Tag Archives: Norge

My Top 10 Beautiful Places in Norway

The 8 days I’ve spent in Norway this January were one of the best holidays I’ve had. It  definitely exceeded my expectations.  The thing I loved the most in this country is the perfect mix between civilisation and nature, with a strong accent on preserving the second. In the most remote areas you could spot a cosy cabin and right there, at the corner of a major city you could experience views, landscapes, that only pristine areas can offer.

Sooo… Here are my faves based not only on what I personally saw, but also on what I found out talking to people there, so anyone who reads this could plan an even better holiday.  Sharing Is Caring, so here it is :

  1. Tromso: After all I’ve seen and heard about Norway, this would still be my first choice. It was the highlight of my holiday and a place I went crazy about since I first read about it, a year ago. Luckily, I got there fast. Why I like it? because it’s different from all I’ve seen before. It’s in the Arctic and you’ll feel it the moment you step your foot there. From beautiful landscapes of the fiords, to hills, small mountains covered with snow that surround you from all sides, to frozen vast lakes, to small fiords where the ocean takes the form of a river, surviving the cold without turning into ice; to breathtaking top views of the city where sunset is wow. And there’s more: the activities that you can do: husky dog sledding, seeing the wales, feeding the reindeers, getting to know the Saami culture, the indigenous people living for centuries in the far North, finding their stories, history and traditions. And even more… the northern lights. Tromso is one of the best places in the world for that. And, is not that cold compared to other regions around.
  2. Lofoten: I haven’t been there but it’s the new Tromso in therms of how much I wanna get there. Everybody I talked to in Norway had told me that this place is a corner of heaven. It was constantly the answer to the my question: where do you go on a holiday here, in Norway? It’s also a good spot for the northern lights. Me, I still can’t decided wether to see it in summer or winter.
  3. Train journey from Oslo to Bergen. If you wanna see one of the most beautiful railways in the world, by a ticket for this one. Words can’t describe this. I was sorry the time passed so fast when i finally arrived to Bergen, after 7 hours. If you book online, about one month in advance, as I did, it will cost you 20 euro. You can also stop in Myrdal and take the train to Flåm, on the even more famous Flåmsbana, a one hour train journey which is said to let you speechless.
  4. Bergen: In a recent top I’ve seen of the most romantic and less visited cities in Europe, Bergen was no 1. And I can confirm this. This city, a fishing village in the old times, is now the second largest city in Norway and it is adorable. Those small white houses on the tiny paved streets will make you wanna walk until you get lost again and again. Just forget about destination or time passing and enjoy it. And if you get to Bergen, go see the spectacular top view of the city on Fløyfjellet, the top of one of the mountains around, over 300m high. You can find the cable car starting point in the centre but I recommend walking to the top to see all the views. It will worth it. For those who love hikes, Bergen is a perfect place, with plenty of trails around.
  5. Stavanger: And speaking of hikes, here comes a spot with spectacular ones. You’ll surely recognise from photos seen before Pul Pit Rock (Preikestolen), a steep cliff which rises 604 metres high above the Lysefjorden and offers a breathtaking view. Or Kjeragbolten, a five-cubic-meter large stone suspended above 984m deep abyss, right between two mountains. And if you liked that a lot, you will also wanna see Trolltunga, (Troll’s Tongue), 700m high, offering a magnificent view of lake Ringedalsvatnet in Skjeggedal.
  6. Atlanterhavsveien: or The Atlantic Ocean Road. I think it’s the most spectacular  road I’ve heard of and a true masterpiece of engineering. Imagine a crazy ride on this 8 km road, that looks like it’s floating on the ocean, during a storm.
  7. Oslo: The capital of the country is not to be missed, no matter how much you would love nature and staying away of the city madness. Vigeland Park was my favourite spot, I’ve seen it on a snowy evening and was fabulous.
  8. Hurtigruten: in case you have the time and you want to see the entire western and northern coast, between Bergen and Kirkenes, this ferry journey is a good idea. It sails almost the entire length of the Norway, from the arctic circle and back to the south, completing the round-trip journey in 11 days. It was described as the “World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage”.
  9. Svalbard: The most curious fact about this region is that it is forbidden by law to die here. There’s a rational explanation for this: the ground is frozen so the body can’t be buried. But life in one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas on Earth is something worth experiencing. Glaciers, frozen tundra, polar bears, reindeers and Arctic foxes. Also, the northern lights can be admired here, in the endless polar nights during winter time. The sun takes its revenge during summer, with 24 hours of light and the midnight sun.
  10. I will let this open for suggestions, if anyone has.

