21 July 2008


The advertisement for the hike made it sound as though I needed to expect gale force winds, driving rain and freezing temperatures. In reality, today is a lovely sunny day, probably nearer 70F than the predicted 50-ish, rendering my jacket and sweater immediately superfluous.

What they didn't tell me was that I really needed my hiking boots, currently languishing in my closet several thousand miles away, rather than the suggested "sturdy walking shoes." Norwegians undoubtedly knew that. They were all wearing hiking boots.

Rain wouldn't have been unexpected. Bergen is Norway's rainiest city apparently, with only 100 clear days per year. Yay me for being here on one of them.

I walked through the Hanseatic section of the city early this morning en route to the funicular railway that would take me up to the hiking trails. Two years ago, traveling through the Baltic, nearly every city I visited was a Hansa city, and it's interesting to me the extent to which you can actually see that in the older parts of the cities.

(Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo series is a great set of historical novels in which the Hanseatic League figures hugely. Definitely recommended to anyone who has traveled or might travel this area.)

I've been on funiculars before, but this one is enormously steep. In fact, later, heading back down, I decided it was alarmingly steep, but then, I'm not fond of heights, and this put most rollercoasters to shame. It's about 4 minutes from Bergen below to Floyen above.

Bergen is surrounded by seven...well, I don't want to offend the Norwegians, but perhaps we can say they are seven very short mountains. While they may be elevation-challenged, I'm not sure that I've hiked any that are so beautiful or so magical in misty early morning light.

And of course, the Norwegian cat in Floyen, and the sneering Norwegian sheep further up the track certainly didn't hurt. Lovely waterfalls. Trails that trolls might traverse through trees and over tussocks of grass, stepping lightly amongst the bluebells and other flowers.

People evidently hike all seven peaks in one day, about a 13-hour trek I was told, and it's an annual event. I hit the summit of two peaks in about two hours, and while I think I'd be capable of doing all seven, today was not going to be the day. I'd want my hiking boots to start!

But what I saw was stunning. The view of Bergen and the harbor from Floyen was itself worth the price of admission.

As the rising sun warmed the meadows, the heady smell of flowers filled the air. It was quiet enough to hear water dripping--by the single drop--down the lichen-covered rocks, and birds called in the trees.

Up two summits, there was only an elevation gain of about 850 ft., so by the time I reached the second summit, I was only about 1,850 ft. above sea level. Still, good exertion, healthy exercise, beautiful weather made me feel like I was on the top of the world. It was a perfect day to be out, with the sun beating down on my head, moving through the woods.

Go listen to some good music: "Elevation" from the album All That You Can't Leave Behind by U2.

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