Leaving the arrivals hall of Oslo airport we stepped on to the train platform. I dived straight into my little carry-on case to dig out my fluffy pompom topped hat, scarf and gloves, the chill in the air caused our breath to steam, I could already feel the cold biting at my legs. Luckily within minutes the train arrived and we piled on, grabbing a window seat so that we could watch the snow-covered landscape as we passed. From the plane I had noticed how white the landscape was, tall trees were dusted with snow like icing sugar and huge lakes had been frozen over. I wasn't sure if what we'd packed would be enough for a week long wintry trip, but with Norway apparently being one of the most expensive countries to visit in Europe we would have to make do.
We arrived at Oslo Sentrum Station and walked to our hotel, once we'd layered up we went out for a walk and to find a bite to eat. Oslo seemed modern for the most part with beautifully historic buildings dotted around, it was eerily quiet and unlike any capital city that we had visited before. There were scatterings of ice on the ground, trams and buses wound their way through the streets. We found a burger joint called Tommi's to eat an early dinner, the sloppy veggie burgers and salty fries were delicious, at £30 for the meal with soft drinks we could see how prices were a little steeper than back home. We took a walk around the streets, ventured in bookshops and eyed up the windows of pretty plant-filled home stores before wandering along a snowy path to Akershus Fortress where we saw the beautiful setting sun over the harbour.
The next day we grabbed breakfast at a sweet cafe before popping to the National Gallery opposite. The museum showcased Greek and Roman sculptures, paintings in oil by Cranach and landscapes by Impressionist painters. The star gallery was of course the room devoted to Edvard Munch, Norway's most famous artist. Seeing eerie The Scream in real life was interesting but my favourite piece in the room was Madonna. We left the hustle of the museum and took a walk past the Royal Palace towards Vigeland Park, as we walked the 4 kilometres through residential streets lined with colourful wooden houses snow started to fall, it was so peaceful. We encountered a handful of locals walking their dogs and a couple of wheel spinning cars trying to plough through the snow drifts. The park was a huge blanket of white, children were sledding down any hill they could find and couples walked hand in hand. The sculptures by Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland were exquisite, made in iron and granite they depicted the human form in a myriad of different shapes, sizes and poses. I managed to persuade Craig to strike the same pose as one of the sculptures, despite embarrassment I had a go too and giggles ensued. With snow still falling we took a walk through the tree lined avenues and then returned to the city centre where we stumbled upon San Francisco Soup Bowl; a new cafe serving filled bread bowls, the kind that we had eaten on a trip to Reykjavik. I had macaroni cheese in a bread bowl while Craig had a vegan curry soup. Both were delicious and exactly what our bodies needed to warm up.
The next morning we woke bright and early for our train to Bergen. As the train smoothly glided through tunnels the landscape changed from urban to tree littered countryside and isolated wooden shacks to bleak and beautiful white noise. Cups of tea and a cinnamon bun from the cafe carriage kept us going through the six and a half hour journey, on reaching Bergen the sky had changed to cloudless blue. We arrived at the station and wheeled our cases through the town, past the park and up a cobblestone street to our apartment which was the bottom floor of a traditional Norwegian wooden house. We had decided to get an apartment rather than a hotel so that we could cook the majority of our meals in an effort to save money, that budget backpacker mentality doesn't ever go away! We strolled to the local mini-market and bought supplies which was just like when we were travelling as we had to work out what was worth buying and what meals we could create from very little.
We had decided that our first activity in Bergen should be to take the funicular railway to the top of Mount Floyen which is what we did. The views from the top were outstanding though the ice on the paths made it a little treacherous to walk around, I clung on to Craig's arm for dear life and didn't let go. We decided to take a walk through the snowy woodland which felt like stepping into Narnia, luckily we managed to hash together a route that avoided too many slippery sections. A lot of locals were out walking/skiing with their dogs as it was such a brilliantly sunny day, our lunch spot on a half snow-covered bench overlooking trees and distant fjords was stunning.
We walked further, reaching a pathway that we couldn't travel any further on as it has been blocked by an avalanche. Instead we followed a route to the right, stopping to admire huge icicles that had formed on a rock face. Our final stop before turning back was at a viewpoint which overlooked the vast landscape, snow covered winding roads, forests and the other mountains of Bergen including Mount Ulriken, the tallest. We returned to city level and walked along the waterfront to the historic row of wooden shops and pubs known as Bryggen.
The next morning we got up and out the door early to take a three hour cruise through Osterfjorden to Mostraumen. We bought our tickets at the quay and boarded the sleek modern catamaran. Inside was kept warm and cosy, as we left the harbour with Bryggen on our right we saw huge ships and cruise liners, as we got further from the city we noticed little caves in the coastline, rickety wooden steps leading to colourful boathouses and grand houses perched on cliff edges. The fjord began to narrow so we ventured out onto the deck, the air was bitingly cold and the wind meant I had to keep hold of the bobble on my hat as I was scared it would blow away. The views were stunning, especially the perfect reflections on the water as the boat slowed right down. From the front we could see the bow breaking ice on the water, a waterfall right in front of us had completely frozen. We slowly turned around and made our way back to Zachariasbryggen, Bergen's harbour. We retreated inside the cabin with a hot chocolate to warm up for the return journey.
