Written by dangaroo on 09 Nov, 2012
If you are thinking of heading to Finnmark in the north of Norway then this might serve as a good lesson to you! I'd made good progress in the day, having woken up in Rovanniemi in Finland, I had travelled up to Karasjok just over…Read More
If you are thinking of heading to Finnmark in the north of Norway then this might serve as a good lesson to you! I'd made good progress in the day, having woken up in Rovanniemi in Finland, I had travelled up to Karasjok just over the Norwegian border and as my target was to head to Nordkapp and it was only about 3pm, I decided to push on out of the town. The only problem was, there wasn't a lot of traffic. I began walking along the road in a northerly direction, which looking back was a little foolish. After 16km of walking, including a lengthy uphill stretch which defied my trouser's tendency to gravitate downwards due to being on the baggy side, I decided to put down my bag on the roadside and eat what was left of some food I'd been carrying with me since Tallinn, Estonia. Hardly enough to feed a mouse really.It was dark and it would be hard to see me as I was free of reflective clothing, I could hear in the distance an engine motoring along this road to the most northern tip of Europe. I'm not a particularly religious person but I was certainly praying that the car would stop, so when he did it, it seemed all the more worthwhile! The car in question was an old Talbot Horizon that looked on its last legs. I was a little taken aback to see an Indian man in the car, he couldn't be further from his home country if he tried but he said he was working as a teacher in an unbelievably small place called Kjollefjord that was on a piece of land opposite the one I wanted to be on. Despite being connected by boat, I didn't fancy going up there as there was no bank, in fact it seemed there was nothing at all. He was in a rush and driving like a lunatic, we nearly veered off several corners and it didn't help that his car was crammed with stuff which he was moving from another location. Still, when hitchhiking, you take what you can and I was just happy to be moving.There was a pizza in the back of the car and I couldn't help noticing it, so I was over the moon when he offered me a slice, I bit in and found it to be the oddest concoction of spice and anchovies, I really regretted it! By the time we got to Lakselv it must have been about 9.30pm. It was the place where our roads forked and due to the realisation of just how isolated it was, I asked whether I could continue to Kjollefjord with him but it was a further 234km and he was hoping to get their quickly with continued reckless driving. As he put it "I'm going to die tonight.", little did I know, that so might I! Lakselv had a small airport and whilst it was generally dead there were some boy racer type characters playing music in a car park, the first of their kind I'd seen in Scandinavia let alone above the Arctic circle. It was really cold and I was definitely under-dressed for the occasion, I walked through the small town past the last house and then started to hitchhike but there wasn't a soul in sight. I was travelling without a tent and my sleeping bag was also inadequate, only going to 5 degrees when it was clearly closer to -15. Feeling rather weary and thinking it extremely unlikely that a car would be on the roads at this time, I decided to walk into the edges of a nearby forest. This was in fact the Stabbursdalen National Park but in the dark with a very basic torch, I mooched around looking for the best place to put a sleeping bag. Inspired by a Ray Mears programme and perhaps in a bit of a stupor, I started digging a hole in the snow in the hope of sleeping under the snow, a trick that I'd seen on television before, in fact beavers are particularly fond of this method of house building, it works by making a barrier between the cold air and yourself. Of course, I didn't have the technique of a beaver and mine caved in, leaving me freezing cold and desperate for sleep. I was all fingers and thumbs and struggled to grip my sleeping bag, in a last ditch effort to stay alive, I decided to abandon the forest and go back to last house I'd seen, about a 2km walk. I turned up on the doorstep at about midnight and asked if I could stay, not a Sami couple but Norwegian answered. Luckily for me, they spoke English, the woman seemed concerned and was about to welcome me in but the man asked if they could speak for a second and closed the door. Their answer was in fact no but I managed to convince them to let me sleep in their garden shed, which whilst not as warm as a house was a lot warmer than the forest floor. Close
Written by Wasatch on 10 Aug, 2012
Norway is small country of about 5,000,000 people. There are no big cities. Olso, the biggest has about 500,000 people. Bergen, with 250,000 is the second largest. Bergen is on the west coast--- well, properly, Bergen is…Read More
Norway is small country of about 5,000,000 people. There are no big cities. Olso, the biggest has about 500,000 people. Bergen, with 250,000 is the second largest. Bergen is on the west coast--- well, properly, Bergen is located well inland on a fjord on the west coast-- and is the southern end of the Hurtigruten route. We took the Bergen to Bergen round trip, so we were in Bergen for our first two days and for much of the last day of our trip. We had very different impressions of Bergen on those two visits. We found Bergen a bit of let down on the first two days compared to other places we have been in Europe. All it all, it seemed a rather nondescript place, about as boring to see as Bern, Switzerland. We were much more favorably impressed on our return when our standard of comparison had became Norway instead of European. In most of Europe, architecture, both civil and ecclesiastical, is impressive. However, architecture is not Norway's strong suite, but after spending 11 days looking at Norwegian architecture that's even less inspiring than Bergen, Bergen looked impressive.There is a reason why Norway's architecture fails to impress-- WWII. WWII started in September, 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland. In January, 1940, the Germans invaded Norway (with the world's first paratroop drop at the Olso airport). The Norwegians were completely surprised by the Nazi invasion as the Norwegians expected Hitler to honor Norway's declaration of neutrality as did the Kaiser in WWI-- bad