Travel diary 2: A Norwegian Fairy- Tale
After a long brake of writing, I am happy that I have found some time today for a new blog. What has happened since my last entry? First of all I went home over the Easter holidays for 10 days, to spend time with my family and friends after having spent already two months abroad (although it didn`t feel that long). It was really good to see my beloved ones again and also to be spoiled at home, not having to worry about what to cook or hoping to get a free washing machine in the laundry- room at Lappis.
Then when I came back to Stockholm I had some friends from Vienna coming over for a visit, which was also a big treat to have them here!
The highlight of my past week has been something very special. The day after my friends left, I started my 7-day-adventure trough Norway with my friend Wouter!
Day 1, 5th of April
Wouter, who is from Amsterdam and also is in the training to become a teacher, had planned a while ago that we wanted to make a trip to Norway together. After having thought hard about where exactly we wanted to go, we decided on: Oslo, Bergen and Odda- which is a small village in the mountains where we planned to do a big hike. The only things we had booked though were our train ride to Oslo and our accommodations in each town, which were private rooms in Airbnb apartments. We didn´t know yet how or when exactly we would go back to Stockholm. So, to start our journey, Wouter and I met at 5 in the morning at Stockholm´s Central Station since for some reason there was only one train going to Oslo that day. The train ride took 5 hours and luckily we both could sleep a bit so that we weren´t too tired to explore the city for the rest of the day.
Already the moment we got off the train I had a really good feeling about the city. Like Stockholm, Oslo is situated by the sea and has a really nice harbour. Wouter and I decided to walk to our Airbnb- place first in order to drop off our bags. It was then that I realized I might have brought too much stuff since by the end of our (long) walk my wrists felt soar from pulling my suitcase around. I was really lucky though because Wouter has a brilliant sense for orientation and on the whole journey we didn´t get lost once. (Thanks to him because my sense for orientation is very very bad…) Our Airbnb apartment was situated in Grünerlökka- a very green part of the town. There are many parks there, a river and several cafés as well as restaurants. Our host wasn´t at home but he left us two tickets that would let use the city bikes in Oslo. We immediately decided we wanted to do that!
In the end we spent the whole day cruising around on those bikes, which were also brand new! It was so much fun! We went to the modern opera house, down to the harbour, to the big fortress and in the end to the long shopping street.
At the end of the day we were pretty exhausted and went back to the apartment to get ready for the evening. Then we also got a chance to meet our host- André. I was really craving “fish and chips” that evening- since I had the best fish and chips on my Lapland- trip when we went to Narvik that one day! Wouter and I found the perfect place for this and afterwards we went on a bar- hunt by the riverside. We took some nice pictures and finally found a cool bar that was specified on beer. It was a very cosy evening and I got a really good first impression of Oslo!
Day 2, 5th of April
We only spent one night in Oslo, since our journey went on to Bergen. Bergen is on the West- coast of Norway and a 7- hour train ride! We were actually quite excited for the train ride because everybody we met who has been to Bergen told us that we were about to see the most amazing landscape! This was absolutely true- although the last stretch of the ride was the most impressive!
When we arrived in Bergen it was already 7pm. We both got off the train and knew that this was a really special place… As we walked to our next Airbnb- place (which was not as far as the last apartment since Bergen is a very small town) we couldn´t stop gasping because of the beauty of this town. Bergen is the second biggest city in Norway and is surrounded by mountains and the sea. Although the weather was really bad when we were there, we couldn´t imagine what this place would be like in summer, when already it is so amazing in the rain.
Our Airbnb- place was great! We were greeted by our host David who gave us a small map and guide- booklet for Bergen and circled some destinations which are worth visiting. Wouter and I went out for dinner- a restaurant recommended by David called Zupperia. We had an amazing dinner at the harbour and afterwards we went for a stroll to the famous “Bryggen- houses” of Bergen. At the same time we were looking for a nice bar to go to. This took quite long and by the time we found one that suited us, we were soaked through because it was raining really hard. Of course I was wearing my black leather boots that evening and clumsy as I am walked strait through 2 puddles that night. When we got back to the Airbnb- place I was really happy about a warm shower!
Day 3, 6th of April
I was very happy that we had a whole day in this adorable town. In the morning we went out for breakfast and agreed upon taking a funicular to the top of one of the mountains, where one gets an overview of the whole town. Unfortunately we had such bad weather that day and didn´t see a lot up there, as it was rainy and foggy. But this weather gave the town a very special atmosphere- it was almost like in a fairy- tale. Wouter and I found that we now understand why Norwegians believe in trolls…
The rainy weather is nothing uncommon in Bergen. Last year apparently it rained 230 days … As much as I loved the town- because of this fact I could never live there. As we walked through town we realized that the people of Bergen didn´t care much about the rainy weather. Most of them didn´t even wear hats. Wouter and I walked through the whole town, which isn´t that big, but when it´s raining and it´s hilly it takes a while to see everything. That day we walked 22 000 steps! (Don´t worry I didn´t count them- my phone did that for me.)
