Birdwatching & the Northern Lights

Now some of you have asked me why Alix has largely disappeared from my blog, and the reason is that she has just had her first child! Traveling together after December was considered a bit dicey with her pregnancy, so most of our friendship has been continued over food and walks around Trondheim (awesome for us, but not really riveting reading material for you). Anyways, she and her husband, Chris, officially welcomed their son to the world in mid-February. Yes, he’s absolutely adorable. Yes, I spend a lot of time doting on him.

And with new life comes visitors! Chris’s parents were in town a few weeks ago, and Chris graciously asked if I’d like to join them for some birdwatching and a drive around the fjord. I obviously said yes even though my knowledge of birds is near nonexistent. So, I bundled up with the three of them and we set off. The scenery around Norway is always gorgeous, but this was one of the few times I’ve really looked beyond the scenery and made a very conscious effort to check out the animals. Again, my bird knowledge is pitiful so there was a lot of me screaming “bird” and then a very patient and kind “Nice find, but it’s an (insert very common bird like a crow or seagull here).” But they didn’t give up on me, and I did manage to spot a neat bird or two. Chris and his dad are avid birdwatchers so they obviously appreciated the birds a bit more than I did, but I’m proud to say that I spotted one of the three eagles that we saw that day. After consulting the “oracle,” otherwise known as the Princeton Field Guide to the Birds of Europe, we believe that we saw both golden eagles and a white tailed eagle. One of them is pictured below and the other two birds are a cormorant and a heron. As for four footed creatures, we kept our eyes peeled for reindeer, but unfortunately didn’t manage to see any. We did however spot a few deer.

IMG_9819  IMG_9821  IMG_9853IMG_9825  IMG_9901  IMG_9851IMG_9858  IMG_9869  IMG_9903IMG_9918  IMG_9920  IMG_9929Other than that, things have been relatively calm in Trondheim. The only exception was seeing some really good Northern Lights a few weeks ago, something I haven’t been able to capture on camera since I blogged about them in September.

IMG_9765  IMG_9771  IMG_9773IMG_9806  IMG_9800  IMG_9817

Fantoft, Grieg, and More

The next day we decided to stick a bit closer to Bergen. We took the car on a quick drive out to the local stave church, Fantoft. The church was closed but the three of us still enjoyed getting to walk around the exterior. As you can see, the church and its craftsmanship are pretty incredible considering that it was originally built and designed in 1150.

IMG_6387  IMG_6392  IMG_6393IMG_6369  IMG_6360  IMG_6375

Afterwards, we headed to Edvard Grieg’s house. Kyle had warned me that the museum would be closed, but he also said that it would still be worth walking around the property. So we stopped by, and to our great surprise the administrators of the museum even offered to open up the house for us. We didn’t really want to disturb them so we opted not to take them up on their offer, but we did have a good time slipping and sliding around Grieg’s fairly icy property.

IMG_1844  IMG_1850  IMG_1860

After we had paid homage to Grieg we set off in the car. Chris wanted to check out more of the surrounding Bergen area so we drove out to one of the peninsulas around Bergen past Straume and North towards Ågotnes. Unlike our drive yesterday, there was no snow in sight. I suppose it’s a perk of being right on the water. If you want a better idea of where everything is, it is all pinned on the Map page.

IMG_1867  IMG_1870  IMG_1877

Because it was rapidly becoming dark, we decided to return the car around 2pm and walk around Bergen (sunset was around 3:30). First we stopped by Bergenhus Fortress which was closed (again most things seem to either have reduced hours or are closed after August/September). After that we walked around Bryggen and spent some time in the shops there. Bryggen was definitely not as bustling as it was when I visited around August, but it was also nice not to be surrounded by tourists. Alix has also been trying to convince me for weeks that I need to wear a hat outside. Well Alix finally won the hat battle in Bryggen. The three of us wandered into a fur shop and with some encouragement from Alix I walked out with a wool and rabbit hat. It wasn’t exactly the tourist item I thought I’d leave Bergen with, but I admit that it has kept me warm.

IMG_1905  IMG_1890  IMG_1914

Lofoten Islands: Svolvær, Bodø

Thursday was essentially the last day of our trip. Alix and I had opted not to retrace our steps back to Moskenes and instead decided that we should drive overland back to Bodø. Little did we realize how long that would take. Eventually, with the help of our GPS system we decided that the best way to head back to Bodø was to drive to Lodingen, catch the ferry to Bognes, and drive the rest of the way to Bodø. In short, an eight hour journey.

Although we had a long drive planned for the day, we decided to spend part of the morning looking around Svolvær. Compared to many of the other towns we had stopped by, Svolvær was huge. Not only did it have a grocery store, it also had several well known companies established there. Because the weather was wet and dreary we only spent a small amount of time walking around, but we did enjoy stopping by the store of a local photographer and ended up leaving with our arms fuller and our wallets emptier.

IMG_1091  IMG_1095  IMG_1098Once we had safely bundled up our purchases we hit the road. While the drive itself was long it never failed to offer us some beautiful views. Alix and I were also incredibly lucky–we spotted a sea eagle! Lucky for us it flew right over the bridge we were crossing so we could hardly fail to miss it. We were much less successful in our attempts to spot a moose, but were pretty content with having seen the sea eagle.

IMG_5470  IMG_5486  IMG_5498
IMG_5547  IMG_5574  IMG_5594
IMG_5627  IMG_5644  IMG_5673While our journey was long, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It did take eight hours, but one hour involved waiting for the ferry and the ferry ride itself was another hour. So, in total we had six hours of driving and two hours involving the ferry.

After we arrived in Bodø, Alix and I had dinner, returned the rental car, and admired some local graffiti before heading to the train station. We had decided to take a sleeper train back to Trondheim and were excited to see what it looked like. It was in fact cramped, neither of our standard airport carryons could fit underneath the bunk bed, but we managed to do just fine. I will also say that although I buckled in a harness around the top bunk, it wasn’t really necessary. NSB train rides aren’t always the smoothest (walking down the aisles while the train is in motion is usually similar to walking along any sort of path highly intoxicated) but the ride wasn’t so bumpy that I was actually in danger of falling out of the bed.

IMG_1114  IMG_1116  IMG_1118The train ride proved to be a fairly uneventful one, and we pulled into Trondheim’s central station at 7:47 am on Friday.

While getting to and from the Lofotens was a bit of a trek, I will say that it was definitely a worthwhile trip and one that I would highly recommend.