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Just a short ferry crossing from the local North Sea coast, the high alpine southern Norway offers pure motorcycle pleasure. And more than that.
We stand a little perplexed in front of the red wooden house. “Overnating” is written on it, but there is no one to be found who would accept requests for “overnight stays”.
A couple of children playing in front of the door speak surprisingly good English, but they don’t know what the booking status of Mother’s room rental is. A cyclist comes up and quickly grasps the situation even without English. She disappears into the red house, makes a phone call and finally explains very precisely where there are still beds and where there are not. At least not here. Then she continues cycling. It wasn’t her house at all, as I get astonished with some delay, but that of the neighbor, for whom she quickly stood in. Norway – what a country. We have only been heading north here in the warm Sede Valley for a few hours. And everything is different. It feels like more than just a short ferry crossing that separates this country from the far North Sea shore. We drive a little longer and turn west on the narrow 45. The road twists straight away to an altitude of around 1000 meters, warmth and flowers remain in the valley. It is getting colder with every meter, stone and raised bogs now determine the picture, on the plateau, ice floes are floating on blue lakes, and remnants of snow are thawing, gurgling in the sun. If it weren’t for the trotting sheep, it would be downright arctic. A beautiful summer in Scandinavia does not produce more than the values of a warm May day. Beyond the ridge, the single-lane road falls back down in 27 bends to sea level. Shimmering in the backlight, it gradually appears below us – our first fjord. In its framework of gneiss and granite walls that are loosely over 1000 meters high, the Lysefjord offers a magnificent sight. Since fjords are not lakes, but inlets that have flowed into mountain folds, the height of fall in southern Norway’s alpine formation is correspondingly impressive. It’s just bad luck that apart from the ferry to Stavanger we can’t get any further down here. The somewhat indistinct connections on the map, which we interpreted as passable paths, only turn out to be windy Gams via ferrata on site. It is also unfortunate that although there is a jetty on the fjord, there is no refueling facility and so unexpectedly 180 kilometers without a supply can be covered with a half-empty tank. A cardinal planning mistake in Scandinavia. Carefully and at the lowest possible speed, we chug back into what are presumably more densely populated areas. Thank goodness we can find both a nice “Overnating” and a gas station in the small town of Sinnes. Together with the church, school and pub, it seems to be an important place of public life here. In addition to gasoline and oil, a blonde girl here sells just about everything that life here requires. Fruit, vegetables and frozen food are on the left, children’s toys and baby powder in the middle, newspapers and booklets on the right at the cash register. We pack our rucksacks full, because eating out is not often included with the Norwegian prices. In the rugged mountains we cannot find a direct north route from here and therefore drive via Reichsstraben 39 and 11. In steep curves, the wide road plunges down to Haukeligrend into the valley. This is where the excesses of Norwegian tourism flourish: plush reindeer up to life-size and surrounded by red-blue-and-white Norwegian flags seem to be in great demand. Swedish, Danish, Dutch and North German car numbers identify the home destinations of the foreign summer visitors. For northern lights, the route to the Scandinavian mountains is much easier than to Austria or Switzerland. A short sea voyage and you are right in the middle of it. Along countless lakes and soon again on cold heights, we follow Reichsstrabe 11 to the west. The mixture of snow remnants and soil that has already thawed free that covers the hills resembles the drawing on a leopard skin. Despite the sunshine, the cold bites through the thin gloves. I dig a thick winter pair out of the pack bag, which from now on will be a permanent companion on the tour. I’m already wearing the thick sweater. In Norway, every gain in altitude is paid for with sometimes painful losses on the mercury column. Also in the summer. In a ski station, a group of bus tour guides observes the stunningly beautiful landscape event of sky, water and snow beyond the large panorama windows from bare wooden tables. We escape in Roldals on a side road to Odda. Immediately it becomes quiet again, and the sun regaining strength on the way down to the Sorfjord awakens the numb fingers with a tingling sensation. Thundering waterfalls sweep past the road in broad streams, the famous Latefossen is even spanned by a sparkling rainbow. From time to time the huge Folgefon glacier flashes in the mountains above us, green and alien to the Ice Age. In Odda there is summer serenity. Motorbikes roar by, young men with rolled up shirt sleeves in open car windows are cruising through the center in their Volvos and the bars have tables and chairs on display. In one of the fast food restaurants that are widespread in Norway, we stock up on hamburgers and fries. At least now I dare to say it out loud: Norway has something American about it. It’s not just the fat, cruising sleighs and the famous hamburgers or the free refills of coffee – it’s also the friendliness, which is unusual for European