I am hugely blessed in life because it is full of insanely incredible people. They’re all amazing in their own ways but two particularly awesome individuals decided to come all the way to Norway to visit us.
Meet Andy and Alan, two friends from my old life who have been by my side through many music events, cheese parties, games of badminton and gloriously rambunctious house gatherings. They happen to share the same love for and taste in music as me, which is hugely important in all of our lives. And this wonderful pair had decided to join us in a country. They are the first to do so but i am hoping not that last so please do come join us in whichever country takes your fancy!
For Pete and I the week of work had come to an end so on Friday night we were dropped off near Bergen on the mainland which is where we would eventually meet up with our friends. However first we had a task to do; our last job of the week was as cheese delivery people. Seen as we were heading into Bergen anyway our hosts had asked if we could deliver two cheeses to a top Bergen hotel. We were told where to find the place, dropped off with 2 cheeses weighing in at over 4.2kg each and left to figure out the rest ourselves. After an interesting tram ride (in which it took 3 passes of the tram we wanted in order for us to actually purchase our tickets) we arrived in Bergen city centre.
As a general rule I hate cities. They’re busy, scary and full of people, which, as a nature loving introvert I can find a bit of a challenge. However Bergen was an exception to my rule; it was wonderful! We arrived in the pitch black but the contours of the land were outlined with twinkling lights showcasing the dramatic mountains and the quaint old quayside. The addition of extra lights (simple but elegant) in time for advent was the icing on the cake. I felt completely safe walking around this unfamiliar place (although to be fair it does also help when you have a black belt karate champion walking by your side armed with heavy cheese) but I instantly fell in love with the city and knew we would enjoy our time here.
We managed to deliver the cheeses after a brief moment of confusion when the receptionist thought we were attempting to sell the cheeses. After we had explained they had already been bought by the hotel we were shown into the kitchen to drop them off. We then set off in search of our own hotel to check-in, check on the progress of Andy and Alan’s journey and then check out Bergen. After a delightful night time exploration of this beautiful area we settled down on the quayside for a lovely (if hugely expensive) meal. I was absolutely loving Norway apart from that one factor – the cost. Thankfully doing the work stay eliminated accommodation and food costs when we were on the Island but Norway is one of the most expensive places in the world (in contrast to 50 years ago, before it found oil, when it was one of the poorest).
However we were looking forward to enjoying a typically touristic sightseeing weekend with our friends so splashing out a little didn’t seem too criminal. Pete and I returned to our hotel room and battled to stay awake until the boys arrived which finally happened at around 1:15am. It was fantastic to see them again and to know they had gone through so much effort to join us. For Andy it wasn’t such a big deal, he is well travelled and would move mountains for any of his friends but for Alan this was his first venture on an aeroplane and he had even had to get his first passport for the trip too. The less said about his reaction to his first flight the better!
After catching up into the wee small hours we decidedly tried to get some sleep because we all had a big weekend ahead. We arose on Saturday morning ready for adventure (and stifling a few yawns). The first port of call was Bryggen. In typical Norwegian style it was pelting down with rain but we came prepared and refused to let something so typically British spoil our day. So we headed out to Bryggen bundled up in many layers and determined to see everything Bergenhad to offer in a short space of time.
Bryggen is something you have to see to appreciate fully. Essentially it’s a quayside collection of old wooden buildings. And what’s so exciting about that? But it’s the feel of the place that you need to experience. These ancient wooden structures tower above you at quirky angles and are full of beams, boardwalks and bizarre shop signs such as “Off to walk my unicorn, back in 5 mins.” We had fun exploring all the different levels and alleyways, sliding around on the soaking wet floor and occasionally finding statues of giant eels or small trolls. I hadn’t come across any troll myths until today but apparently Norway is full of them. I really loved some of the stories i read pertaining to their existence and history of living alongside humans which, as always, was fraught with conflict until an uneasy truce was reached.
After dancing around in celebration of the rain stopping and a small patch of blue sky making an appearance we trundled around some of the streets of Bergen, marvelling at the enormous mountain and the prettily coloured buildings scaling one side of it until it was time for lunch.
The previous evening Pete and I had scouted out what appeared to be a student-esque bar specialising in burgers and rock music. They did have vegetarian options (for those rare moments in life when I remembered Andy’s food preferences) so we decided to give it a go. On entry we were blasted with heavy metal music so Pete started head banging as we found a table and decided what to have. The boys were all gleeful for finding some of their favourite ales and we munched on what Alan declared as the best burgers he had ever eaten. We were enjoying burgers in Bergen; all was right with the world!
After lunch we headed back over to the waters edge because we had booked a very special treat. I was overly excited for we were going on a fjord cruise! Now the one problem we were having with Norway was that it was November therefore most attractions were closed and many of the transport routes were shut down making it difficult to explore everywhere we had wanted to. Sadly places like Trolltunga and Pulpit Rock would have to wait for another visit and I couldn’t seem to find any way of getting out on the water for an explore. After hours of research I finally came across the option of a 3 hour circular route that leaves twice a day from Bergen and ventures down a narrow part of the fjord to Mostraummen to visit a spectacular waterfall and generally enjoy the beauties that the fjords have to offer. The crucial factor was that it runs all year round – perfect!
