Monday 31 July 2023

Norway Day 11 - Monday 31st July - A day in Bergen


We started the day with breakfast on the balcony taking advantage of the view of the fjord and watching a couple of cruise ships  sailing up under the Askoy bridge  in preparation for a day in Bergen.

After a quick visit to the Rema supermarket we then drove to the centre of Bergen. The road is tolled and drivers are billed automatically, in my case by using my a Skyttlepass account. The charge is a mystery as the cost depends on time of day and the automatic tolling cameras appeared to be randomly located. We were only changed for the morning journey and the the cost was just over 27 NOK (£2).  

When we looked at staying in Bergen we had considered going on a fjord cruise. However, that would have taken most of the day and we would not have had time to explore the city. The roads into Bergen from our apartment were too busy to cycle so we drove, parking in the central City Park parking garage. We were charged 306 NOK (£22.59)  for the days parking with your length of stay being calculated by the automatic number plate recognition cameras. If we had selected a car park further out from the centre the cost would have been less.

From the car park it was a short walk to the Fishmarket. The market was a popular tourist destination located by the fjord in the heart of the city . In addition to stalls selling fish there were also  stalls selling  local farm food and vegetables and  several restaurants serving a large selection of seafood. It was busy and a popular designation for the cruise ship passengers. The food stalls also sold a variety of Norwegian hot dishes. The traditional Norwegian Paella stall that was doing a good trade.

From the market it was a short walk to the other side of the wharf to Bryggen .A mediaeval wharf in the historic harbour district known for its colourful, wooden-clad boat houses. We walked along the front before exploring the alleys between the houses.

To use the toilets in the town you had to pay using  a credit card. The first one we tried the card was not accepted so we walked further down the wharf to one that was not as busy and tried again. Some other tourists also had the  same problem. We eventually found a cubicle where the door was not locked so we could open the door without using a card.

We then took  Floibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen. It is possible to walk to the view point in around an hour from the centre if you want to save the 160 NOK (£12) return fare . The funicular took under 6 minutes to climb the 320 metres to the upper station and viewpoint. The area immediately outside the upper station was busy but the terraced view point offered good views for everyone .

You only needed to walk a short distance away from the terrace for the crowds to thin out. Rather than descending to the centre for lunch we walked on the graveled path to a  small lake, Skomakerdiket. It was possible to push the wheelchair most of the way but a couple of the short accents were a struggle. At the lake it was possible to hire a canoe but the lake's small size meant this was aimed more at children than serious paddlers. We found a small cafe on the far side and bought a coffee and had to be content with a cake as they did not have anything savory. We should have purchased some lunch in the centre to bring with us before getting the funicular. We then walked round the lake before returning to the funicular station for the trip back to the centre.

We did not have time to visit any of Bergen's many museums and art galleries but walked towards the railway station stopping in Festplassen piazza overlooking Bergen's central lake and fountain for Lyn to ring her mum. We return to the car via the Musikkpaviljongen . A  cast-iron Music Pavilion with Moorish details was gifted to the city in 1888. The website says the pavilion also contains a lifesize bronze statue by Ingebrigt Vik of Edvard Grieg. This native of Bergen was a successful classical piano composer during the late 19th century but we missed it and checking our photos the statue appears to no longer be there.

We returned to the apartment for a tea of Salmon with fennel and fresh vegetables using the remains of last night's bean sprouts and then spent the evening updating diaries and planning the route for next day's drive.

Sunday 30 July 2023

Norway Day 10 -Sunday 30th August - Hardanger Maritime Museum and Steinsdalsfossen waterfall


The fine weather of the day before was replaced by rain. Breakfast in the hotel was good. Photographs were taken, the car packed and the bill paid. Unfortunately the view of the Folgefonna glacier we had seen the previous evening was lost in cloud.

Rather than driving to Bergen we decided to first the visit the Hardanger Maritime Museum in the next village of Norheimsund. We had expected our visit would be quite a quick tour  but in the end we spent almost 5 hours in the museum. It is an informal museum dedicated to the protection of old vessels by keeping them in the water and transferring the skills needed to maintain them to the next generation. The museum started in 1984 as a social project for unemployed youth when they restored a 73 foot sailing vessel Mathilde. The restoration took 5 years and the boat has sailed on the fjord ever since.


