Monday, June 27, 2011

An afternoon and evening in Balestrand

We loved the view from the balcony of our room at the Balestrand Hotell (photo).  But it was such a pretty sunny days that we decided to go for a walk in the mountains.  We quickly changed into lighter clothing but we were in such a hurry to leave that it was not until half way up the mountain that we noticed that, underneath the sausage, bread, cheese and fruit that we were bringing for lunch, there was the rather hefty novel (the final installment of the Clan of the Cave Bear series) than I have been reading on this vacation was nestled in the bottom underneath the emergency item of warm clothing.  Oh well, a little extra exercise!

We paused to look at the lovely St. Olaf’s church near our hotel (photo).  We also enjoyed the wildflowers along the road as we walked to the trailhead (photo).  Our trail began by climbing through the woods, then some nice views of the nearby mountains began to open up (photo).  After 90 minutes and 1200 feet of elevation gain, we paused at spot with a nice view to eat our lunch. We chatted with a fellow who arrived shortly after we did – he ran a restaurant down in town and was out for a ramble before they opened for dinner. He pointed out the location way down below us.

We finished eating and headed out again, aiming for the top of Raudmelen some six hundred meters above us (photo); soon we were out on the open mountain face, and a dramatic vista of waterfalls, snowfields, and fingers of fjords stretching out into the distances around us.  We could see the Esejorden right below us (separating Balestrand from Dragsvik), plus the waterfalls descending from Mt. Vindreter and Mt. Keipen, as well as the mouth of the Vetlefjorden on the other side of Dragsvik, plus the Fjaerlandsforden leading off to the nearby Jostedal and, of course, the Sognefjord itself stretching into the distance.

We hiked steadily but we had agreed to turn around at 4:30 so, a bit short of the top of Raudmelen’s 978 meter summit (photos of the vistas from near the top), we paused for a last snack before heading downward.  One of the usual reasons to head down in the late afternoon did not apply – because it stays light so late at night, we could have come down at 10 PM and still have had no trouble seeing our way.  It doesn’t stay completely like – it is more like dusk all night long (not sure what it would be like to hike in such lighting).  But we were getting tired and we wanted to be sure to get back to town before the restaurants started closing.

We decided to try the Cider House Restaurant about which we had heard at our lunch spot on the hike.  The menu seemed a bit precious but the food was excellent – for our main dishes I had manti filled with veal an cooked in cider, and Nancy had cigar böreks.  To drink I had Rallar Amber Ale from, the Aegir brewery over in Flåm, and we split chilled cider that was still but quite potent, made from the apples they grow beside the greenhouse / dining room; then for dessert an OK apple pie with an excellent vanilla sauce.  Restaurant highly recommended! On the way back to our room, we took a detour to look at several Swiss chalet style houses and Viking burial mounds along the road.   

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