Flam is for tourists

Flam is for tourists, of that there is no doubt.

Anywhere that has a train that stops in a tunnel so you can get out, take pictures of a waterfall and be serenaded by some character dressed as a mythical legend with piped music has got to have tourism nailed right…….

But before the tourists, there were the locals, and you have to have some sympathy for them, because if I lived here, I would not want massive cruise ships coming up my Fjord.

L1005074

Flam is for tourists

I wouldn’t want to be living here with this load of invaders; certainly Flam is for tourists, and it shouldn’t be!

Let’s start by leaving Bergen on a train…..

IMG_0237 IMG_0239 IMG_0241 IMG_0242 IMG_0243

Actually, you feel pretty relaxed after a lovely local train trundle from Bergen up through Voss and climbing over the mountains to the railway station and junction of the regional mainline at Myrdal; unaware of the tourism honeytrap you are about to encounter.

IMG_0245

Opened in 1908 this little station is where it all happens (at 866 metres above sea level). Looking back at our visit to the amazing Jungfrau railway in August 2013, makes me realise that this is really nothing compared to that 3,454m station – Transfer from the regional red train to the tourist green one – and off you go!

IMG_0250 IMG_0248

From here, the famous Flåm Railway winds its way down to the tourism mecca of the fjord below.

L1005095 L1005091 IMG_0275 IMG_0263 IMG_0261

It’s hard not to get caught up in the tourist shots; ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ seems to be designed for the sort of traveller who wants to see the entire country in 24 hours while in a sprawling queue behind an iPad waving umbrella holding tour guide, helping them from ship to shore, to train to hotel to plane. Not for me thanks.

Norway in a Nutshell…..No thanks!

L1005096 L1005085 L1005083 L1005081 L1005080 L1005075 L1005070 L1005067 IMG_0276

 

You see; it could be a nice place without the tourists. But with a major travel interchange big enough to welcome the QE2 and load them on a big train, then sadly the only way to enjoy the area is to get on a boat and out of town, up the Fjord.

L1005113 L1005112 L1005111 L1005109 L1005104 L1005103 L1005100 L1005097 IMG_3310 IMG_0268 IMG_0269

Now we are getting somewhere!

taking a regular ferry up the fjord with a cup of coffee and your camera is the way to really take in the scene for a few hours; so after we packed up and stored our bags away, it was time for the highlight of the week so far –  the fjord tour and cheese making…

IMG_0274

Fjordcruise Nærøyfjorden

We start off with a little bus through amazing tunnels to Gudvangen; this was only built 20 years ago and until then this part of the world was cut off by road and only accessible by boat!

L1005142

From Gudvangen we jumped on to the 10.30 ferry/boat out up the Fjord and were soon sailing past Styvi and Dyrdal, getting to Undredal after an hour and a half; a very pleasant cruise.

L1005124 L1005117 L1005120

We hopped of in Undredal and were met by a guide; a super local chap.

L1005140 L1005141

He took us on a tour of village and the highlight was a look inside the amazing church.

L1005127 L1005129 L1005130 L1005133 L1005134

Undredal Stave Church (Norwegian: Undredal stavkyrkje) is a stave church in Aurland Municipality in Sogn og Fjordane county, on the shore of the Aurlandsfjorden.

The church is part of the Undredal parish in the Indre Sogn deanery in the Diocese of Bjørgvin.[1][2]

The church is only 12 by 4 metres (39 by 13 ft) and has only 40 seats, making it the smallest stave church still in use in all of Scandinavia. The parish only includes one small, rather isolated valley, with only 116 parishioners, making it the second smallest parish in the Diocese of Bjørgvin.[3]

L1005138 L1005137 L1005136

Ostesmaking (cheese tasting and explanation) was all very good in the village, I can see why they were happy to be cut off until 1989 when the tunnel and road was built!

L1005150

Soon it was time to be back on the bus to Flam. (Sadly) And after a look in the railway museum, pick up our bags, have a coffee and then get back on the Flam Express to connect for Oslo train later.

L1005155 L1005154 IMG_0286 IMG_0275

While waiting to board it was good to chat with some elderly American fellow travellers, on a three week Scandinavian mini tour they have also taken in St Petersburg (jealous now)!

