Holiday in Norway 2004

This report describes the adventures from a holiday that I had with a friend, Ronald, at the end of July in Norway. As I'm currently living in Norway this seemed the appropriate thing to do. We decided on making a tour through South and Middle Norway, starting in Skien, the place where I live, proceed North to Trondheim and go all along the West Coast through Molde, Bergen and Stavanger to witness the countless mountains and fjords that make up the country side there. And the last leg brings us back to Skien through Kristiansand.

Because we knew that we were going in the busy time of the year when the Norwegians are also celebrating holiday we booked hotels in front of our trip to have less of a hassle to get a place to sleep. An excellent help for this is the Lonely Planet guide which offers a lot of good tips on usually cheaper sleeping and eating facilities. Really a must to have while traveling virtually everywhere.

Day 1: Skien to Otta.

On this first day of our holiday we went from Skien through the mountains of South and West Norway to Otta, a small town at the foothills of Rondane National Park. The drive there brought us past mountains and fjords with some spectacular views which are very hard to find when following the normal highway routes. Instead of following those we chose to go for a very different route through some of the interior of South East Norway. Our hotel, the Rondeslottet Høyfjellshotell appeared not to be close to the city at all, but halfway upon the mountain with a view of the peaks of the Rondane National Park, which was a rather good surprise.

Day 2: Hiking in Rondane National Park.

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Panorama from the summit of Størronden

In the morning we had some breakfast at the hotel and after wards we went off to Mysusæter and Rondvassbu to start our hiking trip to the summit of Størronden. The first leg of the trip was an easy one and a half hour hike to the camping center building, but after that it became much harder to keep going. The 'path' to the top was hardly a path, and mostly we were simply going on top of rocks. After about one and a half hour climbing we finally made it to a pre-summit and enjoyed the view for a while. We decided not to go further to the real summit as the weather was quite bad: lots of wind and the treat of showers. The way downhill was a bit less tiring, but it wasn't much faster than going up due to the great amount of loose stones. After another one and a half hour we made it back to the camping cabin were we rested for a while before continuing on our last leg back to the parking place at the border of the National Park where our car was parked. After a six hour hike we were finally back and drove back to the hotel to rest. For dinner we decided to skip the overly expensive dinner buffet at the hotel and instead we followed a suggestion from the Lonely Planet to dine at the Pillarguri Kafé in downtown Otta. The meal was good and after some walking around the uninteresting town we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

Day 3: Otta to Trondheim.

Not much interesting today really as we just drove from Otta to Trondheim using a lot of back roads. Though there were no interesting things to do, the view were sometimes pretty nice as the roads we took brought us to some rural areas with very little other tourists around. We ended up at Stig's place to have a nice barbecue meal because the weather finally permitted that.

Day 4: Rafting in Oppdal.

We drove back to Oppdal to execute Stig's plan to go rafting. After a short introduction we got our real gear (helmet, wetsuit and life jacket) and headed by bus to the place were the rafting started. After another useful half hour theory session on safety and other important rafting issues we went with our raft into the rived and did some quick practicing in an eddy while trying to respond to the commands our (Swedish) raft-guide-to-be Petter was shouting. Petter was also having his master-of-the-river examination so we actually had another guide, Wilhelm, to oversee his handling. We were the first (out of three) boats to go.

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Riding the rapids

The rafting itself was a whole new experience, the butterflies in the stomach when approaching a rapid and the mandatory splashes of water into our faces. We did not even get a swimmer (the guide's term for somebody falling out of the boat), not even in the one rapid deemed "unraftable" by the river book (from 1971). Fortunately the rafts we now use are much better as the ones from 30 years ago of course. The only person who became swimmer was one of the guides from another boat. When reaching the end of the trip we learned the seventh rafting command, called Splash, which the guide used to tell us to try to make people from other boats as wet as possible.

Day 5: Sightseeing in Trondheim.

