Monday, November 5, 2012

Mountain Roads to Egersund

Last Saturday the weather was cold and clear in southwest Norway, and Bea wanted to show me the mountains and fjords, so we took off in her still-non-studded-tire-bearing car and headed out. The road was more snowy and icy than she had expected, but it was one of those situations where once you're on the road you're more or less committed after a certain point, and since it was the weekend with less traffic, and they had sanded and salted the road after the Friday morning snowfall, we made it through all right - but Bea didn't stop the car at any point that wasn't relatively flat, and there were few of those places for the most part, so all of these pictures were taken on the fly, out the window as we drove. Every time we rounded a corner I saw another beautiful vista.

Small villages or just a handful of houses, and sometimes a lone farm or two, but other than that nothing but water and snow and granite cliffs covered with hardy trees and autumn-tinged moss and lichen. I saw a few signs of the "watch out for moose" variety, but no animals anywhere, and only a few birds.

On these roads you really get the sense of the phrase "hairpin curves."

Every time we went around a corner Bea would ask, "Isn't this just beautiful?" and I would reply, "Yes!" and "Oh, I wish Mom were here to see this too!" But the pictures will have to suffice, at least for now.

On the way up a steep cliff we passed these lonely houses tucked underneath a giant overhang. Bea said that archaeologists had found traces of Neolithic dwellings there, taking advantage of the southwest exposure and the natural shelter. I commented that they must have been particularly hardy folk to live there year round, but Bea reminded me that there were times between ice ages when the climate was more temperate in the region, especially since it's relatively close to the ocean. Still, with the generally nothing-but-rock nature of the environment, I stand by my opinion of the fortitude of those early Norwegians. And anyone else who lives up in this area, frankly. But it is beautiful.

Cycling is a national passion - Bea herself has spent a lot of time on two wheels, even going to Stavanger and back - but sadly there's a Norwegian equivalent of Lance Armstrong, who also had to resign recently because of doping. The flatter routes along the coast seem relatively easy, if you don't mind all the traffic, but the twisty narrow steep inclines of the mountain routes with their sheer dropoffs don't really appeal to me. The hiking would be marvelous in the summer, though - yet another reason to go back to visit Norway again.

I wonder if they make cheese here, and if they might need help in the dairy ...

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