Category Archives: Norway

Day Three: Fjords and Flåm

We got up early to board the MS Njord, an “express boat”, to Flåm (pronounced “flum”) at 7:45, a trip that takes five hours at a top speed of 36 miles per hour (according to GPS). Though used by locals (it’s about the same price as a train ticket and makes several stops), the ferry is mainly for tourists. It weaves through narrow passages and ventures into fjords to give amazing views of the landscape – especially the steep slopes, often with waterfalls and snow near the top. A glacier, Jostedalsbreen, the largest in Europe, was pointed out in the distance.

Fjord, with Europe's largest glacier in the background.
Fjord, with Europe’s largest glacier in the background.
A representative view from the boat
A representative view from the boat

Flåm was once a village, but is now purely a tourist attraction, and a place to stay if venturing on more adventurous hikes. The main thing to do there, besides browse souvenir shops and a small museum, is to take the Flåm railway to a station called Myrdal. The 20-kilometer route takes an hour, passing through several tunnels and stopping for photos at a waterfall. It climbs from sea level to over 800 meters. From Myrdal you can connect to regular train service to Oslo and Bergen. We took this route, stopping at Myrdal for a couple of hours.

Our ferry, docked at Flåm
Our ferry, docked at Flåm
The train stops to let one pass the other way
The train stops to let one pass the other way
Along the Flåm line
Along the Flåm line

Myrdal is a train station, but not a town or even a village. Other than connecting train service, the only thing it serves is a handful of houses (apparently rented out) and an ATV track back to Flåm. At this elevation (about 860 meters), there was patchy snow cover (large patches of over a foot of snow), even though it’s the beginning of June. The natural beauty of the Norwegian landscape cannot be overstated.

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Scene just away from the Myrdal station
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A few steps down the trail

We were the only two people in evidence at the place, besides one or two workers at Myrdal station.  No one else had decided to stay there waiting for the next train to Bergen.  After getting cold wandering around, we were warming up inside the station when the electricity turned off, including lights as well as the displays that had been showing arrival and departure schedules. The employees were no longer to be found. Since the trains are electric, this seemed worrisome. Eventually, another train from Flåm arrived, and with it more tourists and an announcement that the Bergen train would be coming after all (by now, it was late). By this time it was about 9 pm, and two travelers were planning to wait for the 1 am train to Oslo – having thought that Myrdal was more representative of civilization, with restaurants.

The train back to Bergen from Myrdal, which originates at Oslo, re-descends to sea level, completing much of the descent inside of tunnels.

Along the Bergen Line
Along the Bergen Line

By the time we got back it was after 11 pm, but at this time of year in Bergen, it is light 24 hours a day. Although it’s not technically the “land of the midnight sun” until you reach the Arctic Circle (the sun does set here), it never truly gets dark.

On the GPS track below, you can see the boat route and more or less the Flåm railway route. The straight lines, including the long straight line from Myrdal to Bergen, are where there was no GPS signal – the tunnels along the Flåm railway, and the entire time on the Bergen line (the train car must have blocked the signal).

Eventually I will have to find a better way to post more of the thousands of pictures I’ve been taking.

Posted from Bergen, Hordaland, Norway.

Day Two: Bergen – Festival

It just so happens that the weekend I’ve been in Bergen is part of an extended International Festival here, which seems to consist mostly of concerts and shows, but also included the following random events, which I went to with Sophia (my girlfriend), who arrived here last night:

A circus workshop, mostly for small children:

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Sophia gives it a try
Sophia gives it a try

A lego building event (definitely for small children):

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In the city center of Bergen, there’s a famous street/wharf that used to be for fishing (and there’s still a fish market), but now mostly contains shops.  Everything is wooden, and sometimes you can climb stairs for a cool vantage point.

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Not to leave anything missing, Bergen also has a fort.  I’ve certainly never seen a fort next to a container ship, if that’s what this is.

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Posted from Bergen, Hordaland, Norway.

Day One: Bergen – parade and cable car

I landed in Bergen this morning after a mostly sleepless flight (but one that included hours of conversation with a couple from northern Sweden who just spent a week in New York and were very curious about my life) and decided to go check out what is billed as the city’s number one attraction, a funicular.  I had heard it described as a “cable car that goes to the top of a mountain” (probably because the person describing it to me knew I wouldn’t know the word “funicular“), so I had been imagining a car hanging from a cable above the ground.  Nevertheless, it had a good view of the city and harbor, and a lookout point where it stopped.  There is an extensive network of hiking trails in the mountains that surround Bergen, so I walked down.  The trails featured “no witches on broomsticks allowed” signs and one that said something about Christian men’s blood.

View up the track of the funicular from the vehicle
View up the track of the funicular from the vehicle
Me at the lookout point at the top of the ride
Me at the lookout point at the top of the ride
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Panoramic view of Bergen from the outlook where the funicular ends

No sooner did I leave the hotel to go find the cable car than I came across a large group of boys and men of all ages, dressed in nineteenth-century military uniforms and/or suits and top hats, marching and playing drums, some holding swords, wooden rifles, and flags.  It turned out that this group would later join seemingly unending others in a huge parade through the city center, which has lasted all day and can be heard from the mountaintop and from the hotel; the synchronized drumming really is impressive.  What’s more surprising is that I can’t figure out what the event is.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people lined up on the main streets to watch and photograph the parade, but all of them seemed to be tourists; none that I asked (quite a few) knew what was going on.  Finally I asked a policeman, who said that it was “traditional in Bergen” and was called something like “vierkoffs”.  Unfortunately I don’t know how to spell in Norwegian and the policeman didn’t want to keep talking to me.  Later I found another Norwegian man, who responded to my inquiry indignantly with “Of course I know what it is!” but went on to stumble through an explanation about how May 17 is Norwegian National Day (today is May 31), that he had lived here for 25 years but hadn’t known this was going to happen today, that the rifles must represent hunting because Norway is a peaceful country (not likely), and, pointing at one of the little boys in the parade, said, “You know what we call the little guy? A ‘ravedilter’ [?].” I nodded blankly. “You know what a ‘ravedilter’ is? It’s a guy who goes on the ass,” he said, gesturing to his behind.  I didn’t press the explanation any further.

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Part of the procession (before joining the others in the center city)
Bergen harbor
Bergen harbor

Below is a GPS track of everywhere I’ve gone so far today.  I’m using a GPS logger so I can later remember everywhere I go on this trip, and correlate photos with locations (by time).  You can see the steep altitude climb on the funicular.



Posted from Bergen, Hordaland, Norway.