Friday 23 January 2015

Adventure in the Fjords of Norway

This week's guest blogger is Jelena Farkić, who last wrote for Aerohaveno about her home city of Novi Sad, Serbia. She recently attended the 2014 International Adventure Conference in Sogndal, Norway. She reports here on the event, and the attractions of that nation's frozen reaches...

Norway’s longest fjord, the Sognefjord, extends to the foot of the Jotunheimen and Jostedalsbreen National Parks.

It’s both a dramatic and hospitable place. The Sognefjord has several distinctive arms winding their way between steep mountains to end in small, picturesque towns.

At the end of November, the town of Sogndal attracted adventure seekers of different backgrounds, from all over the world. What brought them together was a conference with the theme "Adventure in empty lands".

This was an appropriate title, as in late autumn this region enjoys a cold-dry microclimate, with reliable snow cover for several months. Light snowfalls are not unusual from the beginning of November, and the days are at their darkest until the snow makes the landscape a blank white canvas.

Because of its geography, residents and visitors enjoy activities such as sea kayaking, running, mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing and paragliding, in addition to a range of winter sports.

It’s this variety, along with the high number of students in the town, that makes Sogndal an outdoor pursuits centre. At any hour of the day, people are cycling, running, kayaking, or heading up a 30m indoor climbing wall.

Alternative therapies are also popular in the region. Early-rising conference delegates were treated to a ‘mountain yoga’ session, reached along a candlelit path, watching the sun come up over Sogndal and the fjord.

Other conference-related events included glacier exploration, an ice-cave picnic, back-country skiing, sea kayaking, and cooking.

When taken on tour to Jostedalen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe, many of us were surprised how accessible the glacier arms were; and that it could be as warm near the ice as it had been down by the fjord.

During the summer months, some visitors brave a quick swim in the glacial lake at the foot of Nigardsbreen. However, in winter the most popular activities here are ice caving, picnicking, or climbing the bright blue ice.

The conference food was surprisingly memorable, featuring dishes made from local ingredients: including halibut from the fjord, and wild lamb from the land.

In addition to a dark chocolate cake with a coulis made of local berries, a mousse made from the sea-buckthorn plant gave us a taste of an ingredient dating back to the Viking age.

With the Norwegian friluftsliv (roughly translated as “open-air living”) coming to an end, participants were keen to gather again for the next conference in Sheffield, UK, in 2015.

(NB Elements of this post were adapted from Dr Peter Varley’s conference report, by kind permission)

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