We Like a Good Old-Fashioned Hike

On a solemn grey morning, when the skies were beset by heavy clouds and the brows of my husband by equal measures of frowns, we were on our way to Mount Fløyen. A city mountain in Norway.

Lille Lungegårdsvannet, the lake featured in the lead photo and with the unpronounceable name which sits pretty at the centre of the city of Bergen, gives you an idea of the kind of day it was.

A colony of seagulls took flight above our heads, alarmingly low, which meant we had to duck if only for the sake of retaining our scalps — quintessential you see in achieving the climb to Fløyen. Birds taking flight. Ah what a romantic sight ’tis on a sunny morning but under smoky skies it acquire shades of the portentous. Alternately, it reveals the workings of a fanciful imagination.

The afternoon before, we had driven from Norheimsund to Bergen, the gateway to the fjords on the west coast of Norway. Our apartment was near the main wharf so we had time to dawdle over tea and a substantial breakfast. Adi was suitably miffed: How anyone could Imagine the prospect of any kind of activity that required him to climb anything, leave alone a mountain. That was the dilemma. We were in that phase of our travels where Adi had not warmed up to hiking on holidays. It was akin to tailing Tuktuk, our beloved lab, around the house and then dragging him for his bath.

Time and you, with laudable perseverance, may bring about changes in your spouse but watch out for the postscript. When Adi took to hiking holidays, he did so with a vengeance. He led me up hills which no one charts (for a reason) and where the wind in the grass raised my hair and hackles maniacally.

Before I digress into the future, our path from the apartment to Fløyen took us past the busy wharf and the largest church of Bergen in its red-brick Gothic glory and its pristine wooden interiors. My favourite part of admiring a church is to tip my head back and gape at its spire which almost always seems set to pierce the heavens.

20160815_112943.jpg
 The 19th-century St. John’s Church 
20160815_112606.jpg
Simplicity of its wooden interiors

20160815_112652.jpg

20160815_114639.jpg

It was chilly and people were queuing up for the Fløibanen, the funicular that for the sum of NOK 45 (£4) whisks you up to the top of the mountain in the matter of a few minutes.

But who wants five measly minutes when you can have an hour and a half of panting up steep hills and stairs – in the cheery company of a husband who refuses to let a smile crack his visage. Halfway into the climb we had trudged up a steep hill, past doll-like slatted houses in shades of white and yellow with their orange-red roofs. In the backdrop lay the steely grey waters of the harbour and a church steeple or two.

The contrast was stark when a fat black cat scampered past us. At the same time, Adi chose to lean his head on a pillar and bemoan his fate.

“What kind of a holiday is this? I want beer and food,” he bit out.

“But you just had a big breakfast,” I pointed out righteously.

This charmer of mine stomped ahead in reply. In this mode, we continued up the hill. When we had passed by enough red, black and blue houses with enviable views of the harbour, and we thought that we had done it, that we must surely have reached the top, I skipped up some 100-odd stairs. Turned out, they were the private stairs of a cluster of hillside houses.

Retracing our steps down, we reached the foot of a steep forest path which led into the midst of a pine forest, its grounds primeval and mossy in parts. It could easily pass for an enchanted world where we were the only ones in Troll Forest, or were we? We should have stopped to have a word with the resident trolls but there was no time to be lost. Heavy showers were forecast for the next hour.

If Adi had been spectacularly grumpy, I took over from here. My vast reserves of joy had been depleted because there is only that many tantrums one can weather.

And I will have you know, dear reader, that I can do it with panache too.

Almost magically, Adi’s black mood lifted. Between the two of us, we had handed over the baton of grimness from one to the other with perfect synergy.

It behoved my beloved then to placate me. Legs trembling – unknown muscles in the body had been worked all this while – I suddenly spotted the Fløyenguttene, otherwise known as the Boys of Fløyen behind electrified fences. They were white and horned with innocent faces and baaa-ey measures of conversation. Cashmere goats. Please know their importance in the scheme of things and be dignified in your comportment when you do make their acquaintance. They are employed by the local agencies to keep the vegetation at bay.

A brief look at a bald and squat troll besieged by the crowds and a quick coffee at the café later, we decided to experience the Fløibanen on our way back to the centre of Bergen.

Now when you find yourself in Bergen, and if the heavens do not burst upon you, do skip the funicular. Take the long way up because in life you have at times got to take the winding way up. And if a few of them are dirt, why you have aced it, champ.

