13-16 August 2010.
Friday. went straight to Bergen from the airport. lunch at the Fish Market. We shared a plateful of crab claws, langoustines, shrimp, a variety of smoked fish, lettuce and potato salad.
It’s an area mainly for tourists (tourist trap) and it’s worth eating there just for the experience – complete with fishy smell, harbour views, carinderia atmosphere. Some of the traders are conversant in quite a number of languages (no Tagalog though). We walked around the pier inching our way to Bryggen.
We stayed at the Budget Thon Hotel in the other end of Bryggen. Our room at the 7th floor overlooks the wharf. It’s a basic room, with a tiny bath/toilet. No room service, nor any complimentary toiletries, slightly dated decor. But clean. Hotels in Norway are quite expensive compared to other European cities (hotels are £100+/night and we average £50/meal/2 persons and we only eat at cafes and pubs).
Bergen is a pretty town. We spent much of our afternoon in Bryggen, having coffee, walking in the pouring rain. Bryggen is made up of old tilting houses and quaint shops, the wharf in front and the mountains as a backdrop. But still I’m thinking it is not as beautiful as I imagined.
We were up early on Saturday. Sausages and fishcakes for breakfast at the hotel. We caught the 0840 train from Bergen as we head out for our Norway in a Nutshell tour…along with several hundred tourists doing the same thing. As popular as this tour is, trains are very infrequent (every 2 hours?). The tour is not a guided tour, you just get a packet of tickets to take you from Bergen-Myrdal-Flam-Gudvangen-Voss-Bergen and you can vary your route and choose whic train/boat/bus to board (though the trains and boat schedules are very limited). Al and I have managed to get ourselves a seat on the train. It’s a 2 hour journey to Myrdal and the train was packed like sardines. The train goes through tunnels half of the time, but you’ll get a good glimpse of the mountain and rivers unless people are blocking your view, like in our case. Everybody was quite miserable. We did get a respite as we passed Voss, halfway through as a lot of the nutshellers go on an alternative route. We travelled onwards to Myrdal. The Flamsbana was waiting as we got off the train. It was packed as well. You can move around, but don’t expect to take good photos with everyone looking out the windows. The train made a stop at kjosfossen where everyone got off to take photos of the waterfall. a woman appeared near the falls, music started blaring and she started dancing. that was a bit surreal, unexpected and quite weird.
We got off at Flam close to noon and made a beeline for the Fletheim Hotel Restaurant (before the other tourists start getting hungry). But the restaurant was closed as they’re fully booked by the tour groups. So we headed to their cafe instead, which was actually better as we get to sit outdoors and away from the other tourists. We had soup and a bbq skewer of different meats – reindeer, elk, lamb, goat – which was quite good.
There wasn’t time to go on a fjord safari and not much to do around Flam than walk around. We boarded the 1320 boat to Gudvangen that will take us into the fjords. Another crowded boat and the best seats are already taken. So we just stood for the whole 2 hour trip. But that was ok as we had a great view of the fjords. It was a slow boat, allowing you to take in all of the view. I’ve seen only 1 seal. Though the other side of the boat might have been better for wildlife spotting as it was closer to the cliff sides. It was a relaxing journey, though it would have been much better if there was some place to sit and relax and be able to take in the view without that many tourists scampering around taking photos. And I could also do without the sudden classical music they’re blaring out to highlight the dramatic views. I just though that was corny and unnecessary.
We’ve boarded a bus from Gudvangen to Voss and made our way through to Northern Europes’s steepest road (18 deg gradient) as it zigzags it’s way through to the town of Voss. It’s a scenic ride as well with plenty of views of the town below (unless you’re afraid of heights) and waterfalls and mountain views.
We arrived into Voss and decided to head into the shops to find a VOSS mineral water to take home. It was not even 5pm yet, but all shops are closed save for a few convenience stores which doesn’t stock them. Weird that you can’t easily find VOSS mineral water in Voss. It was a sleepy town, and we contented ourselves with a meal at the cafe near the park.
We boarded the train heading back to Bergen at 1920. at least this train’s not that crowded (but it was still hard to find good seats).
Sunday. We slept through the morning and gave breakfast at the hotel a miss. We found this quiant cafe in Bryggen that had old furnitures which I love.
Was looking for daytrips to fill the afternoon but there was nothing except the harbour cruises. There are no passenger ferries as well that goes to nearby islands. We queued to take the Floibanen, a funicular train that takes you to the top of Floyen mountain where they have a vantage point to see the city of Bergen and the fjords. There’s always a long queue in the mornings here but the trains were running continously so it did not take us that long to get to the top. As usual, they tend to pack the cars with as much people as possible. Good views from the top. And I finally had my fish soup from the cafe there. We walked downhill into the forests and ended up in the residential areas behind Bryggen.
We got into the Ulriken bus as well, unsure where it will take us. The bus drops you off at the bottom of the Ulriken mountain and you get the cable car from there. This actually offers better views than the Floibanen. just don’t stay too long as your brain might end up fried with that huge TV tower.
Dinner was Norwegian tapas and beer at a pub in Bryggen.
Monday. Packed the bags, checked out and headed for the Bergen Aquarium. Took the ferry from Bryggen wharf and walked towards the Aquarium. The place is not exactly in the best condition, but it was entertaining enough for us. From there we walked back to the Fish Market and got a bus to Gamle Bergen. Saw the big sailboat we had been eyeing since Sunday gone past, with passengers! We were passing by it but did not see any sign that it was open to passengers. kainis.
Gamle Bergen is an open air museum made up of several houses depicting life in the village in the 18th to 19th century. Worth going to and I was glad we went outside of the tour hours and missed the throngs of tourists.