The Norway Express

June 2010, by Tom

We had one final overseas trip left in us before we left London bound for Europe in Smurfy, our VW van. With much anticipation we were finally on our way to Gatwick flying to Norway for a week!

Our trip to Norway was centered around Norway's majestic mountainous beauty with a touch of city to boot. It all started in Oslo, with an early afternoon arrival, a quick train ride to the center and a short walk to our P-Hotel, we had switched on tourist mode and with Lonely Planet in hand, we hit the streets.

First point of call - to satisfy our grumbly tum tums with some exquisite prawns on bread on the waterfront. We ordered a 1kg bucket and it did the job. So simple, yet so tasty. After lunch, we wandered around the town a little, up to the castle which passed by an out door big screen TV with a large crowd cheering Spain along in the Football world cup.

The following morning we had an early high speed train booked to take us west to the center of Norway where the Fjords and walking tracks are aplenty, to a town called Flam. The train journey went without a hitch. The scenery was breath taking and stopped for a quick look at Finse where there was a glacier on display. We had to change trains at Myrdal, where we jumped onto the Flamsbana railway for an hour. This railway is the steepest railway line on normal gauge in the world. The scenery was everything it was everything it was hyped up to be. Massive waterfalls running through valleys, sheer cliffs, narrow tunnels and lush greenery.

From Flam, we took a short bus to Aurland where we were picked up in a mini bus run by the Osterbo lodge we were staying at. It was getting late, so we took our all inclusive dinner and then went to sleep, looking forward to the following day of hiking through the wilderness. Unfortunately the following morning, the weather had packed in. The temperature had dropped to near freezing and it was raining. Bugger. Another bugger was that the buses in the area had not started running (we were a weekend too early for the summer peak season). So we were stuck. We amused ourselves for a bit with all the stuffed animals around the place before coming up with a plan B - to leave the lodge and head back to Aurland for the following two nights, where the buses were still running and there was more to see and do.

With our new plan in motion, we took a lift back to Aurland by the Osterbo lodge and found ourselves a quaint hotel on the waterfront in Aurland. Aurland is a very pretty town, with only one restaurant (where we ate both nights - a very good cook, might I add), a couple of hotels and not much else, it was very quiet and relaxing.

With the afternoon free, we took a bus out of town to visit the amazing Borgund Stave Church. An ancient structure made completely of wood. The sides are then covered in a tar type substance to keep the wood in tact. It was really very impressive (hence the number of photos). That evening we ventured to Laedel where we went for a two hour hike through the hills before wandering through the town and admiring the wooden structures on the waterfront. We also had a beer each. A £7 beer. To say that alcohol is expensive in Norway is an understatement - it was extortionate!

The following day brought with it sunshine and blue skies so the big hike was on! We took a bus back to the Osterbo lodge where the hike began and after a quick coffee, took off into the unknown. The walk followed the Aurlandsfjorden river valley along to Vassbygdi and was a spectacular way to spend 6 hours. The photos try to do the scenery justice.

Our last day in Aurland before our ferry to Bergen departed, we decided that our legs weren't as sore as they could be and hiked 7km up the winding road to a newly constructed look-out over the Aurland valley's Fjord. The lookout was pretty scary, with glass sides and jutting way out over the edge with nothing apparent supporting it, but the view was again, spectacular.

Our time in the Fjords was nearly at an end, with our final leg an 8 hour ferry ride from Aurland through the Fjords all the way to Bergen. A relatively sleepy journey interrupted only by a exuberant Paul informing us of New Zealand scoring and ultimately drawing with Italy in the Football World Cup.

We reached Bergen late and decided to call it a night and retire to our Citybox hotel. The weather this time of year in Norway is very peculiar in that it never really got dark. We would go to bed at midnight - where it was still light outside - and woke at 4am to see the sun had already risen (or perhaps had never set). We never saw it black outside. Very unnerving and it played havoc with our body clocks. It felt wrong to go to bed when it was still light outside, but we had to force ourselves to or be forever tired. I can imagine the opposite in the winter months to be almost unbearable.

With two nights in Bergen, we wandered around the quaint little town, sampling the delights at the fantastic fish market (including, yes, a tiny sampling of Whale meat, which I can tell you is a delicious cross between a tasty beef fillet and a salmon steak), visited a couple of museums and walked up the hill for a panoramic view. The problem with Bergen, and something the locals complain about, is that it has numerous cruise ships coming and going. These cruise ships dump thousands of people onto the small town at a time, so if you are unlucky to visit the town on one of these days, it will be a little tourist overload. There were three when we visited. Not quite the quiet tranquility of the Fjords.

For dinner, we visited a local restaurant and I had elk (moose) stew. It was delicious. Gini had salmon which was also a treat.

Our second day in Bergen we ventured out of town by bus to visit a small island Lysøen which Ole Bulls, a famous Norwegian Violinist had made his residence with an incredibly ornate mansion. He worked closely with an architect to construct his mansion using numerous worldly ideas. His concert room made up of a bit of a hodge podge of various european countries interior design. The overall effect was very unique and quite amazing.

Our Norwegian experience had now come to an end. Overall an incredible trip, and it definitely makes us want to return to Scandinavia to sample more of the magical outdoors, the amazing seafood, unique architecture and friendly people.

Whole bucket o' prawnies!

Whole bucket o' prawnies!

Borgund Stave Church

Borgund Stave Church

Tasty seafood from the markets

Tasty seafood from the markets