20160815_115046.jpg
Steep roads that shoot up past these charming cottages

20160815_115429.jpg

20160815_115631.jpg

20160815_120233.jpg
Need I say anything?
20160815_122253.jpg
By the harbour
20160815_124828.jpg
Troll Forest
20160815_124646.jpg
‘Do not mess with the trolls you meet on this trail. If you meet one, make sure you look at the ground and talk only when talked to.’ (You did not just fall for that surely?)
20160815_124901.jpg
At the top where the pine forests lead to the vantage point
20160815_125239.jpg
The Fløyen Boy
20160815_125327.jpg
The hike with a view

 

Mountain Farms Mantled in Mist

Mist did not make itself scarce on our Norwegian vacation in the August of 2016. Our grand plans of hiking Trolltunga – and jumping at the end of the troll’s tongue while aiming not to fall off it – was interrupted by adverse weather. For as you know, it is not a good idea to set out on a hike in slippery conditions when you would need to be hoiked midway through the hike. Airlifts have indeed taken place a few times in Trolltunga. Let me assure you: the authorities do not shower you with kind looks and cupcakes when you are an utter git.

I am a git at the best of times. But I did have the experience of climbing boulders on the way to Pulpit Rock and that made me think twice. Despite all my hankering for Trolltunga, I did bow down to the wayward weather deities. There is no fighting nature for she will have her say. I made plans instead for us to hike up to a mountain farm high above one of the fjords, Simadalsfjord.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Woody Allen could not have put it better. The weather gods have powers of prescience, I am told. My plans were foiled again.

It was drizzling and it had rained heavily all through the day before. Double drama. We had to abandon all thoughts of the steep climb to Kjeåsen Mountain Farm. The other way up was to drive up a winding road that was constructed in the 1970s — maybe to allow people like me a route into this mountain farm which has been declared the most inaccessible one in the world. No you hike-loving twat, it was built keeping in mind the need for hydroelectricity development. 

The road up a one-way tunnel runs for 3-odd miles, but what it lacks for in length, it makes up in steepness. The tunnel comes across as dark as a subterranean passage because of the lack of lighting. How do they avoid vehicles locking lips here? The authorities have put out strict timings. You can go up at slots that start dot on the hour (such as 9am, 10am, 11am…). The journey down begins at 9.30am, 10.30am…You get the drill. The latest time till which you can drive up is 5pm. There are a handful of people who still live up there on Kjeåsen.

We passed through Hardangerbru, the suspension bridge that spans the length of Eidfjorden (a branch of Hardangerfjorden), and stopped at the hamlet of Eidfjord for a coffee break before we carried on up to Kjeåsen. It was a quiet community – all of 950 people share it between themselves. 

Mountains towered above us, lush beacons of goodness, slender waterfalls tracing their paths down the steep slopes as we wandered around Eidfjord and paused at the port where cruise ships stop before entering Norway’s largest national park, Hardangervidda. I shall take you into its open barrenness in the next post. I will throw in some trolls too to make it good.

IMG_20160818_205620.jpg
Mists hang low over the fjords

IMG_20160818_204626.jpg

IMG_20160818_204550.jpg
The mist rolled in and out
20160813_152015.jpg
In the hamlet of Eidfjord
IMG_20160818_181225.jpg
Mesmerised by the mountains that loom over Eidfjord
IMG_20160818_181310.jpg
Winding roads that lead to the old mountain farm

IMG_20160818_205133.jpg

IMG_20160818_205016.jpg
Be sure to say hello to his bearded contemplative personality and spare some tobacco
IMG_20160818_204917.jpg
The hamlet sits by a branch of the Hardangerfjorden
IMG_20160818_205504.jpg
Views from Eidfjord of the surrounding mountains and the tiny communities
20160813_181632.jpg
The area around Simadal Power Plant in the valley below the farm
2016-08-13 20.21.14.jpg
Gushing falls
IMG_20160818_181546.jpg
Mountains around Sima Power Plant

When we reached the foot of the road near Sima Power Plant, we were part of a queue of cars that had lined up to start the one-way journey on the hour. The cars have to maintain German-sharp timelines. After a tortuous drive (which is still less crazier than the Scafell Pike drive in the Lake District of England), we were walking through wild fields.

Veils of mist hung above us. As we carried on climbing, the mountain tops appeared to let off steam. Ancient, all-imposing.

For 400 years, the farm has had inhabitants who eked out their existence from the rich soil and forests through hunting and fishing. The story goes that the farms which stand in solitary glory at the top of the mountains were built during a lengthy period spanning three decades. The hardy people who lived there had to carry planks of wood, stone and building materials up the slopes. Their children had to attend school in Simadal below in summer. They lived with their relatives in the valley during the winter months when the paths leading up and down the mountains became too risky for them to chart. I could almost feel the sorrow that would have filled their tiny hearts as they pined away for their folks and the spectacular place they called home.

