Sunday, 28 September 2014

So where did we go?

Modern technology comes sometimes handy. I wanted to draw a map of where we have been based on the meta data from the pictures I took with my phone. The above map illustrates the locations which I considered worthwhile photographing, while also providing information where were we. We did also have our digital camera, which we got as a wedding present some years back, and which of course provides many more opportunities for better pictures than my phone camera, especially when in right hands, but lately I felt that getting the point rather than providing high quality photos (which you would not see here anyway) is much more important. So I guess I will stick with this conveniency for a while longer.

You might have noticed how I have not really told about the places where we actually were and what did we do. So far I just provided some info about the cultural landscapes and places where we ate and slept, but I think it is time to show you some pictures of pretty places, don't you think?

I think this will be my last post about our Norway road trip. I was unable to write anything the past month, as I actually ended up spending 3 weeks yet in another country. You will hear from me later with additional pictures to this post, some final conclusions about Norway and a post or few about Barcelona!

Friday, 29 August 2014

On the road

I recently read an article about being on a road trip. But it wasn't about the trip itself, but about the experience of the trip. What do you do during all those hours of driving? That specific post was about creating the optimal "soundtrack" for your trip, so you will unconsciously associate specific songs with the memories - good ones hopefully.

Well, we did not listen to much music during our road trip in Norway. Not that we would have not wanted to, but there were actually technical restrictions to do so: i) we had a radio but no channels; ii) we had phones, but not enough capacity to charge all of them all the time.

And thirdly I should say that, at least by my experience, if you are concentrated on discussions or even music you may miss the scenery. Has it ever happened to you that you had an intensive talk with someone, even just walking on the street, or driving a car, and you don't remember what was around you in the past few hundred meters/few kilometers? I prefer having memories of the landscape when on the road - if there is something worth remembering, and in Norway there definitely is!

When it comes to the radio, and Norwegian radio channels, I think I have to clear a few things here: in general, during the trip our car radio found perhaps 5 different channels, 4 of which in Bergen/Oslo urban regions. Everywhere else only one was available, if it was available. Most time it wasn't at all.

But 'coming' from a country with lots of tunnels, it was not a surprise for us that there was a radio reception in tunnels - for informational emergency purposes. Radio reception begins shortly before you enter the tunnel, and finishes right after the tunnel. In Slovenia, only one channel is available in tunnels, all the others loose the reception.

We drove through the longest road tunnel in the world (Lærdalstunnelen). It was 24,5 kilometers long and took some 20 minutes to drive from one end to another. There is a surprise in the tunnel for those driving there the first time (don't read further if you don't want to know). Every 6 kilometers or so they had built a light installation to keep drivers awake. When we approached the first one we really focused to see what is all that about: some blue light in the far distance. Once we got there, the installation looked like some Viking boat structure. It was gone in few seconds and left us a bit surprised. But then we approached another one… and by the time we got to the third one we weren't really interested any more. Later I heard that the government had given the task to the tunnel making company to come up with some ideas how to keep the drivers awake. One idea was to have words written on the wall: as a short story, which the driver could read. But eventually this (expensive) light installation won the competition. There is also a small resting area in these light installation spots, but I also heard that one should not get out of the car, because those who do, do it only to empty their bladders, so the place smells horrible.

So how did the road side scenery looked like?
I took few pictures along the way to be able to document what can you see when driving through Norway. Here are few pictures:
We also used quite many ferries to cross some of the fjords. There were two types of ferries. In one type you park your car in the ferry and continue upstairs to enjoy the view, perhaps have a hot drink. Where as in the second type you drive the car in and stay in the car for the length of the short ferry ride. The ferry rates are cheap. The price varied between 95 NOK (from Hjelmeland to Nesvik) to 276 NOK (from Halhjem to Sandvik).

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sleeping and eating

We always look for low-cost options when on the move.

The simplest solution is to pack a tent or a hammock with you and sleep outdoors for free, but if the weather out is nasty you might want to sleep indoors. Luckily we also have plenty of experiences sleeping indoors without paying a penny ‒ in a car!

Here is a collection of some of the locations where we parked and slept.
And another one about where we prepared some food for ourselves.

And finally since we did take a tent with us, we decided to put it up on the last day of our trip. We were so unlucky with the weather that it was actually raining most days - and nights, also the last night, leaving us with no real possibility to dry the tent in between. That's why we wanted to give the tent at least one chance, since we could easily dry it once back at home. But it wasn't enough that it was raining all night; it was also the coldest night, +6°C in August!

