A Travellerspoint blog

Day 13. Fjords

of weather and mythical beings

rain 60 °F

Today was “Norway in a Nutshell”. It’s kind of a canned tour of fjords but it is really beautiful. It involves a lot of travel, but how else can you see the territory? We were out and about early this morning, meeting Neill at the train station at ~8:15AM to board a train to Voss. At Voss we met our private tour bus that took us to Gudvangen to board a ferry that took us on a two-hour trip through the fjord to the little town of Flam. Crazy, huh? Yes, but all along the way we were seeing the beautiful countryside – about a million waterfalls and tiny quaint farms. I swear the whole thing looks like a jigsaw puzzle! We had a nice lunch in Flam, shopped around for an hour and then caught a train to a little town (whose name escapes me) where we hurried to change trains and not miss the final leg back to Bergen. Whew! It was a long packed day. We didn’t get back to the hotel until about 8:15PM, at which time Carol and I dumped our stuff in the room and hightailed it to the bar for a glass of wine.

Now, what I have failed to mention is that the weather was a bit challenging today. That was a euphemism for “it rained most of the day”. ‘The problem with rain is that it is inconvenient and it blurs the view from dotted foggy windows. BUT, it is (or has lately been) a frequent phenomenon here, although we have encountered very little, and there is a certain beauty in the countryside in the rain and fog. There is NOT any beauty in my hair however, so pictures of me in the fjords are not to be found.
A beautiful little town on the fjord

A beautiful little town on the fjord

A few of interesting things about the area we toured: We travelled through steep craggy mountains and through long tunnels to the other sides. It gives you a feeling that you’re in a high elevation. But when you come to the fjord, the terrain looks mountainous but you are at sea level. Fjords are confusing to me. They look like mountain rivers and lakes but they are fingers of the ocean. At one point we were allowed 10 minutes off the train to photo the beautiful Kjos waterfall. There is a myth that a seductive forest creature named Huldra has occasionally been seen and heard singing near the falls. Lo and behold, there she was!!!! (or HE was – I’m pretty sure “she” was a man in a red dress).
Huldra, the seductress of the fjord

Huldra, the seductress of the fjord

Posted by Follow Carol 00:58 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day 12. Touring Bergen

Even with too many tourists, it is a pretty town.

sunny 75 °F

I think I may have mentioned that I am rooming with a woman named Carol. We met on a trip to Ireland and hit it off and decided to room together on this trip, although we really did not know each other very well at the time. We share a bathroom now, so I guess you could say we’re fairly familiar with each other’s habits by this time. In my opinion this liaison is a great success as I thoroughly enjoy her as a roommate. I have learned something interesting about myself from living with another Carol though. . . .I mutter to myself quite a bit and I call myself by name when I do. You know, things like “Carol, where’d you pack that damn ____?” or “Carol, shit – hang up your clothes!” These utterances are often met with a reply from the other side of the room which surprises me and then cracks me up. As if I would talk to her like that!

Today we toured Bergen. Our guide (Neill) is very knowledgeable about the town and kept up a running commentary as we drove around. I may not retain it all but it was very interesting at the time. Although Bergen has been a center for trade for 1000 years (and was once the capital of Norway), there have been many fires in the city so there are very few buildings older than 200 years, except perhaps for a fortress that was constructed of stone beginning in the 13th century. But what it lacks in ancient it makes up for in charming. Unfortunately, all the cruise lines feel the same way so the best areas to wander were crowded with tourists. I believe Neill said there were four ships here today, spewing at least 10,000 people onto the streets. After we rode around on the bus, most everyone took off to the shopping areas, myself included. We persevered and were able to enhance the Bergen economy even in the face of a tourist flood.

A charming street in Bergen

A charming street in Bergen

Beautiful view of Bergen hillside from the other side of the fjord.

Beautiful view of Bergen hillside from the other side of the fjord.

