Ahhh, Motherland!!!

Where to begin?  We've been offline for several days and have lots to catch up on!

From Paris, we flew to Bergen and began our 12-day adventure in the land of my grandfather and distant viking relatives.  Bergen has stunningly beautiful first nature and ridiculously charming second nature.  While I love Paris, too, the contrast of the two cities in one day was dramatic.  In Paris, you pass risque lingerie in the window displays while packed on a sidewalk with everyone over the age of 15 chain smoking.  In Bergen, you pass white cotton underwear on mannequins while strolling quiet streets without a single cigarette butt on the ground.  

I'd say "despite being city folk," we prefer Bergen and were immediately in love.  But technically, Marcus and I are both from modestly sized cities not all that much larger than Bergen.  On the surface, it has a great deal in common with my hometown of Pittsburgh -- small mountains covered with colorful houses and green trees, a funicular, stair streets, endless rain and clouds, and about 300,000 residents.  As we departed Bergen, though, the landscape in Western Norway reminded me more of West Virginia on the scale of Hawaii. 

After that, we spent two days in Odda in order to hike Trolltunga (Troll's Tongue), which is an extremely difficult all-day hike to a cantilevered rock that juts out over a mountain lake.  It's 3,300 feet up -- 3,000 feet in the first mile or so -- and then up and down and up and down in the remaining 300 foot range over the next 5.8 miles all through snow, mud, sharp rubble, and raging streams.  And then you turn around and have to hike back. 

Marcus is going to write more about Trolltunga in a separate post, but I'll round out the stats:  13.7 miles round trip; 3,300 foot climb (displacement, not distance); 13.5 hours long.  Also, even though Marcus and I are the same height and I am disproportionately leggy, I take tiny strides, and our step counts are always off from each other.  That trend held true on our hike, with Marcus's iPhone counting 37,261 and my iPhone counting 49,531.  I doubt we'll ever beat those records again (and kind of hope I never have to).  

That said, we do/did have another difficult all-day hike planned for a few days from now.  If we're recovered from being sore, dehydrated, and comatose by then, we may go through with it.  In the meantime, we're camping and resting in Flam, on the south bank of the Sogne Fjord.  Tomorrow, we'll take a drive over to the north bank to Sogndal and its Village of Stedje, which is where my grandfather was from and where my mother got her maiden name.  We also plan to take a fjord tour, ride on the scenic railway, see the Borgund stave church, and check out some of Norway's roadside architecture before heading to Jotenheimen (Home of the Giants) National Park and then on to Oslo.