Saturday, July 8, 2017

Norway Day 2 –In Which There Are Many Waffles, Heavy Water, and Giant Mirrors


Me: Hey, Norway, what’s for breakfast? No, no, don’t tell me, let me guess…

Norway: Ya, we yusually are having some kind of mu…

Me (interrupting): No, no. Let me guess, umm…Steak and Eggs?

Norway (looking confused): Steak and Eggs? No we are not having steak and eggs. It is not heal…

Me (interrupting again): Wait let me take another guess…umm..Fruit Loops?

Norway (really confused now): What are yeuw meaning by Freuoot Loops?  We like to have mue…

Me: (Interrupting yet again): OK one more guess about what you have for breakfast…Sausages, bacon and French toast!

Norway (rolling its eyes now): Are yeuou going to keep interrupting or are yeuou going to let me tell you that we have mue…

Me: Cold Pizza?

Norway: WE HAVE MUE…

Me: Coffee and a donut?

Norway: MUES…

Me: Is it MUESLI??

Norway: YA! I have been trying to tell you!

Me: Norway, do you really think I don’t know that? I’ve been having you on! The entire world knows that you have muesli for breakfast!. I’m just pulling your leg with all those other choices. Of course you have a bowl of muesli, with extra nuts and dried fruit sprinkled on top, and maybe some plain yogurt from your sheep and a bit of honey that you got from the hive that morning.

Norway: Would you like some now or do you want to tease us about hot dogs?

Me: Thank you very much, I would love a bowl of Muesli

Norway: It is right there on the counter beside the dried apricots.


Living up to almost every cliché you could ever think about them, the Norwegians are by far the fittest, most healthiest looking bunch I have ever seen: tall, devastatingly good looking, all kitted out in their technical hiking gear or the latest fashion, effortlessly covering great distances with their ridiculously long, super-ripped legs, munching a piece of rye crispbread, carrying a bottle of crystal-clear mountain water, they put the rest of us to shame. We are surrounded by them here at the lodge and they are a sight to behold. Their children are all poster-worthy and yesterday when Terra and I stepped out of our cabin to go for breakfast, the scene in front of us - picnic table, bowls of muesli, fresh orange juice, perfect little Norwegian children their blond hair shining in the sunlight - looked like it might be a movie set.

Interestingly enough, we are certainly an anomaly here, being Canadian, and something of a point of interest too. We are frequently asked where we are from, as if they can’t quite place our accents, and when they hear we are Canadian the response is usually happy surprise, followed by an exclamation of how far away that is, and how did we come to be in Norway anyway? Of course they all speak English (mostly) perfectly and many also speak Swedish and/or Danish as well. Jerks.

Anyway, after breakfast, we drove down the mountain and headed in to the town of Rjuken, which sits buried in a valley between towering mountains.


In the winter months, sunlight does not reach the town at all. In 2013, as a way to bring sunlight into the town, three giant mirrors were installed high up on the mountain to reflect the sun right into the town’s square. When we arrived we could see the sun reflecting off the mirrors and filling the square with sunlight even though there was quite a bit of cloud in the sky.



Even though they are 50 sq. metres each, the mirrors don’t cover much more than the square, but I hear it is a popular place in the winter.

We wandered the town centre, such as it is, but did find this cute little Norwegian knitting and sewing shop with an invitation to sit for a while and contribute a few rows of knitting. Such a great idea!


After we had seen the whole town in about 3 seconds, we got back in the car and drove a short way out of town to see the old Power station at Vemork. Now this may sound more boring than staring at a wall to some, but there is a lot of history here.

This power station, which is no longer in operation as it is now a museum, was originally used to make power but also to create saltpetre (potassium nitrate) for fertilizer and one of the by products of this production is heavy water (D20). Insert confusing/boring chemistry lesson here. Suffice to say,  heavy water was in demand during WW2 by the Germans (who of course occupied Norway at the time) as it plays a crucial role in the making of nuclear weapons. Allied forces made many attempts to stop the production and the Norwegians are especially proud of a group of Norwegian resistance fighters who sabotaged the factory, and then later, after production resumed, sunk a ferry loaded with heavy water that was bound for Germany. The story is fascinating but don’t take it from me: there is a great series on Netflix called The Heavy Water Wars and it’s worth watching.


To get there, we had to go across this suspension bridge and walk nearly a kilometre.  The curators of this museum must be the types who like to recreate scenes, as they have done with this radio communication cabin, in a way that scares the crap out of you when you peer in through the dusty window. I expected him to get up and yell something at me in Norwegian about getting him his muesli or cross-country skiing for a few hundred kms to pick up a reindeer carcass or something like that.


Inside the power station you can still see the huge turbines that did whatever it is that huge turbines do, spin I suppose.


There was a lot to see in the museum including watching a great film by National Geographic that tells the story of the Norwegian Saboteurs and how they managed to keep the atomic bomb out of Hitler’s hands. It stars some of the actual saboteurs themselves, who are all about 150 years old by now, and who still cross-country ski their way to Stockholm and back when the mood takes them. Or something like that.

After a reviving  cup of tea and a piece of cake, and another conversation about where we were from and why, we walked back out to the car and finished our day taking an adorable cable car ride up the side of a mountain to where locals used to go in days Pre-Mirrors when they needed some sun in the winter.


It’s been here since 1928 or so and drops you off at the start of a giant plateau which is the start of Norway’s largest National Park, Hardangervidda. If it were winter, the place would be crawling with cross-country skiers off to do their daily 200km ski, but in the summer, it is mostly tourists and hikers. There is a fantastic bar/restaurant that has recently opened at the top which we made a bee-line for because waffles. If I might say a word or two about Norwegian waffles: Yes please. There was actually a do-it-yourself waffles station there which we were all over.


They take their waffles very seriously here.


This is what I mean when I say that they mostly speak perfect English…

But who cares when there’s waffles  and strawberry jam to be had. Strawberries are in season here right now and every gas station we passed had a cart in the parking lot selling baskets of them. So good!


From the top we also had a view of Gaustatoppen, the mountain that dominates this town and which we are planning to climb tomorrow.


We rolled back down the mountain (in the cable-car, I mean) and headed back to our cabin at the lodge where we had just enough time to fit in an episode of Downton Abbey before dinner. After dinner, the girls went for a swim in the lake before we all crashed for the night.

More tomorrow including our climb of Gaustatoppen, which looks much nicer here in the evening light from the front porch of our cabin. And by evening I mean 11pm. So weird…


Thanks for reading.



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