Oslo, Gudvangen, Bergen
ummer of 2017 has flown by and I have the flight mileage to show for it. An incredible trip to Greece followed by some domestic travel in the states, it sure has been an amazing summer and the experiences thus far have been unforgettable.
Usually when the summer months end, I plan for travel that involves sand and sun, however for this adventure my youngest son joins me as we head north to Norway in search of Viking culture and history.
We begin our trip boarding a flight from JFK on Icelandair. The flight itself had nice legroom, complementary water, however no meal included on an overnight flight. During the one (1) hour stopover in Iceland, we grabbed a quick smoothie, and it cost $10USD for one – which was an introduction to the difference in exchange rates. I was shocked there was a place more expensive than NYC.
After the short flight to Oslo, we met a very cool, young woman traveling alone for work and pleasure. She gave us great ideas and places to see.
Once settled in our hotel (Hotel Thon Astoria – which was basic but clean and included breakfast), we headed out into town in search for authentic Norwegian cuisine. As we walked past a McDonalds then a Fridays, we questioned whether we were in Norway or still Long Island. Finally off the main road, we found a quant pub – SO EXCITED! I got salmon and my son Justin ordered a seafood soup, both were delicious and I wish I could remember the name, however the jetlag has caught up to me.
We strolled back along the cobblestone streets and stopped for a drink outside at The Scotsman. It was interesting to see groups of older men gathering with their friends to enjoy a few beers. The logistics of eating and drinking here are quite different then what I am used to. You seat yourself and go the bar to order. There are blankets and wraps on the chairs in case you get cold and tipping is only 10% at restaurants, but not required taxi or hotel services.
Traveling around Oslo is pretty easy to do using public transportation. We purchased a 24-hour museum pass, which was a great deal that allowed you into all the museums (there are at least 30) and included bus transportation. Finding authentic food was still a challenge and we found ourselves eating pizza for lunch and salmon/moose burgers for dinner.
The next day we head through the Fjords. We started out early boarding a train to Myrdal. Siting in an assigned car and seats, the ride was smooth and fast, but I do suggest bringing food. We sat across from a lovely couple from Cain Australia; it was their first trip without kids! It was wonderful to see them excited and anxious to work as a team; gathering their gear as they got off in Myrdal to rent bikes they were cycling down the winding roads of the mountain onto the next train stop - what an adventure!
We changed trains and boarded an older train with a genuine old school train whistle, heading to Flam. The views were breathtaking and consisted of countless waterfalls accompanied by hills that grew taller and taller - they call these landforms the Fjords. About half way to Flam, everyone raced to one side of the train…then the train stops. In front of us is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen.
The conductor blows his whistle, "all aboard!" and away we go.
There was about a 2-hour wait for the boat ride to Gudvangen, so we walked around the port and stumbled across an awesome tavern called Flamsbrygga that looked like it was straight out of a medieval fantasy novel. Starving and anxious to order, we attempted some unpronounceable fish (being adventurous) and it ended up being salmon.
The boat ride through the Fjords was beautiful. Arriving in Gudvangen, most of the travelers moved onto the next port stop, however we stayed. We checked into our hotel, which was cozy with Viking décor. It had views of 3 waterfalls and a moss/grass roof. Dinner in the hall was a choice of: Deer Stew, chicken or salmon.
Then next morning couldn't have come quick enough for my son and was the highlight of this trip. The Viking Valley Experience was a trip back in time. The Jarl (chieftain) was most accommodating, taking us on a personal tour of his village, he handed us off to a new guide where we experienced archery, ax throwing, legends and history. The staff is dedicated to authenticity and I wouldn't be surprised to see my son living there next summer.
Waiting for the next leg of the trip we browsed through the shoppes and saw our friendly Aussies again and heard more about their successful bike ride down the fjords!
Next was a bus ride to Voss. Driving through the twists and turns of the mountains, we came across a view I have no words for. Double rainbows and waterfalls, rushing rivers, small towns emerging here and there, lone houses and farms high on the hills.
The final destination in Norway was Bergen. We stayed at the Comfort Hotel Holberg, which was simple and clean with breakfast; FYI there is no air conditioners in hotels here. An early morning hike up to Floyen we saw views of the famous city center, Hanseatic Wharf, the fish market, and tons of tourists. We had an early dinner on the wharf and did a very small tasting of king crab, shrimp, scallops and yes...salmon with a few pieces of lettuce ($87.00) and I was still hungry!
Overall, Norway is one of the most beautiful countries. The impressive landforms and environmentally conscientious practices of the country attribute to Norway’s beauty. I was taken back by how expensive everything was and I’ve definitely had my fill of salmon. I would suggest staying in the countryside as cities are touristy.
On to the next [experience]! Bring on Switzerland!
Let's [experience] Life.