standards, the thoughtful approach to nature and the landscape, the large amount of space and the slowed-down hectic pace – maybe that’s what characterizes you related lifestyle. At least in summer, the lively season. The season is short, when Scandinavians can put their deck chairs in the sun and row out to fish in the fjord. Damn short. If it lasts from June to September, then it’s long. Four months of living as intensely as possible. Midsummer, when on June 21st the longest day of the year is just interrupted by a short twilight phase, is the highlight. Nobody goes to bed anymore, but moves from solstice fire to solstice fire, from pub to pub. Is it [called. Now in July, the doors and windows of the red wooden houses with the bright white ridge frames are wide open, hardly a boat bobbing unused on the jetty, hardly a child who is not splashing in the water. Statistically, every second Norwegian has a “Hytter” or “Sommerhus” and a boat, which they either use themselves or rent to tourists. Maybe there is still something free somewhere. On Reichsstrabe 550, which is just as wide as a car, high up in the cliffs of the Sorfjord, we follow the inviting sign »single Hytter« and take a gravel path to a few houses. Indeed, a small house is empty. The night in it is said to cost 300 kroner, about xxx marks, that’s okay. Even if strictly speaking it is not a hytter, but a hus. But you can’t be picky in the high season. In addition to a strong smell of mold, the real Norway of the 1960s strikes us inside. Large flowered curtains, a turquoise-colored folding couch and a thick tiled stove dominate the lower room, while the upper room has to be content with the warm chimney and an asthmatic electric heater in winter, which is more reminiscent of an old Nordmende radio than a source of heat. Three mismatched chairs, a sofa bed and two beds without springs or dampers complete the facility. There is a toilet and shower in the neighboring house. In the cozy little kitchen we make tea and chat well into the night. At some point rain begins to drumming on the roof, lulling it to sleep, and it won’t stop for the next 24 hours either. The next day, all the color and vibrancy seem to have been blown away from the valley, gray clouds almost waft over the water. It smells of damp earth and pine needles. The houses are locked again, the landing stages deserted. Suddenly I have an idea of what life can be like here in the inhospitable season. We pack and just manage to get on the ferry to Skutevik in Jondal. Ferries are part of everyday life here, just like the tram with us. They rush over the fjords in time, leashless and in a matter of minutes they close at the jetty. In just 20 minutes our boat brings the eastern foothills of the huge, branched Hardangerfjord behind it. Just an hour later we reach Bergen, which is just as rainy as the rest of the country. But the blue, yellow and green painted wooden houses, which are fascinatingly nestled against steep hillsides like in San Francisco, defy the gray brightly. The northern metropolis, which was most important until the last century and is still considered the most beautiful city in Norway, does not let the weather steal the show. In the harbor, the masts of the sailing ships and the radar antennas and fabric tops of the yachts sway in the light spray, behind them the ornate façades of centuries-old wooden storehouses shine. Despite the rain, the city, surrounded on three sides by the sea, is bustling with life. We actually discover a covered street cafe heated by radiant heaters. The niches of Scandinavian lifestyle. It is wonderful. A suntanned man in his thirties from the next table asks about our trip. He himself has just come back from Mallorca, he says, and is trying to settle in again. Not that easy, I suppose. Indeed it is not, he nods. As much as he likes to live here and go fishing – once a year he has to go out into the sun and feel the warmth in abundance. But going away completely was never an option for him. “You only get that feeling of real cold here. And when the first warm sun comes through in spring, then it’s incomparable. «This man loves his country, and I understand a little more why xx million inhabitants voluntarily brave the biting freezing temperatures in winter and endure weeks of almost complete darkness. The rain has stopped in the meantime, and groovy music is coming from inside the restaurant. Blonde, long-haired women, all of whom look a bit like Liv Ullmann, stalk past in tight mini dresses on platform soles, and men wearing jeans and leather jackets stand at the door – the disco begins. Likewise, the night life at sea, as we discover a walk on the pier. Candles and kerosene lamps shimmer behind the flat windows of the yachts, young people sit together to chat, play cards or watch TV. In between, a wonderful old two-master with its polished mahogany superstructure is parked, further out a cruise ship is loosening the lines. Bergen is part of the standard repertoire of North Sea cruisers. Waterfalls and again and again waterfalls accompany us on our further north route. White and foaming, they tumble down the steep fjord walls from the snowfields, sometimes directly in free fall, sometimes in dramatic steps and cascades, and sometimes so close to the road that their moist breath completely soaks us. Soon we get into a whole series of tunnels. Pitch dark and with adventurous potholes and sharp turns, the passage is more about luck than driving safety. Behind Voss, Reichsstrabe 13 leads really high to the 1187 meter high Vgnisdals Fjell, and the mild Gulf