A Taste of Norway

10 07 2011

This blog has been a little quiet lately, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been moving! In fact, I’ve been busy having a great time in Norway with my family – moving, relaxing, exploring. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to.

Oslo
We arrived by plane from Amsterdam, and the first thing that hit me was how different the two cities were! Amsterdam has a rustic feel to it – cobble stoned streets, quiet little side alleys. It was vintage. Oslo? Physically it felt a lot more open – a wide main street thronging with activity. Street performers like this drummer here filled the city with life.

A drummer performing on the streets of Oslo - electrifying!

Vigeland Park was of course a must see. It was full of sculptures that each told a different story. Men sitting back to back. Children wrestling. Women huddling together. If I remember correctly, the sculptures attempt to express us humans’ relation to the world. Oh, and all these happy Oslo-ians picnicking and chatting away on the vast lawns!

Vigeland Park

This hot tourist attraction we complemented very nicely with something more obscure – the island of Høvedoya in the Oslofjord. There were little kids setting up their easels, painting watercolours admist monastery ruins. The trails around the island, which is a nature reserve, made for a good leisurely hike. I even found a geocache near the guns!

Monastery ruins dating from 1147. The little kids painting just adds to the romanticism of the scene...

Gotcha!

And who can forget Edward Munch? His expressionist paintings left me puzzled, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

'The Kiss': What I liked wasn't so much the sketch but the description that came with it.

“She pulled him towards her – kissed him on the neck and head – on the eyes – She huddled up to him threw her naked white body over him- squeezed him in a vicelike grip She had never stayed so log with him  – he begged her not to go – he had never been so aroused – he wanted to be able to embrace her again feel her kiss again…” E. Munch

'The Seducer': Just who is seducing who here anyway? My hunch is the man, but perhaps it's the lady?

Food. Ah yes, food. The Akerbrygge, an area by the sea side bustling with diners, was like a bigger and better version of SoHo, offering wonderful views of the seaside. We tried out the Lofoten Restaurant, ranked #1 on TripAdvisor, and weren’t disappointed!

The Akerbyrgge in the evening

Bergen
“The Gateway to the Fjords” – it’s a good description. The tagline fits this city, the second biggest in Norway. Despite being the second biggest city in the country, Bergen felt homey. There was a certain comfort that it brought, a certain intimacy. What’s more, we added to this by finding ourselves a cosy apartment on a quiet, cobble stoned side street. In here we spent mornings having good Norwegian bread while enjoying the warm sunlight, and also cooked a few scrumptious dinners from the sea food bought at the famous Fish Market.

Our cosy apartment for the week - Alvehuset City

One of the dinners we cooked while in Bergen. Loved it!

What did we get up to in Bergen? A lot, really. I went running on most mornings up the hill and along the popular Fjellveien (The Mountain Road), a flat trail breathtakingly overlooking Bergen and its coastline. I had also hoped to run up Stoltzekleiven – an 800-step stair climb of 315.5m elevation, home to the world’s steepest running race, and see how close (or far) I could get to the record of 8 minutes and 30 seconds – but unfortunately, found it closed until September.

Surrounded by its famous ‘Seven Mountains’, how could we not hike in Bergen? We took the Fløybannen up to Mount Fløyen, then slowly hiked over to Mount Ulriken, stopping countless of times for photos and snacks. The plateau towards Ulriken seemed to stretch on forever but it was a delight (for me anyway, my family were absolutely exhausted) to hop around and between the rocks while taking in the views.

A quick stop to take in the views

We did the famous Vidden hike from Fløyen to Ulriken

The beautiful plateau

Annnnd finally, the top of Ulriken, 643m up!

Edvard Grieg’s (the composer) home in Troldhaugen was definitely a highlight of our stay in Bergen. We enjoyed the daily lunch time piano recital where the pianist performed a few of Grieg’s famous pieces (including ‘The Petit Trolls’, which I was delighted to hear because I had played it before!). Walking along the trails by his villa, down to the waterside, onto the rocks, out on the pier, imagining Grieg there, composing – it was all infinitely enjoyable.

