The turn around between my trip to Scotland and the start of my Norwegian adventure was offset by two days of class and a Thanksgiving feast even the original settlers would be jealous of. Our ‘Friendsgiving’ took place Tuesday before we all left for our respective trips in my apartment. We had a totally gluten-free menu and even a gluten-free pumpkin pie which I ordered from ‘The American Pie Bakery’ in central Copenhagen (haha).
We spent the night together cooking, drinking, and laughing. A group of 5 girls all from different schools and walks of life coming together as we created our own sense of home for this special holiday. I spent actual Thanksgiving and the small break with my girl Sarah someone who I am thankful for today and always. We had a candlelit dinner of homemade poké bowls and caught up on Season 2 of This Is Us. On day 3 we met up with Cate, and on Day 4 Colleen joined us. Armed with the perfect girl-squad, and a bomb itinerary we were ready for Norway!
The magic started before we even stepped off of the plane. As we approached the runway into Oslo, we dipped underneath the clouds and were immediately engulfed by whiteness as we landed in nothing short of a winter blizzard. Ok, well maybe I am exaggerating a tiny bit, but it did snow/sludge for the majority of our time in Oslo. It was our only trip that we did not have the best weather, but alas that is always a risk with traveling. It was quite comical the number of layers we wore each day. But, if I learned anything in Norway, it was that there is never bad weather, only bad clothing.
Friday morning Cate and I got an early start as we headed to what I am going to say has been the BEST experience of my aboard trip – and maybe my life — so far. We went dog sledding in the southern tip of Norway (think the setting for Frozen). I have been in need of some puppy therapy, and this weekend I got a whole bunch. The dogs, all 16 of them, were adorable, friendly and extremely excitable. In total there were 6 of us (3 groups) on the excursion plus our guide Emily. With sweet Emily’s help, we picked our dogs and hooked them up to our own sleds. Our dog team was comprised of five Alaskan Huskies all under five years old. We had smart ones in the front to lead (Lily, Oscar, Cocka) and strong – but dumb– ones in the back to pull (Snowman & Yatzy). Cate and I chose the sled which required both people to stand and maneuver the whole time, and surprisingly no one crashed or fell off. However, our bodies and arms are still recovering.
We led our mushing teams through the middle of the Norwegian National Parks of Langsua and Jotunheimen, known for their picturesque beauty. We rode through the forest while plowing through untouched snow and frozen lakes. About halfway through we stopped for a picnic, while we all posed and took selfies with our dogs, Emily started a fire and served us lunch….reindeer stew. We sat around our campfire on reindeer hide and swapped stories while we gave our sweet puppies some time to rest. With snow falling from the sky and the occasional bark from one of the boys we rode through our enchanted forest while watching the sunset (at 3:30pm lol) on the best day ever.
Saturday we woke up early and departed on our Norway in a Nutshell tour. Now, this was not a tour in the traditional sense. It is a company that creates an itinerary and books all of the transportation. We chose the classic trip going from Oslo to Bergen. A twelve-hour journey that left us all speechless. Where we started on a 4 hr train from Oslo to Myrdal where we were able to catch up on some sleep, homework, and gaze out of the massive windows as we traveled through the countryside of Norway. Next, we hopped on the Flåm Railway from Myrdal to Flåm a 50 minute 20.2 km ride through waterfalls, valleys, and mountains aka the known as the most beautiful train in the world. After shedding tears from the beauty of the first half of our experience, we boarded the Fjord cruise through Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. More tears were shed, though this time we don’t know if they were from the – 5 C weather or the magnificence, it was probably both. Our hands and bodies went numb from the sea breeze as we stood outside until the sunset so that we could properly take it all in. The sun was set for our last 2 legs, but we still loved our Bus trip from Gudvangen to Voss and then our final train from Voss to Bergen.
Over the course of the day, it got to the point where as much as we wanted to document every second we had to stop taking pictures. No camera would ever be able to capture how big and beautiful these views were – although I did try. When you open a new mac, you see these beautiful pictures set as the default wallpaper, and you think “well that’s just not real,” but Norway is real, the landscape is heavenly, and quite frankly it was the most astounding thing I’ve ever seen.
I asked the girls to sum up the trip in one sentence(ish) here is what they had to say.
Colleen – “It was restful, but a super adventurous trip. There is so much to the natural beauty that you never think of. I am so grateful.”
Cate – “ It was Norway in a Nutshell”
Sarah – “It was like something out of a movie, just when you think you’ve seen everything… BAM… there’s another cool thing.”
This week was nothing short of incredible. I have to give a shout out to Furman I, so fortunate to go to a school that pushes and encourages the majority of the student body to study abroad. Over the course of my adventures, I have stayed and visited with a bunch of friends from campus all over Europe. How lucky am I to be able to spend quality time with my remarkable friends in the most astounding places? They have made the countless hours of traveling and exploring genuinely unforgettable.
Cheers to you Norway. Thank you for the last big hoorah!