Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Weekend Getaway to the West Coast of Norway

(Mount Fløyen)

We were recently in Bergen, Norway for a long weekend getaway, where we spent two and a half days exploring this quaint nordic city and the surrounding fjord region. Wow, what an amazing place. I am still awe struck and inspired by the dramatic scenery we witnessed on our fjord tour. Majestic mountains, waterfalls, winding rivers curving through paths worn through these mighty giants. Even the city of Bergen was inspiring with a birds eye view atop Mount Fløyen. 

The Fløibanen funicular, or cable car, takes you on a steep ride up to the top of Fløyen where you have panoramic views as far as the eye can see. And if you are lucky you may even get to have the same gorgeous weather we experienced, allowing you to literally see out as far as your sight allows. 

Several years ago we planned a trip to Norway with the thought that we would drive from Stockholm to Karlstad, a smaller Swedish city en route to Norway where we hoped to visit Oslo, Bergen and hopefully Stavanger. Looking at the map it seemed easily doable within a couple of weeks time. 

The reality however was that my poor estimation of it taking a mere 4 hours to drive from Oslo to Bergen was sadly impossible. I was told it was more like a 7-8 hour drive with all of the steep and twisting mountain passes. We unfortunately had to postpone the Bergen and Stavanger part of the trip for another time and only visited Oslo that trip. And while Oslo was a fun city to visit and explore, the Norwegian fjords still beckoned me. 

Now, nearly six years later we put Bergen back on our travel map. A couple of weekends ago we spent a glorious two and a half days in Bergen. Everyone told us, after we had already booked our trip of course, that Bergen was notorious for its rainy weather. I heaved a big sigh and said, "Well, we'll just bring rain jackets and umbrellas.” Lucky for us, we only had to use them for a few short hours on our final day. 

We had two stunningly beautiful sunny days! It was absolutely glorious. On our final day there were light rain showers in the morning but that was perfectly acceptable in our opinion, given the lovely previous days. Below are a few photos and links to places we visited. Bergen was an amazing, beautiful and much needed getaway. We will definitely be back to visit Norway. 

Norway in a Nutshell Tour - This was an amazing tour if you are short on time. You spend one day visiting a portion of the Sognefjord by train, bus, boat, train, and train again. It is a round trip day excursion from Bergen. Mostly self-guided, which I found nice. You pick up your pre-purchased tickets for the day with a schedule and instructions for finding the next leg of the journey. I was a bit uneasy about this part of it but my worry was for no reason. The tour goes through such small towns that there is no confusion as to where you go to catch the next boat, bus, or train. I highly recommend this.

Some of my favorite photos from our tour:

(The beginning of the fjord tour, on the train from Bergen to Voss.)

(The second leg, bus from Voss to Gudvangen.)

(A very steep 18% grade, winding along hairpin curves down the mountain. I thought we were going to topple over! It was amazing but scary too.)

(Looking out from the same winding road as above. Just amazing views everywhere you look.)

A rare rainbow... we were told by the bus driver that it was an uncommon sighting due to the 200 plus days of rain they normally get.)

(In Gudvangen waiting to board the boat to Flåm.)

One of several small towns we passed as we made our way through the fjord. Simply breathtaking views the whole way! I cannot recommend a visit to Norway enough.

(A backward glance.)

(To give you some perspective here, those two small dots in the water are kayakers.)

(We had a nice stopover in Flåm where we eventually switched from boat to train to continue our way to Myrdal).

(This was just outside of Myrdal. There was a LOT of snow in this region. Remember this is mid May... we even saw cross-country skiers skiing along side the train.)

Fløyen Funicular - This cable car ride up to the top of Mount Fløyen took about 15 minutes with stops along the way and about 5 minutes on the non-stop trip down. It was such a gorgeous day. I would recommend bringing a picnic with you as there are lots of beautiful hiking trails and it would make a great day outing. We were pressed for time so we only hiked around a little sans picnic lunch. Instead, we had a "fika" with coffee and buns from the Godt Brød bakery (see below).

(Birdseye view from the top.)

(We never found an explanation for this sign... we never saw the witch either.)

(The long red building just to the left of my shoulder in the photo above is our hotel.)

(Time-lapse video of our ride down. Weeeeeee!)

Kaibosh - Norwegian Designer Eyewear. We passed this shop on an evening walk our first night in Bergen and decided we needed to go back. And so we bought souvenirs! :-)

(Hipster? or hippy stare?)

(A scented candle that smelled heavenly, made just for their store).

(Bypark - The cherry blossoms were in full bloom while we were there - really gorgeous! 
The Art Museums of Bergen (KODE) sit just on the other side of the water and the building with the round tower on top is where Lysverket is located). 

(The bread and butter spread.
The brown one is crab butter and the green one (my favorite!) was mackerel butter. It was so delicious, I could have eaten a tub of it.)

(This course was the langoustine with gnocchi and licorice sauce. Amazing.)

(Maybe the most impressive dessert I have seen. A donut topped with rhubarb cream, rhubarb chutney, a mousse with white chocolate and then a very thin sliver of dehydrated rhubarb. 

(This was the "after dessert" course. Seriously? Chocolate mousse cake with sea salt - a decadent version of a Hostess ding dong. Who else misses those?!)

KODE 2 - Contemporary Art

(A small collection of drawings).

This was very impressive. It was a giant, but very delicate, chainmail that was hung with tiny nails around the entire perimeter, in very straight lines.)

(Can there really be a comparison?!)

Godt Brød - Organic bakery and cafe

(God, pronounced like "goad," means good in Norwegian, Swedish too).

(Organic apple + black currant juice - nectar of the gods!)

Fish Market - Which we completely missed but you should not miss it! We were told that the fish market was down by the water and so we walked over to check it out. There were a few stalls set up outdoors, selling fish and other seafood. It seemed a bit sparse and we felt a bit sorry for the Norwegians. We really wanted to have some shrimp for lunch so we tried these (see below). They were much fatter than the shrimp we buy in Sweden but still tasty. Then the day after, while we were exploring a bit more, we walked past a building close by this area and we realized that THAT was the fish market :-/. The second photo is from inside the actual fish market. I also tried whale while we were there. It tasted like meat, which makes sense as whales are mammals.

(Norwegian shrimp)

(King crab - have you ever seen one in person?)

Dear Norway,

We love you and we'll be back.

Thank you for a gorgeous and amazing weekend!

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