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Thursday -- Flam and Viking Valley

When we woke up, we were already in port.  Chris and I got up and went to the Lido for breakfast as usual.  There were nice mountains out of the window, but nothing special.  When they announced that they were ready for us to disembark, we figured we’d step off, look around and see what there was to see before waking up Sleeping Beauty.

But when we stepped off of that gangway we were both stunned.  We’d eaten on the wrong side of the ship.  Here we were, at sea level, looking up and towering peaks 1200 meters above us, with spectacular waterfalls pouring down the mountainside, trees and flowers clinging to the steep walls, a cave tucked into the cliffside.  Absolutely beautiful.

And the town, at the cruise terminal, wasn’t a 100 year-old fishing village with run-down whitewashed shantys.  It was a tourist center, with a brewery, luxury yet low-key hotels, and lots of souvenir shops.  But they were all newly built, clean and beautiful to look at.

We went through all of the gift shops and then decided that we’d better go back for Becca, but not before standing on a bridge that went over the river feeding into the fjord.  The water was _so_ clean, so fast and cool and refreshing-looking.  So green, not from algae, but from the greenish-yellow stones that lined its bed.  The bridge was a little older and worse-for-wear, shaking whenever a car drove across it, but that water was so nice.

We went back on board and made Becca get up.  She did so reluctantly.  We wandered the shops again, and she kind of enjoyed that, but was back in her Oslo mood about not wanting to buy anything because she might find something better, but wanting to buy something because she might not find anything better.  She wanted a stuffed animal wolverine, but it was kind of spendy (even for Norway) and eventually she decided to skip it.

I though, found a gorgeous sweater/jacket that was almost exactly what I was looking for (one of my goals was to find a Norwegian sweater).  It was expensive, and eventually, after checking in all 6 or 7 shops found the shop that had for the lowest price and decided to go for it.  I’m sure none of my friends will like it, but :P  I do.

We took a little sightseeing tour for 45 minutes through the local countryside.  Lots more gorgeous scenery.  Very cramped spaces in the little fake train pulled by a tractor, that were hard on my legs.  We took lots of pictures, a lot of which didn’t turn out, but we had fun.  I think even Becca did.

After that, our plan was to go to the brewery for lunch.  It was super expensive (like everything, but especially food, in Norway) at 225 krone ($45) / person for a smorgasbord barbecue.  But when we got there they weren’t doing it.  I’m still not sure why, but we were too stunned (again) to ask.

The building was obviously a new construction, but it was done in the style of an old, Scandinavian stave church.  It was called the Æsir Brewery, and was all wood and reindeer hide cushions and antler chandeliers with a fantasy-medieval flair that was gorgeous.  We took lots of pictures.

Chris and Becca decided to retire after that and I, like the day before, decided to stay behind.  I took a tour bus through two 5-kilometer tunnels to Gundavag, where the Viking Village was.  Now, we had first seen a poster about this place in Oslo, a week or more before.  But I had noticed one of the tour vendor here had an excursion there and had tried to talk the others into it, but they weren’t up for it, so I went alone.

I napped on the 15 minute bus ride there.  There were two tourist shops there and a restaurant with a Viking theme -- long tables and embroidered chairbacks.  There was a small hotel with Viking-themed rooms -- swords and shields above the beds, artwork, that kind of thing.

The reenactment itself was across the bridge on a island.  They had a recreation of the Osberg ship (from the Oslo ship museum) and out in front of it was a guy very nicely dressed in period clothes and mail.  The village then had its own gift shop, where I bought myself a pair of bone dice, a wool-felt dice bag and a t-shirt for Chris.

I then gave the girl at the counter my ticket and she told me that the tour had already started.  I didn’t realize I got a tour, so I said that I didn’t mind joining the one in session. Karl, our guide, was good and he knew his stuff.  He gave the easy answers and then also talked about the controversies and questions because there is so little actual, reliable information about the Dark Ages.  He went so far as to criticize most of the tents at the park, because they were probably being used out of context.

And he obviously loved it.  His love of the period was clear in the care he gave to give accurate answers and to point out when he was making a conjecture.  His costume was awesome and took great pride in it,

But at the same time, I also got the strong idea that this was _his_ thing and he was talking about it because he had to or was asked to, or maybe even because he thought we might learn something.  But he didn’t think we would come to love it, or share his joy in it. 

Anyway, I had a good time, but not a great time, and soon it was time to get back to the ship.  The bus ride back was hellish, over-crowded, standing room only, with lots of over-tired children.  I made a swing back through the one souvenir shop and bought Becca the wolverine she wanted and got back on the ship. 

The girls had been planning to go to an origami class at 5:00 pm and it was 5:30 now, so I wasn’t sure if they’d be ready, but I walked by our regular Settlers table and there they were, just getting set up.  They both liked their presents and Becca really liked my dice and wished I had gotten her some.

We ate dinner that night together, and then Becca ran off to do teen things.  She wouldn’t get back until after we both had gone to bed.  I finished by second book of the cruise and settled in to get sleep for the next day which would be Stavanger and the place I’ve been dreaming of going for months: the Ullandhaug Iron Age Farm.
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