Getting to know Norway: Part 328th August 2018
There is something about spending around a week in a place that adds satisfaction to a trip. This is something that I have been discovering on trips to Ireland for getting things done. The extra time allows for a chance to soak in the atmosphere of a place and feel more of a part of it. For that though, you need to not overfill days with activity because that makes you so busy that nothing has any time to seep into your spirit.
That reminds me of a recent trip to Ireland where it was possible to stop a while and go for strolls in addition to the other things that I needed to do. People were met and things organised but there was enough time to feel more at one with where I was. Other stays have been as long in duration over the last twelve months and they have left their mark in a similar way that an extended weekend trip never would do.
A relaxed pace often helps. Thinking back to Scottish trips like the one that took me to Na hEileannan nan Iar ten years ago, they had defined itineraries but hill wandering added the slack which allowed me to look around and take in the sights and the ambience of where I was. Just rushing along would never do that and the much needed recollections of peaceful islands would been lost. Such is the state of the world at the moment, that any memories that restore peace and calm are all the more invaluable.
Oddly, no outing since that Hebridean escapade has exceed its Sunday to Sunday eight day length and none came close until June 2017 when I enjoyed a six day sojourn in Norway from Sunday to Friday. Following the August 2016 Friday to Monday four day encounter, this stay was to allow some added breathing room after I notice how short its predecessor had been. There are other compensations too for it starts to fill like a proper break after about the third day and any extra days embed a certain sense of discontinuity that really helps for a fresh restart once back into the everyday routine. After what has happened in my life over the past decade, that is relished all the more readily these days.
2017-06-05: More time around Oslo
An afternoon flight from a stuffy and busy Manchester Airport got me to Oslo. If I had known better, I would have stayed on the train from Oslo’s airport longer to get closer to where my hotel was. The day had been damp but remained dry as I undertook the longer than expected walk from Oslo sentralstasjon through the city’s heart and my tardiness was noted by the hotel receptionist before I was compensated with the largest hotel room that I ever occupied. It felt more like a two room studio flat so there was plenty of space to relax a while.
The reason for the long trek that Sunday evening was the hotel’s proximity to the Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott in Norwegian) and that helped to address some unfinished business from my previous visit to Oslo. The next morning brought bright sunshine so it was time to start a whole day of exploration around Norway’s capital city. Looking back through the photos now, it would be tempting to think that it was all sunshine but there was a shower of rain in the middle of the day while I got something to eat.
My day started around the Royal Palace though and I realise that mornings were better for photographing its frontage because that is when sunlight falls on it. In 2016, I had hoped to do just that before catching my train to Bergen but there was not enough time so it had to wait. There were no time constraints the next time around so I had the space that I needed and it was a wrench to pull myself away for further exploring.
As I continued through the city centre, there was a feeling of closure and it appeared that Norwegian public holiday observance was much like what they do on Sundays since no large stores were open. The need to purchase a USB Type C cable for powering my Google Pixel C tablet had to wait until the next morning but there was no time to be ruing my leaving the actual cable after me for I wanted to see Akershus slott.
Getting there had me passing landmarks that I had seen before like Domkirken where I tarried a while. When I reached the Akershus fort, I spent some time there too with the old buildings catching my eye as much as any views of Pipervika and the severe-looking towers of the Radhuset were unmissable. Their architectural style reminded me a little of Stockholm’s Radhuset and I was later to realise that Karl Johans gate lay not far behind Oslo’s city hall. My previous wandering had taken indirect routes but I was to uncover shorter ones.
One of those was to facilitate a trip to my hotel that preceded a boat trip around Oslofjord that took my fancy. The outing was not a cheap one but it made a change from wandering about on foot. The boat may have looked like a sailing vessel but it was powered by a diesel engine and did what was needed. Greener and bluer surroundings were to be savoured in the sunshine before a return to land where I did more pottering about in by now familiar places before I retired for the evening in advance of travel to Stavanger the following morning.
2017-06-06: Last minute resilience has its rewards
It is possible to travel to Stavanger by train but it is a journey that takes six or seven hours so setting aside a day or travelling overnight would be involved. In the interests of time, I chose to fly so I caught a train to Oslo airport from near the hotel and checked in for the short flight. That was a speedy and well automated affair so I had time to pick up a power cable for my tablet and the helpful assistant also saved me some money on my purchase.