bet by Norway. The Nazis quickly conquered Norway, who entire army escaped to England on one ship. For the next four years, the Germans plundered, robbed, raped, and killed the Norwegians on prodigious scale. Then the Soviet Red Army invaded Norway and quickly defeated the German troops, driving them out of Norway. However, as a last gift to the people of Norway, Hitler ordered the retreating Nazi forces to burn down Norway, which was accomplished with great success, especially along the west coast, the route of the Hurtigruten. So, most of Norway was rebuilt in the post war decade. When it comes to architecture, this was not good news for two reasons. First, after the devastation of the war, Norway was an economic basket case, and great Architecture requires great wealth. Second, the immediate post war period was not one of Architecture's proudest periods. It was stark modernism-- square steel and glass boxes, boring boring boring to look at, and that-- boring boring boring-- is what Norway'- Architecture is, at least on the west coast. There are some exceptions-- central Alesund, a couple blocks in Tromso, and a block here and there in Trondhiem, and a fair bit of Bergen-- everything north, east , and west of the Torget within walking distance of the Torget and half a kilometer south of the Torget which is home to the fish market. The overwhelming impression of Bergen is modestly attractive buildings and a neat and orderly place. It even has a grid street system. The original city grew up around the harbor called Vagan. The part of town along the Vagan called Bryggen was built by the Germanic Hansiadic League in the 14th Century. It is very old, and built mostly of close packed wood buildings, most of which have burned down several times over the last 600 years, but each time supposedly rebuilt in the their original style. So maybe Bryggen-- a UN Historical Sight, is an authentic medieval town and maybe its like Disneyland. In either case, it is far and away Bergen's most interesting feature for the tourist-- quaint wooden buildings-- undergoing the latest several restorations-- narrow passages, restaurants and souvenir stores. We found the neighborhood just uphill from Bryggen was also pleasantly attractive. It looked to be from the 16th - 18th Century. Again, a residential neighborhood of wooden houses reminiscent of the old houses in New England. In fact, it so much looked like New England that we are puzzled-- how did Norwegian houses come to populate New England?On our first full day in Bergen, we started out by taking the Floyen funicular ($8 per person) up almost to the top of the mountain, 1,000 ft above sea level, that rises steeply behind Bryggen only a few short blocks from the sea. The top terminal of the funicular provides impressive views of Bergen, the sea-- no, actually the fjord-- and the surrounding mountains. At this point, a digression into Bergen's climate is in order--Here's a Norwegian joke: Tourist to a local lad in Bergen, "Does it rain all the time here?"Bergen boy, "I don't know. I'm only 13." It rains a lot in Bergen. Our friends who took the Hurtigruten in late October, the rainy season, reported rain every day, all day. I think they were exaggerating, but when we arrived in Bergen at 1:00 pm, it was sunny. It was sunny the next morning, so we ascended the mountain By the time we got back down, it was raining-- we walked down.We walked down, and found it was an interesting walk, mostly because of the climate. We live in a near desert. Bergen is in a temperate rain forest. The forest is on the mountain that rises behind Bergen and the sea. Only in Olympic National Park and in Eugene, Oregon, have we ever come across the vegetative manifestations of excessive moisture that could match what we saw descending the mountain from the top terminal of the Floyen funicular. There was mold and moss and ferns and lots of trees and assorted green stuff growing everywhere. For us dry landers, it was quite remarkable. We flew into Bergen via Frankfurt, which although unplanned, turned out to be good for sightseeing. It was raining when we left Frankfurt-- not unusual for Europe-- but somewhere between Norway and the German coast, we flew into sunny weather. Our route took us right along the rugged Norwegian fjord lands, and the pilot brought the plane down to lower altitude for better sight seeing, which gave us about an hour of impressive coastal scenery seen from above. Eyeballing the map, it looks like Frankfurt is the ideal location to fly into Bergen from if the weather is good as the flight path from Frankfurt looks like it hugs the coast more than do flights from Paris or Amsterdam. So, all else being equal, fly to Bergen through Frankfurt if you can. Like us, you might get lucky.Taxis from the airport into town are very expensive. The airport bus, service every 15 minutes is a bargain. The Airport bus makes a few stops as it winds through town, ending almost at the door of the Radison Blue Hotel and the Clarion Collection HOTEL HAVNEKONTORET.We arrived in Bergen on Easter Friday. Banks were closed for three days, so we exchanged money at the Bergen Tourist Information office, only a short distance from our hotel along the Vagen. The exchange rate was 5 Nkr for $1. Don't know what the rate would have been at a bank, but our American Express card got us 5.6 Nkr for $1. The lesson-- charge as much as you can. Or check rates at a bank. Close
Written by Wasatch on 23 Jun, 2012
The Hurtigruten stops at 34 ports in 12 days. Some stops are 15 minutes or less, not enough time to get of the boat and explore, so I shall only comment on the major stops, stops lasting as much a six hours…Read More
