Norway 2009

(click on a picture to start slide show)

Back to Homepage

by Christy

Ted and I, childless, in Norway. What precious time, these fleeting moments of freedom. Ok, so having children is not exactly prison, or it's a pretty nice prison most of the time, but what parent of a 1- and 4-year-old hasn't yearned for a moment to read a book, finish a conversation, a sentence, a thought? We missed Anders and Nora dearly while we were gone, but we really enjoyed being unfettered adults again, enjoying another adventure together.

Trond, Annie and Hanna were again our gracious hosts in Trondheim. We greatly enjoyed seeing them and enjoying their company. Mange takk for everything.

Trondheim was lovely, as always. I spent most of my alone time wandering around downtown, enjoying $3 lattes from a convenience store machine while people-watching or reading a book. I was shocked, yet again, at how expensive Norway is (a one-way bus ride is $5! Iced coffee at a cafe for $7! Trond quote: "A hot dog wrapped in bacon and a Pepsi Max for 40 kroner!" That's a $7 deal from Narvessen, a convenience store like a Seven-Eleven! Although a hot dog wrapped in bacon is priceless, so who would argue that it's not a great deal). The Fretex, Norway's answer to our Goodwill stores, came through with some great Christmas outfits for the kids and a raincoat for Anders for next to nothing. The kids each got a pair of Norwegian overall-rainpants that will last a few years, perfect for our Oregon winters. Even with the prices, downtown was always packed, even in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. I was often mistaken for a Norwegian, or if they thought I was a tourist, for a German. I try to blend in with the crowd, which isn't too tough for me in Norway (at least until I try to speak Norwegian, or respond to a question with a blank stare).

The main highlight of the trip was Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock. The pictures really tell the story of the hike and the amazing natural wonder, so I will just give the outline and a few observations here. The closest major city is Stavanger, where we spent a few hours between our flight and ferry. We were clever enough to store our small suitcase at a locker in the airport, so we only had our backpacks with what we needed for the trip (although that was plenty to carry). From Stavanger we took a 20-minute ferry to Tau, then a bus that left directly from the ferry terminal up to the Preikestolen Fjellstue (Preikestolen Mountain Lodge). The trail to Preikestolen starts at the parking lot of the lodge, so although there is a range of accommodations there, nothing comes cheap. We essentially had a dorm room, actually a little smaller than modern dorm rooms, for $140. You could spend a lot more for a room with a double bed and a bathroom. Overall, it was worth it to be right there and not waste time with multiple bus trips, or to jet in for the quick hike and jet out again.

Almost 100,000 people visit Preikestolen every year. Most seem to come on big tour buses that linger long enough for their passengers to get up and back. It is advertised as a 2 hour hike up, a little less back, but I did not expect such a strenuous hike. In terms of elevation and distance, we've done this and more plenty of times. The tough part was the terrain. Going on paths of huge rocks where you have to watch your footing for every step was tedious. My knees really felt the effects there and back. You would think that the climbing on the way there would be tougher, but coming down those rock-rivers was really challenging, especially when you are hot and tired, and have streams of people trying to come up as you come down. Gravity wants to help you out on the way down, but you've got to resist gravity on every step to make sure you've got solid footing.

I didn't seem to be the only person expecting an easier hike. On our way down, we saw so many people that should not have been up there, or clearly didn't know what they were getting into. I don't want to make broad statements based on age or apparent physical ability, but I would bet that a good number of people that we saw on the way up were headed back down before reaching their goal. One that stood out was a very old and frail-looking woman with a cane and leaning on a younger woman. There was a big group together helping her up, and she had made it up one of the biggest and steepest boulder-strewn stretches already. I could only guess that she wanted to see this once, or again, before she died and her whole family was going to see that she made it. At least she had help to get there, many others didn't seem prepared at all, without water or decent shoes. Our 2 young North Dakotan friends, Tom Naas (college junior) and Jason Naas (graduated college this year), agreed with this assessment. They had done the hike on the same day that we did, although we didn't meet them until we all took the bus and ferry back to Stavanger together. They were at the end of a 30-day European tour, how cool.

It was interesting to see all of the different people. The great majority of people who do the hike are Norwegians and Germans, followed by visitors from the other Scandinavian countries, then other Europeans and Americans. I only heard a few American voices during the entire 6 hours we were out there. Europeans are much less body-conscious than we Americans. A great many women of all ages (actually, older women probably outnumbered younger) were hiking in bras and shorts.

The hike was beautiful, but I didn't realize until after we were finished that the number of people and having a goal at the end really spoiled the journey for me. We purposely set out early, staring around 8:30 am, to beat the crowds. After the 1st steep assent, when we could look back down at the lodge, we saw the first tour bus roll in, which was motivation to get moving. There were other small groups going up with us, who we would pass, then we would take a break and they would pass us, and so on. There were also plenty of people up there when we made it to the top. I kind of forgot to look around and enjoy the hike because I was preoccupied with "how much further?" and "how many more people?" The way down was worse, because we had to fight the crowd coming up and constantly watch our footing. There were also people constantly flooding down behind us too. I hated the feeling of being pushed down rather than doing it on my own time.

The chance to see amazing natural wonders is always the prime destination of our trips; it's something we both really enjoy and revel in. But my theme on this trip was to enjoy the journey. It's a lesson not only for travelling, but for all of life. I often feel like I'm only enduring the journey, which isn't a happy way to live. Even when I'm worn out in my daily life, or looking forward to the kids reaching another milestone (like sleeping though the night, or having a meal without screaming), I'm trying to be more conscious about enjoying the journey with them too.

Enjoy the journey through our photos. It was an honor to be there, and an honor to share the experience with you, even in this limited way. Often on these trips I wish we could take a "smellograph" to capture the clean, clear smell of the air there. Take a few deep breaths when you imagine being in these places. That's one of the best parts of enjoying the journey.

by Ted

Nice overview by Christy. Preikestolen was truly amazing. Definitely one of the top 3 most amazing natural wonders I have seen. A sheer rock ledge 2000 feet above the fjord. As Christy said, the hike there was challenging, but not anything outside of our ability, and I enjoyed the varied views and terrain. It would be nice to do it again during an off-season when you had the trail to yourself a bit more. Visiting Preikestolen and Norway's ceaseless beauty was a true privilege.

Apart from the hiking and sight seeing, the main purpose of the trip was for me to establish contacts with faculty at NTNU (in Trondehim) and Aalborg University in Denmark (and Iceland, in the next update). Both of those visits went very well, and were well worth the trip. Many thanks to my advisors Ned Mohan at the Univ. of Minn. and Tore Undeland at NTNU for inviting me to participate in the collaboration. I hope there will be opportunities in the future to build on these contacts.

Many thanks of course to Annie, Trond, and Hanna for hosting us in Trondheim. Hope to see you in the U.S. soon!