On arriving in Stavanger, I caught a coach to the city centre where I placed my main holdall into a luggage locker for later retrieval. Check-in for the hotel was not until later in the day and I wanted to try my luck at getting onto a Lysefjorden boat trip. When I went to the provider’s shop, I got news that they were booked out for that afternoon’s sailing so the omens were not good.
As befitted the outcome of my enquiry, skies were grey with little sunshine so I strolled along the quay-sides surveying the cruise liners that were docked there. Then, it occurred to me that asking at the boat might be worthwhile given that not all booked passengers do show up. So, I resolved to try my luck and got on the next sailing after some patient perseverance. It was just as well given that rain was to dominate weather for the following few days.
It also happened that I had some designs on walking around that part of Norway so I fancied getting an introduction to where I was intending to go. The boat manoeuvred around the docked ships with such agility that it was intriguing to watch and I then realised why the boat had wing mirrors. One around those obstacles, we were on our way.
The boat entered more open water after going under the bridge carrying the main road to the islands of Sølyst, Engøy, Buøy and Hunvåg. Ferries were seen plying their ways and we were accompanied by a smaller boat for much of our own journey. Passing more islands, we reached the opening of Høgsfjorden where we entered to get to its tributary Lysefjorden. There was little sign of sun or I would have been busy photographing sunlit islands to my heart’s content, not that the surroundings were not beguiling without the added lighting.
Things got more interesting after Forsand beyond which we passed under another road bridge. Bergsholmen was our next landmark and the fjord grew wilder in appearance the further along its length that we went. There were various stops within the vicinity of Preikestolen to see waterfalls and such like but it was the rocky outcrop itself that was the main event.
Once we started our return to Stavanger, it was easy to tell that the attentions of others were waning for the sightseeing must have been done as far as they were concerned. For me though, things only were getting going for sunshine had broken through the cloud cover to light up the surrounding hills. Though the episode did not last, there was plenty to photograph while it did. All the while, the Lauvikka to Forsand ferry plied its passage and there was a freight ferry full of articulated trucks carried in a more insecure way than I would have expected.
Soon enough, we were back on firm ground again and I checked into my hotel. Electrical power in my room was limited until I discovered until I made an enquiry of a hotel receptionist who told me what the “Hovedbrytter” switch. When I went back to offer my gratitude, I met someone different without realising it and caused some confusion before spotting the right person in the office behind her.
Putting that embarrassment behind me, I did more strolling around Stavanger while sunshine and blue skies had made their appearance. Later, I had some food while pondering the next few days would bring. Possibilities like hiking to Preikestolen or Kjerag would need to be selected according to the weather that came.
2017-06-07: Going Scandinavian in the rain
If I have any plans to go to Preikestolen on Wednesday, they were stymied by the predication of afternoon rain. The morning was dry so it allowed some more strolling about Stavanger and a spot of shopping too. After a midday meal, I decided to brave the light rain to walk around some of Stavanger’s lakes. In a lot of ways, it was like what the Irish would call a “soft” day and it was mild too.
There is a piece of Scandinavian wisdom about there being no such thing as bad weather so long as you are clothed for the conditions. That was the approach that I took as I headed for Litla Stokkavatnet but I hope that there would some shelter from trees too and so it proved when I started to go around the lake itself after getting there along urban streets. As I moved to the shore of the larger Stora Stokkavatnet, it was easy to get the impression that you were not in a city at all but that this could have been a country location. That idea persisted as I made a brief visit to Hålandsvatnet because Friheim may as well have been a country hamlet.
Returning to Stora Stokkavatnet, I persisted with my anticlockwise circuit even though coming off near Sanddal would have made it quicker to reach Mosavatnet. As I completed my way round, it was apparent that the evening rush hour was imminent because many were cycling in the opposite direction. The ambience had been pleasingly quiet and this posse of cyclists did little to disturb that.
Eventually, I needed to leave my wooded lakeland surroundings after me to navigate towards Mosavatnet. Quieter lanes and cycle paths were my lot and it took a little effort to orient myself properly at one junction over a busy road. Once that was achieved, I soon was at my intended destination.
Again wooded lake shores were my lot but there were more out and about by this stage in the day. Quite a few of them were jogging and no one seemed to notice the rain that much; that applied as much to groups of youngsters out training as it did to anyone else. The proximity of city streets and major building works meant that the feel of the place was not as rural as that around Stora Stokkavatnet but that was overlooked as much as any temptation to take a shortcut back to my hotel again; this was to be another complete lake circuit.
