Page 2 of 5

Exploring Undredal

By far one of my favorite excursions in Norway was the day we spent exploring Undredal.   Undredal is a famous city on the Aurlandsfjord.  It is famous for having more goat inhabitants than human inhabitants.  It is also famous for having the world’s smallest wooden stave church. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Our adventure to Undredal started with a bus ride from Flam to Gudvangen.  At Gudvangen we got on the ferry to cruise the world famous, and UNESCO protected Naeroyfjord.  The Naeroyfjord is the narrowest arm of the Sognefjord.  It is rated as the number one natural heritage site in the world by National Geographic Magazine.  The cruise on this narrow fjord did not disappoint.

IMG_0958

The water of the Naeroyfjord is a beautiful and pristine blue green color.  Dramatic mountains rise out the fjord matched only by equally waterfalls.  The sides of the mountains are covered by grass and trees, which are perfect for the goats and sheeps that inhabit them.  Unquestionably, there isn’t an adequate superlative to describe the beauty of the Naeroyfjord.   Consider the fact that this Florida girl and her son Jake spent the entirety of the Naeroyfjord cruise on the top of the ferry, so we wouldn’t miss a minute of the scenery.  We were utterly transfixed even as we were pelted in the face by ice pellets and the blistering cold wind.

We soon turned into the Aurlandsfjord and headed towards our destination of Undredal.  The town looked absolutely magical as we made our approach to the small dock.  Undredal has the appearance of a quintessential Norwegian Fjord town. The buildings of Undredal are colorful, well kept and inviting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When we disembarked, we met our guide who would lead us on our walking tour of the tiny town.   As we gathered with the rest of our group near the pier.  A short teenage boy/girl approached as we waited. It took a moment, but we realized that Mark was a guy and our guide.  He had to be younger than Jake most likely a high school student in town.   Mark was absolutely wonderful.  As a tour guide he was perfect, he was knowledge, engaging, funny and entertaining.

There is not a ton to see in tiny Undredal, but it is absolutely worth the visit!  Our guide took us to the raging river showed us the old school, and where we’d go for our cheese tasty.  The piece de resistance for our tour, however, was the smallest stave church in the world.   At its inception 1147, it was even smaller than its current iteration.   In the 18th century, they added own to the church.  Even in its larger iteration, it is only 39 ft x 13 ft with 40 seats.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Most noteworthy in spite of its small size, the church’s interior packs quite the punch.  The sides of the church and ceiling are home to very interesting religious murals and paintings.  Norwegian churches, unlike most European churches from the Middle Ages, incorporate both Christian and pagan themes.  In addition, this is the only church where you will find a painting of Satan on the ceiling.  According to local legends, the townspeople of Undredal felt by putting Satan in their church they could keep a better eye on him.  I guess its that whole “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing.

If you sit in the benches, you can see where a board parishioner had carved a drawing into the wall.  The artists painted the ceilings with stars, biblical figures, angels and as noted above satan. Lighting in the church is provided by candles and a very unique deer antler chandelier that was a gift from the Germans.  In contrast, the alter area is simple and beautiful.  I can’t imagine going to church or holding a wedding in such a small church.

Despite its size, the Undredal and its small wooden stave church pack quite the punch and are well worth the journey.  If you are jumping off from Flam, it is pretty easy to get to Undredal and you have several options.  Moreover, I highly recommend taking the Naeroyfjord cruise option as cruising the Naeroyfjord is truly spectacular.    The particular excursion we chose included a bus to Gudvangen, the ferry to Undredal and a van back Flam.  In addition, it included a walking tour and a goat cheese tasting in Undredal, both of which were amazing.   This was the perfect excursion for families.  We were travelling with family members from 7 to 87 and each and everyone of us enjoyed the day trip.  

You can find all of the photos from this trip here: Photo Album

Hangry

One of my favorite commercials, is the Snicker commercial featuring the Brady Bunch’s Marcia Brady.  Marcia is so hangry that she’s morphed into a big, mean biker dude.  As soon as she takes a bite of her Snickers bar, however, she turns back into the sweet all American girl we know and love.  I’d be lying if I said I was any different.  I would also be lying if I said that food makes me happier than coffee.  I run on Dunkin.

As cranky as I can get when I’m hungry, my younger boys can be absolute curmudgeons.  They’re like an 80 year old man going through puberty.  Quite frankly, it’s ugly.  Like the sour patch in the commercial, he goes from sugary sweet to dastardly sour.

tumblr_n13z8fx9mb1s0t69oo1_5001

When we were hiking on the Vindhellavegen section of the Kongsvegen, the Mayor had become hungry.  As we hiked the Sverre hjornevik, one of the most picturesque parts of the trail, the Mayor’s hangriness started to peak.  One problem…  The trail was wide enough, but was gravelly in places. If one were to fall of the side of the road, one would fall into a rocky gorge.  It wouldn’t be a good outcome.

