Norway in a Nutshell

After a long SAS flight from Chicago we arrived in Bergen,Norway and while it is the 2nd largest city in the country, the area around the harbor felt like a small town.  The Unesco recognized old wooden storefronts along Bryggen St. really gave this city character. On the recommendations of our taxi driver we tried the local fish specialty, Steinbrit, and I can say  it was truly delicious along with a Rignes beer.  The Augustin Hotel was our base for the next two days and it’s central location, friendly staff and included excellent buffet breakfasts made for a wonderful starting point. I don’t know how I’ll survive without 5 kinds of herring to choose from each morning—  The local fish and shopping market set up each morning at harbor’s edge and what a selection they had, flowers, handmade items , furs and lots of fresh fish. Just browse and you are offered samples from caviar to whale and invited to purchase a sandwich made from your choice of fresh fish. While we were there a motorcade whizzed by and we got a glimpse of Queen Sonja of Norway.  The Floibanen funicular from city center up Mt Floyen is a must see for the incredible views of the city and harbor area.  On a really clear day you can see the oil platforms in the North Sea from here ( we didn’t). If you choose to walk down it’s worth the trip on an easy path that takes about an hour at a leisurely pace. What better way to end the day than with a pint of Guiness at Scruffy Murphy’s Pub at waters edge (we’re not that far from Ireland!).  An early start on the Fjord 1 ferry to Balestrand – on this high speed ferry we made several stops along the way at quaint villages, some only accessible by boat. About 4 hours later we arrived in beautiful Balestrand and the incredible Kiviknes Hotel. This hotel has been in the family for over 100 years and is ideally set on the waterfront. Our room, as did most, had a small balcony and fantastic views of the fjord.   Several hiking trails begin here and we chose one of the easier ones ( for a Norwegian!) to get a good view from above.  So we climbed and climbed and every time we asked someone coming down about how far to the lookout point it was always “20 minutes” so we climbed some more. Finally, a light rain begin and we almost turned back until Bryan went ahead a little further and yelled back he found it. What a stunning view – it was worth every step. I just wish we could have gone on to the glacier but that would have taken another “’20 minutes”.  A lavish dinner buffet was included that evening and we savored the meal as well as the table at the window overlooking the fjords and snowcapped mountains in the ever changing evening light. At the same latitude as Anchorage nightime here in May comes between 11 pm and 3 am!  Our short journey through Norway continued the next day up Sognefjord– 2nd longest in the world to Flam. The fairytale views just got better with every turn and I would have enjoyed staying aboard the whole day, but Flam was in site and we had a train to catch.  The famous Flam Railroad was completed in 1940 after 20 years of labor. It climbs from sea level to almost 3,000 ft in 12 miles through 20 tunnels in about an hour with a stop at Kjosfossen waterfall where you are able to get off and feel the power of the surging water- beware the siren song!  Myrdal station is the end of the line and the connection point for the train that runs between Bergen and Oslo. A 6 hour ride over the top of the mountains and down to Oslo brings us to the end of our journey.  We’d love to come back again and bring the hiking boots and backpacks and do some real hiking along the fjords, which honestly offer some of the most incredible views you’ll find anywhere in the world! John, Joan and Bryan