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Published: July 11th 2008
We woke up very early to leave Mariestad so we could arrive in Oslo at a time that would maximize our time in the city. After several transfers, we arrived in Oslo around 1pm. We dumped our stuff in the hostel, which was decent enough, and then we headed out to see stuff. Typical for our trip, the Domkirke (cathedral) was completely underscaffolding so we were un-able to go inside. We headed down the walking street Karl Johans Gate, past the Parliament, National Theatre and the University to The Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is set in a nice park and is guarded at all times. The guards are a little more casual in Norway than elsewhere. Their idea of the "changing of the guard" ceremony was to walk up to each other, say something (probably look at all these stupid tourists watching us walk, ok now it's your turn), and then switch positions. It was amazingly casual, but I guess everyone is so wealthy in Norway than no one would bother trying to harm the king for financial gain. We wandered past the Canadian Embassy (which has become a bit of a tradition in each city) en route to the National Gallery and the National Museum. Both were free, which was awesome of course. We went into the History Museum first. It was interesting, but disjointed to say the least. They have an exhibit on the Arctic, which made sense, as well as exhibits on Norwegian money and the Viking, again very logical. They also have exhibits on funerary practices in Ancient Rome, and Egyptian Mummies. What?!?!? They didn't fit in at all! Oh well, the Viking exhibit made up for it. The Vikings made most things out of wood, and the carvings on each object were very intricate and artistic. It is amazing that their style of art is not popular in the world. Th National Gallery was not particularly interesting, except for two rooms. One was a room of Norwegian landscape paintings featuring JC Dahl in particular. Much of the artwork captured the lighting impeccably and reminded both Kif and Peter of Skagen. The other interesting room was devoted to Edvard Munch. His most famous painting, The Scream, was there. It is a very interesting work and is much better up close because photos really don't do it justice.
The next day, we wandered over to the Åkerhus Slot and Festning, which was the old fort and palace. They were located right on the waterfront, but the views weren't that good because there was an obscenely large cruise ship in the way. We caught the little ferry out to the Bygdoy Penninsula (we are probably butchering that name, but neither of us remember how to spell it properly). The Penninsula is home to many large houses as well as several museums. We wandered past the Norske Folk Museum and took some photos through the fence (there were no holes in the fence like in Århus so we couldn't sneak in this time)! What we had come to see was Vikingshiphuset. There are three Viking ships in there that were used as burial sites for two men and one woman. They were buried with the possesions that they would need in the next life. Did we mention that these ships were 1200 years old! The ships were unearthed during the early 20th century, and re-constructed using all of the original wood. They were very popular and there were tourists everywhere, but the museum was very interesting. We took the ferry past the Fram Museum, which houses the boat that Roald Amundsen used to get to the South Pole, and back to the harbour. We went past the Rådhus, which looked like a giant brick fortress, and then wandered around town for a bit more.
The next day, we caught the train to Myrdal, which is in central Norway. The train line is absolutely spectaular. It goes through small villages and mountains as well as glacial lakes and snowy fields to a height of 1220 metres in the town of Finse. It then descends slightly to Myrdal from where we hopped on the Flåmsbana train to Flåm. This part of the trip is part of the popular but ridiculously expensive Norway in a nutshell tour that tourists who have very little time do. They take the train to Myrdal, Flåmsbana to Flåm, ferry up Näroyfjorden to Gundvagen, bus to Voss and then rail to Bergen. This takes them a whole day, but should be done in 4 or 5 days. The train ride down to Flåm was very scenic. We went past several waterfalls, including one that dropped 99 metres before we arrived in the villafe of Flåm which is located at the head of Aurlandsfjorden. The town is extremely picturesque because there are many waterfalls there and it is surrounded by mountains on three sides and the fjord on the other. Kif and Peter were quite hot and tired after there train journey...so they decided that jumping into a fjord would be the smartest thing to do. It was a little chilly, brisk would be a good way of describing the 8 degree water, but we jumped in several times all the same (jumped out as quick the same). We checked into the hostel there, made dinner, which happened to consist of macaroni pasta with whale meat, and we met up with Andy (a fellow vancouverite), who we had met in Oslo. We went with his roomies Raj and Simon out to Äger Bryggeri, which is a microbrewery in town. It was built to resemble a Viking mead wall and has dragons carvings off the room, a circular fire pit in the middle and firs everywhere. The atmosphere was fantastic but the beer was expensive at $13 a half litre so it was a short night. We left the bar when it closed, and it was still very bright out, which was our first real experience this trip with the night brightness of the nordic countries.
