Food Exploring :: Sky to Fjord in Geiranger

Over the last few years, I’ve been on a number of adventures around the world that have opened my eyes and inspired me to think in different ways. A lot of these adventures have inspired valuable lessons that have stuck with me, and others have inspired recipes as well! That gave me the idea to start a new series, which I’m calling “Food Exploring.” Once a month, I’ll dust off one of these adventures and share what lessons and recipes that particular adventure inspired! This month we’re revisiting Norway!

“I do not, by temperament or inclination, gravitate toward Scandinavian countries. I am intimidated and made uncomfortable by safe, clean, orderly places where everything works and people seem creepily content.”

~ Anthony Bourdain

Sounds like heaven to me. Or Geiranger. I think Tony would have hated it.

We, on the other hand, absolutely fell in love with Geiranger, Norway.

I’m already plotting a dozen different kinds of trips we could take back there – adventure biking, kayaking, summer camping, a driving tour, anything to get back to the beautiful mountains and fjords surrounding an enormously charming waterside village!

And I’m excited to base this month’s Food Exploring here in Geiranger.

A couple years ago, Scott and I took the inaugural Norway “Frozen” Cruise kicked off by Disney Cruises. Our ports of call in Norway were Alesund, Stavanger, Geiranger, and Bergen. All of them were absolutely lovely – and I was overjoyed to get in touch with my Scandinavian roots – but I think Geiranger was our absolute favorite out of the bunch.

Geiranger is a tiny little village that consists of about three shops full of souvenirs for tourists {and many more actual shops that are hidden deeper in town}, a coffee shop, a chocolate shop, a few houses, and a whole hell of a lot of beauty.

Seriously, I would move here in a heartbeat. You’re at the terminus of a gorgeous gin-clear fjord, surrounded by rising mountains, forests, and waterfalls, and some of the most spectacular scenery to enjoy while you’re hiking, biking, skiing, and any other outdoor sport your heart desires. Heaven.

Slight drawback – they’re under constant threat of the crumbling mountain Åkerneset at the mouth of the fjord. If it does crumble and collapse, it’ll cause a tsunami that would swamp the town. A bit disconcerting.

The sharp altitude change from the fjord to the summit of Mount Dalsnibba is the focus of a number of outdoor events. In June, there’s a Fjord to Summit event, where a half-marathon foot race and longer bicycle race takes people 5,000 feet up from sea level to the top of the mountain. Since there’s still so much snowpack on Dalsnibba, they also call it the race “From Summer to Winter.” It sounds horribly painful on so many levels.

I almost want to try it. I’m wrong in the head.

We weren’t feeling like breaking ourselves this time, though. Instead of climbing from summer to winter, we hooked up with Geiranger Adventure to go from winter back to summer with their Sky to Fjord Biking Tour instead.

In town, we grabbed vests, gloves, and bike helmets. Then we boarded a motor-coach that took us up a winding country road all the way up to the top of Dalsnibba, where we’d pick up our bikes and start our journey back down to the fjord.

Scott and I dressed in just about every layer we had, since when we talked to the tour guides earlier that morning, they said there was still a little snowpack on the mountain.

“A little.”

Apparently that “little” was in Norwegian terms, because we passed through places where the road had been cut through six feet of snow. The layers were definitely a good idea. We had a good time giggling at some of the other cruise-boat tourists who wore capri-length yoga pants.

The ride started just off the banks of Lake Djpvatnet, which they promised us was underneath all that snow you see stretched out at the base of the mountain’s peak behind me in the picture. From there, we’d drop down 5,000 feet back to the fjord.

They advised us strenuously to test our bikes’ brakes.

We did. But they were only marginally effective.

Oh well, they said. We had plenty of flat areas to coast to a stop.

Then we were off.

It’s a hard thing to describe the sheer awesomeness of slaloming down incredibly high, craggy, beautiful mountains, surrounded by the sweet crisp smell of snow and ice and fresh, fresh water and the sound of echoing wind and rushing waterfalls.

Seriously. Just let the epic documentary music start playing in your head.

We STILL need to download and edit Scott’s GoPro video from the ride and upload that to our Vimeo channel.

In the meantime, we made several photo stops – and stretch out our legs and bums stops, if we’re being honest – along the way. The first one was about ten minutes down the mountain, where we just started hitting the upper edge of the tree-line.

It was a cold, foggy, rainy day, but that only added to the feeling that we were off on an adventure into Viking country.

Our second stop was at the “knot bridge,” part of the old country road that isn’t in service for autos anymore, but loops back beneath itself in a pretty cloverleaf and bridge. We were able to take the bikes around the loop, which we did at speed!

That’s fun if you’re with a lot of folks who know what they’re doing. We had a few riders with us who didn’t know what they were doing and bumped us around more than I liked, hence my expression in the photo.

But the views were too amazing to stay sour over, even when the same woman who bumped me around almost knocked my husband off his bike.

I refrained from pushing her off the mountain and into the fjord, but just barely.

Hey, life happens when you’re on a cruise expedition. You just have to roll with it and make the best of it. Besides, with the views we had, I wasn’t about to let anything sour the experience!

Our last stop of the ride was at the top of the spectacular waterfall outside Geiranger.

From there, we could look back up to the top of Dalsnibba, though it was mostly lost in cloud, and down the waterfall into the fjord. It probably took about an hour and a half all total to get all the way down the mountain, including stops, but I could have stayed on that mountain all day.

Still, we were happy to stop into the coffee shop and warm up with a couple of absolutely lovely coffees and some fresh carrot cake. Yum!

See? Sooner or later, it’s always going to be about food around here.

We had a little time left before we had to get back on the ship to walk around Geiranger, and we did.

And one of the things that struck me most was just how well the people of Geiranger were able to maintain traditional ways of living. You so often see those ways completely overcome by tourism – because naturally, it’s far easier to make a living selling souvenirs and pouring drinks for tourists than it is to keep up traditional ways of life.

It’s almost as if they had a street in town for tourists, and everything else was quietly tucked away in its own little enclave.

Bravo, Geiranger.

I asked about all the garden roofs in town, and it turns out that the best way to insulate Norway’s ubiquitous wooden structures is with dirt. The plants just help keep the dirt in place and keep it from being washed off by rain and melting snow. The fact that they’re terribly pretty is just a bonus.

All in all, the people were wonderful, industrious, and happy, the streets and shops were clean and efficiently organized, and it was everything that Anthony Bourdain said he’d find uncomfortable.

I love the mess and the flurry of activity and sound and spice of busy cities, too, but to us, the cleanliness, industry, and happiness were a little slice of heaven, and Geiranger is definitely going on my must-see-again list.

How about you guys? Would you be up for the “Summer to Winter” half marathon?

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