🇳🇴 Oslo, Bergen & Norway in a Nutshell

The first thing that struck us about Oslo, Norway as we emerged, blinking, from the giant behemoth of a cruise ship was the tunnels.  We barely saw the light of day as we drove across the city – it seemed interlinked with a multitude of cavernous holes, like an oversized ants’ nest.

 

One thing that we have enjoyed about our Airbnb accomodations is that it has allowed us to self cater and we get to experience more of a city than if we were in a sterile hotel.   Our home in Oslo was no exception – carefully decorated with lots of funky pieces that we wanted to take home – we found it a relaxing space for our stay in the Norwegian capital.

After settling in we were off to see something that we had booked back in October 2017 – Sam Smith in concert!  One thing we noticed already was that this was an expensive part of the world.  Food, transport – everything – I (Rob) spotted a small beer in the supermarket that was $20 Australian (for one!) – a short (10 minute) bus ride into town was $7 one way.  No one ever checked tickets though (and none of the locals ever tapped on or off).

So we joined the mammoth crowds as we waited in the city for our prepurchased shuttle bus ($25 each) to take us to Telenor Arena where the performance would happen.  Unlike in Australia, there were food trucks outside – we grabbed a small lot of chips (almost $10) as a special treat.   The concert was amazing – his voice was phenomenal (although we ended up watching the big screen as the position of our seats made it hard to see him).

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NORWAY IN A NUTSHELL

The next day we were off again.  One of the most popular things to do in Norway is to visit the fjords – and the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ trip is the most popular.  However, we researched it and realised that you don’t have to book it with the tour company – it was possible to book the whole experience yourself and save a lot of money.

 

BERGEN

The big fjords are on the other side of Norway, so we boarded a morning train to Bergen (a 6 and a half hour train ride).    There was plenty of jaw dropping scenery to occupy us on our trip.  We thought that our snow scars had healed after driving through a blizzard, but they were reopened as we once again reentered the ‘white world’ – snow was back in abundance and we glimpsed many lakes still frozen over.  I commented to Kim that it was like we had gone back a few weeks in time as Spring had yet to bring its thawing presence here.

After such a long journey we quickly checked in to our Airbnb and were keen to stretch our legs.  We actually booked 2 Airbnbs – we kept our Oslo one (so our car could be parked and most of our luggage) and had this one as a one night stopover – we could then carry a small backpack and travel much lighter.

Bergen is a historic shipping port located on the west side of Norway.    The first thing we noticed upon disembarking were the gigantic station windows offering a glimpse of the scenery beyond.  The town is also famous for its painted historic houses – but due to clever research from Kim – we discovered that there are a whole pile of hidden alleyways behind the houses – these were actually more interesting than the facades – a behind the scenes historical glimpse.

We then walked around the fortress at the entrance to the bay and decided that we would brave the funicular going up the mountain.

Again – Kim has researched that there was a pleasant walk down from the top – this meant that we got two different perspectives of the mountain – and saved a lot of money!

Now I am never a fan of heights – so I have to admit I was nervous hopping in – especially as you are in a glass cabin – facing downwards – being pulled up by a metal rope!

But the trip was smooth and over quickly and then … the view!   Definitely a highlight for us-  the view was jaw dropping – and to think the goats we spotted enjoy this every day!  We later learned that the black goat was called Obama!

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After soaking it up – we started the walk down – again more views and a troll park for kids (trolls are big here) that echoed the faces in the forest we saw earlier in our trip.

 

We also saw some trees that had been yarn bombed!  This was something that was done at home at our school as well.

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The next morning we set out to do the fjords!  Kim even contemplated taking her own personal gold yacht – but we had to watch our budget so we went the way we had planned.  So we were back on a train – we got off at Voss to catch a bus to Gudvangen to connect with our fjord boat.  Even the bus trip had things to see – a massive waterfall just to the side of the road certainly grabbed our attention.  (And I had researched which side we needed to sit on all legs to get the best view – if you are going to be paying a lot of money you don’t want the crap seats!)

In Gudvangen we had a short wait so we ate our packed meal, wandered through the expensive tourist shops and admired the view.

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Then our ride came-  it was a multi tiered vessel that had ramps on the outside that you could wander along to admire the view.  We were particularly impressed by the fact that it was electric- so it made barely a sound gliding along.  We befriended a Canadian couple as we observed the view and it was nice to compare travel stories.   The view was spectacular – although (and I will lower my voice here) – Milford Sound in New Zealand was better in terms of the view and atmosphere.   We still enjoyed the pleasant glide through nature though.  The captain even moved the ship over to some of the more spectacular waterfalls.  The ship went up one leg of the fjord and then down the other, arriving at another touristy town of Flam.   We had about 2 hours to kill here before our train ride so we went for a walk to stretch our legs.

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Apart from the cruise, the other highlight was the railway.  The Flam railway is famous as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world – and was our number one highlight of the Norway in a Nutshell.  We enjoyed the train museum in Flam prior to the trip to give us some background into the painstaking work that was done to carve the mountain tunnels out by hand for the 20 km long trip.  It took them one month to go one metre!

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The train itself was very vintage – old style seats and pull down windows really gave it that ‘olde world’ feel.  The noise of the train on the tracks was atmospheric as well.   It wasn’t a steep ascent, but it was spectacular.  I had researched which side (right) to be on and it was definitely worth it as we pulled the window down and enjoyed the thrill of the tunnels with their old wooden beams and the jaw dropping chasms with water, snow and ice all jumbled together.  The train stops briefly at Kjosfossen waterfall – a special platform allows you to get up fairly close to the roaring, gushing monster.

Then all too soon we were at Myrdal for the 4 and a half hour train trip back to Oslo – we ended up getting home about 11pm.

 

Oslo

We had two days left in Oslo – so it was time to explore the city itself.  We went past their Opera House (impressive- but I think Sydney’s still wins), saw their fortress and some more trolls for good measure.

We were impressed by the local graffiti artists as we made our way to the harbour.  The area near Oslo harbour, Aker Brygge, is a hip new area with trendy eateries.   Statues seemed to be everywhere – adding character to the city.  We strolled through a cemetery resplendent in flowers and found another covered market (similar to the one in Spain).  We also visited the vintage area, and had an amazing coffee at a shop that also had a barista school!  We chatted with one of the shop owner’s – we had noticed plenty of 18 / 19 year olds wearing red jumpsuits.  We discovered that it is a city tradition – they wear them for their final term of school (everywhere – and can’t wash them!) – a lovely way to highlight the end of their schooling and so others can encourage them for their final exams.

It was interesting observing the difference in the churches here – a lot more austere and all of the pews were covered as well.

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Our final part of Norway to explore was Vigeland park.  Gustav Vigeland (who died in 1943) – constructed more than 200 sculptures in this park.  This was free for the public to wander through.  Some were in bronze and others in stone.  The scale and detail were mind blowing.   Each human was unique – stature, weight, expression and they were all presented in interesting tableaux.  Some were intertwined in trees, others in fountains, and the culmination was a massive sculpture of intertwined figures all contorted and made from a single block of stone.

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An impressive way to conclude our visit to our first Scandinavian country.  Next – the drive to Sweden!!  Hopefully it will be a calm drive!

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2 comments

  1. We’re never going to make it to Norway but have to agree that Milford Sound is stunning. Loved the views from the cable car. So many wonderful sights and experiences. Have missed them so much.

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