Friday, 1st August – Hell to Sundsvall

With a hat-tip to Alan Moore, today we drove From Hell to Sunsdvall, across the Norwegian border into Sweden.

Leaving Hell, I noticed that there was a cool Hollywood-type of sign in the forest on the hill…IMG_2219

We drove on and stopped here and there to take photos. Unfortunately, there was something of a settings error on the camera and most of the photos for today turned out really badly. I have tried to do what I can with an image correction programme, but they are nothing like they were in real life. Oh, well. Sometimes things go wrong.

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Then there was that time when we thought we had started to get the feel for understanding Swedish and the sign seemed to translate to Chocolate Factory. The screech of car tires and the slams of doors were all that could be heard. We bought the most amazing, melt in your mouth coconut flavoured chocolate… and sampled our collective weight in other flavours.IMG_2250

We finally reached our final destination for the day – our AirBnb accommodation in Sundsvall. This was a pleasant surprise as the flat was basically in an old renovated barn with views over the local lake and forest. We settled in and realised a storm was brewing! We ran around madly trying to shut all the windows preempting the down pour, only to have about 6 drops stir the dust up. Got some cool pics, though.

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We decided to have an early night, kicked back, watched a movie and did some blog work before turning in for the night.

2014 European Adventure Norway Sweden

Thursday, 31st July – Kristiansund to Hell

Today we continued our journey in Norway making our way to Hell. Of course we went there, Keith was very excited and for those of you that know him I’m sure you can well imagine how many puns/jokes and references I endured today! Driving out of Kristiansund was so pretty even if the clouds looked a little ominous.

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To head in the direction we needed to go without taking all day we had to take a ferry. It was so well organised that everyone was loaded on the boat – cars, trucks, caravans, passengers and dogs so quickly, that before we knew it, we left the dock and hadn’t yet found our seats on board! It was only a quick 20 minute ride and then off we drove toward our first stop of the day, Trondheim.

We had shortlisted a few things to see in Trondheim, it’s a pretty interesting place. Our pre trip research had taught us that it was once the capital of Norway during the Viking Age, and during World War II it was occupied by Nazi Germany for five years. What we didn’t realise was that the annual festival in honour of the Viking King Olav Tryggvason was taking place! We had an awesome time wondering around the medieval market place and had pulled pork and salad for lunch – tough gig!

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There was also a massive cathedral in Trondheim which was where the medieval marketplace was. Huge and impressive!

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Now AC/DC sang about the highway to get there, but taking the normal route (avoiding highways) to Hell, the view is fantastic.

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Hell is actually the suburb next to the Trondheim airport so it wasn’t a very long drive. The hotel there was excellent and the service was great. We had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar and then that night we slept in Hell.

By the way, the name Hell was originally derived from “hellir” which is an old word for a cave under a cliff. Every year they have a festival – Blues in Hell, that is world famous. If you ask Keith, the town needs more Heavy Metal. Oh, and the temperatures were quite nice, but in the morning it got down to around 14 degrees, so we experienced a cold day in Hell. (And none of those promised things actually happened).

2014 European Adventure Norway

Wednesday, 30th July – Laerdal to Kristiansund

Today was the biggest drive of our trip, it was also the most highly anticipated. We drove from Laerdal to Kristiansund via the top of Norway and the Atlantic Road. An 8 hour trip in theory but we knew it was going to take a lot longer than that, there would be plenty to see and lots of rest stops.

We thought the view from our accommodation was beautiful the night before however, if possible it was even more lovely this morning.

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It’s impossible to describe just how amazing this drive through Norway was, we were left completely speechless 99% of the time and couldn’t believe how beautiful this country is. Driving from the hotel we immediately came upon incredible green water fjords.IMG_1748IMG_1758IMG_1808IMG_1755IMG_1778IMG_1794IMG_1779IMG_1805IMG_1813IMG_1818

As we began our climb up the mountains over the top of Norway, the terrain changed dramatically, we drove through a lot of ice and huge glaciers right on the side of the road. As we had prepared for a very long day by leaving early there were no other cars and we just took our time, stopping to take photos and staring in amazement out the windows. We noted the highest point of our journey being at 1400m above sea level.

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The descent down the mountains bought new terrains again, lots of small plants and shrubs initially, until the bigger trees and usual plant life re-emerged.

IMG_1873IMG_1874IMG_1931Continuing our journey through Lom saw us take one exit too soon on the roundabout, stumbling upon the Lom Stave Church! We had no idea it was here so as we came off the roundabout and saw its roof we looked at each other and laughed, no it wasn’t a wrong turn after all!IMG_1909IMG_1900After driving back 200m to the roundabout and taking the ‘right’ exit we were back on our way.

Today one of the many many highlights was all the Waterfalls. There are so many mountains and when the ice melts the water comes down the side of the mountain creating natural waterfalls, many of them are so high up and look spectacular. We’d stop the car to take a look around and/or get a picture and often not be able to hear each other because of the noise of the water crashing to the ground.

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The last part of our day was to drive via the Atlantic Road into Kristiansund. We were driving along a country road one minute, the next seeing and smelling sea water – we had reached the Atlantic Ocean! The drive was beautiful and we saw yet again another face to Norway.IMG_2021IMG_2031IMG_2051IMG_2061IMG_2055

Not to be outdone the view as we entered Kristiansund was beautiful as the Lake/Forest terrain reemerged.

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What an absolutely incredible day! It’s difficult to put into words all we’ve experienced. Choosing the photos to share was not an easy task, it was one of those days where nearly every photo we took turned out like an imaginary place on a postcard.

