Norway for a Month is aaallllll Right!

Oslo Travel Blog

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Hi Everybody

I want to tell you about the month I recently spent in Norway. I was there all of April with Hanne • who not coincidently is Norwegian. We spent Easter with her family. They live east of Trondheim, which is about three quarters of the way up the coastline, and well within the Arctic Circle. We flew up there on a stormy and dark day, the landscape below was completely snow covered except for the forests of pine, bare of any foliage, and black against the snow. It was sub zero when we got out of the plane and crossed the tarmac to the terminal. So I met her family, at my very best after 40hours of transit from New Zealand, and they are very nice.

What followed was two weeks of family madness. They all gather together for Easter. Hanne’s family have a cabin in a small valley near by. It is quite isolated • no cars can get in because of the snow. We skied in. It is a small wooden cabin, painted red with a gabled roof, the furthest into the valley. There is no electricity or running water. So we (or should I say they) gathered buckets of water from a hole they punched in the frozen river. We cooked using gas and read at night by candlelight. The valley is surrounded by 1000m high mountains and everything is snow covered. You can not see any other cabins from where we were. We would ski each day. One day we climbed one of the surrounding mountain peaks on our skis. I discovered I hate herring-boning (a technique for walking up hill with skis), but I discovered I love skins (a wrap you can attach to the bottom of your skis so you don’t slip when walking up hill). I had a very good time skiing, I improved a bit, which involved a lot, and I mean a lot, of falling down. The Norwegians found it all very amusing.

Hanne’s parents house have a ski track running by their back door • literally. The track is groomed and has lights so people can ski during the dark winter months. The houses in Norway are all painted in striking bright colours. It stands out against the snow and brightens the landscape. One night Hanne and I skied up some of the mountains behind her parent’s house and camped in the snow. We didn’t see another person the whole time.

After two weeks we started travelling, couch hoping our way down the coast from north to south. First stop was Tromso • northern Norway’s largest city • which means it was minute, but it was a pretty place where we rock climbed and learnt about Sámi (Laplander) culture. Then it was Trondheim, halfway down the coast, where Hanne went to University. They have a beautiful Cathedral, with hundreds of religious statues adorning the front, and such a quaint old part of the city by the river, where we sipped our one and only twenty dollar beers.

Next was a couch in Bergen, a great, multi hued city, with old quarters dating from the 1500’s to modern shopping plazas. The old section, Bryggyen, is all wooden buildings along the waterfront, many leaning at odd angles, and behind that are wood and stone houses, tiny twisting alleys, and impossibly quaint street scapes. There are mountains behind the city, one day we walked up onto the tops and left behind the bustle of the city, it was really peaceful. The weather this far south was clear and sunny, and we could see for miles across the city and down the harbour.  

From Bergen we made our way into Sognefjorden. This district has spectacular scenery and old wooden ‘Stave’ churches. Stave is the name of an architectural design and lend its name to the churches. The oldest churches date from the 1100’s. We saw one at VVVVV. It was beautiful, the wood was varnished a deep brown to black, and the site was on a small hill top overlooking a bay in the fiord. One day we hired bicycles and rode around the district. We were looking around the churchyard of a small town when a man approached; he was the caretaker and offered to show us inside the church. It dated from the 16th century, it was a tiny building, seating perhaps twenty people, the wooden walls were covered in paintings depicting religious scenes. One day we took a ferry ride through some of the narrow arms of the fiord, it was spectacular. Farms and pastures are perched in the remotest locations, accessible only by boat. The colours are very ‘true’ in Norway, I don’t know how to describe it better, but the air is clear so everything stands out very vividly. This was the case when cruising the fiords, and on the day when we left the fiords and headed to the capital, Oslo. This can be done by train. A very spectacular rail line of 20km links the head of Sognefjorden with the main trunk line between Bergen and Oslo. It rises at a grade of 1:18 and passes through multiple tunnels • for those who aren’t into trains, well who cares, there is no explaining it. For those who are, it was great. 

Oslo was the final stop, and this city is all about its museums. My two favourites were both dedicated to ships. The first was the Viking ship museum. It houses two near complete Viking long boats from the 800’s. They were excavated from burial mounds near Oslo in the 20th century where they had remained buried for more than a thousand years. Now they are housed in a large, unadorned hall. There is nothing in there except the boats and a few simple explanation boards, it is such a great way to display then, not cluttered, and nothing to detract from them. Awesome. The other museum was a bit more niche; Norway had a fine line of polar explorers, from Nansen who nearly reached the North Pole first, to Amundsen who did reach the South Pole first. One thing they all had in common was the exploration ship Fram, these explorers and their parties spent literally years trapped in the ice with this ship as their home and protector. They’ve dry docked the boat and built a building around it, and now you can run all around the ship, on deck, below deck • everything. It was so great to be able to touch something you’ve been reading about it, instead of staring at it behind a piece of glass. Oslo also has a fantastic park dedicated  to displaying sculpture s by one of their artists. Hundreds of his statues line the park, including  a 20m carved monolith  depicting a column  of writing human figures (see photo). I wasn't into sculpture , but this park has changed my ideas on it drastically.

So that’s all for now. Norway was wonderful. Stay tuned for more bat adventures.  Your mate, Adam.

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photo by: sarahsan