We plan our escapes depending on our preferences. Wether we want to try new experiences, or to push ourselves to the limits or we prefer to relax and enjoy the places in quiet. In the end, the best holiday is the one that each of us prefers. So enjoy!

Husky sledding in Tromso: becoming a musher

If you have never tried husky sledding before, you might think it’s either a piece of cake or some risk of breaking a few bones. Still, doing something new, for the first time, feels damn good and getting new skills is even better. You never know what kind of rides life might be offering you. So here’s how I added a new “talent” to my CV: being a musher (driver of a dog sled):

It was 10am. My second day in Tromso, Northern Norway, right there in the Arctic. I was already confronting the dark icy morning, rushing to the next new amazing experience in the North: husky sledding. Yeiii! In spite of the freezing temperatures, I was so very sleepy. Traveling for me is equal with sleep deprivation. This is never my intention but somehow I’m really good at doing and seeing a lot but terrible at getting enough sleep. The night before, after 7 hours of northern lights hunting, I came back to my room at 2am. I was too exited to sleep after gazing the breathtaking aurora and having such a unique experience. Somehow, zombie as I was, I got just in time for the tour that was suppose to take us away from the city, to meet the 200 huskies and have a ride as seen in movies!

After a 30 minutes ride through winter wonderland, white landscapes and fiords, there we were at our destination! I could immediately hear the huskies barking the moment we got off the bus. We were offered warm suits, which benefits I was lucky to test already the night before, so a got myself into a red one, picked really fast since I didn’t wanna end up with a blue one. We were told that the training will start outside and we will be taught how to handle the sleigh, the dogs, the speed and the breaks. Wait! What? I was suppose to share the sleigh with 6 dogs with someone who was doing this also for the first time, just like me? Oh, boy! I was presuming experienced mushers will guide us… I got even more worried after seeing how this is done, the do’s and don’ts: How to always use the breaks, one of the 2 types (stronger and weaker) while standing in the back of the sleigh, or, if you are the person that seats down, the anchor, the strongest break available, which was quite heavy and had to be carefully hold in your lap. Otherwise the dogs just run as if this was their biggest purpose in life and you’ll loose them and the sleigh, or you might even fall of. What to do if the dogs will start fighting each other or they get their feet tied up in the ropes, changing places in the wrong way. How to help them pushing the sleigh when needed, how to keep enough distance from the sleigh in front of you to avoid having the dogs injured. And how to pay attention to your phone since the day before someone just lost his in the snow, during the ride. What a ride poor thing must have had!

And so we went to the place where the sleighs and huskies were waiting for us while I was thinking “Why have’t I read more about this before paying the 170 euro?” It was a huge noise, every single husky was barking, looking really excited to start the run. I was welcomed by two white bleu eyed young females, one of them jumped straight on me, with her pows on my chest, hugging me for a few minutes and making my heart melt.

We played with the huskies for minutes and then my ride partner and I found our sleigh and our 5 beautiful and big mouth huskies. And there we were, starting our ride through the forest, one sleigh after another, in line.

Our start was a little slower since one of our two beautiful leading alpha dogs kept stopping to take…well… a piss. We was having a huge dog dilemma: to run or to pee? So he decided to do both in the same time: running on 3 legs with one raised up in biological purposes. It was hilarious to watch him and the other dogs quite angry with him for stopping them too. But when a dog has to go, the dog has to go! Happily the 3 stops were enough for him to solve the problem and he finally started running like a champ. What you don’t see in movies with husky sledding is that they even poop while running. This just adds more fun to the whole experience.

We crossed small wooden bridges build on frozen rivers, valleys with mountains, got close enough so I could see the lake there, then through the forest covered with snow. All was white! And all was beautiful!

