To Gibralfaro

Moorish Spain is enchanting. You who have wandered through the grand gardens of the Alhambra and the steep cobbled alleys of Albaicín in Granada, the Alcázar in Seville or even the Aljaferiá in Zaragoza, would know what I am banging on about. For one, the Moors knew how to pick on the best views of the city – for them though it was a matter of survival so they chose the locations of their fortresses for their defensive positions. But I would like to believe that the hedonists in them marvelled at the sight of what they had accomplished. Those great gardens of pleasure, water trickling off pretty fountains wrought in marble, intricate columns that look like they have been punched out of geometric patterns with precision and passion…for some reason they remind me of the ‘stately pleasure-dome’ decreed by Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. You know, those ‘gardens bright with sinuous rills,/ Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree’. But then you might argue, ‘You daft creature, Kubla was a Mongol and his palace was in Xanadu, in another continent altogether.’ I merely refer to the lushness of the description concocted by Coleridge in his opium-induced dreams.

One of the Moors’ famed castles sits atop the hills of Málaga, surrounded by dense forests of eucalyptus and pine. My mission one noon was to walk up to Castillo de Gibralfaro before I took the train for Madrid with my husband and his colleague that evening. Of all the many unwise decisions I have taken during my solo travels – I have to confess there are many – Gibralfaro possibly topped it.

There is a route through the Alcazaba that takes you to the castle. I could not figure it out and naturally I took the longer trail after I got out of the Alcazaba. The plus point was that I got to make a pitstop at Plaza de la Merced, a square that was home to Pablo Picasso for the first three years of his life. The 20th century artist was born in a house here and took his first baby steps in this part of the world, so I had to go gawk at it even though the guard rattled out ‘no puedes entrar’ blended with sign language to inform me that it was shut for the day.

I passed through avenues of trees with silver barks, swishing in the gentle breeze that alleviated the heat of the noon, past old churches and villas that put me in mind of lavish courtyards, pitchers of iced teas and slowly rotating fans in cool, dark rooms, and trudged up a steep ascent. Small villages studded with white villas cropped up across the winding roads, and after what seemed like eternity, I arrived at Gibralfaro. During the entire duration of which I was passed by a dozen taxis and a couple of buses full of tourists as I huffed and puffed uphill, bullied by an unrelenting sun.

The views from the castle are spectacular beneath the midday sun, the pale shimmering waters of the Mediterranean holding you in its spell like an enchantress, loathe to release you. I walked its solid ramparts which towered above the port city and thought of what the Phoenician lighthouse might have looked like. For a lighthouse stood there before the Caliph of Cordoba built the castle sometime during the 10th century on that very site. Its name – derived from Gebel-faro orrock of the lighthouse’ – attests to it.  But the time that I spent in the castle ended on a whimper. Midway through it I looked at the watch and remembered I had a train to catch in an hour and a half. That and the husband’s wide collection of scowls made me whiz through the castle at remarkable speed before I made my way back to the hotel at an equally frantic pace – it somehow happened that I could not catch a bus during my way to the castle or on the way back.

At the end of it all, the palm-fringed beach near the hotel and a bottle of beer helped soothe my high-strung chattering when I met a startled Adi and his colleague. But the relief was this that I did get on the train to Madrid.

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Plaza de la Merced
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Picasso’s childhood home

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Gibralfaro
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From the ramparts of the fortress

 

 

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The drink that relieved my overwrought senses
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Train to Madrid

Vignettes of Málaga

A whirligig of architectural styles. Baroque, Rococo, Renaissance and Neo-Mudejar schools of design coming together under one umbrella and as you gape at them, the many Christian temples that fall on your way as you saunter through the alleys of the city, you realise that these are not mere names to forget in a jiffy. These are the artistic movements that had Europe in its clutches at the time. They permeated almost all aspects of life.

La Manquita, the One-Armed Lady, as the gigantic cathedral is known among the malagueños. You stand beneath it gaping for some time at the lofty stature of the tower that shoots up, up into the blue sky above, but there is that south tower that is missing. A long time ago it seems the parish used its funds to help the American independence efforts. The cathedral remained unfinished but it helped an entire nation get on its feet. A cause as worthy as any.

Frequent stops in cafes for a bite to eat and drink because that heat saps the strength out of you. The solitary woman sitting in a corner of a cafe and sketching away. Of course you wanted to strike up a conversation but she looked so comfortable in her own little world that you let her be. Sometimes there is solace to be found in silent camaraderie, even with strangers.

