Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Norway & Denmark

Picking up from where I last left off. Since my last post we concluded our time in Scandinavia by visiting Norway and Denmark.

First up for us after Sweden was Norway. We spent a total of 6 nights in Norway. I finished up my last blog post on the train from Stockholm to Oslo so that it where I will start with our time in Norway. Our train pretty much arrived on time at the central station. We did notice pretty quickly it was quite a bit cooler in Oslo than in Stockholm. From the train station is was a solid ten maybe closer to 15 minute walk. We were a little turned around at first but found our place without much of a problem. We were actually booked into a hostel for but when we got to the hostel the person checking us in picked up the phone and spoke to someone before coming back to us and telling us we were “upgraded” to the hotel with the same name right next door. This was probably a good thing since the hostel looked like a zoo. There were multiple signs inside their lobby warning people of pick pockets and not to leave your bags unattended.

A troll guarding souvenirs in Oslo
In all we spent three nights at our upgraded hotel which was actually pretty good. The first night was pretty much shot since we arrived around 8:30 pm. The next two days were spent sightseeing. We spent the first day at the Oslo TI getting our questions answered about the Norway in a Nutshell Tour which I'll get to in a little bit. The first actual sightseeing activity we did was go on a Rick Steves' walk which helped orient us to the city. We then toured the City Hall which was pretty impressive. It is where they hand out the Nobel Peace Prize each year. We finished the day with the Museum of the Resistance which covered Norway's resistance to the Nazi's in WWII. Didn't realize that the Germany had over 300,000 troops in Norway and that for the longest time Hitler was convinced that the second front would be opened up in Norway versus northern France. Hitler had a lot of bad military judgments.

Oslo City Hall - Nobel Peace Prize is awarded here
Our second full sightseeing day was spent at a couple museums, a park, and another Rick Steves' walk. We toured the free National Gallery and got to see Edvard Munch's The Scream painting in person. Only bad thing was we couldn't take a picture of it. I think they are a little sensitive since it was stolen in broad daylight a few years ago. We toured the interesting Fragner Park along with the Emanuel Vigeland Museum. Vigland designed the statues that are located inside the park. We finished the day with another Rick Steves' guided walk along with a pretty good dinner at Thai restaurant even though we both ordered Vietnamese dishes.

Oslo's new Opera House
The next two days were spent doing what is called the Norway in a Nutshell Tour. The tour is a series of train, boat, and bus rides between Oslo and Bergen. The trip takes you through some mountains and the fjords of Norway. Most tourist make it a day long excursion from either Oslo to Bergen. Most people also do it as part of a package tour. Alethea and I did it ourselves. We had planned on spending some more time and going on a longer ferry in the Sognefjord region but many of the boats had either quit running for the year or had severely reduced schedules. It was pretty and very enjoyable. The route we took started with the train from Oslo to Myrdal. Then the Flamsbana train from Myrdal to Flam. The Flamsbana train is very scenic and well worth it. We spent the nigh in Flam. The next day we took a nearly 2 hour ferry to Gudvagen. In Gudvagen we immediately took a 1 hour bus to Voss. In Voss we took a nearly 90 minute train to Bergen. The fjord cruise from Flam to Gudvagen was beautiful and reminded me a little bit of our time in New Zealand last fall.

Taking the Oslo to Myrdal train
Bergen was our final stop in Norway. We spent two nights in Bergen but only had one day of sightseeing which was all we needed. It was cold and rainy while we were there. We spent a couple hours walking around town. We saw some of the their old buildings and an old fortress before circling back to our place for dinner.

That wrapped up our time in Norway. Norway was interesting. It was very beautiful but also very expensive. As of the time I am writing this I am waiting for the last item to post to my credit card but even without that information I already know that Norway is the most expensive country that Alethea and I have ever visited together. The previous winner was Japan followed by Australia. Norway has high taxes and also a high GDP thanks to its oil income. Norway is the 3rd leading exporter of oil in the world after Saudi Arabia and Russia. It also only has 7% of its land available for farming which I believe is the lowest percentage in Europe. A significant portion of their food is imported. Food was naturally very expensive. I did like Norway and am glad we went but I don't think I'll be going back any time soon unless I win the lottery. It would be cheaper to fly to New Zealand than go to Norway.

Flam, Norway
Next up for us after having our pockets emptied in Norway was Denmark. To get to Denmark we decided to fly from Bergen to Copenhagen. We found a cheap flight on Scandinavian Air plus the flight was only 1.5 hours. We looked into taking an overnight ferry but it was more expensive and would have involved multiple connections.

Alethea in Copenhagen, Denmark
We spent a total of 4 nights in Copenhagen. We arrived in the mid to late afternoon on our 1st day and spent two days seeing the city. On our last full day we took a day trip out to Roskilde. In Copenhagen we spent the better part of two days doing a lot of walking. We started by going on a rather long Rick Steves' walk followed by a hike to a couple pubs that serve local craft beer. We then walked home which took quite a while. On the second day we started off at the National Museum which was pretty good and free! We then walked over to Christiania. Christiania is an infamous commune which declared its independence from Denmark and the EU back in the 1970s. It was interesting. I was kind of disappointed that you couldn't take any pics. The main reason is that marijuana is sold out in the open and there have been run ins over the years with the local authorities. There has even been some violence because the commune attracts drunks, biker gangs, and hard drug dealers from time to time. 

Entrance to the Christiania Commune - no pics on the inside
We spent our third full day out in Roskilde. Roskilde is a 25 minute train ride from Copenhagen. We visited Roskilde Cathedral. It is a 12th century cathedral where every king and queen of the Danish royal family has been buried since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. In the afternoon after we got back we visited one last pub that served craft beer before retiring back to our room for the evening. Our last night in Scandinavia was actually spent across the border in Malmo, Sweden. We spent one night visiting with a former colleague of Alethea and his family before flying to Amsterdam for the next part of our trip.

Roskilde Cathedral in Roskilde, Denmark
This wraps up the Scandinavia part of our tour. Next up is spending some with one of Alethea's friends and family in the Netherlands. We will also meet up with Alethea's mom and husband Ronnie.

Link to photo albums: