Sending a Postcard from Norway
What We've Been Doing for the Past Week
Hei. Sitting here typing as I ride the NSB train from Myrdal all the way to Oslo. Five and a half hour journey, so I’m here for the long haul. Thought I’d catch you up on the past week, as it has quite literally been the most amazing week of my life, traveling through the country of Norway. I’ll admit I’m a bit distracted because every time we pop out of a tunnel (there’s a lot of tunnels on these train rides) there is something epic to be seen and people are moving from side to side to take photos. One thing I’ve learned from doing more touristy things on this trip is that I really don’t care for the traditional sense of a tourist. Tourists are annoying, and if you’re an experienced traveler, I bet you agree. Tourists are often confused, dropping things around stations, blocking intersections in the stations so people can’t get by, etc. I can’t imagine locals not being annoyed with this, but to be honest, the locals have all been so incredibly helpful. Every time we have asked for any help whether it be directions, recommendations or just a simple question about the history of something, they have been quite helpful and so willing to help us.
This post is in collaboration with Visit Norway, but it is not sponsored. All thoughts and opinions throughout our travels are always honest, and always my own. If you have questions after reading this story style post, do not hesitate to ask in the comments.
Saturday, August 12th
Let’s rewind to the very first day in Norway. It took us a little over 20 hours to actually get here (quite a trek from Arizona.) When we arrived at the Oslo S station, we didn’t have a proper plan about transportation but in the 11th hour, we decided we'd take a bus. With this bus, it meant we'd only walk a few hundred feet to our hotel, Thon Hotel Gyldenlove. It is in an area of Oslo that is new to us considering we’ve been to Oslo many times in the past. Because August is still the summer time in Oslo, it is the busy holiday season (or in the US, we say vacation.) Many people like the idea of Norway, but going in the dead of winter is a whole different experience, something to thrill those of us who are lovers of winter activities. This hotel was conveniently located as we could get on multiple train cars or buses to get to the Central Station. There were many restaurants and shops, which made our stay on Saturday evening more enjoyable.
Sunday, August 13th
The next morning, we went to the Oslo S station much earlier than originally planned. I had been awake early since my best friend called me telling me she is engaged! I was so excited, and just incredibly ecstatic about the whole thing. Now on to the trek. The NSB train from Oslo S to Dombas was under construction August 12th-14th, so the train ride was replaced by a bus. When we arrived at the Oslo S station just the day before, we asked several questions of the staff and this is how we found out that our train would not depart at 8:02 in the morning, but rather we’d take a replacement bus to Dombas an hour earlier. This is a big travel tip, and something I have learned the hard way. It’s good to get acquainted with train stations, and understand where you’ll be going. Double check the times and ask questions if you’re confused.
Once we arrived in Dombas, we immediately transferred and got on the NSB train from Dombas to Andalsnes. It was chilly in Dombas, so we only took a few photos (quite quickly) since I am a bit of a baby when I get cold. I also wasn’t expecting quite the chill that ran through me up there. The train ride from Dombas to Andalsnes is one of the most magnificent rides you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing. We expected it to be beautiful, but it was so much more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. There was so much to see, and the train goes through several steep points which were exhilarating and fun. I would certainly ride that train 100 more times if I could as I’ve genuinely never seen anything quite like it. It has been voted the most beautiful train ride, and is among the top train rides these days. Those tourists will get right next to you though, as they want to capture the perfect shot.
I’m getting a bit distracted because the girl who is with her boyfriend sitting across from us on this train continues to cough. We all know that I get sick on just about every single leisurely trip I go on, so I should definitely invest in a mask so I can avoid all these germs. Once we arrived in Andalsnes, we got on a bus in the same vicinity which took us to Ålesund. Even this drive was unbelievably beautiful, as we drove alongside the fjords.
Upon our arrival, one of the Visit Ålesund staff waited to pick us up from the bus station. We checked in quickly at the Scandic Scandanavie Hotel, and she took us along to show us the city. One of the most memorable attractions from our entire trip was the Aquarium in Ålesund, because it was the coolest aquarium we’ve ever seen. My favorite part was the fact that the sea lions had a pool outside which connected to the ocean water. While they are still trapped within the pool, it was gigantic and they have so much room to swim, they are able to hide from the staff. The penguins also had a really nice outdoor area, so the animals are being treated with kindness and the staff really does take good care of them. We don’t like the idea of animals being stuck in cages for years, so this is something that’s important to us. Best aquarium ever.
We were also taken up to the highest point in Ålesund so we could capture some epic shots. This view was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and there were 418 amount of steps from the top all the way down. These steps are on a windy, steep and absolutely breathtaking road.
