Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Road Trip Scandinavia (Atlantic to Troll)

Travel Tuesday

We left Ålesund Tuesday morning and headed north toward Kristiansund, but only because we were interested in seeing and driving the Atlantic Road, an 8 kilometer stretch of road that bounces along the Atlantic coast between Molde and Kristiansund. What we read before the trip promised breathtaking architecture and amazing views, so we were a tiny bit disappointed with what we found. 

The Atlantic Road does have nice views, but I expected to be out - like really out - in the ocean instead of driving a broken up coastline. It's beautiful, don't get me wrong, but I suppose we were expecting something a little more dramatic. Perhaps if we'd visited during the stormy season we would have seen something more striking like waves crashing over the road, or maybe we're becoming harder to impress, which really just makes us sound spoiled, I'm aware. Either way, it was a beautiful drive and we had plenty of opportunities to stop along the way to soak in the coastal view. 

Another benefit of this detour was being able to see the Kvernes Stave Church. Built sometime during the first half of the 14th Century, it's one of Norway's youngest stave churches. 
One of the most fascinating parts of this church are the well-maintained burial grounds on site with tomb markers that span 4000 years. What an amazing testament to honoring loved ones and the historical integrity of such a place. These grounds are still in use today by locals. 
I loved the worn look of the wood inside, the coziness of the space. Each pew was equipped with its own door and the votive ship hanging from the ceiling kept our eyes turned toward the altar and pulpit at the front of the church.  

To the left, the view of the nearby town just outside the church.
Once we got to Kristiansund, we were so tired we pretty much got something to eat and hung out in our tiny hotel room before hitting the sack early - not that you could tell with how light it was out. Thank you, over-the-counter sleeping aide!

Wednesday was the day we would actually be entering fjord country and we were excited. Though the day was cloudy, the scenery was getting more gorgeous by the mile.

We drove south from Kristiansund toward Åndalsnes to make sure we were on the right route. Another specific drive we wanted to do was the Trollstigen, aka, the Troll Road. The Trollstigen is famous for its crazy curves and heights, as this series of zig-zagging roads brings you up the steep sides of the mountains that stand between you and places like Geirangerfjord, which was exactly where we were headed.

Before we could reach the official start of the Troll Road we were stopping to shoot the scenery. Patches of blue sky peeked through the low-hanging clouds as the landscape became greener and rockier at once.

There was water everywhere, from tiny streams falling down the rock faces on the side of the road, to gushing rivers alongside.

Here we are at the base of the Troll Road. What you can't see in this shot is the switchback craziness of the path ahead that I was remarking about here. What you can see is the secret tiny hand I usually keep covered beneath my hair. Also, I'm pretty sure the waterfall in the background is the Stigfossen. If not, stay tuned for pictures much closer that are definitely the Stigfossen.

This, to the left, is a zoomed in photo of the Troll Road ahead. Do you see the zig-zaggy craziness I spoke of?
The higher up we drove, the colder it became.


Just below is the view back down once we were about halfway to the top of the Troll Road. You can't really see much of the road in this shot, but what a view. Despite the cold, my window was constantly down so I could lean out the window to record this amazing beauty around us.

Finally at the top, we parked and joined a bunch of other tourists who'd braved the treacherous roads for the promise of a spectacular and unique view. As we walked out the wooden boardwalk to see from where we'd just come down below, I hoped we'd be able to get right up to the edge.

To the right is a picture of what is certainly the Stigfossen finding its way over the edge and into the valley far below.

Almost to the edge, enjoying a cairn someone left at the edge.

And then there it was. Standing on a platform that hung out over the open space of the valley, we stared down with the rushing waters of the Stigfossen into the amazing expanse below. The picture doesn't do it justice - it was staggering. You can see the cars and trucks still on their way up. Looking at this view in person felt like flying. The cold air made breathing feel easier, despite the altitude, and I could have stayed for hours.

This felt like the true beginning of our fjord road trip through Norway. Even though we'd yet to reach an actual fjord, this was the astonishing and dramatic beauty we'd been hoping for. 

Both of us took a turn to be in a shot with part of this view behind, but these are lifeless compared to being there. I suppose this is always the case when you get to witness something amazing. The photo is the reminder of an experience you can't really share.

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