Off to the Land of Ice and Snow

Just a short hop and we're closer to the North Pole than we'll ever be - almost 60°N. Macquarie Island is almost 55°S and I think of that as pretty much in Antarctica. At home we're not even close to being "Down Under"! Despite that we were greeted in Stavanger by a cheery customs officer who told us we'd arrived on the best day they had had so far this summer, and it actually was very warm. I wouldn't go so far as to say hot but the thermometer did give 25°C a nudge. The smiling face of Karianne greeted us and we were soon off to meet Helge and Johanna for a spot of lunch, frivolity and catching up. Thank you Lucy for bringing more international friendships into our lives. A short post-lunch stroll through the nearby woodland got us acquainted with a little Norwegian (Norsk) wildlife. No ice and snow - just enveloping green.

Next stop Morten and Kate's house where we will base ourselves. They are off to Spain the next day and have so very kindly offered us the use of their house for our Scandinavian and Nordic fun. I even know the difference between those two words now. Despite needing to be ready to depart very early the next day (it's still early even though it's several hours after sunrise) they had prepared a magnificent evening feast that involved a very tasty Rudolf (you know who) stew.

Morten had given us very good instructions on all matters necessary for catching a bus into Stavanger so we set off bright and early, about five hours after sunrise, in an attempt to sort ourselves out for a little trip down the local piece of Slartibartfast's work - Lysefjord. Kate had diligently attempted to help us with our pronunciation of this name; it involves a lot of puckering. After we had walked around the lake and through the park Tracy and I were greeted with a familiar site at the quay; a very large cruise ship but this time we were not responsible. Stavanger is a very popular cruise destination and there will be a different ship there every day but one so we joined in the throng. Needless to say all trips with the company Karianne had sussed out were well and truly booked out. Luckily good old Norled had sorted out some extra runs so we scored tickets for the 11 o'clock run. This gave us time for a little wander through Vågen, the narrow and atmospheric retail and pub strip beside the docks.

The undoubted star of the day was the fjord. We knew it had a good reputation and we knew about Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), where crazy people take a long hike to stand on the precipice some six hundred metres up, but it is so much more. A truly memorable experience.

Water, Water Everywhere

Whatever direction you choose to walk from our house there is water somewhere, and not just falling out of the sky, even though that did happen most of Sunday and Monday. When we thought it was dry enough for my four layers to keep the summer weather from freezing me we went for a stroll to Mosvatnet, a nearby lake. It was almost dry. On the way back we walked past a large building with lots of meadow growing on its sloping roof.

Next morning it was time for some viking info. It turns out the people are not vikings it's what they did during that period - travelled, explored, conquered - Tracy reckons just like us! The place to find out some first hand stories was the Stavanger Museum of Archeology where we found good information and saw artefacts from local burial sites. I tried to blend in. As a group the locals aren't highly informed about the viking period and it's a little underplayed by the education system - a bit like a certain story of conquest back home. We bought a game supposedly played by the vikings. It's a kind of chess but the locals we know have never heard of it.

Another story from that period is told at Sverd i fjell (Swords in Rock - very literal). Three giant bronze swords were placed at the site of a famous battle in 872 that led to the unification of Norway under King Harald Fairhair. From here we headed a little out of town to Frøylandsvatnet in the district of Jæren for a walk through a magical spruce forest that was full of mystery, but not wild people acting a little viking.

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