Our group in Oslo: from the left- John, Ross, Alex, Kendall, Myself and Lara

During one weekend of my study abroad, 10 of us took a group trip to Norway! To be honest, I didn’t know much about Norway prior to the trip except that it’s cold and has fjords, and I had no idea what to expect (this has been a recurring theme for my time abroad). I have never imagined that a place so incomprehensibly grand in every sense could have existed on this small blue planet, and I have to admit that some of my pride in the beauty of the Appalachians has been shattered. I won’t pretend that the pictures will give you even a small sense of what it looked and felt like to experience the mountainous country for yourself, but I will include them anyway (Warning: this post will be picture heavy because I just couldn’t choose favorites). Thanks to Kendall, Lara, Alex, and the random guy on Trolltunga for your photography skills and donating your photos to this blog!

The castle we found

On Thursday the 16th we flew into Oslo, the most populous city in the country, and spent the day exploring the city. We saw the Royal Palace, and then proceeded to get lost in the countryside right outside the city while trying to find the Viking Museum. We ended up stumbling upon a beautiful castle owned by the King of Norway himself, so we made a pit stop to enjoy the grounds. After the castle, we found our way to a folk museum. After that we went to an old Viking church called Gol Stave, that was built in the 1100s, and has maintained the original paintings and woodwork. It was so beautiful and was an incredible step back in time to a period much farther back than history in the US has granted me. Then we went to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, or what we called the Circle of Life park. It was huge and consisted of over 200 bronze statues of naked people in various stages and events in life. We were able to have some good conversations about the circle and and cycle of life, and the many relationships and events that shape who we are as people and humans as a whole, and I really enjoyed it!

Gol Stave Church
The sculpture park
beautiful original paintings inside the old church
Large pillar of naked people at the sculpture park
Kendall, Myself ,and Lara: we’re shy

We then took a night train (yes, it’s as cool as it sounds) and then a bus to Stavanger, where we met a super nice Ethan Hawke lookalike that helped us find somewhere to get breakfast. It was around 9 am and the whole city still seemed to be asleep! Then we took my first ever ferry ride to Tau, and then another bus to the start of the Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, hike. So, in the span of 24 hours, we had taken a plane, train, ferry and bus! The hike was 3.8 kilometers ending at a point 604 meters above the sea. It was amazing and beautiful and steep and admittedly a lot of work, but completely worth it!

Sign to Pulpit Rock
Beautiful fjords!
I couldn’t believe how beautiful it all was
Adventure Club!!
Pulpit Rock!
Ross, Alex, Kendall, John- the faster hikers

We then took went to Tyssedal where our hotel for a couple nights was The view from the hotel was incredible, nestled in between mountains and waterfalls! Little did I know, the hike to Pulpit Rock was only a Kindergarten introduction to the ridiculously massive hike that laid ahead of me the next day. Ignorance truly was bliss, as I skipped along merrily and willingly to the entrance to the Trolltunga hike. Trolltunga, or Troll’s Tongue, is an 11 km each way hike rising to an elevation of 700 meters, or 2300 feet, above the sea. The hike began with an arduous first 2 km up the side of a mountain through green forest. It gradually turned to snow and rock, and eventually became a trek through snow, rain, and wind. We were slightly unprepared for the snow, but the amazing view and magic of the hike made us all forget.

The start of the hike
Troll Tongue!
Beautiful scenery along the hike, in the warmer part
This was when we first saw snow- notice how excited we were. Ignorance is bliss!
The second half of our hike was all through snow. This was a flat part, most of it was very steep
On top of Trolltunga!
Myself on the summit
The whole adventure club on Trolltunga! Myself, Lara, JT, Leslie, and Matt
We were excited and TERRIFIED
We conquered the snow and mud and hit every mud puddle we could!
Kendall, Ross, and myself in our awesome shirts

The Trolltunga rock was more than I could have imagined, and thrilled and absolutely terrified me! There were no guard rails, and no safety nets, nothing to stop us from falling. At one point the wind was blowing so hard while we were on the rock that it was moving us a little, and we had to sit down and wait for the wind to stop before we could walk back. That may have been one of the scariest, but coolest moments in my life. During the entire hike there and back I felt very small among the grandeur of the mountains, but I never felt insignificant. If anything, I was motivated and inspired to live my life as a reflection of the granduer and magic of the mountains, and was reinvigorated with a lust for life and a life lived more beautifully.  Even after 12 hours of grueling hiking and covered in mud and completely soaked from rain and snow, I couldn’t stop smiling!! This was evident when Lara and I tried to take a ‘mean mugging’ pic, and I was barely able to. It was by far the coolest, most amazing experience I have ever had and I can’t imagine a situation where I will ever do anything cooler. I guess I’ll set my sights on Everest now!

One of the smaller waterfalls

O and by the way, we saw over 5.4 million waterfalls in Norway! It was amazing! Every step and turn and bus or train ride we took, there were huge waterfalls everywhere, cascading down the snow laden mountains. I wish the pictures could do it justice.