Norway - Sognefjord and Glaciers - Friday, August 29, 2003

Our next stop was Balestrand, a small town on the Sognefjord (the worlds largest fjord!). We took a 5 hour "express boat" trip from Bergen through the Sognefjord to the idyllic little town of Balestrand. A fjord (pronounced fi-ord in English, and F-jord if your a Norwegian) is an ocean inlet or sound surrounded by mountains and step terrain leading directly to the waters edge. The boat ride was amazingly beautiful as we passed through the narrow straits and looked over the hundreds of small islands that mark the way to the entrance to Sognefjord. During the rest of the journey to our stop we saw lots of waterfalls cascading from the walls of fjord.

We used Balestrand as a base to explore the surrounding area. Hiking, rowing, bicycling, and glacier walking were all activities during our stay here. Marisa fell in love with the Fiske Soup (fish soup) from the community Akvarium cafe (one of the cheapest meals in town). It was lots of fun jumping on loaner bikes from the hotel and buzzing around town and exploring the side roads. The hotel also had a loaner rowboat that we were able to take out for a spin. The highlight of our time in this area was a glacier hiking trip on the Nigardsbreen Glacier an arm of the massive Jostedalsbreen Glacier (450 square kilometers). Let's just say it's a whole bunch bigger than Liechtenstein.

Our day started early, as we had to travel about 2.5 hrs to get the guides hut at the base of the glacier. Once we met our guide and retrieved our crampons, ice axe, and safety harness, we jumped on a boat for a trip across the lake at the base of the glacier. A quick hike under our belts put us staring up at the face of a huge glacier! How cool! We geared up and started the trek up and onto the blue ice. This was blast using the crampons to walk, jump over crevasses, and climb up the glacier. Our guide explained many things about the characteristics of the glaciers and the all important question of - why the ice is blue? - because of the way the light refracts in the deep ice crystals - think deep blue ocean water. The rivers and lakes of the area are milky from the dust and debris, mainly clay particles in the water that is constantly cascading out of the glacier.

After 4 hours hiking up and back down the glacier we returned to Balestrand, tired but happy that we made the long trek up to the Nigardsbreen to experience the fun of glacier hiking.

The next day we returned to Oslo via a boat ride and the beautiful Flam railway. We left Balestrand and headed to the little tourist town of Flam on another "express boat trip". After having a pretty lame lunch we hopped on the Flam Railway which is the steepest railway in the world not using cables or gears to power the cars. Thank goodness it has five sets of brakes!

We took this journey up to Myrdal high in the mountains to catch our train back to Oslo and from there we head off to Copenhagen, Denmark.

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