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A Sunday trip

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Magma Geopark is an area of unique geology. The geopark is located in southwest Norway and is a member of the European and Global Geopark Networks. These networks are under auspices of UNESCO. I live in this area.

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Yesterday my husband and I met up with friends in the next town over, called Sokndal. Our goal was to find the abandoned titanic, iron/ore mines at Blåfjell (Blue Mountain), which were mined between 1863 to 1876 and where a total of 90,000 tons of ore was exported. We followed an old railway trail, which was once used to move the ore from 106 m above sea level to the coast about 8 km away.

 The nature was breathtakingly beautiful, too beautiful not to share…

Me and my friend Benthe

Before reaching the mines we passed Ruggesteinen, which is a large “rocking stone”. It is a huge block of anorthosite that fell from a steep slope. When it came to a halt it was balanced on small rocks, which makes it possible to move slightly -if you push on the right place.

I was able to rock it, but I needed a little help to get started.

I was able to rock it, but I needed a little help to get it started.

We found some other interesting things along the way as well…

The work of a beaver

The work of a beaver

The remains of an elg

The remains of an elk

We saw many different types of moss on the mountains.

And all different types of moss on the mountains

We also came across an abandoned movie-set used in the filming of a Norwegian historical murder mystery called, Skumringslandet. The English title is The Veil of Twilight and is set in 1349. The production ran into problems when two of its men were swept out to sea and drowned while filming scenes along the coast, during a storm. The film has yet to be released.

The abandoned movie set of Skumringslandet

The abandoned movie set of Skumringslandet

Finally we came to the mines, which had chains across the entrances and signs saying, Enter at your own risk. We of course entered but didn’t stay long. It was dark, damp and I was suddenly afraid there may be bats lurking…

The mines at Blåfjell

The mines 

On my way out

The cave entrance at Blåfjell 

it was a nice Sunday!

 

 

 

Easter in Norway

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Here in Norway, Easter is called Påske and after a long dark winter Norwegians are more than ready to celebrate. They do so by filling backpacks with goodies (mostly chocolate and oranges) and go ‘tur’.

Going tur means getting out. Skiing, hiking and boating are at the top of the list. And this year we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather. It’s a bit nippy here on the southwest coast of Norway, but the sky is clear and SUNNY!

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Jøssingfjord

Here are pictures from this year’s Påske tur

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Gloppedalsvatnet

Songdalstrand, which was once a busy fishing village is now a quaint little tourist attraction, adorned with well-preserved wooden houses. The narrow road leads out to the open coast.

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My kind of town, complete with an outside library!

My kind of town, complete with an outside library!

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Songdalstrand

Rosslandsguden, here we had to trudge through some snow to get up to the Sacrificial Stone and Giant Rossland God’s Head, which dates back to the Iron Age (500 B.C. – 550 A.D.). The God’s Head is actually a replica, the original is in the Dalane Folkemuseum.

This is a duplicate, the real head is in a museum.

This is a duplicate, the real head is in a museum.

I don't even want to know what was sacrificed here...

I don’t even want to know what’s been sacrificed here…

Helleren, is an overhanging rock formation 60 meters long and 10 meters deep. Archaeologists have traced settlements from the early Stone Age here. The two houses standing today date back to the early 1800s and were abandoned in 1920.

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Gloppedalsura, is the site of a tremendous landslide, caused by the melting of glacial ice and is one of the largest in Europe. Blocks as large as houses fell from these steep cliffs.

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There is no way to get all of the landslide into one picture.

We also passed by a frozen lake where we saw cars racing on the ice! We did not join in on the fun… I’m not even sure it’s legal.

Racing on a frozen lake, I don't think so...

Racing on a frozen lake, I don’t think so…

I hope where ever you are in the world – you’re having a fun but safe, Easter also!

I

Behind the scenes

 

Cinque Terre part 4

For those of you following along, this is my last post on our fantastic adventure in Italy. I would like to now share with you some random facts and pictures from behind the scenes of our trip.

While my husband and I both consider ourselves to be rather fit and healthy, we did have a few small problems hiking. We live in Norway where the number one thing to do is walk and its mostly uphill, so that wasn’t a problem. It was the heat we struggled with. It didn’t help matters that on our first day my husband wore leather boat shoes, with NO socks! Needless to say, by the time we reached our destination his shoes were full of puddles and his feet full of blisters. I told him to wear socks but no one ever listens to me. (I know, I sound like my mother)

I knew Cinque Terre would be a beautiful place, but was in no way prepared for the splendor of these five villages and landscape around them. Hiking through olive groves, vineyards and passing lemon trees along the way was heavenly. That’s why I cannot, for the life of me, understand a person’s need to defile such beauty.

