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We left Karlstad, Sweden and headed northwest toward Lillehammer, Norway. On the Swedish-Norwegian border we stopped at Eda to visit the peace monument. This 55 foot granite structure, which straddles the border, was built in 1914 as a symbol of the 100 years of peace between Sweden and Norway.
We approached Lillehammer by driving up the west bank of Lake Mjosa. This pristine, long and narrow lake afforded us many beautiful views and gave us a clear view of Lillehammer, sitting up on the hill.
In Lillehammer, we visited the Maihaugen Open Air Museum. A school, post office, railway station, shops, farmhouses and farm paraphanelia can be seen in a pretty naututal setting with a delightful lily pond. A stave church is one of the highlights on the grounds.
Norway is one sparkling picture post card. These were our thoughts as we drove from Lillehammer to Flam through Valdres and Filefjell.
This area of majestic mountains, sprawling pine forests, glimmering lakes and sparkling, rushing streams pulls you into a world where you think there just might be truth to the Norwegian tales of trolls lurking behind the massive rock formations.
One stop along the way gave us an opportunity to visit a beautiful stave church in Borgund. This church was built in the late 12th or early 13th century and is said to be the best preserved stave church in Norway.
Arriving in Flam we stayed at the charming Fretheim Hotel. Here we embarked on a Flam Railway ride. The Flam Railway is one of the world's steepest as it climbs about 2800 feet during its 20 kilometer journey from Flam to Myrdal. It is one spectacular ride through mountain and valley and over streams and deep ravines and past cataracts and waterfalls.
The next morning we took a a leisurely cruise on the Sognefjord and Naeroyfjord. It was breathtaking! You are surrounded by beautiful mountains whose steep slopes disappear into the the blue/black water as countless cataracts and waterfalls tumble and splash down the tree covered mountainsides.
Along the way, where the topography permits, colorful houses dot the scene. We landed at Gudvangen and were driven to Stalheim, where we had a dazzling panoramic view over Naeroydal Canyon. We enjoyed pastry and tea as well as the view.
We continued on and by early afternoon we arrived at picturesque Bergen, sometimes called the most characteristic of all Scandinavian towns. We visited the fish market with its riotous collection of fish, flowers, fruits, vegetables and souvenirs.We strolled through the narrow lanes of ancient Bryggen and admired the colorful wooden buildings that Bergen is known for. We also boarded the Fløibanen funicular for a ride to the top of Mount Fløyen where we were rewarded with superb views of Bergen.
From Bergen we headed to Geilo. On the way we stopped at the Steinsto Fruit Farm and were given a very entertaining presentation by the owners of the farm about how the farm is run. We got to sample the excellent cider.
Then we crossed the Hardanger bridge and climbed up to Voringfoss, Norway's most celebrated and mightiest waterfall.
We continued across the Hardangervidda mountain plateau to the ski resort of Geilo.
The next day we left for Oslo. On the way, we stopped at Torpo to admire and gain entrance to a beautiful stave church. We also took our group photo here.
We continued along the scenic road between the Steinsfjord and the blue Tyrifjord. Although this was July, the mountain plateau had many areas covered with snow. The small lakes and ponds mixed with dark mountain rock and snow covered areas and mossy green areas created a constatntly changing visual delight. Did we say already Norway is one big picture postcard?
We arrived in Olso. We took our usual exploratory walk and walked the length of Karl Johans Gate to Norway's Royal Palace.
Later in the day, we walked to the Oslo Opera House and as well as onto the opera house. It is designed so that the roof angles to the ground allowing visitors to stroll along an enormous slanted plaza to the roof.
We also went sightseeing with a local guide and saw the National Theatre, Parliament and the Royal Palace. We visited Frogner Park with Gustav Vigeland's famous stark sculptures.We visited the ornate City Hall which is more like a palace.
We took the serpentine road through Oslo's most fashionable residential area up to Mount Holmenkollen. We enjoyed the breathtaking view of Oslo and the Oslofjord. We saw Olympic Stadium and the ski jump from the Oslo Winter Olympics in 1952.
We did a tour of the Treasures of Norway which allowed us to admire relics from Norway's great seafaring past: 1,000 year old ornamented Viking ships, the Fram, a 100 year old primitive ship used for Arctic expeditions and Thor Heyerdahl's fantastic Ra and Kon Tiki vessels.