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Norway- A Country of Forests, Fjords, and Lakes

1. Apple blossoms at Hardangerfjord

I visited Hardangerfjord in mid-May just as the apple trees were in bloom. Because over half of Norway's land mass is in the Arctic circle, the tourist season does not start until late June. However, the Mexican Gulf Stream flows through Hardangerfjord, giving it a mild climate despite its 60 degree northern latitude.
t is an orchard region for plums, peaches, apples, pears and cherries among others, and is known as the garden of the fjords.

More than a million years ago, the glaciers dug out valleys here. When the earth warmed, the ice melted and water from the ocean flowed into these valleys, creating the fjords.
The largest and most famous fjords in northern Europe are Sognefjord and Geirangerfjord. However, for sightseeing, it is much better to go by small boat through a narrow, twisting fjord like Hardanger.

In addition to this being a remote region, it was off-season, which meant that there was little convenient transportation available. I traveled by bus, taxi and then ferry, and after an entire day, I finally reached the isolated city of Odda.

Apple trees in the fjord
Along the way, at Lofthus, I waited in the freezing cold three and a half hours for a boat. Not only was it cold, but difficult to see because of the fog.
Small, white apple blossoms covering the twisting banks are dimly visible in the fog. The surface of the water has a cold but mellow transparency, a special characteristic of the fjords. It's as if water sprites are tempting us down into the depths. The mountain peaks towering over the banks are covered with snow, but here and there waterfalls created by melting snow cascade down the mountainside.
When the fog clears suddenly, a scene of profound and unworldly beauty appears, for which I can find no parallel.
I feel as if I can hear the transparent melodies of Edvard Greig. It is said he composed the Peer Gynt Suites here.

In the midst of this nature which seems like a dream or a fantasy, the people live with a vigor.
When it is time for school, a group of young girls, whose white skin and rosy cheeks like apples remind me of Snow White, clamor cheerfully aboard a bus. Although they look like adults, they are probably still 14 or 15 years old. Perhaps because of the lack of sunlight in the region, their hair is beautiful platinum blonde.

I caught glimpses of the courage and roughness hidden behind the calm exterior of the Norwegians.
The ferry travels out of the fjord at an incredibly high speed. It's not a speed which you imagine a sightseeing boat would take for leisurely viewing the scenery.
There are no handrails on the boat. If you should fall into the freezing waters, you would die instantly.
A small child totters by himself along the deck but no one stops him. Certainly, he must be a descendent of the Vikings, and will grow to be a sturdy youth, familiar with the turbulent sea from an early age.

Next time, I will go to Bergen.

Map of Norway

Copyright1998 Setsuko Watanabe

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