There is little more quaint than an unassuming fruit stand along a rarely travelled, one-lane road. Our ride through Ulvik was dotted with them. Farm after farm had set out their early harvest of cherries and strawberries, accompanied by an unlocked box for payment. We stopped for cherries just after a long downhill. As we stood by our bicycles plucking the cherries from their stems, the farmer from across the street asked in the little English he knew, “Very good?” And that summed up the whole moment.
As we bike from small town to small town along the Hardangerfjord, our expectations for our accommodations and meals are modest. Most towns have one large hotel with a lot of character, and the meals typically consist of salmon prepared in 3 to 7 different ways. When we arrive in Utne, our expectations are blown away. The Utne hotel we stay in was first established back in 1722, no two rooms are the same, the hotel managers are most hospitable, and the food is a real treat.
We arrive, quickly shower and change, and head downstairs for a local cider tasting. Apparently, cider in the Hardangerfjord is a thing. Apples are grown throughout and cider production has been happening dating back to the 11th century. The hotel owner leads the tasting and walks us through 5 different ciders. Some were dry, some sweet, some very sweet. Each was made with a different combination of apples – all grown in Hardangerfjord – and each came with a story of who the producer was and their philosophy of cider production. The hotel owner went to school with a couple of the producers, and we learned that one now has a doctorate in chemistry and makes very consistent cider, while another like to use more love than science when preparing his ciders. We enjoyed ciders from Alde, Hakastad, and Edel among others.
We love the whole experience complete with lit candelabra, a different wine glass charmingly of random sizes for each taste, and of course the local cider itself.