The Hurtigruten stops at 34 ports in 12 days. Some stops are 15 minutes or less, not enough time to get of the boat and explore, so I shall only comment on the major stops, stops lasting as much a six hours where one can do some local sight seeing. A GENERAL OBSERVATION ON THE TOWNS OF NORWAY'S WEST COAST: WWII started in September, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. In January 1940 Germany invaded Norway with the fist paratroop invasion in history. Being neutral, Norway had virtually no Army-- the entire Norwegian Army was evacuated to England on one ship-- and the Nazis quickly conquered Norway. After shooting or starving much of Norway's population, the Germans were eventually forced to pull out of Norway, but in full Christian spirit, the God fearing faithful Nazis burned almost every town in Norway to the ground as they retreated. Consequently, many Norwegian towns were rebuilt in late 1940s-early 1950s in cheap, dreary modern architecture, which is to say, they have little appeal to the sight seeing tourist.BERGEN, where we started and ended our the Hurtigruten cruise, has a separate review.ASELUND (pronounced Orslund or Awslund): Among the 34 towns the Hurtigruten stopped at, Aselund was the architectural star. This town of 41,000 is built on three islands in fjord A big fire in 1904 all but destroyed the center city, and it was impressively rebuilt in Art Nouveau style. The Hurtigruten docks very near the heart of the Art Nouveau city.To see the major areas of Art Nouveau buildings, leave the Hurtigruten and walk straight ahead for a block or two to Kirkagata Street. Turn right. Walk to the end of Apotekageorgata, turn around, come back to the intersection where the bridge goes off to your left to cross the fjord inlet. After crossing the bridge, turn right on Kaiser Whilhelmgata and follow it to its obvious end. Turn around Go back toward the bridge and turn right to Lovenoldgata. Follow Lovenoldgata to the place where it is obvious that the Art Nouveau buildings end. That's the end of the tour. There is just barely time enough for this tour and for and a little souvenir shopping during the northbound the Hurtigruten stop at this port. MOLDE: Molde's spectacular setting is belied by the town's dreary post war buildings There was a nice little park about three minutes walk from the ship ablaze in spring flowers and Japanese cherry tree blossoms. The stunning post war church was not open for a visit, but its exterior is impressive. The only promising option for Molde sight seeing is to take a taxi up to the high mountain overlook above Molde from which you can see more than 200 mountain peaks, which we did not do because the weather was bad, but, with the caveat of having not done it, but while having explored Molde town, I have no hesitancy in recommending the mountain ascent and skipping the town, weather permitting As for Molde's setting, the Molde Alps are second only to the Lofoten Islands and the Vesteralen Islands for spectacular scenery TRONDHEIM: After Aleslund, Trondheim is the most interesting city to see on the Hurtigruten trip. Trondheim is a very old city. Construction of the Cathedral started in 1070 A.D. It is a 20 minutes walk from the Hurtigruten dock to the center of Trondheim, and well worth it (there are signs to the 'Cenrtum' showing the way. The Hurtigruten's full 12 day cruise stops twice in Trondheim, once going north from Bergen and again returning southbound to Bergen. The stopover is longer on the Northbound trip. When traveling northbound, we followed the signs to the Center (Centrum) from the Hurtigruten dock and, after crossing the bridge, proceeded straight ahead to the Cathedral, which is one of Norway's architectural masterpieces. The facade of the Cathedral is especially impressive. Facing the Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th Century, the building to the right is the even older Bishop's Palace.We then proceeded to Prinsensgata, the major street facing the cathedral facade, turned right and headed for the center city. At Kongensgata, the major east west route thru downtown, we turned left and walked down to the church on the left where we turned right and then took the next right on Dronningensgata which is pleasant street of old wooden houses. Dronningengata dead ends at the street we took to the Cathedral, so we deviated onto some side streets on our way back to the ship when we reached the center of town. Traveling south bound (a shorter stop than on the north bound trip) , I went into the city center-- not as far from the port as is the Cathedral-- and wandered around the center city. On this visit, I confined my explorations to the quadrant of the center city bounded by Prinsensgata, Kongensgata, the river Nidelva, and the and the arm of the Trondheim Fjord closet to the center city, which is what you cross by bridge when going into down town from Hurtigruten port. Although there are lots of post WWII buildings, the center city also has a fair number of pre-war buildings, the most notable of which is the Royal Summer Palace, one of the largest old wood structures still standing in Norway. Walking the streets in the old center city quarters as defined above, I found a mix of modern buildings, old wooden buildings, and massive stone structures. The modern buildings are uniformly nondescript The wood buildings are quaint, and the stone buildings impressive. The most impressive area was around the torget (city square). Just east of the torget-- look for the tourist information office-- was the most attractive part of the old town. Check out the side streets and the Royal Palace, especially its back yard gardens. There is also a really old church nearby which was, naturally, closed up tight. Kjopmannsgata, the street you end up on when you cross the bridge on your way to the center city (and to the cathedral) from the Hurtigruten's port, runs along the reconstructed old wooden warehouse district on the banks of the river.BODO: The best that can be said for Bodo is that, among the many nondescript post war towns along the Hurtigruten route, Bodo is among the less nondescript. Like Molde and so many others, Bodo's best feature is the chance to get off the boat and walk for awhile. Bodo is the departure port for the Lofoten Islands, one of highlights of Norway's west coast. Between Bodo and the next stop, the Hurtigruten crosses the Arctic Circle as we sailed across the vast Vestfjord (West Fjord). SVOLAR, in spectacular setting, is the capital of the Lofoten Islands, for what that's worth. There are spectacular views of fishing boats, reflections of houses and mountains in the water, and of drying fish on a clam sunny day. A short walk along the harbor is rewarding, but heading inland quickly brought us back to the dreary post war era. All in all, the stop was too long. We had two stops at Svolar, one northbound and one southbound. Both came late in the day, but they were very different. Northbound, Hurtigruten travelers first experience the Lofoten Wall, a 60 miles long chain of islands so tightly packed together that it looks like a continuous solid wall of mountain peaks rising from the sea. The crew said that in good weather, we could see the Lofoten Wall approaching at about 5:00pm. We had