Norway


This is the last post in the Iceland / Norway trip series. On this last day of the trip we had too much to do and too little time to do it. But it was a beautiful day and we took advantage of it and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast before heading out. The hotel was located right in the heart of the city and very close to the harbor, palace, and according to the various cab drivers and hotel clerks we talked to, “the place where the officials, you know, talk about things.” I’m pretty sure they meant the parliament building, but their description worked, so yet another cross cultural exchange had proved successful. We walked up to the palace to have a quick look-see. Amy asked the palace guard about when the changing of the guard was going to take place and he actually answered her. It’s not like in England where they stand stone-faced. This guy smiled and chatted but he did keep his eye on the grounds at all times. After a few photo ops we continued down to the wharf to catch a boat ride.

Amy and I took the hop on hop off boat over to the opera house while Butter and Jen took the ferry over to the island that hosted a number of museums. The opera house was an architectural wonder with numerous angles, windows, and other “cool” features making it quite interesting to explore. We walked up to the top where you can walk across the roof and back down again along the smooth slope of concrete.

Next stop was the island with all the museums. It turned out to be a pretty decent sized area and Amy and I huffed it quite a ways to the Viking museum where we met up with Butter and Jen for awhile. I loved the Viking ship museum. It held a couple of ancient boats as well as some beautiful carvings, an old carved wagon, and a funeral tent (can’t remember exactly what it was called). I honestly wasn’t sure before I went in that I would really like it but I did. It’s very worth it if you ever visit Oslo.

We then made our way over to the cultural museum. It was actually a very large site that had some collections inside a large building—my friends explored a photo exhibit there—as well as replicas of old Viking homes, churches, communities—you name it, scattered across many acres. They even had one section that was a replica of a more modern (but still colonial-type era) town. I fell in love with the Stave Church. It was truly magnificent. The shape and style was ornate, different, unusual, and filled with—of course—carvings. I can’t get enough of those, they are so beautifully done. There were some painted scenes inside the chapel and a number of crosses over the numerous gables and doors. A number of the houses throughout the museum site (as well as in other areas we explored) had grass growing on the roofs. I thought it interesting that we are now starting to go back to the days of the ancients. It’s considered very “green”—that is energy efficient and environmental friendly—to have grass growing on your roof. There are some corporations trying it out now. Must be something to it if the Vikings were doing it thousands of years ago. Along the paths I came across a group of young people in costume dancing some old jigs they used to do back in the day—that was a fun little treat. I ended the tour looking through some of the old houses they built. They were built up on foundations set at the corners (kind of like our beach houses on pilings but not that high). I guess the snow or floods made that necessary—who knows. But the homes were of course beautifully built. They didn’t just throw up some boards or mud, these people were architects.

My legs were giving out so it was time to hop on the cheap boat back to the wharf. My friends explored some more museums and we met back at the hotel to go to dinner. What to have for dinner in Norway? Why Chinese of course. Yup, went to a fancy Chinese restaurant—very nice indeed and the food was absolutely yummy. It was expensive and spicy too, but the service was excellent and it was a very nice way to wrap up a trip.

But we weren’t done yet. Nope. Amy and I had a mission. To visit the ice bar. The one in Iceland we were told was a dump, but this one was an offshoot of the famous ice hotel. They let people in every hour on the hour (the bartender needed a break to get out of the cold). So while we waited, we chatted up with Nikolas, my new favorite boyfriend who is now on top of the future ex Mr. Crowe list. He dressed us up in warm clothes and in we went. Lars—who also was making his way on to the favorite list—served us some quite yummy cocktails in glasses made entirely of ice. I would show you photos but it was so cold my camera froze and we only have fuzzy memories of that establishment. Seriously though, it’s an experience worth having if you get the chance. The entire place was made of ice—the booth, the bar, the glasses, the walls and floor—and it had fun etchings of things throughout. There were carvings in the walls and tables, handprints, and some things that got stuck in the ice. After last call was called, Amy and I were helped out of our jackets and boots by the darling Nikolas and headed back into the warm night of Oslo. We walked around a bit to get our last taste of the city, and headed back to the closet I called home for the night.

I recommend both Norway and Iceland to everyone. In fact, I’d probably recommend going in two different trips and taking longer in each country. But that’s me and I typically like to get more immersed into the cultures I visit while there. I’m blessed and grateful for the opportunity to travel to these places with three wonderful friends who made the trip really fun. It was a 40th birthday trip for Jen and a 50th for Butter and Amy and I went along for the ride! Thanks ladies!

If you have had your own adventures in these places and want to share, please do! Or if you are traveling there and want some more details or suggestions on things to do, not do, etc., just write a reply and I’ll get back to you. Again, my prayers go out to the victims of the attack on Oslo—just a week after our visit there. It was a shock to hear about that and having been through 9/11 in Washington, D.C. I can say it’s a scary, horrible thing to live through. God Bless you Norwegians and others who are healing from those wounds. Thanks for your hospitality and I hope to come visit you again.

