We spent this week in Norway, travelling from Roros near the border with Sweden across the country to Bergen on the southwest coast.
As we’ve only a short time here, we booked ourselves on the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour (thanks for the tip Mr Greer!). It’s 12 solid hours of all your fantasies about the Norwegian landscape. It lived up to them all which explains why it is apparently Norway’s most popular round trip tour ….but more of that anon.
We crossed the border from Sweden not knowing we’d crossed the border from Sweden. Were we now in Norway ? There was no ‘hard border’ (best start getting used to this Brexit lingo) but the houses were painted in colours other than the universal falu red we’d seen in Sweden…
…and the landscape around us had opened up. No more miles and miles of tree lined roads.
Our first stop was in a little town the guide book called ‘a gem’. That’s Roros, an historic copper mining town.
And though mining stopped here in the 1970’s after 300 years of production, the original timber houses are still lived in and come complete with their own slag heap….
….and an address to give endless amusement to their British penpals.
We stayed that night at a campsite on the banks of the Glomma river where the ever hopeful Stuart hoped to catch a fish, any fish.
There he is, casting his fly upon the water…
And here he is, six hours later……
….a nice grayling in hand.
Well if it was so nice, why did he throw it back?
We moved on next day to the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park where from this magnificent viewing area at Tverrfjellet….
..we hoped to spot one of these…
…but not today.
In the car park, we met a young English couple and their baby on a maternity leave trip through Norway in their T25. They passed on a valuable tip…
..ignore these speed cameras at your peril.
They had already been hit with a whacking great fine of £220 for driving at 70 km an hour instead of 60 km an hour. One mile an hour faster and the fine would have been £370.
We wild camped in the car park that night..
….and next day travelled south to Randsverk…
We stopped off to see one of the sculptures along the lake shore……
.. over here, Stuart…
Arriving at the campsite late afternoon, Stuart headed up the mountain on a solo hike….here’s his selfie from the cabin up top.
I stayed behind in the van, thought about what to cook for dinner (spicy pasta anyone?) and then made an executive decision we’d eat out in the campsite restaurant which was serving this…
….mooseburger (which was sort of mushy mince) with the added tang of lingonberries.
We had wanted to stay for a few days to do some hiking in the hills around Randsverk but the weather next morning was so awful, we decided to keep moving, travelling past many, many turf-roofed houses…
….and turning off the route south to follow the sign for the Besseggen Ridge hike.
Now I’d like to say that we would have tackled this iconic, cult status hike but for the awful visibility but seriously, I doubt we’d have done it ever, even on the clearest day, when the views of the lakes on both sides of the ridge (turquoise one side, azure blue the other) are by all accounts mesmerising.
The hike of 14 km takes about 7 hours and involves some scrambling on your hands and knees and – the most daunting part – involves about 1 km where you have to cross a narrow ridge with steep drops on both sides. The challenge doesn’t deter some 30,000 or so hikers every year.
We got as far as the car park..
…and turned round.
Travelling west from Leira, the weather was really nasty…..this is an August afternoon in Norway
…and check out the height of those snow poles! This road must be a complete white out in winter.
But as we found this week, the weather can change remarkably quickly. Within a few miles, the mist had cleared and the sun came out long enough to pull over, brew up a cuppa, stomp up a nearby hill…
….take a few snaps of the view….
…and get the camera timer working.
The sun was still shining next day. Even the sheep were grabbing some rays on the warm tarmac.
But what was I saying about the weather in Norway? I think I may have spoken …
…and dressed too soon.
‘There’s snow business like snow business…..”
We passed through Geilo, feeling sorry for these hardy cycle race participants battling through torrential rain …
…and finally reached Eidfjord where even the trees are wrapped up against the elements.
It was here that we got a taste of the spectacular scenery to come. The campsite’s location was fabulous…
…and Stuart had an attack of van envy. Here’s our van with knobs on.
But the German owners refused to indulge his Vdub geek tendencies and to his opening gambit ‘great van you’ve got’, responded only ‘yes it is’. Stuart retreated, a sadder, wiser man from the realisation that not every van owner wants to swap hilarious anecdotes about over-heating radiators.
We got nearer to Bergen and then the tunnels started, lots and lots of tunnels, one was about 7 km long with a roundabout inside….