As we set off on board the boat I felt like I had returned to my happy place. Six years ago I used to work on a boat and had missed it dreadfully. Before we had even gotten out of the harbour I was bouncing around on the top deck pointing out tidelines and correcting people if they called a fender a buoy or a line a rope (for there are no ropes on a boat, only lines). We left Bergen and picked up speed heading towards a stunning array of bridges and away from the sun which had made a gallant effort to appear in the sky surrounded by the ever present clouds. This golden mirage of sky sat just above the distant mountains highlighting each one in a dynamic silhouette as the iron grey fjord passed soothingly and steadily below us. It really was an absolutely stunning evening and to share it with such fantastic people made it all the better. Of course many selfies were taken (and yes maybe one or two Titanic impressions as well) and we stayed on the top deck for some time, admiring the constantly shifting views and having a grand old time.
The whole trip consisted of us atop that deck, eventually getting cold so heading inside to warm up, quickly followed by some new view we wanted to photograph or new waterfall to spy therefore heading back up to the top again. It was truly wonderful and we were all glad we had splashed out on the trip as it was certainly worth it. There were even Norwegian waffles!
Nearly half way into the journey we came into the narrowest part of the fjord and the boat slowed so we could appreciate the true beauty and deafening silence. Despite the isolation of towering cliffs and snow dusted mountains closing in on either side there were still some small houses smattering the hillsides in a brave attempt to conquer the wilderness. The water was akin to mirror glaze on the smoothest cake you have ever come across and beauty oozed out of every inch of the landscape we were delving deeper into. And then we came to the waterfall.
We knew there was a massive waterfall at some point in the trip but we were never sure when until we came across the little shoreside hamlet twinkling merrily in the twilight and flanked by two almighty cascades, one of which we started heading towards. Most people joined the crew on the foredeck to get closer To the rocks and falling water but I stayed higher up observing the village, the goings on below and the enjoyment of having this quiet moment to myself to imagine what life must have been like in that tiny place surrounded by all the natural beauty Norway has to offer.
However that waterfall appeared to be getting a little bit too close for comfort and at one point I was convinced we were going to back straight into it. However the experienced skipper was just getting close enough to help the staff collect a bucket of water from the falls. As part of the trip a bucket of water is collected and you can actually drink the water! They handed us a sample from the bucket and we all took sips, assessing the strange brackish taste that ended in a flamboyant twang which was certainly different from anything you can find from a tap or bottle.
It was at this stage that we were to turn around and head back into Bergen as the darkness really set in all around us and the temperature started plummeting. This was, incidentally the furthest north we would be throughout our entire adventure (unless we reach Alaska at some point which is on my list) and it really started to feel it. Once we were out of the narrowest portion of the fjord we started to speed up in the inky blackness which prompted us to brave the cold of the deck to see what it was like.
In all honesty it ended up feeling akin to an almighty hurricane! The boat itself was still smoothly slicing through the fjord but the speed, the wind and the cold had created a massive freezing storm specifically on the top deck of the boat. Andy, Alan and myself had a great time challenging each other to run the full length of the deck, reach the rail and stand in the craziness for as long as we could. Peter wasn’t particularly amused by the past time but I found it hilarious. It was a genuine struggle to cut through the forceful wind to reach the rail and even more difficult to stay there, particularly when the hailstones started! But eventually we conceded defeat and went inside to warm up until we finally pulled back in to Bergen, again full of beautiful glowing lights to welcome us back. The boat trip had been utterly fantastic and a brilliant way to appreciate the true sheer indescribable beauty that is the fjords of Norway.
The four of us went off in search of food and after a delicious meal we had one more item on the agenda. Before the night was over we were determined to visit the Ice Bar.
From the information I had cleaned on the place I had imagined a long corridor-like art gallery with lots of busts made of ice with a bar on one end. What we discovered however was something in a completely different league. Upon entry we were greeted by some truly lovely ladies who clearly had an eager appreciation of good customer service. After them briefing us on the way the Ice Bar worked we donned the extra warm ponchos and entered.
Photograph kindly donated by Andy Watson
Imagine every surface of your house being made of ice. The walls, the sofa, the paintings and photos, even the cups. Absolutely everything apart from the floor was sculpted from ice. It was like walking into a strange version of Narnia with added alcohol. We collected our drinks in their ice glasses from the bar (also made of ice) and sauntered around the room. Inset into all the ice walls were copies of famous paintings based on the theme of love and passion as well as an ice version of “Scream” by Edvard Munch who also stood life size in ice alongside it. We all had fun posing on the ice throne and generally taking in how amazing the place was. It was a cool -5 degrees celsius to ensure the ice didn’t melt but with the ponchos and the excitement we stayed warm enough. There was music playing and the vibe there was brilliant although could have benefitted from a few more visitors – for the majority of our visit we were the only people there. However we made our own fun by seeing how long we could sit on the ice chairs before it became too cold to withstand. What we didn’t quite expect was to leave massive arse dents where we’d been sat, ooops! Usually you were supposed to sit on a blanketed piece of ice to prevent that happening.
Eventually we realised how late it was getting and reluctantly decided to head back to the hotel in order to be ready for yet another busy day in the morning…..