Stream climate of Bergen is gone. In long serpentines we drive back into the dripping snow, the icy wind grabs the disguise and whistles into every crack in the visor. When the clouds break for a moment, a wonderful rainbow stretches across the Sognefjord deep below us. From the pass you can already see the dark outlines of the old stave church of Viksoryri, one of the more than 800-year-old wooden churches which, with its multi-storey roofs and gallion-like corners, seem to be an architectural cross between a pagoda and a Viking ship. They are the oldest buildings in Norway, all other wooden houses repeatedly caused devastating fires. Dark black with age, they are enthroned as strange and eerie in the midst of the brightly colored houses of the present. We cross the Sorfjord northwards and then thread our way back up into the mountains. Here, in the solitude of the plateaus, begins the terrain of the Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier on the European mainland, which icily encompasses the peaks of the 2000s at the top. At Briksdalen, one of its greenish tongues licks almost down to the street. We discover a campsite with pretty wooden huts, but everything is full. The manager sends us to the »Vikumer Pensionat«, a few kilometers further. It looks exactly as it sounds – an older white wooden house where the stragula and sacrotand scent are the dominant ingredients. But the ladylike older owner even prepares tea and sandwiches for us. The rest of the Vikum consists of a few dozen houses grouped around a lake, a gas station with two pillars, a mini post office, a white wooden church and Jorn Hellebuster’s grocery store. That’s it. From now on the route will be difficult. We only make further northwards in an elaborate zigzag course. We ponder the map, but the roads are either dead ends or take huge, time-consuming detours around fjords or mountains. Our original milestones turn out to be bare theory. We laboriously work our way in thick clouds over Dalsnibba towards Geiranger. In a never-ending Sepentinen descent we literally dive under the clouds and finally stand bathed in warm sunbeams at the head of an arm of the sea that winds between hundreds of meters high rock walls – the Geirangerfjord is reached. The last light is gently reflected in it, the inevitable ferry steams up and we finally find a real hut. Down by the water, protected by the mighty rocks. A wonderful place. I let the machine exhale with a crackle in front of the door, chase the photographer after his last motifs and suck this moment into me with every pore. Finally arrive. From here the way home begins. Not geographically, but internally. As impressive as the water cascades of the Trollstigen and as mighty the last gorges before the E 6 will be later. When we reach the endless race track of the North Cape drivers with her, I know that the most beautiful was very close.
With its high alpine landscape and excellent roads, southern Norway is one of the most fascinating motorcycle terrains in Europe, along with the Alps. The high price level in Scandinavia and the weather risk, however, demand certain sacrifices. Nevertheless, every tourer should bring them once. It is worth it.
Ferries: The possibilities to get to Norway vary with the place of departure and the time and financial quota. The possibilities start in the west in Amsterdam and end in the east in Kiel. These are the longest, most expensive (up to 19 hours and from around 360 marks for one person with a machine), but also the most comfortable overnight passages. It’s short and inexpensive from Northern Denmark (from three hours and 135 Marks one way). The ADAC, the Norwegian Tourist Office (see information) and the brochure »Travel Routes to Scandinavia« for 9.80 Marks from Achilles Verlag in Hamburg, phone 0 40/23 06 96, provide more detailed information the hut (“Hytter”). If you want a permanent location, it is easy: You can ask the Norwegian Tourist Office to name a few agencies and book your roof over your head at the fjord of your choice with them. The more adventurous look on site (especially on campsites), although in the recommended travel months of July and August it can be tight without a reservation. Depending on the hut and the number of people, the fun starts at around 50 marks per head. It is also wonderful to live in a tent, which according to Scandinavian public rights can be pitched wherever it pleases. Organized tours: Norway is not exactly the classic country for organized tours, but the newcomer to the industry recently started promoting Nordic Bike Adventure with one to three-week tours. For more information, call 00 47-38 / 15 66 94, fax 38/04 77 18. Literature: All noteworthy travel book publishers have something to offer on the subject of Norway. With good background information, we liked the GEO special »Norway« for 14.80 marks and the Apa Guide of the same name for 44.80 marks. A huge collection of tourist tips (accommodation, ferries, route suggestions, etc.) is provided by the tourist office’s manual (see information). The volume “Scandinavia” of the Unterwegs edition contains special motorcycle routes for 29.80 marks. An excellent overview map comes from Ravenstein, »Norway / Sweden« in 1: 800,000, Kummerly + Frey has the best detailed sheets (1: 325,000, five pieces) for Norway. Information: Helpful tips and comprehensive for 14.80 Marks The informative travel guide »Norway« is available from the Norwegian Tourist Office, Mundburger Damm, in 22087 Hamburg, phone 040/22 71 08-10, fax -15.
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