Monday, July 21, 2008

More Photos (III) of Bergen, Norway (July 7-9, 2008)

Colorful buildings in downtown Bergen, near the fish market
St. Mary's church, built in the 12th century, is the oldest building in Bergen still used today. It's considered one of the best Romanesque churches in the country, and its gilded triptych at the High Altar (shown in photo) dates from the Middle Ages.
A summer Norwegian sunset
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), Norway's most famous composer, lived just south of Bergen on the shore of Lake Nordas. He composed many of his works in this small garden studio overlooking the lake.
Pink daisies at Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg's home outside of Bergen. The grounds now house the Grieg Museum and a concert hall for chamber music.

More Photos (II) of Bergen, Norway (July 7-9, 2008)

The Floibana, Bergen's funicular, runs up to the top of Mount Floyen from downtown
Sally and my dad look out over the city from the viewing platform at the top of the Floibana
The view from Mount Floyen of Bergen and the surrounding areas
A closer view of Bryggen. The colorful wooden buildings were originally constructed in the 14th century by German Hanseatic merchants. They were destroyed in a fire in 1702 but were soon rebuilt and are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The very crooked walls of Bryggen
Small and large: a tiny passenger ferry skirts around a massive cruise ship in Bergen harbor

Bergen, Norway (July 7-9, 2008)

Bergen was founded by King Olav Kyrre in the 11th century, and it was Norway's largest city from the 13th century to the 19th century. Because of the city's strategic location on the southwestern coast, Bergen thrived during the Middle Ages as part of the Hanseatic League, a network of Baltic and European cities with a shared trading agreement.

Today, Bergen is the country's second largest city, but its commercial focus has shifted to oil and tourism. It's a popular cruise ship destination because of its colorful harbor area and its proximity to Norway's western fjords.

Bergen is a wonderful place to wander, with its charming coastal architecture, historical waterfront district and lively fish market. The hills above downtown are crisscrossed with narrow cobbled streets that look out over the busy harbor below.
Bryggen, Bergen's historic waterfront area
The view of the harbor from Rosenkrantz Tower within Bergenhus, the city's 13th century fortress complex. The tower was built in the 16th century atop the foundations of a 13th century keep.
The view across the harbor from Nordnes to Bryggen
Quaint clapboard homes line Bergen's oldest street
Bergen's bustling fish market has everything from king crab legs and smoked salmon to monkfish and caviar

More Photos from "Norway in a Nutshell" - Flam, Myrdal, Voss and the Sognefjord, Norway (July 5-7, 2008)

Sally stands at the base of the 152m Tvinnefossen waterfall, on the northern side of the Naeroydalen valley
The view from Stalheim, just before descending along the Stalheimskleiva road. The series of 13 switchbacks, which are on a 20 percent gradient, make for a slightly harrowing ride!
The Naeroyfjord arm of the Sognefjord is one of the narrowest fjords in the world: at one point only 250m across, with 1700m high mountains on either side.
Kayakers enjoy the fjord's tranquil waters and the beautiful surrounding mountains
A quaint little town on the banks of the fjord
During a heavy rainstorm, mountains disappear in the mist over the fjord

"Norway in a Nutshell" - Flam, Myrdal, Voss and the Sognefjord, Norway (July 5-7, 2008)

Fjord Tours offers a "Norway in a Nutshell" self-guided tour, a circular journey through the western fjordland. One can begin the tour in any of a number of places, but we chose to start from Flam, a small town at the innermost point of the Aurlandsfjord.

From Flam we traveled to the nearby mountain station of Myrdal via the Flamsbana, Northern Europe's steepest railway, with an elevation gain of 865m over 20km. From there, we took another train to Voss, which is known for its adventure sports (skiing, paragliding, rafting, kayaking, etc.) and its bottled water.

We traveled by bus from Voss to Gudvangen, a beautiful ride past massive waterfalls. The highlight of the bus journey was Stalheimskleiva road, a 1.5km stretch of steep switchbacks with fabulous views.