The scenery on this late afternoon trip was superb from our reserved seats on the Myrdal -Oslo leg – a 4.5 hour spectacular over the mountains and down to our final destination.

IMG_0288

Itmay not be Switzerland but i don’t think I have been on a more stunning (regular) train ride in such comfort at such altitude.

Even better, unlike Northern Rail, the hotel emailed a menu through and we ordered some snacks and beer for our 10.30pm Oslo arrival – now that is pretty cool!

IMG_0290

All in all, a pretty good couple of days – despite the tourists!

Tip for next time – avoid at all costs and take to the hills!

L1005135

next stop….Oslo.

 

 

Trondheim is so trendy

Walking around this industrial landscape it’s easy to come to form that opinion.

L1004719 (1)

Trondheim is so trendy. This is a great place to hang out…

IMG_3196

Firstly there are the amazing junk shops, the beautiful cathedral, the famous coloured houses up and down the streets, and the fantastic bars and places to hang out.

L1004793 L1004792 L1004791 L1004790 L1004782 L1004781 L1004766 L1004765 L1004762 L1004761 L1004758 L1004753 L1004752 L1004750 L1004746 L1004745 L1004744 L1004743 L1004741 L1004739 L1004735 L1004734 (1) L1004733 (1) L1004730 (1) L1004728 L1004727 (1) L1004726 (1) L1004725 L1004722 L1004718 (1) L1004828 L1004825 L1004822 L1004821 L1004820 L1004819

And then if you feel the need to get on a boat; there is always Munkholmen.

L1004817 L1004811 L1004812 L1004813 L1004807 L1004809 L1004804 L1004811 L1004813 L1004804 L1004805 L1004806 L1004796

Munkholmen is an island in the Trondheim Harbour area, approximately 2 kilometres from the town centre. The island was originally named Nidarholm. During the Viking Age, this was a place where public executions were held. Munkholmen is also where the founder of Trondheim, Olav Tryggvason, put Kark’s and Håkon Earl’s heads on poles, after battling for kingdom and Christianity in the year of 995.

A few years later, a Benedictine monastery was build on Nidarholm. The presence of monks lasted until the Protestant Reformation (in 1537), and this is why the island over time got it’s new name, Monk’s Island (Munkholmen).

In the following centuries, Norway was in union with Denmark, and were frequently at war with Sweden. After freeing Trøndelag from Swedish occupation in 1659, Munkholmen was reconstructed into the shape it has today, as a fort. This was done to build a better military defence of Trondheim and Trøndelag. Kristiansten Fort was built later in that same period. The architects behind these two forts in Trondheim were Willem Coucheron and Johan Caspar de Cicignon. They are also known for their involvement in other Norwegian forts and fortresses (Halden and Fredrikstad).

Munkholmen was later used as prison. Peder Schumacher Griffenfeld is the most famous prisoner held here. Griffenfeld came to Norway as chancellor, but had to serve life time imprisonment (18 years) after bringing himself in disgrace upon the king (Christian V).

During the second world war, Munkholmen once again was used as fort, this time by the Germans. There is still an anti-aircraft artillery gun at the island, left by the Germans.

Today, Munkholmen is a popular recreational attraction. The island has an open cafe and guide service in the summer season. There is also a small beach outside the fort. The fjord is relatively deep between Trondheim and Munkholmen, and you have to get there by boat. The boat service runs between Ravnkloa and Munkholmen at day time (between May and September), or when hired. For more information, follow link to the homepage of Tripps Boat Service.

Enjoy!

Bergen Beautiful Bergen

Welcome to Bergen, Beautiful Bergen.

L1004941

IMG_0232

We got off the Hurtigruten boat in the port of Bergen and wheeled our bags around the city centre, through the shops, past the fish market, trundle up along Bryggen, landing at the Clarion Hotel Havnekontoret.

This is Bergen, beautiful Bergen.

