Updated: Nov 22
There are many reasons I've always wanted to visit Norway. Of course there is the natural beauty but one of my all time heroes is a character in Norway's history, namely Fritjof Nansen.
Nansen was a 19th century explorer who made the first crossing of Greenland (on cross country skis no less) and then undertook an absurd 3 year trip to try reach the North Pole that included him and one companion trying to ski the final 660km in temperatures of -40c. They made it to 86 degrees north (furthest at the time) before realising it wasn't going to happen. They tried to return but it became ... difficult. Their return included spending 8 months living in a 3ft deep shelter made of rocks and walrus skins, through winter ... eating bear, walrus and seal meat. They were rescued by chance when they bumped into a different expedition. These were hard men, respect.
Anyway, so Norway is of interest to me. Unfortunately, corona by this stage was starting to turn the world upside down so my stay here would ultimately be cut short. The first stop was Olso, which I had no strong interest in seeing but it has the Nansen museum and a couple of other points of interest like the Kon Tiki Expedition museum, another of my favourite books.
My Bus4You double decker express bus got me from Gothenburg to Oslo in around 3.5 hours and I was able to walk to my ApartHotel, no Airbnb this time as I don't like to book those for shorter stays. The ApartHotel (combination of apartment and hotel) was in a very multi-cultural area with most people being of North African or Middle Eastern descent and the local supermarket specialising in related food.
My first visit was to the amazing Olso Opera House at the harbour, maybe not Sydney Opera House level but very cool architecture and unique in that you can walk all over it. The sunset light was good here for photos. Got some of my favourite photos at the Opera House.
I would spend the entire next day doing museums, something I've generally avoided until now because I simply couldn't absorb it all anymore after months of travelling.
The Fram museum would let me get in and on the very famous boat (the Fram) that Nansen used for the North Pole expedition. Very impressed. I tried to pull the sledges they dragged through thick snow and over crevasses in polar temperatures, managing to pull 240kg ... but they did this day in, day out for months.
Next door was the Kon Tiki Muesum that houses the raft used by Thor Hyerdahl in his expedition to discover how people could have got to Easter Island. Another epic journey that was.
Finally I went to the most popular of the museums (thanks to the Netflix series Vikings) to see three almost fully preserved viking boats. They are far bigger than I expected!
So my stop in Olso was relatively short at 3 days. My next (and unfortunately final) destination was Bergen on the western coast of Norway set among the famous fjordlands. Getting to Bergen would take me on the famous Olso - Bergen rail journey, a trip of 6.5 hours through the central mountains.
The Oslo - Bergen rail trip can't be described in words such was the scenery thanks to the 400 centimetres (!!!) of snow covering the centre of Norway. I can only describe it as travelling through a different world. I've done a lot of scenic rail trips but none comes close to this.
Bergen unfortunately was not covered in snow thanks to its coastal position getting the Gulf Stream effect. Even though it's much further north, it's actually warmer here on average than The Netherlands thanks to that Gulf Stream.
So corona-times were well underway when I got to Bergen and most things were closed and the streets empty. Unfortunate given that I had a week to spend here! And then there was my Airbnb, while comfortable it was far from clean (this included finding a used bottle of inject-able human growth hormone in the bed...).
I still managed to do quite a few things in/around Bergen. The old town (Bryggen) is cool to explore with its coloured wooden houses, also UNESCO listed.
I also got one of the last day cruises through the fjords north of Bergen. There were 12 people on the 150 person boat. The scenery was spectacular, similar to Milford Sound in New Zealand but on a larger scale and dotted with those Norwegian coloured houses. The cruise also passes under the longest floating bridge in the world, at 1.6km. It is floating because the water is too deep (500m) for traditional supports.
The final few days I spent hiking up the very steep mountain on the north side of town. Bergen means mountain and the city is surrounded by six large mountains, which the locals all seem to flock to for exercise in their ultra expensive outdoor gear. Off track I found some really nice frozen water falls, it was still cold enough for that, unfortunately it's pretty difficult to photograph. The forests here are mystical places, I can see where Norway gets the troll myth from.
Half way through my stay in Bergen I was still undecided on the next destination. Head north to see northern lights with the risk of getting stuck? Take the overnight ferry to Denmark? That idea was cancelled out after Denmark closed the border. Things were getting serious apparently so I had little choice but to try book one of the final flights out of Norway before I got stuck (a devastating prospect for the budget!).
I flew out on a KLM flight for an absurd $500 one way to Amsterdam. It was so expensive they gave me a free return to Bergen... There were 10 of us on the flight in a plane with capacity for 150. We had to sit in particular seats in the name of weight and balance - the plane was technically too light. And so ended my time in Norway, and travelling really - it was now basically impossible to move around. So back to The Netherlands... to wait it out?