Olden is little town 65 miles inland at the end of the Nordfjord. Fjords were created by glaciers during the ice ages. As they pushed towards the sea, they pushed a pile of rubble in front of them. Also, the heaviest and thickest ice was inland. This means the deepest water today is often further inland and at the center of the fjords, not at their mouth.
Commercials tours, like almost everything, have advantages and disadvantages. It is often nice to wander on one’s own, and this often leads to unexpected interesting encounters. But Olden is a small village with less than 500 residents, and its major attraction is as gateway the Jostedal Glacier. Going on one’s own, one can take a bus to an arm of the glacier, the Bricksdal.
We, however, were lucky to take a commercial tour. What made us lucky was that we were fortunate to have an exceptional guide. He was a fourth generation hotel owner and entrepreneur with a wonderful command of English (all Norwegians take years of English in school) and a great sense of humor. (Each photo stop was 7 1/2 minutes, time for him to smoke a cigarette,)
Our tour included a bus ride, a boat ride, a snack and another bus ride to the Jostedalsbreen National Park at the base of the Kjenndalen Glacier (another arm of the huge Jostedal). Our guide’s maternal great, great grandfather opened the first hotel in the area to cater to salmon fisherman in the middle of the 19th century. Another ancestor built a dam that included an early fish ladder to permit the salmon to move upstream. Later family members built hotels and roads including the present hotel in Olden.
With so much falling water everywhere, hydroelectricity is the number three industry in the country (Oil is number one, and fishing is number two). Almost all the country relies on hydroelectricity, but small plants are problematic as they may freeze in the winter, and in some areas they actually import electricity from Sweden part of the time.
After taking a bus past the family hotel and past the fish ladder, we took a boat up the long skinny Lovanet Lake. The water is pure, but suspended rock dust created by the grinding glacier reflects light giving the lake a turquoise color.
We were interested to see areas of forest blown down by hurricane Dagmar on Christmas Day 2011. Even if you call it a cyclone, who knew they had hurricanes in Norway!
In 1905, a rock slide into the lake created a mini-tsunami of water and ice that wiped out a village and the family lodge and killed a lot of people. In 1936, another landslide at the same place, did even more damage sweeping boats far inland killing more people. In total, 135 people lost their lives.
The family used insurance money and government payments to build a road to the end of the lake and a large hotel further inland towards the glacier. But the new road meant that fewer people now wanted to stay overnight.
The family was careful to put the hotel where it would not be struck by either an avalanche on the south side of the valley or one on the north side. Another rockslide in 1954, narrowed the lake but did little other damage as the rock was just falling onto previous deposits.
Then in the late 1980s, just as the hotel was finally getting to capacity, avalanches came down both sides of the valley almost simultaneously. They did not strike the hotel, but the force of the wind they created moved the hotel off its foundations. The family just lit a match.
Today, they have a small restaurant at the end of the lake. They are assured there will be no further damaging rock slides, but the hotel is a thing of the past. The restaurant, however, is in a beautiful setting and often is used for weddings.
The extremely tall waterfall near the lodge, he said, had been declared the world’s 11th most beautiful. But how can one measure the beauty of these waterfalls? Even as we hiked back to get a better look at the glacier, we found ourselves before more waterfalls, and were able to actually see the water coming from the melting ice. There is no doubt, Michelle will have to come with us the next time.