The shoppers in various departmental stores, the random teteria decorated with those entrancing, intricate jaalis and people nursing glasses of chilled wines and beers on the sidewalks. You find yourself wandering aimlessly through the many alleys, a church at every corner, a man with the taqiyah on his head selling peanuts, the quiet courtyard with its traditional wooden beams and solid doors, the lanes where sheltered from the intense heat a man with long locks strums the guitar.

The old Roman amphitheatre above which stand guard the rambling walls of the Alcazaba of the moors with its rows of orange trees and clumps of flamboyant Bougainvillea growing inside, a hint at the beauty that must have flourished inside when the moors ruled over the land, a view of the sea from the walls because it was built as a defence against pirates during the day, the bullring in the distance and the towers of concrete painted up in the Mediterranean colour palette.

A wonderful jumble of impressions guaranteed to make you dizzy.

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Iglesia de San Juan Bautista

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Iglesia de los Santos Mártires (Church of the Holy Martyrs) is dedicated to Ciriaco and Paula. Christian saints who were stoned to death by Roman emperors who wanted them to bow their heads to the Roman deities.

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The Roman amphitheatre above which looms the Alcazaba
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Inside the Alcazaba
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An archway in the Alcazaba
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View of the city’s town hall and the sea beyond from the Alcazaba

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La Manquita
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Episcopal Palace
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The cathedral

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In Málaga…

Keeping in theme with the tone of the guest post on Seville by Sophie, I thought of my Andalusian adventures that kicked off from Málaga, the Andalusian port city of Spain, that lies across the tip of Africa. It was February and yet the heat, oh it was blistering. Ir ran along the lines of an Indian summer that tends to sear the mind and the soul. The day we landed in Málaga, the city was enveloped in a haze that was a curious shade of jaundice yellow. It is a common feature there in Málaga –  the desert wind, Calima, blows in from the great Sahara Desert bringing with it poor visibility and high temperatures. During the course of the next few days, the haze gradually lifted but the heat, boy it was a stunner.

Now Málaga is the underrated cousin of the Spanish biggies, Madrid and Barcelona, and I do not know why because it has infallible charm. Walking in the shadow of the grandiose Alcazaba, the towering cathedral and the baños (Arab baths), the imagination tends to be overwhelmed by tales of the Moors, that mixed race of Berbers and Arabs who crossed over from North Africa and occupied Andalucia for seven centuries. But ancient Iberians, Phoenicians and the Romans were here too and you see the strange confluence of cultures in its many alleys.

My first impression of Málaga was formed by the sight of the many palms that line one of its main avenues. Those trees bring upon me a wave of nostalgia for things left far behind in the past – hazy memories of the desert city that I was born in. A glorious park, the Parque de la Alameda, was my refuge from the heat of the morning with its green surroundings filled with exotic plants procured from five continents. It was but a paean to man’s potential for creating beauty from zilch. You see, the park was created on reclaimed land.

Sauntering down one of Málaga’s busy streets, I chanced upon an imposing horseshoe archway. The Ataranzas. A market for fresh produce and paella. Ah, now I could not leave it alone, could I?  There is something alluring about the mercados of Spain. Be it in Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga or even a small place like Zaragoza. Is it an old-world charm, you wonder, with vendors and customers exchanging notes over fresh meat, seafood, vegetable and fruits? A plethora of colour for as far as the eye can see beneath the warm lighting of the market hall. My nose led me into a massive hall that was once a shipyard (in Arabic it is Ataranzas) with seven grand arches. Only one of those arches remain and it was the one that had lured me in.

A shipyard in the middle of the city, you might ask dubiously? Things were different till around the 18th century. The sea reached till where I was walking a while ago – on the streets around the present-day market. Once fishermen would have sat along the walls of the former shipyard and trawled the waters for the catch of the day. Apart from housing a shipyard, the Ataranzas had many avataars. Convent, military fort, hospital and subsequently a medical school. So many stories, so many memories, all embedded within its walls. Now only if those walls could speak, the tales that might tumble out.

This was just the start to my extensive rambles around the city, and lest I lull you into a sound sleep, I shall retire till my next post on Málaga.

