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Norway was part of a one week blitz trip through Scandinavia. We also visited Sweden and Denmark with a bonus day and a half in Amsterdam.
We're based in Detroit and since Delta is our airline of choice, we began our trip with the usual hop down to Atlanta. From there we flew to Amsterdam, Delta's closest city to Scandinavia out of Atlanta.
The trip did not start off well and it was largely our fault because we violated our own policy of always taking along a few extra clothing items with our carry-on in the event that the bags failed to arrive. And that's exactly what happened!
Atlanta was having awful thunderstorms and our
flight into Atlanta arrived two and a half hours late. Guess what our
connecting time was? Two and a half hours!
We had planned to fly to Amsterdam, kill a couple of hours and then catch an SAS jet to Oslo. However when our bags failed to arrive we changed our plans and stayed an extra night in Amsterdam so our bags could catch up with us, which they did.
Okay---now to the Norway stuff!
Because of the baggage fiasco we did not get to spend anytime in Oslo other than an airport connection going to Bergen, Norway and a train connection coming back. Even changing SAS planes at the Oslo airport was interesting. They used a ton of wood throughout the airport including some walkways and even the ceiling was fashioned out of wood.
Bergen is said to be the most popular destination in all of Scandinavia and it's easy to see why. It's a beautiful little town with fjords, mountains and a friendly atmosphere. Our arrival came in late June and it was a bit nippy. I'd wager to say the day time highs were probably in the upper 50s (F). Bergen is famous for rain so take that into consideration as you pack. Ironically, we didn't get a drop on our trip.
We got into Bergen late in the afternoon and checked in at the Clarion Admiral Hotel. We found nothing really special about this place unless you get a genuine waterfront room, which we did. Not a water "view" but one that's right smack dab ON the water. That makes it spectacular because you're room is literally right on a fjord. We literally could have dropped a quarter just about straight down and it would have landed in the water. Across the fjord is the picturesque old section of Bergen with mountains all around. You can walk around the fjord from the Admiral through an open market section and around to the other side of the fjord. We found the hosts at the Admiral to be nice but not overly helpful. For instance, when we tried to dial the U.S. from our room and had problems they more or less brushed it off as "too bad - try later, maybe."
Dinner on our first night came at a fabulous seafood restaurant known as Fiskekroen, a short walk from the hotel and right on the waterfront. This is a small place with only probably 40 seats indoors. They have a few more seats outdoors. This place is so good that it's usually packed. So do yourself a favor and make a reservation as early as possible.
This was my kind of place. It was very casual and the emphasis was on fresh and I mean really fresh seafood. We admittedly splurged there ordering two Norwegian lobsters as appetizers. My wife and I split one and our daughter and son-in-law split the other one. They had claws like American lobsters (the New England type) and looked similar but they tasted slightly different. To try and describe them I'd say they were a little bit more like Caribbean lobsters (spiny lobsters without claws) in taste but very, very good. For our main courses we ordered sautéed fish. We got a triple sampler platter featuring Salmon, Halibut, and Monkfish. It was very good. We can highly recommend this restaurant!
Because our hotel only had a waterfront room available for one night we switched to the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel on the other side of the fjord for our second and final night in Bergen. This hotel was much, much nicer but with no view. I'd say this is probably "the" place to stay in Bergen if you don't mind not seeing the water from your room.
We ate lunch at a wonderful restaurant on the old town side of the fjord called Bryggeloftet and Stuen. Again we went with a fish theme and it was wonderful. By the way, try the Bergen fish soup here. It's hearty and flavorful. The halibut was great as was the salmon. My wife ordered a hamburger--which is always a mistake in Europe because their version of a burger is a lot different than what we're used to. Still, even her 'Bergenburger' was edible and tasty.
Interestingly other than traditional fish, the most common thing we found on Norwegian menus was reindeer and whale steak. I've had reindeer before and it's good. I couldn't, however, bring myself to eat whale steak. I'm not a card carrying PETA person but whales are just too much of a precious resource to hunt in this day and age, in my humble opinion. Moose was also on the menu quite often.
For our second dinner (the "kids" got tired of fish!) we ate at a pizza chain called Peppe's. It was very, very good and if you have kids, take them there for a meal that will remind them of home.
One thing you'll enjoy is taking the funicular to Floien for a panoramic view of the city and surrounding area. We really enjoyed the trip and the view. And for those afraid of heights, this one wasn't nearly as bad as some funiculars, trams and cable cars. So don't be afraid to try it and be sure to take your camera.
Another enjoyable Bergen experience is visiting the open air market right on the waterfront between the two hotels mentioned above. They've got all kinds of produce and especially seafood of all varieties. We saw live crabs, live lobsters, live cod (really!), headless and head-on shrimp, salmon, clams, oysters, mussels, and on and on. It's neat just wandering through the area.
One thing you'll see at the market are stalls selling animal pelts. Since reindeer are so popular for their meat their pelts are not wasted and hang for sale by the dozens at various stalls. The most expensive were the all white reindeer pelts. We also saw a few dozen fox pelts for sale. Compared to foxes in the U.S., these things must be a lot bigger because the pelts were fairly large.
Leaving Bergen we took a train to Oslo to connect to a second train to Stockholm. Folks, the vistas from the train to Oslo were beautiful! Had we not been spoiled by the scenery in Alaska and the Alps, we would have been in even more awe. It is some of the prettiest countryside on earth. The train passes through mountains covered with snow (even in late June), gushing waterfalls, even ice filled lakes and one glacier in the higher elevations. It's a really pretty ride so if you have the time, I'd highly recommend it. Also there's a longer route that takes you through even neater countryside. So you might want to consider that if you have the time.
The only negative on train travel in Europe in the summer is the heat. Many European trains are not air conditioned. Once we got about half way to Oslo and were out of the higher elevations, the train got hot. Really hot! Probably in excess of 80 degrees. And our next train from Oslo to Stockholm was even hotter. I have a thermometer on my wristwatch and it actually measured 93.2 (F) on that train.
Only a few thoughts on Oslo as we passed through on the train. It was hilly and quite green and appeared to be quite clean. We'll definitely go back in the years to come and really take in this pretty country.
Norway really is a lovely country with a lot to do. So I hope you can spend a lot more time that we were able to do!
DRIVING IS ON THE RIGHT IN NORWAY. CURRENCY UNIT IS THE NORWEGIAN KRONER. YOU WILL NEED A PASSPORT.