pretty bad weather and the Lofoten Wall did not appear until we were almost in Svolar, at 7:20pm. Sights were much better on the southbound stop, one of clearest days of our tip. While there were some pleasant views in Svolar on the first visit, the sights were much better on the southbound stop. The most notable sights were the reflections of the waterfront buildings in the calm sea. There is what seems to be an attractive recreated village of 18th and 19th Century wooden buildings-- from before the Nazis burned them down-- along the waterfront. Leave Hurtigruten, turn right, follow the sea front where the fishing fleet is at anchor, and cross the bridge to the right. As noted, if it is sunny and the sea is calm, there are some great views along here. Our northbound stop came very near dark, and at the end of our first walk in Svolar-- turning right as we left the ship and then returning along the harbor front, I went straight out from the ship instead of turning right and thru the port terminal to the street on the other side. To the left, was building in the dark night with striking lights on its exterior. Close
Written by Wasatch on 19 Jun, 2012
The whole point of the 12 day Hurtigruten experience is to look at the spectacular scenery of Norway's West coast where the sea has invaded the valleys between seemingly endless mountain ranges. Most of the time, Hurtigruten travelers see the rugged, mountainous…Read More
The whole point of the 12 day Hurtigruten experience is to look at the spectacular scenery of Norway's West coast where the sea has invaded the valleys between seemingly endless mountain ranges. Most of the time, Hurtigruten travelers see the rugged, mountainous west coast of Norway to the east and rugged, mountainous islands to the west. At its most prosaic, the whole point of the trip is to look at mountain tops and water. For most of the voyage, the mountains are Alpine in nature-- steep, rocky, and often with pointed mountain peaks. Once on trip to Jackson Hole, WY, we took a single engine sightseeing plane ride through the Teton Range. As long as you did not look down, this airplane ride provided the same views of mountains as does the Hurtigruten cruise-- looking out or up at the spectacular tops of mountains Although we have only take the Hurtigruten trip once, based on where we live, I'm going to assert with confidence that there is one day of the year when you should book your trip, and that day is April 14. Being more generous, any day between April 1 and April 14 will suffice. Here's why. Fro the last 15 years, we have lived in the Rocky Mountains Our house is about 6,000 ft above sea level, overlooking a mountain valley with a mountain wall across the valley rising 6,000 ft above our house. Such mountain setting have three seasons a year: green, brown, and white. Ours is dry climate. That's why we have three seasons. Mountains in a wet climate, like the Alps or Norway have two seasons, green and white, and of this there is no doubt, no possible doubt whatever: mountains are at their best when covered with snow. Ergo, the best time to travel Hurtigruten is when the mountains are covered with snow, and that time is the early spring, for you four season dwellers. A bit more on snow and maintains for the flat landers. Snow capped mountains do not happen overnight. Our mountains get snow 12 months a year, but it quickly melts until average temperatures got low enough for the snow to not melt at high noon. That happens sometime between late October and mid-November. From then until the end of March or early April, the snow covering the mountains gets deeper and deeper. Typically, the ski resort where ski has its greatest depth on snow covering the ground when the resort shuts down in mid-April. So, if you want to see a lot of snow on mountains, and that is when you want to see mountains, go in the early spring, not in winter. The latitude of Norway is another consideration in planning your trip For days, the Hurtigruten steams north of Pt Barrow, Alaska, the most northern part of the North American continent These latitudes play tricks with daylight, the land of the sunless winters and midnight sun in the summer. You need light to see the scenery, so there is trade off-- the most daylight comes on June 21, the least on Dec 21, but the December date is irrelevant At these latitudes, night last nearly 24 hours a day for a month or so-- lots of snow, but no way to see it.We departed Bergen on our Hurtigruten trip on April 11. Once we passed the Arctic Circle, there were several days where daylight increased by 15 minutes a day or more. For several days, sunrise was around 4:00 AM and enough light to see the sights until nearly 10:00 PM. Weather is also a factor. Norwegian tourist propaganda stresses that the temperature in the Lofoten Islands, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, rarely falls below freezing (what they don't tell you that it rarely gets above freezing in winter). This is due to the Gulf Stream, which comes barreling into Europe off the west coast of Norway. Because of the Gulf Stream, temperatures in Norther Norway-- north of Alaska-- never drop as low as Alaska's temperatures in winter. The predicted daily high temperatures we encountered ranged from 30 degrees F at Kirkenes to 54 degrees F in Bergen. The final consideration in asserting that early April is the optimum time to travel the Hurtigruten that fares take a big jump up on April 15. So, there are three factors to consider in when to travel the Hurtigruten: 1] lots of snow, 2] lots of daylight, 3] minimal chances of rain, and 4] lower prices, and the solution is the first two weeks of April, which is when we went.Why did we then pick April 9 as the date to sail? Because Condo Nast Traveler Magazine's reader's poll had picked Hurtigruten Nordnorge as one of the top 10 best small cruise ships in the world, and April 9 was the last sailing of the Nordnorge before the April 15 price hike. There are two other geographic factors that affect the view along the Hurtigruten route, the tree line and the snow line. Where we live, the tree line is at 9,600 ft. That is, trees cannot grow at an altitude higher than 9,600 ft. A few hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, the tree line reaches sea level. The tree line marks the latitude where the great northern forest ends and the tundra starts. In America's mountains, the snow line is the altitude where the winter snow field ends and snow free land begins. Like the tree line, the snow line is also affected by latitude as well as by altitude On our April Hurtigruten cruise, the snow line extended to sea level well south of the Arctic Circle, meaning that we saw snow capped mountains that were covered in snow from the coast to the mountain summits. George Orwell's classic critique of Communism, "Animal Farm", contains the memorable line "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". So it is with scenery of Norway's west coast-- all the scenery is great, but some places are greater than others. The best scenery is on the southbound trip between Honninsvag and Trondheim, especially in the Vesteralen and Lofoten Islands, and the approach to Molde. Close
