After three quick days in Oslo, we took a gorgeous seven hour train ride to Bergen, Norway. If you’re not familiar with Scandinavian geography, let me orient you. If Norway and Sweden together make up the phallic portion of Scandinavia, the southern part of Norway is like the left…never mind, I shouldn’t. I’ll let you take a peek for yourself. Basically the boring description is we traversed from east to west in the southern portion of Norway until we hit the Nordic Sea. The Bergensbanen, built back in 1909 (by 15,000 men over 34 years), travels through the Hardangervidda Plateau (4,060 ft) and is considered to be one of the most beautiful railways in Europe. The 310 mile journey took us through 182 hand carved tunnels (11.25 miles) and we arrived in Bergen late at night where we scarfed down some lamb kebabs and called it a night.
We were only in Bergen for 3 full days (2 days were travel days). Here is my list of Bergen highlights:
1. Mt. Floyen – I’d say Mt. Floyen was the gem of our trip, so much so that we did it twice. We rode the Floibanen (funicular train) up to the top of this little mountain on the edge of Bergen and were greeted with so many pleasant surprises. There was an amazing amount of activities for kids to do from zip lining through the trees, to small hikes, free lake canoeing, obstacle courses and playgrounds, and even some goats to feed. Paige made a friend from DC and another from Great Britain, a major highlight for her since she has been missing her friends so much. Tim and I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful views of Bergen and the surrounding fjords and we have 75 pictures of the same view to prove it. Instead of taking the train down on our second visit, we decided to walk down the mountain trail where we encountered dozens of waterfalls and ate an entire package of hazelnut cookies, both being highlights for Parker.
2. Frozen Pizza – Who knew that Norwegians are the largest consumers of frozen pizza in the world. Right? I’m not kidding and either are they. The amount of frozen pizza options was dizzying. And seeing as how painfully expensive Norway was (see Oslo post), this was a bandwagon we could get on. They even have a “mountain pizza” called the Fjellpizza topped with reindeer meat.
3. Bryggen – Although it was drizzly and rainy most days that we walked through Bryggen, it still gave off that idyllic, postcard-esque, Nordic town feel. Bryggen is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the buildings were rebuilt after a horrible fire in 1702 on their original 12th century foundations. The Bergen joke is that it rains 360 days a year. Apparently the fact that we had some large, dry, sun breaks was a gift. I’ll take it.
4. Very few cars – Bergen and Olso were the kids’ introduction to how much people in Europe walk. EVERYWHERE. We definitely broke in their new sneakers with some major mileage in Norway and surprisingly, no complaints. We really enjoyed the lack of cars in Bergen and the pedestrian only, cobblestone streets we used to get everywhere. Interestingly, Norway is one of the world’s largest petroleum exporters in the world yet they seem to drive very few cars. Hmmm. Maybe this also has something to do with the fact that we truly did not see one overweight Norwegian while we were there. Ask Tim, I’m not exaggerating. Their food is also very fresh and healthy as well. See #6.
5. Arctic circle – It was cold in Bergen. Not freezing, but wet and high 50’s/60’s. Cold enough that we needed to wear our puffer coats in the middle of summer. As of right now in my life, I think this is the closest to the Arctic Circle any of us have ever been.
6. Perfect berries – I know this is a weird highlight but it was so outstanding I’ve got to mention in. It first started when Tim brought back some groceries from the store. He bought a pint of raspberries and I kid you not, each raspberry was completely uniform and blemish free. They looked like the most perfect berries you had ever seen and I swore up and down they HAD to be grown in a lab. The next day we went down to the fish market and sure enough, there were fresh fruit stands everywhere and once again, ALL the berries were absolute perfection. They tasted perfect and looked perfect. It was truly uncanny. I should have used our macro lens to document this phenomenon so that I would be believed. When I asked the vendor if they were grown in labs, I mean greenhouses, she said no. They are grown naturally outside but because of the long growing season and steady climate, this is how they turn out. For some reason this seemed fitting for the clean, punctual, proper English speaking Norwegians.
7. They wear navy blue, not black – Leave it to a woman to notice this but it was so obvious I even think a color blind man couldn’t miss it. Norwegians do not wear black. They wear navy blue. Puffer coats, rain coats, vests, jackets, you name it, all shades of blue. The business men wearing suits, even those were navy blue too. And guess what, they look damn good in a blue because of their sparkly blue eyes and I think they know it.
8. Norwegian soft serve ice cream – It was more like a cold, creamy, frozen whipped cream sort of ice cream that they roll in cocoa, nuts, or sprinkles and it was heavenly. However, it was pretty rich and sweet and Parker could barely finish his cone. Fortunately, I’m an ice cream garbage disposal.
9. Fjord cruise – We took a three hour cruise through the majestic Mostraumen fjord and the kids loved seeing the waterfalls around every corner. The water was, (of course, see #7), a deep navy blue, the mountains a rich green, and the air smelled so clean. The turn around point on the cruise was the huge Heskjedalsfossen waterfall where they pulled the boat up right next to it, filled a bucket with fresh waterfall water and let us all have a cup. Definitely the highlight for Parker who has a huge waterfall obsession. Actually, he just has a flowing water obsession. Just about anything with the do the trick: hoses, faucets, fountains (getting a lot of those in Europe), creeks, and even street run-off water into storm drains.
10. Forest trolls – The way Portland has it’s beer and coffee, Norway has it’s trolls and Vikings. We loved seeing the slightly creepy heads staring at us all over the forests.