L1004942 L1004935 L1004936 L1004937

There is a lot of activity around the port and fish market area – it’s a fun place

L1004931 L1004923 IMG_3286 IMG_3250 L1005050 L1005049 L1005014 L1005013 L1005012 L1005011 L1005008 L1005007 L1005005 L1004966

On a rainy day, the Sea Lions at the Aquarium are great fun, along with the penguins, they have seen it all before…

L1005000 L1004999 L1004995 L1004991 L1004987 L1004985 L1004984 L1004979 L1004978 L1004973 L1004970 L1004967

And once you have tun out of exploring Bryggen and the city centre…

L1004926 L1004925 L1004924 L1004931 L1005043 L1005039 L1005034 L1005033 L1005032 L1005030 L1005024 L1005023 L1005018 L1005017 L1005016 L1005015

Hop on that train to Flam (and eventually Oslo) at the station.

L1005020

 

 

Some Oslo images

I liked Oslo, but never really got the chance to reflect on it – mainly due to a terrible experience with Scandinavian Airline SAS.

So here are some Oslo images; I hope you like them.

IMG_0304 IMG_0314 IMG_0315 L1005159 L1005163 L1005172 L1005174 L1005176 L1005178 L1005169 L1005179 L1005180 L1005182 L1005183 L1005186 L1005193 L1005200 L1005202 L1005204 L1005206 L1005210 L1005211 L1005212 L1005215 L1005219 L1005220 L1005221 L1005222 L1005226 L1005227 L1005229 L1005230 L1005231 L1005233 L1005243 L1005238 L1005237 L1005236 L1005235
Oslo is one amazing place.

Hurtigruten from Trondheim to Bergen

According to Wikipedia, Hurtigruten is the one of the world’s leading premium Expedition Voyage Operator.

IMG_0182

They have been sailing up and down Norway since 1983, so we thought we would incorporate the MS Midnatsol into our trip for 36 hours, and take the famous Hurtigruten from Trondheim to Bergen.

L1004865

The company started operating voyages on Norway‘s western and northern coast between Bergen and Kirkenes. Sometimes referred to as Norwegian Coastal Express, Hurtigruten ships sail almost the entire length of the country, completing the round-trip journey in 11 days.

IMG_0195

We found that a day and a half was more than enough – cabin fever would certainly set in for much longer!

IMG_0186

The trip has been described as the “World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage,” with highlights including the Hanseatic League city of Bergen, the Geiranger fjord (summer only), and the Lofoten Islands.

We didn’t get that far, but what we did see was beautiful!

Bergen and Trondheim are a distance of 700 km (435 mi) apart, which is covered by several transportation options. Each option has its pros and cons, the main problem with the boat is it’s very slow and also blooming expensive – but for 36 hours at least you can relax and watch the coast go by; I loved it.

L1004902 L1004899 L1004896 L1004893 L1004892 L1004891 L1004890 L1004889 L1004888 L1004886 L1004885 L1004884 L1004873 L1004870 L1004867 L1004863 L1004862 L1004861 L1004857 L1004851 IMG_0202 IMG_0200 IMG_0197 IMG_0187 IMG_0180

 

 

 

Oslo Opera House & Vigeland Park

Oslo Opera House & Vigeland Park

Our train to Oslo from Flam is rammed with tourists – it is a busy Saturday in June I suppose, and we are tourists ourselves-  just trying not to look like them.

Oslo is a huge city by comparison to where we have been; The 1000-year-old Norwegian capital sits at the head of Oslo Fjord.

Not being tourists, we would of course still be visiting the visual delights at Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Viking Ship Museum and the amazing Oslo Opera House, just across the road from our hotel.

So no apologies for these tourist snaps, the opera house is so amazing you can’t fail to make it look good – even on an overcast day with an iPhone, but on a sunny day with a new 28mm lens, it shines.

Music is never far away at Oslo Opera House
Music is never far away at Oslo Opera House

So let’s start this post with one of the busiest tourist hotspots in Oslo; namely Oslo Opera House; a fantastic building that is home of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway.

The building is situated in the Bjørvika neighborhood of central Oslo, at the head of the Oslofjord, there is a huge amount of redevelopment going on here with the building of a new National library next door, scheduled to be finished in 2018.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House interior
Oslo Opera House interior

L1005243 L1005238 L1005237 L1005235 L1005233 L1005231 L1005230 L1005229 L1005182 L1005180 L1005178 L1005176 L1005174 L1005172 L1005169 L1005163 L1005159

L1005236

After the Opera House we moved on to the Vigeland Sculpture Park

Vigeland Sculpture Park

This is a wonderful park with hundreds of sculptures – each one a work of art in it’s own right. It’s free to visit – quite remarkable for such an accessible location in an expensive place like Oslo.