I had a cheeseburger for dinner. This was probably not my wisest decision but it sounded like a good idea at the time. It was OK, but I was surrounded by women who chose the salmon and it was “the best they’d ever had”. I know better, it won’t happen again.

After dinner we rode the Floibanen Funicular 1000 feet up the side of a mountain for a wonderful view of Bergen. The sun was going down but it was light enough to see everything (and get great pictures) and watch the city’s lights twinkle on. It was really pretty. The only downside is that Rosemary and I were singing “Faniculi Fanicula” before dinner and now I have this dreadful Mario Lanza earworm. And now, so do you.

Carol and Carol overlooking Bergen

Carol and Carol overlooking Bergen

Posted by Follow Carol 13:48 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day 11. Bergen by Train

enjoying a day off

semi-overcast 70 °F

The day today was spent on a train from Oslo to Bergen. Since the train stops at small towns along the way, it takes six hours. For some, travel days represent time away from the purpose of the trip. There are times when I would agree, but not today. First of all, train travel (at least in Europe) is wonderful with smooth-riding modern trains. But also, a train across the Norway countryside is like watching a steady stream of postcards go by. Many try to take pictures from the train but I am never happy with the outcome. Somehow a tree or a power pole magically pops up at precisely the same time I snap the pic. And then there is always the glare from the window glass, or the reflection of me, like an apparition. Of course I had to be like everyone else and hop up with camera in hand at the first sign of a lake or a glacier, but I did not hold out hope for a prize winning photo. Most of the time I organized and labeled the ones I have already taken and I finished a couple of crosswords. It was a lovely day.
Train ride to Bergen

Train ride to Bergen

Bergen is stereotypically Scandinavian charming. Our hotel is one block from the waterfront and all that that implies: bars, venders, cruise ships, etc. Most everyone hit the streets as soon as we arrived to wander around and get a feel for the place. Our only fear is that bad weather threatens, but as Key says, “weather is weather” so we’ll just deal with it if we have to.
The charming town of Bergen

The charming town of Bergen

The hotel is fine – not great but it is clean and well located. We’re here for three nights which gives the hotel and the city points right off the top. Moving around is work. Three nights means a bit of settling in and an opportunity to do laundry. And you thought world travel was glamorous.

Posted by Follow Carol 13:19 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day 10. A Full Day of Oslo

on a beautiful, sunny Sunday

sunny 73 °F

I see that in my exuberance over the ice bar I forgot about going to the Oslo City Hall yesterday to talk about the Nobel Peace prize while standing in the room where the ceremony takes place. Only the Peace prize is awarded in Oslo, the rest in Stockholm. I thought it was pretty cool to be standing in that very room. But what was equally cool was finding out that one of the ladies has a brother who won the Nobel in Physics. Wow. I am only two degrees of separation from a Nobel laureate.

Today we bused all over Oslo. As we rode, Wyonnie talked. We drove through beautiful neighborhoods, pass several embassies and a huge marina with over 100,000 boats docked. They have to take them all out of the water when things start to ice over and put them all back in in the spring. Speaking of embassies, the American Embassy is across the street from the Royal Palace. After Sept. 11th, Norway wasn’t too thrilled with the juxtaposition so although it has taken some time, our new embassy building is farther away from the royals and will be available for occupancy soon.

The first stop was a Viking Ship museum. On permanent exhibit are three ships built over 1200 years ago. Two of them are in great shape. There are also some other artifacts that they found. This stop made me realize how little I know about Vikings. They are kinda interesting (in a plunder and pillage sort of way), so I guess I should read more.

Next stop was a living history museum where we wandered around old churches and homes in village settings which depicted life in Norway as far back as 1500. Since today was a beautiful 70-degree day, this was a very nice way to pass some time and learn more about the culture.

We drove up to see the giant Holmenkollen Ski Jump which is used for major ski competitions in the winter and zip lining during the summer months. I have never been the least bit tempted to ski (I hate cold) so this was just remotely interesting.

