Glaciers and fjords in ‘Fairyland’
After the morning clouds cleared, we enjoyed perfect summer weather on the ferry from Balestrand to the village of Mundal (also known as Fjaerland) on the Sognefjord. (It is worth clicking on the links as there are some wonderful photographs of these areas.) The fjord and mountains were postcard perfect.
This perky little bird dropped in on the ferry – a white wagtail (Motacilla alba). (Thanks, Joan, for the ID.)
The ferry dropped us off at Mundal to catch a bus to the World Heritage area. From Mundal (to which we would return later), the bus drove through extensive farmland at the base of the mountains. Like at home, grass is gathered for winter feeding of animals while the animals themselves are often up the mountains feeding on summer forage. Less than 3% of Norway’s land is arable – no wonder the ancient Vikings had a habit of going away travelling to find places to settle and grow food, as well as to raid and for trading purposes.
The bus took us first to Norsk Bremuseum (the Norwegian Glacier Museum), small but well appointed. Can you tell it’s architect designed?
The 15-minute panoramic video of Jostedalsbreen (‘breen’ is the Norwegian word for ‘glacier’) really gave me a feeling of being there, minus the freezing temperatures and extreme exertion, of course!
The museum is deserving of the awards it has won. Exhibitions inside include a mammoth display with actual tusk …
… a detailed display with a replica of Ötzi, the ‘iceman’, who died about 3300 years ago. The actual mummy is in a museum in Italy …
There were several interactives helping to explain the properties of ice in the glacier, and even a replica of an ice cave that you could walk through, complete with sounds of ice dripping and the groaning and clicking noises of a glacier as it moves. Atmospheric!
We were guided to two glaciers, steep, mighty and melting: Boyabreen and Jostedalsbreen. Note the handy warning signs. Mark and Jerry were more interested in the orchids they found than the ice, which is understandable since Mark is an expert in orchids and researches them at CSIRO.
After giving us plenty of time to explore, the bus delivered us back to Mundal where we could meander for a couple of hours before the ferry came to pick us up. Mundal is a ‘book town’ and most of the old buildings are converted to secondhand bookstores. Australia has one book town – Clunes in Victoria.
Jen Campbell, in The Bookshop Book, says:
Fjærland translates as ‘spring land,’ and it’s definitely in the spring that the town comes to life. Situated near Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe, … during the winter, with up to six feet of snow and temperatures as low as -20C, its bookshops become what the locals call deep-frozen. The BookTown is officially closed then, but those who live there wrap up warm and zoom around on kick-sleds, shipping in books and piling them up ready for the warmer weather. …
Fjærland became a book town in 1995 … and has a mere three miles’ worth of bookshelves. … The curation of the place is what makes it special, the idea being to preserve old structures, so you can find bookshops in abandoned buildings everywhere, from ferry waiting-rooms to stables, from banks to grocery shops, and even cowsheds and pigpens.
I looked through the English language part of the bookshops – one building only – and had a pleasant conversation with the Norwegian lass behind the counter (a Harry Potter fan; I hope I turned her on to Terry Pratchett) who wanted to be an editor and translator – naturally I encouraged her. It is impressive how Norwegians can flip instantly between several languages, as long as you give them a cue by saying something in, say, English first. Being a monolinguist (with a smattering of others that don’t really count), I felt quite inferior in that respect.
After plenty of time for exploring and afternoon tea (not necessarily in that order), we were off again on the ferry back to Balestrand.