June 11-12, 2024 What?

The last two days before we head home have been a series of: I don’t know; huh?; who would’ve thought that?; and a bunch of what’s??, as we meandered towards Lillehammer, Norway – site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Heading out, we decided to not rush our last few days in Norway and just enjoy the spectacular natural wonder that abounds around us. The route took us back towards the fjord we had just kayaked the day before and, of course, the switchback road to get from one side of the mountain to the other – like their hikes in Norway – was straight up and down! Following the GPS, we ended up on a very small, and less traveled, road. Then, we ran into a construction site which had completely blocked the road. We waited for the crew to move, but after a few minutes, the driver of the large truck flashed his headlights at us and pointed to a goat path parallel to the road. Shrugging our shoulders, we backed up and drove the goat path right past someone’s house until we ended up on their driveway and then back to the road. It looked like the family was enjoying a nice breakfast.
Getting through that, we reached a high point where it was akin to a moon landscape, except with some pockets of snow. The road was still twisty with a series of ups and downs, but now we were driving so high, nothing was growing expects a few scraggly plants. The GPS, directing as usual, told us to turn “left.” Looking at the map on the screen, it looked like we should go straight. But viewing the road straight ahead, it just looked like a parking lot. Deciding the GPS must be right, we turned left and suddenly reached a toll booth. In all fairness, there are lots of toll roads in Norway, but usually it registers on the EZ Pass and we just drive without stopping. Not so in this case. Paying a hefty 339.00 Norwegian Kroners (approximately $33.00 US dollars), we said to ourselves, “Well, we have no choice. We need to get to Lillehammer.” Paying up, we were advised to be careful, as here were was snowy conditions and visibility was limited. Kathy, not at all keen at that point, gritted her teeth and trusted in Dave’s abilities to keep us on the normal narrow roads of Norway. Driving up we soon hit the snow, but it was not sticking on the road. Then the switchbacks began in earnest. They were so sharp, that Dave swears as he took one turn, he drove by the back end of the car, still yet to make the curve! A bit later visibility decreased. At one point, the GPS told us to make a U-turn. That is when we still figured out that it was a dead end. We paid $33.00 to get to the highest viewpoint of a fjord in Norway, only to see clouds and snow! For people from Buffalo, this was kind of a suckers bet! Oh well, they had great sweet rolls! And Dave got a great hot sandwich for lunch.
Turning round, we headed back the way we came and eventually found the right road, which turned out to be that “parking lot” we had seen earlier. Meandering along, we reached the next stop along our journey to Lillehammer – the second largest Stave Church in Norway. Stave churches are a world heritage site in Norway. This one was built in the year 1158! The church was beautiful and it was definitely worth the stop. We wandered through the small church that was built by Catholics, but was converted to Lutheranism during the Reformation. Over time, all references to Catholicism had been covered over or removed and it is now still a working Lutheran Church. We finally arrived in Lillehammer and set out to discover the 1994 Winter Olympic venues. Unfortunately, we found very little except for a few sculptures and signposts indicating what it was. It was still neat to visit and we enjoyed the wandering around. It was a nice change after being in the car for hours.
Our last full day was soon here and, of course, when we peeked out the window, it was raining. After reviewing the forecast for the day, it was decided a perfect day for heading back to Oslo and our last night in Norway. Deciding on a long route that took us through Sweden, it was a perfect way to end our trip. Being in the outer edges of Sweden, though, we did not find much to see. We didn’t even pass through a large town during our entire sojourn through Sweden. The landscape was beautiful, and looked not that much different from the eastern part of Norway, unsurprisingly. While coastal Norway has large mountains and fjords, the eastern part is relatively flat. It kind of reminded us of the High Country of the Adirondack Mountains in the west, and the lower hilly country in the rest of the Adirondack Park. Lots of trees and water. This was true of the part of Sweden we drove through. We now know why there are more NHL players from Sweden than are from Norway. It’s hard to build a hockey rink in the mountains!
Our hotel, which we booked because it was close to the airport, was not what we thought. What were we thinking? Apparently, there are two Best Westerns in Oslo, and ours was an hour away from the airport. Plus, it was at one of the highest points and still be in Oslo. I would say we have a great view, but, just as we had started the day, we are ending the day. What, you ask? Yep, it is raining! At least the restaurant had a nice restaurant for eating dinner. We were the first ones in the restaurant at 6:30 pm and the waiter seemed annoyed that we had ruined his peaceful rest time. Dave ordered the chef’s special, chicken confit, while Kathy ordered the pulled pork dinner. Upon the food’s arrival, Dave had a sneaking suspicion that the waiter got his revenge for ruining is rest. The look and aroma of his meal did not say “chicken”. One bite into it and Dave confirmed that his “chicken confit” turned out to be salmon confit. Anyone who knows Dave knows how much he tries to avoid “swimming food”. Gracious Kathy offered to switch plates with him. When the waiter returned, Kathy asked him about the chicken versus salmon. He said, “Oh, yeah, I guess I did say chicken, didn’t I?” Dave noticed the twinkle in his eye, at least in his imagination. The waiter did offer us a free dessert as compensation, which, of course, we gladly accepted.
Then, it was off to bed to await our morning trip to the airport for our flights back home.

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