Stave Church of Urnes
Norway really impressed me with the incredible and extreme variation in the landscape we experienced as we traveled from region to region.
This trip took us from the magnificent fjords and majestic mountains of the west coast, through the historically rich central Norway towards Oslo in Eastern Norway and then down the sandy beaches of Southern Norway.
In part one of the Norway travelogue, I took you through the west coast from Mandal up to Stavangar, the Prekestolen and the Hardanger Region. This part of the travelogue will take us to the beautiful city of Bergen, we’ll explore the breathtaking Sognefjord and get up close to Europe’s largest glacier, travel back into time discovering fascinating stave churches, then hit the amazing capital Oslo and finally relax on the white beaches of Kragero on the so called Norwegian Riviera. Are you ready?
Bergen is a charming city situated in western Norway, surrounded by spectacular fjords and mountains. Our route took us from the Hardanger region straight into Bergen. Our camping place, just a few kilometers outside Bergen was probably not one of the better ones we had during this trip but it certainly served the purpose. We arrived fairly late in the afternoon and after getting things organized Tom and Soeren decided to go fishing in the nearby lake. I was glad to have a few hours to myself reading, listening to music and enjoying the wonderful weather.
Telephone: +47 55 10 13 38
The weather is something that should not be taken for granted in Bergen. With 240 rainy days in a year, Bergen is not the driest of all Norwegian cities. I was praying to the weather Gods above to make our 2 days in Bergen fall on the other 125 days! It seemed to work because as we got to Bergen the skies were beginning to clear up and the forecast for the next day was looking very optimistic. With blue skies, lovely crisp air and a sun shining it’s warmth on us, Bergen beckoned us the next morning.
Get the Bergen Card! It’s worth it’s value as it allows you free bus and Bybane (Bergen light-rail) travel within the city limits, free or discounted admittance to most museums and attractions and discounts on a variety of cultural and sightseeing attractions, restaurants and parking.
We got into the city fairly early in the morning as we wanted to be a part of the morning hustle and bustle at the fish market. Watching the fishmongers bring in their catch and set up their stalls was something I really wanted to be a part of. It was simply perfect.
We got there just as the sun rays shimmered onto the fish market, the light hitting the shaved ice on the display tables created a spectacular atmosphere around the market. The fishmongers cheerfully greeted us, candidly apologizing at Germany’s loss to Spain in the previous night’s World Cup Soccer game. Being there before the horde of tourists came was just the thing to do. We spent quite a while here tasting and testing our way through the various stalls and listening to the many stories the fishmongers told.
Our next point of interest was the Hanseatic wharf, Bryggen. Often seeing the old colorful harbor buildings on postcards, I was looking forward to taking pictures and wandering the tiny alleyways in this part of the city. It was almost like traveling back into time and as it was still early in the day the tourists had not yet swarmed the charming galleries and alleys.
It was here that Bergen’s first buildings were erected some 400 years ago. Dominated by the Hanseatic merchants, the old wharf is a manifestation of the town’s importance as part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to the mid-16th century. Throughout the centuries many fires have literally demolished the houses in this area, but they have been restored with the utmost care and following the old patterns and methods.
To get a really spectacular view of Bergen and it’s impressive surroundings, take a ride with the Fløibanen Funicular. Located in the city centre the cable cars takes you to the top of the Fløien Mountain. What you get is a breathtaking almost 360 degrees view of the city, the mountains, the fjords and the sea. As the weather was so perfect we spent almost an hour here just relaxing and enjoying a snack.
Telephone: +47 55 33 68 00
Still in Bryggen make sure you visit the Hanseatic Museum, which is situated in one of the old trade houses. It gives an intimate picture of the life of a Hanseatic merchant. Soeren really enjoyed taking a trip through time here and we had so much fun making up stories.
Telephone: +47 55 54 46 90.
Another great place to visit with kids is the Bergen Aquarium. Tom and Soeren took on this attraction on their own as I decided to opt out and walk around the charming city, taking pictures and peek into quaint houses just to get a glimpse of life in Bergen.
Telephone: +47 40 10 24 20
That evening I was very excited to meet up with Kjersti and her family. My recipe of Lemon and Herb Risotto with Balsamic Roasted Asparagus brought us together shortly before I left. Her comment on the recipe made us swap telephone numbers and set up a date for dinner.
