Madelyn Given at the Mardalsfossen Waterfall, Romsdal Alps, Norway.

Scandinavian Adventures 2016: Romsdal Alps, Norway

For days I had been hiking, then traveling by plane, boat, or minivan to another mountain region in Norway, always going further north. The countryside is filled with forests, and most of the mountains are woodlands with snow and ice still present at higher elevations. The villages are small, and the roads are paved with many long tunnels through mountains, under water, and between the mainland and islands.

The people of Norway are friendly, healthy, and happy. The food is so natural and food prepared for us was delicious, healthy, and an excellent energy source for hikers. Bread is baked daily, fish is caught daily, and vegetables and fruits are served from the garden each day. It is a country where the majority of people still live healthy lifestyles. People walk, bike, and hike everywhere at all ages young and old.

I came to Geiranger by boat and small ferry, and the next day we left by minivan to hike Trdlstigen. The road to get there was narrow, with serpentine turns up to a high plateau, a place where herds of reindeer migrate. It is a huge, flat plains area high above the valleys. Ledges jut out here and there and at one place I carefully crawled out and daringly looked straight down, 2,788’ below me. I walked about on this exposed, rocky plateau with moss and little vegetation. I looked for reindeer but to no avail that day.

Later our guides drove us to Isfjorden to hike in the Romsdal Alps. This valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and Norway’s most famous peaks: Romsdalshorn, Trollwall, Vengetind, Juratind, Kirketaket and Torshammaren. I hiked all day through alpine meadows, rushing streams, and glistening lakes with awesome views. It was beautiful, serene, and peaceful. The weather was sunny and warm every day.

We hiked until about 6 pm and then headed to Hotel Aak, really like a country home and the oldest tourist hotel in Norway. I was told that Winston Churchill’s grandfather stayed here while he came to hike in the mountains. It is a very cozy mountain inn noted for its incredible cuisine. It wasn’t long before we sat down to dinner of baked salmon, fresh rolls, and wild strawberries and cream. It was serenely quiet without traffic, city lights, or sirens blasting. It is truly a natural setting, and the air feels so fresh here.

Trollwall, in the Romsdal Alps in Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Trollwall, in the Romsdal Alps in Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

The next morning I woke to the smell of bread baking below in the kitchen. I walked alone by the river and came back ready to join my guides and hiking companions for an early morning breakfast. Our guides drove us to a trailhead for an all day hike up to the Mardalsfossen Waterfall, the 4th largest waterfall in Europe and longest in Norway. It was a moderate hike up the mountain and pleasant to hear and see the waterfall along the way. My guide told me that 10% of the waterfalls in Norway have been converted to hydro power. Dams are built and the pipes convert the water to manmade reservoirs. Later, I saw a few of these waterfalls, now with just a trickling of water—those would have been beautiful, powerful waterfalls, but now they are supplying electricity for Norway. After our hike we drove to Aursjovegen Plateau for another view of the great mountain peaks and the Trollwall. This is a great piece of nature, a high ridge with many tiny peaks, like a comb with missing and broken teeth. It looks like a top of a wall with silhouettes of trolls standing there. It is an impressive area to hike and many Norwegians camp and spend their vacations in the Romsdal Alps.

There is nothing more rewarding for hikers at the end of a day than a great dinner. Back at our historic tiny inn, while we had been hiking all day, an extra chef and cook joined the main chef and staff at the Aak, and in this rustic setting, they prepared a most fantastic five-course meal for 12 people. When I entered the dining room, each individual setting at the long table was set with six goblets, five forks, five knives, and a bread plate.

I knew this would be a Norwegian meal to remember. The first course was lox: large fresh salmon that had been prepared the night before, wrapped in a thick coat of salt with fresh dill. Before serving, the salmon is rinsed and the lox have become a magnificent delicacy. The second course was poached fresh cod, caught locally, with a creamy dressing. The third course was roast veal with mustard dressing; the fourth course was roast reindeer with loganberries and boiled native potatoes. The fifth course was a dessert flan with cloudberries and whipped cream. All that in addition to side dishes and vintage wines! We applauded the chefs and staff after each course, as they truly had outdone themselves. It was the most elegantly prepared and delicious food, and I will remember this experience for a long time.

After eating a meal that rated at the top of my list in a lifetime, I needed to take a short walk. It was still light outside; I had no worries there, as it stays light this far north most of the 24 hours this time of year. The mountains were all around me, and the path went along the river. I walked upstairs, took the large brass key, and unlocked the door, then noticed a sign on the door reading Churchill Bedroom. It wasn’t long before I lay in bed, reading and writing in my journal, calling it a day. Each day seemed to get better as our small group continued our journey north, with more days of hiking still to come.

(posted September 20, 2016)