Written by Koentje3000 on 24 Feb, 2010
Although Stavanger is mostly overlooked by tourists in Norway, rushing between the Norwegian capital Oslo and the fjord's gateway Bergen or hurrying upwards to Trondheim or the North Cape, it is definitely worth a visit. This friendly city is with its 120.000 inhabitants the 4th…Read More
Although Stavanger is mostly overlooked by tourists in Norway, rushing between the Norwegian capital Oslo and the fjord's gateway Bergen or hurrying upwards to Trondheim or the North Cape, it is definitely worth a visit. This friendly city is with its 120.000 inhabitants the 4th city in Norway. The town itself contains an old town ("Gamle Stavanger") with beautiful wooden houses, the informative oil museum, Norway's oldest cathedral and is located nicely on the large body of water called Boknafjord, although it is more of a bay then of a real fjord. Around Stavanger are several natural sights, including the famous pulpit rock (Prekestolen) on Lysefjord, the mainly inland Hafrsfjord or the numerous islets and island in Boknafjord.TransportationThere are several ways of coming to Stavanger. First of all the Sola Airport, the oldest in Norway, was already constructed in 1937 and was an important airport during the Nazi occupation of Norway. Several daily flights connect Stavanger with Bergen and Oslo, but there are also scheduled flights to airports all over Europe, like Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam. The airport is 12km south of the city and provides car rental, taxis and public buses.Currently there is only one international car ferry route to Stavanger, directly from Hirtshals (Denmark) on Fjord Line. The ferry continues to Bergen. The international port is near Tananger, around 15 km away to the west. Cruise ships still cast anchor on the terminal just next to the city centre. Nearby is the local car ferry port with connections across the Boknafjord.HistoryThe Boknafjord area has been inhabited for at least 5000 years, while permanent settlements came into existence around 1000 B.C. Several rival kingdoms dotted the area in the early Middle Ages, which lead to a great development in warfare equipment like fierce battle axes or superior longboats. The Stavanger land had little to offer in wealth or resources, so in order to finance their armies and increase their weaponry the kingdoms undertook long plundering raids to other areas in Scandinavia but also as far as England, France or even Italy. These fearsome men where locally known as explorers (Vikings in Old Norse) or Normans in the rest of Europe. One of these kings, Harald 'Fairhair' managed to unify the south of Norway into one kingdom under his reign, either by smart alliances or by waging and winning a war on his neighbours. Christianity also set foot in Norway in the 11th century and soon gained popularity. Stavanger's landmark cathedral was constructed during this period.The German Hanseatic League brought great prosperity to Norway, but mainly to the foreign upper class. Royal marriages meant that the country first came into Swedish hands but from the 14the century under Danish rule. The country went into a long decline, partly due to the decimation of the population by the Black Death, but also due to a growing Danisation of society and the continuing wars between Denmark, Sweden and Russia. Denmark sided with France during the Napoleonic Wars, leading to a semi-independent Norway in a union with Sweden. Full independence was reached in 1905. The economy, mainly the fishing and forestry industry boomed in Stavanger and other places until the Nazi occupation during WWII. After the war the economy picked up especially when oil was discovered in the ocean in front of Stavanger. The oil boom still means Norway is one of the wealthiest nations in the world with one of the best social, educational, etc. systems.Places to stayThe official Stavanger Region website contains an extensive list of accommodation in the Stavanger region. Being one of the most expensive countries in the world, it will come as no surprise that Stavanger's Mosvangen Camping, nicely situated on Mosvannet lake, attracts large crowds of tourists during summer season. Apart from places for camper or tent (around 100 Kroner or 10 euro) they also rent wooden houses for around 400 Kr. There is another camping in Sola near the airport.The city's youth hostel has dormitory beds for around 250Kr and different types of rooms. A few small B&Bs are available in or near the city centre. Excellent value is Tone's Bed& Breakfast where the nice French landlady offered us a double room with breakfast for 500Kr. The Thompson's B&B offers similar value. In the mid-price section, the Skansen Hotel is centrally located and has spacious double rooms for around 1200Kr or cheaper but smaller "guesthouse style" rooms. Top-end hotels are mainly the ones of national and international chains like Best Western, Radisson Blu or Rica Hotels, but expect to pay over 1500Kr (more than 150€). Close
Written by Wildcat Dianne on 21 Jul, 2009
After spending a week in Oslo at the beginning of my Norwegian Odyssey, I took the train from Oslo to see my Norwegian relatives in the Sorlandet region of Southeastern Norway. I had spoken to my distant cousin Anne Cecile's husband Jon Aksel Mathiesen…Read More
After spending a week in Oslo at the beginning of my Norwegian Odyssey, I took the train from Oslo to see my Norwegian relatives in the Sorlandet region of Southeastern Norway. I had spoken to my distant cousin Anne Cecile's husband Jon Aksel Mathiesen by telephone from the hostel I was staying at and made arrangements for Jon-Aksel, Anne-Cecile, her mother Turid, and her husband Tore to come and get me at the Arendal train station.