 

The Mayor felt the entire mountainside from Borgund to Husom should know of his discontent.  He was not quiet in sharing his displeasure.  Jake and I trekked to the bottom to see Husom and take pictures, while the Mayor, Goalielocks and the Hubby waited on some benches up the hill.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We finally made our way back up the trail, which was much steeper on the way up than it had been on the descent.  The Mayor whose hangriness has reached a new level of ludicrousness was beside himself.  His antics were annoying Goalielocks and Jake, leading Goalielocks to ask the Mayor if he could be any louder.  This wasn’t not a good question to ask.  The Mayor started to scream, shout and clap as he did a jig a la GOB from Arrested Development.  Out of breath, I had to stop hiking because I was laughing too hard.

reverse-1280403082_gob-and-lindsay-chicken-dance.gif

While the Mayor was attempting to annoy his brothers, the rest of us ended up in hysterics because it was truly the funniest thing we’d ever seen.  This, of course, only made it worse.  It wasn’t until he saw my iphone recording that he started walking normally.  As soon as we got back to the Borgund Stave church and museum, we got him some food.  We couldn’t unfurl the wrapper off the muffin quick enough. Once the food was on board, my sweet angelic Mayor was back.

 

 

Vacation Planning

Vacation planning for families is no joke.  With a trip like that you can’t just plan things willy-nilly.  When planning a big family trip, especially overseas, a lot of careful planning and consideration must go into it.     We took over two years to plan the Norway trip given the cost, length of travel and number of people going.  My brother took point on the itinerary booking the Norway in a Nutshell tour.  Meanwhile, we booked a car and mirrored their stops.

enhance (2)

Renting a car in Norway was fairly easy and was reasonably priced through Hertz when booked with our AAA discount.  Driving in Norway was fairly easy and straight forward.  The roads were significantly narrower and full of roundabouts.  In stark contrast to South Florida, Norwegian drivers were adept at the roundabouts and very congenial drivers.  I didn’t hear a horn once.  Norwegians are serious about their speed limits with speed cameras littering their road ways.  Thank God for Waze and its speed trap warnings.  Waze and Apple Maps worked perfectly in Norway.

enhance (5)

Food is ridiculously expensive in Norway no matter which route you take. MacDonald’s set us back $60 in Bergen and that was fast food.   The lodging, however, was reasonably priced.  Hotels were nice as they often came with a complimentary breakfast that was quite impressive.  Our hotel in Trondheim, the Radisson Blu, had one of the most incredible hotel breakfasts I had ever seen.  The Air BnB’s worked perfectly for our family in Oslo and Bergen.  It was great to stay in the neighborhoods of these cities and away from the tourists.   Near our Air BnB in Bergen there was a great local coffee shop that had the most incredible coffee and treats.

enhance (4)

As I look to our next big trip, a couple of things I will keep in mind.  First, under no circumstance will I accept a compact car at the rental counter- no way, no how.  Secondly, the car was nice as it gave us a great opportunity to see the Norwegian countryside and cities, but it was slow going.  Next time, I think we will look to combine car, train and boat to see more of the country.  Thirdly, I will take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of food.  Lastly, when abroad it is not necessary to eat enough pastries to make up for the last two carb free years.  #lessonlearned

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Flam A Picturesque Hamlet

Flam is a picturesque hamlet at the end of the Aurlandsfjord.  Surrounded by mountains and the beautiful fjord, you couldn’t imagine a more beautiful, serene or more Norwegian place.  On the surroundings hills and mountains, the farmers let their sheep and goats roam freely to find the best grass.  It was even more beautiful that I had imagined.

IMG_9099

Our first night in Flam, we met our family at Flamstova for dinner.   Our dinner was incredible, but the kids had grown weary from sitting at the table.  My cousin Jessica and her husband Jeff volunteered to take them out to see the sheep in the pasture.  With the kids gone, we could enjoy the remainder of our dinner in relative silence.

IMG_1759

Meanwhile the kids were in seventh heaven as they fed the sheep that ventured near the fence.  Colin had his first run in with the prickle of a stinging nettle he had picked to feed the sheep.  He learned his lesson and was more careful when he picked the grass.  The kids loved the animals we would see grazing freely throughout our Norwegian travels, but the opportunity to be up close and feed them was even better.

