So I left Aalborg via train, heading up to Hirtshals where the ferry to Norway left from. I arrived with plenty of time to spare so I grabbed a bite to eat. It was only later that I remembered that the class I had booked on the ferry “Catch Me If You Can” was a restaurant, not just a deck. Oh well, I still managed to fit in a nice dessert of chocolate cake and ice cream while on board. And more importantly, my table was at the very front of the ship…. Not that there was anything to see besides ocean. I read my book for the entire journey.
Arriving in Kristiansand I was most pleased to see some decent hills. Northern Germany and Denmark were nice enough to look at, but really was very flat and much farmed. Norway, however, has the mountainous and forested scenery that I was hoping for in Scandinavia.
By the time I arrived in Kristiansand, it was fairly late so I couldn’t really see much. It’s apparently the No.1 resort destination in Norway. At least, that’s what all the signs in the town tell me. I grabbed some dinner and then headed
down to the waterfront for some photos. The ferry dock would not have provided much, but fortunately my hotel was closer to the marina and there were nicer views down there. Kristiansand is a very nice place. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I was expecting it to be a bit bland.
The next morning I didn’t have to catch a train until 11:30 so I took it easy before heading down to the station. While I had a window seat, the wall between the windows dominated my view. Fortunately the train was nearly empty (at least, Komfort Class was) so I was able to just switch to the seat behind me for a much better viewing experience. I managed to get a couple of good photos (as you can see) but they don’t really do justice to the beautiful landscape. Tunnels and trees tended to get in the way every time I tried to grab a photo.
My arrival in Stavanger was a good deal earlier than in Kristiansand so I was able to see a bit more around town. It looks to be a very nice town as well - not what I would
have expected from the “Oil capital of Norway”. The harbour is a bit industrial-looking, but the town itself is very pleasant. My hotel was near to a small lake in the middle of town and on a cobbled street. Very nice. I was also pleased to catch some Simpsons and Seinfeld on TV as well. While I have a lot of Simpsons with me on my external hard drive, I haven’t actually bothered to watch any as yet.
The next day it was an early start for the ferry to Bergen at 9:30. The journey was sure to be very scenic so I made sure to get a good seat on the right-hand side of the boat. Sure enough, the views were stunning. To my surprise, we actually had to change boats half way there. My new seat was by the window on the right, but unfortunately the windows were not as clean so no photos from that leg.
We arrived in Bergen on time and once I managed to find a taxi (not sure why it was so hard then as they were everywhere over the next couple of days) and was off to the hotel. After
surveying the very limited facilities in the room, I was off for a look around town. The main things I was to see were the Hakonshallen (King Hakon’s Hall) and the Rosenkrantztzarnet (Rosenkrantz Tower), dating from the middle ages (well, the tower was 1560). There were also the results of a competition to showcase Norwegian wood (as far as I could work out) with some odd, but interesting creations. Highlight of the afternoon, for me at least, was finally finding a shop with a good deal of Viking souvenirs (I had only been able to find bits and pieces so far). I could nearly have bought the whole shop, except my suitcase wouldn’t have had room. I was severely tempted by the Viking helm and shields, but at the moment they are unable to ship things internationally (something about a new system). It’s probably just as well, as both the items and the shipping would have cost a lot.
Returning to my hotel, I discovered a problem. I could overlook the TV with only 3 Norwegian channels (despite the guy at reception insisting there were 5). I wasn’t overly worried about there being no internet or it not working
(again despite being assured otherwise by reception). I wasn’t even that bothered by the room not being particularly nice or overly clean. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to stay in a room where the blind and curtain are unable to block out the sun. It is still fairly light at midnight here and I expect the sun rises at about 3am. The reception seemed a bit surprised to find out this was a problem and they were not particularly helpful when trying to solve it. I therefore set out and found a room at another (albeit more expensive) hotel. The new hotel was great so I’m glad I changed, even if I had to pay for 2 rooms on that first night.
In the morning I got up early and headed down to the harbour for my fjord sight-seeing cruise. The ship headed north to a fjord that I can’t remember the name of but it was very spectacular. The fjord was only 50m across at one point, with sheer cliffs going down to the water. There were also waterfalls and forests. Very nice scenery and just what I was expecting from Scandinavia. One other interesting thing
is the number of bridges - reminded me of my old Sim-City days for some reason. The most spectacular bridge was quite a piece of work - half suspension bridge, half floating. That’s right - floating! There are about a dozen concrete floating pillars that support one side of the bridge. Quite a piece of engineering.
When the ship got back to town I had a late lunch and then went back to the hotel to indulge in one of my favourite holiday pastimes - watching Discovery channel. If I had pay TV back home, I’m sure I’d get sick of it fairly quickly. But as I only watch it very occasionally, I’ve found it to be quite fun. In Norway, like in Holland, they show mostly American and British shows with subtitles for the handful of locals that don’t speak English.
On Friday I only had one thing I wanted to do. Originally I was planning to catch the cable car up to the top of Mount Ulriken, walk across to Mount Floyen and catch the funicular back down to Bergen. Unfortunately, the cable car to Mount Ulriken is not running presently as they are upgrading it
or something. Instead, I decided to catch the funicular up to Mount Floyen and check out the walking trails up there.
The funicular is a type of train-thing that goes up steep slopes. The maximum gradient was 26 degrees, which doesn’t sound like a lot unless you are actually going up or down it. The trip is fairly short though - about 7 minutes I think they said. Once up the top there are awesome views of Bergen. After taking a few photos, I grabbed a copy of the map of the walking trails and headed off.
What seemed like an extensive series of trails that would keep me occupied for most of the day, turned out to be some quite short walks. The scenery was very nice, but when I reached the picnic spot on the far side in less than half an hour, I was a bit disappointed. However, looming over the picnic spot is a plateau/mountain called Vidden. The map mentioned that there were trails up there but said it was 5-6 hours of walking. I decided to check it out and see.
The walk up was predictably difficult, but not unduly so. The
bigger issue was on the plateau itself where the trail is barely a goat-track and in some places seems to be missing entirely. But there was enough to get by, even if hands are required when clambering over some of the rocks. Soon I was up the top, looking down on Mount Floyen and the rest of Bergen. It was awesome up there. I could even see some snow at about that level on some other nearby mountains. It wasn’t that cold though - I was in a t-shirt still.
I headed down and by the time I got back to Mount Floyen (a couple of hours short of the 5-6 hours promised by the map) I was quite tired and very hungry. I had lunch at the restaurant/kiosk up there and then opted for taking the funicular back down.
Thus ended my time in Bergen. This morning I caught the train to Oslo, upon which I am writing up this blog. I expect I will publish it when I get to Oslo. The scenery on the train has been amazing - really high up in the mountains that are covered in snow. Some of the lakes up
the top are still iced over. Definitely a train journey worth doing!
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