Norway!!! You take my breath away.
14.09.2015 - 21.09.2015 8 °C
September 13, 2015
Our flight from Vancouver to London was the best we have ever had. We used all of of "points" and flew business class on British airways. The design was a little odd, two seats facing each other and when the bed was made up the person on the inside was almost trapped inside. But laying down flat and actually sleeping on a flight was indescribable. I don't think I could do another overnight flight in economy again, but certainly not prepared to pay the cost of upgrading with cash either.
We connected to Bergen and then took the airport shuttle downtown andmade our way on foot to find our hotel, the Basic Bergen. It was very basic, looked like it was aimed to young people, but the price and location were good and the room was clean and beds firm. It was now 10PM so we went straight to sleep and happy to wake at 6 AM
We walked a lot of the downtown area today and along the picturesque waterfront where wooden buildings are 200 years old. I knew it would be expensive in Norway but still had a bit of sticker shock today. A small coffee was $7 and 1/2 of a wrap was $8. You need to pay $2 every time you want to use the public bathroom, so I won't be drinking too much coffee anyhow. ( the bathroom cost ended up just being in Bergen).
We went to a grocery store to pick up a few items for lunch and that will make a big difference.
I had an early afternoon back in the room and then the rain started to come down quite heavily so Doug was not too much after me.
Observations: everyone is incredibly good looking. We have found that almost everyone speaks English and is very friendly and helpful. There are a lot of young people here. Young fathers pushing baby carriages on their own. Most people are wearing shades of black and greys with an occasional orange jacket once in a while. All are very well dressed, even those who are casual have the high end activewear on. The city is very clean and modern with a mix of cobblestone streets and old wooden buildings too. The homes are mostly painted bright cranberry, golden yellow or white. Occasionally you will see a blue or black house. Most designs are the same, two or three story wood siding homes, many with tile roofs.
We took the bus back out to the airport to pick up our rental car and the lovely helpful young man had us on our way in a little Toyota Yaris in no time.
We bought a 'Tom Tom' GPS at home that included Europe maps and it worked like a charm ( once I got used to it).
As we left the city we pass by many pastoral scenes and the fjords along the way. The day turned out to be beautiful and mostly sunny which was a bonus. As we got further north we could see the trees were starting to turn the fall colours. Most of the trees are deciduous, not many coniferous around other than the occasional pine.
After a trip to the grocery store we found a spot near the water to have our picnic lunch which was just perfect.
Many of the roads are connected by ferries to get across the fjords, and today we took our first one. It is a bit smaller than the Denman island ferry, and makes the 15 minute trip back and forth constantly into the night. The cost for us and the car was around $20 one way. We are in the area of Sognefjorden.
There are so many tunnels through the mountains and we did one that was the longest in the world, 25 kilometres. I slept through most of it thankfully as I don't particularly like tunnels.
We arrived in the small picturesque town of Hafslo and found our little cabin overlooking the water and town below. It is so beautiful here I really had no idea what to expect and we are pleasantly surprised.
Our day started with a drive to Solvern, a beautiful little town on the water. The road was so narrow the car barely fit between the houses. Another ferry took us across to Ornes. There is only one other car with two young people and two others on bicycle. It is off season now, and it is also raining again which perhaps deterred some from making the trip. This small village has a Unesco heritage church perched high on the hill. This church has been rebuilt four times since 1129, a hundred years between each rebuilding. This is the oldest of the stave churches in Norway. The woodwork is incredible, and most of the inside of the church still dates back to the 1100s. Scaffolding covers the exterior of the church, which was a shame for us as we could not get a clear sense of its beauty, but good that they have the money to keep it restored.
As we left I saw a herd of reindeer in the nearby farm being herded away somewhere. We also found a shelf with fresh raspberries for sale so we bought two containers. Yum.
Instead of taking the ferry back we took the coastal secondary road on this side of the fjord. Even with our small car it felt at times the road was narrower than we were. Thankfully there was not much traffic and the scenery on this route was amazing. The rain seemed to make everything even more brilliant green and yellow. The water is a beautiful blue green and at times reflected the landscape like a mirror.
