Day 15-17: Oslo, a city of two halves

Our time in Norway until now has been spent on the west coast so it was time to head east to Oslo (and ultimately Sweden). We decided to split the journey in two and stopped in Seljord after 200+ miles of twisty, windy and sometime narrow mountainous roads. Our campsite looked over a beautiful lake, believed to be the home of Selma, a snake-like monster similar to Nessy! Sadly Selma was nowhere to be seen that night, however we did witness a lovely sunset over the water.

After a leisurely start we were back on the road, this time stopping to check out the infamous stave church at Heddal. It’s a very impressive structure, if a little oppressive and imposing, especially as it dates back to the 13th century. Back in the BFG we made a beeline for Oslo and our first major city for nearly a week…

DSC_0486.JPGWe were up early to catch the bus into the centre with a plan to visit the opera house, cathedral and fort. The cathedral was up first – a lovely old building with a very decorative painted ceiling, but nothing to blow you away – before we headed in the direction of the fort. We had a look at their impressive visitors centre, learning about the forts history from the 13th century right up to WWII, before wandering around the grounds. From there we headed over to the opera house; an amazing semi-submerged building, with a sloping white granite roof you can walk up and an eye-catching wooden interior. We headed up to the top of the roof to admire the views, however they weren’t quite what we expected! On one side a busy industrial dock-side, on another side the redevelopment of a pedestrianised area and behind they were digging up the main road with five out of place tower-blocks forming a rather dismal backdrop. A bit of a let down, especially given Scandinavia’s reputation for design, so we ploughed onwards to the sculpture park.

We jumped onto a tram (after a false start at an out-of-use stop) to the park and strolled along the various paths in the sunshine admiring the incredible pieces, before heading over to the city museum to find it was closed for a private function!

We decided to wander back into the centre as the tram had taken us through a nice looking neighbourhood and were pleasantly surprised by the architecture, cafes and gardens compared to this morning! Back in the centre we checked out a contemporary art gallery, getting inspiration for future travel photos, before having a mooch around the rather posh dock-side complete with fancy restaurants and rude looking sculptures!

Our conclusion? A city of two halves.

For anyone visiting we’d say check out the main attractions in the centre, but definitely head west to the Vigeland sculpture park and walk back to the Tjuvholmen dock to get a better view of the city. Maybe it was the grey clouds in the morning or the redevelopment all around us, but it wasn’t the dynamic, interesting and engaging city we were expecting.

Day 14: Stavanger, Norway

Having found a campsite that was within walking distance of Stavanger centre we headed there in the morning. We wandered into the town centre through the woods and had a mooch around the city taking in the sights (lovely) and sounds (mainly British accents as a massive cruise ship was in port). We walked along the harbour, through the old town and up side streets revealing street art, before stopping for lunch by Lake Breiavatnet. We then wandered back to the campsite via Lake Mosvanet contemplating life after La Grande Aventure now we’re at the end of week two…

Day 13: Up, up and away!

We woke up really early so we could tackle the climb before the masses arrived and set off walking at 7am! We began the walk not knowing what to expect, would this be the same as Voss and be much harder than we expect or would we find it easier than some of the 500 plus visitors it attracts each day? The good news is it was a little easier than we expected – steep and long, but with a well managed route – meaning we reached the top by 8:30am.

The early start was well, well worth it when we reached the top to find it was only us and one other couple. The view and surrounds were stunning; amazing views down the Lysefjord and terrifying views over the edge!

We had a little time there to ourselves once the other couple began their decent and sat and drank it our surroundings; when other people began to emerge from the trail we headed to another vantage point to take in yet more stunning views.

Early morning smugness followed as we began the decent down, as more and more people headed up the mountain – couples, tour groups, student trips and some crazy locals who were running it! It really is a magical place, but one that is best appreciated in solitude (well only the two of us).

Back at the van we began to drive down to the town to continue onto Stavanger, however we had a little mishap on the way down where we misjudged the size of the van vs the available space and ‘clashed’ wing mirrors with another camper. I won’t dwell on it, but let’s just say it was 0:0 to both our van and theirs!!

A quick call to our insurance company and we were back on the road, to a coastal area called Olberg just south of Stavanger. On checking into the campsite we discovered it would be quite tricky to get to Stavanger via public transport, so we decided to stay for one night only and made the most of it by heading down to the beach for a stroll and (toe) dip in the sea.

Day 11-12: Heading south…

We began our journey south today, heading in the direction of Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and Stavanger. On route we stopped in Voss – a pretty town with snow-capped mountains on either side and a beautiful lake in the middle – to go for a walk, but yet again tourist information told us we’d need snow-gear so we changed our plans! We embarked on a 2-3 hour hike to Mount Hauguren classified as moderate, but the Norwegians are obviously tougher than us as it was definitely more demanding than we hoped! We scrabbled and hauled ourselves up and two hours later (a little hot and sweaty) we were at the 2,000 foot summit – the views across to the mountains opposite were stunning and definitely worth the effort.

DSC_0312Luckily the walk down as a little less demanding, so we headed over to another of the tourist office’s recommendations – Bordalsgjelet Gorge – before grabbing an ice cream in the sunshine and getting back on the road. We joined the much talked about E13 route south which took us through the most amazing scenery, around every corner were stunning views of fjords and lakes.