Monday, August 14th
The next morning, it was rainy and the fog made it hard to actually see what was ahead of us past a few kilometers. We headed to Avis in Ålesund to pick up our own car as we were doing a lot of driving that day.
Our first stop was Geiranger because we had a fjord cruise at 11:30 in the morning. It takes a while to get most places because the speed limit max on highways is 70 kilometers an hour. It doesn’t get faster so it simply takes longer to get from point A to point B. Not to mention many roads are windy, steep and quite frankly, should be taken slow especially for people who are not used to how the road winds and turns. We had heard that Geiranger was quite touristy, and when we finally arrived, we saw it right away. It’s actually why I think of tourists the way I do.
I was standing in a line waiting for the bathroom, with 2 little girls in front of me. A tourist (of course) walks up and tries to unlock the door. The little girls didn’t say anything, but I said “I think we’ve got a line going for the bathroom. There’s also someone in there” and he was confused, said “sorry” and then got in the back of our little line. How people aren’t more perceptive sometimes blows my mind.
The cruise was a really good time, and the sights were amazing. They tell you ahead of time that there’s a wind chill, and boy was there a chill. My fingers were frozen quickly, but of course it’s going to be colder on the actual water as we drive at a high speed. It’s expected, but it was still definitely quite chilly.
After the cruise we had a quick lunch, and then headed on our driving tour from Geiranger all the way to Trollstigen. The drive to Trollstigen was breath-taking, but the Trollstigen viewpoint was the most incredible sight. You could see the windy road below, and all the waterfalls. It was incredible, and that’s the only way I can describe it. These photos don’t do it justice as you really need to be in your own car, with the windows rolled down, driving along the windy road to feel the waterfall mist from the sides. As you drive down the hill, you will see the waterfalls on the road, and you can reach your hand out to fill that chilly water. Feeling that water was definitely a surreal moment given we were driving through Norway, free as birds, reaching out the car to touch that incredibly clean and fresh Norwegian water.
After we enjoyed Trollstigen and the windiness of the road, we made our way back to Andalsnes in order to find the road back to Ålesund. We stopped along the way to take some photos, explore someone’s backyard and farm (do it for the GRAM!) and catch our breath for a few moments. As we made our way back, it started to rain again but it was quickly passing through. We saw a waterfall and then a rainbow off to the right so we pulled over to take a seat and enjoy the sights. It was at this moment that Aaron, my boyfriend of 4 1/2 years proposed. It was the perfect moment, and it felt right as we held each other and stared at the rainbow. More on this in another post as I definitely want to share the significance of Norway to us, and so forth.
We made our way back to Ålesund to grab some dinner and spend another lovely evening in our hotel, the Scandic Scandanavie. Happy as clams.
Random sidetone, but are clams even happy? Where did this saying come from?
Tuesday, August 15th
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel (most hotels in Norway serve an epic buffet breakfast) before we jumped on a quick flight from Ålesund to Bergen. Upon arriving to Bergen, we checked in to the Magic Hotel Bergen, grabbed our media tickets for local attractions and made our way through the city.
Of course the first stop on any given European afternoon is coffee. I love the European cappuccinos. They’re not comparable to the US Starbucks cappuccino. Aaron always goes for regular coffee, while I don't stray from the cap. We took a 20-30 minute to aquarium by walking along the water to get there. I enjoy walking in a brand new city because you get to see the landscape more clearly and you understand it a bit more because you’re walking it. It’s easy to miss things when you’re driving by.
We had dinner at a lovely wine bar and restaurant called Altona. Such a good time. This is what we considered our celebratory dinner in regards to the engagement. The wine was delicious, and the environment calm, warm and cozy. Be aware that service in Norway is not the same as it is to the US. The waiters virtually leave you alone and you may have to be patient and seek them out in the restaurant.
Wednesday, August 16th
Unfortunately we didn’t end up having Wednesday be a full day in Bergen because we were kept up until 4 or 4:30 in the morning due to the bar and club right next door to the hotel. We were in room 326, so when checking in, ensure you are not along the back stretch of the hotel because the sound will come through the window. We asked for a switch that first evening, but unfortunately the hotel was sold out so we had to wait until the next day. When we got our new room, we were in love with it. It was basically its own separate bunker up on the 4th floor (which is the highest floor in the hotel) and we had room room 413. It was significantly quieter. The trembles of that bar were still there, but they were a whisper in comparison to feeling like we were at the club the evening before.
The property is very nice, clean and serves a legit breakfast. It is also located by the fish market making it easily accessible to many things Bergen has to offer, such as Bryggen which is a huge draw for the city. What’s interesting is that 2 of the buildings in that iconic colorful waterfront shot are being renovated at the moment. In order to preserve that iconic shot, there were 2 drapes covering those buildings to ensure the colorful element is still there for the tourists coming while the renovations are being done. Behind the scenes.
