Norway was, without a doubt, our favorite trip to date.
We took an early morning flight from Helsinki to Oslo, where we arrived in the city center by 1030 am. We spent the afternoon wandering the city until we took our 3 pm train from Oslo to Flåm (via Myrdal), arriving in the little fjord town at 930 pm. The next day, we explored the town via bicycle until we took a 330 pm boat down the fjord to Bergen, arriving around 9pm. The next day we explored Bergen until we left for our flight home around 5 pm.
So yes, you read that right; planes, trains, bikes and ferries; 3 cities in 3 days. It was crazy and yet our favorite. I would not have changed a single bit of it for a first time visit to Norway.
As you might imagine, I have about a bazillion photos from just 3 days. And I have spent the better part of a week sorting through them. In the interest of enjoying these photos, I am splitting this post into 2.
Today, we are looking at our “bookends” of the trip. The two major cities in Norway: Oslo and Bergen.
Perhaps it was the fact that we had extremely low expectations for Oslo, having heard only negative reviews, but we both instantly loved the city. It was clean, a nice walkable size, and we were blessed with a ridiculously (and uncharacteristically) sunny day. After checking our small luggage at the train station, we made for the water front, to the modern Opera House that I had read about. The roof lines angle to the ground, extending the exterior plaza, literally, all around the building. It is constructed to appear as if it is rising out from the water, using white granite, carrara marble, and aluminum, with large expanses of unobstructed glazing. In the early morning sun, it was gorgeous.
From there we walked up Johans Gate, the well known shopping street lined with historical buildings that ends at a palace and a park, which we toured for a bit. From there, we meandered through the city and found ourselves on a pier that was lined with modern (and gorgeous) apartment complexes, restaurants and yachts. I told Jimmy he could buy me an apartment here.
There were small canals through which little motor boats would putt, docks for sun bathers and little beaches where a couple was swimming their dog. We took our merry old time walking the length and sitting in the sun before choosing a place for lunch. Because, being on vacation for our 1 year anniversary and the weather being as fine as it was and walking around all morning, it was beer o’clock. And I was demanding fish and chips. Which I had, and they were fabulous. And then I demanded ice cream. Which ended up more on my hand than in my mouth.
More wandering led us passed the brutalist city hall (which is supposed to have stunning murals inside but was closed) and eventually back to the train station for our trip.
On the other side of the country, we have Bergen.
Which we both practically fell in love with at first glance.
We arrived by sea, after a 5 hour ferry ride through a fjord (detailed in a follow up post) and promptly walked to our hotel. We had stayed in a hostel the previous night and were very excited about our hotel-our nice stay for the trip- in one of the well photographed harbor buildings where Jimmy had booked us a room with a harbor view. However, upon arrival, they informed us that there was a confusion with the booking. Not only did we not have a harbor view, but we were being switched to an entirely different hotel on the other side of the city (with no view). They were obviously waiting for us, apologized immensely and paid for our cab. We were confused but just went along with it. Fortunately, the city is small and it was still very central. Also, it turns out we were in a brand new boutique hotel that was nicer than the one we had booked. And in the center of a great night life district with plenty of restaurants. Which was the most important because we were starving.
We took Trip Advisor’s advice and landed in a funky bar/eatery for dinner with had tons of Norwegian beers and good, dense food. After dinner, we walked to the harbor for a night cap before heading back to crash.
If we had added anything, it would have been an extra night in Bergen. Their night life was so fun! There was a great energy in the city all night, with musicians playing and patios stuffed with people. From clubs to swanky lounges to funky side-alley bars, Bergen had everything going for it.
The next day, we were graced with another bright blue sky as we set out to explore Bergen. We started with our neighborhood and then wrapped around the little side streets (where we found an American Diner patio complete with AstroTurf and a yellow checker cab) and into the famous historic district, which is a few small blocks of sagging wooden structures and crooked roofs. Fun artisan, fur and leather shops line tiny little streets and, in some cases, you can climb up and walk along the old exterior mezzanine floors.
After plenty of time in the historic district, we made our way through the old fortress and then directly for the fish market; the highlight of our day.
We had planned our entire day around a very long lunch in the market. There are a dozen or so large stands in one area, and then some sit down restaurants in an adjacent covered building. We started chatting with a woman working in one of the outdoor stalls and she convinced us to sit at their patio and she would bring us some sample plates.
The first plate was a sampling of various smoked salmons as well as smoked whale (the dark one). Can’t say that I would eat whale again, but it was not bad. Just very gamey and rich. The salmons-all wild, not farmed- however, we nothing short of incredible. They were so flavorful, smooth and buttery. I ate most of the plate.
The next plate was a pile of critters from the sea -mussels, shrimps, crab parts. Too many things with legs, for my liking, but I tried everything! I left most of it to Jimmy because I felt like the crab was wasted on me. The only thing we didn’t try that we wanted was a clam, an oyster, and a scallop. But we did make a stop for seafood paella and fish and chips (literally a huge fried hunk of cod).
So, obviously, we ate way too much, and went off to the airport in a fish-food coma.
Next up is a visually stimulating post about our time spent in the Sognefjord.