The perfect little mountain getaway. From our dining room table each window framed the perfect scene. Window one: the mountains stretching high above the pines. Window two: the most amazing sun set…that never really set. Window three: the perfect little farm on the neighboring mountaintop. We’ve heard rumors that parents actually put leashes on their children to make sure they never tumble too far. I get it. I would too.
Even though we’re thousands of miles away. Our time in Rondane reminded us of our life in Montana. The freshest air, the brightest sun, views for miles. The combination of which makes it hard to wipe the smile off your face. Mountain life = simply the best.
At this point of the day we were a little bit on sensory overload. We drove the last five hours through the most majestic scenery. The sun had been good to us and accented every fjord, showcased what seemed like thousands of waterfalls and made every mountain peak more grand and every rock wall more brutal. It actually became a joke of ‘when do we stop filming?!’
We stopped for dinner to refuel on salmon and opted for a “quiet” spot out back on the patio. Yes, it was situated over a properly rushing river. Yes, there were extremists zip-lining over our heads. Yes, we thought about zip-lining ourselves. No, Norway never stops. It just keeps going.
Could not keep driving. Had to stop and behold this church that shares my fathers name and so much more. Similar to my dad, this little roadside chapel sat quite unassuming. Settled behind pines and down a little rock path there wasn’t any pomp or circumstance about this church. It felt more like the simply stated Presbyterian Church in my dads hometown of Miller, South Dakota. You could almost smell the dirt blowing across the great plains between rows of golden corn as we entered the church.
We opened the door and allowed our eyes to adjust from the sun to the darkness of the interior. Our eyes popped and jaws dropped as every inch of this church surprised us with the combination of rustic and elegance. Beautifully carved pews, stone work and the hand painted sanctuary made you feel right at home. Just like my dad, always smiling, eager to provide a laugh and welcome you home.
Simply the best cinnamon rolls we’ve every had! If you are ever traveling through Luster (if you blink you could miss it) stop at Lustrabui Bakery. You will not be disappointed. We settled in on the outdoor deck and took in the views of the surrounding mountains along with the sound of water crashing from the fjord. Sipped coffee and indulged our sweet tooth while we soaked up the sun and pinched each other to make sure this was real.
Saturday morning we woke while the kids were hurrying out the door for soccer tournaments. Sarah prepared tea on the deck and we sat and visited about their life in Norway. How it differed from life in the states, the good and the difficult. But mostly the good of going to work down the hill and allowing your six and ten year old to play at home with friends. Giving kids freedom to walk to school and downtown for a lunch visit. Not worrying about locking doors or crime or over-parenting your kids by spotting them constantly on every swing set in town. It’s how we grew up in the states. It’s the same still in Europe or at least in Norway.
We are so grateful for the time we spent with this amazing family. It was the perfect time. Beautiful weather with beautiful people. Thank you Olav, Sarah, Spencer, Kate and Caroline!
The ferry arrived and brought us across the fjord to Urnes to the “fourth oldest church in the world” our guide said.????? Later we learned it was probably the fourth oldest in northern Scandinavian countries. We trekked up the hair pin curves to the church and found coolness inside. The tarred exterior walls of the church kept the interior smelling or creosote even though all the interior lumber was pine. A carved Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist greeted us as our small group filled the aisles of the forty person capacity church. It was Friday afternoon and on Sunday this church, the fourth oldest church in the Scandinavia would hold service for the people of Urnes. Little different from our mega church back home. No rock bands here.
The sun was finally out and the day was beautiful. Boys showed off their best cannon ball jumps into the fjord in an attempt to impress the near by girls. Children shrieked and laughed from the beach adjacent to the ferry dock in front of the Walaker Hotel.
The hotel’s garden drew us in and we decided on a slightly shaded table under a plum tree to enjoy a drink. The Norwegian flag waved to us from behind the barns which made a barrier between us and the towering cliffs. Towards the water a well-manicured hedge separated the garden from the beach.
It was our first moment of rest and relaxation since before we left the states. All we could do in this moment was wait for the returning ferry, sip our drinks and enjoy each others company. Lovely to be here and quiet in this moment. A time lapse was being filmed from the tree branch that overlooked our table but what beautiful footage. Great multi-tasking I say.
On our way to Solvorn we opted for a tourist route that for the first time brought us from sea level to the mountain top. (The alternative was to go through the mountain in tunnel…for an hour!) Single lane, each switchback crept us closer to the sun. Tunnels of Poplar and Pine trees gave way to openings of shimmering gold sun-rays that bounced from the waters surface. It was 7:00 p.m. but the sun was far from setting during mid-summer.
The Kia Rio climbed, dodged sheep, and tailgated local farm tractors with massive treads. Something has to be able to clutch the side of the mountain while they prep the land! We stopped at the first lookout and left the Go-Pro running and took a few more pics and video with our other camera. Yes, two camera’s, five batteries, two chargers, one remote, one suction cup, two cases, one selfie stick and a birds nest of cords.
Everything used to capture every minute of daylight, which was pretty much twenty-four hours a day. The sheep pranced along the edge of the mountain, scampered over rocks to find a new patch of slick green grass to nibble on. Low humming “baa’s” and sweet little bells rung in the air with each movement.
A few miles from the pinnacle we reached the tourist route outlook designed by Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhelmsen. The structure cantilevered over the side of the mountain showcasing the incredible views and contast of the sky, fjord and mountain. For the first time it hit me that my husband had planned this amazing trip to explore Norways rest stops, which mainly consist of beautiful scenery and restrooms.
Running short on time we snapped pictures, had one of the professional photographers take a picture of us, gawked at the motorcycles and headed further north. Rain, sleet and snow met us and I looked at Mark, pointed to the Kia Rio and said this is a marriage saver.
The first tourist route piece of architecture we experienced after leaving Bergen was a rest area at Steinsdalsfossen. The rain clouds lifted and took a breath while we ran through the restrooms, tourist shop and up towards the waterfall for a picturesque moment.
It was our first stretch since leaving Bergen and it felt good to put a barrier between the bike experience loss and finding these new architecture treasures. Done by Architect, Jarmund/Vigsaes AS if you blinked you may run the risk of driving right on by. Thank goodness the waterfall’s spraying mist draws your eye towards the base where this little jem is placed.
The tourist route leg of our journey has officially began!