It was a lovely evening and once again I was reinstated in my belief that only food blogging brings together people in such a wonderful and memorable way. Tom who is often skeptical about these kind of meetings, had to admit that he had a great evening. It put a smile on my face because Kjersti, her husband Hjalti and her two kids were totally amazing. We all really got on so well with each other, laughing and talking about many topics.
For dinner they took us to a lovely restaurant run by two Norwegian chefs Bolgen & Moi. The menu was concise and clear with an interesting array of modern Norwegian dishes. While I went for the fish soup, Tom decided on the a sea bass burger. We were both extremely satisfied with our meal. Although I did not try the sea bass burger, my fish soup was sensational. Chunky pieces of butter soft salmon, juicy prawns and magnificent mussels in a creamy and frothy vegetable based soup. This one really got thumbs up from me!
Yes, Kjersti has translated and sent me the recipe!
Bølgen & Moi
Rasmus Meyers Alle 9
Telephone: +47 55 59 77 00
Our day in Bergen came to a perfect end. Kjersti, Hjalti, the kids and we were totally exhilarated, making plans to meet in Weimar soon.
The following day we packed up and headed to the Sognefjord.
Sognefjord & Nigardsbreen
The Sognefjord is Norway’s largest and the world’s second largest fjord. The landscape around Sognefjord is more rugged in comparison to the Hardangerfjord region, but just as stunning.
The E16 route from Bergen up to the Sognefjord via Voss was simply incredible. Driving to the top of the craggy mountains, still covered in snow, scattered with solitary cabins, then making our way back down to the incredible blue fjords and enchanting waterfalls. From crystal clear lakes to marshy wetlands, the changing landscape mesmerized me from the minute we set off.
Our destination was Sogndal, one of the biggest cities in this region. We chose Sogndal, as it was not only the perfect starting point for our excursion to the exceptionally scenic glacier tongue Nigardsbreen the next day but it also provided the ideal point for our kayak tour.
Due to the Gulf streams, the Sognefjord region has a relatively mild climate, which allows for fruitful cultivation of juicy pears, apricots, apples and peaches in the valleys. Our camping place was in a fantastic pear orchard opposite the Sognefjord.
Although the camping place was situated next to a main road one hardly heard any traffic. Encased in fruit trees it was wonderfully serene and the amazing view of the fjord often captured me in daydreams. The fjord seemed to lure both Tom and Soeren to try their hand at fishing again. However, once again they came back empty handed, but the salmon steaks we bought from Bergen were the perfect thing to lift their spirits. We grilled them on our little bbq and I served it with the most amazing bulgur salad. I could really get used to this!
Telephone : +47 57671012
I was very excited about our excursion the next day. The glacier tongue Nigardsbree is one of the most magnificent one of the entire Jostedal Glacier and we had planned a kayak tour on the lake followed by a hike on the glacier itself.
It is vital that you book a professional guide for the glacier hike. It’s fairly dangerous to be wandering on the glacier on your own. We booked our kayak and hiking tour through Icetroll Glacier Hiking & Kayaking and I can recommend them with both thumbs up. They were professional, friendly and funny - a characteristic often required to be able to see the brighter side of the glacier!
It was an experience of a lifetime. Getting up so close, seeing the vivid turquoise blue, hearing the crunch of the ice under our boots and feeling the chill of the glacier. We opted for one of the shorter glacier tours, which was a family friendly one and children from the age of 6 could master easily. The kayak tour on the Nigardsbreevatnet lake was also one of the shorter ones and it took about 3 hours.
One feels inconsequential standing at the foot of this colossal mass of ice. The Nigardsbree expands profoundly over the cliff, the ancient turquoise blue ice partially covered in a grey film of dirt. From the large opening at the steel blue mouth of the glacier a fierce and powerful torrent from the ice river flows into the lake below, while deep cracks and ridges have marked the glacier giving it undoubtedly the most unique characteristic. Large ice floes broken from the glacier float throughout the lake, which is surrounded by a morainic landscape. I was captivated by the sheer magnitude and found a new respect for nature around me.
If one is not keen or interested in taking a hiking or kayaking tour of the glacier, you can still get up close to the Nigardbreen with a small motorboat that takes tourists to the foot of the glacier. One can also hike from the parking lot of the Glacier Museum in a 40 minute hike right to the edge of the glacier. The route is clearly marked with red T’s and takes you over rocks, cliffs and small streams. Don’t forget to wear proper hiking boots.
