It’s Wednesday peeps. That’s Onsdag in Danish. And while my morning excursion to join the morgen sing along with the Copenhagen Opera Festival potentially exposed my gross lack of appropriate Danish pronunciation – and may have quickly led to lip synching – I do know what Onsdag means. It means – it’s the middle of the week. And this week in Copenhagen – the weather is abysmal. Seriously. Rain. Not rain. RAIN. More Rain. Oh – blue skies! Let’s do something! RAIN. I need an escape. How about you? Travel with me, virtually. Here and now.
Today I will take you on the last leg of our recent Norway in a Nutshell tour at the end of June. My story began back in Oslo and wound us through Norway by track and through fjord. (Missed those posts? Check them here and here.) Continuing on this Wednesday, let’s leave the gorgeous Nærøyfjord as we disembark our vessel at tiny Gudvangen. Shrouded in rain, (oh you thought I was going to take you somewhere sunny? Just wait…the weather does turn) we hurriedly make our way past the gift shop full of trolls and viking horned caps and Norsk flags and fur trimmed hats and expensive, if charming, Dale of Norway sweaters. Let the other tourists nab their souvenirs – we’ve got a bus to catch. There is no one ushering us along either. No. You have to locate that ride yourself. Ensure with the driver that you are in fact on the correct bus that will carry you on to Voss. Ja takk, in fact we are.
Lucky for us, this bus is not chock full and we are able to float seats on both sides, hedging bets as to the best views. As it turns out, either will situate you with epic scenery. And what are we seeing you might ask? Coming up? More waterfalls! But big ones. And so close! The bus takes a small detour off the main road to Voss and heads into the countryside and towards the craziest hairpin turned road outside Lombard Street. And San Fran has nothing on these fjorded vistas. (Just kidding – I love San Fran – don’t get your panties in a bunch – it’s just not a CITY view here.) How the bus driver – who predicates from the beginning that he is no tour guide, but then proceeds to offer the most interesting information at every turn IN PERFECT ENGLISH – makes it around each of those curves without sending us over is impressive. Luckily my fear of heights is assuaged by his assurance that he has been driving this route for over 15 years. I am glad that the road is one way. Down. And around this corner – WATERFALL. Around this corner – VALLEY. Around this corner – WATERFALL. Back and forth and back and forth we weave slowly down the mountain. Oooh. Aaah. It really is beautiful. And something about being in a different mode of transportation perks the kids up and the spectacular scenery holds their attention again.
At the bottom of the hill, we turn back onto the main road and after a wee bit of backtracking – we are on our way to Voss, passing farms and lakes and more waterfalls. Our Norwegian bus driver explains that the farm houses are painted in traditional colors – white for the home and red for the barns because that paint was cheaper. And the barns are quite large as they house the sheep and cow herds for the entire winter after which they would be released to higher elevations for summer grazing. With Norway’s (and Denmark’s AND Sweden’s) abnormally late and overly cool spring into summer this year – the animals weren’t released as early. I am suddenly not interested in touring any Norwegian sheep farm barn despite their red historic charm.
With a deadpan pluckiness, our bus driver drops us at the train station in the ski town of Voss. From here we jump on an earlier train departing immediately to our final destination – gem of the Norwegian western coast – Bergen. We’ve been to Bergen before. In January. But, what a difference a few seasons makes. Covered in snow and ice and slush and a mountain of Norwegian winter activity, Bergen in summer brings the throngs and masses of tourists to town. But flowers and fresh fish markets overflow and we find that it is just as interesting despite the crowds.
Bergen is a perfect end point – or start point, if working in reverse – for your fjording adventures by Nutshell or not. Don’t overlook its inherent charm and plan for some time to explore Bergen and surrounds before you go. You must careen through the crooked corridors of historic Bryggen at least once. Dinner at the open air fish market on the harbor is an easy way to sample local fare. We did not opt for the reindeer or moose burger and were shocked when we realized that the sample of sausage offered was made of whale. Yes. Whale. Minke whale apparently. We did not buy any. We did find something to please the whole group and enjoyed it against the spectacle of a Norwegian summer tourist parade. And if you like soft serve ice cream – Norwegian softis is some of the world’s best. I was completely in awe of how she plunked that soft creamy goodness right down into multiple toppings of my children’s choice without losing any before handing over the giant cone. I will confess that straight vanilla softis dunked in wee bits of crushed butterscotch is close to perfection. WHA? How have I not known this before? Try it. You’ll like it.
In the morning, we targeted a trip up Mount Fløien which rises magestic above the bustling Bergen harbor. Good thing too as the tour busses start dropping people in droves and the line proceeded down the hill upon our return.
In the winter, we walked up the moderate path in the snow. With my foot recently recovering and not hiking resistant quite yet – we opted to take the cute Fløibanen funicular instead. Assisting visitors since 1918 in several iterations, the Fløibanen carries you to the top in no time. Once off – take a right. You are instantly struck with incredible views and plenty of space to maneuver for your postcard shot. If you need a little less people in your landscape – merge left from the Fløibanen exit and take the first path to the left (this is the same trail that would have brought you up OR can take you all the way back down to town.) Even if you don’t plan to hike all the way down on the paved path – spend some time enjoying the views from a different perspective. Benches and picnic tables encourage you to stop. There are play areas complete with resident trolls for the littles and young at heart. Norwegians believe that there is no problem that can’t be solved by getting outside. With the well maintained hiking paths and outdoor play facilities, it is easy to see why. It is beautiful up there. And soul soothing. Just plain satisfying.
Enjoy the photos. Nowhere like Norway. Where are you wandering to today? Won’t you share? Cheers from Denmark, Erin
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