The fiords of Norway are filled with spectacular scenery: Waterfalls crashing down out of skyscraper tall mountains capped with snow, quaint mountain villages and colourful flowers dotting green fields. I was cruising on Holland America’s Eurodam ship with a friend watching the magnificence as we gently glided through many spectacular places.
Our adventure started in Amsterdam, where a large group of religious Jewish people boarded the ship. I was puzzled and pleasantly surprised as I always try to find a Jewish connection when I travel, and since Norway has an extremely small Jewish population, I had no idea where to even start.
Turns out the Jewish connection found me. A lovely British couple (along with their four children) told me they were travelling with Kosherica and Eddie’s Travel. The tour operator and travel agency booked a portion of the rooms on the ship for guests in need of a kosher kitchen, prayer services and even a Torah. In addition to Holland America’s endless options for activities they also had a variety of Jewish related options as well as glatt kosher meals.
As we cruised through calm waters, I met many lovely Jewish people, from the French family who invited me to spend Shabbat with them in Paris, to the owners of Kosherica who asked us to join them for an elegant evening meal.
I laughed at the coincidence, here I was at the top of the world, and somehow a Jewish connection appeared, not to mention a Torah was traveling with us on board the ship.
Holland America cruises are an ideal way to travel through Norway. Our ship, the Eurodam, was cozy and intimate. In addition to several restaurants, there is also an explorer lounge filled with books, a coffee bar, fitness centre and the all important spa. I highly recommend experiencing any treatment, as they are all exceptionally relaxing. Holland America also offers various shore excursions from city tours to kayaking through a fiord.
Our first stop was Alesund, home to 45,000 inhabitants. About two-thirds of its 1,040 wooden houses were destroyed in a fire in 1904. In the rush to shelter the 10,000 homeless victims, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, who often vacationed there, rebuilt the town and merged German art nouveau with Viking features, creating one of the few art-nouveau cities in the world.
After a wander around the city, one of the highlights, strangely enough, was to get back aboard a private boat and tour the 32-km long Hjorundfjord. The weather couldn’t have been better, sunny and bright as we cruised into a storybook setting.
I was mesmerized one early morning while the ship cruised through the Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 16-km-long, 960-foot-deep fiord is known for spectacular waterfalls such as the Seven Sisters and the Bridal Veil. The ship takes the same passage through the fiord as it is heading towards the town of Geiranger, and leaving it, but the views are completely different depending on the time of day, the ship’s speed and the weather.
The day continued to dazzle. We joined a bus tour to Mt. Dalsnibba, however as we ventured higher through the mountains, the visibility on the winding roads grew dimmer. The vegetation grew sparse, and I mildly despaired whether or not I would be able to see anything. Suddenly, the mist started to evaporate, and I realized I was driving into one of the most heavenly places on the planet.
Wisps of white clouds turned into rays of light shining on snowy mountainsides melting into gushing waterfalls as the bus turned corners. I have never truly experienced brightness as a colour, but the clear daylight highlighted every rock, every droplet of water, every burst of green emanating from the ground. As the bus turned on the windy road an enormous lake appeared and just when I did not believe the landscape could be more appealing with the mix of snow, waterfalls and greenery, I saw the clouds beneath the mountains with the sunlight bouncing in all directions.
Our journey took us to a few more places in Norway filled with wonder. But none for me were as captivating as watching nature’s painting unfold in so many ways that one can not only see the beauty, but feel the cool air and touch the rocks, snow and land. Norway is a landscape which appeals to all the senses, and brings natural beauty to the forefront of any traveler’s mind.