Ivar was one of Norway’s, indeed arguably the worlds, finest woodcarver! This picture is but a corner of the great reception hall in the hotel, which houses a significant part of his output! There was invariably a dragon theme to his carvings and Balestrand is knowing as the Dragon village.
The chair on the right is the VERY chair in which Kaiser Wilhelm was sitting when informed of the assassination of the Archduke that led to WW I. Indeed I am now sitting in it as I write.
On the walls are examples of tapestries woven by Ivar’s wife – they were a very talented family.
Balestrand shares 2 delightful features of yesterday’s village: the fiord fishing village atmosphere and an equally enchanting 100 year old hotel – the Hotel Kviknes .
There is an added unique attraction: an Anglican Church! The wealthy owner of the Kviknes Hotel in the 1880’s married an English woman who said that she would accept his proposal and moreover move to this remote, cold fiord village if he would build for her a church – not just any church mind you , but Church of England. He agreed, but sadly his new wife died ftom TB, before it was finished . In tribute and as a fitting memorial, he pushed on and the church was completed. It is still active and each summer ftom May to October the church sends out a minister ftom England who conducts weekly services, the congregation being entirely composed of tourists.
Our final walk of some 14km and an altitude of 950m, with me in basic black
At the top.
The Kviknes Hotel by the edge of the fiord
Various photos of the interior.
Each evening this chap performs in the lounge room with tea, coffee and sweet biscuits. I don’t mean that he, the pianist, performs on tea, coffee and biscuits, no, he performs on the upright whilst we consume tea, coffee and biscuits!
The Church of England- Balestrand
Everyone would recognise that iconic Norway postcard of a brilliant blue/green fiord between snow covered mountains , well here it is. I hiked to the very spot today!
It’s known as the Flatbrehytta walk and is 9km long, which does not sound that much, but the elevation gain is 3140 feet – almost 1000m and is situated in the Jostedalsbreen National Park.
Again words cannot describe this unique hike in absolutely stunning weather conditions, so here follows a few pictures one of two of me again in basic black.
We are headed for the red cabin
And here is the view again from the cabin !
This idyllic village lies in the western region of Norway on the shores of the Lustrafjiotd and a few kilometres from the Jostedal Glacier. The previous fishing village now produces summer berries and autumn apples as well as the fresh fish. The wooden houses spread up the terraced mountains.
At the waters edge is the Walaker Hotel, which has been untainted in its more than 3 centuries of existence. The current owners, the Nitter family , have run the hotel for nine generations!
Consequently I reckon This village and its’ iconic hotel deserves a separate blog article all on its own.
The reading and music room
The Dining Room
The front garden – only part of it!
Not another bloody waterfall or fiord. We hiked some 7.5 km to the base of the glacier straight in of you in the picture below.
As we approached. A deep rumble developed and we witnessed a glacial (ice) avalanche- different from the snow version, it was explained
Still in black and after several days still smelling like a rose
Today was much better weather and the activities included a delightful meander along one of the narrowest fiords, then a boat cruise on the fiord and finally an incredible climb/walk to a 900 year old wooden church perched high on the mountain side.
Basic black seems to suit me, I think and yes my pants are falling down!
Inside the church which is essentially all wood the exterior is coated in bitumen
Hotel for the next two nights in a delightful cove in a fiord
The private dining room for our dinner on the first evening
If you read and understood my frustration with the Reykjavik Airport queues, rest assured the Bergen Train station is almost its’ equal.
The Bergen station in the rain, still looks impressive
The queue for the train to Voss
Today was bleak! Dark grey clouds, drizzling rain and the air temperature a cool 7 degrees centigrade. This does not deter the average Norwegian male who, as it is officially summer, parades the streets in a T-shirt. Tourists who outnumber the natives by 100 to 1, are immediately discernible by their attire: down jacket, gloves, rain pants and boots, giving the distinct impression of being Amundsen the famous Norwegian polar explorer, about to set out and reach the South Pole.
room with a view!
The hike day 1
Farmer’s hut – 150 years old
Our “private” dinner in an old farmers barn! Felt a little like Game of Thrones”
A day and night in Bergen before the train to Voss where I meet up with my Backroads group. Bergen is the oldest port city in Norway and the old quay district, called Bryggen is an UNESCO world heritage site.
A few pictures will give you a feel for the old town
These pictures show the original wooden shops and delightful alleys. Two of them are in the process of major renovation as rotting wood and sunken footings are causing significant structural instability
I wandered into the Bergen Cathedral to a charming rehearsal of a children’s concert tomorrow, Sunday
New Zealand has achieved the unique distinction of creative culling when it comes to introduced feral pests, specifically the possum. Lest I foment Pauline Hanson’s halal anger , I hesitate to explain that New Zealanders invariably check to ensure the possum is well and truely alive, before it is actually killed. It would be far too kind to kill a possum after it is dead
It seems that Norway has achieved the same distinction, albeit with its native fauna! I admit to a sense of disgust when I saw this at a tourist shop at the Oslo International airport
But then as I wrote this in the Oslo Business lounge – where most things are pickled, it dawned on me that we do the same with sheep – tan them I mean, not pickle them. It’s a moot point as they were introduced! But our iconic kangaroo is emasculated so that Japanese golfers carry their balls in a furry pouch. Make of that image what you will.
On the long stretch from Adelaide to Dubai I revisited that memorable film “In the Heat of the Night”. Powerful cinema. The only other choice was “The Sound of Music” which at several hours in length was sufficient to put me to sleep and awake just in time for breakfast before arrival.
The Oslo international airport passport/immigration counter was a nightmare for all countries other than the Euro Zone! There were but 2 windows for non EU passengers. As there arrived simultaneously an Emirates and Qatar flight, the queue stretched out of the arrival hall, across the tarmac and snaked around the edge of a nearby fiord.
I wait with foreboding the catastrophic queues of Heathrow after Brexit, which are already a nightmare. As the British invented the “queue”, I can only but wonder where it will all end up- figuratively and literally.
It was too good to be true, in all my years of travel, I have not lost luggage! I lose myself on every trip, but not a suitcase… until today. At my final destination- Iceland, my backpack did not appear. It had been tagged “all the way through from Adelaide” confidently stated the Emirates check-in clerk! I am told it will appear at 1am at the airport! Tomorrow is a Golden Circle Tour followed by a swim in the blue lagoon at dusk. I went out at 8 pm in wild wet weather to buy an anorak at the Icelandic equivalent of say, ” Paddy Pallin”. I toyed with also buying swimming togs as I am to visit the Blue Lagoon at dusk!