Leaving our beloved Aurland behind us, on the only rainy day we had in Norway we drove to Eidfjord, a one-night stopover on the way through to Bergen.
Eidfjord is not actually the name of a fjord (though for its own sake it should be — it would instantly acquire the singular distinction of being Norway’s easiest fjord to spell). No, Eidfjord is, instead, the name of a municipality on the Hardangerfjord. It’s a quaint enough place locked into a neat little cove and surrounded by take-a-picture-from-this-angle, now-this-angle mountains, and a fine place to spend a night. We rented a tiny camping cabin, set near a small river, in the foothills of a mountain, with a waterfall cascading down it (the mountain, not the cabin).
Despite the weather, we set out to explore the town of Eidfjord, which we knew exists almost exclusively to service the souvenir needs of the thousands of cruise passengers who stop there each week, but were willing to see what it had in store for us anyway.
We were prepared to put up with a bit of rain, not least because I had it on good authority that at the first sound of a brrrrr, Norwegians will politely tell you there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. What we found down at the water’s edge, however, was indeed bad weather. Forgive me, Norwegians, but we’re talking about mid-July here.
Not overly eager to end up with a wet parcel of fermenting apparel in our luggage, and with a cold wife on my hands, we conceded — put it down to our bad clothing (not bad weather) and opted out of any kind of hiking or long-distance outdoor exploring. Instead we drove a short way out of town, up some eerily misty mountain paths, headed for the famous Vøringfossen — reportedly the most-photographed waterfall in a country teeming with waterfalls.
On the way, we passed through, and walked around, the museum village of Måbø. Yes, you read that correctly — the whole village is an outdoor museum. It seems Måbø was inhabited, then completely abandoned, by Vikings a very long time ago. Common conjecture is the Black Plague might have had something to do with its dereliction. There it sat, for hundreds of years, until in the 1700s it was re-inhabited, and run as a small family farm, and didn’t change much over time, such that when it was handed over as a museum, the buildings, their layout, and their location — not to mention the artifacts found all over the area — offered a wondrous insight into not one, but two, important epochs in Norway’s history. I hadn’t come across this in my (admittedly limited) research into the area, so finding it, and being able to walk around it, for free, was all something of a great surprise. But then everything in Norway very generally is.
We pressed on for the waterfall, and suddenly, by a stroke of Norwegian luck, it briefly stopped raining as we pulled up to Vøringfossen’s view site, and the clouds, though still low, had lifted enough to afford us a full view of the falls complete with the hotel that sits atop them.
It’s difficult to describe the dizzying height from which these falls originate. When you take into account that Vøringfossen is only Norway’s 83rd highest waterfall, it somehow becomes even more impressive.
Each stream tumbles down its side of the rock face, and then at their confluence in the icy pool below, their power redoubles, and as one they thunder into the river below. It’s the kind of sight that, you soon come to realize, is far more than a sight. It’s also a sound. And a feeling. Somewhere in the gut it hits you, this unstoppable, untamable force of nature, unspoiled, unchanged, unyielding. And then it starts to rain. Heavily. So you get back in your car, with the image still emblazoned in your mind’s eye and the wonder of it all in your soul, satisfied, and head for home.
On the small hotplate in our cabin, Meg cooked an incredible dinner that belied the equipment she had at her disposal. I still think she cheated somehow. Regardless, with that, and a good book, and the mists descending over the mountain outside our window, and with the sounds of rain falling on the roof, we drifted off to sleep with what felt like shoplifted memories from a day that what was only meant to be a quick rest stop on the way to Bergen, but ended up being so much more.