You could spend hours here depending on your personal artistic bent. Nudity is the order of the day – some of the offerings are unusual to say the least. We certainly enjoyed the experience, I hope you like these snaps.

L1005227 L1005226 L1005222 L1005221 L1005220 L1005219 L1005215 L1005212 L1005211 L1005210 L1005209

Gustav Vigeland (11 April 1869 – 12 March 1943), né Adolf Gustav Thorsen, was a Norwegian sculptor. Gustav Vigeland occupies a special position among Norwegian sculptors, both in the power of his creative imagination and in his productivity.

He is most associated with the Vigeland installation (Vigelandsanlegget) in Frogner Park, Oslo.[1][2]

He was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.[3]

This was the last day of the trip, it was a great idea to get out of the centre on the tram and take in the super Vigeland Sculpture Park – this was a truly amazing place!

Fram Museum

Finally there is no trip to Norway that is complete without paying homage to those Antarctic explorers who were busy beating Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole nearly 100 years ago.

Fram is the strongest wooden ship ever built and still holds the records for sailing farthest north and farthest south.

At the Fram Museum you can get on board the ship and see how the crew and their dogs managed to survive in the coldest and most dangerous places on earth – the Arctic and the Antarctic.

The Fram Museum also has a polar simulator where you can experience both the cold and the dangers of polar expeditions over a hundred years ago. The museum’s Gjøa building has exhibitions on the Arctic and the Northwest Passage.

L1005206 L1005204 L1005202 L1005200 L1005199 L1005198 L1005197 L1005196 L1005193 L1005192

Of course Amundsen beat RFS to the prize.

I suppose being in Norway I had to admit that the plucky Brits were never realistically going to win that race; having now seen it from the Norwegian angle.

A great end to our own little polar expedition.

At least we made it back, which is more than can be said for so many of those amazing brave explorers from 100 years ago.

Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim, Norway

We set off on an eight day Nordic Odyssey and our first port of call was the Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim, Norway.

Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim
Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim

If you find yourself in Trondheim, this is the place to stay!

Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim

Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim
Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim
Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim
Lovely bar and decking on the roof
Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim
Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim
Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim
Clarion Congress Hotel, Trondheim

Just testing – these images were taken on a Leica M with both a 28mm and 50mm Summilux ASPH-M Lenses.

Much more to follow in a variety of Norway blog posts…

from the hotel website

Clarion Hotel & Congress Trondheim is one of Scandinavia’s largest convention hotels, located close to the harbour in central Trondheim.

Location

The hotel enjoys a perfect location on Brattorkaia, right at the harbour. Our neighbours are two of Trondheim’s main attractions: Pirbadet – Norway’s largest pool complex and Rockheim – Norway’s national pop and rock experience centre. At Brattørkaia by the Pirterminalen Pier Terminal and Tollboden, you’ll stay within walking distance of central Trondheim, with excellent views of the Trondheim Fjord.

The hotel

Clarion Hotel & Congress Trondheim offers 400 rooms, 18 meeting rooms, a conference area of 3,000 m2, 300 parking spaces and exciting dining concepts. Ideal for meetings, conferences, seminars, events and functions in Trondheim. The hotel is a spectacular experience for you as a visitor, with its innovative architecture and exciting interior, built in energy class A.

A vibrant meeting point in Trondheim

Inspirational for overnight guests and city locals alike. Clarion Hotel & Congress is Trondheim’s new, vibrant meeting point and offers a varied programme of concerts, lectures and exhibitions. Not many bars compare to our Skybar on the top floor, with its magical view of Munkholmen.

Food and beverages

Our Skybar and Astrum restaurant with its exciting culinary concept are on the 9th floor, with a roof terrace covering a full 190 m2. Magical views of the fjord and city are yours to enjoy.

Confirmation, christening or wedding?

We offer a large range of meeting facilities for hire, for private events such as confirmations, christenings, weddings or birthday parties. Astrum Grill & Raw Bar has a fantastic view and is a unique place to celebrate anniversaries in Trondheim. We are flexible and can help organise delicious dinners and meeting facilities tailored to your requirements.