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Europe, Norway, These days, Travel

These Days

These days, we are settling back into normalcy after five weeks of vacation. JK saved his parental leave for this summer so we could go on a grand adventure with Nora – visiting Norway (to show off lil’ Norbert to friends and family) and Italy (to attend a wedding).

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Nora experienced so many firsts! First flight (transatlantic, no less), first seven-course meal, first boat ride, first swim.

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In Italy, she visited the Dolomites, swam in the Adriatic Sea, and ate impressive amounts of pizza.

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In Norway, she stayed at my parents’ summer house, explored the outdoor playground of my childhood, and picked chanterelles almost every day.

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Back here in Seattle, she is already over her jetlag while her parents, old as the hills and apparently no longer adjusting easily, are still exhausted (I’ve been up since 2:30, ugh ugh ugh). I had grand plans for this week, but just…no. The couch is where I’m at, chugging coffee and finally catching up on Orange is the New Black. JK still has two weeks of leave left, so hopefully we’ll be back in the swing of things soon, ready to take on our normal summer here in Washington.

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Europe, Travel

Mukmuk Does Europe

Last week, we returned from our whirlwind tour of Europe.

Mukmuk does London

We started off in England, visiting JK’s sister and her beau in London, hiking in Dover, and touristing in Brighton and Canterbury. We also got to experience English football fans up close (man alive, those blokes are mental) and appease my inner nerd by visiting Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross!

Mukmuk visits the Pantheon

The main reason for the trip was to celebrate my mom’s birthday in Rome, where we ate ourselves silly, saw plenty of excellent Ancient Things (Pantheon and Colosseum stand out as my favorites by far), and got to hang out with my brother for the first time in eons.

"Un piccolino gelato, per favore!"

(Oh, and we spent quite a bit of time trolling the souvenir stands for Mukmuk accessories. I have major regrets about not getting him a tiny chariot to race around Circus Maximus!)

"My name is Maximus Mukmukus Marmotus!"

We finished our vacation with a hectic but fun week in Oslo and Vestfold, where we met as many friends and family members as we could before flying home to Seattle.

Mukmuk's first utepils...

This was not one of our typical relaxing hiking or tropical vacations – I actually felt like I needed a vacation after this vacation – and definitely not something I would have been able to do back when I was eating gluten. I would have spent over half the trip confined to my hotel room with migraines…so while eating gluten-free in the land of pizza and pasta was annoying at times, it never even occurred to me to take a bite – feeling this good is worth so much more than a slice of pizza. And Italians sure know how to prepare their vegetables, mmm mmm mmmmmm.

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Europe, Hiking, Norway, Travel

Back in the old country

We’re back from a whirlwind three-week vacation in Norway! We return bearing lots of great memories, an already dwindling (for shame!) supply of Norwegian chocolate, and an obscene amount of photos. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of processing all of those photos, so here’s a tiny sample for the time being. I promise to have the rest up by 2017. Or 2018.

My heart is beating like a jungle drum

These are from our deliciously self-indulgent layover in Iceland. We spent the entire day soaking our jetlagged bodies in the Blue Lagoon.

Creature from the Blue Lagoon

Since it was a long vacation and our friends and families were busy working on weekdays, we flew up north to Lofoten for five days of hiking and camping.

Reinebringen

This didn’t exactly turn out as planned, but more on that later (2019).

Snow moving in...

So yes, check back in 2020 for the full documentation of our trip. Or 2021 at the latest.

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Europe, Hiking, Norway, Top Trips, Travel

Besseggen

We’re back from a great vacation in the old country – we got to spend time with all our family and a lot of our friends, laze about the summer house eating Norwegian chocolate, and I got to see Leonard Cohen, my big hero, in concert. Absolutely amazing. Best concert ever!

Waiting for the ferry by Gjendesheim

Another highlight for us geeks was to finally hike Besseggen; the (in)famous ridge Peer Gynt claimed to have ridden on a reindeer. The hike across the Besseggen ridge is the most popular trail in Norway, so be prepared to share it with hordes (40,000 every year!) of not just Norwegians, but tourists from continental Europe in various states of preparedness – a couple years ago my friend had to help a tourist who was scrambling up the ridge in flip flops…

Next stop: Gjendebu

Anyway, the reason why I haven’t hiked this before (even though my family used to have a cabin in the area) is because I am ridiculously afraid of heights. I’ve been pushing my limits this last year though, so I thought I would do fine. Ahem.

Gorgeous!

We drove up and stayed in an overpriced hotel ($200 for a pretty shabby room) at Beitostølen so JK and I could get up early and catch the first ferry at 7:45 the next morning – we owe my dad many thanks for getting up and driving us… :) A much better plan would have been to stay for next to nothing at Gjendesheim, where you take the ferry ($20). All you need is a sleeping bag. You could also camp in the area.

Snack spot

Once you get off the ferry, the trail immediately starts climbing up. It was only 40 degrees (Fahrenheit..) when we started, but the combination of the sun and the hill had me stripping off in less than 15 minutes, a new record! Fortunately this part of the trail also serves to thin out the crowd as the stragglers fall back; a blessing since everyone from the ferry starts hiking at the same time.

JK

As you get higher, the views into Jotunheimen really open up. Definitely one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been – the glacier-fed Lake Gjende and those beautiful peaks…our photos really don’t do it justice! Seeing a flock of reindeer was an unexpected bonus.

Reindeer!

Finally we reached the part I was dreading – the Besseggen ridge. Supposedly (I think these figures sound too high), when you near the top of the ridge there is a 700 meter drop down to Lake Gjende on one side and 300 meters to Bessvatn on the other. As we started scrambling up the ridge, I had an embarrassing moment of panic and got really dizzy. It got better once I sat down to breathe, and then all I could think of was getting to the top..

Ugh

Scrambling

Looking back, I can see that it really isn’t that dangerous; it was all in my vertically-challenged head. It is comforting to know that even with all the people that hike this every year, no one has ever fallen off and died. I felt a little silly panicking up there while little children just ran past me…

...aaand another one

I don’t have any good stats on this hike since Norwegian trail guides measure trails in hours, not distance. This hike is supposed to take 6 hours without rest stops – we used 8 with all our food/photo/looking-at-reindeer breaks.

I found out on the intertubes that the hike is around 10 miles long, and if I had to guess, I would say the elevation gain is around 3,500 feet.

One last obstacle

For those of you who are NOT scared of heights, I would recommend doing this hike the other way around; starting at Gjendesheim, walking down Besseggen, and then taking the ferry back – this way you get the best views without having to turn around all the time.

Heh