Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Norway is burning...

June 23, 2012 Norway.

Norway is buring bonfires to celebrate the Midsummer holiday, which is an important event in northern Europe and Scandinavia..
Midsummer was originally a pagan holiday centered around the day of the astronomical summer solstice. In Roman times, the day of the solstice was considered to be June 24th, and this date is used by some as Midsummer Day, although celebrations vary from June 21to June 24th in different cultures. 
In Norway the holiday is celebrated the night before, on Midsummer's Eve, June 23rd.
After the introducttion of Christianity, Midsummer also became associated with the birth of John the Baptist, as the bible states that he was born six months before Jesus, on June 24th.

But First...

We have a long day in front of us before celebrating Midsummer's Eve. We had spent the night in Balestrand, a lovely town with a famous, historic hotel, the Kvikne's Hotel.

All signs pointed to the hotel!

 A vintage car rally was being held at the hotel.

We checked out this Studebaker. Nice chassis!

Leaving Balestrand 

The next morning, the 23rd, we left Balestrand heading toward Geiranger and Midsummer's Eve.


There are thousands of fjord ferries. We take one from Dragsvik to Hella

More beautiful sights!


And sheeps, too. In Europe, the plural of sheep is sheeps. There are two sheeps here, as there is a lamb to the right of the tree

And cows!


And waterfalls galore!

Briksdalsbreen (The Briksdal Glacier)

Briksdalsbreen is one of the most accessible and best known arms of the Jostedalsbreen glacier
We are conveyed in ATV's to the base of the glacier.

Up many switchbacks!

Through birch forests

Past grass-roofed huts

To the bass of the glacier. 

From the ATV parking area, the public can walk to the far end of the glacial lake and no further. The steepness of the snow field beyond and the calving of the glacier above are safety concerns.

The next four photos show calving, or a breaking off, of part of the ice. Don't be fooled by what appears to be a small amount of snow and ice; glaciers calve off huge sections.

The end result: temporary peace from the tumultuous actions of a moving ice field

Returning to the valley we view the glacier from the distance. The stream is milky blue from the glacial melt water.

Across the valley from the glacier was this magnificant waterfall

On the road again

Photos from the bus windows

Old farm building. the ones on stilts are generally storage houses

Geiranger Fjord

The deep blue UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord is surrounded by majestic, snow-covered mountain peaks, wild waterfalls and lush, green vegetation.
We took the ferry between Hellesvlt and Geiranger cruising along the 12 mile long fjord. Geiranger Fjord is known for its high cliffs and deep water.

Along the fjord's sides there lie a number of now abandoned farms. Restorations has been started by the Storfjordens venner association. Some farms were occupied as late as 1960.

A Haldra woman must be chasing the running man. (Shadows at play)

A popular pastime on the ferries--throwing tidbits to the sea gulls

The ferry is a car ferry. It also caters to tourists, giving an excellent commentary in several languages. We listened to Norwegian, English and German.

A small waterfall shoots out from the rock in a rainbow of colors.

The Seven Sisters

Legend says that the seven falls are unmarried sisters.

Directly across the fjord is another waterfall--the Suitor--who has been wooing the sisters. His advances has been spurned and some say that he has turned to drink.

Do you see the image of a "bottle" in the middle of the Suitor?

It would be impossible to count all the waterfalls, big and small, in the fjords. They were everywhere at this melting time of year.

Can you see the kayaks-- two tiny dashes on the water? They are probably invisible in this size photo, but their size insignificance lends perspective to the immense cliffs.

Graffiti lines some sections of the walls close to the water surface. The vandals who marked the walls often wrote the date and cruise liner they were on. Made it easy for the authorities to apprehend them!

More graffiti

 Our bus is preparing to disembark the ferry. We, all the tour participants, rode upstairs; our guide Anne-Marie and Bengt, her husband & coach driver, were downstairs


We stayed at the Hotel Union. (Not "union" but closer to "onion")

Our view from our room. The hotel's owner had been at the Krivne's Hotel the night before to participate in the vintage car rally. Below is one of his cars, I think.

The Hotel Union was completely remodeled from the ground up. In the lobby they recreated one of the former rooms--very elegant! I suspect that the King stayed there.

The Hotel Union lobby.

Across the street at the Norwegian Fjord Center were art installations from the Staurgale Project, an educational project of the Geiranger Fjord World Heritage Foundation. Throughout the summer local school children build imaginative art works from traditional hay-drying poles

A peaceful afternoon walk.

The evening was completely still, so that the smoke from the bonfires rose lazily.

The Hotel Union bonfire was prepared from wooden packing crates and green branches. I went to bed before it was lit. Exhaustion overcame curiosity.

Where we live smoke is the sign of a forest fire--a wild fire! In Norway there is water everywhere and bonfires cause no concerns.

World's Biggest Midsummer Bonfire

To visit the world's biggest midsummer bonfire, go to Alesund Norway, where wooden pallets are stacked over 130 ft. tall on an artifical island. Wild and crazy!

Photograph by Ruben Mollies

Photograph by Geir Halvorsen

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