On the Coast of Norway

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July 13th 2018
Published: July 27th 2018
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All in all we spent five nights in Norway, travelling from one side of the country to the other and then back again further north. Our first stop was in Oslo, and then we had part of a morning's respite north of the Telemark area where we had a much too short visit to the Vemork Museum, learning about heavy water and the history of the plant that was blown up in WWII. This is an amazing museum; our young guide, Simon, was an exceptional teacher. Most of our group wanted to spend more time here as those who knew about this plant were fascinated by the information offered, and those of us who hadn't known about heavy water wanted to learn more. But on this tour there was never enough time; we always had to keep to a bus schedule, why, I don't know as nothing much seemed scheduled anyway except for riding in the bus.

The next city we visited, this time for two nights (joy!), was Bergen. Right on the coast of the North Sea, Bergen's weather was windy, overcast and chilly, only in the low 50s at best. We were told we were lucky, that this was good weather as usually it is pouring rain here. I wore my wool hat and several layers; living in Maine has taught me how to dress for inclement weather so I was prepared. For some unknown but happy reason, this time our hotel was located right in the city center; we could walk to and from our hotel as often as we needed or chose to do. Expensive optional tours were offered for our second day in Bergen, but Bill and I had decided earlier that we'd do everything we wanted on our own, on our own time schedule, at a much reduced cost than what Cosmos was charging. In Bergen that worked out beautifully. The first evening we meandered through the city looking again for dinner; this time locals directed us to a charming and off-beat restaurant called Dwell. Located on the second floor of a building a block away from the main intersection, we could look out and watch people passing through the square; this was entertaining and also educational. I love to people watch! We can learn so much simply through careful observation, and it is usually fun. The food Dwell prepared for us was so delicious that we went there our second night too, so if you find yourself wandering through Bergen and are hungry for good food, check it out. Plus their hot chocolate (this is for you, John) is the very best I've tasted anywhere! It was so wonderful I looked forward to another mug all through our second day's exploring.

After another mediocre breakfast Bill and I went to the tourist information building and bought tickets for a tour to visit the native composer Edvard Grieg's home, which included a lunchtime piano concert. Such an opportunity could not be missed! A bus picked us up right by the town harbor; the young man leading our tour began offering information about Grieg and his life as soon as everyone was seated. (This was refreshing, unexpected after our most recent daily travels, and highly welcome.) Grieg's home, Troldhaugen, has been a museum for decades; located about twenty minutes from the city, it was built abutting a lakefront, still relatively remote and very beautiful. Apparently Grieg had supersensitive hearing and could not compose his music if there were any distracting sounds, even those from the kitchen maids, so he had a separate small building built right on the lake where he could work undisturbed. After trekking up a trail through dark woods, we were escorted through his house (complete with another guide's commentary), and afterwards, following a native cat who seemed to be leading us along, climbed down steep rock steps to see where he composed his works. We saw where he and his wife were buried, on a hill above the lake. And then, just before 1PM, everyone paraded into the concert hall to hear one of Norway's greatest pianists play seven of Grieg's works; some pieces were familiar, some were not. Each week a different musician plays at these concerts, and we were lucky enough to be there during the week 75 year old Einar Steen-Nokleberg was performing. It was a magnificent concert, albeit too short.

Back in Bergen Bill and I decided we also wanted to take the funicular to the top of Mt. Floyen. It was a quick ride up a quite steep hill; I'd guess the angle of ascent was at least 35 degrees or even more. On top we met a few of our fellow travellers on our Cosmos tour; we compared notes on what each of us had done that day so far, but felt very happy that we had gone on our own and been able to hear the concert at Troldhaugen which had not been included in their optional tour. Besides seeing wonderful views of Bergen from the top of Mt. Floyen, there are walking and biking trails that wind through the woods, some that head down to the city if one prefers to go back that way. We enjoyed following a few of these trails; one led us to a lovely lake, but it was so chilly we didn't stop there very long. There are also playgrounds for children, camping areas, and a troll garden, which of course we walked through. It was a very pleasant, green, and mostly peaceful afternoon. We took the funicular back down, enjoyed our usual afternoon "tea" with good wine and dark chocolate in our hotel room, and then went to dinner again at Dwell where we were greeted as if we were dear, old friends. Even with grey, chilly weather, I enjoyed Bergen thoroughly. Neither of us wanted to leave, or pack, or get back on the bus early the next morning.


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