Oslo was stop #5 on our winter Scandinavian tour. From Oslo, we planned to travel across Norway on a train to Bergen. The route we followed is called the "Norway In A Nutshell" tour. We really enjoyed our time here and want to come back and travel the same route in the summer.
Our first decision was whether or not to go out for dinner or to order room service. We decided to let the weather decide for us. We decided that if it was warmer than -15 Celsius, we'd go out. If it was colder, we'd stay in. We stayed in. We pulled the table right up against the window so that we could look out and eat at the same time. As it started getting dark, we started to see a few fireworks being set off by individuals. Then, as it got closer and closer to midnight, we saw more and more and more fireworks being set off by individuals. There never was an official city fireworks display. It was just that everyone and their brother had purchased big, professional fireworks and was setting them off all across the city. Once, there was a big firework that exploded only about two feet from our window. It was really pretty. And, we watched a group of friends wandering around the streets past the hotel. They were carrying their fireworks and would stop every once in a while and just shoot one off. So, this is why the man at the check-in counter knew that I'd be able to see fireworks no matter which side of the hotel our room was on!
The next morning, we headed out to a sculpture park. It was obvious that this park had been a main site for setting off fireworks the night before. We saw BIG burn marks in the snow, used up cardboard firework shells, empty wine bottles, empty beer bottles and just general garbage left behind from the festivities. It is a good thing, we think, that Oslo is deep in snow around New Year's. Otherwise, there'd be numerous fires on New Year's Eve!
The sculpture park was interesting.. but very cold. So, we headed back into town to do some shopping and ended up eating at a pizza place. Tara bought her first of what was to be many Norwegian sweaters. The next day, we did more shopping for CDs before getting on the train across Norway. The train we were on did not work well. It had engine problems more than once and we were hours behind schedule. Since we wanted to make the connection to the small railroad and boat during the daylight, we made the choice to get off the train at a town called Geilo and find a hotel for the night. We'd seen a very beautiful white building from the train, but when we asked about it, we found it was all full and very expensive anyway. So, we let the tourist office pick a place for us and headed through town to it. Geilo is a big ski resort town and we saw everyone with their skis as well as the ski runs off in the distance. It looked pretty, but we weren't planning on doing any skiing.
We were happy with our hotel. It was on a small hill and we were able to rent sleds and go sledding. It was fun sliding down the hill, but walking back up it was rough. After a while, we went back in to get warm. Tara wanted to go swimming, but didn't have a suit since we had checked our luggage all the way through to Bergen. So, she asked at the front desk & they had a lost and found which contained a black bikini that Seth thought was much better than her normal one piece! So, while Tara enjoyed the whirlpool and sauna, Seth stayed in the room watching English television!
For dinner, we found a pizza place attached to the local Texaco gas station. After dinner, back at the hotel, we had a fun night playing ping pong. Seth enjoyed winning every single game and Tara now knows that Seth had a ping pong table in his basement as a child and knows that playing ping pong is just like riding a bicycle - once you learn, you never forget.
The next morning, we explored town a bit and found a Solberg Electronics store. Tara thinks her maiden name must have gotten changed from Solberg to Soberg somewhere between Norway and Minnesota since the phone book contained tons of "Solberg's", but no "Soberg's".
Soon, we were back on the train and heading across the rest of Norway. Soon, we transferred to the Glacier Express where we snaked down a canyon and saw more frozen waterfalls than we could count. It was gorgeous, even in the middle of winter. At the first little town where we transferred from the train to the boat, there was time for lunch and we met another American traveling on the Norway in a Nutshell tour. She was working in Germany currently, playing in the musical Cats and was traveling on her own to Bergen when she was going to meet the brother of a friend. We all thought the boat ride through the Fjord's was amazing. The water was frozen in some places and the boat had to break through a top layer of ice. The towns we passed grew increasingly smaller. At first, we passed towns where hundreds of people lived, then we passed a town where only 15 people lived. Next, it was a town where 10 lived and finally, a town where only 3 elderly people were living. None of these towns were reachable by road during the winter - so it was truly amazing to think of what life must be like once the water froze and there was no way in or out. Way to soon the boat ride was over and it was dark and we transferred to a bus and then a train before arriving in Bergen.
Bergen was really pretty. Especially down by the Harbor in the morning. We got an early start since we now had only one day in Bergen. The old buildings along the one side of the harbor are even prettier in person than in a postcard. We decided that for our big event in Bergen, we would take the Funicular up to the scenic point in town. Tara thought that the Funicular would be empty early on a Sunday morning.... but NO. It was packed with families going up the mountain to take a walk. There were kids and skis and sleds and dogs. Just amazing! A fair number of the men were dressed as what I called "typical Norwegians": Half-pants, a patterned sweater and matching patterned socks.
We had a wonderful time walking up along trails at the top of Bergen. It was fun to watch the people pulling their kids up the slopes on sleds. It was even funner to watch the kids come barreling down the slopes. Nearly an hour into the walk, in the middle of the wilderness, we happened upon a hot dog stand with benches. At the stand, there were kids maybe 12 years old selling hot dogs. I ordered two and a boy asked me (in perfect English) if I would want ketchup and mustard on them! Just amazing. While we were eating our hot dogs, ti would fun to watch the kids playing in the snow. Even more amazing than the kid at the hot dog stand speaking perfect English is that when we were eating our hot dogs, two men who Seth thought were older than his father came cross country skiing past us at high rates of speed. We figure that the outdoor lifestyle must be pretty healthy. After taking a few more photos by frozen waterfalls, we had to head down the Funicular and get a taxi to the airport for our flight home.
Tara with phallic bodies sculpture
Tara by Pommes Frites vending machine
Tara with Lefsa
Seth at train station
Tara at train station
Tara with with sleds & sliding down the hill
Tara with ski trails in the back
Seth outside the train
Seth's face in the train window
Seth on the boat
Sunset in the Fjords
Tara with 10 fingers
Tara and friend with 15 fingers
Tara in Norwegian Sweater
Tara in front of window
Seth in front of cute buildings
Tara in front of funicular
Typical Norwegians with kids on sleds
favorite house shot
Seth ontop of the mountain
Tara with city below
Tara by frozen waterfall
Tara eating hot dog and sprite
Seth with wilderness behind
View going down in funicular
Seth in front of funicular
When: New Years 1996
Tourist Office: Norway
Travel Times London -> Copenhagen -> Helsinki -> Rovanemi -> Helsinki -> Stockholm -> Oslo ... Bergen -> London
Hotel: SAS Radison in Oslo & Bergen and Geilo Hotel in Geilo
Radisson Oslo from Tuesday, Dec 31 to Friday, January 3. Room Rate is 995NOK per night. Total charges are 3,657 NOK.