 

 

Amy and Jen pose with a palace guard in Oslo.

 

a glass viking ship outside the opera house in Oslo.

 

Kids at play on the roof of the opera house in Oslo.

 

Amy at the opera house in Oslo

 

The Oslo Opera House

 

A beautiful carved wagon from the viking ship museum.

 

The Stave Church at the Oslo cultural museum.

 

Crosses on the Stave Church

 

One of the viking houses in the cultural museum.

 

Me in the big coat sitting on an ice bench at an ice table at the ice bar. Camera froze so photo is blurry.

 

As I continue the saga of the four American girls traveling through Iceland and Norway, we find ourselves with a short time to explore the beauty of the Norwegian countryside. The way we accomplished this was by taking the famous Norway in a Nutshell tour. This tour goes from Bergen to Oslo (or the other way, or a round trip if that’s what you want).

First thing in the morning we hopped on the train out of Bergen. If you’re traveling this way you may want to consider going light on the luggage. Or finding a hot dude to travel with who can lug it around for you. But all was okay and there was plenty of room to store the bags and get great views of the fjords and mountains. At the quaint town of Voss, we changed over to a bus. They were short on busses but these Norwegians know how to move fast and a driver was found tout suite (yes, that’s French but it sounds better than “gang,” the Norwegian word for right away) and a bus showed up for the rest of us who were out-elbowed by the others. The bus drive to Gudvangan took us through some even more picturesque countryside. (I love saying Gudvangen, it’s fun and rolls off the tongue. You should try it.) The real fun was the harrowing sharp, hair-pin s-turns down the steep mountain side. At the bottom of the hill the driver told us to breathe and we all laughed because we actually were holding our breaths. Now off to catch the boat.

Ahh, the boat. This was the part of Norway I was most looking forward to. The fjord tour. As we got onboard we walked through to the other end of the boat, up two flights of stairs and then back again to the other end of the boat to the only space that was left, this little corner in the back of the boat. I planted my butt down and Amy, Jen, and Butter found spaces along the bulk head. At first I was kind of upset that all these tourists had once again pushed their way onto the boat and grabbed all the nice seats up front. I was upset that is until the boat left the dock and then turned around! Poetic justice. We ended up having the absolute premier rock star positions on the entire boat. Our view was straight on unobstructed and it was truly magnificent. Mile after mile, we floated through the water that cut between steep cliffs hosting long, flowing waterfalls. Occasionally we saw houses and farms and wondered how they got their cable.

Some well-meaning but idiot tourists on our boat kept feeding the seagulls that were flying around us. While it did make for some nice photo ops, I vowed to stomp on the bird guy at the first sight of seagull poop. Some of these pushy tourists tried to worm their way into our space but we held tight to our real estate and got excellent photos during the entire three-hour cruise. Once we docked in Flam we had a couple of hours to eat, shop, and play. If you take this cruise/trip you can make plans to stop off overnight at any of these places and take extra fjord tours, or go hiking, or partake in some of the other activities available.

The next segment had us back on the train and up, up, up the mountain. We stopped briefly at a waterfall. Suddenly, some Celtic-like music started blaring out of speakers somewhere and a woman appeared out of the remains of an old stone house. As she danced around the falls and house she seemed like some kind of witch. It was pretty cool. At the top of the mountain, I bought a $13 cup of beer while we waited for our next train on the Flam railway.

The train from Flam took us by crystal clear waters that were formed from the blue and white glaciers dotting the landscape. We ended up going back and forth bus to train to bus to train to bus before arriving back in Oslo. It was a long day but a great way to see the Norwegian countryside if you don’t have time to really explore.

After keeping Amy awake the night before we decided I should get my own room with sound-proof walls. I do believe that aside from those little sleeping holes they have in Tokyo, this was the most expensive square foot of sleeping space I’ve ever had the misfortune of staying in. Seriously, when I spend $250 on a hotel room, I’d like to be able to take a shower without bumping into the sink, be able to not have to hear a concert playing outside until 1 a.m., and be able to get out of bed without jamming my toes into the walls. But I will say that the concierge’s at the front desk were nice and just a little cute, so we had something good to say about the hotel. Breakfast was pretty good too.

So that’s it for Norway in a Nutshell. One more day in the saga to talk about—so stay tuned!

 

 

Near Voss on the Norway in a Nutshell tour.

 

One of the many lush waterfalls on the tour.

 

The scary ride down the mountain.

 

Jen, Butter, and Amy get rock star parking on the fjord tour boat.

 

Along the Gudvangen fjord tour.

 

These guys followed us for awhile.

 

Another beautiful farm along the water.

 

The dancing witch by the waterfall.

 

This glacier flows down blue and white so clear and beautiful.

 

No words needed. On the Flam railway.