If the first minutes I spent them all on efforts to avoid falling off, at our first stop I wanted to change positions with my partner on the sleigh, so I could be the one leading it and the dogs, to be for the first time in my life a musher. And I did it perfectly. I used the breaks when needed, used my body weight in curves, push the sleigh to help the dogs sometimes. It was fantastic, feeling the cold wind on my face while standing on a sleigh covered with reindeer hides. I definitely prefer this instead of sitting. We were laughing, joking, admiring the views and fully enjoying a new experience together with to the cutest huskies, right there, in the Arctic.

 

Follow your dreams: nordlys (northern lights)

Wow to start a story about a childhood dream you didn’t thought was possible? Thinking about it right now, how it started and how I pursued trying to fulfil it makes me instantly lose myself in reverie, smiling, eyes wide opened.

I was 4-5 years old when my mother was playing for me stories on film strips on the white door of my bedroom. During the long winter evenings there was not much entertainment.  And how I loved stories! We could play one story per evening cause the machine was getting very hot while in use. Thus, each evening I was carefully picking the one. And there was one I liked in particular: about a polar bear living in a circus in Europe and dreaming about the cold dark polar nights, the icebergs and that Arctic wonder: the northern lights and how he used to watch their show while being a cub, in the North Pole. Like a fire on the dark night’s sky, they were described in my childhood story. This very memory stayed with me ever since. I was fascinated.

So here I was in Norway! My evening flight from Bergen to Oslo was delayed due to difficult weather conditions. After 4 hours in the airport we landed an a strong blizzard in Oslo. I went back to the same hostel I used when I first arrive in Oslo, three days before, close to Central Station. Next morning I was having my flight to the no1 destination of my trip: Tromso, at the Arctic Circle, in Northern Norway. A place I’ve read about after my last year’s trip to Iceland, famous for its perfect display of the northern lights but not only.

Although I dreamt since I was a child to get the chance to admire the northern lights, now I was surprisingly relaxed about it. And that’s because I knew I won’t stop until I will see them, even if I had to move to the North Pole for a whole month in winter. And I was excited about other plans I had already and the previous days which were amazing too. But, still, an itch was there… I was terribly curious: about how’s gonna be, what will happen, will I see the lights or not. So I checked one more time both the weather forecast and the northern lights prediction website. I was doing so for the past month, obsessively during the last week. And miraculously, the not so very good predictions have turned now, out of the blue, into very good chances. Was past midnight, I was alone in my room, the street lights were lighting the room with an orange shade and I was so excited I could barely fall asleep, though I was exhausted.

Next morning at 11:35 I was in the plane, took my window seat and right before departure I got my 7 hours northern lights hunting tour booked.

At 13:30, flying over the frozen fiords with superb white mountains and dark blue water from the ocean, I was witnessing one of the most spectacular sunsets and my  northernmost so far. Imagine as far as sight you could reach, the view painted in 3 shades: white, blue and orange. Land, water and sun. Than we flew over Tromso for minutes, getting a perfect aerial view of the city I wanted so much and for so long to visit. Couldn’t believe my eyes: I was in Tromso! What an amazing welcome!

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I was expecting cold, it’s not like you go to Northern Norway in January and you’re surprised by the cold temperatures. But this was arctic cold: -8′ C and windy. The windows from the passage reaching the airport were entirely covered with a gorgeous ice lace. This got me even more excited: Tromso, baby, here I am, ready to be amazed! Let it be cold! Let it be clear sky, full of stars and the darkest of nights. And let me catch them, the northern lights!

I had 5 hours to get to my Airbnb accommodation, to get to know the city a little and prepare for the 7 hours tour: hunting the northern lights.

 

 

How to enjoy a rainy day in Bergen

“Did you had a rainy day in Bergen?” It’s what a friend who used to live in Oslo asked me when I came back home. It’s seems that’s natural for this region. Yes, I answered. Smiling.

Just close your eyes and imagine: it’s January, you woke up in a small room at your accommodation in Bergen where you took only one night, it’s warm and you’re lazy, outside is raining and you hear the big drops punching the window. But you need to shower in a freezing bathroom, pack your baggage and leave the place. The flight to Oslo is in the evening. And this lucky one was me…

What did I do? Stay indoors, make a few long calls home, order some food and took a nap. Kidding!!!

