A cruise through the Hardangerfjord

The city of Bergen is, besides a fantastic place, also the starting point of many cruises and boat trips through the fjords. And how could we not visit the fjords while in Norway? We had arranged for a boat trip through the famous Hardangerfjord with Norwegian boat and ferry operator Norled. The Hardangerfjord is about 170 kilometres long, making it the second largest fjord in Norway.

We got up early in the morning to catch the bus that left from the Bergen bus terminal and would take us to the quay in Norheimsund, the real starting point of the boat trip. The bus ride took about 90 minutes.

The boat was an open deck catamaran, which gave us the opportunity to fully admire the amazing scenery and natural beauty! I could not stop looking at the majestic mountains with their snow-covered peaks, gletsjers, the waterfalls, trees, and the beautiful villages and settlements we passed along the way. The trip takes about 5 hours in total. The boat stops off at a number of picturesque villages like Herand, Utne, Lofthus, Kinsarvik, Ulvik and Eidfjord. The staff gives interesting information on the attractions along the way.

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Houses in the hills of Bergen.

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One of the picturesque villages we passed.
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A lovely church in one of the villages.
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Love the light!

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In Eidfjord, the boat docks for almost three hours. Norled offered a 2.5 hours sightseeing bustour from Eidfjord to Hardangervidda Nature Centre and Voringsfoss waterfall, which cost about 40 euros. The other option was to explore Eidfjord and its lovely surroundings by ourselves. We didn’t have to think long about that, we decided to skip the bustour and go hiking! After 3 hours on the boat, we were in need of some exercise.

At the information centre, we discovered there are several hinking routes in Eidfjord. We were interested in the yellow route, that led us to burial grounds from the Viking era and the Iron Age. And again, I was amazed at the natural beauty we encountered: a river with a beautiful little beach, colored houses looking tiny against the mountains. The burial ground itself was not very special, but as usual with these kind of places: you have to use your imagination!

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Walking along the river.
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While hiking, we found this hidden beach!

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Imagine living here!
The burial ground from the Viking Era and Iron Age.
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Tiny houses and big mountains.

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The hiking route took us about 2 hours, so we had plenty of time to visit the tourist shops and the local supermarkt near the Eidfjord quay. Then we boarded the boat again and enjoyed another 3 hours of spectacular views on our way back to Norheimsund. I admit we both felt a little tired. And we were not the only ones, many people were dozing off on the boat and in the bus back to Bergen 😊. I’m sure they all had sweet dreams after all the beauty they had seen!

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Rainy weather on the way back to Norheimsund.
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Exploring Bergen

One of the big differences between Oslo and Bergen became clear immediately after we had left the Bergen train station: it was raining! Not heavily, but still. We hadn’t seen any rain in weeks, it had been dry in The Netherlands for a long period (and it still is). And we didn’t get a drop in Oslo either. And now we were walking in Bergen with our raincoats on – also because it was only 18 degrees. The people living in Bergen were probably not surprised about the grey weather, since the city has about 260 raindays a year.

Gloomy weather on our first night in Bergen.

And that’s not the only difference between Oslo and Bergen. Oslo has the urban, big city feel. Bergen has more of a nautical vibe, feels more authentic, older.

Bergen has a few spots that are hugely popular with tourists. The first one is Bryggen, the old wharf of the city. It consists of a number of colored, wooden houses. Behind those houses, there is a maze of alleyways and courtyards. Bryggen is the oldest part of Bergen and is. UNESCO world heritage site.

Colored, wooden houses at the waterfront of Bergen (yes, the weather did get better!)
Bryggen is a real tourist magnet.

Walking through the small alleys in Bryggen is like taking a trip back to the Middle Ages. Because that is when Bryggen was built. Bergen was founded in 1070 AD and quickly became a thriving trade city. In 1350, the Hanseatic League, an important conglomerate of cities and guilds in Northern Europe, opened an office in Bergen. And they created Bryggen, which means ‘wharf’, to stock all their goods.

Explore the alleys and courtyards of Bryggen.

The buildings you see now, are not the original ones, as Bryggen was damaged by fire in 1702 an 1955. But the houses have been carefully restored to the way they were in the Middle Ages.

In the old houses at the waterfront, you find mainly restaurants and tourist shops. The alleys are home to galleries and little cafés, and local crafts like a silversmith workshop.

Across the street you find that other thing Bergen is famous for: the fish market. Want to taste some freshly boiled shrimps or eat raw oyster, then you can find it here. There was even a tank full of living lobsters, and one stall sold whale meat. Not sure what to think of that. We didn’t buy any fish. Marco doesn’t eat any fish and also, the prices were ridiculously high. It was nice to see this place, but it’s really a tourist trap. No local would go here.

The fish market in Bergen.

