Best Trip Ever!

ViewPoint

In Valldal, Western Norway (photo: Anne Benson).

Dare to do it yourself, but learn before you leave

By John Erik Stacy

Bus, Boat, Car and Train

When considering a trip to Norway, one of the most fun aspects of the upcoming adventure is devising a unique route. A couple of friends of mine did what I think is the ultimate trip combining bus, boat, car and train to tour some of the most scenic and dramatic spots on earth. Their course traced an arc through the cities of Bergen, Ålesund, Åndalsnes and Oslo. And in addition to having seen mountain, fjord and city they had first hand experiences of Norwegian life and culture by meeting friends and family.

Voss and Bergen

The travel began late August last year with a flight into Bergen. There they were met by a friend who drove them to his

Forming slate in Voss (photo: Anne Benson)

Forming slate in Voss (photo: Anne Benson)

farm in Voss where they would spend a long week-end. Their host had arranged a wealth of experiences for them, including musical events and culinary challenges (sheep’s head and home brew, for starters). They visited the traditional slate-quarry and could drink in the view of the brooding Lønehorgi Mountain across the valley. After this rich experience in Voss, they capped off their time in the region by returning to Bergen, where they would become tourists for a day and see the famous medieval wooden buildings that were the center of the Hanseatic fish trade.

Th Buss takes the Ferry across the Fjord – Ålesund and Valldal

The next leg of the trip was an eight hour bus ride north (Vestlandsbussen #431) . The route climbs over mountain passes and crosses both Sognefjord and Nordfjord by ferry (“mini-cruises” that allow passengers time on deck) . Our travelers left the bus at Stranda. There they boarded another ferry to cross Geirangerfjord to Liabygda where they were met and taken by car up the valley to Valldal. Here they stayed at the home and strawberry farm of a relative that had planned several enriching activities. One notable was a trip to the nearby city of Ålesund, often called the most beautiful town in Norway. The buildings date from the reconstruction of the city after a fire in 1904 and are of the characteristic “Jugend” style. Ålesund is a “must see” city.

Car ride on “The Trolls Ladder” (Trollstigen)

Another high point from their time in this region was the car ride to Åndalsnes over one of the most dramatic stretches of road in the country. This is “Trollstigen,” clinging to the face of the mountainside beneath the merciless gaze of the “Trolltindene” spires. This roadway and mountain face is the site of base-jumping stunts that defy all that is reasonable. But for those that would never consider jumping off a cliff in a flying-squirrel suit, travel by car over Trollstigen is in itself an experience of a lifetime.

Aalesund

The city of Ålesund with its distinctive architecture (photo: Wikipedia)

Train through Romsdal over Dovre

Once safely at the station in Åndalsnes they boarded the NSB train for a ride of about six hours to Oslo. The route is through Romsdal and along the Rauma River and eventually up above the trees. The tracks then follow the ancient “King’s Road” (a.k.a. the “Pilgrims Route” that connected Eastern Norway with the Cathedral in Trondheim) from Dombås over the main mountain range that is the spine of Norway by way of Dovrefjell.

Oslo, the Opera and Sculpture Park

In Oslo they were tourists again and spent nights at the Opera Hotel directly adjacent to Oslo Central Train station. The Opera Hotel, and the New Norwegian Opera building itself, is in the vanguard of what is the re-invention of Oslo east. On their second evening in Oslo they did the short walk from their hotel to enjoy a production of “Porgy and Bess” at the Opera. They also made use of the bus and street-car system to visit the sculpture park on the west side of town – the famous “Vigelandsparken” – and to again visit friends in their home on the Northern out-skirts of town. On departing Oslo and Norway they walked from their hotel to the nearest train platform to catch the fast train to Gardermoen airport.

Main fountain at Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo

Main fountain at Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo (photo: John Erik Stacy)

Anne Wiggins Brown - the original "Bess" - was in the audience at Operahuset. Brown married champion skijumper Thorlief Scheldrup in 1948 and became a Norwegian citizen.

Anne Wiggins Brown - the original "Bess" - was in the audience at Operahuset. Brown married champion skijumper Thorlief Scheldrup in 1948 and became a Norwegian citizen.

Porgy and Bess (Nicole Cabell Fikile and Mvinjelwa) at Operahuset in Oslo (Photo Erik Berg).

Porgy and Bess (Nicole Cabell and Fikile Mvinjelwa) at Operahuset in Oslo (photo: Erik Berg).

Friends on inside, tools on the internet

This was a very unique trip and was made possible by the travelers having done their homework in advance. They communicated with friends and relatives and also researched various travel alternatives. For example, the bus from Bergen north toward Ålesund was discovered through the use of the internet (check out the link to “fjord1” from Norway.com). But the planning was a chance to begin understanding Norway in ways that most tourists never will. Facing logistic challenges as well as remembering and pronouncing the names of towns embolden and empowered them. In the end it added up to the best trip ever!

(visit this YouTube link to see a clip from the production of Porgy and Bess)

This article was also published in the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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