Stavanger and Bergen
The sight-seeing has continued as we've headed North along the Scandinavian coast.
After a successful arrival in Stavanger, we decided to check out some of the scenery and so ended up on another long winding road trying to find these "boulders the size of houses", a phrase the local Norwegians found highly amusing. It was an area my dad remembers from a previous business trip about a decade ago—we never did find it, but we did find some cute traditional wool sweaters for my niece and nephew and another rock field I'm sure was equally impressive.
It was the site of a WWII battle where the Norwegians held off the Nazis amidst the boulders despite being trapped by a bombed out road and air attacks. I cannot even imagine getting through there with a gun and gear, let alone fighting. We had a hard enough of a time leaping from boulder to boulder and my mom kept yelling at me "not to twist an ankle and ruin the entire trip!" :)
We drove onwards in search and never saw the infamous rock field but did find a number of awe-inducing waterfalls, sodded roofs with grass on top for insulation and pristine emerald green and gold fields circled by rock walls built from the rocks that clearly were previously strewn across the land. Oh, and, your standard "reindeer crossing" signs.
That evening, after dinner, we were sitting in the front lounge area of the hotel, parents: sipping wine, me: nuun, enjoying the boats when a small van pulled up. Out popped my bike bag, to which I hopped over and cheered, surprising the poor Norwegian courier. WHAT a relief, was all I could think! I was imagining horror stories of not being able to race or racing on a borrowed bike... this certainly calmed the nerves.
After some bike-setting up and a sleepless night in the "heat-wave", open windows and barges and gulls below, we dragged ourselves out of bed (first time I was cursing the time change) and headed out to Bergen.
Along the way, we stopped so I could do a quick swim in one of the lakes on the outskirts of the city. It was beautiful, and children were playing in the water and on the beaches, but as I swam across the middle, I couldn't help but panic and pick up the pace as I imagined what lay beneath the reeds I saw in the shallower parts.
We hit the road again and traversed two fjords and endless tunnels. I actually slept a good portion of the drive again, minus the ferries, which were a great time to climb to the top deck in the chilly Norwegian air, stretch the legs and watch isolated communities tucked into the hills, massive fish farms netted into the side of the fjord and large freighter ships as they passed by.
We finally got to Bergen, and our hotel in the middle of the wharf area.
Almost immediately, I headed out for my second workout of the day, an easy 40min jog through the city. I fell in love with the old city. Maybe I'm biased because I grew up in New Orleans and spent a few years working in Georgetown but the old cobblestones and tiny houses were so cool to run past: nothing but colorful facades lined up into a row, perched on the hillside:
We walked around Bergen that evening, before settling down to cooler weather, rain blowing through the city and a much more restful third night in Norway. I really liked Bergen: I don't know if it was the old historical churches, the massive castle along the water, the history going back 100 centuries or the fact that this coastal city seems to have survived despite being constantly under siege (the Battle of Bergen in 1181, multiple sackings in the early years and the first Norwegian city to fall under the Nazi regime).
We walked around, went to the fish market and ate dinner alongside the pier before retiring early.
This whole time, I have been on a bit of a rice syrup hunt for my home-made race day nutrition for the bike. I had all but given up of popping into random shops to ask, "har du ris sirup?" without any luck. I already had a number of alternative syrups in mind to grab today but ended up getting lucky yesterday morning in Bergen.
I popped into local health food shop "Kinsarvik", which felt like the non-perishables section of Whole Foods crammed into a New York-sized bodega and asked the lady at the counter the old, "har du ris sirup?" To my excitement, she said "Ja" and pointed me in right direction. After examining their WALL of syrup (maple, agave, dates... you name it), I found the rice syrup and picked up some oats and then went to the cashier to pay. I counted out some Kroners, a brief "Takk" and she said something in Norweigian as I smiled and waved as I headed out the door. I'm not sure what she said but I'm going to take that to mean that I successfully passed as a local :)
We are continuing our journey northeast, with maybe only two hours and a couple of ferries standing between us and Eidfjord. I'm excited to get into town and hopefully start to feel the pre-race buzz!!