The centre of Bergen is nice:

A street in the centre of Bergen, very early in the morning.
Art in a street in Bergen.
Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most famous composer, was born in Bergen. He also lived and died there. There is a museum about him in his house in Bergen.
Music pavillion in the centre of Bergen.
Love the colors of these buildings.
Ole Bornemann Bull was a Norwegian virtuoso violinist and composer, born in Bergen.
Torgallmenningen square in the centre of Bergen.

We also visited Bergen fortress, at the harbour front. Some of its buildings are about 800 years old. Until 1299, Bergen was the capital of NORWAY. At that time, Bergen fortress was also the royal residence and political centre of Norway.

Haakon’s hall, built in the 13th century, was the largest building of the royal residence.

Also very photogenic is the Nordness peninsula, with its colored wooden houses and charming alleys. On top of it is the Frederiksberg fortress, built in the 17th century.

Picturesque alley in Nordnes.
Traditional wooden house in Nordnes.

There is one other thing I will remember about Bergen and that is the Naboen pub (Sigurdsgate 4). We ate here two evenings in a row, because the food was so good and the atmosphere fantastic! They serve wraps with reindeer kebab, delicious fish and steak on a plank (plankstek), amongst others. And there’s a large choice of beers. Prices are very reasonable! This little cellar is certainly worth a visit when you are in Bergen!

From Oslo to Bergen by train

From Oslo we traveled to Bergen by train. It was a 7 hour journey, but a very special one and certainly not boring! In the summer, this train is often fully booked. We tried to take the morning train, but were too late to reserve seats. Fortunately, we managed to book for the afternoon train.

On this long journey to the west coast of Norway, we saw the landscape change. As we neared Bergen, the landscape got rougher. Mountains and rocks started to appear, small rivers running through them. We saw mountains with snow on them, and there were gletsjers. We left Oslo with a temperature of 30 degrees Celcius, but that dropped to about 15 degrees a few hours later. The sun almost disappeared and was replaced by heavy clouds. Now I know why this is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world!

Snow on the mountains between Oslo and Bergen.

This rough landscape attracts many tourists, we noticed. We saw hikers and cyclists along the way, a lone fisher on a lake. We passed touristy places like Geilo, Flå and Voss. At every station along the route, there is a sign that tells you the height. The highest point of this railway is at 1222.2 meters above sea level!

We passed several villages along the way.

With the mountains came many long tunnels. I wondered how they built them, in times when there were hardly any machines (around 1900). It must gave been done all by hand, incredible!

After 7 hours we arrived in Bergen. A very different city from Oslo. More about Bergen in my next blog!

Bergen railway station.

Oslo outside the city centre III: Vigelandsparken

In one of my other blogposts, I mentioned that Oslo is a very green city. One of the most interesting parks in Oslo is the Vigelandsparken, a sculpture park. This park is part of the Frognerparken and named after Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943), Emile Vigeland’s older brother. Between 1924 and 1942, he created the 212 stone and bronze sculptures in the park.

Gustav Vigeland was just as talented as his younger brother. The sculptures everywhere in the park prove that. All the sculptures depict naked people: men, women, children. The artworks convey a lot of human: emotion. A man hugs his woman. Another man lifts two children. I could have kept looking at these sculptures all day!

Highlight of this sculpture collection is the 20 meters high obelisk that depicts dozens of people eating, sleeping, loving, fighting, climbing on each other to reach the top: the cycle of life as the artist saw it.

Oslo outside the city centre II: Frognerseteren and Holmenkollen

After we visited the Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum, we decided to take the underground (but it was more like a lightrail as it didn’t go underground and we could enjoy the spectacular views!) to the northern parts of Oslo. The more we got to the outer parts of Oslo, the more we saw of the Norway that everyone pictures: picturesque colored houses made of wood, standing on the hills. The views got better as the train kept climbing higher and higher. Until we got to the last stop: Frognerseteren.

Frognerseteren

Frognerseteren is a neighbourhood in the north of Oslo, you can find lots of hiking and cycling tracks in this area. But it’s also an area for winter sports like skiing and langlauf. Our first stop was the local restaurant Kafé Seterstua, as we were in desperate need of some food (There’s also an a la carte restaurant here). The restaurant was a cozy wooden cabin. I could picture what this place would look in winter, with skiers coming in from the cold, ordering a large bowl of soup and taking a seat by the large fireplace.

We stopped at a cozy wooden cabin.

We ate some sweet buns in the café (You can buy lots of delicious buns all over Norway, like chocolate croissants, cinnamon buns and other sugary things.) Then we hiked for a few kilometres through the woods. It was good to be out of the sun for a while.

Opposite the restaurant is a small open air museum with traditional Norwegian houses.

Holmenkollen

After half an hour, we arrived in Holmenkollen, another neighborhood in Oslo. This is a well know wintersport area. It has 2 large ski jumps. The first one we saw was Midstubakken. Built in 1955. It was the location for several skiing world championships. We climbed it a bit and I thought that thing was mighty high (a hill size of 196 meters).

