Norway is well known for its fjords and for the Nobel Peace Prize that is awarded every year in Oslo. Randi Goddard and her brother decided to visit the country with their 82 year old mother who had been waiting her whole life to explore her roots. The fact that Randi’s son, Peter, was studying for a semester at the University of Bergen was just the incentive to get them to make the trip.
My mother’s parents left Norway for Canada before Mom was born and she grew up hearing stories about the country. My mother always identified as being Norwegian so it was her dream to go there. We visited Norway for two weeks in late May and early June, a time when the landscape is particularly lush and the whole country seems to be bursting with life.
Norway is absolutely gorgeous and, as they say, its beauty is ‘powered by nature’. Of course many visitors go there particularly for the fjords—those long, narrow inlets with steep cliffs. Norway has the highest concentration of fjords in the world and when you drive along them you are struck by how spectacularly the rock walls drop to the sea.
We spent a few days in Oslo with mom’s relatives who were superb tour guides. Norway does a great job organizing and promoting many different tours and we took advantage of two of them. We travelled from Oslo to Bergen on a tour called ‘Norway in a nutshell’ which takes you by train, fjord cruise and bus through some of the most beautiful fjord scenery. The journey includes the Bergen Railway (voted as one of the best railway experiences in the world), the breathtaking Flåm Railway (one of the steepest in the world), the narrow Nærøyfjord, and Stalheimskleiva (one of the steepest roads in Northern Europe). Quite something for a 12 hour trip! When we arrived in Bergen my son was at the train station to welcome us.
We spent some time in Bergen itself and the area around it, including a day trip touring Hardangerfjord. Bergen is surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords so there is much to see. It is very easy to visit the fjords on a one day bus/boat/train excursion out of Bergen.
We also rented a car for four days. Our road trip took us north of Bergen, along Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord. It is sometimes called the King of the fjords of Western Norway as it extends more than 200 km inland. There are many farms and orchards on the banks of the fjord and in fact our first night was spent on an apple farm.
We took the Sognefjellet Road and crossed Jotunheimen National Park—‘home of the giants’—with its glaciers and high mountain peaks. The elevation is so high that skiers were out training in the snow. We saw spectacular Geirangerfjord, famous for its emerald-green water and sheer cliffs. Near Andalsnes, we travelled on the Trollstigen Mountain Road (Troll’s Ladder) and then went on to the coast to visit Ålesund , Molde and Kristiansund. We had hoped to make it to Trondheim and Røros but ran out of time. Actually, if we had gone there we would have missed our flight home because of flooding and road closures. So we stopped for the night in Oppdal and then headed back to Oslo.
Before we left Canada for Norway, we made plans to visit relatives in my mother’s ancestral home town of Larvik. We spent a day there and it was certainly the highlight of the trip for Mom. In fact my mother said several times that she never thought she would get to see Norway so it was all a dream come true.
It was very special for three generations to travel together. My brother and my son had fun geocaching, a worldwide “game of high-tech hide and seek” where people use a GPS to look for “caches”. Caches are small waterproof containers with a logbook inside. When a cache is found, geocachers make a note in the logbook, indicating the date and their code name.
I felt very much at home in Norway. Everyone we encountered spoke English and was so polite.
I don’t think I would have changed anything. For us, two weeks was the perfect length of time. It was a beautiful trip and I would like to go back to Norway to explore more of this wonderful country.
This interview had been condensed and edited.
Photo credits: Randi Goddard
© Riding the buses 2011