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The view from the hotel room was made up of water the hue of emerald, the blue shimmering sea beyond the blocks of concrete and then these pretty palm trees.
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The Alcazaba in profile
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Town hall
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A section of the Alcazaba shows up between the old bank and town hall
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Banco de España. If you are a fan of architecture, you will find yourself riveted by its neoclassical look.
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Palacio de la Aduana. The new customs house for the port city.
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Parque de la Alameda
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Parque de la Alameda
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Parque de la Alameda
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A quick change of pace in the busy city
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Ataranzas
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Oh hello there…

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Ataranzas
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The stained glass window in the Ataranzas that are fit to grace a cathedral

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Guest Post: Saskia’s Adventures in Seville

The summer adventures of Sophie, a British blogger from Wiltshire, and her daughter Saskia in that sultry beauty of a place called Spain. Sophie’s previous guest post for me was on Bruges

Seville in August is an experience; it is boiling hot (daily temperatures often reach upto the 40s), full of history and it comes alive at night for Tapas and Flamenco. We visited for a long weekend and we fell in love with this stunning city and its fiery and friendly people. Don’t be put off by your drive from the airport…..just wait and Seville will work her charm!

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We booked an apartment – as we are a family of four – which was in the Jewish Quarter of old Seville where all the shops were and had air conditioning. This worked well for us and gave us the flexibility that we were after. It was a 10-minute stroll to the cathedral and a 20-minute walk to the Plaza de Espana. There are loads of places to stay in Seville but if I were to go again in the summer months, I would look for a hotel with a rooftop pool such as this one.

There are so many things to do in Seville! These are my top 6 things for you.

  1. The Cathedral

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This is a MUST and if you only have one or two days I insist that you go! It is the most beautiful cathedral I have ever visited and needs to be seen with your own eyes to be believed. It is a UNESCO World heritage site and it was completed in the early 16th century. The Giralda Bell Tower was once part of the city mosque which is even older. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It is immense. The ornate carvings and gold work are something to behold; all the wealth of old Spain sits in this place!

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There are many tombs here but my favourite was the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

2. The Real Alcazar (palace of Seville)

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The palace is one of the most beautiful in Spain and Moorish in design. The upper levels are still used once every three years or so by the present Spanish royal family.  It is another UNESCO World Heritage site. As we waited to go in, a lovely lady called Isabel offered to be our guide, so we jumped at the chance to learn more and jump the queues. It was the best 10 Euros we spent as she was a resident of Seville and told us all about the history of this fascinating place. The palace has been used in many movies and TV shows; the most recent was in Game of Thrones. I came away though with the fact that under the rule of Alfonso X in the 1250’s, Christians, Jews and Muslims all lived together in peace and this is shown in the symbols around the palace that intermingle with each other.

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The gardens are equally stunning and are worthy of a visit. We stayed here for many hours and you really need at least half a day to see everything.

3. Plaza de Espana

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Built in 1928 for the World Fair of 1929 to showcase Science and Technology they are now government buildings.

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Take a horse and cart to explore Maria Luisa park which surrounds the Plaza. Spot parrots that fly above your head or relax amongst the cool trees. There is a lot to see here and many other points of interest such as The Museum of Arts and Traditions is worth a visit if you have time. Or just relax and enjoy a drink at one of the local bars or cafes.

4. The Metropol Parasol

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The Metropol Parasol is the largest wooden structure in the world and gives a great view of the city as you can climb to the top for 3 Euros and even get a free drink! Roman relics were discovered during construction and these have been preserved in the underground Antiquarium museum. We visited in the daytime but apparently is beautiful at night as it is lit up.

5. Maestranza (the bullring)

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Whatever your feelings about bullfighting, the bull ring is worth a visit. There is a tour which includes some of the bullfighting costumes and art work.

6. Tapas and Flamenco

There are numerous Tapas bars and cafes throughout the city but the place to go is the district of Triana. This is a 20-minute walk across the Isabel bridge from Old Seville. Here, under the mist that is pumped out to keep you cool, you can sample wonderful food. Don’t go too early though as Seville is the place for a siesta between 2pm and 8pm. Many of the bars play Spanish guitar music and offer Flamenco. Well, Triana is the birthplace of Flamenco!

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We Like a Good Old-Fashioned Hike

On a solemn grey morning, when the skies were beset by heavy clouds and the brows of my husband by equal measures of frowns, we were on our way to Mount Fløyen. A city mountain in Norway.

Lille Lungegårdsvannet, the lake featured in the lead photo and with the unpronounceable name which sits pretty at the centre of the city of Bergen, gives you an idea of the kind of day it was.

