Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog has hopped, poked, and swiftly skimmed, but now we’re inviting other writers into the Bwog Bubble. We think there’s lots of fantastic campus journalism out there that sometimes slips under the radar. In the spirit of Enlightenment salons from centuries past, we present our newest feature, BwogSalon. Bwog asked the editors of each publication on campus to send us a teaser article from their most recent issue—something distinctly representative of their point of view, but still accessible. Below, check out Jeff Picker’s feature story from NOW!HERE, Columbia’s Journal of World Travel. You’ll make your fave French intellectual and your free-spirited cousin proud.
A view of Mount Ulriken in Bergen, Norway from the ground is not much of a spectacle. Its subtle sublimity blends serenely into a countryside known for its hills, small mountains, fjords, lakes and endless greenery. If not for several dozen pamphlets in the tourist office, trumpeting the extraordinary nature of the mountain, Storm (my travel companion) and I would never have seen its exquisite beauty. We also would not have ventured into unforeseen danger.
We traveled to Bergen by train from the Norwegian capital of Oslo, the sightseeing opportunities of which we had exhausted by our third day. We were excited to experience the more natural tourist attractions of our destination. We spent our first day in Bergen settling in to our hostel, meeting other (mostly English-speaking) travelers, and scouring the city for the elusive, affordable meal. We spent the whole second day cycling the western coast of Norway, slightly north of urban Bergen. On the third day, we rode a train to the nearby town of Voss, a world-renowned center for outdoor recreation. We kayaked on the visually dramatic yet calm Nærøyfjord, occasionally stopping the paddles to lay back and imbibe the view of the breathtaking, bright green mountains which flank the narrow, blue-hued ocean inlet on either side. By then Storm and I had seen all we needed to from the ground – it was time to check out the Norwegian landscape from above. So upon the suggestion of the tourist office and some fellow backpackers, we embarked on a 6-hour hike around the brim of Mount Ulriken.
The sky was clear and the air was still when we boarded the cable car at the bottom of the mountain. A university campus, a hospital and several blocks of apartment buildings surrounded the boarding area for the cable car, but we soon learned that the sights and sounds of urban Bergen at the base of the mountain betray the extraordinary natural beauty of the landscape only a few thousand feet above. When we arrived at the peak of the mountain, our senses went wild. The air up there was so crisp it seemed impossible to inhale enough of it. The pure scent, completely uninhibited by the urban scents of the city below, filled our nostrils and lungs; we gasped for air not out of shortness of breath but out of a powerful desire to ingest the delicious breeze. The panoramic view was even more exhilarating – the whole urban area of Bergen below seemed inconsequential when surrounded by the vast spectacle of natural scenery. Fjords of all shapes and sizes, kilometer after kilometer of lush green mountains and valleys and the ocean all came together, creating an aspect the likes of which I would be surprised to find elsewhere on Earth.
The top of the mountain was colder and windier than the base had been, but that was to be expected given the altitude, and Storm and I commenced our hike with little worry. Neither of us was prepared for bad weather, but the sky was still clear, so we hiked on. After about 45 minutes, though, the sky began to give us clues that the weather might not hold out as we had hoped. Clouds hovered, the wind picked up and it began to drizzle. We decided to keep trekking and hope for the best. We made it to the other side of the mountain, which offered different – but equally stunning – views, and we found some rocks on which to sit and enjoy the grandeur of the landscape. While we sat, the storm descended upon us.
By the time we decided to quit the hike and head back to the cable car, we were enveloped in a storm cloud, freezing, soaked to the bone and slipping around the side of a mountain riddled with rocky crags and cliffs. We could see no more than two meters in front of our feet, and we had lost all sense of direction. The only thing to do was to search haplessly for distinct natural landmarks we had noticed on our way and try to find mild pockets of the storm that would not whip us around. This proved quite difficult; we spent much of the next hour and a half scurrying to our feet after a slip or a particularly harsh gust of wind knocked us to the ground. The air grew colder, and the rain began to harden into small pricks of ice that stung when the wind whipped them into our bright red faces. Our feet and hands were numb, making it difficult to walk or climb, and several times we resorted to a crawl out of necessity, grabbing onto rocks and pulling ourselves across the ground of soaked grass and mud.
We made it back to the top of the cable car and fell to the floor of the small, carpeted room, exhausted but laughing. The spectacular views of a few hours earlier were hidden from us by the relentlessly thick storm clouds, and we had never been happier to re-enter civilization. Spectacular but temperamental, Mount Ulriken left us with a story to tell and a heightened sense of the remarkable power of nature.
Jeff Picker, CC ’11
Read the rest of NOW!HERE’s Fall 2010 issue on their website