When we spent the afternoon walking around, we found that Bergen reminds us a bit of Berlin and a bit of Austin for me (Aaron hasn’t been able to go to Austin with me yet.) It’s artsy and we walked by the tattoo and piercing salons like it was going out of style. While I’m not big into tattoos, I appreciate the art that goes into it. Also the dedication of someone enduring the pain to have the artwork on their body. I’m all about piercings, but I suppose that’s because I like the jewelry and having it in unique spots in my ears.
Thursday August 17th
The next morning, we woke up feeling quite refreshed because we had gotten a good night’s sleep in the new room. We jetted off to the Bergen Train Station, so we could get on the train to Myrdal. We were getting off at Voss though, since we were on one of the many Norway in a Nutshell paths for the morning. Per usual, the train ride was smooth and efficient. If the train is supposed to leave at 9:22, you must be ready to miss that train if you arrive at 9:23. There is no mercury when it comes to the arrivals and departures. Nowegians like to be efficient, and that means being on time and not holding up their schedule.
As you drive in the bus from Voss to Gydvangen, you see the natural beauty of what is all over Norway. Every direction, green rolling hills and to the right side, a raging river that is more rapid after a few moments. Then the calm. My favorite thing about the greenery this time of year is seeing these subtle (few and far in between) purple flowers. They sprout here and there and they are just a beautiful touch. When you see the signs indicating Private Neg, make sure not to explore past. Those are private residences and they're not always the nicest.
Towards the last 20 minutes of the bus journey, you're led through a series of windy roads and spectacular heights. I’m a big fan of heights because heights always make a picture super epic. We landed at the harbor to get on the Fjord Tours boat to be taken to Flam. The boat ride was very smooth and it had an indoor and outdoor area, so when it got cold you could go inside. However, if you’re brave to stay outside for long enough at a time, you will get some of the most epic shots of scenery.
After we arrived, we went directly to Egir Prew Pub, where we were treated to a Viking Plank.
Once we finished off our insane 9% double IPA from Egir, we headed to Stegastein Viewpoint.
For 495 NOK, you are served a very unique 5 course beer and food menu. On the “Viking plank” you will get to taste a variety of flavors depending on the local availability. Their destination includes shellfish, however we had shruimp and mussels instead of shellfish. The second was smoked reindeer, the third a fish and shellfish soup. Now the fourth was my absolute favorite, incorporating a pork shank. Finally the 5 course meal finished off with dark chocolate ganache cake. With each meal, the plank had a specific Ægir beer that was meant to complete the food. All of the flavors were perfect, especially the port with the cake. There is nothing more fitting than a chocolate cake that’s most rich and creamy paired with a porter.
This is definitely “the spot” in Flam and there’s no denying it. One thing I really enjoyed learning is that Egir crafts in the most innovative way they know how. Not only were they one of the first breweries in the country of Norway, but they continuously do more and more to be different and unique.
**Whew, it’s getting hotter and hotter on this train as we get closer and closer to Oslo. It is warmer in Oslo then it is in the western fjords.
We went up to the Stegastein Viewpoint via a smaller van (approximately 12 people.) The ride up was about 30 minutes long, but it was raining and the fog was covering much of the view. You could clearly see where the bottom was below, but it was hard to see the fjord and get the full panoramic shot during this kind of weather. I find that fog and mist very romantic, as it really just has a certain ambiance.
As I finish off writing this, the 5 1/2 hour train ride is coming close to an end. We will be getting off the station soon, to go check in to our new hotel in Oslo. The Saga Hotel Oslo Central.
After we enjoyed Flam during the day, we took the Flåmsbana Railway in the direction of Myrdal to stay at the Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell. The train stop for this hotel is specifically for the hotel, as there's nothing there besides the hotel and some hiking trails. The best way to describe our evening here is that the hotel was calm, with a delicious dinner and breakfast, alongside a gorgeous view. Our view had an amazing look at the mountains. We propped the windows open to feel the wonderful chill of the mountain air. The fogginess made it more ominous but we were so relaxed, and feeling great.
Now you're all caught up, as our train journey from Vatnahalsen (Myrdal specifically) all the way to Oslo is coming to an end.
More on the next week of Norwegian adventures on the next long train ride. Takk takk!
As you may have noticed, this post is written very differently than my last few about Norway and travel in general. Riding through the country and taking various types of transportation has inspired me to do more of a storytelling post rather than an advice post. I hope I can inspire you to take a trip to Norway, because it is a country so special to me and my fiancé (feels so strange to say that!) but there is something so magical about this country. It’s almost hard to put into words and I certainly do not do it justice. It is something you have to see for yourself.