A colony of seagulls took flight above our heads, alarmingly low, which meant we had to duck if only for the sake of retaining our scalps, quintessential you see in achieving the climb to Fløyen. Birds taking flight. Ah what a romantic sight ’tis on a sunny morning but under smoky skies it can acquire shades of the portentous. Alternately, it reveals the workings of a fanciful imagination.

The afternoon before, we had driven from Norheimsund to Bergen, the gateway to the fjords on the west coast of Norway. Our apartment was near the main wharf so we had time to dawdle over tea and a substantial breakfast. Adi was suitably miffed. Why anyone would want to Imagine the prospect of any kind of activity that required him to climb anything leave alone a mountain. We were in that phase of our travels where Adi had not warmed up to hiking on holidays. It was akin to tailing Tuktuk, our beloved lab, around the house and then dragging him for his bath.

Time and you, with laudable perseverance, may bring about changes in your spouse but watch out for the postscript. When Adi took to hiking holidays, he did so with a vengeance. He led me up hills which no one charts (for a reason) and where the wind in the grass raised my hair and hackles maniacally. Before I digress into the future, our path from the apartment to Fløyen took us past the busy wharf and the largest church of Bergen in its red-brick Gothic glory and its pristine wooden interiors.

My favourite part of admiring a church is to tip my head back and gape at its spire, which from our humble spot at the base of the church, almost always seems set to pierce the heavens.

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 The 19th-century St. John’s Church 
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Simplicity of its wooden interiors

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It was chilly and people were queuing up for the Fløibanen, the funicular that for the sum of NOK 45 (£4) whisks you up to the top of the mountain in the matter of a few minutes.

But who wants five measly minutes when you can have an hour and a half of panting up steep hills and stairs – in the jovial company of a husband who refuses to let a smile crack his visage. Halfway into the climb we had trudged up a steep hill, past doll-like slatted houses in shades of white and yellow, crowned by charming orange-red roofs. In the backdrop lay the steely grey waters of the harbour and a church steeple or two.

The contrast was stark when a fat black cat scampered past us. At the same time, Adi chose to lean his head on a pillar and bemoan his fate.

“What kind of a holiday is this? I want beer and food,” he bit out.

“But you just had a big breakfast,” I pointed out righteously.

This charmer of mine stomped ahead in reply. In this mode, we continued up the hill. When we had passed by red, black and blue houses with enviable views of the harbour and we thought that we had done it, that we must surely have reached the top, I skipped up some 100-odd stairs. Turns out that they were the private stairs of a cluster of hillside houses.

Retracing our steps down, we came soon to the foot of a steep forest path which led into the midst of a pine forest, its grounds primeval and mossy in parts. It could easily pass for an enchanted one. We were the only ones in Troll Forest, or were we? We should have stopped to have a word with the resident trolls but there was no time to be lost. Heavy showers were forecast for the next hour.

If Adi had been spectacularly grumpy, I took over from there. My vast reserves of joy had been depleted because there is only that much of annoying behaviour one can weather. And I will have you know, dear reader, that I can do it with panache too. Almost magically, Adi’s black mood lifted.

Between the two of us, we had handed over the baton of grimness from one to the other with perfect synergy.

It behoved my beloved then to placate me. Legs trembling – unknown muscles in the body had been worked all this while – I suddenly spotted the Fløyenguttene, otherwise known as the Boys of Fløyen behind electrified fences. They were white and horned, with innocent faces and baaa-ey measures of conversation. Cashmere goats. Please know their importance in the scheme of things be dignified in your comportment when you do make their acquaintance. They are employed by the local agencies to keep the vegetation at bay.

A brief look at a bald and squat troll besieged by the crowds and a quick coffee at the café later, we decided to experience the Fløibanen on our way back to the centre of Bergen.

When you find yourself in Bergen, and if the heavens do not burst upon you, do skip the funicular. Take the long way up because in life you have, at times, got to take the winding way up. And if a few of them are dirt, why you have aced it, champ.

 

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Steep roads that shoot up past these charming cottages

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Need I say anything?
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By the harbour
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Troll Forest
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‘Do not mess with the trolls you meet on this trail. If you meet one, make sure you look at the ground and talk only when talked to.’ (You did not just fall for that surely?)
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At the top where the pine forests lead to the vantage point
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The Fløyen Boy
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The hike with a view

 

Troll Twinning in Hardangervidda

There’s drama in the Norwegian country. It is so replete with it that it seems to be made up of bangs sans the whimpers.

