Norsca fresh

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
Trip End ??? ??, 2006

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Flag of Norway  ,
Friday, July 21, 2006

The first thing you notice when you get off the plane in Bergen is the smell - FRESH air with a hint of pine tree. No Eau d'pidgeon poo, dog shit or car exhaust fumes. Don't get me wrong, London is no Bangkok, but it does have a certain odour at times. The second thing is how CLEAN and GREEN it is (to use an old Brisbane City Council slogan). The third is the lack of people. After spending two and half hours at a very crowded Gatwick Airport on a Friday afternoon at the start of the school holidays when everyone is off to thier package spanish villa, this is a very pleseant sensation. Bergen is Norways second largest city and consists of a huge population of 200 000 people. The fourth thing you notice is TIMBER houses. When you have lived in a city full of stone and brick for over 12 months, this actually does really stand out and is quite a shock. Bergen houses are painted bright colours with big verandahs, and look almost like Queenslanders without the corrogated iron roofs. Made me a bit homesick, really.

I had booked private accommodation (read - someone's house) in Bergen due to Norway's reputation as being a wee bit expensive. We were expecting to be in some dodgy cupboard without a window in someone's house, but were stoked when we ended up in a gorgeous house with our own kitchen, lounge room and the comfiest bed we have slept on since leaving home. The hustle and bustle of London was melting away very quickly!

Yes Bergen is very pretty, blah, blah, blah, but probably would not normally be on the tourist map except that is situated on the doorstep of the Norwegian Fjords. So to that end, I had booked what I thought would be 'non-touristy' tour which involved no tour leader, just a few various forms of public transport that link the must see areas. You would think I would know better by now, wouldn't you? Maybe I'll learn one day.

The first hour or so on the train was bliss - rolling along beside fjords with picture postcard views and Tism on the MP3 (well, Mick did at least). All very peaceful and relaxing, until my calm was shattered by a very loud American voice telling us to 'move - this is not your carriage - our group has booked it'. A full busload of American seniors descended upon us and started singing church songs. Where's that MP3 player, Mick? Quick!

We had a three hour break in Flam, a tourist town beside a fjord. We quickly escaped the hoardes, got ourselves a couple of takeaways from the convenience store and headed upstream along an amazingly crystal clear stream (with a waterfall and forest as a background) that was full of fresh snow melt. And yes, we made sure we looked under all the bridges for Trolls - you never know! It was actually quite a hot day, so we had visions of stripping off Norwegian style and getting Norsca Fresh. We are both wooses, because we could only get as far as putting our feet in the water before having to pull them out in agony suffering from cold burns. That water can't have been much above freezing, I don't think. Tough buggers, those Norwegians. Still, it did make a good beer chiller and we spent a very relaxing couple of hours whiling the time away.

The next stage, a boat trip down the Fjords, was a bit trying actually, as it was packed with people, all jostling and shoving to get a space next to the rail. Still, it was incredible, I was glad to see it, but would have been much happier taking it a bit more leisurely in a canoe, or some other less crowded form of transport. I did see several elusive seals though (after looking for them all through Ireland and Wales), even though Mick doesn't beleive that I actually saw them. I did, alright! The whole day ended up lasting 12 hours, which was way too long and felt very rushed, but still a great experience. This part of Norway is almost too perfect - by the end of the day the endless waterfalls (our count was well over a hundred), picture postcard mountains and impossible cute houses was all starting to look a bit the same. Yeah, yeah, another waterfall. More Mountains. Whatever! Next time, I will take a tent and a bike and do it properly. Bed has never felt so good, that night.

Next morning was spent wandering around Bergen (which actually doesn't take that long as all the shops seem to be selling the same Trolls, fake Viking swords and seal skin wallets. The Fish Markets were unreal though - see photos. You probably won't like this, Gus, but rivalled Japan for fresh seafood (although not quite). They also sell Reindeer salami and moose meat. You don't get that everyday!

That afternoon, back on the train (all 6.5 hours worth) to head off to Oslo.
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