to the fjords because the towns would likely be all the same - or almost so. I was right - they are and were. But I realized that with respect to a trip like this, I had put my focus on the wrong object. I love the mountain states of the U.S. but the towns don't hold my interest for any length of time. Instead, I need to focus on scenery first and towns second. As in the U.S. Rockies, the scenery in Norway both varied and spectacular. This trip has made me aware that the scenery can make a place worthwhile for me, and therefore the towns a bit more enjoyable as well (I'm not saying that this is an earthshaking realization - just mine).

Geiranger, NorwayThe tour we took today was nothing but scenery. We boarded a bus and climbed a mountain at the foot of the fjord that was a mile high. It wasn't a gradual climb - more like straight up. With multiple hairy precipitous-drop-if-the-driver-screws-up kind of switchbacks on the very narrow 2-way road. The bus stopped on the mountain top and we stepped out into very windy and very cold weather. But what a view. That little white dot in the upper middle of the picture to the right is our ship.

Geiranger, NorwayA little further down the road we stopped again for a closer look at the same scene. And we continued on our way. The guide pointed out Geiranger, Norwaya series of small wooden boxes placed along the roadway. She told the story of the earlier settlers who, if they wanted to more quickly use the roadways after the winter snows closed them, had to shovel them off by hand. That was at least two months' work. These settlers discovered if they put black soil on the snow-covered roads, that dark soil would retain heat and help melt the snow, making the shovel work easier. Today, the road is cleared using plows controlled remotely by GPS.

We stopped at a place for a coffee and Danish. The place was named DJUPVASSHYTTA. If I gave you the same letters in Scrabble, you'd quit.

For a finale, the bus took us up another road along the side of the fjord where there were only 11 hairpin switchbacks. We got a view of the same fjord but from another angle. I earlier mentioned that we saw lots of waterfalls as we cruised in this morning. But this afternoon I saw a waterfall the likes of which I'd never seen before. The last photo below shows a glass or plastic ledge (right hand side of the photo) over which water runs and then falls onto a rock face below. We're at the same altitude as in the third photo below.

Geiranger, Norway Geiranger, Norway Geiranger, Norway Geiranger, Norway 

In short, Geiranger looked like paradise to live in - if you ignored the winters. However, the guide shared another story about the town. Down the fjord about 10 miles is a huge rock slab that is slowly separating from the mountain it's part of, slipping downward toward the fjord at the rate of an inch or so a year. If that slab falls into the fjord it will create a wave/tsunami high enough to swamp the town under a hundred or more feet of water. The Norwegian government has installed some sort of an early warning alarm system in and around this slab in case it develops larger cracks, or starts slipping more quickly or, heaven forbid, starts to fall. The Geiranger-ites would have about seven minutes to scramble up the hill in back of the town to escape the wave.

Someone asked our guide about emergency services. She mentioned that the nearest medical help for anything serious was at least two hours travel away by car and ferry. Her advice: Stay healthy my friend.

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