Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Retreat at Ulvik on Hardangerfjord

Hardangerfjord, the second longest fjord in Norway, reaches 179 km (over 111 miles) inland from the Atlantic coast. The Hardanger region is known for its fruit farming, particularly of apples. The small town of Ulvik, situated at one of the most inland points of the fjord, was the site of a recent writing retreat for Sten's research colleagues. We reached Ulvik by first taking the train from Oslo to Voss (known for its famous glass-bottled water). The scenery changes as you climb in elevation.  The first four photos below capture those changes.

From Voss, we boarded a mini-bus sent by our hotel for the one-hour drive to Ulvik.  The driver asked us which of the two routes we preferred -- one scenic and winding, the other straighter and through long tunnels.  Since the time difference between the choices was minimal, we chose the scenic road. Around every sharp curve was a waterfall or snow-capped peak more beautiful than the last.  As we came over the mountain and saw Hardangerfjord and Ulvik, we asked the driver if he could stop for us to take photos. Here is what we saw.

Our hotel was in a prime location right on the water's edge.  The day we arrived, the weather was clear and sunny.  As the week progressed we had more clouds, until Friday when it was raining and foggy.  However, the weather didn't ruin the view.  The changing weather just brought a new kind of beauty.

This shot was taken at 4 a.m.  It was amazingly light even though we had a month yet until summer solstice.

Ulvik has a beautiful wooden church with traditional rosemaling painted decorations.  It was built in the mid 1800s on the site where a 13th century stave church had been located.

One afternoon, to provide a break between meetings, our group took a boat trip on the fjord. Many of the houses we passed on the trip are only accessible by boat.  There were numerous waterfalls with  fast-moving water from the melting snow running down the mountains to the fjord.

The apple blossoms were just about to bloom, though other flowering plants were in full bloom. We were told that the cool weather has caused things to be about two weeks behind schedule. 

One afternoon we visited a local farm where Hardanger apples are pressed and/or processed into six different beverage products: cloudy apple juice, clear apple juice, two types of apple cider (with differing levels of alcohol and sugar content), an apple liqueur, and an apple brandy (aged in oak barrels). I was interested to learn that in Norway alcohol can only be purchased at the government run liquor store, Monopoliet.  Even the farmer himself cannot sell any of his alcohol products from his own farm. We were given samples of each product to taste.  I clearly preferred the least processed cloudy apple juice. We bought some that we're still enjoying here in Oslo.

Time to return home to Oslo with five days worth of memories of the springtime in Hardanger. 

Thank you to the Center for Advanced Studies for providing this retreat in such a beautiful location and to the interesting international group of participants for their great company.

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