Although Trondheim does not really feature a lot of sights to spend a whole week (I tried that two years ago) it definitely has something to offer. We planned to visit the Nidaros Dom Church, the Tyholt TV Tower and Munkholmen, but due to some unexpected weather called rain we had to skip the visit to Munkholen. Unfortunately rain is a major issue when going on holiday in Norway, especially the West Coast area. The Tyholt TV tower stands on a hill overlooking Trondheim and is used by the NRK to broadcast television from. It also features a small restaurant which serves simple meals and drinks. The Nidaros Church is in the heart of the city and is about a thousand years old. Tours are done in a couple of languages but they are very scattered through the day; that meant that we there are the wrong time to follow one in English. Instead we looked around ourselves and visited the collection of historical gravestones and made a trip up the very narrow stairs to one of the two towers of the church.

Day 6: Trondheim to Molde.

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After the few relatively relaxed days in Trondheim we proceeded our tour to Molde, west of Trondheim. Our route went through the Northern Fjords area which meant very curvy and narrow mountain roads, some where less than 3.3 meter wide which makes it quite hard to pass an oncoming camper. As part of our route we followed the Atlantershavsvehen, a stretch of asphalt laid over 17 small islands in the Atlantic ocean interconnected with bridges in various forms and sizes.

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Rica Seilet

In Molde we stayed at the Rica Seilet hotel which is build in the shape of a large sailing ship. The view from our room on the ninth floor looked out over the fjord and snowy peaks. The hotel was quite up-class but about as expensive as the other hotels we stayed in and it offered some nice features such as wireless Internet access. The Lonely Planet guide suggested the Dockside bar as a good place to get a decent meal, and that's were we went for dinner.

Day 7: Molde to Sogndal.

The road from Molde to Sogndal is everything except easy. With so many fjords and mountains in the way the Norwegians had to come up with a whole lot of tricks to build roads here. The first hurdle we encountered where a few ferries which cost around 80 NOK each; the trip over the fjords are magnificent though.

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Trollstigen and the Stigfossen waterfall

After the ferries we encountered the Trollstigen with 11 hairpins and an average 1:12 gradient. As extra feature a 180 meter high waterfall is next to the roads. The road is pretty much too small to fit two passing cars, let alone buses or German campers so it's quite a hassle to get up to the top.

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Geiranger fjorden

Between Eidsdal and Geiranger we crossed another mountain range which was not really interesting. The interesting part was the last section of the road, the Ørnevegen which is the name for the decent off the mountain to Geiranger and gives a great view of the fjord. This is one of the most often photographed parts of Norway as it is a simply stunning view.

Day 8: Sogndal and fjord.

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Panorama of the Lusterfjorden

We stayed one more day in Sogndal to tour around the Lusterfjorden. We started by heading to Nigardsbreen, one of the glacier tongues that is part of Europe's largest ice field: Jostedalsbreen.

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The Nigardsbreen glacier

The road goes past a watercraft energy facility in which you can have a guided tour 10, 12 and 14 o'clock. Hiking on the glacier is also possible, but only with a guide and it's a very good idea to bring warm clothes as even in the middle of the summer the temperature on the glacier is very low.

After the visit to the glacier we continued our way to Lom where the road passes over highlands (up to 1440 meter) with a bizarre landscape full of ice-cold lakes, snowy summits and bare rocks.

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The staffkirke at Urnes

We didn't continue all the way to Lom, but instead turned around a few kilometers before the city as we needed to make it in time to the staffkirke in Urnes, one of the four sites in Norway that has a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List. We made it just in time to have a tour through the Church which closes at 17:30. After visiting the church there are two ways of getting back to Sogndal, one of them is driving the 60 km around the fjord again, and the second one is by small ferry to Stolvern. The ferry is very small, and its last sailing is at 17:50, which seems coordinated with the closing of the church at Urnes.

Day 9: Sogndal to Bergen.

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Panorama of the Aurlandsfjorden

The E16 between Sogndal and Bergen features two of the longest tunnels in Norway, the 24.51 km long tunnel from Lærdal to Aurland and the 11.4 km long Gudvangentunnel. We decided to skip the longest tunnel because spending 20 minutes under ground did not appeal us; instead we took the "old" road over the mountain which presented us with spectacular views of the Aurlandsfjord. Instead of continuing the E16 after Voss we made another de-tour that brought us past the Hardanger fjord which also featured another section with countless hairpin bends on the road.

