Gap Year Days 9 – 14
We arrived in Norway after a twelve hour economy flight from Singapore to Copenhagen, then a short hop from there to Oslo. We had very little sleep on the flights and we had a two hour wait at the airport for the kids to arrive on their Emirates flight from Adelaide via Dubai. As always when we are tired and just want to get moving, their flight was delayed, and then they took over an hour to get through passport control, get their baggage and emerge from the depths of Arrivals.
It was two hours from leaving the airport until the Bookcrossing Convention began. Suffice to say we did not quite make it! By the time we worked out the trains and tram to get to our accommodation, we were already late. Serving of the waffles was at 4:30, so we arrived by then with ou r stomachs grumbling. Along with the warm drinks they warmed us up after our first experience with the freezing weather. The evening was spent catching up with old friends and making new ones, before our lack of sleep caught up with us and we had to get some sleep.
On our way back to the Anker Hotel, snow fell on me for the first time ever. As we jumped out of our Uber, a few flakes of snow were falling. I’m sure the locals would not have even noticed, but I was very excited to see those few flakes. Norway was already memorable.
Saturday was another day at the convention. Mostly throughout the day we socialised, with some author talks in between. There were some book swap games (which I watched rather than participated in), the raffles were drawn and information given regarding next year’s convention in Bordeaux. We were all happy to see a delegation take the stage to bid for the 2019 convention. Rumours had been flying around that no one was going to put their hand up. We now know 2019 will be in Mainz, Germany.
Sunday morning was the last part of the convention with a final chance to say goodbye to those we won’t see again until next year. We then littered the streets of Oslo with books as we made our way towards the park for a flash mob. As a crowd gathered around, we completed the task and put our books down and left. Convention over!
Sunday afternoon we went site seeing. We were really lucky as once a year Visit Oslo has a promotion called “Tourist in your own City”. By registering for a pass, all public transport is free for the day, as is entrance to many museums and attractions.
With a plethora of choice, but not much time, we ventured to the Viking Museum. It’s a small museum containing some well preserved ships and many other artefacts from the Viking era. Worth a visit, but really only needs between thirty and sixty minutes.
Almost right next door is the Folk Museum. I had heard that there were some old Norwegian wooden houses here, so we bypassed the other displays and headed out to see the houses first as we were short on time. It was enjoyable wandering amongst the houses so that before we noticed it, it was 4pm and the museum was closing. We quickly looked into a few other buildings on the way out but didn’t see everything.
Also on the list of free things was the Magic Ice Bar. Simon, MacKenzie and I had been to an Ice Bar before in Queenstown, New Zealand, but Bailey hadn’t so we decided to do a quick visit. And quick it was. We would have been inside only about 15 minutes. The drinks were cheap, so we indulged, and then discovered why they were cheap. They were tiny!
We left the Ice Bar, venturing out into temperatures almost the same outside as inside. The obligatory Hard Rock Cafe visit was next. I had said no t-shirt as we don’t have the luggage space to carry one from each city. Simon sort of obliged. He bought a hoodie instead! He claimed he needed an extra layer for the cold.
The next part of our trip started early, with the first train trip on our Norway in a Nutshell trip from Oslo to Bergen leaving at 8:25am. We spent the next four hours warmly tucked up in our carriage, watching the temperature outside plummet. Through the windows we were watching a winter wonderland. Snow was falling and the countryside was white. I took way too many photos of the beautiful Norway countryside!
Train number two was the scenic Flåm Railway. The views were stunning, but with the snow not as pretty as they would have been if everything was green. The train stops for a short time during its journey to allow the passengers to get out to photograph a waterfall. The waterfall was underwhelming when Bailey and I jumped out. We were overjoyed though to have the opportunity to play in the snow for a few minutes, touching it and throwing it and generally being silly. Waterfall? What waterfall?
We got to spend about half an hour in the small town of Flåm before boarding our boat for a cruise up the fjord. The first half of the trip the wind was ferocious. It was so cold it was impossible to be outside on the deck for more than a few minutes at a time. We watched as the wind whipped a pair of glasses from the head of one guy and threw them overboard. The boat’s direction changed, and it was now protected from the wind. So for the last half of the trip we were able to get outside and enjoy the scenery.
Leg four was a bus! Either our boat was early or there was another issue, because we waited in the freezing cold for half an hour before we could board the bus. The kids were teasing me by the end because I was visibly shaking with cold. From the beginning of May, this bus takes a scenic route with a whole pile of hairpin bends. To the relief of my family we missed out on this, but I would have enjoyed it!
The final leg was another train. This one a boring old commuter train just to get us into Bergen. Just before we pulled into the station the sun came out for the first time all day. It wasn’t any warmer though, and the walk to our AirBnB was both a blessing and a curse. It sure warmed us up, but that’s because most of it was up the side of a steep hill. I don’t think I have ever been so glad to open a door to find a warm, clean place and throw off my backpack!
We had one full day in Bergen but ended up spending most of it relaxing. It was cold out, but we did go out for a few hours, to walk around and have a look at the town. We visited the Bergen Museum, but it was quite small and we were there less than an hour. We got half price entry, or else I would have felt we didn’t get our money’s worth. Despite the blue skies in the photos it was only about 3 degrees Celsius, so it wasn’t long before it was just too cold for us. We stocked up on groceries and made the most of our AirBnB and cooked a warm dinner and stayed in. The early night allowed us to prepare for our flights to Amsterdam, via Copenhagen, the next day.
We really enjoyed Norway. About the only downside is how expensive it is. The few times we caught public transport it was really easy to get around in both Oslo and Bergen. Mostly we were able to walk to anywhere we needed to go to. Communicating in English was relatively easy. Everyone we encountered spoke at least enough to understand us and be understood. Free Wifi was plentiful and available even in many places we did not expect.
There is plenty to see and do and we feel that we didn’t really do either Oslo or Bergen justice with such a short stay. There are also so many other places in Norway worth a visit. I hope we will get back there at some point in the future to investigate further.
[We returned to Norway later in our gap year to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø. To read about our experience, go to that post here.]
AirBnB – Modern apt in the heart of Bergen, pro handled
Telthussmauet, Bergen, Hordaland 5003, Norway
$176AUD per night.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.