 

If you’ve been reading the previous posts about this trip, you’ll know that we completed our time in Iceland and are now on our way to the green hills and valleys of Norway. Before I start weaving the tale of our time there I want to pause a moment and pray for the victims and their families as well as the survivors of the vicious terror attack that happened on July 22. I pray that the citizens of Norway can grieve for their loved ones and move forward living lives like the peaceful beautiful people they are. I hope that the families are getting comfort from God and from loved ones through this horrific time. And I hope that all the disturbed individuals out there—whether they are Norwegian, American, Al queda, or the scum of the earth pedophiles who traffic kids—can find forgiveness and peace in their hearts and learn to love instead of hate. Okay, so thank you for letting me get that out. On to the trip…

We arrived Monday night (July 4) in Oslo and immediately had to figure out the transportation system because the rail lines near Oslo were under construction. In fact, a lot of Oslo seemed to be under construction. Some very friendly and helpful people led us to the bus that would take us to the other bus we needed to catch to get onto the overnight train to Bergen. We took a lovely ride through the countryside as the sun set and darkness fell. Yes, there was some darkness in this part of Norway—being a bit more south than Iceland. When we got onto the train, we had to carefully figure out how to maneuver in the sleeping compartment. I felt like I was back at camp or college where you have three feet of living space and tons of stuff. The space between the bed and wall was as wide as the narrow part of my suitcase. Amy slept in the top bunk and we had a very cozy night listening to the sounds of the countryside passing us by. Trains can be a very pleasant way of traveling. The ride tends to be pretty smooth and comfortable. A note of warning should you decide to take the overnight train to Bergen. The guy in charge of waking everyone up has a key to your compartment and he isn’t afraid to use it. Amy and I were momentarily shocked to see a very large scandinavian man looming into our little closet first thing in the morning. Glad we were decent!

It’s now 7 a.m. and we are getting off the train in Bergen and heading for our hotel. Upon arrival, we asked the front desk clerk if we could check in early. Nope. Okay but we can store our stuff and go exploring, so that’s cool. I asked the young man what the temperature/weather was going to be like that day and he replied, “Did you come to Bergen for the weather?” Whoa, smart ass. I don’t suppose you notice the very weary look on my face that just changed to the look that says, “Just answer my question you stupid brat, I had a reason for asking it and don’t need some jerk like you treating me with such disrespect—especially considering I am a paying guest in the hotel you are working in.” After telling him yes, we decided against Tahiti and the Caribbean and wanted to visit Bergen for it’s beaches and spas, I walked away to change into the appropriate clothes for touring the city for the day.

Off we went for a quick breakfast in a bakery that someone recommended. It was okay. Kind of fun to see the locals coming in before heading off to work for the day. There were several young men that came in and flirted with the pretty girl behind the counter. The McDonalds around the corner that was located in a very un-McDonald’s type building would have been fine with me. Just kidding—I don’t do that when traveling. The horror! So moving on, we got our hop on hop off tickets and Bergen cards at the visitor center and started the day. Passing by the famous fish market and its stalls of seafood, clothes, trolls, fresh fruit, and more, looked very tempting.

I got off the bus at the cultural museum and took a quick tour looking at the ancient Viking artifacts, American Indian artifacts, and some Egyptian mummies. An eclectical little place, and interesting, but I had little time to explore everything. So the hop on hop off bus took me around back to the downtown area where I got off to explore the Bryggen museum where they had an excavation of ancient lot where early settlers lived. Bergen (on the southeast coast of Norway) was once an international hot spot and the capital of Norway. The early settlers were smart and saavy players. After the Bryggen museum I strolled around the grounds of Haakon’s Hall and then went in for a look-see. King Håkon Håkonsson had the hall built between 1247 and 1261. It had very interesting decorations—these tapestries with what I would describe as kind of Viking hieroglyphics on them.

Feet hurting but the desire to explore overcoming the pain; I went over to the Floibanan Funicular and stood in line to take my turn on the train that took us about 350 yard up the steep slope of the mountainside. One of the things I was really looking forward to that I had to give up doing was hiking around and down the mountains here. The boot was helping me walk but all I could do was stare out at the scenery and down at the town of Bergen while doing some people watching.

My friends were on other missions that day and we met up later at the hotel. Before I headed back I took an ill conceived but pretty walk through town. Back at the Comfort Inn, I decided I had to stay close by to eat (no more walking) and had a surprisingly wonderful meal right at the hotel restaurant. I ate outside at a little table and just enjoyed looking out onto the European town as the sun set low in the sky. Nice.

So Bergen was a quaint town with some fun attractions. After keeping Amy up all night with my nocturnal chatter, we headed out of town for our next tour. Stay tuned!

 

Brygeen in Bergen. The Hanseatic houses line the wharf area.

 

View of the Bergen wharf area from the top of the funicular. McDonald's in Bergen. Not your typically golden arches.

 

The architecture in the Bryggen area of Bergen was very cool.

  
 

An artistic way of beautifying a sewer cap in Bergen.

 

At the top of the floibanan funicular.

 

McDonald's in Bergen. Not your typically golden arches.