High above the fjord, shivering in the cold, we walked past the farm and stared at the surrounding mountains which plunged into the fjord. The waters were not smoky blue or steely grey. They were on the brink of turning a deep bluish-green.

IMG_20160818_182028.jpg

IMG_20160821_205022.jpg

IMG_20160818_181627.jpg

IMG_20160818_181654.jpg

IMG_20160818_181847.jpg

IMG_20160818_181939.jpg

Fjords, mountains, mists, waterfalls, lonely farms. We were caught in the clutches of time.

 

 

 

 

The Art of Chilling

When I say chilling, I mean Nothing. Let me relent here because there are the basic functions of living to be considered. Breathing, eating, checking into the loo and the works. Then there is the glorious prospect of gazing dreamily into the fjords beyond the windows, sighing from time to time, because you could live with such a view for a long time. As long as you lived.

Add a lifetime’s supply of books, coffee, tea, husband, hikes and two dogs. Now did I just describe Els’ life?

But before you get down to the art of perfecting nought, there is a condition that has to be met. The weather gods will have to conspire to make the heavens burst asunder till you will have no option but to sit tight within. If you are in a cottage by the fjords would you even consider complaining about thunders and showers?

The first day of our Norwegian vacation was about sparkling blue skies and froths of clouds. As a cloud chaser, I could not have asked for a better start. The second day materialised as an overwhelmingly grey prospect. That dirty, washed-out hue which can only cast long grey shadows upon the mind. But happiness is a state of the mind you have got to court. As Anne (of the Green Gables) claimed: “It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.” You do need inspiration to make light of the weighty moments in life.

But you shall need to give into sadness and woe too because those are inescapable emotions. What kind of a person would you be if you did jigs at a funeral? (which makes me think that I would want people to dance at mine, tuck into piles of good food and drink away. Life is too short to allocate enough time to ennui and glumness.)

Leaving thoughts of mortality behind — it is a Sunday after all — and I do not want to make you too contemplative on a day that should be about nothing really.

It is a feat to achieve nothing on a holiday. I have rarely indulged in such a feeling and it felt grand. Delicious. But before setting about it, we had to gather provisions from a supermarket beneath leaden skies because realisation had rapidly set in upon us during our time in Stavanger about the pocket-ripping dangers of eating outside in Norway. Now don’t get me wrong. No one’s waiting to slash your pockets and mug you. Heavens, but this is Norway, folks! Get a grip. I mean simply that you eat indoors unless you want to risk heading back home as paupers. Eating in and carrying packed lunches on our drives were going to be part of the essential ritual of roaming around Norway.

Mist swirled in and around the bridge nearby like wraiths smoking their way through, parts of the bridge disappearing behind the mist. Nature is an effortless magician. That morning I was reminded of the first time I had laid my eyes upon the Eiffel Tower on an autumn’s morning, when only the top of the tower loomed above a sea of mist. The waters of the fjords were mysterious, a uniform sheet of smoky blue.

Right, time to scamper back to the cottage, after we had armed ourselves with a decent stockpile of food. There was the added incentive of demolishing a cache of organic chocolates I had amassed at the store. Those chocolates count high on my list of worthy chocoholic experiences. They were expensive and Adi grumbled, but later, he ate humble pie and those bars too, with lasciviousness equalling mine.

Upon our return to the cottage, we found waiting at the door, a pot of mint and a couple of organic eggs with a hand-written note. A welcome breakfast note from Els. Now, if you have not added mint to your omelette, you would not know about the heady fragrance it lends to the eggs. We went about a brunch laden with hot dogs and eggs, all the while facing the fjords so as not to lose out on the changing landscape that unfolded before the eyes. Adi watched movies on the ipad, and I sat and read, looking up from time to time to soak in the unreality of it all.

Then came the best part of the day. Els dropped by with organic chicken from her farm. She sat for a couple of hours, her legs folded up on the sheepskin rug upon the couch. And we chatted. It is rare to come upon individuals with whom you can achieve a connection effortlessly. She was of that breed. Highly unconventional, a bit flighty, a bit wise and a bundle of quirks. We shared confidences during that time to the tune of a few cups of tea, discussing husbands, the importance of fighting in a relationship, meeting the loves of our lives, hiking, travelling and then reflecting upon the art of how to go about making this one life we have a wonderful happy place to be.

Giving into the whims of nature, it turned out that day, can be a rum idea.

IMG_20160818_210342

IMG_20160818_210107.jpg

IMG_20160821_210732.jpg

IMG_20160818_205931.jpg

IMG_20160818_210236.jpg

IMG_20160818_205219

Getting to Flåm

The road to Flåm from Gudvangen has opportunities for deep sleep. The kind of sleep that is delicious, because like all forbidden things that carry the tag of deep delight, it is not a good idea to nod off behind the wheel and in the middle of a tunnel. For one, you stand the risk of disappearing into another realm – akin to the road safety warnings that pop up all over the Norwegian country. Of a girl fading away. That road sign gave me the heebie-jeebies. You shall spot it in the roll-call of photos below.

