jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 100 [09 May 09] – Bergen

Posted in Bergen by jn82 on May 9, 2009

Today marked the 100th day of the trip. In the morning, we decided to just laze around the hostel because we were pretty tired and the weather was quite bad outside. One of the guys working in the hostel mentioned that he saw me in yesterday’s newspaper, and handed me a copy of the paper. I had been interviewed two days ago when we were in Bryggen, but completely forgot about it. The interviewer just wanted me to rate the city, as well as what my opinion of the city was.

My three seconds in the 8th May ’09 issue of the Bregen local paper, Bergensavisen (ba).

I gave a rating of 5/6, but in hindsight would have given a 3/6 because of the poor weather we have experienced over the past four days. My comments loosely translated say “Bergen is a beautiful city with beautiful buildings. We  go around and take pictures, while enjoying ourselves”.

We headed out of the hostel to the fish market around 1pm. Here, there are many stalls set up selling fresh fish, smoked fish, crab, lobster, scampi and caviar. All the seafood is so fresh, and you can buy boiled scampi or smoked/raw salmon marinated with a variety of things such as congac. They all taste very good, as I found out as the shop keepers freely gave out some samples for tasting. Being in the centre of the city, I was sure this was a huge tourist trap, but the prices were actually reasonable by Norwegian standards.

Bergen fish market.

Scampi and crabs.


Fresh fish.

“Please have some smoked or raw salmon.”

Spoilt for choice: Caviar.

Once we were done at the fish market, we took a 15 minute walk along the harbour to the Akvariet (aquarium). The entry fee of 150kr (S$35) was quite expensive, but we did not really have much to do today so we just paid up and went in to have a look as we were already there. Outdoors, the penguins and sea lions entertained us.

Penguins.

Sea lion.

Indoors, you have all your usual aquarium fish, which is not very interesting, as well as a whole lot of really weird looking fish, some of which look as if they are genetic mutations or left out when evolution was going on. I only took pictures of the more interesting ones.

Walking fish.

Flat fish.

Piranha.

Scorpion fish.

Last but not least, deserving special mention, is the wolf fish. Who needs scary movies when you could watch about 10 of these guys swimming around??

Wolffish of the family Anarhichadidae.

Disgusting!

Will be on the train from 8am – 10pm tomorrow, from Bergen to Stockholm, with a one hour transit in Oslo. Going to be a long trip, but train travel is very relaxing and enjoyable.

Today’s pictures here.

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Day 99 [08 May 09] – Bergen

Posted in Bergen by jn82 on May 9, 2009

This morning, we got up early to take the long awaited “Norway in a Nutshell” fjord tour.The wikipedia definition for a fjord is “a long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity“. The Eurail pass holder fare was 550kr (S$127), discounted from the full price of 935kr (S$216) as we do not need to pay for the NSB train segments. Pretty expensive for a 12 hour roundtrip, but no Norwegian experience is complete without a visit to the fjords.

It all starts with a ride on a regional train from Bergen to Myrdal. The train is a short one, comprising of only four or five carriages, and is pulled by the front carriage, much like any other overland metro, not locomotive pulled. The windows were pretty dirty, so the view outside was not as clear compared to the EX-class train we took from Oslo to Bergen which did Myrdal-Oslo as the final segmant. The weather today was also rather poor, with forecasts putting it at cloudy with showers and no sun.

NSB regional from Bergen to Myrdal.

Around two hours later around 10.40am, we got to Myrdal, for the change of train and the start of the Flåm railway. Myrdal to Flåm is a 55 minute train ride along snow filled fjords and tunnels through the mountains, and provides stunning views of the mountains and some waterfalls.

View from Myrdal train station.

Flåmsbana train from Myrdal to Flåm.

I could really get some amazing pictures out of the window during this train ride, as the scenery was just so dramatic. It started out in a very snowy area where the lakes were all frozen and mountains we blanketed in snow, and progressed gradually to areas with less snow and then to the lush green valley of Flåm.

Entering one of the many tunnels along the Flåmbana.


I would not want to live down there.

Waterfall.

Less snow, more brown.

Another train approaching.

Where did all the snow go?

Finally in Flåm!

There is not much to do in the little town of Flåm if you are just stopping here foe three hours as we were. If you had more time, like a couple of days, there are many trekking paths around the town which go around and on to the fjords where complete solitude can be experienced. Unfortunately, we were surrounded by 40 or so other tourists, so no solitude here. We just had our over priced fish and chips lunch and hung around to take in the scenery.

Views from near the Flåm railway station (and town centre).

At around 3.10pm, we boarded the ferry to Gudvangen (~2 hour ride) that would bring us out the Aurlandsfjord and into the Naeroyfjord, one of the narrowest fjords in Europe. Surrounded by towering mountains up to 1,800 metres high, this branch of the Sognefjord is amazingly beautiful. We sat on the open top deck of the ferry to soak in the beauty of the fjords, and braved the ice cold winds and slight drizzle that started to emerge about 15 minutes into the ferry ride.

Ferry to Gudvangen.

View of the town and fjord from the top deck of the ferry.

Damned seagulls that would be interrupting 99% of my photos on the ferry.

Views of the fjords along the cruise.

Damned seagulls again!

Mini-rainbow.

Last of the fjords.

We got to Gudvangen around 5.20pm, and from there jumped onto the bus for the hour long ride to the Voss train station. The view out of the window during the bus rise would have been nice on a clear day, but a few minutes into the bus ride, it started raining again! Most of the peope dozed off, including myself (but only a few minutes).

Gudvangen. Looked nice, but we did not have time to hang around.