The beginning of my train trip from Oslo to Arendal went pretty smoothly except I hadn't grasped the concept that Norwegian trains have assigned seats, and I had taken the wrong seat. No problem, the kind conductress took me to my correct seat, and I enjoyed watching the scenery of southern Norway pass before my eyes.
A couple of hours into the trip, we entered the Telemark region of Norway, which is full of rich forests and mountains everywhere. It had been a dry spring and summer in Norway and usually that brings forest fires, and the forests near Skein (SHEEN) were egulfed in flames and the train engineers had been warned about these fires beforehand, but we were in for an unexpected roadblock when we were notified that the tracks ahead were in flames, and we would have to evacuate the train and take the bus into Kristiansand. YIKES!
Now I had been witness to my then-hometown of McCall and Donnelly, Idaho go through the worst forest fires in that area's history the year before. Mom was working for the forest service for the summer, and she earned her paycheck that year from taking the phone call from Colorado breaking the news that two of our McCall Smokejumpers had died fighting a fire there along with acting as a chauffuer for several fire fighters and volunteers coming and going from fighting the fires. One young lady crammed herself and her gear into Mom's Mitsubishi hatchback with me and young Mr. Loki in tow. It must have been the ride of her life!
Now cut to June 1995, and I am being taken off a train that can't move through Telemark because of forest fires, and it's as Yogi Berra said, "Deja vu all over again!" I chatted with a couple of the conductresses to see what was going on and told them we had been through similar fires in Idaho in 1994. They were pretty interested in my stories, and it made the evacuation to the busses a smooth one.
Everyone piled onto the busses provided by the railways, and we were on the way to Kristiansand's bus station where everyone's loved ones and friends were told to go after getting news of the fires. After a couple of hours of bus travel, we pulled into Kristiansand where I met my Norwegian family for the first time.After two weeks of sightseeing and exploring the Sorlandet, I left for my final week in Norway to be spent in Oslo. The trip back to Oslo was uneventful, and the experience of evacuating a train because of forest fires has never left me 14 years after it happened.
Written by karly07 on 14 Jul, 2009
Norway is expensive - no one would quibble with you over that fact. When we travelled to Norway last July (2008) we had a modest budget to play with. We weren't at the point of staying in hostels along route or hitching…Read More
Norway is expensive - no one would quibble with you over that fact. When we travelled to Norway last July (2008) we had a modest budget to play with. We weren't at the point of staying in hostels along route or hitching rides to the next town, but we did try to save money where we could along the way. Here are some of our tips for travelling to Norway on a small but modest budget.1. Bring you own plastic cutlery, sandwich bags and packets of biscuits/cereal bars/snacks. - Buying food at the supermarket to make your own lunch is a great way of saving money in Norway, however, do come prepared with your own cutlery, sandwich bags, and even snacks that will keep. Everything costs dear in Norway, so anything that you can bring with you that you won't have to buy with be an advantage. 2. When possible have your main meal in the middle of the day, with a smaller dinner/snack in the evening. - We found quite a few restaurants/cafe's had better deals at lunchtime than at dinnertime for the same dish on the menu. We also planned ahead, reading up in our guide book to see whether there were many eateries in the next town we were heading to. If there weren't, chances are they wouldn't be as many reasonably priced restaurants, and so we would have stopped somewhere earlier in the day, and taken up a meal deal at lunchtime. 3. Stock up on the breakfast at the hotel. - A lot of the hotels that we stayed in did not stop guests from taking fruit with them from the breakfast room, and we watched numerous people do this. Some hotels have signs up asking you not to do so, and therefore we didn't at these places. We were usually able to take enough fruit for our lunch/dinner that day, as well as little disposable packs of butter, which we used to make up our own sandwiches, rather than having to buy a large tub of butter. Hotels all offer fresh cold water in the breakfast room, so we usually just refilled our own bottled of water daily at the hotel rather than buy a new bottle every day, since even this will set you back about 18Nk (£1.80). Don't be fooled either when some of the hotels offer to make you up a pack lunch, as these will usually cost you a lot more than you simply going to the supermarket and making you own up. 4. Buy a fjord passMost tourists to Norway who are independent travellers arranging their own accommodation will have read about the fjord pass. You should research the type of accommodation you will be staying in to see if Fjord pass offer discount. We found that we were able to get discount at a lot of the hotels we stayed at, particularly the smaller hotels, and even though you have to pay for the fjord pass, we saved a lot more than we paid for it, making it good value for money. Do be careful however that you book through the fjord pass website, as we nearly got caught out. A hotel told us they didn't have any fjord pass rooms left and we would have to pay the full amount, but we instead booked it through fjord pass and got the cheaper deal. 5. Check out the price of car ferries as a means of getting somewhere. In most cases in Norway, you have to take a ferry, however sometimes when it isn't essential it is still worth checking the car ferry out as a potential means of getting somewhere quicker and cheaper.A typical example of this, is the summer car ferry between Fjaerland and Balestrand, stopping at Hella. To travel on this ferry with our car, it cost us 520Nk (£52) which is a lot of money for a 1 and 1/2 hour trip. However, when you look more closely, the road we would have had to travel on to get to Balestrand entailed one of the heftiest tolls on a Norwegian road, not to mention the cost of fuel in doing the trip, and the time it would have taken to get there by road, compared to ferry. There are other ways of saving money in Norway, such as staying out at an airport hotel, and getting the very efficient and very frequently running Flybussen into city centres. Hope this is of use to anyone wanting to see Norway, without spending a small fortune doing so. We never once stayed at a hostel, and neither did we stay in 5 star accommodation, but we managed to stick to our budget whilst there and see this wonderful country at its best. Close
