The first stop on our Norwegian adventure was in Sæbø, a small village about an hour away from Ålesund in western Norway. The Storfjord is the main fjord in the area, and many people pass through here on their way to and from the Instagram/Pinterest-perfect UNESCO Wold Heritage Site that is the Geirangerfjord, which branches off of the Storfjord. However, that was not on our list. We were invited to a wedding in Sæbø, which is located on the Hjørundfjorden, another branch. Got all that? If not, check a map because I can’t say fjord that many more times without hitting myself. But there are pictures, so click on!
E, a friend of mine, was marrying T, a lovely Norwegian gentleman from Ålesund. Though they live in Oslo, they really wanted to give their guests an off-the-beaten-path wedding location that would be worth flying in from all over the world for. To say that they hit the ball out of the park would be an understatement.
The first picture from the first day set the bar fairly high.
I don’t doubt that the Geirangerfjord is beautiful, but I also hear that it’s crawling with tourists, and all that that brings. Whereas in Sæbø it was the locals, the 50ish people who attended the wedding, a few campers, and some fishermen. It was the end of June/beginning of July, so the tourist season was just getting underway, but it was perfect. We spent four full days in Sæbø and it was the best possible start to our trip that I could imagine, with an excellent mix of activity and relaxation. So what did we get up to? Well…
After a long 8-hour drive from Oslo the day before, we were more than happy to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. We met the cats that came with our Hytte* and chatted with our host about hiking possibilities in the area. He very kindly lent us a map, and we set off for town with the idea to try to hike up the mountain on the right in the above photo.
We had just missed the ferry, so we had a nice chance to wander around the small town center and get our bearings for the next few days.
Eventually the ferry came back across the fjord and we hopped aboard. About ten minutes of picture-taking later, we arrived on the other side. First we had a quick look at the timetable to see when we could get back, and off we went up the hill.
Our map had a trail marked, but it was listed as a sign-posted but not maintained trail. That meant that it was a little bit difficult in some places to see the trail, and it was generally harder than we expected a “medium” trail to be. Eventually we came to a large, flattish stone that was possible for BV and his long legs to get across, but I couldn’t manage it. He went a bit higher up to see how much more difficult it looked, but after some deliberation (and another unsuccessful attempt on my part) we decided it was hot, harder than we thought, and we had gotten enough of a workout for the day. So we turned around, and enjoyed a leisurely walk down the mountain with lots and lots of photo stops.
Then it was back onto the ferry for the spectacularly lit return trip. In the photo below, you can see our Hytte on the left side of the grassy area. Just to give an idea of the scale! 🙂
Sæbø from the port was particularly lovely in the early evening light.
Nodding hello to the line of elderly fisherman camped outside with coffee, we stopped into the small grocery store to pick up some essentials. We figured that seafood in Norway was a necessity, so we scooped up some shrimp from the frozen case. They regularly get them shipped in from a bit further north, and they made for an excellent first dinner.
After our day of fresh air, the rest of the night was spent relaxing, reading, and eventually running around snapping more pictures of the incredible sunset…
Though it never got completely dark, it was really pretty while it tried.
The rest of the wedding guests were beginning to arrive, and we were tasked with picking up one of them from an airport across the mountain on our second day. She arrived in the morning so we had to get an early-ish start. A quick drive there and back later, we deposited E’s friend at the hotel and headed home. This was probably the warmest day of the entire trip and we mostly spent it lounging around. After breakfast BV crashed for a nap, and I got some sun on the terrace with the cats, more coffee, and a book.
Eventually though we got ourselves cleaned up and headed back into town. E and T had organized a pre-wedding BBQ across from the town beach for all their guests to get to know each other before the party.
Since the day had been so warm, we made a quick stop at the beach to test the water…
Kids were swimming but we were content just to wade in, getting the pants wetter than anticipated as the ferry pulled out. A few other guests wandered down and we all got a good laugh out of the reactions to the water temperatures. Then it was off to the BBQ!
A fire, a giant grill, some burgers and chatter later, everyone was getting along smashingly. An international wedding always brings an interesting mix of people and this was no exception. Eventually though the drinks and food ran out, and we packed it up, stopping to admire the dedication of the “night” fishermen, and the smooth-as-glass water.
