Getting to know Norway: Part 211th August 2018
Unsettled after a political upheaval in June, I needed to head away from Britain and Ireland for a while. Given that I still had legal works in progress, I chose to ration my annual leave and only added a day to the Summer Bank Holiday weekend that offered a chance for an escape. That may have compressed my stay in Norway more than would have been ideal, but I still got an introduction that would stand me in good stead.
2016-08-26: An evening around Oslo
My arrival in Oslo was accompanied by grey skies, so there was no rush in leaving my hotel to go for a stroll around the city. In any case, there were Irish emails that needed answering while cloud steadily broke to reveal blue skies. That and the need to find a branch of Tanum where I could add to my map collection was enough to get me exploring again.
My quest took me past St. Olav’s Cathedral to Karl Johans gate, where my shopping needs were fulfilled. Then, I headed for nearby Slottsparken, where I pottered about the royal palace in the evening sunshine. On the way back towards the city’s main train station, I was to pass university and parliament buildings, as well as the National Theatre. It all provided architectural eye candy, and I eventually sought the shore around the Opera House, though ongoing building work added too many cranes to the skyline for my liking. Nevertheless, I made the best of what lay about me and set off in the direction of Akershus without ever reaching it. That was to await another visit when I got to understand the city’s geography more keenly. There was another way to the shore that would have worked better for my needs, but June 2017 was when I was to learn about that.
2016-08-27: A rail journey to Bergen
One idea that popped into my head was making a morning time photo of the royal palace, but there was not enough time for that before I needed to catch my train to Bergen. The railway line was world-famous, so I fancied travelling along it and seeing what was there. Handily, I would pass through many other places while learning the lie of the land in a country that was new to me.
Though diverted by railway engineering works and subsequently detailed by the need to await rail replacement coaches, the first part of the journey was blessed by sunshine. As we continued west, that was to change markedly, with greying skies and damp weather reducing the allure of the surrounding countryside at where it should have been the most dramatic whenever snow traps allowed us to glimpse it.
What I relished was a chance for quiet appreciation of what lay outside the train window, but others were not so interested. An Italian family had a child watching a film on a tablet computer without earphones. That was not to pervade all the journey, but it did for long enough to send me to the buffet car for sustenance and a bit of peace. There was little point in ruining anyone’s holiday (mine also) by suggesting the need for headphones, and the passage of time has dimmed whatever irritation I might have felt at the time.
Eventually, we left rain after us for a while and fjords were there to see under grey skies, ensuring only week sunshine if that at all. The train was running well late at this point after a momentary problem with the locomotive. That was not a big deal for me, but it had been different for anyone changing onto the Flåm railway. Hopefully, it did not mess up their day too much.
Bergen’s train station was undergoing renovations while I was in the area, so we all passed under scaffolding with heavy rain pounding the roof. After a wait, I took my chance to make for my hotel, but a misunderstanding of the city layout had me heading on a more roundabout route in air that was not fully dry.
After booking into my accommodation and settling into my room, it was time to wander around Bergen. Sunshine eventually broke through to brighten up the evening, but not before I visited the tourism information centre and got something to eat. After that, I tried out the Fløybanen, and it gained me alluring views over Bergen’s harbour and nearby islands. Not finding my wallet where I expected it cause me to wonder if I had left it on the funicular train that I had used, but I located it and any sense of panic passed.
In fading evening light, I went down again and pottered about the city a bit more and got more of a grip on its layout. It also showed me where I had taken a wrong turn earlier in the day. With light lost for the day, it was time to return to my hotel for the night and rest before the following day.
2016-08-28: A saunter around some of Bergen’s hills
The trouble with exploring is that it sometimes gets in the way of planning activities. For my Sunday in Bergen, there were choices to be made, and the shortness of my stay had me torn between the options that came to mind. The lure of a boat and rail tour was a strong one, but I also had hiking gear, so I also fancied a walk. The decision was made for me by my oversleeping. This was to be a day spent wandering around Bergen’s nearby hills, and any regret about missing out on that wider tour was set aside and left for a possible return sometime.
Satisfyingly, cloud cover was broken, and I had a sunny morning in a part of Norway with a similar weather reputation to Scotland’s Fort William or Ireland’s Dingle. This is a place where rain abounds, and I was to have some rain every day of my stay in Norway’s second city and one-time capital. Another stroll around the city was to see if a better photo could be made of Lille Lungegårdsvannet. It surprises me now to think of how long I lingered around the man-made lake, but I was rewarded for my patience.
Then, it was time to return to Vågen, from where my hike would commence in earnest. It was by now near the middle of the day as I passed the Bergenias, a royal fort that is open to the public. A visit there would need to wait until the next morning, since I was decided on an outdoors outing. In fact, I was so dressed and equipped that I heard an American lady comment on the fact to her companion, perhaps unaware that I too was a native English speaker that could overhear and understand what they were saying.
Coastal road walking with only occasional views of the coast were my lot as I continued past Sandviken. Eventually, the main thoroughfare that I had been shadowing was left for some narrower and quieter lanes. Plying these allowed me to get to Munkesbotvatnet are some steep strolling with some switchback bends to ease the effect of the gradient. As I did so, the earlier sunshine was fading as clouds encroached to bring me a dull afternoon that limited any photographic action. Eventually, these were set to bring rain, but my hike was done before that happened.
The tarmac ended at Munkesbotvatnet, and a wide gravel track was its replacement for the journey to Storvatnet. This was lake to lake walking on a popular trail with so many coming against that I was left in wonderment. Eventually, though, the need for more personal space led me away from the track to follow a muddy trail that reminded me of Scottish stravaiging with its undeveloped feel.
Fewer people were going this way, which achieved what I needed as I navigated around more lakes on a course that took me both uphill and downhill. There were good views to be enjoyed, even if more sunshine would have made the sights even more special. Eventually, I was lured onto moderate summits around Rundemanen before I reached another gravel track that would carry me past Lille Tindevatnet Store and Blåmanen, a lake followed by a hill, on my way down to Fløyen where I caught the Fløybanen down to Bergen. Were it not for a need to attend to other needs, I might have been tempted to walk all the way down, and I had decided to limit aspirations that would have led me around by Svartediket and Ulriken. It is never good to rush a first encounter, and the decision possibly saved me a wetting too.
2016-08-29: A last saunter around Bergen
Though there was a direct flight from Bergen to Manchester on Monday, it did not leave until the evening time and staying until then did not appeal to me since I needed to check out of my hotel around noon. Bergen’s train station was being refurbished, so I did not see any luggage lockers there. If such a facility were available, then there might have been some time for a short fjord cruise if one was available.
Instead, I pottered about Bergen in the morning between any rain showers and explored the Bergenhus, as well as revisiting other spots that I had savoured on previous days. Then, I headed for the local airport for a flight to Oslo, from where I flew to Manchester. Those flights took me over mountain scenery, so I peered out at what lay below as much as I could. Then, I could not have known that another Norway visit would come to pass less than twelve months later.
Train travel between Macclesfield and Manchester Airport. Outbound flight from Manchester to Oslo, followed by a train journey from Oslo to Bergen. Return flights from Bergen to Manchester via Oslo.
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