I survived the freezing bathroom, let my baggage there and went out. The rain was bearable, with episodes, it wasn’t cold at all. I was in another beautiful place, had a few hours to get to know the city better that I did the previous evening.

I went back to Bryggen to see it in day light too. No wonder is on UNESCO list of heritages since 1979. It’s a line of old colourful wooden buildings facing the port, with small shops selling Norwegian products and restaurants inside.

 

I took the first street at the left and started to go up. It’s so simple with towns built by the water, you can’t get lost.

Soon the small white houses on little streets appeared again and I stopped in front of many of them to admire the simple beauty.

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But I was on a mission, walking in the rain: to get the best top view of the city, on Floyen, 300m up. And since the cable car is not for me, I decided to walk all the way up. And I had the best views of the city, the harbour and  the red roofs, Things got complicated with the rain that was stronger now and even more complicated when I realised on that weather I cat’t walk further. I was ready to give up and started to descent when I finally found the last stop of the cable car. And so I got to see the gorgeous panorama of Bergen, with the fiords visible in the horizon, the hills, the houses and the dark grey water mixing the light blue-green one. Although it was not that high, at one point I almost got pushed down by the very intense wind.

I could’t take my eyes from that breathtaking view, every detail of it was an entire painting.

The cable car let me after right in the city centre, back to concrete and traffic. And on my way to the best meal I had during my 8 days in Norway. The moment I got to the restaurant I have read about I was freezing, my coat was all wet and I felt tired. I hat meatballs with mashed peas, potatoes, carrots and some cranberries. De-li-cious! I took a place in front of the window for some street watching.

The last hour I spent it to say goodby to those adorable white wooden houses, the small empty streets while the dark was covering the city. It’s funny that today I saw a top of the most romantic places in Europe still untouched by the frenetic tourism. Bergen was number one. All I can say it that I’m happy I got to know it a little bit like that, serene, rainy and beautiful. I love it!

 

How I fell in love with Norway: Bergen

The train journey from Oslo to Bergen took 7 hours. But what a journey it was! 7 hours through winter wonderland where I saw some of the most beautiful winter landscapes. We left behind the frozen lakes and mountain rivers, the so many small red coloured Norwegian houses, all covered up with snow blankets, the dark blizzard, the deep fir woods… hmmm that scent! Than the majestic valleys and fiords with black water and coloured wooden houses on each shore.  The train was right in time although at some points the snow was huge, but these guys seem to speak winter’s language and are dealing perfectly with the harshest winter conditions.

Bergen, the second largest city in Norway looked ready to welcome me and myself I was definitely ready to discover one of my beautiful places.

I walked from the train station to my reservation. I usually get something right in the centre cause it’s practical, fast and safe, since I enjoy taking late night walks alone.

And here I was, ready to be lost in another unknown city, to walk its streets without a destination or limit of time, to stop and enjoy any view, house, window or shop I’d like, as long as I like. Sounds like freedom, right?

I have read before coming to Bergen about the beautiful old white houses made of wood where fishermen lived in the old times. But now I was delighted to see them. In the evening light, on the empty streets this city looked exactly like a gingerbread town and it was entirely mine.

I couldn’t the first decide weather it was more beautiful in day light or by night.

I needed a daylight top view of the city to help me decide. Top views are something I love  deeply and the next day, on a rainy day, I was heading to a breathtaking view on top of Bergen.

to be continued tomorrow

One of world’s most beautiful railway: Oslo to Bergen

Here I was, finally in Oslo! I took a deep breath of cold winter air once I was out of the hostel, around 8 PM, determined to discover some winter wonderland spots in the city. But surprisingly, none. It seemed the fairytale winter, with creamy snow and perfect white views was left outside the city. Little I knew than that I was going to meet Her again, in fool splendour, the very next day.