Everywhere I looked I could see names, initials and curse words carved into the leaves of the surrounding cactus and Aloe Vera plants. Why would anyone want to mar these robust and time enduring plants?

I insisted on an unplugged vacation, which meant no laptops, iPods, iPads or iPhones (one phone for emergency use only). The television in our hotel room had NOTHING on in English, not even CNN. There’s only so much talking a couple can do (he’s the quiet type). Luckily, I brought a book (two things one must always remember to pack, aspirin and a book). I also had to give my husband permission to cruise the net on our ‘emergency’ iPhone, while I read. I must now confess, curiosity got the best of me and the book I brought along was, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (I swear, I don’t usually read erotica and don’t ask for a review).

Now for the best part – food, drinks and dessert. Cinque Terre is located on the coast and their speciality is most definitely seafood. Now when I think of seafood, I think of lobster, shrimp, crabs and salmon. Here the delicacies are anchovies, squid, octopus and sea bass. The sea bass was good but I didn’t care for the rest, my husband loved it all. I would have been happier with a bowl of pasta, but even that had seafood in it.

Seafood spaghetti anyone?

 

Lunch was never a problem, we always ended up at an outside cafe eating salad and pizza. The pizza was always thin, crispy and loaded with melted mozzarella. The tomatoes plump and red with fresh mozzarella and basil on top.

We found a restaurant on our last night that served real spaghetti, minus the seafood and along with some crusty bread, I chowed down!

I have just two words to describe desert, Panna cotta and Tiramisu. I shouldn’t have, but I did and it was worth it!

We ordered a bottle of  Cinque Terre wine everyday, for lunch and dinner. The local wine is a dry white (my favorite) with a delicate bouquet and nice finish. Being a costal wine it also has a bit of sea tang to it (my husbands words). I don’t usually drink soda, but I have to admit ‘La Limonata’ (Lemon Soda) sure tasted good, on those hot afternoons. The one thing I didn’t see, was iced tea and was only able to drink hot tea for breakfast and in the evenings. I’m surprised I didn’t go into withdraw.

I love eating out in foreign countries, surrounded by people from all over the world. One night as we sat waiting for our meal and enjoying our wine, I noticed there were Swedes sitting to our right. A couple from down-under to our left, a family from somewhere in the UK behind us and Americans everywhere. I’m sorry, I have a bad habit of listening in on the people around me…

Every evening after dinner we’d wander out to a charming little Cliffside Bar, where I’d sip tea and we’d watch the sun go down on another perfect day in Italy. Bellissimo!

The Adventure Continues…

Monterosso:

Cinque Terre – part 2

We chose to stay in Monterosso because it had the nicest and largest beach but with the four other villages beckoning, there was little time for sitting idle on this trip…

The five villages are strung along nine kilometers of cliffside footpaths and overlook the crystal blue water of the Ligurian Sea. The trails wind through olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards and are scattered with tourists, from all over the world.

We picked up the first trail in Monterosso and headed towards Vernazza. This is supposedly the most challenging hike of them all. It was 3Km of dusty uphill trails and steep steps that never seemed to end. Even though we started out early in the day, the temperature was a muggy, 27 degrees Celsius and it took us almost two hours to reach our destination. As I caught my first glimpse of Vernazza in the distance, it was love at first sight.

Vernazza:

Vernazza turned out to be my favorite of all the villages. Maybe it was the three musicians who greeted us at the end of the trail playing ‘Amore’. Perhaps it was the sign that read ‘Bar’ pointing us directly into the village, or possibly the bell tower, chiming in the distance. We dawdled through crooked streets lined with colorful old houses and made our way down to the grotto. Here we lost all track of time, as we sat beside the sea watching boat loads of tourists coming and going. We drank local wine and ate crispy thin ‘real’ Italian pizza.

Afterwards, we took the train back to Monterosso and spent our ‘only’ afternoon on the beach before getting ready for dinner.