We made several more visits to the sheep before leaving Flam including a walk behind the fence to find some good fishing spots.  The boys, particularly the younger two, had to visit their sheep named Jeffry.  All of the kids enjoyed feeding and interacting with the sheep.   They loved to watch their silly antics as they ran down the mountain or assaulted their mother for milk.  It certainly isn’t something our kids are accustom to seeing.

IMG_0694

It was awesome to see the how freely the sheep and goats were to gallivant about the mountains finding the best grass.  Each morning the farmers would let their herds out and then each night the farmers would bring them back home.   How they got them to come down the mountain, I don’t know, but each and every night they’d return home from their pastures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Trip Photos

Today I’ve been sifting through my trip photos and trying to organize them according to city and date.  Technology while helpful also frustrates the process a bit.  The wifi, while we were in Norway, wouldn’t always support the shutterfly upload process.  Consequently, I ended up having to upload half of the photos to my online library through Canon.

download (6).jpg

Once I completely organize them, I will be adding photos to my blog under a separate page only devoted to photos.  I am fairly tech savvy, however, the Envira plugin and add-ons have been frustrating me all night.

IMG_0594

At any rate, I am excited to share these photos with the blogosphere.  Our Norway trip was magnificent.   The country is more beautiful than words could possibly describe, so I hope that comes through in the photos.  Some of the pictures look fake like they’re a built model set.  If I hadn’t taken the photo myself, I wouldn’t have believe it was real.  You can find our photos here.

IMG_0765

Shimmer and Shine

When we were staying on the Aurlandsfjord, we’d find ourselves just staring out the window or sitting on our deck soaking in the beauty of the fjord.  The fjord would shimmer and shine with the reflections of the sun.  It was peaceful and overwhelmingly beautiful. It was the perfect location to hit the reset button.

IMG_9088IMG_8904 (1)

The time we spent in the Fjords, was all about family and all about nature.  It was truly one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever seen.  The water of the fjords and surrounding rivers were crystal clear and gorgeous.  Moreover, the rivers’ water were a pristine blue, while the fjord was a beautiful blue green color.

IMG_0684IMG_1039

As the sun would shine in Fjord Norway, the snow capped mountains would glisten.  Sometimes as you would approach a mountain on the road, the mountain would be covered with white spots.  These white spots were sometimes sheep or goats.  At the higher altitude, it was a mix of goats and snow.   The mixture of shimmer and shine on the mountainside was alluring.

Surrounded by natural and dramatic beauty of Fjord Norway was awe inspiring and addicting.  By the time we were preparing to leave Flam, I had already started planning my return trip to this incredible haven.  I look forward to returning to the Aurlandsfjord to explore and hike the surrounding area.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dinner

Our second night in Bergen, our goal was to have dinner as a group.  This is no easy feat as there was nineteen of us including six children.  My sister-in –law found a great restaurant that happened to be  brewery, happened to be on the water and happened to be able to accommodate our large group.

As we enjoyed a post-hike beer with my brothers and their families, my sister-in-law Brandi managed to get all nineteen of our orders.  Before we left the brewery, Brandi had already placed our dinner orders for that evening.   While this was at the directive of the restaurant, it was a genius time saving move for all involved.

IMG_1646
Me with my mom, my grandma, my aunt Kandy and cousin Jessica
IMG_1649
Me with my mom, my grandma, my aunt Kandy, cousin Jessica and niece Priya

After chilling in the AirBnB and freshening up, we headed back to the Brewery for dinner.  For the first time in almost two weeks, I was wearing a dress albeit without heels.  We headed back to the brewery, this time all freshened up, to meet our family.

No sooner had we gotten to the table, Goalielocks and the Mayor headed over to the shuffleboard tables to meet their cousins.  The tables were a gift from god!  We were able to enjoy our drinks in relative peace as we waited for our food and discussed the trip.

IMG_1668

As soon as the food came, the Mayor devoured his king crab and caviar.  I struggled with my mussels.  Goalielocks ate the steak we were supposed to share and left me with the mussels.  The pear cider, which was completely addicting, was the perfect complement to my dinner.

IMG_1697

We decided to take some group photos since we were all together, my family, my brothers’ families, my parents, my grandma, my aunt and uncle and my cousin Jessica and family.  Thankfully we chose the one day I got dressed up and did my hair.  After over a week of casual dress in yoga pants, tanks, hoodies and not doing my hair, it felt great to be dressed up and not so casual.

IMG_1660

The resulting photos were absolutely sublime and ones that I will cherish forever.  It was a very special trip for my family to Norway and the cities’ from which are family emigrated from.  It, however, was even more special since we could share it with our extended family.