The museum has now expanded to include more vessels , workshops and a  rope making walk. They also sell traditional rowing boats they make by hand. The layout is very informal and you are free to wander round the workshops. We walked  round the workshops, outside vessels then climbed the stairs to the rope walk where  they make all the ropes for the boats they are refurbishing. Visitors can make their own sample short piece of rope by hand. We followed the instructions. We started by cutting 3 lengths of string from a large reel and tying 3 separate loops between the winding jig and a stick. Lyn had to tension  the strings and it was then over 7 minutes  of fast winding the handle to get sufficient  twists on the string to shorten it to the required length. The twisted lengths of string were carefully removed from the stick and tied together. A wooden bobbin was then placed between the 3   lengths of strings we had twisted and after some more winding and moving the bobbin to lay the lengths of twisted string  we were the proud owners of a short length of rope. We could see why the twisting  was done by a machine for the ropes they manufactured.

We visited the cafe for lunch. They had run out of savory items so we had to be content with a coffee and piece of cake.  The weather improved by the afternoon. Our ticket price included having a traditional rowing boat on the fjord for 30 minutes. We went back to the car to change into canoe shorts and shoes in case we got wet. Once we had master the oars and not facing the direction of travel we were soon near the village. More photos were taken before rowing back.

Returning to dry land we changed out of canoe shorts and then  explored the areas of the museum we had missed and then went back to the cafe for a coffee. This one was free as we used the time to complete an online survey.

It was after 4:00 before we left the museum. Our first stop was just 20 minutes later at the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall. The waterfall was formed in 1699 when the river found a new path and has attracted visitors to the area ever since. It is possible to walk behind the waterfall offering a different perspective. It was a short walk from the large carpark to the waterfall.  We took the wheelchair but fortunately Lyn was able to walk up the slope. It was then a 90 minute drive to the apartment we had booked in Laksevay just outside Bergen.

We had a flexible check in. On arrival we had to car outside the door to the underground carpark. It was then an airbnb message to the owner and a few seconds later the roller door opened. The correct parking space was located and  key and door fob retrieved from its hiding place. A numbered door then had to be located so we were in the right stairwell and on reaching the first floor had to find the correct apartment . The apartment doors were not numbered but a small label with the owners name was eventually found . The luggage was transferred from the car. It was quite a a walk so Lyn had to take the wheelchair.

It was time for a quick drink before we had to drive in Bergen to find a supermarket to buy food for tea. The majority of Supermarkets in Norway do not open on a Sunday. We had googled the previous evening and found a Mango Supermarket that was open a few miles from the apartment on Loddefjoid . We were fortunate we were able to find a space to park outside where you had 30 minute free parking. The supermarket turned out to be located in a shopping centre. They had a good range of fresh vegetables but some areas of the shop had been closed off. We purchased the ingredients for a mushroom and nut stir fry .

We returned to the apartment to cook tea and admire the views of the fjord.

Saturday 29 July 2023

Norway Day 9 - Saturday 29th July - Hardanderfjoid Hotel


Today we drove towards Bergen . Our route followed the National Tourist route and would take us over the Hardangervidda mountain plateau and past the spectacular  Vøringsfossen waterfall. We wanted to enjoy the drive and have time to stop and admire the scenery so rather than drive all the way to Bergen we planned a stop for the night in Øystese the Hardanderfjoid Hotel. The drive time without stops was scheduled to take 5:30 hours. We set off just after 10:00 am. We had a Brexton stop for lunch before we reached the plateau having the 2 portions of salmon we had cooked the night before .

A problem with the cool box meant it would only operate on mains power. Fortunately  we had some cool blocks with us and had been able to freeze them before setting off. We climbed above the tree time and our route took us over the largest mountain plateau in Europe. The balanced stones at Maka paka's field with the lake provide a good photo opportunity but it was too busy to fly the drone.

A shack on the plateau provided an opportunity to purchase reindeer skins. We stopped for a wander round but moved on without buying anything. At another stop a local troll provided a good photo opportunity before we continued our descent from the plateau . 

Our route took us past The Vøringsfossen Waterfall . It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Norway with its  free fall of 145 metres and a total fall of 182 metres. We parked in the large car park at the top. From there it was only a short walk to the viewing platforms.  The area had been developed with a concrete path and glass and metal safety barriers. Photos were taken and Robert decided to descend and cross the footbridge to get to the viewing platform on the other side. Some more photos were taken before the camera battery ran out.

As we descended past Eidford we were surprised to see a cruise ship docked and dominated the small town . We stopped for Brexton coffee and photos.