There were a few more stops before the last one, but they were not particularly noteworthy. (One of them was a “Labor Museum”. We didn’t have a guide and all the exhibits were in Norwegian. I went through that museum even faster than I ordinarily go through museums!)

The last stop was Vigeland Park which is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland. There are over 200 sculptures on over 80 acres of beautifully maintained grounds. It was very popular today as the weather was beautiful and lots of people and their dogs and children were enjoying a fine Sunday.

I have to say that Oslo is a lovely city. Every open space is decorated with flower gardens and there is lots of public art. This is one of those towns that would be easy to live in. . . . .for about four months out of the year. It’s clean, it’s pretty and the people are soooo nice here, but I cannot imagine spending December through February in the snow with only a few hours of light each day. Uh-uh.

Posted by Follow Carol 13:31 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day 9: Oslo

Americans and Ice Bars

semi-overcast 70 °F

I started an interesting tradition a few days ago. (Can it be a tradition if it’s only happened twice?). Since Marus (Iceland driver) had nothing to say, Rosemary had us list questions we would ask of him in order to trigger some “guide-talk” from him. I wrote, “What do Icelanders think of America?” This morphed into a second question, “What do Icelanders think of Americans?”, (which is a completely different thing.) On our last day in Iceland, on one of our stops, I picked up a local newsletter in which there was an article written by an American living in Iceland and this was some of the advice he had to offer to American tourists: 1) Stop talking about how things are in your country. You’re not there. If you don’t want to see different things, stay home. 2) Stop talking about the cold weather. You came to a country with “Ice” in its name. What did you expect? 3) Stop talking about your dietary restrictions. No one cares. 4) Stop talking so loudly.
There were others but I don’t remember them. Anyway, I read them out loud in the bus while Marus drove. He chuckled but as I recall, he never contributed to the conversation.

So, the “tradition” continued into Copenhagen when Rosemary asked Ursula what the Danes think. Again, the answer was about Americans rather than America. Ursula finds Americans to be cheerful, friendly, attentive and interested in what the guide has to say. But it surprises her how little Americans know about the rest of the world. She said that she gets some crazy questions like, “Is Denmark the capital of Sweden?” A few of us discussed the possible reasons why Americans (well, at least American travelers) are uninformed compared to other travelers. I think our best guess is that the USA is so wealthy and powerful that any step we take has the potential to impact other countries so everyone follows our goings on. On the other hand, we are so wealthy and powerful that the antics of other countries is not usually material to us. Or, we’re so arrogant that we can’t take the time learn about other countries/cultures. A?, B?, All of the above?

We arrived in Oslo this afternoon and took a very quick tour around the town in the bus before we were let off at our hotel. Our guide is “Wyonnie” and she is from Minnesota. If I understand correctly, she became infatuated with some Norwegian dude and decided to move here. I don’t think that worked out to her advantage, but she's still here.

Before dinner many of us found our way to the 21st floor for cocktails overlooking Oslo. It was beautiful. We were there for two or three glasses of wine and then made our way to the restaurant – “The Happy Pig”. Of course they specialized in pork, but I wasn’t quite that hungry so I had a Caesar salad (with plenty of bacon in it) Then on to the “Magic Ice Bar”.

OK – THIS is something to write home about. It was wonderful – an honest to goodness ice bar – with ice benches, ice cocktails tables, ice sculptures, ice goblets. . . .it was wonderful!!! You don’t ever have to do this a second time, but you DO have to do it a first time!! We were given ultra insulating capes and gloves and sent into the den of ice. It was basically a huge freezer with an ice bar and a caped bar tender or bar maid and about 10-15 other people in there with you. There weren’t that many so we were able to take over the joint. We had so much fun! This is goinig to be one of the highlights of the trip. (This and being stuck on the glacier. . .there’s an ice theme going on here.)
Oslo Ice Bar

Oslo Ice Bar

Posted by Follow Carol 13:16 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

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