Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bliss in Balestrand

So we've really got to hand it to Rick Steves. We would never have known about Balestrand with out his suggesting it (our Danish and Norwegian friends hadn't heard of it). And it was EXACTLY the type of place that we want to spend time in.

As we mentioned in our previous post, we got away from the Norway in a Nutshell crowds (of which there were many!) on his advice and made tracks to Balestrand. Balestrand is a little fjordside village (pop 1,850) on the Sognefjord that feels light years away from the crowds (click on this link just to see the fantastic photo of the town it opens with before it turns into the hotel's website. Rick Steves highly recommends this hotel for any of you thinking of just didn't fit our budget). You can walk from one end of the main town in less than 5 minutes.

We couldn't afford either of the hotels in the town, but we happily got rooms at one of the hostels, the Kringsja Vanderhjem. One of the nice things we've been discovering in our travels is that in the last 10-20 years, as hostels have evolved from focusing solely on youth travelers to any budget travelers, they have been adding more and more double rooms and family rooms in addition to the traditional dorm-style rooms. So we have been able to get our own room (with it's own toilet/shower) in these places. Granted it's a little more than paying for two beds in the dorm rooms, but it's still usually far less than a hotel room and that way we aren't sleeping in different rooms and worried about our bags, etc.

Anyway, we didn't know what to expect of this hostel. Rick didn't make it sound that great and our Oslo hostel, while perfectly functional, was either previously a bombshelter or the old USSR embassy. Boy were we blown away. We had a large room of our own with big windows opening out to our own balcony overlooking an unbelievable view (gotta show that to you again). Add on a kitchen (good for cooking cheap, if suspect dinners), a generous breakfast (included in the price) and an internet connection in the common room and we were in heaven.

After researching Balestrand, Becca had decided that it sounded so good that she stole a day from the Oslo visit and from the Stockholm visit in order to have 3 full days plus an afternoon and a morning in Balestrand. It was definitely worth it as we filled our time with hikes and excursions (see the next entries). (We ended up giving a day back to Stockholm by stealing it from Finland/Helsinki and just going straight to Estonia...but more on that later)

In short we highly highly recommend this location to anyone looking to experience the beauty of the fjords, to get away from the crowds, to do some glacier hiking/canoing/learning, and who enjoys outdoor activities and reading a book/relaxing in front of unbelievable scenery.

Some more scenes of life in Balestrand: relaxing on the balcony, enjoying a picnic-style dessert, and trying to figure out how to sleep up here near the land of the midnight sun.

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