There is also the unappetising thought that there would no possibility of a picture-perfect village tucked into a valley encircled by steep mountains, no ooh-ing and aah-ing at thundering waterfalls in close quarters and trying to catch a reflection of the self in the emerald waters of the fjord. Instead there would be a foray into the vast unknown.

The purpose of the extensive prattle is to lay it thick that tunnels in the Norwegian country can and will call upon your patience. We had passed a fair line-up of tunnels starting from Norheimsund that morning. The fatigue was setting in fast as we had woken up at a ghastly hour, when only lost souls and drunks roam the streets of Northampton, to make the journey to Heathrow. As much as it was bang for your buck to take these early-morning flights into Europe, it also meant that we were sleep-starved zombies walking around in a kind of stupor on the first day of all our trips.

The Gudvangen Tunnel stretched out for 7.1 miles, and despite a weakness of finding childlike joy in every little thing that life throws my way, which includes tunnels lit up in psychedelic colours, I wanted to scream with frustration. You see, we had to take the tunnel twice over. Now the tunnels lead into each other in quick succession often, cutting through hills, and there is no space for error while driving on these roads. Part of the fault lay in the fact that we could not identify Gudvangen and kept wondering if we had missed it along the way.

By the time we got to Flåm (pronounced ‘Flaam’, where ‘aa’ is enunciated as in London), we were two wilted humans. It was the sight of the man and the woman sitting on the bench by the fjord with their cups of coffee that made us sit up. The pretty yellow cottages with their red roofs beckoned to us. Somewhere inside one of those cottages life-affirming coffee awaited us. And a bite to eat possibly. The deal with eating in Norway is that your heart shall be in your mouth. I know I repeat myself if you have read one of my earlier posts. But a medium-small pizza marked up at £25 (roughly 270 NOK) is enough to send anyone’s blood pressure rocketing up. But what needs be must be.

Flåm by itself is an unassuming village made up of a small bridge, a handful of eateries and a public toilet, all of which stand at the end of an arm of the second-longest fjord in the world, the Sognefjord. But the most important thing that you need to know is that it is a gateway to a world of unparalleled beauty.

First on the list is the Flåm Railway. It has been touted to be one of the world’s best train journeys. It spans 12 miles cutting through mountain tops while offering you spectacular views of fjords, ravines, waterfalls and mountain farms. The whole gamut. We could not take it. It is on my mind that we shall return to Flåm, take the Flåm railway into the mountains and hike to Trolltunga.

The second possibility for all you lovers of hiking is to go up into the mountains and explore Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, known to be the world’s narrowest fjord. Imagine standing on the cliffs and peering down into the glassy waters of the fjords. It is bliss. I can vouch for that. If there is one hike you want to do in Norway, however, make your way to Pulpit Rock. You shall remember it forever, as long as you live.

Bikers have the option of setting off on the Rallarvegen, an old works road that runs along the Bergen and Flåm Railway. It is called The Navvies’ Road because it was the construction road used to build the Bergen railway tracks. Bicycles are available for rent at Haugastøl, Finse and Flåm and accommodations too. You would possibly want the option of resting tired muscles out on a 50-mile long route. Just keep in mind that the season is between July to September.

It is only when you find yourself in a certain situation that you appreciate words that have been spoken by another person in another age. You identify with a complete stranger. Flåm put me in mind of Lord Byron. For he had observed: “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more. Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Nature always wears the colours of the spirit.”

IMG_20160818_180839.jpg
Norwegian countryside 
IMG_20160825_125458.jpg
Cautionary signs
20160811_195733.jpg
Driving on the roads of Norway. Everyone drives in a sane, well-ordered manner, but once the clock strikes six, something comes over the Norwegians. They speed up and transform into Grand Prix drivers. A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kinda situation crops up. Go figure.
IMG_20160818_210840
Reed-thin waterfalls stream their way down the mountains 
20160811_183501.jpg
Flåm
20160811_183238.jpg
The lovely cottages in Flåm
IMG_20160821_210952.jpg
By the fjords in Flåm
IMG_20160825_125631.jpg
Exiting Flåm
IMG_20160825_125559.jpg
Quaint mountain cottages
IMG_20160825_125659.jpg
Toodles, till the next tale from Norway.

 

Chasing Illusions in Gudvangen

Google Gudvangen. ‘Has she gone crazy?’ you might interject. ‘Here I pop by her post and she asks me to google the name?!’ Humour me for two seconds.