Tomorrow our journey would go on to Odda, which is a 3- hour bus ride from Bergen. Wouter found a beautiful spot on the internet called “Trolltunga” (the translation would be troll- tongue) which is a rock being pushed out by a mountain and therefore giving the impression of a tongue. He really wanted to do this hike- which is 28 km long and takes 10 hours. At first I told him I didn´t want to do it but then I thought it is a great life- time experience and we booked our bus ride and Airbnb there… Little did we know about what was going to expect us there…
Day 4, 7th of April
Wouter and I got up early to have some breakfast at the apartment and then headed to the bus terminal of Bergen. This day was the first sunny day, which made us really happy! At the bus terminal we found out where our bus left from and as we still had some time left, we put our luggage in a locker there. Then we went out for a last coffee at a café in a park, next to all the museums of Bergen. Sadly we didn´t visit any of them because by the time we arrived there the day before, everything was closed already.
After the coffee we kind of had to hurry back to the station… we had lost track of time. We had five minutes left and I told Wouter that we should run! Unfortunately at this point Wouter´s phone fell out of his jacket and landed with a loud cracking sound on the ground. Totally out of breath on the bus he realized it was completely broken… This was the beginning of a small series of bad luck…
The bus ride was absolutely beautiful! We went through the mountains where there was still a lot of snow and we took a ferry through a fjord. Those three hours went by very quickly.
When Wouter and I arrived in Odda we had two things to take care of. First: our Airbnb wasn´t exactly in Odda, but a 15- minute cab ride away. Our hostess told us we could pair up with another Airbnb- guest in Odda and take a cab with her. Since Wouter´s phone was no use anymore and he was the one communicating with our host, we hoped that we would find that girl without any troubles.
Then we had to go grocery shopping for the next 2 days. We had to buy enough food for this night and the whole day tomorrow- where we would be hiking. After that we went to a wifi- spot and checked if there were any new messages from our hostess telling us where to meet Gillian (the girl we wanted to take a taxi with). I read through the information given on the Airbnb website and couldn´t believe what I read: there was NO kitchen at the apartment!! We had just bought pasta, eggs, cheese and milk and there was no refrigerator, no stove no nothing to make use out of our groceries…I kind of panicked at that point and went to the supermarket again just to buy some extra things that did not require to be cooked. Wouter went to find Gillian, which luckily worked out fine. We took a cab and arrived in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains, a lake and maybe 3 more houses.
This place “Skjeggedal” looked haunted. We went to find our rooms- our hostess was not there and she didn´t even leave a key, so there was no way to lock the place after going out… The place was alright- although I had no reception on my phone, no wifi and no kitchen. At least there was a water boiler… I was a bit frustrated and also a bit scared for the 10- hour hike the next day. The rest of the evening we spent taking a walk together with Gillian and then thinking about what to do for dinner.
Wouter had a marvellous plan (although I didn´t think it would work at the beginning). He boiled some water and constantly poured it over the pasta until it got soft. It took maybe 45 minutes until it was ready but I was so happy to have a warm meal for dinner and it was also quite tasty! Then before going to bed with sheets that felt like paper- because they were meant to be only used once and then thrown away (another thing which made me feel uncomfortable there), we played a fun pantomime game with Gillians Ipad called “Heads- Up”. This lightened the mood and Wouter and I were happy to have found a new friend. Gillian would also do the hike with us and we decided to go to bed early in order to be fit for tomorrow.
I just couldn´t fall asleep. I was thinking about the 28 km hike and the fact that I actually don´t like hiking at all. I was worrying about having to carry a heavy backpack the whole day and through conditions like snow, rain and a cold weather. I was not quite sure if I would make it tomorrow. Then I thought about a conversation Wouter and I had in Bergen about doing exciting things in life and testing one´s boundaries… I did actually want to go out of my comfort zone and prove to Wouter and myself that I could to it.
Day 5, 8th of April
The next morning we got up at 7 and prepared our snacks for the hike. At 8.30 am we would meet at the Trolltunga Tourist Office with our guide. I didn´t know that we also had to carry a pair of snowshoes because it was snow all the way to Trolltunga. I was so scared that I hardly spoke anything. Our guide, Daniel, was very sweet and told us that 70 000 people do the hike every year… but most of them in summer. Wouter, Gillian and me were the only people doing the hike that day. On the way up we had to stop every 15 minutes for a water brake and to take off some clothes because we were getting pretty warm.
