Man wants to know, and when he ceases to do so, he is no longer a man.
Norway: Fjords, Trolls and Vikings. Having worked with clients in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, Norway still was a blank spot on my Scandinavian experience map. When my daughter Anna announced that she wants to start her summer break by discovering Norway, I offered to be her travel buddy.
We united in Frankfurt/Germany – Anna flew in from New York and myself from Shanghai – and after a couple days of assimilation, we started our journey in Oslo. The airport lies way outside, the bus ride quite long, but the weather picture perfect – against all bad projections.
We stayed downtown at the Radisson hotel next to the royal palace. Quite nice, but very basic comfort compared with luxury hotels in Asia within a similar price range. Exploring the city by walking down Karl Johans Gate (“Gate” stands for “Street” – similar to the German “Gasse”), we ended up at the harbor and enjoyed great seafood at the main pier. All buildings along the pier are new and funky, incl. the new Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, obviously also a result of Norway’s newly gained wealth by North Sea oil exploitation. Next day we went on the mandatory Fjord tour around Oslo on a nice retro ship, and later visited the Viking Museum. Looking at the restored Viking ships and the artefacts there, both the courage and skills of Viking’s nautical exploits were astounding. Navigating the oceans 1000 years ago all the way to Africa and North America? This somehow put an extended perspective onto the historic expeditions by Fridtjof Nansen, Roald Amundsen and Thor Heyerdahl – with the Fram and KonTiki Museum also nearby.
Oslo Downtown, City Hall and Harbor
Next day, we took on the 7+ hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen across the Highlands. The journey started out along pleasant sunny Fjords and over time climbing higher and higher. Ultimately, we were crossing the Hardangervidda plateau at 1,237 meters above sea level. It was a frozen glacier landscape – in May! – and on “top” we had a stop at Finse in a snow storm. There even is a Hotel 1222 next to the small train station. After a couple hours through tunnels and protective barrages against avalanches, the train went downward and we arrived in Bergen at 22:30 PM – with the sun still providing daylight.
For true railway fans with time at their hand, I recommend the 7+ hour video of the reverse journey Bergen to Oslo. As the view is from the train’s cockpit, it is a nice variation to our side-view perspective.
In Bergen, we again stayed at the Radisson across the harbor. Great location, but again very modest rooms and comfort. It shows, that especially Bergen is a transit place for cruise ships. Anyway, we enjoyed the fish market and – overcoming my fear of heights – we took the cable car up to the Ulriken Mountain (be prepared for about 2 hours waiting time), the view from the top was second to none, especially as the clouds around the summit cleared and the city of Bergen looked like a scale model one could grasp with the hands.
Downtown Bergen is quite “touristy”, but has a kept a lot of its character. Parks and Café’s are well kept and tidy, coffee is great wherever you order one (no Starbucks needed / still ~$6), and food overall is really excellent, incl. JAMA, a Japanese Fusion-Sushi restaurant. Next day, we took a major Fjord tour from Bergen to Mostraumen. Over the time of a couple ours the landscape changed from more coastal hills to steep granite walls, shooting right out of the water up to heights of 600+ meters. Despite the ship being full of tourists, the overall mood becomes more serene over time and finally, one can really meditate within the incredible beauty around.
Fjord at Mostraumen
Our trip back to Germany – via Copenhagen – brought us back into the “real world”: the Bergen airport is very basic (naturally incl. the now mandatory luxury brand stores), and the adjacent heliport indicated the prominence of the oil industry. One thing I didn’t buy, was a Helly Hansen jacket – the weather just was too good all the time. May be next time.
Visit demilked.com for more beautiful Norwegian Landscape Images.