Atop the wikipedia page (you do not have to click further) dedicated to the small Viking village in Norway, you find yourself staring at an image of marvellously lofty peaks. The main peak in it has been squished and stretched up to look like a model lengthening her svelte body. Then you notice later, much later, that the topmost peak seems to show you the middle finger.

Somebody’s idea of awful humour.

The day we reached Els’ cottage in Norheimsund we drove straight up into the county of Sogn og Fjordane. Gullible us inched closer and closer yet the peak did not materialise. Something was terribly wrong. The GPS informed us that we were there.

If you can look high and low for a peak, we did the job alright.

Then there we were in the middle of a valley that looked like it had been scooped out of the surrounding steep mountains, parts of which carried patches of fresh snow. A row of waterfalls gushed down in slender threads of white from the mountains, at the foot of which stood a handful of white and red cottages and a harbour.

Welcome to Gudvangen. Not least like the photo we had seen. The jaws dropped once in disappointment – I cannot lie about that – but then it did drop once again in recognition of the tranquil beauty towering above us.

Dwarfed by the mountains, I stood there and wondered about what the Vikings must have felt when they arrived in this scenic spot on Nærøyfjord and transformed it into their market place. Did their seafaring nature make them glad that they had chanced upon this sublime Norwegian landscape? Or were they intimidated by the mountains that stood guard around the valley like antiquated sentinels. Who knows, but they did not survive the 12th-century onslaught of black plague. People returned to Gudvangen only when hundreds of years had passed by.

Some of these Viking graves are to be found nearby. Hiking paths lead you into other pretty villages but it was too late for us to start on a hike. We never got the chance to do any hike (Trolltunga or Gudvangen) given the rains holding sway over the next few days that we spent in Hordaland. We did however bask in the shadow of those mountains as we popped into Gudvangen Fjordtell, a hotel that makes you think you are entering a Viking home, its roofs charmingly sheathed in grass. Inside the hotel’s cafe, I bought a wrap, the price of which was pure extortion. Then in Norway, you are holding onto your purses in vain if you decide to venture into any eatery.

An astonishingly expensive wrap in our bellies and mixed feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction (strange bedfellows) mingling in our minds, we left Gudvangen, the village whose name translated, reads, ‘God’s fields by the water’.

20160811_192815.jpg
The Weathered Viking of Gudvangen
20160811_185922.jpg
Roads that take you into Gudvangen, flanked by dramatic mountains.
20160811_191540.jpg
Cottages in the village

20160811_191715.jpg

20160811_191511.jpg
One of the highest waterfalls in Norway is this, Kjelfossen.

IMG_20170525_102108_614.jpg

20160811_192131.jpg
Gudvangen Fjordtell
IMG_20170525_101959_799.jpg
Ferry dock where cruise ships roll in from time to time

IMG_20170525_102036_611.jpg

2017-05-08 10.58.18 1.jpg
Hamlets that pop up after you have left Gudvangen behind

Where to Stay: If you want to do hikes in the area, it would be a good idea to stay in Gudvangen. You have all of two choices: Pitch up a tent or mobile home at Gudvangen Camping. Prices range between NOK 500 to NOK 800 per night. Or  put up at the Viking-inspired hotel called Gudvangen Fjordtell.

What to do:

The Magic White Caves of Gudvangen

Take a ferry trip between Gudvangen and Flåm

Hike the mountainous paths for views over the fjord. From a tiny village called Bakka, which is about 5 km from Gudvangen, take the path to the steep mountain of Rimstigen. It is a steep hike which takes two hours one way.

P.S.: The misleading wikipedia photo that I talk about right at the beginning is that of Lofoten Islands, the dramatic archipelago in Norway, and for added misery beat this, it is a photoshopped version of it.

Country Hiking in Norheimsund

In the Hardanger region of Western Norway — made up of serene fjords, gushing waterfalls and statuesque bridges leading the way to chains of hills linked up by a series of tunnels — is the village of Norheimsund. During the Nazi occupation of Norway, the village served as a training camp for the Germans. There would have been fortifications along the bay once, but now they have been replaced by houses built the local way with wooden panels and slate roofs, small windows peeking out from cheerfully painted facades. Old fishermen’s cottages still stand in isolation close to the fjord, and along with a handful of stores and small harbour, Norheimsund tempts you want to sit on the pier for a long, long time. Chuck in a few cafes, a church and a school too, and you have the essence of a quiet village that was our nest for four days.

Now I have a confession to make. We started on a hike in the countryside around Norheimsund and *whispers* we abandoned it after a fair bit of trudging up steep hills. Why, you might wonder, is she a big wuss? I am one but only when it comes to water and haunted cottages. I am willing to take on hiking challenges of any nature unless you ask me to climb up paths made up of tiny slippery rocks — which I abhor with all my heart (because of late we have ended up on such hikes).

The skies had opened up the day before, letting loose their wrath upon the earth. The path was immensely boggy. My shoes kept sinking in and I felt slimy and damp. It did not help that my beloved insisted on sending out leech alarms, leeches that were apparently creeping up my leg and getting fatter by the minute. Now try as I may, I cannot and I will not develop a fondness for reptiles and creepy crawlies knowing fully well that they are our fellow creatures too. So I shrieked and shrieked (like an exasperating girl) – here I have to quickly point out that I do not scream anymore, but when I was living with my flatmates in Delhi I used to be a banshee. Every time one of my flatmates’ boyfriend turned up at the door, I would open up and scream. We had no keyhole, you see. Yet could that be a valid excuse? Or was it a subconscious urge given that he would finish all the food in the fridge. I wonder.

Adi and I huffed and puffed as we climbed up while an old man in his training shoes ran up the hill we were climbing. Did he just run past us? Overcome by incredulity, we quickened our pace and examined pretty mushrooms as we made our way through the woods. After a while, we found ourselves walking along a water pipeline and found sheep atop the hill, chewing and meditating. What do you think sheep contemplate about as they graze or when they sit and reach out for more grass?

I had mentioned in my last post about the sturdy Norwegian sheep. I sat near them and wondered if they might scuttle like the English sheep. But no, they sat there, their faces stoic. They looked at me. I looked at them. A silent communion disturbed by the sniggers of an errant husband.

It was after this point, when we had a spectacular view of the village of Norheimsund below us and islets sticking out from the waters of the fjord, that we decided to turn around. It was a most dissatisfying feeling. The kind of feeling that nags you when you have abandoned a hike midway.

Do you have any such stories of abandonment? It might just make me feel better.

IMG_20160818_191853.jpg

IMG_20160821_205159.jpg

IMG_20160821_205248.jpg
Hiking path along the water pipeline

IMG_20160821_205546.jpg

IMG_20160818_200834.jpg
Hardangerfjord
IMG_20160818_215253.jpg
Houses of Norheimsund
IMG_20160818_215418.jpg
Norheimsund
IMG_20160818_213105.jpg
Norheimsund’s harbour

IMG_20160818_213221.jpg

IMG_20160819_202450.jpg
Tunnels and green hills maketh a lovely marriage
IMG_20160819_202547.jpg
Steinsdalsfossen

20160811_153148.jpg

20160811_153140.jpg

IMG_20160818_205757.jpg

Into a Norwegian Artist’s Retreat

Here was an artist who did the Charleston jig, all in a bid to tell us how her Pointer got his name. The Pointer is a dog, a hunting hound that gets its name from its inclination to point its muzzle towards the game. Now imagine if you will, this beloved mistress of Charleston the Pointer, a grown-up woman lifting her chin up, arms pointed into the air as if she was about to release an invisible arrow off an equally invisible bow.

On this note of welcome into her home, we knew that we had landed a prize of sorts here — Els and her beloved Pointer, Charleston. I don’t know how well Charleston does the Charleston but he has a name to live up to. He also has a mistress who is quite capable of making him dance.

Now we had Els’ cottage to ourselves for four days. That red cottage with Homlagarden painted on its entrance, as you see in the lead photo, is perched strategically by the fjords of western Norway in a village called Norheimsund.

This was our big Norwegian holiday after our weekend stint in Stavanger when we had hiked our way to Pulpit Rock. My aim was to get our behinds to Trolltunga and sit on the troll’s tongue, legs dangling above the fjords. But that was not to be because just as in Stavanger we struck lucky with the weather even though the forecast had promised thunder and showers, our second Norwegian break was made up of enough mist and clouds, drizzle and downpour to make our hiking shoes hang their heads in shame.

What is life if our best-laid plans are not to be laid aside?

We reached Bergen on a fine day in August last year. Fleecy armies of clouds invaded bright blue skies, and when we got out of the airport to be greeted by this sight, we were injected with fair reserves of delight, natch. Could there be a better natural elixir than blue skies and billowing clouds on any given day?

Soon, in a rented hatchback, we were puttering down tunnels that ruptured lush hills for miles and miles, passed herds of sheep serenely trotting down roads, possibly out for their morning stroll. You will see in this post that the Norwegian sheep exude remarkable self-confidence unlike their English counterparts. We left behind the occasional church nestled in valleys along with a roll-call of black, red and yellow cottages. Some perched upon hills, others tucked in surreptitiously alongside placid lakes.