A little pier by Edward Grieg's villa

I personally didn’t find much to do in Bergen itself, so we made two outings. One was a ferry to the Hardangerfjord – the ‘Queen Fjord’. We were extremely lucky to have such beautiful weather. A background of blue skies coupled with glaciers on mountaintops, immaculately reflected on the smooth surface of the fjord; small bucolic villages with their fruit farms growing on the hills; the warm sunlight and the crisp fjord air…amazing .

We stopped at a small village called Kinsarvik and did a small hike to the first of four waterfalls,200m above sea level (the highest one is nestled 900m above sea level).

The first of four waterfalls in Kinsarvik

Another trip we made was to the Fjell Festning, or Fortress, a German military fortress built in 1942-5. The view from its vantage point was very different to those of the fjords – instead of lush green hillsides, we saw barren mountain tops stretching out to the coast.

A nice and different view from the vantage point at the Fjell Festning (Fortress).

Flåm
From Bergen we made our way to Flåm by express boat along the Sognefjord – the ‘King Fjord’. The weather wasn’t so great this time, but all the better. We got to see the fjord in a different light – glazed by a small drizzle, coated with low hanging clouds.

The Sognefjord on a cloudy day.

Reflections everywhere - even the window of our ferry!

There wasn’t much time to spend in Flåm so I made sure to make the best use of every single minute. As soon as we arrived, we grabbed a quick lunch of Norwegian meatballs, then made our way to the beach for our guided kayak trip. We kayaked out along the fjord to a place called Fronneset, bumping along the waves every time a cruise boat sped past, and docked on a small beach to hike up the ‘Old King’s Path’ to a waterfall – a path of fascinating historical importance. On the way back, our cheerful guide Eleanor called out a few goats from the hill side and fed them with some bread. Mmm…

Kayaking along the fjord and experiencing it up close

I decided that I wouldn’t leave Flåm without walking along the famous Naeroyfjord (the most narrow arm of the Sognefjord), and so we made a day trip out. We adapted the trip described here to better suit our preferences, making a quick 20 minute bus ride to Gudvangen, then walking 5km along a trail outside a tunnel to Bakka, one of the oldest villages in the area with only 20 inhabitants. From there, we hopped onto a small wooden boat rowed by a man I had phoned earlier, which took us across the narrow fjord to Bleiklindi.

On the row boat across the fjord from Bakka to Bleiklindi, ready to start our walk.

Here we started our 6km walk on the Royal Post Road  (Den Kongelige Postveg/Kongevegen) towards Styvvi, walking beside the Naeroyfjord the whole way. It’s one thing to enjoy the fjord’s majestic views while on an express ferry, and quite another to take it all in slowly while walking just meters away from the water. You feel connected to the elements. The plump and fertile earth sits snugly under your feet as you journey on dry land, yet at the same time the water is just to the side, and you can almost smell wisps of the fjord’s deep waters. It really is quite a paradise unlike any other.

Mooooo! We came across quite a few cows and sheeps along the Royal Post Road.

On the morning we were due to leave on the Flåm Railway, I managed to squeeze in about 100 minutes of quality biking. I’ve seen Norway’s natural wonders on feet, on ferries, on buses and on trains, and now I was going to top it all off by seeing it on a mountain bike! I made my way up from the Flam Railway Station (sea level) in the direction Myrdal (over 800m above sea level), then down again and towards Aurland with the fjord on my left.

Norway. Your beauty has simply left me quite amazed.

 

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4 responses

10 07 2011
Anna

WOW!!!
Love all the details, and it’s sooo beautiful there! Amazing. And looks like you got some fantastic workouts while at it!
Haha and of course you’d (imagine that italicised) want to try an 800-step, 300m elevation staircase!

11 07 2011
marykmhui

Yep, Norway’s been treating me very well! I miss it already!

10 07 2011
Valeska

Mary I am so so happy you have been properly to Norway even though I am sad you didn’t visit me.. you have been to a lot of the most interesting places in my opinion in addition to some I would never have thought about ^^ so glad you enjoyed it!

11 07 2011
marykmhui

I know, it’s a shame we couldn’t make it up to Alesund:(! Next time! I definitely want to go back to Norway and do a few of those big hikes. Oh and guess what – we bought three tubes of caviar only to have to chuck it away at the airport because we’d forgotten to check it in with the luggage. D’oh!

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