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Destination: the best of Norway in a nutshell in Sogndal (all the cliches, but the good ones)

I've just lowered the car window. Phone in hand, I'm using Vipps (a Norwegian mobile payment system) to send NOK 40 to, presumably, the owner of a fruit orchard. A box of ripe plums is for the taking from the little stall, hands down the juiciest and most succulent I've ever held. This vignette captures the essence of the place I'm about to take you in your mind's eye—an encapsulation of Norway's finest. Let me elucidate the reasons behind this claim.

The scenario I just described isn't an isolated incident. It's the very tableau that unfolds along the narrow lanes enfolding the fjords. Countless farms adorned with fruit orchards, time-worn boathouses skirting the fjord's edge, and vistas that can only be called breathtaking. Particularly in May, when the fruit blossoms burst forth, the scenery is nothing short of spellbinding. I've experienced it several times during summer, and the magic is undeniably alive then too. We're in the vicinity of Sogndal, nestled on one of the branches of the majestic Sognefjord.

Fjord Landscape Norway

Our initial stop is the aptly named Fjordpanorama where you will spend at least two nights. The view here lives up to the billing. From your personal hot tub, with a glass of apple cider in hand, you'll survey the vibrant emerald slopes. Far below, the blue expanse of a Sognefjord offshoot shimmers. Here, one sleeps with curtains ajar for reasons abundantly evident. Whether this locale stands as one of the nation's most spectacular lodgings, I'll leave open for discourse. It's undeniably high on the list. Furthermore, this is a destination worth visiting throughout the year. Personally, I'd opt for spring—a touch of snow still gracing the land, yet the valley teeming with blossoms. Don't tell her yet, but I'm taking my girlfriend here for her birthday next year (and this is a test to see if she actually reads my blogposts). Anyway, moving on!

The next day heralds yet another highlight: Urnes Stave Church. Expressing such claims is a challenge, but I'm inclined to label this one of the most imaginatively evocative stave churches. UNESCO concurs. Erected in the 12th and 13th centuries, it stands among the oldest surviving stave churches. A diminutive structure housing a fairytale interior, its woodwork recalls the ancient tales of Norse mythologies. You'll sail there from Sogndal on a petite ferry. While you can bring your car, going on foot is just as convenient. Do check ferry timings beforehand to minimize waiting. Should a wait arise, indulge in a cup of coffee at Urnesgard. This charming terrace, a facet of the farm, serves as both a gathering spot for the fjord's scant inhabitants and a haven for fortuitous tourists in the know.

After the return voyage, acquainting oneself with local flavors seems a splendid notion. And, without a doubt, apple cider reigns supreme. Near your abode, Amblegaard beckons. This farm crafts exceptional apple juice and cider. They even arrange tastings, although for groups of eight or more. Who knows, with a bit of charm, they might offer a sip of cider to a solo adventurer. And bring a bottle back to Fjordpanorama. Nothing better then a cold sip while sitting in the bubblebath (I mentioned that before, didn't I?).

This region isn't brimming with eateries or lunch spots, but for the famished, Dampskipkaien presents a fine option. Don't expect haute cuisine, but the Skagen sandwich and fish soup are more than satisfactory for the ravenous traveler. Additionally, on a pleasant day, you can bask outside, taking in splendid waterfront views.

Should time allow, venture forth to Fjærland. I've penned an exuberant piece about it—do give it a read. Dining is an option there, too, a worthwhile pursuit indeed. Dinner is served at the Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel and is absolutely excellent. I'm smitten with this region, as it packs the best of Norway in a nutshell. And of course, I have not been able to cover everything there is to see and experience on, in, and around the Sognefjord for this deserves a multitude of blogposts, which will start to litter this forum in the not-so-distant future.

**Getting there: it is most wise to reserve a car in advance for public transport can make your venture a little complicated. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere in utter calmness. Check here for availability.


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