Bus to Voss.

Once at Voss, we had to wait about 50 minutes for the train back to Bergen as the ferry had come in early to Gudvangen. I went to the nearby Esso to get the first part of my dinner, a 54 kr (S$12) hotdog and Coke zero. We got on the train back to Bergen around 7.20pm. It was not a very interesting ride as everyone looked really tired and it was raining really heavily outside. Got to Bergen around 8.30pm and headed back to the hostel.

NSB regional train back to Bergen from Voss.

It was a good but long day today as we got to see a lot of the nature that we do not usually see in city life. This is a highly recommended tour to take if you are around Bergen as you really do get to see a lot during the 12 hour trip. The weather could have been much better (but it could also have been much worse).

Today’s pictures here.

Day 98 [07 May 09] – Bergen

Posted in Bergen by jn82 on May 7, 2009

After hanging around the hotel till around 10.45am because it was raining and hailing outside, the sky started to clear up a bit, so we headed into the city by bus, as the hostel is >5km from the city centre. We stopped near Bergen’s famous fish market at Torget, which sells anything from tourist crap to a seafood meal, hoping to catch the hustle and bustle of it all, but due to the poor weather, almost all the stalls were closed and there were hardly any people around. Crossing the road, we got to Bryggen, the old medieval quarter and UNESCO World Heritage site on the eastern side of Vågen. It is here among the Hanseatic commercial buildings that the allys that run along the less-restored sides of the long timber buildings reveal an intriguing glimpse of the stacked-stone foundations and rough-plank construction of centuries past.

Along the water front.

The many colourful timber buildings.

Just looking at the buildings gives you the feel that Bryggen is caught in a time warp and remains frozen in the 16th century when these buildings were constructed. Walking around inside the smaller streets, the feeling is even more surreal as even all the buildings away from the main street retain the same 16th century architecture and you feel whisked back in time.

Walking around the smaller streets.

Shop somewhere inside the Breggen.

Once we were done walking around and looking at the buildings and shops, we walked by St Mary’s church (Mariakirken), so just went in for a look see because as you can tell, we just love visiting churches/cathedrals. This is a very small Lutheran church, but the interior is done up very ornately. Very nice.

Inside Mariakirken.

Next, we headed to the Hanseatick Museum nearby, which contains some of Norway’s creakiest floors in this timber buildings. In here, period character flourishes, while furnishings and odd bedchambers give a glimpse of the austere living conditions of Hanseatic merchants.

A fish press, to pack as many fish into the barrels.

Sleeping quarters (which appear better than a few hostels we have stayed at).

The next stop was to Rosenkrantztårnet (Rosenkrantz Tower), which was built in the 1560s by the government as a residence and defence post. Unfortunately it was closed today, so maybe we will come back on Friday to have a look.

Rosenkrantztårnet.

Having some time to kill before dinner, we decided to take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen (320m) for a panoramic city view. The return ticket costing 70kr (S$16.50) was pretty expensive for just a five minute ride each way, but we were too lazy to trek over an hour each way. Upon reaching the top, the view of the city was decent, however since the sky was all grey and misty, the view was not as good as it could be on a clear day.

View of Bergen from Mt. Fløyen.

After hanging around at the top for over an hour just taking it all in, we headed back down and took a short walk into the city centre for dinner at Pingvinen, a place recommended by the Lonely Planet guide book. Looking at our first non-instant noodle, non-McDonald/Burger King and non-kebab meal for over a week, we had some really reasonably priced Norwegian fare for around 200 kr (S$45) a person. We both had a fish soup and a whale steak. The fish soup here is different from the kind we had in Tours, as it was really creamy (somewhat buttery) instead of being clear. The whale steak was an interesting and good choice, because it looks exactly like a piece of beef steak, but tastes of fish as it should. It also has a much tougher and chewier texture that resembles animal meat, unlike the usual flaky fish fillet. One of the few times a Lonely Planet food recommendation actually gets it right.

Fish soup.

Whale steak with potatos.

Looks like beef but tastes like fish.

Will be on the train, bus and ferry for 12 hours tomorrow doing the “Norway in a nutshell” round trip back to Bergen. This is a very scenic tour in which we will get to see all the varying landscapes and views of Norway in a short time.

Today’s pictures here.

Day 97 [06 May 09] – Oslo to Bergen

Posted in Bergen by jn82 on May 6, 2009

Spent most of today on the seven hour direct train ride from Oslo to Bergen from 10.33am to 5.52pm. The ride was extremely scenic, passing green fields and mountains initially, then past mountain ranges that were totally covered with snow, and finally in the valleys beside streams of fast running water. I cannot emplasise enough how beautiful seeing nothing but snow for as far as the eye can see is. The entire snowing scene is so white that you cannot even make out where the mountain ranges end and the sky starts. Very extreme changes in scenery along this 400+km train ride indeed. I cannot get my pictures today, so will upload the pictures in a few days time.

The initial green…

Start of the snow.

Frozen lakes.

More snow…

Nothing but snow.

EX 601 from Oslo – Bergen.

Just after the train station at Flåm.

The hostel here costs around S$45 a night for a bed in a in a 20 bed dorm. This is the first time we are staying in such a large dorm, but thankfully only around a third of the beds are occupied. The cost is pretty expensive by normal standards, but cheap for Bergen I think. Our budget is around S$100 a night per person for Scandinavia, and if memory serves me right,even for that price limit I could not find any other hostels or hotels which had available rooms and was below that amount, hence this is how we ended up in this dorm.

Will try and spend as much time as possible out of the hostel during the next three days!

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