The second day was probably one of the most incredible days of the trip. Andy Kif and Peter took a bus to Aurlan, 8 km from Flåm to try and get up to Stegestein, which is a bridge-like viewpoint. It is a 6 km hike up the hill, and we couldn't find a cheap way up there so we started walking. Jokingly, we stuck out our thumbs to hitch-hike...and a Dutch couple in a camper stopped and picked us up! They took us up to the viewpoint, which was spectacular, and then they offered to take us to the next one that we wanted to see 5km further up the rode. We managed to miss is, but asked where the were going. They were off to Läedal, and we could get a bus back to Flåm from there so we got comfortable. The rode we were on went up and over the mountains. It was absolutely spectacular! There were mountain peaks surrounding us and snow and ice everywhere. The landscape was very barren and looked a lot like the Arctic because there were no trees but only little grasses. Along the road, there was a bit of a shuttle system because everyone would take turns stopping to take photos. We arrived in Läerdal, from where Andy decided to take the ferry the next day and join us on the trip to the Borgund Stavekirke. The church was built around 1150, and is made entriely of work. It was absolutely spectacular, and one of the things that we had been looking forward to in Norway. We were there for about an hour, and the we caught a bus back to Flåm. We ended the days with a couple of beers, sitting on the pier watching the suns light dip on the mountains around the fjord.
We went for a hike the next day past the old village of Flåm that was located further up the valley. We continued on past a large canyon and on to a massive waterfall. We then headed back to town because we had to catch the boat that would take us from Flåm to Bergen. Andy and Simon were alson on the boat, so it was a very social journey. The boat left around 330pm, and wasn't scheduled to arrive in Bergen until 9pm. We hope that gives the readers some idea of just how long the fjord is. Aurlandsfjorden, the one we were on, is a short offshoot of Sonjefjorden. The fjord is 264 km long and the longest one in Norway. Travelling along it was fantastic. The narrow walls of the fjords rising out of the water were incredible, as were the snow-capped mountains and the little villages along the way. The ferry ride was longer and more expensive that the bus would have been, but it was worth every penny.
We arrived in Bergen around 930pm. The town was bathed in orange light from the setting sun and was very picturesque. The local footy team SK Brann had one that night, so everyone was out around the harbour celebrating. We walked around after checking into the hostel, and we caught a gorgeous sunset...at 1045pm!
The next day, we wandered around the town. The area that is of value to tourists is not very large, so Kif and Peter circumnavigated it twice! The houses are very picturesque, as is Bryggen. Bryggen is a serious of wooden building that were used by merchants in the Hanseatic League. They were built in 1702, and are on the UNESCO world heritage list. They were really cool to walk around, and very picturesque because they of there colourful exterior, and the fact that half of the were leaning. We headed off to the Festing and saw Håkanshall and the Rosenkrantztärnet, as well as Mariakirken, which is the olf Hanseatic church. It also happens to be the oldest building in town as it was built sometime during the 14th century. We went to the Hanseatisk Museum as well, and saw how the merchants used to live during the 17th century. They actually slept sitting up! Bergen gets 275 days of rain a year, and we managed to get 2 1/2 days of sunshine!
We took the train back to Oslo the next day; it was delayed unfortunatley but we made it in time for our train. We arrived at 630 pm and our train didn't leave until 1030. We decided to go for a bit of a wander past a couple of shops and looking for some free internet. We didn't find much, but we arrived back at the station at 810pm and decided to look at the board to see if the train was up. We couldn't find a 1030pm train to Stockholm, but there was an 830pm one. We checked our tickets, and sure enough they said 830pm on them. We booked it to get our luggage out of the lockers, but it wouldn't open so we had to run and fine security to open it up. We then ran with our luggage for the platform, only to find no train on it because we had run for the wrong platform. We went back and checked the board, found the right platform and then ran for the train only....................................to catch it with 7 minutes to spare. Thus, we were off to Sweden once more.
What we learned in Norway:
-Everything is expensive!!!!!
-It is worth every penny
-Dutch campervan tourists rule
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