It made me rather musical. To trill out ‘My Day in the Hills’ ala Julie Andrews and trill I did till Adi asked me to switch to the phone playlist please. There was some harumphing on my part, but how difficult it is to hold on to a sulk in the face of such pristine charm, the lakes glowing emerald in the shadow of the hills and putting me in mind of a mysterious mermaid about to emerge from the waters.

This is how we found ourselves in Norheimsund, bleary-eyed after our early morning flight, but then there was that view of the fjord from our cottage. It drove our cares away in the batting of the eyelid.

We were in a quintessential Norwegian cottage on an organic farm. Chubby hen and monstrously plump turkeys strutted around in a red coop of their own, mini tractors stood like picture-perfect props with the blue hues of the fjord and hills merging into the background, patches of snow gleaming in the distance upon the hills. Inside our red cottage, we found the entrance decorated by Els’ paintings and a bay windows that opened up to the fjords. The ground level of this cottage housed her workshop and a carpentry shop.

Warm wooden interiors, a well-kitted kitchen with all manners of pots and pans that would make a gourmet cook smile like a shark, windows that looked out into the fjords and made us sigh. This was the idyllic start to a Norwegian fjord-hopping holiday, along with the presence of Els, Charleston and his mother, Kaisa.

20160811_123640
Bergen
20160811_125318.jpg
Hordaland county

20160811_125355.jpg

20160811_125805.jpg

IMG_20160819_202729.jpg
Sheep out on a morning stroll

20160811_132112.jpg

20160811_132131.jpg

20160811_132026.jpg

IMG_20160819_202814.jpg

20160811_130428.jpg

IMG_20160819_202152.jpg
Entering Norheimsund

IMG_20160819_202106.jpg

IMG_20160818_220530.jpg
Els’ farm and cottage

IMG_20160818_220455.jpg

20160811_140918.jpg
Inside our cottage
IMG_20160818_220627.jpg
Charleston and Els
IMG_20160819_201538.jpg
Undivided adoration 

2016-08-12 12.45.36.jpg

IMG_20160819_201752.jpg

IMG_20160818_201145.jpg
The view we woke up to every morning from the bed

To Book the Cottage: Get onto Airbnb and key in Hordaland and Els. However, Els does not always let out her cottage (because it is not quite commercial), so essentially you could take a chance.

How to Get There: Bag tickets for as less as £39 on BA and Norwegian Airlines to Bergen. From the airport, it is best to hire a car for your stay because it is easier and economic to drive around the county of Hordaland.

 

 

 

Tagged!

Dear virtual friends,

Here is a tag that I am taking part in because, well, it is fun to indulge in a bit of trivia at times. And when that trivia happens to be about you, the narcissistic head (come on admit it, we all have a bit of Narcissus in us) rears up.

I have been tagged by Malini – she blogs at https://malinispace.com/ – for this 2016/2017 Tag.

The tag has been created by David from The Guy Who Said Always No.

2016-2017-tag

Describe your 2016 in three words

I am cheating on this by including more words because I am a rambler, and well, I like to push boundaries.

  • Fairytale (Early morning flights always took us to seven countries, some repeated twice or thrice over, in Europe)
  • Exciting (Ref: Above)
  • Calcutta (I went back to my childhood home after two years and spent time with my parents who drove me crazy but then that’s just us. It was special also because it involved my childhood home hosting a 250-year ancestral affair of worshipping Goddess Durga. Durga Pujo is a big affair in Calcutta, mind boggling in the 4-5 days that it lasts, when the goddess shows up recreated in various themes and looks all over the city, food plays a critical part in the life of every Bengali and there is no time for work but unlimited sessions of adda (chatting). If you have not seen Durga Puja in Calcutta you have got to put it on your list)

Two people who made 2016 what it was

My husband Adi and I.

The most beautiful place you visited in 2016 and why you chose it

Norway. We stayed in a beautiful wooden cottage in Norheimsund by the fjords and we went fjord hopping. It was idyllic, the time that we spent there. On a day when it rained throughout, we sat inside the cottage, soaked in the view of the fjords, cooked up a meal with organic chicken reared at the farm by the artist owner and paired it with thyme that she gave us too. Later we sat for a couple of hours with the owner when she came visiting. She sat with her legs tucked into the fur-lined settee, sipped on tea and told us about her life. As we told her about ours. All with a view of the mysterious fjord alongside. It was like being in a wonderful dream.

The most delicious dish you have tasted in 2016
Aglio e Olio in Italy. The thing is that it has just three ingredients and yet it tastes like heaven when an Italian mamma puts it in front of you. Sometimes the simplest things in life can do the trick.