….and out we came to more magnificent scenery….
…and then back underground again. The tunnels came so often Stuart would forget he was still wearing sunglasses and wonder why it was suddenly so dark…
…which was worrying but not quite so worrying as when he makes the move he has perfected on this trip where he swaps sunglasses to normal or vice versa and I know that for a few seconds our van is being driven by Mr Magoo.
Arriving in Bergen, we needed feeding up before battling with the hordes of tourists pouring off the cruise ships into the compact centro historico.
I opted for a fish soup which wasn’t as photogenic as Stuart’s choice….three types of herring served with three flavours of aquavit….
The one in the bowl marinated in madeira was the favourite.
Then it was time to enter the foray where the Spanish guide was leading her group in one direction, the Chinese guide was leading his group in the other and we navigated a path in between…
…to explore the Bryggen area where the German merchants of the Hanseatic League traded for 400 years.
Daniel, just 14 years, was my wonderfully enthusiastic guide around the assembly rooms and cookhouse used by the traders…
….and then I had a wander through the Hanseatic Museum…
..which with its dark wood panelling from floor to ceiling, to the wardrobe-style beds for the apprentices, it was very atmospheric and interesting….
…before heading back to find where Stuart had parked himself. (He has now officially bailed on all museum visits).
We did a bit more wandering though the narrow streets of Bryggen….
…where today the trade is in whoppers and souvenirs instead of stockfish and grain.
Walking to the train station to get back to the campsite, this sign caught our attention because I think it just about sums up what we’ve found on our trip so far.
The ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour is basically a series of transport options stitched together to showcase some spectacular scenery.
The weather was looking a bit gloomy at first…
…..but it was still early in the morning.
As we neared Voss, the sun appeared, heating up the dew into clouds of steam.
The American couple opposite us had also booked the tour. We got talking and became so engrossed in their incredible story of how he recently found four half-brothers and sisters by sending a tube of saliva to an ancestry DNA website, we missed the moose. We just heard the shouts from the other passengers delighted to catch a glimpse of one grazing in the forest.
From Myrdal, we all piled onto the Flam Railway which descends down a narrow gauge from around 800 metres to sea level….
…through 20 tunnels which were mostly built by hand….
….past some more spectacular scenery, if you could get near enough to photograph it….
And spoiler alert, at the 5 minute stop to allow time to take snaps of the Kjosfossen waterfall, there was a surprise waiting. The tour commentary on the train had talked about the beautiful sirens who haunt the Flam Valley, ready to enchant men to follow them.
Well here she is….
….and here she is again…how’s that for a job on your CV.
Music over and we all piled back on to the train. In the Flam railway station cafe later, a British couple grumbled to us that this musical interlude was “really naff”. Whaddya mean ‘naff’? What’s not to love about watching a Kate Bush-stylie dancer while Enya muzak booms over the sound of rushing water. It was marvellous!
I daren’t ask them if they’d ever been to Fort Bravo which may, indeed, rank among my top 10 experiences in the whole trip.
In the little museum in Flam, I liked the story of the first stationmaster in Myrdal. He also ran the restaurant which sold beer and wine, but due to strict drinking laws, only to travellers….
…so all the locals would come in and buy themselves a ticket to the nearest village. Job done, they were now officially travellers. ‘A pint, a packet of scampi fries, a ticket to Upsete and whatever you’re having yourself.’
After some selfie time…
…it was back in the train and on to Gudvangen for the tour highlight, the journey through the Sognefjord, one of the world’s longest and deepest fjords.
On board the boat, we were joined by some of the passengers from this arrival into the harbour….
…for two hours gliding through the narrow channels of the fjord…
…where we spotted some porpoises…
…and watched the world go by. ..
….so we were nice and relaxed by the time we got to the final leg, a bus ride down an 18% descent complete with hairpin turns. I’m not sure anyone on the coach took a breath till we finally reached ground level.
And so that in a nutshell was our Norway in a Nutshell. We didn’t have very long in Norway overall and it’s been the most touristy of all of the places we’ve been so far. Bergen especially is rammed to the gunnels with cruise ship passengers.
But now the journey starts for the final leg of our trip. Parked up beside Cunard’s finest, we are heading for Denmark where we catch the ferry to the Faroe Islands.