Let’s say that my wife is not the kind of person who loves to be in remote regions away from civilization or so-called dangerous extreme activities.
Some years ago I heard about the omnipotent Jostedalsbreen Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. Early in the planning of the trip I put it in the plans and showed the photo above to Roberta and said:
“Honey, what do you think of a hiking in Europe’s largest glacier in central Norway? For that we only need to take a flying close to the fjords, down from an airport that sits on the edge of a mountain, and stay a few days at a hostel in a city that only has 200 people. What do you say? 🙂 “
Imagine her reaction…
This was the most laborious part of planning throughout the trip.
The problem is that the glacier Jostedalsbreen lies in a region almost rural, and none of the cities that were on my schedule were nearby.
Well, I made several routes, but what really helped me was this thread on TripAdvisor
For those who do not know, TripAdvisor is one of the largest sites/forum for the travel industry, very good for when you want to build plans for places that are not very popular.
I had two things in mind in that part of Norway: Visit the world’s oldest Stave Church (wooden church) , located in the village of Urnes and do the hike in the glacier. I wanted to climb the glacier, not just make a hiking, but Roberta almost killed me when I told her that.
Hot to get from Bergen to Jostedalsbreen region ?
Take a look at the map below, I needed to go to point A to B
My plan was to stay in the city of Solvorn, where they have a bus that goes straight to the glacier, but you can not go straight to Bergen to Solvron, so you need to first take a domestic flight with Widerøe to a town called Sogndal.
The journey from Bergen to Sogndal is fast, lasts about 40 minutes and is at least exciting, but spectacular.
Exciting because small aircrafts like this are very turbulent and make very abrupt changes in altitude, the landing is a thrill to go!
Spectacular because this type of plane don’t fly too high, so the view is a show piece. Further the villages, is possible to see the fjords and forests.
Roberta thought the plane was falling when landing! 🙂
And believe me … I would die happy there. Sogndal airport sits on top of the fjord, then imagine yourself flying over Norway, those magnificent landscapes that lovely sea, suddenly the pilot points to the mountain and goes down abruptly to a micro track near the trees. One of the most beautiful landscapes I ever seen.
Sogndal Airport is also the smallest I’ve seen. Has only two rooms, one for departures and another for landing.
Outside, only a bus stop and a parking lot. In the same place, we took a bus to the center of Sogndal where we waited for the bus to Solvorn, where we stayed.
Solvorn is a very populous village … has 200 inhabitants!
Roberta asked me: “Why the hell would you want to stay in a town of 200 people in the middle of nowhere ?“.
For two reasons my love:
1 – I wanted to visit the Urnes Stave Church, the oldest in the world
2 – It is a city that has direct bus to the glacier.
For that, we stayed in a hostel in Solvorn.
Eplet Hostel – Bed and Apple
Take a look at Eplet’s website – http://www.eplet.net/
Eplet is a hostel different of the traditional hostels we are used.
Take a look at the text written by Trond(Eplet’s owner) that is in the homepage:
“Eplet Bed & Apple is a small & friendly guesthouse near the head of Sognefjord, Western Norway. We opened in 2005.
After many years of travelling by bicycle around the world, I decided to settle at the innermost part of the fjords of Western Norway to create a home for travellers from all over the world. So far we have had guests from 60 countries.
My aim is to give you affordable Norwegian modern farm tourism with a unique family atmosphere where everybody can feel at home; The hidden Pearl & Perfect Base Camp. No luxury, but a lot of charm. The atmosphere at Eplet is a mixture of a small family run guesthouse and a modern hostel with ambient music and exchange library.
Eplet Bed & Apple is located in the middle of a fruit orchard where we pick fruit and berries, while having the most amazing fjord view in Norway. In the basement we have a working juice factory, and the products are sold to local cafes and restaurants.
In the garden there are hammocks for you to relax on for free and a nine hole croquet golf course. Down by the plum tree we have lamb that we feed every evening. In the garage there are mountainbikes that you can borrow for free to go on the romantic road on the other side of the Lustrafjord. To visit waterfalls, Unesco Urnes stave church or to go on a seal safari by kayak on Sognefjord – the second longest fjord in the world.
Does all this sound like a small paradise? Come and see. You are very welcome.”
To better understand what Trond wants to tell, see the picture I took of their garden (Click on image for full size)
Even as a hostel, we stayed in a private room but the bathroom was communal. Just when you arrive at Eplet, you should take off the shoes and walk barefoot or in stocking. Trond’s words: “That way we can get more time chatting with guests and less time cleaning the house. ”
Very cleaver my friend.
The astonishing view from our bedrrom. We even received a bottle of their own juice!
All very nice and neat.
Despite being a hostel, no TV and a being a city that has only 200 people, they had a computer with internet. 20 NOK for 30 minutes. You do not buy a ticket and there is no control of the minutes used. You go there, use the computer and my friend Trond trusts that you will pay what you owes.
Trond words: “Our house is built on trust, everyone here is one big family”
I paid 🙂
Contact with nature is intense in Eplet, you can go feed the animals, playing with bunnies or maybe even reap some fruits.
Urnes Stave Church
Visit this church was not in my initial plans, but as it is very close to Solvorn, I decided to go visit it.
I had already visited a stave church in Oslo, I wrote about it in this post.
The Urnes church is considered the world’s oldest Stave Church, around 1000 years old. To get there, you need to take the ferry in Solvorn and a short steep hike to the top.
Like many things in Norway, the “middle way” struck me as much as the main destination. During the ferry, I was talking to the a nice lady who organizes the cars and pick up the tickets inside the ferry.
