We’re winding down Norway, still a few more spectacular sights to check off our list (and comprising another list for our next visit). There was not yet a good wind forecast for our next big move, so we deviated from the coastline and took a 50-mile detour into the Geirangerfjord. During our few days in the fjord the weather was gorgeous, the sun shone beautifully and the wind was nonexistent. It was instant summertime! A sweltering 65 degrees Fahrenheit! We waltzed around the deck in t-shirts and bare feet while admiring the views upon entering the fjord. The Geirangerfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the premier example of a fjord, as you can read here at the fjord’s description. We thought it was much different than our previously visited fjords, but were still to decide which is our favorite.
Once settled at the head of the fjord, we couldn’t resist a little stroll before supper. Geiranger was bustling with tourists! Jam-packed into town are a Joker supermarket (manages the docks), several shops and restaurants, a ferry terminal, a campground, and the UNESCO Fjord Center. A raging river rushes through the center of Geiranger; our first climb was up the stairs winding above the river’s waterfalls for a look back down at the head of the fjord. We continued onto a short trail to a nearby, still functioning, fjord farm.
The history of fjord farming is well preserved in the Geirangerfjord. It is difficult to imagine this lifestyle, especially after trekking through the mountains to visit the farm sites. These were dairy farms, raising herds of roughly 125 goats as well as 3-5 cows, 2 horses, and probably a chicken or two. The farmsteads were located high above sea level, perched atop fjord cliffs. In some old photographs, the young children were actually tied to the farmhouse by a rope to prevent them from falling off the cliff while playing! We visited the Skageflå farmstead; farmed until 1916, now maintained by a trust. Skageflå is 250m above sea level.
Fjord farmers would move their herds to spring and summer grazing grounds in the mountains, called a saetra. It was often the responsibility of the children to watch the herd, sometimes children as young as seven-years-old; or the responsibility of dairy maids, unmarried young women. Whomever was watching the herd would move to the saetra for the season. The spring saetra for Skageflå is located at 500m above sea level (we’d actually hiked to it first, then down to the farm and back up again). The spring saetra was loaded with ripe blueberries and cloud berries, which fueled us as we passed through this location three times!
The next morning, Geirangerfjord was crowded with cruise ships! Shuttle boats were buzzing back and forth from a small-ish cruise ship, while a larger ship was mooring directly in front of the guest docks. Detour rolled in the wakes from the shuttle boats. We dreaded ongoing wakes caused by additional shuttles from the larger ship, but then we watched in amazement as the ferry terminal dock unfolded itself and extended across the fjord to connect to the larger cruise ship. The dock has its own propulsion system! Passengers walked directly to shore from the ship! The excitement kept us entertained through breakfast, but it was time for us to relocate to a quieter fjord.