Sunday, July 5, 2015

From the Rockies to the Fiords of Norway and Back!

After a month of traveling from my home in Ogden, Utah to London, England; Paris, France; Indian Head, Maryland; Macon, Georgia; and Bergen, Norway - I am finally home again! Whew, it is nice not to be living out of a suitcase!

I must say, that for a girl who has never lived more than a few hundred feet above sea level, I am definitely enjoying living in the mountains.

Ogden, Utah gets amazing reviews as a place to retire, raise children and enjoy great public transportation.  It is also located in a state where there is something to do no matter what time of year you are here!  In the summer there are beautiful lakes and rivers and you can ski, fish, swim and just enjoy the great views.

 In the winter there are snow activities and we are only 15 minutes from a great resort.     Then there is Antelope Island, right in the middle of the Great Salt Lake where Bison, Mule Deer, Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Coyotes and so many other wild animals live wild and free in an amazing setting.

Traveling is an amazing experience, however, and frequently makes you appreciate home even more!  The scenery in Utah is breathtaking...from the valleys of northern Utah to the Red Rock Country of Arches National Park and St. George, the variety and diversity are impossible to describe!

Norway was extraordinary however. The fiords are beautiful, Bergen is full of history and the people of Norway are extraordinarily friendly!  As you can imagine, there is abundant seafood due to the location next to the Sea and all the Fiords.  Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains, and gets quite a bit of rain.  The weather did decide to cooperate while I was there, with only one day when we were rained out!

 The country of Norway is country located in Northern Europe on the western and northern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, bordering the North Sea in southwest and the Skagerrak inlet to the south, the North Atlantic Ocean (Norwegian Sea) in the west and the Barents Sea to the northeast. Norway has a long land border with Sweden to the east, a shorter one with Finland in the northeast and a still shorter border with Russia in the far northeast.  Norway is one of the world's most northerly countries, and one of Europe's most mountainous countries with large areas dominated by the Scandinavian Mountains; average elevation is approximately 1500 feet, and 32 percent of the country is located above the tree line.  The lovely fiords were created by the movement of ice during the last ice age when Norway was covered by huge glaciers.
Downtown Bergen and old Brygen are  beautiful in spite of the fact that they are frequently overtaken by hoards of tourists who come ashore from numerous Cruise ships that dock in the huge harbor area.  Bergen received official status as a City in 1070! As an American, with a history of only a couple hundred years, that seems huge!  In about 1100 Bergen became the center for export of dried Cod.  Bergen was Norway's most important city by the year 1300. 
 In about 1343 the first Hanseatic commercial settlement was established in Bergen.  German merchants moved in and formed a colony, protected by the Hanseatic League.   This Kontor, as it was known, was located at Bryggen in Bergen.[16] The Hanseatic merchants lived in their own separate quarter of town, where Middle Low German was spoken. They enjoyed exclusive rights to trade with the northern fishermen who each summer sailed into Bergen Harbor. During this century the Hanseatic merchants acquired monopolistic control over the trade in Bergen.  It is definitely worth your time to take a walk around the old Hanseatic area of Bergen.  Much of Bergen has been destroyed by fire on numerous occasions, but the area has been rebuilt and much of it's original charm still exists.

There are remnants of the old fort still open to the public, but much of it was destroyed, along with much of the town during World War II when Bergen was occupied on the first day of the German invasion on 9 April 1940, after a brief fight between German ships and the Norwegian coastal artillery. The German cruiser K√∂nigsberg was badly damaged by Norwegian coastal artillery at Kvarven Fort, and sunk by British bombers the following day, 10 April 1940, in the harbour. On 20 April 1944 the Dutch cargo ship Voorbode anchored off the Bergenhus Fortress, loaded with over 120 tons of explosives, blew up, killing at least 150 people and damaging historic buildings. The city was subject to some Allied bombing raids, aiming at German naval installations in the harbour. Some of these caused Norwegian civilian casualties numbering about 100.
In spite of its destruction on numerous occasions, Bergen remains a lovely city to visit! Surrounded by seven mountains and lovely fiords, this is a great Summer vacation location.  The summer nights are almost non-existent.  I found it unsettling to still have the sun on the horizon at midnight, but the people who live here seem to have adjusted to this fact!  I am not sure I could stand winter nights of the same length though!
I highly recommend the Fiord trips...whether you take the three hour tour out of the harbor, or opt for a six day trip from one end of Norway to the other, please take the time to enjoy the beautiful vistas presented along the various fiords.  From rocky hillsides covered with fir trees, to lovely little farms planted along the shorelines, to waterfalls and narrows, the fiords are an amazing journey.  The water is crystal clear and can be mirror like at times, doubling the vista views!  These farms in many cases can only be accessed by boat, and I couldn't help but wonder how they manage during the bitter winters.  We witnessed Fish farms along the way in the crystal cold waters, as well as small swimming areas (although i can't begin to imagine how anyone could swim in the COLD waters).  I was fortunate to be staying with residents of Bergen and got to experience many many of the local foods.  From fresh caught salmon and scallops, herring in cream, mustard, sour cream and tomato sauce, to lovely desserts, it was fun to experience Norway from a Non-tourist point of view!
I even got to help with a catering job with my host, May-Britt, who is a Chef for a local catering company.  It was interesting, to say the least, to see the kinds (and huge amount) of foods presented for the twenty people in attendance of the event.  Everything was gorgeous and delicious.  Foods included stone crab claws, smoked salmon, salted shrimp, deviled eggs, and a kind of baked scrambled egg cut into squares, as well as more familiar foods such as turkey and roast beef.  I love the Caramel Custard they serve for dessert.  Very reminiscent of Flan, and a little less sweet. Cream and butter are used abundantly here and the most frequently seen vegetables are of the cold weather variety such as Cabbage, Turnips, Carrots, Potatoes, etc.  The growing season is very short in Norway.  Meat staples are mostly fish, pork and lamb, and venison, all of which are prepared with the local vegetables and the dark meats with gravies which are usually cream based...yummy, but not exactly low calorie!
I enjoyed my recent trip to Norway very much, and would recommend it if you love to travel...but remember the Summer is LIGHT and the Winter is DARK! LOL
It is always nice to be able to travel, but it is also nice to return home, especially when home is my beautiful Utah!

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