Finding a quieter road, I left Mosavatnet to continue towards Breiavatnet and I soon started to recognise my surroundings as I got nearer to this lake that I has passed more than the others. After all, it is beside the bus and train stations so I spent some time here the previous day. On this occasion, it was time to get back to the hotel and end my damp yet satisfying saunter.
2017-06-08: Two hikes in one day
My last full day in Norway allowed me to go hiking in wilder surroundings in spite of what felt like twenty four hours of rain. Once I had dealt with some Irish matters by phone and email, I was on my way for a stretch of time away from any semblance of work. Lightening rain added to the hope of there being something special to savour.
After a ferry ride to Tau and a bus journey from there to Vatne, I was at my trailhead. Because I was destined for Preikestolen, this was no solitary trek given how famous the rocky outcrop happens to be. Nonetheless, I enjoyed a dry start in misty conditions but rain was to return so the walk was to become one where I was clad in waterproofs for much of the way. This made the ascent sweaty work and I needed to be aware of others around me too, not that there were no quieter stretches.
Looking through what photos that I captured, there are very little from the ascent but I still recall moments like a phone call from my brother and the final approach to the viewpoint where you could see all around and wish for sunshine because it would been so alluring. There was plenty of wet rock to traverse and the conditions must have chivvied me into making near constant progress all the while.
What is etched in my mind is the poor visibility at Preikestolen itself, not that it deterred anyone from taking clichéd photos of each other. In my own mind, I like to think that the clag spared me from seeing anything like a sheer drop so it was no disappointed to meet with it. People still must have remained there a while because what I remember of the descent is that it was quieter and there was one point where I was tempted to include a diversion to Moslifjellet but discounted it for reasons lost to me now.
It might have been galling for some but the sun began to come out when I was back at Preikestolhytta but I must have seen it as opportunity for a second hike to follow the four hour return trip to Preikestolen; anyone that stayed up there may have been rewarded by breaking so who is know what rewards ample patience can bring? While others relished such a thing I had Revsvatnet in front of me and it surrounded by pleasing mix of bright greenery and craggy hillsides. Assessing how long it might take from the map that I had and how long I had before the last bus to Tau, I decided to hike around a lake in a much wilder aspect than anything that I had encountered the day before. There are other walking routes in the area but I reckon that they would need more time to explore and taking one’s time is best.
The lake circuit also granted me some solitary walking that was not my lot earlier in the day and it was accompanied by morale-raising sunshine for must of the way so my camera saw more use. The air might have dried but the often boggy ground remained soaked and any long vegetation was leg wetting. Even so, I continued along rough paths while keeping an eye out for any confirmatory splashes of red paint. That strategy worked well until a scramble threw me off track enough to cause disquiet in woodland at the southern end of the lake before I regained the right path by the side of the Revsåna flowing towards Lysefjorden. Going along the river bank against the flow of water got me to a bridge near the lake shore and a sign for Preikestolhytta that soothed any loss of composure.
The path went up and down a lot as it passed several waterfalls so that took its toll on tiring legs. Reaching the hut at Torsnes brought short-lived hopes of a broader and gentler track but more path walking followed until I was back near Preikestolhytta again. Any hopes of catching the penultimate bus of the day to Tau suffered the same fate as those at Torsnes so a longer wait in muggy midge-populated conditions was in order; it gave my system some much needed rest. At least, I was awaiting the bus instead of being stranded by my own tardiness and it was reassuring that I was not alone in my vigil. In fact, the others continued all the way back to Stavanger by the reverse of what had been my outbound route.
While I might have liked to return home on a Saturday and gain an extra day, flight schedules scuppered that scheme so I left on a wet Friday. Waiting in the hotel as long as possible did not stop my getting damp on my way from there to the bus station from where I got to Stavanger’s airport to start an air journey with a connection via Oslo. The experience was a reasonably painless one.
Overall, the trip satisfied me and imperfect weather was not a source of irritation; much had been savoured and Norway is better known to me. Unused schemes like a visit to Kjerag or travelling up the coast to Bergen may encourage another return yet should life settle down again and my overseas wanderings restart. Other parts of Norway are tempting too and visiting the Lofoten Islands or Jotunheimen National Park are just two examples and I also would like to wander about the wooded and lake-studded hill country near Oslo itself. In a nutshell, there is more to draw me to Norway again.
Trains between Macclesfield and Manchester Airport as well as between Oslo and its main airport at Gardermoen. Outbound and return flights between Manchester and Oslo between Oslo and Stavanger. Coach travel between Stavanger and its airport. Return ferry trip between Stavanger and Tau followed by return bus journey between Tau and Vatne.