Written by fizzytom on 20 May, 2009
The Floibanen funicular offers a quick and easy way to access some brilliant views of the city of Bergen from a purpose built viewing platform atop Mount Fløyen. While the mountain has lots of hiking trails and offers some great opportunities for scenic and rewarding…Read More
The Floibanen funicular offers a quick and easy way to access some brilliant views of the city of Bergen from a purpose built viewing platform atop Mount Fløyen. While the mountain has lots of hiking trails and offers some great opportunities for scenic and rewarding walks, you may not have the time or the energy to spend on getting to the top, in which case the funicular is at your service.The idea of a funicular here was mooted as early as 1895 but work didn't start until 1914 though this was inevitably delayed due to the war and it finally opened in January 1918. New carriages were installed in the 1950s - one red and one blue - this tradition of one red and one blue carriage is still upheld today. In 2002 the most major renovations were carried out and the whole system was overhauled, including new carraiges, new rails, modernised stations and installation of electronic barriers. The red carriage is named Rødhette and the blue one is Blåmann - apparently these names were chosen by a competition open to the public.The lower station is just a few footsteps from the fish market. There is no need to book in advance, simply turn up and buy your ticket from the kiosk. The service is regular; it doesn't just take tourists up to the top as there are several stations along the way as there are houses on the mountain and you see plenty of locals riding the funicular armed with their shopping bags. However, not all services are stopping ones so you should check if you want to go anywhere other than the top. The journey takes about five minutes and you are noiselessy whisked towards the summit in one of two ultra modern carriages. Each carriage holds up to eighty people and the interior has been well-designed in order to give great views and to make sure everyone can enjoy the view. In other words, you don't have to be at the front of the carriage to be able to see the views as you ascend. It is a single track most of the way with one stretch between Fjellveien and Skansemyren where the carraiges can pass each other. Pushchairs and wheelchairs are welcome on the funicular and bicycles may be taken between October and March. If you have mobility problems or you do have young children in pushchairs you should know that this is the only way to reach the summit as cars are not allowed to the top of Fløyen. Why go to Mount Fløyen anyway? Quite simply this is the best place in Bergen to get a handle on the geography. From here you can appreciate how the fjords and the islands lie in comparison to the main landmass and you can see all the way to the sea and on a clear day. Fear not if you haven't brought your binoculars, there are some on the viewing platform to help you get an even better view.Next to the upper station there is a souvenir shops that also sells snacks (such as hot dogs), soft drinks and ices. I'm not really a souvenir buyer but we wanted a Norwegian flag to add to our collection and we found the prices here were way cheaper than in the city, for example the stalls in the fish market.There is also a restaurant and cafe that has a pleasant terrace; this place is open every day from mid-May to the end of August. During the remainder of the year, the cafeteria is open every Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 - 17:00. We didn't visit it so I can't comment more than this. Nearby is an adventure playground for children, the highlight of which is a fantastic troll the kids can climb. As it was quite wet when we visited we avoided the trails but maps can be obtained showing the trails and these maps also show the locations of six picnic cabins on the mountain you can use free of charge. Elsewhere there are outdoor picnic sites and stone barbecues which are well maintained. PricesAdults single/return 35NOK/70NOKChildren under 4 travel free, older children get a discount.Timetables vary depending on the time of year but details can be obtained fromhttp://www.floibanen.no/visartikkel.asp?art=134 Close
Bergen is a very wet place. It's something to do with the seven mountains that surround the city which does something or other to do with low pressure and hey presto it rains all the time (something like two and a half metres of rain…Read More
Bergen is a very wet place. It's something to do with the seven mountains that surround the city which does something or other to do with low pressure and hey presto it rains all the time (something like two and a half metres of rain annually!) This is why typical Bergen houses have such steeply pitched roofs and why people in Bergen tend to keep their coats on all the time. And why even a newsagents shop sells umbrellas. The good citizens of Bergen have about ten different words for rain - I have only one and I can't say it here. You have to accept that you are probably going to get wet during your visit. Take a waterproof jacket, carry an umbrella, have some clothes to change into. After that you just have to get out there and explore. Don't bother diving into a pub thinking that you can shelter there until the rain passes; you'll be there all day!Your first port of call should be the Tourist Information Office. Here you can pick up a free map of the city and leaflets on all the main attractions as well as buy a Bergen Card and book tours. It's vital you make plans as soon as possible because the trips do sell out quickly and places are limited, especially if you are visiting in the height of summer. If you know that there are lots of things you want to see that cost money then think about a Bergen Card. It gives you free bus travel within the city, free parking and free admission to most of the museums and attractions. However, it's not cheap so it's a good idea to look at how much you'll be using it and whether it really does offer you a saving. In 2009 the Bergen Card costs 190 Norwegian Kroner (approx £19.00) for adults for a 24 hour card and 250 NOK (approx £25) for 48 hours.The best place to see the evidence of Bergen's historic trading past is the Bryggen. 