The aim was to get a south as possible and we’d set our sights on Odda, even though we past some beautiful camping spots along the way. Luck was against us (or on our side!!) and we hit a road block about 40km north of Odda which put the route out of action for two hours. We decided to cut our losses and head north to a very pretty spot we’d seen fifteen minutes earlier and within half an hour we were sipping beers by the water’s edge and watching the sun set behind the mountains in the distance.

We woke up early the next day to miss the road block and came across the most beautiful double waterfall on route with the sun just peeping over the rocks above it.

We continued on the stunning E13, via ludicrously expensive tolls and super short car ferries (the longest was 14 minutes) and by early afternoon we arrived at Preikestolen. We checked into the Preikestolen Camping (a great campsite, fairly close to the start of the hike and surprising good value for Norway) and spend the afternoon rinsing their wifi on the dullest of jobs – life admin! Then it was early to bed before we tackled Preikestolen in the morning…

Day 10: Fun(icular) times in Bergen, Norway

The plan was to head into Bergen early, so we woke with the aim to get the 8:30am bus into town. As we weren’t very organised before we left the UK we’d arrived into Norway without any kroner and hadn’t found a cash point to be able to pick any up yet – not a problem we thought as we were told we could buy tickets from the supermarket, however they’d run out and our cards wouldn’t allow us to get any cashback. Cue lots of faffing before we essentially borrowed some from the campsite reception (leaving them the equivalent in euros) only to miss the next bus by about a minute! We eventually arrived into Bergen about 10 o’clock and headed down to the Bryggen area and Bergenhus park (home of the main fortress). It was a lovely area, full of beautiful old buildings and it’s clear to see why it’s a UNESCO world heritage site, however it was completely overrun by tourists even at this time of year so we headed away from the masses and up the side streets as soon as possible.

We began wandering through the streets stopping for various photo opportunities and, after a spot of lunch in a tiny park tucked in amongst pretty weather-boarded houses, we walked around the headland just as the sun made an appearance. We decided to head up the funicular to check out the views from Mount Floyen and managed to bag a spot right at the front of the carriage! The views at the top were amazing, you could see right over the harbour and beyond the mountains to lakes and hills in the distance. We stopped to take in the views (as well as a cheeky selfie) and walked around the top before beginning the 3km decent by foot.

The walk back down to the centre was fantastic and we couldn’t understand why more people don’t do it. Sure we (well Blaise mainly) won’t want to walk up it, however it was a lovely gentle walk through woods and past streams, all whilst enjoying the views over Bergen.

Back in the centre we made a beeline to tourist information and discovered Trolltunga is probably a no-go due to still being covered in snow, so we need to rethink our plans for the rest of the week. We then caught the bus back (praying no-one would check our tickets, as we definitely bought the wrong ones!) and spent an relaxing evening in the campsite.

Day 9: Hello Norway!!

Rain, rain and more rain – that was the general outlook today! On waking in our cabin we headed down to the cafe to grab a pastry and update the blog before we arrived into Bergen; from our slightly obscured view we could catch glimpses of the stunning Norwegian coastline, however unfortunately it was through rain smudged windows 😦

We disembarked at Bergen and headed towards our campsite, Bratland. A few wrong turns later and we ended up driving past another campsite we’d read about and discounted due to rubbish transport links into the centre, only to find a bus stop opposite! We decided to abandon Bratlands and stay in Lone Camping instead, due to it’s lovely lakeside location, however as the day progressed we felt less and less alone as campervan after campervan arrived!!

A super wet afternoon meant we spent the day reading about southern Norway and by the end of the evening we had a plan for the next week or so – Bergen tomorrow, then south to Stravanger via Trolltunga and Pulpit Rock, before heading east to Oslo.

As the rain cleared we decided to take a walk to explore the local area and see if we could get to the other side of the lake. We found a path and followed it past houses, dog training schools and a kindergarten before popping out at the lake. It was a lovely spot and we could have carried on walking until an over-protective dog chased us off his land and sent us sprinting in the other direction!!

 

 

 

Day 8: Skagen and Grenen, Denmark and beyond…

Today we are Norway bound, but not before a trip into the centre of Skagen and up to Grenen, Denmark’s most northern point. Skagen’s town centre was picture postcard pretty, with pedestrianised streets selling homeware, clothing and all-you-can-eat ice cream, however we made a beeline for the beach and began what we thought was a short stroll up to Grenen.

Several km of squidgy sand later we arrived at the main centre of Grenen to find the point itself was another km or so away! More windswept beach walking followed and we finally arrived at the point, where you really can see the two seas – Skagerrak and Kattgat – collide. There is something magical about being on the furthest edge of a country, especially when two seas met – the last time we witnessed this was five years ago in Cape Town. Back at the car park we decided to walk the easy way back along the cycle path and before we knew it we arrived back in Skagen, a little red-faced and rugged looking!

From Skagen it was onto Hirtshals to catch our overnight ferry to Bergen – in 16 short hours we’d be into our next country! We’d booked a cabin so we could sleep the majority of the way and to keep costs down had planned a little bedroom picnic of bread, cheese, beer and crisps; the only problem being we left the cheese in the van which was now locked away in the car deck. A little lateral thinking (and a cheeky lie to the guard about forgetting my medication) meant I was allowed back to the van and smuggled it out (alongside a pill packet to keep the pretense up). We spent the evening drinking beer, reading about Norway and watching Iron Man 3 before drifting off to sleep in our separate single beds!