I found out days after that Gronland, the region of the city I crossed that evening, is not the safest, this in one of the safest cities in the world. I’ve noticed many emigrants there but felt no unsafe sensation. Plus, I found a small store opened, in the corner of one street, at that late hour, and thanks to someone willing to get a better life in another country and ready to work late for this, I bought my breakfast for next morning. A good deal also, compared with the earlier street food dinner: hot dog and a small bottle of water for 10 euro. But didn’t we all heard already that Norway is not cheap. And I’m a hot dog fan.

Still, really cheap was my train ticket for next morning to Bergen: 20 euro, bought online, 3 weeks in advance. Prices can be even 4 times higher. I read about this route only after I bought my plane tickets for Oslo and had all planned, no chance to get there in the 5 days of the initial journey plan. But then, lucky me, I got an email announcing me that my inbound flight to Oslo was canceled, and so I could get another ticket, 3 days earlier than the initial plan. And so, here I was on the train from Oslo to Bergen, on one of the most beautiful railway in the world, as it’s known. And I can assure you it’s even more beautiful than you can imagine. For me it was like that.

The moment we started letting the city behind us, there it was again, the fairytales winter that had amazed me the previous evening, on the way from the airport. Except now, it seemed even more determined to make me say WOOW constantly and transform the summer lover that I strongly am into a white winter addict. The best description for this journey is this: A 7 hours journey through Narnia that I will remember all my life. All was white! From vast fields with fir woods horizons or simply deep fir forests where deers were running freely and wild animals tracks were constantly visible in the snow, to high mountains, than again steep valleys, than even more amazing fiords, frozen lakes to partially frozen mountain rivers with turquoise shades.

This was nature at its best and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There it was the winter I remembered from my childhood, when snow was as high as I was back than, at the margin of the street right in front of our building. So Norway was the place winter was hiding in all this time. I was so glad I found it. No words can do justice to this beautiful journey:

 

In Finse, at 1200m the snow was huge, covering the entrance of the hotels we passed by. Still, no one seemed worried, tourist were carrying their skis, a man was walking the dog through an alley among snow, the train station workers were doing their job. And it was a blizzard outside. At -8 degrees, this winter was showing big plans till late spring and I liked how people were used to its caprices and let it snow.

The 7 hours were almost finished but I so didn’t wanted this trip to end. Starting the last half of the journey I was often looking at my tracker’s watch to see how much time was left to enjoy this.

I wonder now how these landscapes look in spring, or summer. But I am convinced during winter they are at their best.

After Dale we started to descent, the valleys were smaller but the fiords show up, the temperature outside rose, the snow was smaller and smaller and in my mind I wave my hand to Lady Winter, we have left her behind again. But we were already charmed.

To be continued, hopefully tomorrow but no promises 🙂

How I fell in love with Norway in January: Hello Oslo!

It’s almost midnight and I’m sitting in my living room, with a glass of icy red wine on the wooden empty floor and a lighted vanilla candle. It’s warm and it’s cosy, but I’ll rather be far away right now. Google Map says 4.322 km. In Northern Norway.

A friend whom I talked with today and who has lived there for two years, said to me: You feel as if you’re still there. I know, she said, it’s like that for a while.

In September I booked my flight to Oslo. I started planning the trip: hotel, hostel, Airbnb, train tickets, other plane tickets and of course a lot of google search about that to do in Norway in January. In October my inbound flight got canceled. What a great news, cause the research I have made me soon realise the initial 5 days plan was not enough. So here I was in November, with an all planned trip of 8 days to Norway, and a hidden wish in my heart.

Two weeks before living I was already obsessed with checking the weather forecast in all three locations I was going: Oslo, Bergen and Tromso. Every hour, on three websites. I know, this can’t be ok 🙂

It took me 2 days to prepare the luggage. Try to have clean clothes every day, for 8 days, in January, in Norway, and you got yourself a real challenge.

And in a glimpse I was flying to Oslo, where a beautiful winter in the city was waiting to amaze me. Since back home we had the warmest winter I can so far remember, there it was winter wonderland, as if all the snow didn’t want to go to other places too. If course I took the bus to city centre instead of the 20 minutes train, so I can get as excited as I pleased while seeing the nature looking fabulous in white.

I got to the city centre, found my hostel for that night and went out for a 2h walk in the snow.

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Lovely winter in Oslo

 

 

to be continued tomorrow 🙂