The next day we took the train back to Vernazza and continued on the path, towards the third village of Corniglia. We got a late start and the temperature was already hovering around 30. This hike was 4Km and took almost two hours. Corniglia is at the top of a steep hill, on flat land and no matter which way you come from you’ll have to head upward at some point. We headed up on the way in, and arrived drenched in sweat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m almost always in charge of the camera and its not because I take better pictures, I’m a control freak (there, I said it). On this particular day my husband was in dire need of a ‘stone cold Pils’ – beer (private joke) and wouldn’t wait up, while I stopped every five minutes to take pictures. There was no need to fear, as I simply followed the sweat drops leading directly towards him. (What can I say, we’re from Norway and not used to the heat).

Corniglia:

Corniglia is the only village not immediately on water and although it was oozing with charm, we were tired and roasting. We found a shady, outside cafe and rehydrated the afternoon away. Afterwards we walked down 400 steps to the train station, thankful we weren’t going in the opposite direction!

We couldn’t walk between Corniglia and the forth village of Manarola because the trail was closed. Torrential rains which caused flooding and mudslides in October 2011, created massive damage to the area and they’re still making repairs. Instead, we took the train all the way to the fifth village of Riomaggiore the next day, and then hiked back to Manarola.

Riomaggiore:

Riomaggiore is an old village situated in a small valley planted with vineyards. Shutter clad buildings are jam-packed between steep narrow alleys and stony flights of steps. We explored the village, bought a few souvenirs and had a nice lunch before setting off to Manarola on the ‘Via dell’Amore’ an Italian lover’s lane.

This was definitely not a hike, but more of a stroll. The path was flat and paved, with benches to sit and kiss on. The view was magnificent and all along the path people seal their love by hanging padlocks and love letters …

This is ours:

It only took 25 minutes for us to walk the 1Km to Manarola. The village is situated in a deep narrow valley and stands on a rocky promontory, that rises directly from the sea. Bright colored buildings are packed both side by side, and on top of one another. Being both hot and tired, I agreed to take the boat back to Monterosso (I’m not a big fan of boats). We missed the one that left at five and had to wait an hour for the next one and were not alone. As we stood in line on a rocky bank along the sea, people starting diving into the water to cool off. Some had bathing suits under there clothes, while others just dove in with their clothes on. Of course my husband had to join in on the fun, clothing and all. It was definitely a Kodak moment but wouldn’t you know, my camera died!

Monarola:

The boat ride back to Monterosso was fabulous and cool, and seeing the villages from the water was a whole other expierence.

We’re not done yet…

The Adventure Begins

I’m back and fully charged after five glorious days in sunny Italy.

We flew from Stavanger to Oslo, and then on to Pisa. Our final destination was Cinque Terre, located in the westernmost area of the Ligurian Riviera. Before heading out to the sun drenched oasis, we took a detour into Pisa, to see its famous Leaning Tower. The Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) consists of four buildings, the Cathedral, Leaning Tower (bell tower), Baptistry, and Campo Santo. They stand close together on a green lawn and were even more beautiful than I imagined but what surprised me most, was how pristine they still look today.

Afterwards we took a train to La Spezia, which is often called the doorway to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, in Italian means, “The Five Lands” and is called this because it is composed of five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. These five villages, the coastline and the surrounding hillsides are all part of a National Nature Park and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we were able to buy a Cinque Terre Card, which enabled us to take the train and walk on the paths connecting the small villages as much as we liked. From La Spezia to the last village, Monterosso (where we were staying) was only a twenty-five minute train ride.

We stayed at the Hotel Baia which was located directly across the street from the beach. Monterossa is the most touristy of the five villages because of its long span of beach and promenade along the sea. The hotel was an old, four story building with high ceilings (twelve feet) and steep steps leading up to each floor. There was an old glass elevator, but used only for transporting luggage, pregnant women and the elderly. Every room had a balcony, but only the ones in front and on the sides overlooked the sea. Ours was in the back, yet lovely and private just the same. The room was basic, but clean. A buffet breakfast was served every morning in a sunny dining room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monterossa is uniquely protected by hills, olive groves and lemon trees. In the backstreets of Monterossa is the old part of town, where there are shops, cafes and of course, churches. Here is where you can also pick up the well-trodden paths connecting the five villages. Trekking from one village to the other can be a little challenging in some places, due to the heat, slopes and steps.

 

There is more to come on the other four villages, our hike, the local wine, Italian food and the breathtaking beauty of Cinque Terre… But first, I have to read the seventy-nine new posts waiting in my inbox, wash three baskets of dirty clothes and go food-shopping. I won’t even mention what my house looks like after leaving two teenage boys and two dogs home alone to fend for themselves all week. Oh, its great to be home…