Norway belongs to the sea. Along it’s western edge, the forces of water have carved a lacy filigree of bays, inlets and fjords like very few places on earth. It’s the fjords, of course, that capture the imagination. Ice Age glaciers creeping slowly across landmasses, carving out narrow channels that eventually fill with water as the glacier melts and retreats, and seawater encroaches. And they’re deep. Some, such as Sognefjord, plunge more than 4,000 feet below sea level, as deep as the height of mountains bordering them.
Where fjords meet the sea, glacially formed underwater valleys mix with other cross valleys to form a complex array of channels. These run parallel to the coast and are walled off from the sea by a chain of mountainous islands and rocks, making a protected passage along much of the entire 995-mile sea journey from Stavanger to North Cape, Norway.
During the winter, towns deep in fjord valleys can be cut off from the outside world. Snow buildups not only clog roads but can unleash avalanches of snow and rock that plunge into the water, sometimes resulting in fjord tidal waves over 100 feet high.
But in summer, cruise-ship passengers like us find fjords welcoming and awe inspiring, like peaceful blue-green lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains and replete with ethereal waterfalls and picturesque towns.