Travel Diaries – Norway

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.

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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 our 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 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.

Each time we walked to the convention location we walked past this very old cemetery. Some headstones looked hundreds of years old.
Saw a few of these tiny cars. So small they can fit sideways in a carpark.

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!

I don’t remember what this was but it was delicious! Like a lamington on the outside, with marshmallow on the inside.
Weird poses in Vigeland Park
Statues in Vigeland Park. The biggest park in the world containing statues by only one person.
Statue in Vigeland Park – after the Bookcrossers have passed.

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 the entrance to many museums and attractions.

With a plethora of choices, 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.

A ship at the Viking Museum that was found as part of a burial site along with many other items left to help the deceased to the next world.

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 4 pm and the museum was closing. We quickly looked into a few other buildings on the way out but didn’t see everything.

Some of the old wooden houses at the Folkemuseum
It was so nice wandering through these old houses from different regions of Norway
At the Folkemuseum
Love these weird looking buildings

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.

Magic Ice Bar
Customers enjoying the cold
Magic Ice Bar
The bar
Magic Ice Bar
The drinks. About two mouthfuls in each once the ice glass is taken into account.

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 8:25 am. 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!

This is so pretty! Just enough snow.
A winter wonderland
A winter wonderland
Green house in snow!

Train number two was the scenic Flåm Railway. The views were stunning but because of 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?

The waterfall was a little underwhelming

We got to spend about half an hour in the small town of Flåm before boarding our boat for a cruise up the fjord. During 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.

The wharves of Flåm where we boarded our boat
It wasn’t the best day for stunning views of the fjords
As we turned the corner the weather cleared up
A little settlement on the banks of the fjord.

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 is 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 for 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 by cooking a warm dinner and staying in. The early night allowed us to prepare for our flights to Amsterdam, via Copenhagen, the next day.

Bryggen, the old touristy area of Bergen
The lookout over Bergen. We considered walking up there, but it was hard enough just getting to our AirBnB

The Verdict?

We really enjoyed Norway. 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 anywhere we needed to go. 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.]


Anker Hotel
Storgata 55, Grunerlokka, 0182 Oslo, Norway
1200NOK ($194AUD/$148USD) per night for a Family room
Full Review

AirBnB – Modern apt in the heart of Bergen, pro handled
Telthussmauet, Bergen, Hordaland 5003, Norway
$176AUD per night.

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8 thoughts on “Travel Diaries – Norway”

  1. That tiny car made me lol, it’s worse than a smart car (which do look very funny indeed)! Norway looks so pretty in the snow. I thought the warships were pretty cool when I saw them, but didn’t get to the park. Massive regrets there. Hope you’re having fun in France!

    • Wait until you see the car I have put in my Amsterdam post! I think these cars are just so weird to us because Australia is all about having the biggest car!

      We have already moved on from France – in Berlin at the moment.

  2. Mainz, eh? Looking forward to it. Those Germans will run an efficient convention, you may be sure!

    I was all but sweltering in Persia. There was only one time I wore my lovely warm jacket, and once we were in the bus, the driver cranked up the heat, the sun came out, and I took it off!

    I guess you are using the layering principle. I have a t-shirt or two to wear under my shirt, and as a pyjama top at night in a warm hotel/AirBnB.

    There was a guy on our tour who had your model camera. He wore it in a tiny belt pouch, and I rather envied him his freedom. And, judging by your photos above, it is doing just fine.

    • Thanks Pete.

      Yes, the layering principle is working well. I got up to five layers at one point. Only three today, and we even saw the sunshine a little this afternoon.

      I have to admit, some of the photos are taken with my camera, some with my new phone – iPhone7! Sometimes it’s just easier to pull that out for simple shots, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with it.

  3. Nice to read about your adventures, but you really took so little time to be in Norway and the Netherlands… can’t wait to read about your Amsterdamtrip, but I already imagin it was way too short.
    I thought about you on monday in Oslo, when it started snowing, thought you would have had a lot of snow in Bergen, which I now read you did…. but it makes a waterfall quite small…you can’t have it all 😉 enjoy your trip!

    • You are correct, we had far too little time in either Norway or Amsterdam! There is just so many things to do. I am looking forward to slowing down a little once the kids go back to Australia. I am already thinking maybe we will spend some more time in Europe before the Bordeaux convention.

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