The Glacier Museum is also worth a visit. We just had enough energy and time to take in the 20,000 year history of the massive glacier. The museum building itself is a interesting construction made out of wood and shaped almost like a Viking helmet.
Telephone: +47 57 68 32 50
A side arm of the Sognefjord is the Lustrafjord and it tempts with rewarding destinations like the wonderful Stave Church of Urnes. This stave church boasts of being Norway’s oldest stave churches and is located in the most spectacular settings one can imagine. The Stave church of Urnes was built in 1150, made entirely of wood and adorned with the most intricate and elaborate decorations.
En route I was hypnotized by the sensational beauty. Waterfalls, emerald green and turquoise blue fjords cutting into imposing mountains, each turn providing a new motive for my camera.
After a wonderful 2 days here, we were all set to hit the capital. Oslo promised to be filled with museums, art, shopping and pure city life.
It rained, all day! From the time we left Sogndal - the skies opened and it poured, sometimes with short drizzles. But on this day it did not matter. On this day we drove almost right across the country, a little over 300 kilometers in a little under 6 hours.
However, the closer we got to Oslo the bluer the skies got. The closer I got to the capital the more excited I got. I am a city girl, born in one of the world’s most bustling capitals, Bombay. I am lured by big cities and the fast pace of life like I am to high heel shoes.
Our camping place was simply exceptional. Situated on a hill high above the city, it provided with a mind-blowing view of Oslo below all the way to the Holmenkollen. Run very professionally by a large staff, this is a great place to stay. A bus stop conveniently situated in front of the camping place brings visitors right to the city center.
Ekeberg Oslo City Camp
Telephone: +47 22 19 85 68
Oslo is probably one of the more pleasant and very charming cities in Europe. Dotted with many green parks one quickly gets a good overview of this city. Although with over 450 square kilometers Oslo is one of the world’s largest cities, however with a population of just under half a million it remains fairly small. As the main focus of the city lies south of the Oslofjord, the main city is very compact and can be easily covered on foot.
The interesting center lies around the Karl Johans Gate between the huge city hall on the fjord, the palace and the main railway station. Towards the end of the 80s a lot of money was pumped into Oslo and it seems the construction plans are still in full swing. In 2008 the new Opera House directly on the fjord became the new landmark for the city.
There is a lot to see and do in Oslo and you will definitely need a few days to fully take in the several museums, landmarks and the stunning surroundings around the Oslofjord. So plan your stay in Oslo carefully. Below are just a few of the things we found interesting and I would like to share with you as my own personal recommendations.
The Oslo Pass is worth the 25 Euros. Depending on the length of your stay you can get a 1-3 day pass which allows you unlimited use of all of Oslo’s public transportation, this not only includes, buses, trains, subway but also the ferries. Furthermore it enables free parking and free entry to most of the museums.
Our first day started with us heading towards Bygdoy, a peninsula about 2 kilometers west of the city center. Some of the most interesting museums are located here as well as the summer residence of the royal family and a few very impressive villas.
Start the day early, would be my tip, because there is a lot to see. Almost all the museums on Bygdoy are worth it and the kids will be captivated by them all. We started with the Viking Ship Museum, which houses the Viking Age Oseberg ship, Gokstad ship and Tune ship alongside other artifacts from Viking tombs found around the Oslofjord.
Viking Ship Museum
Huk Aveny 35
Telephone: +47 22 13 52 80
I was most keen to discover the Kon-Tiki-Museum. After reading and watching a report on Thor Heyerdahl, I was so impressed and could not wait to get up close to being a part of his incredible life. Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian biologist, born in 1914 in Larvik, who created several headlines with his spectacular expeditions. In 1947 he crossed the Pacific in a balsa raft “Kon-Tiki” in 101 days. The museum does a great job of displaying the various expeditions including the expedition Ra. With the fantastic original rafts on display we were taken through time accompanying Heyerdahl on his expeditions.
Telephone: +47 23 08 67 67
Both Tom and I were looking forward to visiting the Nobel Peace Center. A feeling of humbleness overcame us as we walked the corridors lined with past Nobel Peace prize winners. The building is very modern and displays very interesting exhibitions, both permanent and changing. The Peace Prize laureates are all presented in the Nobel Field, which consist of digital display screens set in a garden of 1000 fiber-optic lights.
Make sure you get a look at the “magical book” about Alfred Nobel, his life and work, the Electronic Wall Papers and the film room The Eye.