As the wedding wasn’t until the afternoon, E and T had organized a boat tour for their guests who wanted to get a closer look around the fjord in the morning. The weather had taken a turn, but it wasn’t raining and the clouds made for some misty and mystical views! The boat held about 15 people and we were in the second of three runs.
Though we had already gotten a look at the fjord on our ferry ride, it was a LOT of fun on this boat with the other guests. We drove around for about an hour enjoying the views and the chatter. Our captain really let it go when we crossed the fjord and I haven’t been on a boat going that fast in years. A little sea spray feels great sometimes, but a photo gallery is a decent substitute…
After the boat tour it was back to our house for a snack and to make ourselves look a bit less windswept. Heels in hand (couldn’t walk in them up and down the path to our Hytte), we took the car back into town and met up with the rest of the guests at the church.
This church reminded me in so many ways of home from the outside. Painted wood, simple, Lutheran. But the inside. Ohhhh, I have never seen this in any church. After years in central Europe where churches range from the medieval stone to the golden-cherub covered Baroques and Rococos, this church interior was something to see.
Orange-yellow, soft blues, every inch painted and curved like the inside of a ship. A ship dangling over the center aisle, light streaming in… oh it was lovely. In fact, the bride hadn’t even gotten to see the inside of the church until this weekend, so it was a lovely surprise to her as well.
The ceremony started with the baptism of their baby boy, F. After he was squared away, it was onto the main show. The ceremony was mostly in Norwegian, with occasional forays into English, just to keep us on our toes. Then a few photos outside and back to the hotel for the cocktail hour…
The wedding party was a little different, as speeches are a big thing at Norwegian weddings. During dinner and between courses we were treated to a variety of lovely, lovely speeches from the couple’s friends and family. I can only hope that if BV and I were to ever get married, people would say such nice things about us. Thank goodness that BV is a good German and always carries tissues because they were most definitely passed around our section of the table liberally. I also need to make an Irish friend because the Irish guest that we had picked up the day before had our area rolling laughing (even the serious-looking Icelanders)!
Between games, speeches, more chat, and some room relocations, we had an excellent dinner, and an even more impressive spread of cakes. Behold, one section of the cake table, and me being really excited about seeing Lefse** as a sweet treat.
There had to be at least 15 cakes from various friends of the groom’s parents, etc. Most people went with a sampler platter, and ohmygod each one was better than the last.
After midnight there was another traditional event, as a large kettle of soup was brought out. Most of the guests were still there, but after the soup the majority packed it in at about 2am. BV and I got home, realized that we hadn’t taken a decent picture of ourselves all dressed up, and attempted some photos on the terrace. We’re mostly blurry, but here’s what 3am looks like…
The weather hadn’t lifted when we woke up on our last full day in Sæbø, but I didn’t even care because SURPRISE the fjord is gorgeous all the damn time.
I mean, really.
E’s Maid of Honor and her husband are also avid hikers, and they had given us a tip on what to do with our last day. First we donned all of our waterproof gear, and after saying goodbye to the sheep under our cabin, we hopped in the car.
A quick drive up the highway and a long, winding drive up a dirt toll road later, we arrived at a parking area. We were greeted by this odd sight…
I just have so many questions. How does someone lose one ski??
There was only one other car in this small parking area, and we met its occupants coming down the hill as we hiked up. After that, we had the most enchanted valley all to ourselves. I may do a more thorough post on that at some point, so here are just a few shots to give an idea of what it was like.
There was rain, there was snow, there were sheep. It was magnificent.
Sadly this was the end of our stay in Sæbø, and the next morning we packed up our Hytte and said goodbye.
The good news is that this was just the beginning of our trip. A huge huge thank you has to go out to E and T for not only inviting us to their beautiful day, but for introducing us to this place. I hope we can get back here sooner rather than later.
With that, we were off to our next stop, a few hours south to Vik i Sogn… stay tuned!
Have you been to fjord country? Was it this pretty? 🙂
**typical Norwegian pancake of sorts, which we eat at every major holiday in my family thanks to the influence of my Great-Grandma Merry.