'Bryggen' means 'waterfront'' in Norwegian but it more generally refers to the line of brightly coloured wooden houses in the Hanseatic style that date back to the days when Bergen was at the very heart of European trade. The buildings have been burned to the ground on numerous occasions, the last time being the 1960s, but they have been painstaking rebuilt and they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. One of the buildings has been made into a museum that has recreations of rooms from the early eighteenth century and at the back of the Bryggen there are open air workshops where you can see traditional crafts being demonstrated. Other buildings in the Bryggen are restaurants (the type of over-priced tourist trap that Americans adore) and souvenir shops. Moving away from the Bryggen, out towards the harbour mouth where the international ferries dock, is the castle which, although it isn't that interesting, does occupy lovely grounds. Moving the other way, across the road, is the 'fisketorget''- the fishmarket - which is one of the most popular sights in Bergen. All over Bergen - on the walls in pubs and restaurants and guest houses - you will see lots of old photographs of the fisketorget in yesteryear when it was a bustling market at the heart of the city. These days fish is still sold here but there are only a handful of stalls left. The rest of the space is now occupied by a craft and souvenir market; this is the place to buy traditional Norwegian knitwear or a comedy reindeer hat. You can also buy vacuum packed fish to take home but you should be sure to sample the cloudberry preserve - it's wonderful! The "Bergen Expressen", a dinky road train ,departs on a tour of the city from beside the fishmarket. Commentary is piped into each little carriage and is available in a host of languages. The trip takes you around the harbour and the lake before setting up the hill, past Troldhaugen (the house that belonged to composer Edvard Grieg), across to Mount Floyen where it stops for a few minutes to take in the views. It's not the greatest of tours but if it is really raining hard then it at least allows you to see something of Bergen without getting wet. The best way to appreciate Mount Floyen, though, is to take the funicular to its summit. The lower station is a minutes walk from the fisketorget and the funicular leaves on the hour and the half hour. You may be lucky and hit an additional departure as they do happen occasionally. The funicular operates until 11.00pm and until midnight between May and August. At the summit there is a restaurant and café that operates mainly in summer but may be open limited hours at other times. There is also a souvenir shop that is surprisingly cheap given that it's in Norway and that it's located in such a prominent location for tourists. The views from the terrace are amazing; this is the best place to get a grip on the unusual geography of Bergen. Energetic visitors may like to walk back down and there is a maze of paths to allow you to do that. Like any major European city, Bergen is not without plenty of museums - Museum of the Norwegian Knitting Industry anyone - but there's something about the place that makes you want to be outdoors as much as possible in spite of the rain. How about a boat trip around the harbour or perhaps a bit further afield to the fjords? There are plenty of trips - half day and full day - though early booking is advised. If you prefer to stay on dry land but still want something watery how about a visit to the Bergen Aquarium? I loved the penguins so much I had to be dragged away because none of the kids could see past me! Evenings are a bit odd in Norway - as they can be in any Scandinavian city. This is because drinking is so expensive (and also because it's still light at midnight!). Things tend to be quiet until at least nine o'clock except in very touristy places (like Irish theme pubs). By the fisketorget you can expect to pay something like 90 NOK for two beers - and that's one that comes in somewhere between a half and a pint. (This was in May 2007, based on today's exchange rate that's just over £9.00!) Stick to Norwegian beers - Hansa is perfectly acceptable - as the price of imported brands is astronomical. The next day we bought a few cans to drink in our room before we went out but you need to know that you can't buy beer in supermarkets after five pm, and slightly earlier on Saturdays. Around three on Saturdays you see men sprinting up the street to catch the supermarket before they stop selling beer. Eating out is - by British standards - also expensive. I am sorry to say that I didn't eat much Norwegian food at all because of the cost. Instead we ate at an Indian restaurant and a Persian restaurant - both of them were cheap in relation to the usual prices in Norway. We did, however, eat fish and chips on Sunday lunch time from a stall at the fisketorget - it came in around £20.00 for two portions of battered fish and chips. And you pay extra for ketchup! Should you decided to do this take cover from the mutant seagulls which resemble vultures more than any simple seabird. If you can't stretch to this do at least have something Norwegian in the shape of cinnamon buns which costs hardly anything at all from baker's shops. Of course, nightlife isn't all about drinking - and in Bergen it can't be unless you won the lottery recently. Luckily, as a previous holder of the title European City of Culture (in 2000) Bergen has lots going on in terms of musical and theatrical performances and the city plays hosts to several different cultural festivals throughout they year. Overall we had a great trip although with hindsight I might have done things differently and considered the financial side of things more before deciding to go. I had several other trips planned and always had that in mind which restricted my spending a little. However, there were plenty of things that didn't cost much or didn't cost anything at all that gave us a good insight into the city and culture in the brief time we were there. The best advice I can give is to be realistic about the cost and spend what you need to; you might never go back and it would be a shame to miss out because of scrimping. Bergen is certainly worth a visit - but do take a brolly! Close
Written by sanjarasahityam on 14 Mar, 2009
Morning of day three, started with a bird cruise to Europe’s largest bird mountain on the Barent Sea. Our guide for the day equipped us with necessary waterproof safety clothing before setting sail. Apart from millions of birds, one can also encounter dolphins, seals as…Read More
Morning of day three, started with a bird cruise to Europe’s largest bird mountain on the Barent Sea. Our guide for the day equipped us with necessary waterproof safety clothing before setting sail. Apart from millions of birds, one can also encounter dolphins, seals as well as jelly fish on a bird cruise. The main attraction of trip was of course the sea of puffins and seals!In the afternoon, we decided to hit the road to Nordkapp, usually referred to as the northern most point of Europe at 71°10'21" latitude and 25°47'40" longitude. Nordkapp is famous for it’s mid-night summer sun, where the sun never goes below the horizon. Although we missed the mid-night summer sun treat, standing on the Nordkapp cliff and gazing at the vastness of Arctic Ocean is a truly memorable experience. Close