You might arrive at the conclusion that drama peaks at the heart of Eidfjord with the Kjeåsen Mountain Farm but wait awhile unless the lead photo has introduced you to the idea already.  

Let me point out to you that we are in the traditional district of Hardanger. It happened to be a petty kingdom before it was, along with the other minor kingdoms in the country, united under the banners of Harald Fairhair, the first Norwegian king. The reason behind the unification is attributed to that reckless emotion of love. Our Harald wanted to marry the daughter of the king of Hordaland (one of the most important counties in western Norway), Gyda. The fair lady would have none of him till he ruled over all of Norway. Ambitious one, that.

Harald took a decade to achieve this aim but till then he did not cut or comb his hair. He acquired the unfavourable title of ‘Shockhead’/‘Tanglehair’ which he dropped in favour of ‘Fairhair’. After all we cannot see a strong woman like Gyda going for a king with malodorous locks, isn’t it?

Time to snap back from the world of strong queens and besotted kings to the present-day district of Hardanger which is home to two of the country’s important national tourist toutes – the Hardanger Route and the Hardangervidda Route.

The Hardanger route was framed by fruit orchards. Aplenty. The mist persisted in hugging the mountain tops as we took off from the village of Eidfjord. Driving down the Rv7 ( short for Norwegian National Road Riksvei 7) we found ourselves in the valley of Måbødalen. The mountains towered above the hairpin bends in the roads, brooding away in the doom and gloom of the day.

Two paths diverged at a stop which was for an ancient farm at Måbø. Ignoring the path leading down to the building which we had spotted from the road, we made a beeline for the woods instead and arrived upon Måbøvatnet, the lake that adjoins the area. Giant boulders stood in attendance upon the lake, with an accompanying army of smaller rocks, and it was slippery and mossy as the water gurgled by us into the bend around the corner.

The icy waters and slimy outgrowths on the boulders made me yearn for the cosiness of a coffee shop. I am strange, I know. I crave the lap of nature but then I often end up feeling intimidated. On a damp, dark day in the woods, it seems to me that the visible roots of gnarled old trees wait to entwine their solid strength around me. Wiping away all traces of my existence. But let it be sunny. Then the dappled sunlight, the soft harmony of light and shadow as it streams in through the canopy, uplifts the heart.

We got going after and the road kept climbing higher and higher till we reached a point when a wall of mist showed up, dense and impenetrable. We were at Vøringsfossen, one of Norway’s iconic waterfalls. A bouquet of waterfalls of varying degrees of girth, converged into a chasm with thunderous notes. A bus load of Oriental tourists chattered around us excitedly as they hurried to hold their selfie sticks into the air, the Vøringsfossen forming a suitably dramatic backdrop for their self-portraits.

It was our gateway to the flat country that marks Europe’s largest mountain plateau, Hardangervidda. The landscape started changing obviously. At one point in the afternoon, we stopped for a spot of lunch on a summit. The view was that of a broad expanse of marshy land interspersed by lakes and we munched on boiled eggs and sandwiches as the wind tore through our hair and thick jackets.

When I lay my eyes upon such vast tracts of solemn, barren beauty, a wave of loneliness descends upon me. Just like it did whenever I was in the heart of the English moors – the way I felt in Haworth in Brontë country on a grey, grey day. Dark thoughts come swooping in. It is no wonder you feel the presence of the moors seep into the pages of Wuthering Heights

The spell was broken by a group of Norwegian boys and girls who happened upon this parallel world of ours. It did lead us however to my favourite memory of the day, Adi meeting his troll twin. Why no, I am not calling my husband a troll!

Outside a cluster of yellow and red buildings, which happen to be a mountain lodge on Rv 7, stands the Dyranut troll in a red jumpsuit. His sleeves are dark green, the face marked by large eyes and pendulous nose, his hair is white and he wears a toothless old man’s smile. He does look harmless and silly as he peers into the horizon scanning for I know not what. Maybe his troll wife who has been gone long to bring him soup after stirring it well with her bulbous nose? Now if you are offered soup by a troll woman, think twice. She is known to use her nose as a ladle.

Punctuated by the occasional presence of small black or yellow cottages – possibly outposts for fishing and camping – the desolation and primordial air of Hardangervidda clung to us for a couple of hours till we found ourselves quite ready for civilisation.