There a roadside stands here and there and we found one where we bought rhubarb strawberry jam and bag of salad greens.
I love some of the older wooden buildings and the way they were constructed. We left the pastoral water side road and, unbeknownst to us, headed up into the mountains. This road made the road to Tofino look like a straight a way. Hairpin corners on narrow roads heading up the mountains with the fjords and valleys below. Thankfully, once again, it is not too busy so we really enjoyed the drive.
The landscape changed dramatically to low brush and rock and eventually snow and glaciers. There were no trees, just low lying shrubs and ground cover is bright shades of gold yellows and reds. This area is popular for cross country skiing a bit later in the season. We were thrilled to have taken this road instead of the main one.
We make our way back down to where the scenery is once again the beautiful colours of fall and farmland on the sloping hills. There are huge mountains everywhere and more waterfalls than I have ever seen. Huge ones, some miles high and others also very wide.
Another stop in the town of Lom to do more grocery shopping and on to find our cabin in the town of Skjak. It is great to have full kitchens instead of eating in restaurants all the time.
Another rainy day unfortunately. Some parts of the day had just a bit of drizzle which wasn't too bad. We took the old road to Stryn, another narrow winding mountain route past some incredible colours. The glacial lakes are ice blue and the trees and ground cover are brilliant shades of golds and reds again, but much further along in the bright fall colours. Mountain peaks and glaciers are surrounding us. Thankfully once again there are not too many cars on this road, as one has to find a wide spot and either back up or wait for the other to pass.
An hour into the trip and the fog settled around us, we could barely see a foot in front of the car. It was quite eerie. Years ago you would be advised never to travel this route alone, only in groups as there were 'vagrants' in the mountains who would ambush you as you travelled through. I could see cars parked on the side of the road once in a while but no one in them. They had been murdered and then eaten I am sure of it. Every horror movie I could think of was entering my mind.
I am sure that the scenery was spectacular, we could hear and sort or see magnificent waterfalls and rivers, but we could not see any of it unfortunately.
After our white knuckle drive down the mountain we got back onto a larger road and into the town of Stryn where we went to our first Norwegian restaurant for lunch. It really wasn't picnic weather. This beautiful small town was gearing up for a huge Octoberfest celebration on the weekend and most workers were dressed in German lederhosen and dress. We spoke to a few of the local people and got some information about sights to see in the area. Everyone is so friendly and they all seem so happy and relaxed all the time.
Fifteen minutes down the road we came to another small town Loen, and headed to the fjord there to do a bit of walking and sightseeing. Even with the rain and clouds you can see how beautiful it is here. Many of the out buildings and the older camping cabins all have the grass/sod roofs which are so picturesque.
Another hair raising drive though the thick fog on hairpin corner mountain roads to find our home for the night in Geiranger. We have a gorgeous little cabin with a breathtaking view of the fjord and mountains. I could stay here for a few days, but we are off again tomorrow. There is so much to see!
We are so impressed how neat and tidy and orderly everything is. The rest stops, parks and towns are all so well maintained. The homes cars and people are all immaculate. Alot of oil money here, but the country spreads the wealth around so that everyone benefits.
Even now with prices being down the government had the good sense to put a lot away when times were good, so that everyone is still doing well.
A wonderful lazy morning with checkout not being until noon. We just relaxed and enjoyed our view for the morning .
A trip into the small town of Gieranger where we decided to grab an Americano and waffle. It was actually a pancake and Doug has his with fresh cream and strawberry jam and I had mine with a brown sweet Norwegian cheese. Across the alley was a chocolatier whom our hotel receptionist said we had to buy a brownie from. I always do as I am told, so we bought a small one and asked him to cut it in half to take with us. We had it later on the ferry and it was hands down the best brownie I have ever had.
He was very informative and told us of some areas we should visit and then said we should start soon as the cruise ship has just come in. We looked out and saw that a huge ship was tendering the passengers into this tiny town so off we went.
