We finally, finally got to take our trip to Norway! It sometimes felt like it would never arrive, since we bought our flights around Christmas time and slowly planned our trip over the next 8 months. We took Iceland Air to Oslo with a stop in Reykjavik. Our hotel in Oslo was a converted section of the rail station, and tried very hard to be hip. I loved the location and our view of the square below. The first day, we wandered around the Opera House, the National Gallery, and strolled down Karl Johan’s Gate. We had supper outside in the square and people-watched for a while before going to bed early. I was exhausted from not being able to sleep on the flight, but of course due to the jet lag, I still woke up at 2 a.m. awake and hungry for dinner, Denver time. That happened the first 2 nights but after that I was able to sleep through the night well.
Our second day in Oslo, we took one of those hop on/hop off double decker sightseeing buses to a bunch of the other sights around the city. First was the sculpture gardens, which was beautiful, then to the outdoor folk museum to see historic buildings like a stave church and farm houses. We walked to the nearby viking ship museum, which was very crowded, but for good reason. The ships and artifacts were very interesting to see in person. We made one last stop at the Akershus fortress, which was a big complex at the top of a hill overlooking a harbor where large cruise ships came in. That evening, since it was a Friday, our friends Harald and Ina came into the city after work from where they live in Hamar, and we went out for pizza. It was great to catch up and just chat for a few hours. Afterwards, they had to catch a short flight to Bergen, where they would meet us after we took the extra long scenic route to get there the next day.
Day 3, we did Norway in a Nutshell, which is a series of unguided scenic train, bus and ferry routes that you pick depending on where you want to go and can go at your own pace. It took about 13 hours to get from Oslo to Bergen, which is very long if you do it all in one day (which we and most other tourists did), but it also has the most stunning scenery and is well worth it. This was the first time I’ve ever felt moved to tears by seeing something so beautiful. The mountains were so tall and steep, full of cliffs, greenery, and waterfalls–I never knew there were so many waterfalls in Norway, or in any one place in the world. And all along there would be farms halfway up the mountains, with no visible roads to show how they got there. Below I have a short video clip of the Kjossfossen waterfall, which they stopped the train to let us out to view. There was a woman to the right of the waterfall singing in a red dress, pretending to be a “huldra” from Norse mythology who lures men into the mountain to their doom. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I really liked it!
It wasn’t until we got to the ferry that I discovered my favorite thing about Norway: the fjords! I have never seen such large bodies of water be so placid, and then to be lined with mountains, cliffs and waterfalls… it was almost too much for me to take in. The scale was always tricking my eyes, which I would realize anytime I saw a tiny kayaker along the shoreline and realized how large the fjord really was. I wish I could have spent more time on the water. I would love to come back and kayak it myself.
After a frightening, but amazingly beautiful, bus ride up Stalheimskleiva and a train from Voss, we finally arrived at Bergen. Ina and Harald greeted us at the train station and took us to Harald’s mother’s house, where we stayed for 4 nights. His late father built the house himself (see the beautiful staircase in the photo below). We would find we really loved the Scandinavian design and decor in our friends’ parents’ homes in Bergen, as well as other places in Norway, which led to a big, inspired IKEA trip when we got home. Ina and Harald were great tour guides who drove us everywhere (thank goodness, because Bergen roads were confusing!) We got to attend a Norwegian church service, eat whale at the fish market, tour medieval buildings, hear Star Wars and Indiana Jones music played on the gigantic organ in the Bergen cathedral, take a funicular and cable car to the top of two different mountains, and see a small country church that was moved from North Dakota to Norway. When the typical rainy Bergen weather finally came, we had a board games and movie day. (Trollhunter is hilarious and even better when you watch it with Norwegians!)
On Monday, Ina and Harald were back to work in Hamar, and we traveled to Alesund, a charming art nouveau-styled fishing town. We had amazing fish and chips, and relaxed in our hotel room, which overlooked the harbor. The next day we took a day trip to see the Geirangerfjord, which is considered to be the most scenic of all the fjords in Norway, with its large waterfalls.
The day after we saw Geiranger, we flew back to Oslo, and spent one last day seeing the the palace and the park that surrounds it. It was probably my favorite of any city park I’ve ever been to, because of all the shade and the greenery, and the smell of all the different varieties of plants and trees they had planted there.
Before we left for Norway, a lot of people would say to me that this is a “once in a lifetime” trip, but I really hope that’s not true. I want to go back and see more of the country, more of my friends, and spend more time on the fjords.