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Måbøvatnet

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Making our way through sleepy hamlets nestled at the foot of the mountains

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Reaching Vøringsfossen

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Trolls of Vøringsfossen
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The merry double-headed troll
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Vøringsfossen free falls into the chasm below 
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The view from our lunch spot in Hardangervidda
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Making his way to meet the Dyranut Troll
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I shall have to carry my head in my arms for safekeeping when Adi comes across this…but all for the cause.
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Hardangervidda 
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Mingling feelings of exile and desolation hang in the air

 

Mountain Farms Mantled in Mist

Mist did not make itself scarce on our Norwegian vacation in the August of 2016. Our grand plans of hiking Trolltunga – and jump at the end of the troll’s tongue while aiming not to fall off it – was interrupted by adverse weather. For as you know, it is not a good idea to set out on a hike in slippery conditions when you would need to be hoiked midway through the hike. Airlifts have indeed taken place a few times in Trolltunga. Let me assure you: the authorities do not shower you with kind looks and cupcakes when you are an utter git.

I am a git at the best of times. But I did have the experience of climbing boulders on the way to Pulpit Rock and that made me think twice. Despite all my hankering for Trolltunga, I did bow down to the wayward weather deities. There is no fighting nature for she will have her say. I made plans instead for us to hike up to a mountain farm high above one of the fjords, Simadalsfjord.

That crazy man Woody Allen remarked, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” The weather gods have powers of prescience, I am told. My plans were foiled again.

It was drizzling and it had rained heavily all through the day before. Double drama. We had to abandon all thoughts of the steep climb to Kjeåsen Mountain Farm. The other way up was to drive up a winding road that was constructed in the 1970s — maybe to allow people like me a route into this mountain farm which has been declared the most inaccessible one in the world. No you hike-loving twat, it was built keeping in mind the need for hydroelectricity development. 

The road up a one-way tunnel runs for 3-odd miles, but what it lacks for in length, it makes up in steepness. The tunnel comes across as dark as a subterranean passage because of the lack of lighting. How do they avoid vehicles locking lips here? The authorities have put out strict timings. You can go up at slots that start dot on the hour (such as 9am, 10am, 11am…). The journey down begins at 9.30am, 10.30am…You get the drill. The latest time till which you can drive up is 5pm. There are a handful of people who still live up there on Kjeåsen.

We passed through Hardangerbru, the suspension bridge that spans the length of Eidfjorden (a branch of Hardangerfjorden), and stopped at the hamlet of Eidfjord for a coffee break before we carried on up to Kjeåsen. It was a quiet community – all of 950 people share it between themselves. 

Mountains towered above us, lush beacons of goodness, slender waterfalls tracing their paths down the steep slopes as we wandered around Eidfjord and paused at the port where cruise ships stop before entering Norway’s largest national park, Hardangervidda. I shall take you into its open barrenness in the next post. I will throw in some trolls too to make it good.

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Mists hang low over the fjords

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The mist rolled in and out
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In the hamlet of Eidfjord
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Mesmerised by the mountains that loom over Eidfjord
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Winding roads that lead to the old mountain farm

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Be sure to say hello to his bearded contemplative personality and spare some tobacco
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The hamlet sits by a branch of the Hardangerfjorden
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Views from Eidfjord of the surrounding mountains and tiny communities
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On the drive to the area around Simadal Power Plant in the valley below the farm
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Gushing falls
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Mountains around Sima Power Plant

When we reached the foot of the road near Sima Power Plant, we were part of a queue of cars that had lined up to start the one-way journey on the hour. The cars have to maintain German-sharp timelines. After a tortuous drive (which is still less crazier than the Scafell Pike drive in the Lake District of England), we were walking through wild fields.

Veils of mist hung above us. As we kept walking up, the mountain tops appeared to let off steam. Ancient, all-imposing.

For 400 years, the farm has had inhabitants who eked out their existence from the rich soil and forests through hunting and fishing. The story goes that the farms which stand in solitary glory at the top of the mountains were built during a lengthy period spanning three decades. The hardy people who lived there had to carry planks of wood, stone and building materials up the slopes. Their children had to attend school in Simadal below in summer. They lived with their relatives in the valley during the winter months when the paths leading up and down the mountains became too risky for them to chart. I could almost feel the sorrow that would have filled their tiny hearts as they pined away for their folks and the spectacular place they called home.

High above the fjord, shivering in the cold, we walked past the farm and stared at the surrounding mountains which plunged into the fjord. The waters were not smoky blue or steely grey. They were on the brink of turning a deep bluish-green.

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Fjords, mountains, mists, waterfalls, lonely farms. We were caught in the clutches of time.