Once on dry land we went for a wander along cobblestone streets to see an historic side of the city; traditional houses, quaint little squares and maze-like walkways and steps. We ended the walk by going through a commercial area right by the waters edge and had a picnic lunch on the quay right by where our catamaran had docked.
On our last full day in Bergen we were unsure what to do at first. It was another clear, blue sky morning. We had contemplated going out on another boat to see more of the surrounding area but decided instead to venture to the outskirts of town to catch the Ulriken643 cable car to the top of Bergen's highest mountain; Mount Ulriken. As we sailed up in the little yellow car we got chatting to a local man who was going to ski from the top of Ulriken all the way to Mount Floyen where we had visited earlier in the week. We wished him luck and waved him off before taking a look at the amazing views of the city and fjords below. We could see for absolutely miles. The ground was incredibly snowy underfoot and quite slippery too. We decided to take a little walk out in the snow which was easier said than done. Occasionally our foot would land in a deep patch of snow and be completely covered, it was a real workout trying to get anywhere. We slid down one section on our bums to avoid slipping over and carried on trudging until we found a perfect spot by a lonely hut to eat lunch. With the sun beating down and us out of breath from the walk it didn't even seem cold, I think it may have been the most beautiful little lunch spot that we have found on our travels. We walked a little further though I was wary of going too far knowing just how strenuous the walk back would be where we'd have to go up the steep hill we'd just slid/walked down. While I sat on a snowless rock in the sun Craig walked on for a couple of minutes, I watched him get further and further away, eventually I could no longer hear anything except my own breath, there was complete blissful silence. I watched as Craig took photographs of the views , a couple of walkers passed by kitted out in heavy snowshoes. Craig returned and we began the walk back which seemed easier as we found a forged pathway of compacted snow which was more slippery but less exhausting to walk on. After practically crawling on our hands and knees up the steep icy hill we made it back to where we'd started. It was hard to leave, the lack of people, beautiful quiet and commanding views were hypnotising. After one last look around we took the cable car back down. We made our way back to town and walked from the bus station past the huge half frozen lake to our neighbourhood.
It had come to our last day, our flight was at 7pm but we had to vacate our characterful apartment by 12pm so we enjoyed a leisurely morning with a homemade cooked breakfast before leaving with our cases in tow. We walked to cafe Klosteret Kaffebar which I'd found on TripAdvisor. We'd hoped to be able to while away a couple of hours there but it was packed to the rafters. It was a small cafe with photographs of famous musicians on the walls, a stack of board games and pretty lights. We found a table and enjoyed a coffee and creamy hot chocolate before leaving to take a walk to a park right on the waters edge. We sat on a bench in the sun with a view through trees to water and the coast opposite, small boats would glide past every now and again. We ended our trip with a very unglamorous fast food late-lunch purely due to the fact that other restaurants were too expensive or annoyingly closed before catching a coach to the airport.
Our wonderful six nights away in Norway had encompassed everything that we had wanted, galleries, eateries and park life in Oslo, one of the worlds most beautiful train journeys, two snowy mountain adventures and a trip out on the water to see fjords too. Thank you so much to my love Craig for organising such a perfect and memorable trip to celebrate my thirtieth birthday.
A Handful of Hopefully Helpful Hints:
- Oslo Airport, Gardermoen has a train station underneath, you can buy a train ticket to take you to Oslo Sentrum (Central) easily from a ticket machine in the Arrivals Hall.
- The Tourist Information Point in Bergen is next to the fish market on the harbour, there is a huge range of leaflets to take and tours can be booked from here.
- The Mostraumen cruise is a more affordable way of seeing the coast and fjord landscape, tickets can be bought directly on the quay where the catamaran leaves or from the Tourist Information Point.
- Ulriken643 cable car is on the outskirts of the city, buses leave from the Xhibition centre, make sure you buy your bus ticket from the bus stop ticket machine as the bus driver charges much more, there is a ticket machine at bus stop for the return journey too.
- Our bus driver alerted us to the Ulriken643 stop but it felt like we'd been dropped in the middle of nowhere, cross the road and either walk to the left where the road sweeps uphill to the right or do what we did and go right and then left up a slope and lots of steps past the hospital. If you look you'll see the cable car so just walk in the general direction and you'll find it. I believe there is a direct bus that connects the cable car to the city but this wasn't running when we went and the general bus is easy if you ask the bus driver to let you know when to jump off.
If you're planning a trip or want to know any more then please don't hesitate to get in touch.
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