Nobel Peace Center (Nobels Fredssenter)
Brynjulf Bulls plass 1
Telephone: +47 48 30 10 00
I love the work of Edvard Munch, yet another Norwegian heartthrob of mine! An expressionist painter and printmaker from Oslo, Munch was regarded as the pioneer of the amazing Expressionist movement. His artwork from the late 1800s is the most well known, the most famous ones have got to be “The Scream” and “Madonna”. For me it was a dream come true to actually be able to view both here in Oslo the home town of Edvard Munch.
After both pieces were stolen in August 2004 during the usual opening hours of the museum, which became one of the most spectacular art robberies of our time, I was excited that they were back “home”. But the museum offers so much more - a huge collection of his work is on display here and what an overwhelming feeling it was to be amongst 20,000 pieces of art from one of the forerunners of expressionistic art.
Telephone: +47 23 49 35 00
The Royal Palace will surprise you! It’s not at all pompous but modest, charming and simply beautiful. It is hardly fenced and tourists can really get up close – almost to the front door! In black uniform, the guards patrol the grounds and they themselves are part of the tourist attraction.
Everyday at 13:30 you can catch the changing of the guards and if the king is at home this is accompanied by the choir. The lovely park around the palace now belongs to tourists and the residents of Oslo and offers a wonderful view across the main Karl Johans Gate.
From here we walked down the Karl Johans Gate to the old university building. As both Tom and I belong to a university institute we are always keen to see how old universities in other cities are. For me another attraction was seeing more of Edvard Munch’s work in the assembly hall.
Further down the Karl Johans Gate, is the Storing, the home of Norway’s parliament and worth a visit for it’s impressive construction.
Impressive is also the magnificent city hall, Oslo’s true landmark. This monumental brick building with its massive towers took 20 years to build. Very recommended: a tour through the building.
You’ll find a lot of restaurants on the Karl Johans Gate, but my tip would be to make your way to Gronland a very trendy district in Oslo.
This district seems to be influenced by the people of the world who have settled here and one quickly forgets that one is in Norway's capital. There are an exceptional selection of restaurants and bars, which are inexpensive and offer great food. In the evening Tom and I came back here after Soeren was fast asleep. (Thanks to the Dutch couple in the camper next to us for keeping an eye on him!)
Gronland is also my shopping tip in Oslo. You’ll find exotic shops and stores offering wares not usually available elsewhere in Oslo. Gronland is a colorful and multicultural place to hang out in and it should be on your “must visit” list.
Make your way up to the Holmenkollen. Some might say “it’s just where the ski jump is!” but I say it’s worth it. Situated high on a hill overlooking the entire city one has a fantastic panorama view of Oslo.
The ski jump itself is an amazing piece of architecture. In 2008 it was closed and renovation work began to provide for a legendary facilities, which will host the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. There has been a lot of controversy about the building of the Holmenkollen, for us however it was quite exhilarating to see how things developed and will soon be open to the world.
Our 2 days in Oslo were coming to an end and so was our vacation. On our route back to Kristiansand we had planned a few days of sun, sand and beaches - yes in Norway!
Kragero is a lively little town south east of Norway, situated in the middle of breathtaking archipelagos. The colorful wood houses cower on the rocks and spread out across the little islands. Our camping place was a piece of paradise in itself. Located idyllically on an archipelago about 6km north of Kragero it offered it’s own harbor, beach, swimming pool and plenty of fun activities for the kids. I think I hardly saw Soeren during our stay here!
Telephone: +47 35 98 87 77
It was just a short stop for us in Kragero and after a little time walking and discovering the lovely streets of the town we spent the rest of the time relaxing on the beach before we headed back towards Kristiansand to catch our ferry back home.
Norway is truly God’s country. You will find it hard not to fall in love with this amazing place. A place where I truly found piece of mind and time to shut off the hectic world around me and even though our tour was ambitious, I came back home relaxed and totally motivated. Looking at the pictures and reading both the travelogues I smile and think - “Norway. My Way. Again. Next year?”
There are many online travel guides that will help you plan your trip to Norway. I personally found Visit Norway the best and most comprehensive with beautiful photos and exciting videos. The folks from Visit Norway are also on Twitter where they were very prompt in answering all my queries. You'll also find them on Facebook and they regularly add helpful tips and information.
Thank you to the team of Visit Norway for all your great help, advice and tips.
If you missed part one of the travelogue I am sure you will find the tour through Mandal, Stavangar, the Preikestolen and the Hardanger Region very interesting.
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