Where: Odda, Norway (unfairly called Norway’s ugliest town by Lonely Planet!)
Plate of food: At the time of our visit, Odda had not expanded its culinary offerings beyond hotdogs (which are a national obsession) and Dolly Dimple’s pizza (arguably another national obsession based on their sheer number of locations). Turns out that suited us just fine because we felt we earned pizza and beer after some day-long hikes and all of that fresh mountain air.
We did eat at a cheerful cafe in Kinsarvik at the other end of the Hardangerfjord. It was nestled next to the camping site and the ferry dock which sums up Kinsarvik in all its glory. The cafe was run by a Kiwi couple who served us some great fish and chips with fish caught from the fjord that morning. I love when you can look up from your plate and see the precise spot your food came from. Doesn’t happen very often, does it? Unless your apartment faces a Dolly Dimple’s….
The best: The beauty of Norway. Odda sits at the edge of a stunning Norwegian fjord in the Hardanger region. It is surrounded by deep green pine forests, glass-like water, and an iron-smelting factory (therein may be the argument for LP’s “ugliest” comment). We arrived there after driving from Stavanger, marveling at the views along the way: thundering waterfalls, rocky peaks, and perfect reflections in the lakes and fjords.
On one side of the Hardangerfjord is Folgefonna glacier and on the other there are apple orchards which were in bloom when we were there. It was spectacular to look out across rows of white blossoming trees to the dark waters of the fjord and the icy lip of the glacier above. The composer Edvard Grieg composed some of his most famous works here – it’s no surprise, this scenery nearly rendered me musical, too.
Story that needs to be told: One of our hikes took us straight up out of the sleepy town through a pine forest. The path climbed sharply following the equally steep side of the fjord. We stopped often to admire the view and to drink fresh glacial water that poured from special spouts in the hillside. It was refreshing, but we could only drink a few handfuls before our fingers became red and stiff from the cold. We continued up along pathways made bouncy by the deep cover of fragrant pine needles until we reached a waterfall.
This was our destination chosen from our map, but we saw that the route continued upwards. We consulted the map and, indeed, you could follow the path up to a hiker’s hut. We still felt fairly fresh so we decided to forge on.
Soon we were above the tree line, walking through scrubby heather and over great bulges of rock. Out of the protection of the trees the wind howled and we were soon met by the cold air blasting off of the glacier. We piled on the layers we had shed earlier in the day with the exertion of the climb. Up and up we went. Colder and colder it became.
I started to lose interest in our little hike and I’ll tell you why: I knew that freakin’ hut wasn’t worth dying for.
Although we started walking on a sunny spring day, we somehow found ourselves smack dab in a foggy wintery hell. Clouds rolled in, obscuring the view and, more critically, the red-painted ‘T’s that showed the direction of our route. The wind stung our cheeks and cut through our many layers of clothes. Further along, hard-packed snow covered the rocks, making it treacherously slippery. I was forced to adopt the classic “walking on ice” technique. That is: I got low, my arms went wide, and I moved at the same pace as the glacier itself. I also cursed Norwegian weather, the steepness of fjords, and Edvard Grieg (for good measure).
Eventually we reached the small wooden hut and went inside. We sat on two simple benches to catch our breath. We looked around at the wooden floor boards, the one small window, and an empty tin can sitting on a beam. Then we looked at each other.
My face said this: “This clearly was not worth it”.
Matt’s face said this: “I’ll buy you a stuffed-crust pizza”.
“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Henry David Thoreau