Norway Travelogue: Bergen

Bergen has a big tourist pull (us included) in Norway. Both the old part of the city and a nearby fjord are World Heritage Sites and it is an all around lovely place. Plus, it’s the place that inspired Arendelle (not to be confused with Arendal) of Disney’s Frozen. IMG_3784 Norway is such a massive country. To go from Oslo (on the eastern side of the country) to Bergen (west coast) it is over a seven hour drive. To go from there (which is not the southern tip, but an eight hour drive north of the southern end) to the northernmost part is over a three hour flight. I knew it wasn’t small, I just hadn’t given the country’s size enough credit. Anyway, to get to Bergen from Oslo we flew. We arrived early in the day (which meant an even earlier flight), but it gave us plenty of time to see the city. Our first stop was the Fish Market, complete with live crabs (big ones!) and lobsters, moose and whale sausage, and plenty of other fishy lunchtime foods. IMG_3753IMG_3826We wandered past the famous Hanseatic buildings of Bryggen (what Bergen is really known for) before stopping at the Rosenkrantz Tower of Berghus Fortress.IMG_3763 IMG_3765Inside we saw the building, dating back to the 1200s, and read bits and pieces of Bergen’s history. The rooftop gave us some great views of the city and it was a nice way to introduce us the Bergen. IMG_3768 IMG_3770We also stopped into the military history/resistance museum. It’s always interesting to learn about some of the countries that weren’t necessarily major players in WWII, but that worked so hard to not succumb to the Nazis and fought for their freedoms on their own turf. IMG_3756We had walked thorugh a bit of the Hanseaitc buildings earlier in the day, but went to the Hanseatic Museum in the afternoon. The museum is one of the wooden houses of Bryggen and shows how the German merchants that traded stockfish from Norway to the Baltic states lived and worked. We totally lucked out and got to the museum maybe five minutes before an English tour started. Success! IMG_3808Bryggen is the series of old wooden homes along the wharf that were inhabited by Germans only (they weren’t allowed to live anywhere else and no on else was allowed to live here) from the 1300s to the 1700s. They had really strict rules not allowing any source of heat or light because of fire protocols. This is crazy considering how cold and dark Norway gets, but fires were really common and destroyed huge chunks of the neighborhood more than once. The Hanseatic Museum was an entirely new bit of history for me. I hate to admit it, but we didn’t really plan our day in advance. I had done quite a bit of research about what I wanted to see in Oslo, and I had researched where to stay and booked tour tickets and flights and a car, so our one day to sightsee in Bergen fell through the metaphorical planning cracks. For not having a clear idea as to what to see when we left our apartment in to morning, we ended up having a really nice day.Bergen Troll CollageDid you know trolls come from Norway? Or the stories about them do at least. Daughter now loves trolls and recently while reading a copy of The Three Billy Goats Gruff from the library Little L was sad when the troll fell off the bridge. She thinks the troll is the protagonist! haha. But with statues like these all over the place, it’s fairly easy to see why. IMG_3804Our last activity was taking an funicular up the mountain to Fløyen to see the views. You can hike all the way, hike halfway, or as we did – not hike at all. Typically Derek and I are big hikers, but we didn’t really have the time to before sunset and sometimes it’s okay to own your tiredness and enjoy the ride. Plus, it was a lovely ride with an awesome playground and (another) troll at the top.IMG_3832IMG_3871 IMG_3844IMG_3852Oh yeah, and that view! Bergen View Collage The next day was our big touristy adventure day. We had booked a Norway in a Nutshell tour. It’s basically a series of transportation allowing you to see some of the absolutely fabulous and breathtaking countryside. Or, to use a British phrase, a tour to see Norway’s outstanding natural beauty. We took a bus to a train to another train to a boat to a bus to a train. Yeah, lots of transportation. But even more outstanding natural beauty. IMG_3916We first took a bus to Voss, then a train to Myrdal. At Myrdal we boarded the Flåm Railway or Flamsbana, a historic train line famous for its steepness (almost 80% of the journey has a gradient of 5.5%) and for being “the most beautiful train journey in the world.” IMG_3900It was beautiful. The train even stopped for photo ops at the most picturesque waterfall: IMG_3889While our train was stopped there was some music being broadcast over speakers and two dancers at the waterfall. What an awesome (though perhaps a bit ridiculous) job! IMG_3891From Flåm we boarded a boat that took us through the Nærøyfjord, an arm of the Songefjord – Norway’s longest and deepest fjord (which also inspired Frozen).IMG_3994The water was clear, the fjord was narrow and steep, the peaks were high – all culminating into really great views and a new perspective on Norway. It was nice to be outside, albeit a bit chilly, and with each turn of the boat we saw a new side of each peak. Norway in a Nutshell CollageIMG_3984I also really appreciated this little dock – notice the sofa in the doorway? Way to take advantage of your location, friends!IMG_3953IMG_4004I have good and bad things to say about the Norway in a Nutshell tour. Overall – yes. awesome. do it. There was no other way we could have seen so much of the country, the Flåm Railway, and the Songefjord without taking it. However, in some ways it was just incredibly expensive public transportation full of other tourists.IMG_3939After the boat we took a bus back to Voss, then a train all the way home. The bus ride allowed us to see more little villages and perfectly still, reflective lakes.IMG_4013In Voss we had a little time to walk around and we ended up in the cemetery of the church yard. I love my in-laws and Derek comes from an awesome family, but they deserve some mocking – for some reason we always make it to some cemetery during family trips! Not that this trip needed it, but was solidified it as a family trip right then. IMG_4023 This concluded our Norway trip. We were really sad to see it close. Daughter loves her Papa, talks about Oslo, and we still play sleeping trolls, a game we created on our last train ride to Bergen. We loved you, Norway! A few travel tips: We stayed in Airbnb apartments in both Oslo and Bergen. Using Airbnb was ideal for us for a few reasons. Where we stayed was significantly cheaper than Norwegian hotels, we were still close enough to walk where we wanted to go (for the most part), and we had more space for our little group, including space for Daughter to sleep. Plus, our Oslo place was probably the nicest Airbnb place we’ve ever had! *Note: Airbnb doesn’t know or care who I am. Norway is a pretty expensive country, food especially. We bought all our food in advance to picnic along the way for our Norway in a Nutshell day. For other days, especially for dinner I would recommend looking up places to eat in advance. We spent an absurd amount of time looking for a reasonably priced, still open place with an appealing menu for dinner the night we were in Bergen. Learn from my mistakes. While you’re buying food for a picnic make sure to try some geitost (I think pronounced yay-toast). It’s a sweet brown cheese from goat’s milk. It is a bit of an acquired taste, but it is completely different than other goat cheeses. It was also ideal for us because of Daughter’s cow-milk allergy. Here is a whole blog post about it! The author calls it “the epitome of Norwegian food.” Going somewhere new with someone that was so excited to be back and speak the language and that knew people made a huge difference. Have enthusiastic travel buddies. IMG_3532

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