We arrived at the hotel at around 19:30 after a full day of driving. The area was more build up than we were expecting and we were disappointed to find that the swimming pool was a public pool attached to the side of the hotel. Our room was on the ground floor at the side of the hotel . We did not get a view of the fjord that would have been extra but did have the advantage that we could park outside and carry our things into the room though the patio door. The hotel was a modern building built on the side of the Fjord . From the back of the hotel and terrace there were good views across the fjord and of the Folgefonna glacier. The glacier was viable when we arrived but covered in cloud the next morning when Robert went to photograph it.

View of the hotel from the fjoid. The building on the right is a public swimming pool.

We ate in the hotel as there were limited places to eat in Øystese . We noticed that some guests had bought takeaway pizzas from the local takeaway and ate them on the terrace outside with a drink. The menu turned out to be very limited  with only 3 main courses. We both opted for  an expensive chicken burger with sweet potato fries. Passing on an alcoholic drink  which we had back in the room from our German supply. 

Friday 28 July 2023

Norway Day 8 - Friday 28th - July Kistefos Museum

 We selected Honefoss because of its closeness to the Kistefos Museum and its sculpture park. 

It was 165 Nok for the entrance fee  (£12.45) and that was because Lyn asked and we were mistakenly granted a senior Citizen discount of 25 Nok. We need to be 67 to qualify for the discount. We did state our correct age but it might have got lost in translation. We only realised later when we looked to see how much an annual ticket that included 3 other museums would have been. The Heni Museum was included on the list as well as a gallery in Bergen and had we known yesterday we might have bought the pass. Before we left we went back to the reception desk to pay the difference but were told we did not have to pay anything else. We should “consider the discount a gift and we could leave with a clear conscious” . The sculpture park was excellent and well worth a visit. It is built in the ground of an old pulp mill and includes art galleries, a sculpture park and  an industrial museum . There are more than 50 sculptures from a range of internationally famous artists including Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama, Claes Oldedburg, Tong Cragg and Marc Quinn.

We started at the Twist Gallery that spans the river. An impressive piece of architecture that as well as providing a unique crossing is a sculpture and exhibition space. The temporary display was by the British artist Sir Tony Cragg .

We then wandered up through the grounds following the river upstream to the old paper mill. We shared a pizza for lunch before going round the mill. The old machinery that had been used to make paper was still in place and you could follow the process  from cutting the logs , removing the bark and then grinding the logs to turn the wood into pulp. We then continued wandering through the grounds seeing the majority of the sculptures as well as going into a couple of the galleries.

We returned to the Honefoss via the Hadeland Glassverk. Lots of opportunities to purchase very expensive hand blown glass. A  hand blown chandelier with 3 drops was over 1000 euros . It was very expensive and for the price we could get something of a much finer quality in England . We did not pay to watch the glass blowing but wandered through the shop before driving back to Honefoss

Before cooking tea we had a short cycle into Honefoss to photograph the Terrace View waterfall feed from a weir on the Begna river. 

Tea was Salmon with fresh vegetables. Frozen salmon is surprisingly cheap in the supermarket and costs less than chicken. We cooked 4 pieces wrapped in foil and had 2 pieces cold the next day for our lunch the next day.

Thursday 27 July 2023

Norway Day 7 - Thursday 27th July - Honefoss

 Breakfast at Hotel Shon was a real experience.  Neither of us had ever seen so much choice of food, with different food stations wherever you turned!  There must have been something for everyone.  If you liked pickled vegetables then you were in for a treat – rows of jars of all sorts of coloured vegetables.  We sampled tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower…. The breakfast broke our scoring system and we scored it 11 out of a possible 10. The parking in the hotel was around £22.50 for 24 hours. We had factored that cost in when choosing the hotel. The parking was secure and under the hotel with direct access to our floor via the lift.

After breakfast we drove to the Heni Musuem on the outskirts of Oslo. Art gallery created by the legendary figure skater Soja Heni and her husband.

There were a wide range of artists on display including an infinity room ”Hymn of Life” created by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. They also featured one of her important signature piece of  a large  spotted pumpkin sculpture .

 One room we did not linger in was the one dedicated  to the trophies Soja Heni had won. It was only after our visit when  we  looked on  Wikipedia we discovered the history of the museum and the fact that  Sonja Henry was a controversial figure in Norway owing to her tacit support of Hitler during the war.  

We had lunch in the cafe and walked round the grounds before our 3 hours of free parking expired.

The drive to Honefoss was less than an hour. We found the apartment without difficulty and were able to park outside. Our apartment was on the top floor of a small residential block. We had a fully equipped kitchen , separate lounge area and an outside balcony that was enclosed with glass windows. There was a large Co-op opposite which we walked to to get provisions. We cooked a chicken stir fry for tea and purchased mozzarella and tomatoes for breakfast.