That might be the reason why we also picked up two hitch-hikers that day. They were soaking wet and frozen from the night before ‒ we definitely had enough empathy for them knowing how they felt. We had picked up another hitch-hiker a couple of days earlier in Jotunheimen National Park: a guy from Ireland who hitch-hiked over entire Europe this summer after finishing his degree and was ending the trip in Norway. On that day we were driving through amazing landscapes and stopped every now and then to take pictures. We also went for a swim to freshen up, but the water wasn't really warm for swimming ‒ it wasn’t very warm on anyof the occasions we went swimming with water temperatures between 5 and 17°C . We shared our candy with the hungry hitch-hiker and drove until it was darkish and time to go to sleep. He set up his tent not far from our car, and told he will stay in that area, fishing for few days before continuing his trip. What was special about him was that he was carrying a longboard with him. There are definitely plenty of hills to ride down, whereas I can imagine walking up isn't that much fun with a heavy backpack. We saved him by picking him up on the way uphill. The two wet hitch-hikers where from Netherlands, airing their brains after finishing their study semester. We also shared our hot-chocolate and drove them all the way to Oslo, where they could get a ride home more easily than whereever we picked them up from on Hardangervidda plateau.

As if it wasn't enough that it was raining all the time, it was also very windy. On many nights the car was shaking as if a big bear would have wanted to come join us for a cozier good-night-sleep. The car was really shaking as if someone would have been rocking it all night. On one night there was a big storm. It was actually a night when we were planning on sleeping outside under the stars when we found a beautiful spot on a coastline. It would have been perfect to wake up there and see all the purple colors of heather in contrast with the blue sea. But of course it had to start raining exactly when we decided to sleep there and pick up our sleeping gear. So we had to abort the idea and return to the car feeling blue. The next morning when we started driving we saw the consequences of the previous night’s storm: there were broken branches everywhere, also on roads.
We had a plan to sleep here under the stars

Broken branches after a storm

Another memorable event took place on two evenings. I guess it wasn't windy enough in those evenings, since we experienced attacks of very small black flies (polttiaiset (FIN), midge (ENG), knott (NOR)) from family Ceratopogonidae. They were everywhere! And it really hurts and itches when they bite. So this one night we decided to chase them away by first driving the car with open windows to get rid of the ones that entered the car already. Then when we got back to the place where we wanted to sleep, we parked the car, closed all the windows (usually we left them a bit open), and sat in the trunk/back seat/temporary bed department for half an hour to kill the rest of the black flies which were still alive inside and that we could find, since you can barely see them. It was an exhausting, and really itchy night!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Road Trip in Norway ‒ from East to West

I recently returned from a road trip I made with my husband, who came here on a last minute decision visit. His summary of the trip; mostly bad weather, kilometres driven, number of swims and adequate number of great photographs. I agree that we had a very windy and rainy week ‒ which made us freeze on most days, but I disagree that such a trip should be handled as numbers and pictures only, although ‒ we did drive over 2000 kilometers with an old Volvo V70 which is something worth mentioning.

My interpretation goes a bit differently. So it would not be such a burden for me, nor you, I will write some short posts not to overload anyone.
Black houses and sod roofs
When driving through the country, you get to observe the trends in bigger scale than what I have so far in my neighbourgood. It is still true that there are beautiful houses with multiple color variations, the agricultural ones usually being red. But this is not all what's out there.  Couple of additional specific types of houses can be spotted in Norway as well: One is the black house, painted with tar, and the other one is a house with roof that has grass on it. I had seen such earlier in Iceland (or see the whole posts here), but there were places where you would see whole villages, old ‒ and new ‒ built exclusively out of these.

They are houses with sod or turf roof. A traditional roof used in old times- and also today. It can be considered as one type of eco-friendly green roof which has many advantages: It works as a good natural insulator. It is permeable to water while also retaining it and recycling it through evapotranspiration. This on the other hand has a cooling effect, maintains wildlife and reduced surface water run-off. In the old days they used birch bark which worked as water proof surface when placed inside out. On top of the bark, turf was placed and the grass was let to grow. These days I don't think they use birch bark any longer, since we drove by quite many houses, which were about to have turf roof, and I saw contemporary construction materials used underneath where you would place the turf. Every day I was hoping we would see this idyllic place I had in my mind ever since I saw a picture of this kind of house: I was hoping to get a chance to take a picture, where I would have such a house facing a lake, and I would take a picture from behind having the house, the lake and mountains surrounding the lake in the frame. But this is what I got out of all the hundreds and hundreds of houses with turf roof.

A third type of house we saw which stayed in my mind can be found in fishing villages. Anyone seen a post card from Bergen?

I haven't looked into the reason of building this sort of house-complexes, but I'm sure there is a logical explanation. So far I like them, and now I know the inspiration to some modern houses I have seen around where I live. I guess the same goes with painting your house black, which I see I quite commonly here as well ‒ whereas again my interpretation leads to the old tradition of painting the houses with tar.

The next post will be about the North sea and the fjords (most likely)