IMG_1697

Laughter as a Symphony

As we traveled throughout Norway, the kids’ laughter was omnipresent.  It was laughter on surround sound; laughter as a symphony.  I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, they loved us at the restaurants and attractions.  Kids being kids and enjoying each others company is as good as it gets.

Fortunately, we found the perfect restaurant in Bergen, which was perfectly suited to fit all nineteen of us and the kiddos.  The Bergenhus Bryggeri was centrally located on the harbor in Bergen next to the world famous fish market and Bryggen.  Located on the 3rd floor, it has two large rooms decorated in wood with amazing views overlooking the water.

IMG_1655

The best part, aside from the bar, was the shuffleboard tables.  The tables were setup behind the bar and far away from the main dining areas.  Here the kids  could play shuffleboard as they waited for the food without interrupting the entire restaurant’s meal.  Us adults were able to sit at the table enjoy each other’s company and leisurely sip our ciders without fear of interruption.  It was pure gold.   We went back several times.

image1 (3)IMG_9489

Whether it was playing shuffleboard in Bergen, playing Left-Right center in Flam, being nearly stranded on a boat in the middle of the fjord, or the delightfully pornographic trip to the sculpture garden; the best memories created on our trip to Norway will be of the time spent with their cousins.   They had a myriad of adventures together in Norway that they’ll never forget. Generating a symphony of laughter together will be the part of the trip that never leaves them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Norwegian Skies

During our time in Fjord Norway, I loved watching the Norwegian skies above the fjord and the mountains.  As a storm or clouds would move into the valley on the fjord, the clouds would spill gently over the mountain and flow down into the valley.  At times it felt like we could touch these beautiful clouds as they had flown so low.

IMG_8953

While the boys fish in Laerdal, the clouds begin spilling into the valley over the fjord.   Shortly before it started to sprinkle ever so lightly.   At first, it was just a fingerling of a cloud that dropped into the fjord before more ominous clouds made their way into the valley.    Since I was getting cold, I headed back to the cabin before the rain started.  My boys who are much heartier stayed to fish through the rain and cold water of the fjord.IMG_8983

At times you would look outside and it was hard to discern if it were cloudy or foggy as the clouds dropped so low.   Watching clouds pour over the mountains into a valley is beautiful sight to behold.   For this Florida girl, the way the sky, the mountains, the valley and the fjord interacted was a thing of pure beauty.   IMG_0962

By the time we made it to Bergen, the boys were  anxious to touch a cloud.  They were hoping they’d be able to touch a cloud when we went up the mountains.  As luck would have it, the weather for both our mountaintop adventures in Bergen was almost perfectly sunny.   There were no clouds to be touched while we were up in the mountain.  As a consequence, the views of the city and the surrounding area was unobstructed.  Oh well!  If we want to touch a cloud at the top of Bergen, will just have to plan a return trip!

IMG_1581

Adventure on the Fjord

.My brother’s cabin in Flam came with its own boat and a prime location on the fjord.  It truly doesn’t get much better than the view from their living room or kitchen table of their cabin.  Our boys and their cousins love life on the water, so they were intent on the dads taking them out on the boat.  We were ready for our adventure on the fjord.

IMG_0742

The first journey on the boat, my entire family and my brother’s family hopped in eager for our adventure on the Fjord.  It had been raining that day, but the rain had abated as we boarded the boat.   No sooner had we pushed out to sea, when the winds began whipping and the rain restarted.

Unfortunately, it was clear the boat’s engine hadn’t been used in sometime.  As my brother struggled to get the engine started, hubby rowed us back towards the cabin.  The wind whips down the mountains into the valley on to the fjord with a lot of velocity, so we were quickly moving towards the very large cruise ship Costa Magica.  Luke was rowing as hard as he could, but the wind was that fierce.

IMG_0752

The engine did not want to start, so we were getting worried.  If we didn’t get the engine started quickly, we would hit the Costa Magica or end up in the cold waters of the Aurlandsfjord.  The very idea of going into the not so shallow (the fjord is 3,900 ft deep)  and very cold waters of the fjord made it a little nerve wracking.  As we worried,  waited and hopped for the engine to start, the engine finally started.

IMG_0815

My brother and hubby switched places.  After several more tense minutes, the engine finally started.  We headed safely away from the Costa Magica and out on the Fjord.  The rain and wind abated as the engine finally started.  The irony was not lost on the two men that had been rowing through the wind.

Hubby drove us out towards Aurland, but not too far from shore.   We were able to see the goats and the Viking burial grounds.  We got a close of up of a beautiful waterfall that falls several thousand feet,  goes under E16 and into the Fjord.   Despite the hairy start to our trip, our evening on the boat in  Flam turned out magical and memory filled. Undoubtedly, I was quite relieved when we were back on solid ground.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.