Midstubakken ski jump, mighty high.

Holmenkollen ski jump

But then, only one kilometer away we found it’s big brother: the Holmenkollen ski jump, the oldest of its kind in the world! This thing was built in 1892 and has had several renovations and extensions over the years. Several world championships and even the Winter Olympics of 1952 took place here. We didn’t go up the hill, as we were pretty tired from all the hiking in the hot sun. We admired it from the ground, watching the people who were brave enough to take the zip line and rush all the way down. Apparently there is a ski museum next to the ski jump, but we didn’t go there.

Holmenkollen ski jump, the big brother.
The Olympic flame is burning bright in Holmenkollen.

Not interested in sports? Then there are some other attractions you might find interesting. Like the beautiful wooden church of Holmenkollen.

Wooden church in Holmenkollen.

We had some trouble getting away from this place, as there were no clear road signs to the train station. Thank God for GPS!

Oslo outside the city centre: the Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum

The city centre of Oslo has many points of interest, as you could read in the blog I wrote two days ago. But there is so much more to see outside the city centre, as we discovered yesterday.

To get to those attractions, we had to use public transport. We found out that this is well organised. Oslo has many forms of public transport: buses, trams and the underground. We bought a 24 hour travel card, that can be used in all these means of public transport.

Vigeland mausoleum

Our first destination was the Emanuel Vigelands mausoleum in Slemdal, one of Oslo’s best kept secrets (and yes, we had some trouble finding it). Because of railroad works, we had to take the tram and the underground to get there. Then we walked through the Slemdal village for about 30 minutes, searching for the mausoleum. We had to ask another tourist for directions. No road signs whatsowever for this secret place. But in the end, it was all worth it!

Little library near Slemdal station.
Looking for the mausoleum, we found this typically Norwegian farm in Slemdal.

Emanuel Vigeland (1875-1948) was a Norwegian artist with many talents. He is best known for his paintings, but also produced fresco’s, stained glass and sculptures. In 1926, he constructed a little church in Slemdal to house his paintings and sculptures. Later, he decided this would become his tomb. He called the building Tomba Emmanuelle.

Artwork on the wall of the building.

We had to wait 15 minutes before we could get in, because there was a waiting line. Only a few people are allowed in the room at the same time. The staff called us when we were allowed to enter. We had to wear covers on our shoes, so we wouldn’t make any noise on the floor of the exhibition room.

Artwork on the door of the church.

The mausoleum is a large dark room, completely covered with frescoes. The 800 square foot paintings shows scenes of human life: birth, love, death. We stayed in the room for about 20 minutes, just adoring this very special work of art.

Taking pictures was not allowed, but we did buy a postcard with a scene from the fresco:

Hello Norway!

Ok, so my last blog was a while ago and I promised to tell you more about the city of Berlin. But something came up…and that something is Norway! Me and Marco are in Norway for 10 days and our trip started yesterday. We arrived in Oslo in the beginning of the night, after a 1.5 hour flight from Amsterdam. At Oslo Gardermoen Airport we took the quick flytoget train that brought us to Oslo central station. We are staying in the wonderful Citybox budget hotel near the train station.

View from the hotel room.
Oslo has many quiet and beautiful courtyards.
Bears everywhere in the shopping centre of Oslo!

So today we had the chance to get to know Oslo. I had no idea what to expect, but what I’ve seen today makes me happy. Oslo is a very relaxed city with kind people and beautiful buildings, many green parks and great architecture.

Many green areas where you can sit and relax on the grass.

Oslo is very kind to pedestrians, because I noticed there are many areas where cars are not allowed. Also, Oslo has a lot of parks where you can just at the grass and relax. So it’s a green city as well.

Oslo has a lot of pedestrian areas.
Rental bikes in the centre of Oslo.

What most impressed me today was the harbour area, with all it’s great modern architecture and art everywhere. Today was a sunny day and many tourists and residents were enjoying the sun, water and food and drinks in the many restaurants this area has.

Art is everywhere in the Oslo harbour.
Lots of amazing modern architecture in the harbour area.
Relaxing near the water.
View of the harbour.

Another attraction in the city is the famous Opera House, built in 2008. The exterior seems to rise from the water. Visitors can climb the roof of the building and enjoy fantastic views of Oslo and the fjord.

The Opera House is a great tourist attraction.
Climb the roof and enjoy the views.
The exterior of the opera house seems to rise from the water.

Although Oslo is a very touristic city, you can still find quiet places. I was surprised by the Armed Forces Museum, which als located near the harbour. The museum shows the military history of Norway, from the Viking age to present. Admission is free. Information in English is available.

Building at Akershus Fortress.
Cannons at Akershus Fortress.

The museum is located in the Akershus Slott fortress, a castle that was built in the 13th century. We enjoyed the surroundings of the fortress very much, a great place to hike, enjoy all the lovely views an learn about Oslo’s history at the same time!