Climbing once again up the many narrow switchbacks to the panoramic viewpoint at the top we were not disappointed. We hiked to the higher viewpoint and a man came over and asked if we were norwiegen when he found we were Canadian he told us a lot about the area and that a movie was just released called "the wave" and it was filmed here. It is about a huge tsunami that comes down the channel and devistates the town. We told him about our tsunami in Port Alberni in 1964 and he said they know it will happen here, hopefully not today.
He and his brother and sister and family were off to a cousins 50th birthday party nearby. His brother had been in Kelowna a couple years ago and drove to Vancouver from there he was so surprised how straight and wide the roads were in BC. I can see that after diving here, as a matter of fact he was surprised we were comfortable driving here at all. The maximum speed is 80, everyone seems to be good respectful drivers and very patient. I have not seen any indication at any road rage.
He gave us a typical birthday cake piece that was thin layers of cake with cinnamon butter filing. It was good but I am now on a sugar high.
Off to Aselund stopping at various points along the way and another ferry enroute.
When we checked into our hotel I discover I have booked a room in a youth hostel. That is why it was inexpensive. Well they didn't seem to mind and we didn't either, we had a private room. After a rest we walked into town for a delicious Indian meal at a Resteraunt in the centre. On the way we passed a movie theatre with a big line up, " the wave" was playing. I would have gone but it would have all been in norwiegen without subtitles. We will rent it on Netflix at home.
The movie theatre and the movie poster:
Breakfast was included with our room and was wonderful . Doug even had salmon and caviar. After checking out and putting our luggage in the car we walked the town for a few hours. Today we actually saw blue sky and I took my fleece jacket off. Bonus. Doug had walked a lot of the waterfront yesterday while I was resting, so he went into the modern art museum while I wandered around and took pictures. It is Sunday today and looks like a ghost town most stores are closed today.
We met up at the museum which was very small, but had a 'time machine' exibit. It transported us back to 1904 when the town of Allesand was completely burned to the ground. 10,000 people were homeless overnight. The country of Norway as well as Sweden and Germany helped out with aid and fundraising to help rebuild, and fortunately there was a huge work shortage for all building tradespeople so they came in droves to rebuild the city. A lot of family's got much nicer homes in the end. It was decided that city centres would no longer have wooden houses and instead they were all made of brick. A few well known architects helped with the rebuilding and so it became known as the prettiest town in Norway, with art nouveau buildings.
A stop for a light lunch and we were on our way in the early afternoon driving south now, heading back towards Bergen. The route took us on three ferries and past many small towns and villages. A lot of farms are at the base of the mountain and have steep slopes that are dotted with sheep and cows.
Tonight we sleep in the town of Forde.
Breakfast was included in the room again. Doug had salmon and pickled herring for breakfast. Norwegian breakfasts are quite large, especially is you eat meat and seafood.
Our last day in Norway involved a lot of driving. We needed to get to Bergen but wanted to detour to a few places on the way. Only one ferry involved however.
After picking up a few things at a grocery store we lucked out and found this beautiful rest stop by the ocean. Norway has a lot of picnic areas along the roads, but this one was exactly what we were looking for today.
Two churches were located in the town of Vik, almost across the road from each other. One, a Stave church, similar to the one under construction we saw a few days ago. Tourist season is pretty much done as of mid September, so this was closed and we could not see the inside. We didn't really mind as the last one we could see inside and the outside was under construction, so this balanced it out. It looks like it is covered in creosote, to preserve it I suppose.
This church would date back to around the 10 th century. It reminded me of something from China, but also I could see a resemblance to a ship.
The next church was a Hove, or brick church for the 12 th century. There are not too many like this one in Norway. Both were very interesting and we were glad we made the detour.
The sun was shining and it was quite warm, around 14 degrees. We could see all the mountain tops today and the scenery, once again, was spectacular.
Now in Bergen we will return our rental car and fly to Iceland tomorrow. Norway was so much more than we imagined and we are so glad we came.
Now to Reykjavik