Monday 29 January 2018

Norway diaries : Up in the mountains of Gjesdal municipality

My favourite thing about Norway is that you feel like you've visited a dozen countries and seen all kinds of different landscapes all within a few hours and miles - after the bustling town of Stavanger, the beautiful fjords and the moody beaches, we got to discover the delights of the Gjesdal municipality, slightly higher up in the mountains. Our guide for the day - local teacher Sigmund - explained that the people from this region are very patriotic and have a saying that you can travel to wherever you want in the world as long as you never move out of sight of the local lake ! This is the view from the school car park, that the kids (and teachers) get to take in every time they look out of the window. How could you not be in a happy place with this just outside your classroom ?!

The fjords are never far away and are always just as spectacular. This was the view from a little car park where we were meeting up with some other local teachers and barely even got a glance from the locals, who were more interested in texting on their phones !

After school finished for the day (around 2.30pm), Sigmund said he'd drive us up into the mountains to see if we could see some snow. He uttered the immortal line "if you see anything and want to stop to take a photo, just yell". We took him at his word and, literally every 2 minutes, we were doing photo stops ! The little villages nestling in the valleys looked like Austria or Switzerland.

Half a mile further up the mountain road, the landscape dramatically evolved into a breathtaking winter wonderland.

Pretty to look at but very isolated - I'm not sure I'd want to live here. We asked if people ever got cut off with the snow and Sigmund shrugged and said no - they just travel by ski or sledge if they can't get the cars out !

This was the only real snow that we saw during our trip in Norway, apart from a dusting in Stavanger, so we excitedly clambered out of the car and headed along the path through the crunchy snow.

Another fjord, whose crystal clear, dark blue waters are set off nicely by the snow-capped mountains behind.

Spot the tourists ! We didn't stay for long as the temperatures had dropped dramatically on the higher ground.

After meeting up with the other teachers, we headed to Gloppedalsura Scree, part of the Magma Geopark.

This enormous heap of avalanche boulders is famous as a historical landmark because it was the site of a World War II battle where 250 Norwegian soldiers used the scree as a natural fortress and held back two German battalions. One Norwegian soldier lost his life in the battle. Losses on the German side are uncertain and the official figure varies between 12 and 44 soldiers.

Twilight was closing in and it was starting to snow again, so we headed to our final destination, Byrkjedalstunet in Byrkjedal - a lovely, traditional Norwegian restaurant/hotel with a huge gift shop that is well worth a visit.

Norway is the land of trolls and there were lots of them dotted around in the grounds of the restaurant.

Some looked scarier than others !

We were intrigued by the dozen or so little wooden cabins.

It turned out that this is where the goats and sheep are housed, who provide milk and cheese for the restaurant (and, I suspect, sheepskins for the gift shop).

The gift shop is a real Aladdin's cave and you could easily spend an hour in there looking at all the goodies on offer. 

They have everything from homeware and decorative objects to an impressive assortment of semi-precious stones and fossils. (I bought a few for Sophie's collection - they were very reasonably priced, especially by Norwegian standards !)

It was the first week of January and they still had their Christmas display out, with lots of tree ornaments and festive trinkets.

I really wanted to bring home a furry cover - they have them everywhere, in particular on benches outside of pubs and cafes so you can keep warm while while having a drink in freezing temperatures. They're so warm and snuggly but cost a fortune, even the fake fur ones - you can get everything from sheep and goatskin to wolf skin.

The end of the shop evolves into a rocky outcrop - I'm tempted to believe it's the natural rockface that the house was built into, but it may just be a really well designed feature - with a variety of stuffed animals dotted around, including deer, lynx and a huge bear. 

I've never been in a shop like it. It's almost like a museum and there are interesting things to see wherever you look !

We all had a turn on the giant chair, channelling our inner Viking, with one of those snuggly blankets wrapped around our shoulders !

There is also a candle workshop, where you can make and buy your own candles.

After buying our souvenirs - I got some gemstones and a candle holder that casts pretty patterns - we headed next door into the restaurant part. There are half a dozen choices, including the trout and meatballs that most people opted for.

While waiting for the food, I popped to the toilet and marvelled at the d├ęcor on the way !

And there you have it - Norway on a plate. Meatballs, boiled potatoes, mushy peas, carrots and lingonberry sauce. This being Norway, we were eating early - around 5pm - and the restaurant shut at 6.30pm. It had been a busy day so we were happy to head back to the hotel and jump straight into our pyjamas afterwards !


  1. Oh wow, it looks amazing, and beautiful, a little to cold for my liking though xxx

  2. Wonderful memories - the scenery is fantastic. Imagine seeing such views every day from the school car park. Love a photo of you on a giant wooden chair, wrapped in furs. The shop is most unusual, love the gifts, not so sure about the stuffed animals.

  3. What amazing scenery. I was going to ask if you saw any trolls until I scrolled down!

  4. What a super place - I had never heard of it but it looks as though you had loads of fun with plenty to do and see.


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