Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oslo - Land of Misfortune

Our fjord cruise concluded with a train ticket to Oslo, on the other side of the country.  We arrived in Oslo around midnight, with almost no idea how to find our hotel.  Unfortunately the only people in Norway that don't speak English fluently are the bus drivers.  Finding our hotel (which was about 1 mile from city center) took over an hour and a half because we couldn't communicate with the bus drivers.  We showed them the address as well but they didn't know how to help us.  Eventually we figured it out but had to walk around steep neighborhoods in the middle of the night with our bags.

By the time we checked in to our hotel and opened the door to our room it was 1:30am.  It was really a shame as well, because our hotel room was really nice.  We found it on and it was cheaper than a hostel or budget hotel.

The hotel room we didn't have time to enjoy

Our hotel room had a washer/dryer combo machine, so we were pretty excited to wash our clothes.  Unfortunately the washer/dryer combo is really slow, and after we started the wash cycle (a process that cannot be interrupted) we noticed it would take THREE HOURS to complete, then they would still have to dry.  This would have been ok if we had started the wash cycle at night, but we started it about two hours before checkout.  They told us they would charge us $50 if we weren't out by the checkout time, so we were pretty stressed.  After half an hour of trying to work something out with the staff the manager said she would just take them out when they were done AND dry them in the hotel's commercial dryer for us.  She told us to just go do our siteseeing while she took care of the clothes.  We did as she said and it really saved us.

From the hotel we went to the world famous Vigelend Sculpture Garden.  The sculpture garden is a massive collection of statues, mostly dedicated to human form and motion.

Horse bucking a baby, happens all the time in Norway

From the garden we went to the National Gallery.  We didn't have much time but the gallery is home to Edvard Munch's The Scream, one of the most famous paintings ever painted.  We double and triple checked the museum's location and visiting hours, only to find upon arrival that it had been "closed for a private exhibition," about 15 minutes before we got there.  We asked the security guards at a neighboring museum if they knew anything about it; they didnt, and they said in all their years they had never heard of an unannounced, mid-day closure for a private exhibition.  We left assuming someone famous or "important" was inside screwing up our day.  We went to a Norwegian history museum instead.

We booked a bunk-bed cabin on an Oslo-to-Copenhagen overnight ferry, but we almost missed it.  We couldn't communicate with bus drivers enough to figure out how to get to the pier to board the ferry.  We ended up run-walking with our bags for a mile, ha ha.  To make matters worse the pavement was covered in pebbles and sand so we couldn't really roll them along.  

We loved Norway and we think about it everyday, but our experience in Oslo told us it was time to go.

Farvel Norway, hej Denmark

Saturday, November 27, 2010


The final leg of our fjord cruise was a trip on the Flåmsbana, an old rail line that winds its way up a mountainside, providing unbelievable views along the way.

Road used by workers to build the railway

Richard in front of the Kjosfoss waterfall

The photographs don't do this waterfall justice

In total it was a very long day of sightseeing, but it wasn't over...

Sognefjord in a Nutshell

Don't go to Norway without going on a fjord cruise.  Spending all the time and money to go to Norway without properly seeing some of the more prominent fjords would be a big mistake.

We signed up for the Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour offered by  They recommend booking online but we just went to the tourist info desk and got tickets.  Buying the tickets in person saved us about 20%.  (This seemed to be the case with trains as well; we always got the best price by just going in person.)  

The fjord cruise was a full day of sightseeing, starting with a bus ride through some amazing peaks and valleys.

After the incredible bus journey we arrived at the dock where our ferry was located.  We boarded the ferry and the beautiful "fjord cruise" began.  

For 3 hours the ferry navigated through the ford waters.  You would be surprised to see how many small villages there are along the fjords, some of them only accessible via ferry.  One of the passengers on our ferry was actually on his way home, the ferry had to dock for 5 minutes at a tiny village for him to exit.

Taking a break to keep warm

3rd leg of the tour coming soon...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fun in Bergen

Our host in Bergen had a large collection of traditional handmade Norwegian crafts and clothing.  She makes bunads for her family today and showed us some that had been passed down for generations in her family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Morsomme Ting

Norwegian bank notes

Old Norwegian typewriter

Marijke the viking

A Big Mac meal would cost about $5 in the US, in Norway it costs 80.88 Norwegian Kroner, at present that is over $13.