After about an hour we reached the top of the first stretch. We had to put on our snow- shoes and walked past some huts that were residences in summer. I was talking to our guide and asked what would happen if one couldn´t go any farther. On the map I could see that there were some rescue huts on the way. Daniel said the only way to get down again was to actually turn around and walk back… Even if one got injured.
That made me worry. I could see that I was already struggling and although the guide said that I could make it to Trolltunga, I felt very insecure. We made it to our lunch brake, which was on a rock just before the second steep uphill hike. I thought very carefully about what I wanted to do. I had a very bad feeling about going on with the group and felt that I shouldn´t do something that felt dangerous to me. I didn´t have to prove myself to anyone and should have fun on this trip. So I made my decision: I wanted to go back down. Gillian had to lend me her phone, since mine still didn´t have any signal. I was a bit worried about going down on my own, since it was foggy and I did not really pay attention to my surroundings on my way up the mountain. Daniel gave me his number and said I should call when I was unsure where to go. He explained the way back- which was only tricky at the beginning because our first stretch was along a serpentine road. When I would find that, I would have no problems anymore.
So I started my hike down. I was supposed to go left and when I got to the snow- mobile tracks I should follow them to the right until the serpentine road. I went to the right too early though. I was walking in the wrong direction for a vey long time since even a sign pointed into the direction “Skjeggedal”. I called Daniel and described my surroundings. I had just crossed a small river. He said this was the right way and as long as I wasn´t going uphill I would be okay. I walked pretty far uphill thinking it was correct. Everything looked the same. I called Daniel a second time since the road just kept going on uphill and this gave me a weird feeling. Daniel then remembered that this path was for the summer. I went back and tried to follow his instructions. The sun should be on my right side and I should turn to the right at some point. Of course I also missed that point. I was so frustrated. I saw myself passing out in the snow and nobody being able to find me up there. Then I heard a bark! A dog was nearby which meant a person was nearby. I saw an open garage with a snow mobile inside. I shouted: “Hello? Is there anybody there??” (This sounds like from a movie but it is true…) The dog started barking even more and a man came towards me! I told him that I was lost and needed to go to the village! He explained the directions to me but I knew I wouldn´t be able to find it. I think he felt that too and offered to bring me to the road on his snow mobile! I was rescued… A huge weight fell from my shoulders. As a thank- you I gave him my maxi- size chocolate bar, which I had bought for the hike. He was happy about that and I felt like the luckiest girl on Earth finally on my way down to civilisation.After another hour I was down. I took a shower and called a cab to take me to Odda for the rest of the day. I did not want to spend my day in “Haunted- Ville”. I called my father and sat in a café with wifi- access and felt a lot better. I decided to go back to the Airbnb as late as possible, since the group would only be back at around 8pm. I even managed that so well that we all arrived at Skjeggedal at the same time! I was happy to see my friends again. They said it was amazing but it was good that I turned around when I did because the hike got more and more difficult. I was glad to hear that and felt really good about my decision. I was happy that they got to see Trolltunga (even when it was foggy). We had a fun evening at the apartment having snacks, drinking tea and playing the fun game again. I felt that this was the longest day of my life and I was never so happy to go back to a city again than at this point.
Day 6, 9th of April
Our cab came the next morning at 9.30 am. We all went to the café that I was at the day before and Gillian booked her onward trip to another fjord. Wouter and I would take an express- bus to Oslo at 11 am. It would be a 7 hour ride again and was absolutely beautiful! I even thought it was more beautiful than the train ride to Bergen! Here are some images:
We had to book another Airbnb place because there was only one train a day going back to Stockholm. This time we took public transport to our apartment, which was again in Grünerlökka. It was a cute place with a very friendly host called Maria. She offered us to go out with her and her friends but we were both really exhausted and just went out for dinner and a drink at the harbour. We had a fun evening and Oslo felt so much livelier than the last time. The next day our train to Stockholm would depart at 11am. We were both looking forward to home…
Day 7, 10th of April
Another sunny day! Wouter and I left the Airbnb- place at 9am and went to have our last breakfast in Norway. Another thing we were looking forward to was the fact that everything would be a LOT less expensive in Stockholm! Norway is I think the most expensive city to live in in the World. A thing I really enjoyed experiencing and recommend to all young travellers that don´t want to spend a lot of money for accommodations is the concept of Airbnb. You get to meet some locals by doing that, have a nice furnished apartment and it really does not cost a lot!
We had a relaxed morning and a good train ride back home, arriving in sunny Stockholm at 4 in the afternoon! I think now we both had enough snow, rain and cold days. Although I had a great time and I consider Norway as one of the most beautiful countries I´ve ever been to, I think my next trip will be to somewhere in the South!!!