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Visit Norway: Prekestolen

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If you want to visit the beautiful land of glistening fjords and majestic mountains, be sure to include Prekestolen in your adventure. It is near Stavanger along Norway's southwestern coast.

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I made my most recent trek to the top Saturday, 11 years after my first visit. It was equally majestic the second time around.

Prekestolen, the pulpit in English, gets its name from its distinct profile. From the side, it looks like a huge pulpit towering some 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) over the beautiful Lysefjord. The breathtaking attraction is a quick bus and ferry ride from downtown Stavanger.

The average time up to the top is two hours, with young, spry and ambitious youngsters racing ahead of older, more cautious climbers, many of whom use walking sticks (think ski poles for snowless slopes) to help them up.

The initial incline is incredibly steep, with even the relatively fit (ahem) breathing heavily after 10 minutes. Fortunately, the path includes plateaus and a few brief, but highly celebrated, downhills along the way. Most American children aren't used to waking as much as their Norwegian peers, and most certainly aren't accustomed to the rugged terrain. I left my own children, 7 and 9, at the hotel with their father and after the first few minutes, knew that I made the right choice.

They wouldn't be as prepared to tackle the steep climb and rocky terrain as heartily as the young Norwegians did. I personally questioned my own ability to persevere.

After I hit the first plateau, however, I was inspired by the scenery that the incline began revealing. Each elevation led to a wider view and a bigger tease of the panoramic prize that awaited from the top of the pulpit. With renewed energy and fresh momentum, I charged the mountainside, reaching the top within 90 minutes.

It was beautiful beyond words and I felt as if I were in the middle of a painting that not even the most advanced camera could capture. There are no guard rails at Prekestolen — another reason I was glad I hadn't brought my children, especially my fearless 9-year-old.

Some daring visitors sat on the edge, their legs dangling over the 600 meter drop. One person hit golf ball off the edge. Children, with the blessing of their parents, creeped to the edge on their tummies, peeking over the edge. Too close for my comfort.

My sister, Heidi Hovland, our friend, Christine Carey, and I, took our gratuitous photos from the top, breathed in the scenery one last time, and began our descent. It took two-thirds the time to get back down, although some steep downhills were as intimidating as they were on the way up.

Prekestolen is definitely an experience worth having. Next time we come to Norway, I promised my children they could come along, but we would have to do some serious training beforehand.

If you go, it's a quick bus and ferry ride from Stavanger. You can buy a combo ticket, both ways, for 295 krone (crowns), roughly $50-$55 at the bus station. Transportation is very easy across the country, with many bus, train and ferry schedules available. We stayed in nearby Sandnes at the GamelVaerket Hotel.

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