Saturday 28 April 2012

An apple a day

The longest Fjord in Norway is a superlative not only in the region: With its near 180 km length it rivals most of the planet's water-filled valleys and brings a ship from oceanic climate a long way into its continental counterpart. In other words: From springtime to winter again. This is something we will experience today and tomorrow. The excitement of our guests, however, is rather directed towards the fact that the day begins with putting on a life-jacket. No, we are not going down, but since Rosendal has no pier big enough for us, it is Polar-Cirkel-Boat time!
And when the peaceful village of Rosendal presents itself with a fresh powdering of snow in the morning, fallen over night, there is more to it than just the charming looks. Although only a very thin layer, which will disappear during the hours that follow, it chills down the air considerably. So the boat ride is colder than many expected. But this is not a problem, since the first excursion of the day brings us to Bondhus Lake; this means taking a bus first (warm), then a brisk walk up the mountain (very warm). The scenery is exciting, the path winds up through masses of boulders, some so huge that it sometimes nearly squeezes in-between their clefts. And you should not walk around: The whole time a wildly gurgling creek accompanies us, polishing the rocks round and smooth. After an hour or so we reach the lake, an emerald green round pool surrounded by towering walls of grey. Far in the distance the Bondhus Glacier looks down into the valley. You can tell it reached all the way down in the past by the trail of polished rock underneath. The lake must have been much higher, too, the dark lines of ancient water level are very clear, and the wooden structures on the shore are actually mooring poles for boats, used by the old Emperor Wilhelm, who came here every summer. So much of change in a very short time.
The way back down is just as beautiful, only easier. We are welcomed with coffee and cake, then go back to the ship.
That wasn't it for today - far from it.
We are headed for Ulvik, even further into the Hardanger Fjord. During the passage, Expedition Leader Karin starts a series of lessons in - Embroidery. That's right, the iron lady who usually rather wields a stainless steel rifle is now handling tiny little needles and fine white thread with the same enthusiasm. We will never stop learning...
A red apple. Many things to say about it - keeps the doctor away, good for the teeth, gift by wicked stepmothers, and much more. But you don't have to eat it necessarily. And this you learn in Ulvik.
It is the center of apple juice production in the Hardanger area. It is certainly the most tasty juice you can possibly try, so some of the Expedition Team stock up their fridge on board. And it's not the only drink they produce here: Take the juice, put it in a place with a constant temperature, add a little sugar, let it ferment, et voilá - you have Cider, apple juice on turbo, so to speak. On one of these farms we are presented with a variety of juices that rivals the most famous regions in the Normandy. The cider, too, captures everyone. Unfortunately, Norwegian law forbids to buy it, but a nice bottle of juice will do.
Night falls gently, everybody is on board and in the dark we weigh anchor to go deeper inland, to Eidfjord.