Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Eurotrip 2022 - Days 13-14 (8/4-5/2022) - Balestrand

We had an early start with an 8am ferry from Bergen to Balestrand. Once again we didn't board until a few minutes before departure, and so had to search a bit before finding a couple of adjacent seats in the middle of the lower level. I stayed in those seats for most of the ride, while Fran staked out a (standing) covered spot upstairs and outside; I did go out a couple of times to take pictures and say hello to her. The ride had some nice views, but it (obviously) wasn't intended to be scenic in the same way as the cruise the day before. The second half of the ride went through Sognefjord, which is the widest and deepest fjord in Norway (and apparently the largest non-glacial fjord in the world, if I understood the boat crew announcement correctly?). We arrived at Balestrand around noon, about 10 minutes later than the planned time.

The impressive Kviknes Hotel is less than a 5 minute walk from the boat dock. Unfortunately our room was not yet ready, so we stowed our luggage in the luggage room and then tried to occupy ourselves for a couple of hours. We found out that the Norwegian Travel Museum adjoined the hotel (i.e., occupied the same building), so we bought a couple of tickets and walked through that for a bit; it wasn't very impressive, but it helped kill some time. Our room was ready when we we went back to the lobby to check on our room around 2p, so we were able to move our stuff up there.

After a bit of pondering - mostly due to the fact that it had been raining steadily since we arrived - decided to head out for a walk to see the hotel grounds and then a couple of the local attractions. We walked to St. Olaf's Church, an Anglican stave church which we later found out (from our gregarious dinner host, David) was the inspiration for the cathedral (and possibly the snowman's name?) in the Disney movie Frozen. From there we walked to the Ciderhuset (Cider House), where we bought 6 bottles of locally produced ciders (3 alcoholic for Fran, 3 non-alcoholic for me) and some local honey. Then it was back to the hotel to dry off. Dinner was included in our hotel reservation, and we made a 7:30p reservation when we checked in. The meal was buffet style, and once again included a nice variety of options for appetizers, sides, mains (though more so for meat-eaters than vegetarians, particularly for the warm dishes), and desserts.

Kviknes Hotel - the old section


The weather was looking better for the next day. We had considered doing a morning rib-boat tour of Sognefjord and then a hike up Raudmelen in the afternoon, but eventually decided on just the hike. We had the (once again high quality) breakfast buffet at the hotel and then were out the door a little after 9:30a. We walked the 20-ish minutes to the start of the nature trails and then began the ascent. The first two-thirds or so is designated moderate, while the final section to the summit (right about where the tree line stops) is labeled challenging. I would say this is mostly true, though there are some portions of the first section that are just about as steep as the top part. None of the trail is particularly technically challenging, but it does take some work to get up to the 972 meter high peak. And being one who sweats profusely, it was a good thing that Fran planned ahead and brought shirts for me to change into at the top (we joked that she is my Sherpa for life); the temperature hovered in the high 40s / low 50s (Fahrenheit), so my drenched clothes did not make for a particularly comfortable time. The rain mostly stayed away during the hike, though there were some brief periods of sprinkles. The passing clouds didn't make for the best of views at the top, but the sunshine during the descent was quite pleasant. We also had a couple of rainbow sightings - one in each direction. We made it up and down in around 4 hours, including the break at the top.

Looking toward the peak of Raudmelen after going past the tree line

Fran and I atop Raudmelen

Second (more prominent) rainbow sighting on the hike down Raudmelen; I believe that is looking toward Tjuatoten

I was ready for a good sit by the time my shaky legs (which have never been great at handling descents) made it back to hotel. After some snacks and a shower I lounged in the room for a few hours while Fran went back out for a little walk before joining me back in the room. We later repeated our 7:30p dinner in the dining room.


Full pictures for the trip here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/44Vf8gccA5UfLjTo7

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