In the end because we just couldn’t help but stop and walk around this beautiful country we were on the road for close to 12 hours. One of the advantages of travelling through Norway in summer is the long days, sunrise at 6am and sunset at 11pm. We had researched this before the trip, and were thankful of the sunlight and long day enabling us to take our time and not be travelling in the dark missing everything.

2014 European Adventure Norway

Tuesday, 29th July – Oslo to Laerdal

Norway has some rugged and beautiful changing landscapes that we have heard so much about. We had been looking forward to our Norwegian leg of the journey, it’s a lot of long drives and breathtaking scenery – we were excited to get started today.

We had every intention to see Oslo – the capital – but those plans became difficult as we ran out of time. There was only one thing that Keith specifically wanted to see and that was Vigeland Park. Gustav Vigeland was a Norwegian sculptor who is one of Keith’s favourites. A smart move on Gustav’s behalf was cementing a deal with the city to provide him with a free home and place to work on his sculpting in exchange for all of his future works.

Vigeland Park is the result of that deal. There are hundreds of sculptures all around the park as well as immaculate gardens, water features and a museum as well. Keith took pictures of almost all of the sculptures, but below are the edited highlights.IMG_1349IMG_1127IMG_1131

Once we had spent an hour or two in the park, we headed north to see more of Norway. Below are some of the fantastic views we were able to enjoy.

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As we went further north, we also drove higher in altitude as well. In fact, it wasn’t that long before we saw our first signs of ice still on the tops of the mountains! It should be said that when we left Oslo, the temperatures were the highest Norway has recorded since 1976 (Almost 30 degrees)! But by the time we were up in the mountains, the temperatures were getting down to the high teens!IMG_1593

As we went higher, we noticed that there was a definite change in the landscape. The biggest difference was that trees were just not around after about 1000 metres above sea level. The landscape is all rocks, bushes and a mossy type of grass that just covers rocks.

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The main reason for the destination on this day was to look around (and see in person) the Borgund Stave Church. A stave church is a wooden church that was built in a certain fashion during a particular medieval period. There are only a small number of them left in the world – almost all of them in Norway. The stave church at Borgund is one of 28 original stave churches left in Norway and it was build during the 1200s. It would have to be one of the most amazing structures we have ever seen.IMG_1631IMG_1625

After seeing the church and the museum for it nearby, we headed off to where we were staying.

In Australia, there are loads of caravan parks and accommodation that is built around inlets and bays. They are family holiday spots and usually pretty weird. Our accommodation for the night in Laerdal was very similar except for two things. The first was that everyone spoke in a language we couldn’t understand and the second was that it wasn’t a bay, but the shores of a fjord. The view was worth the price, the room and bed were a bonus.

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Before we sign off for today, we wanted to let our readers know a little bit about the photos (thanks for reading everyone!). Almost all the photos taken in this blog are on the Canon digital SLR camera, however, we do get a few shots on our phones when they’re more handy. Here’s an example of a couple from Bec’s iPhone (they have been lightened up a little).

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Another big day of driving in spectacular Norway ahead tomorrow.

2014 European Adventure Norway

Monday, 28th July – Gothenburg to Oslo

As mentioned yesterday we had strategically chosen a place to stay outside of Gothenburg, so this morning after experiencing an ‘interesting’ breakfast, we set off really excited as we would be seeing lots of Swedish country side.

First stop however was to check out Aspen Lake, it was literally 2 minutes from the hotel and a great start to the day. We started to see what was to become a trend of people walking for exercise carrying their ski poles.

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Our next stop was one that Keith had magically woven into the itinerary – yes it was definitely on the way but only a true SAAB tragic would ensure he visited the SAAB factory in Trollhatten.IMG_0915

So after the giddy school boy got that out of his system on we went to Norway.

The Swedish country side was absolutely gorgeous, so many beautiful lakes and forests.IMG_0876IMG_0885IMG_0887IMG_0925IMG_0933IMG_0975IMG_0932IMG_0965

Some of the most valued items we have purchased since arriving in Europe are a 12 volt kettle that connects to the cigarette lighter and a coffee plunger (we’re living out of a car people, these are luxury items). We have really enjoyed being able to pull up anywhere and have a decent coffee with some of the most incredible vistas in the world – check out the photo below of today’s coffee stop.

Everyone has been on one of those road trips where the road signs promise strange and/or interesting wildlife ahead (years ago we were travelling in QLD and never ever saw a single Cassowary despite the 1000 signs warning us of our impending collision with one), so after seeing signs for deer all day, we were super super excited to see some grazing on the side of the road.IMG_0913

When planning our trip often we’ve had to throw in a town to ensure that the GPS allows us to go the way we want, Drobak was an example of this and oh my goodness what an amazing place! So beautiful in 30 degree weather to sit on the waterside and enjoy some incredible locally caught fish and chips for lunch.

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The strangest thing about travelling through Europe has been literally driving through a small sign that tells you that you’re now in another country! If you miss the sign then it’s usually the road signs that change language that give it away or the houses. Today though it was the Norwegian border police. Keith was really clever and as soon as the policeman got to the window of the car he said ‘Hi mate how’s it garn?’, hahaha I cringed but the policeman’s smile was gold. He asked where we were going and then after telling us to have ‘A wonderful trip’, waved us through. It’s often awesome being an Aussie overseas.

We only saw a little of Norway before arriving at our accommodation but what we did see was incredible. The houses are all either red or yellow, we have no idea why but are theorising that perhaps it would make them easier to see in the snow?

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New road signs promising ‘Moose’ was a reason to get excited! However by the time we got to our accommodation it was Moose count zero.IMG_1076

2014 European Adventure Norway Sweden