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Buildings near the waterfront in Bergen

Driving in Bergen is a whole adventure too, where a good map really helps to figure out where you're going. We stayed at the Steens Hotel where the friendly staff recommended the Bryggeloftet & Stuene restaurant to us for dinner. This was indeed an excellent choice and after a good meal we used the Fløibanen to get to a view of Bergen. Unfortunately when we were about to walk back to the hotel it started to rain. Apparently it rains about 75% of the time in Bergen, so it's always wise to bring your umbrella if you're visiting.

Day 10: Bergen to Stavanger.

Weather is a major "problem" for us holidaymakers in Norway. On our trip from Norway's second largest city down along the Sundal to Stavanger we encountered the form of annoyance in various forms. That spoiled some of the great views that the route had to offer and made driving not very easy either. Nevertheless we were able to spot amazing views of fjords and mountains. The views were already the best encountered so far, but it could have been even better without the dreadful rain. The last part of the trip was by ferry to Stavanger which brought us very close to the "Havly Hotel" in which we were staying. Dinner we had at an excellent restaurant "Phileas Fogg", after the persona from Jules Vernes' book, which serves all kinds of food. The meal was excellent, the prize (around 350 NOK pp) was "good" for Norway.

Day 11: Trip to Preikestolen

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Preikestolen and the Lysefjord

Preikestolen is one of the major tourist attractions around Stavanger and features a cliff 640 meter high above the Lysefjorden. The climb up there takes about one hour and fourty five minutes and is not always easy, but after climbing 370 meter from the starting point you do get a great view of the fjord below. For the last part of the climb there are two alternatives: the cliff trail and hill trail. I would suggest to take the cliff trail on your way to the top, and the hill trail on your way back as it requires some more climbing.

Day 12: Stavanger to Kristiansand

The trip was pretty boring, but the coastal road is kinda nice with lots of things to do (museums etc), but we were not really interested in that at all. Kristiansand is a nice city and especially in the summer when the weather is cooperative an area close to the harbor with lots of boats/restaurants is really nice. It's there where we dined at the Bølgen & Moi restaurant and were we had a pleasant evening laughing at the crazy people with their boats in the harbor. We stayed at the small Sjøgløtt hotel, which has friendly staff and decent rooms close to the water front.

Day 13: Kristiansand to Skien

We proceeded along the Nordsjø vei, trying to avoid the highways on our way back to Skien. We did not really see or do anything useful on this trip and it was quite boring. It was good for me to be "home" though.

Day 14: Sightseeing in Skien

Although Skien is not a very interesting city landmark wise, it has some funky things if you're bored. This relates mostly to Henrik Ibsen which was born in Skien and there are some museums about him around. We did not go there but instead we went to visit Brekkeparken. Inside the park there is the Telemark museum which has some replicas and original buildings from a few hundred years ago and some other smaller exhibitions which rotate during the year.

Day 15: Oslo

The last day we visiting Oslo, which is only 2 hours driving away from Skien; at least, if you're not using the E18 highway. We parked our car at Oslo Sentral Station and explored the city by public transport and on foot.

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Vikingship in the museum in Oslo

The first site we visited was the Vikingship museum on the Bøgdoy "museum" peninsula. The museum has 900 year old remains of three viking ships used for burial, and plenty of materials found near them on the burial site.

After we got back from the Bøgdoy peninsula by boat-bus we payed a visit to the fortress that once protected Oslo. There we attended a guided tour that explained about the history of the fortress and its inhabitants. This free guided tour is available in the summer months every two hours (at 10, 12, 14 and 16).

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Main statue in Vigiland park

Before ending the day with a simple dinner at the harbor we walked to the Vigiland park to see some of Vigiland's work. His work consists of plenty of statues of humans and is mostly located in this Oslo park. It's definitely worthwhile to visit this major achievement.

Final words

With the trip to Oslo the holiday was at its end. As you can see Norway has plenty to offer, from exciting activities such as rafting to fabulous places to go hiking, and from magnificent views of fjords to viking-age buildings and remains. We had a lot of fun here, but next year I still want something else. I guess it's finally time to go to Oz.

Comments

Sounds great, when are you going to invite me?

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