I started saying that I’m from Brazil and I was loving the whole experience, and she said: “You must be the first Brazilian here this year“. Well, you might expect this in such a small town!
She asked if I liked Oslo, I said yes, she said “I don’t like it, I was there about 3 years and don’t want to go back there, too crowded for me, a lot of mess” Indeed, Oslo is an advanced metropolis, a city that never sleeps, but I’m already used to this kind of place.
As I talked with her, the birds were on the edge of the raft and she was throwing bread for them … I asked, “Don’t you miss the big cities? Isn’t here too calm ? ” and with a greater simplicity she said, while feeding the birds: “Look around … look at this fjord André, look at that sea, look at the birds, look at the forest… in my work I meet different people like you, I can breathe this air and have a wonderful quality of living that looks like a postcard …. do I need anything else?”
I was totally speechless…
Sometimes we give so much value to material things that we forget how important it is to have a good quality of living.
Stave Church of Urnes
Detail of the art made in the walls of the church. This symbol is an NOK coin
Unfortunately it is not allowed to film inside this church, but is absurdly GORGEOUS! Unlike Gol Stave Church that I visited in Oslo, Urnes is very well preserved, has an altar, benches and a closed area that was intended for the nobles of the old times. It is even possible to do a wedding there, but I think it should not be cheap.
September 11th in the morning we woke up and took the Glacier Bus, which is a bus that makes only one trip per day through various town and ending at the glacier. The itinerary: http://www.jostedal.com/brebussen/eng-sogndal.htm
The bus don’t go directly to the glacier, it stops at a museum, which is close to the mountain and wait there for half an hour to leave you in the front of the glacier. Like all the places we got transport in Norway, the view is fantastic. The river in the video below, come from inside the glacier. I’ve stood in front of the bus where I had a privileged view of the trip.
Roberta enjoying the view
Inside the Breheimsenteret museum, you can buy tickets for the hiking(assuming it is already booked), visit the gallery of pictures, buy souvenirs and grab a bite.
It was a opportunity to try a local delicacy, a sweet dough with very fine layers, very yummy!
Waiting for the bus, with the glacier at background
Well, enough of talk and lets get to the glacier tour.
To do this hiking, you need to go accompanied by a guide, there are some companies that make these tours, the most famous are IceTroll and BFL.
There are tours ranging from 3 hours to several days, depending on your level.
I was going to do with IceTroll, but the timetable was not good for me, so I opted for the Blue Ice Trip of BFL. If you want more information, take a look at this link: http://www.bfl.no/blue-ice-trip.html
In this part, I must thank my friend Meeta. She has a great blog about cooking, travel and photos, take a look: What’s For Lunch Honey?
She helped me in planning this part. She made a nice tour in Norway too, take a look at her posts about Norway:
We started by taking the bus from the museum to the lake right in front of the glacier. About 10 minutes to get there.
Initial point of the hike, we went by boat to the foot of the glacier
A hint that such as a first-timer, I learned the hard way: Go in pants and blouse (preferably hooded) waterproof, boots and gloves tracking …. do not forget the damn gloves!
As we didn’t bring gloves, we were blessed with these wonderful bricklayer gloves
And to match the gloves, they gave me these comfortable lumberjack boots
Ready for action!
The instructor taught us to tie the spikes in the boots, with them you have all steps firmly. Roberta disagree with that.
Like I said, it is just a hiking, you don’t need to climb anything , but if you’ve never done anything like that, it may require a certain physical fitness.
We started climbing a stair which was carved in the ice and from that point on, it was just mother nature showing us the way 🙂
I noticed that Roberta began to get tense when we saw a small crack in the ice and our instructors went alone up there and said, “I will break a piece of ice and listen when it falls in the ground to know if this gap is profound” He broke … 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … BAM! The piece took 4 seconds to reach the bottom. H e said that it was probably more than 100m that little crack! Roberta’s eyes started getting red like a child who takes a fright …
We walked around 40 minutes until we get to a ice cavern where we got in and took some pictures:
The blue cave
Do not let that smile fool you … she was furious with me!
Roberta had a sweatpants, but had a waterproof hooded sweater and I was with a waterproof sweater but without hood, I was using just a beanie , and guess what? RAAAAAIIIIIIINNNNNNN!!!!
That was my bad, they said before that the climate change in the mountain is very abrupt, when we arrived was sunny, when we started it was cloudy, then rain .
I didn’t filmed much during the hiking because with one hand I held the hammer and the other I held the rope. I thought: “Will I record or try not to fall in those huge holes in the ice???” But I managed to do some recording … watch the video below, notice the lack of physical condition of the poor bastard and the killer look that Roberta did like a lion staring at the prey:
Although I felt at the sight of a rifle all the time that Roberta looked at me, it was a wonderful adventure, to see that blue water coming out of the ice, entering the ice caves, and even with the rain, have a breathtaking view there above. I cannot demonstrate even 10% of which was this kiking, it is hard to take pictures and videos during the walk, but the entire route was about 4 hours, and 2 hours and 30 minutes of that time was on the ice.
My goal was just to make the hiking on glacier, but thanks to that we had wonderful experiences and getting funny twin-engine aircraft, accessing remote areas, staying in town with 200 people visited the oldest wooden church in the world and meeting people extremely passionate with what they do and loves nature and their quality of life.
Without a doubt, these are timeless memories that I hope to repeat it one day, and surprise myself with everything one more time!
Perfect picture to finish this post 🙂