The last leg of the journey was also the most spectacular: a ferry ride along the Naeroyfjorden and Aurlandsfjorden arms of the Sognefjord, from Gudvangen back to Flam.
Sognefjord is Norway's longest and deepest fjord, in the heart of Western Norway's fjord country. It stretches more than 200km from the sea to Jotunheimen Mountain.
Looking down over the Flam Valley from the Flam Railway. Flam is one of the most popular cruise harbors in Norway.
The Flamsbana (Flam Railway) was completed in 1944 after 20 years of construction. 18 of the line's 20 tunnels (totaling 6km of the journey) were built by hand.
Kjosfossen waterfall, along the Flambana route, is 94m high and is used to produce electricity for the railway
The tiny mountain station of Myrdal, at the end of the Flambana
The lakeside town of Voss attracts adventure sports enthusiasts all year round. It's also known for a peculiar culinary specialty: dried, salted sheep's head that is served steamed.

Scenes from the Road (II), Norway (July 4-5, 2008)

Sally and my Dad on the ferry across the Lusterfjorden from Urnes to Solvorn; the water was almost turquoise!
A common Norwegian sight: a riverside village nestled in a valley between green mountains
The calm waters of the fjord reflect the surrounding mountains
The 12th century Urnes stave church is Norway's oldest and most decorated stave church; it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Three churches were built on the same site during the 11th and 12th centuries. The church standing today is the 3rd church from circa 1130, however the portal and carved walls in this photo still remain from the previous 11th century church.
Icy water reflects blue sky on the mountain road from Laerdal to Aurland

Scenes from the Road, Norway (July 4-5, 2008)

We spent two days driving and ferrying from Oslo northwest to Lom, and from there, southwest to Flam. The Norwegian countryside is stunningly beautiful and surprisingly varied - from green rolling hills, to snowy mountains and glaciers, to crystal clear fjords.

Our journey took us along Sognefjellsvegen road (Route 55), the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe at 1434m above sea level. The road runs through Jotunheimen National Park, which covers 1150 square km of mountains (including the country's highest peaks), lakes, rivers and glaciers.

It was a kick to see people cross-country skiing in July, while only a couple of hours away, others were swimming and sunbathing fjordside!
Bright yellow fields and blue skies on the drive north from Oslo
Rolling green hills, with farms stretching down to the lake
The quaint town of Lillehammer, where the 1994 Winter Olympics were held
Lom Stave Church, built in 1158, is one of the largest standing stave churches in Norway. The church was enlarged twice during the 17th century, and it's still used today as the main community church.
Lots of snow along Route 55. We even passed cross-country skiers on our drive!
Another photo from Route 55

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Final Photos of Oslo, Norway (July 1-July 4, 2008)

A pond of waterlilies reflects blue sky and clouds at Oslo's Botanical Garden
Oslo's main street, Karl Johans gate, leads from the Royal Palace to the central train station. Along the way are Oslo University, the National Theatre, the Parliament and Oslo Cathedral, as well as plenty of shops and restaurants.
A statue of Henrik Ibsen stands in front of the National Theatre. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is Norway's most famous playwright; his works include "Peer Gynt," "A Doll's House" and "Ghost."
Vigeland Sculpture Park is one of Oslo's most visited attractions and contains more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron. The park represents the life work of sculptor Gustav Vigeland.
Children scramble on top of the huge statues at Vigeland Park, while families and friends barbecue in the nearby grassy areas
Brilliant orange roses in Vigeland Sculpture Park

Photos of Bygdoy Peninsula, Oslo, Norway (July 1-July 4, 2008)

Waterfront homes on Bygdoy peninsula, a short ferry ride from downtown Oslo. Bygdoy is also home to many of Oslo's museums.
This 12th century stave church was transported from Gol to Oslo and reconstructed in 1884 as part of the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History's open air museum
A closer view of the stave church. The interior of the building is from the original church, but the exterior had to be rebuilt when the church was moved; the new exterior was based on the Borgund stave church in Sogn on the western coast of Norway.
An artist carefully glazes a bowl at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
Traditional Norwegian architecture at the open air museum
Excavated from the Oslofjord area, the 9th century Oseberg ship (housed in Oslo's Viking Ship Museum) was used as a tomb for a wealthy woman. It was customary for Vikings to bury the dead in boats, along with food, animals and both useful and decorative objects.