An event which left its mark upon you in 2016 (even a global event counts) 

I cannot point out a particular event but the mark that the year left upon me was a cumulative effect – of all the travelling that we have indulged in. It introduced me to ideas and things which I never knew of. Growing in life is such an important thing, is it not? Last year was about that – growth. I confess that I feel tall after all the learning.

The finest purchase you made in 2016 (and if you want you can link up a photo of it)

Striking Murano light shades from the island of Murano

Three good intentions for 2017 

  • Get cracking with writing the book
  • Make a new home in a new country
  • To travel more

One place you want to visit in 2017

Lofoten (Norway)

One dish you want to eat in 2017

Aglio e olio, somewhere in Italy.

I would like to Tag

I am cheating on this bit where I am supposed to tag 9 bloggers. I tag whoever reads this and wants to do this tag. Feel free. It will bring a smile on your face as you put down words that will make you rack up memories from 2016.

Rules for this Tag

  1. Mention the creator of the blog: The Guy Who Said Always No
  2. Use the image that you find in this article
  3. Mention the blogger who has chosen you
  4. Answer the questions
  5. Mention 9 blogger friends and let them know through a comment on their blog

I am done here. Now for a windy jog in the park and the hope that all you lovely bloggers have a wonderful day. Ta daaa!

In the end is the beginning

I have always thought that it makes a whole lot of sense. What our good man Eliot wrote. Even though another year is coming to an end, there is always a fresh year to look forward to. Wonder what it holds in store for my husband and me. We have new things creeping around the corner. Moving countries, setting up a new home, a new start. Daunting. Yet we gotta make the best of the hand we are dealt in life, isn’t it?

There is a bagful of nostalgia and wistfulness to go with it. The year for my husband and me has been about travel and the accoutrement that comes with it. You know, good food, fumbling jaunts in the many fairytale nooks and crannies of Europe, rambles in our beloved English countryside, attempts at decoding foreign tongues, sharing kindred moments with strangers we might never have known had we not been in a particular place at a particular time. What a delightful prospect 2016 was… I could not help but capture the year roughly as it has been for us, in photographs.

20160216_125241.jpg
Ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, Tarragona. In the Catalonia region of Spain.
IMG_20160501_213454.jpg
Bergamo, Italy
Belem Tower at night.jpg
Torre de Belém, Lisbon. Portugal.
20160215_161140.jpg
Park Güell, Barcelona. Spain.
img_20160619_195052
Castleton, Derbyshire. England.
img_20160520_215007
Girona in Spain
img_20160517_212135
Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire. Wales.
img_20160605_124907
The Pantheon, Rome. Italy.
img_20160527_000410
Anacapri, Italy.
IMG_20160506_002905.jpg
Lake Maggiore, Stresa. Italy.
IMG_20160520_231850.jpg
Malaga, Spain.
Amalfi Coast.jpg
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
burano
Candy colours, Burano. Italy.
Norwegian waterfalls.jpg
Lushness of Norwegian towns marked out by stunning waterfalls
Yachting in Cornwall.jpg
Yachting holiday in Plymouth, Cornwall. UK.
IMG_20160626_020736.jpg
Hofburg Palace, Vienna. Austria.
IMG_20160503_132117.jpg
Cimitero Monumentale, Milan. Italy.
Norwegian fjords.jpg
Fjords of Norway
IMG_20161120_032656.jpg
Jordaan quarter in Amsterdam
Amalfi.jpg
Amalfi, Italy.
Ravello.jpg
Ravello, Italy.
Alhambra from El Sacromonte.jpg
Silhouette of the Alhambra in Granada. Spain.
Bergen 3.jpg
Bergen, Norway.
Durga Puja  1.jpg
Durga Puja pandal, Kolkata. India.
durga puja.jpg
Durga Puja that has been celebrated by my family for over 250 years now. Kolkata, India.
Florence.jpg
Duomo, Florence. Italy.
IMG_20160517_214608.jpg
Barafundle Bay, South West Wales.
Verona 1.jpg
Verona, Italy.
Lake Como.jpg
Lake Como, Italy.
Zaragoza.jpg
Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Zaragoza. Spain.
IMG_20161229_210036_073.jpg
The Hungarian Parliament, Budapest.
hemingway
Hemingway landmarks, Madrid. Spain.
img_20161212_204617
Sunset upon the Venetian waterfront. Italy.
IMG_20160520_000711.jpg
Heat haze and the El Tajo, Ronda. Spain.

If you have reached the end of this post, have wonderful celebrations for the end of the year. For us, new year’s eve is always a bit of a dampener because the expectations always exceed the actual celebrations. But this year we decided to have a go at it and make a change. We are in Prague and having a gorgeous time. So here’s to changes and new years and new resolutions and new beginnings. Na zdraví!