Our Norwegian hero Ronny Stulen arranged for us to stay with some friends of his in Bergen.  Ronny's friends, the Vågenes, picked us up at the Bergen train station.  The Vågenes are a wonderfully kind older couple and they put us up for two nights.  They had previously run a B&B so they definitely knew how to make two weary travellers feel comfortable.  The Vågenes also arranged for us to spend an evening with their son Frank and his wife Angela, we had a great time eating caramelly brown cheese with jam and waffles.  We'll be forever grateful for their hospitality. 

Bergen is a very old and very beautiful city, surrounded by fjords and mountains on every side.  Most everything in Bergen is built out of wood and painted in solid colors.

Marijke in front of the world famous Bryggen (Norwegian for 'The Wharf')

Cooler than your average manhole cover

We took the Fløibanen rail line up the Fløyen Mountain where there is an excellent view of the city, a big goofy troll and a tacky gift shop.

Notice the colors of the buildings (click image to enlarge)

Marijke and the troll

The giftshop

Bergen was a lot of fun.  It was nice to just walk around and take it all in.

There was a stave church built by Vikings near Bergen and we really wanted to see it.  It was just a few tram stops outside of Bergen but getting there proved to be an interesting experience.  The automated ticket machine at the tram station was not very English-friendly, but thankfully there was a bilingual 6-year-old willing to help us.  When we got to the tram stop we weren't exactly sure where to go, but we followed the directions we had as closely as we could.  We actually passed an LDS church on the way, which we hadn't anticipated.  Eventually we found ourselves in a mossy, wooded area.  The sun had mostly set at this point, and the thick tree cover further diminished the light.  Being there felt a little creepy and eerie, but magical at the same time (if we were going to see a real troll, this would've been the place).  We were really impressed by the old wooden stave church.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Train to Bergen

We returned our rental car in Sandefjord at 5:30am and got a 6am train from Sandefjord to Drammen.  From Drammen we got a train to Bergen.

Sunrise in Drammen

This train ride to Bergen is generally considered one of the most beautiful in the world and we loved it.

Notice the grass-roofed cottage, these were everywhere


We arrived in Bergen at 2pm; about 8 hours on the train.

Click this image for full-size

A special thanks goes out to our friend Polly Peanøtter for being the only affordable snack with any protein.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Thankfully Ronny provided us with step-by-step directions to get to his family's home, because we never would have found it otherwise.  The Stulens live in a wonderfully unique location; isolated enough to be nice, but close enough to civilization to be convenient.

The Stulen's property, front view, notice the 15-seater van

The Stulen's house, back view

When we arrived we were greeted by one of the Stulen's eleven children.  That's right, eleven children.  We didn't meet all of them but the ones we did meet were very well behaved and friendly.  They all spoke English with great fluency as well.  One of their daughters attends an American school and one of the subjects Ronny teaches is English at the local high school.  Ronny and his wife, Ylva, were at a wedding the night we arrived (Ronny was performing the ceremony) and they told us we should just come join in the celebration.  At the wedding there was lots of food (some Norwegian, some not) and many nice people from all around Scandinavia and a few from other parts of the world.

Ronny with his youngest son just after finishing his dessert--in the church kitchen

If you spend time in Norway you will certainly notice how rocky everything is.  That was probably the biggest surprise about the landscape.  There a tons of tunnels and the roads just wind in and out.  The Stulen's home, like many in Norway, is built "upon [a] rock."  The night we stayed there they graciously gave us the basement, which Richard really loved because the basement was hollowed-out rock.

We attended Church in Arendal and the missionaries and a 17 year old girl in the ward did their best to translate for us.  Marijke helped teach primary and Richard was asked to speak in the sacrament meeting.  The Church members meet in an office building but they've done a lot to really make it feel like a place of worship.  The views out the windows are of the beautiful Arendal harbour.

Photo taken just outside the Church building

Photo taken on the bridge connecting Tromøy (the island where the Stulens live) to Arendal