Naturally, I had to make things just a little more complicated than packing our bags and showing up at the airport. A week before leaving, I checked my passport, and saw it had been expired for almost a year.
The situation was no mystery to the people in the Passport Agency at Houston, who dealt with hundreds of others in a similar position.
After a day in Houston, I arrived in Austin a day before our flight with a shiny new passport in hand.
With a mixture of excitement and sadness about leaving our dog behind, we waited in the terminal, watching as they prepared our airplane and put in some extra phalange.
Food, so much food in the 10+ hour flight. We had our hands stretched out before the flight attendant ever spoke a word. Pasta, creme brûlée, pancakes, coffee, cake, cookie, sandwich; useless subscriptions finally became useful as we watched full series and various movies while eating.
Bergen embraced us in all its green and blue glory. Temperature sat comfortably between warm and chilly. Our noses cleared, and our stomachs growling, after rolling up our luggage to Bergenhus, we headed into town. We had our first meal, a hot dog at the famous Trekroneren. This is where I first met a small breed of bird which followed me through every stop of this trip. More on that later. I tried the lamb hotdog, but had to finish it while walking on account of a certain war with a tiny bird. It had been a spectacle the family next to us found hilarious.
Bergen was a pit stop; a place to land. We did a small hike as a warm up, and took an early cruise through the fjords toward Flåm.
Flåm was overflowing with tourists arriving at the port. We grabbed a pizza at the bakery and purchased our bus tickets to Gudvangen. Note to future self: Try to use Skyss and only Skyss busses when possible. You will save a lot of money.
Flåm is very small, and can be a tourist trap with overpriced gift shops and food if you’re not careful. There is a nice, viking themed, restaurant near a hotel. We opted to save as much money as we could for activities and souvenirs, instead and got a pizza at at the bakery. We found it worth it to walk around and look at the water in awe and the various shops to compare prices of souvenirs with other stores around Norway. We ended up buying most of our souvenirs in Bergen and at a random small shop in front of a waterfall that had items on clearance. After seeing everything there was to see, we took a bus to Gudvangen.
Gudvangen had one of the most amazing fjords. If we were people who planned things to the minute, we would have booked a kayak tour through the fjord. But on the first day, we were OK with eating at the restaurant and walking around town.
I had wanted to try archery for years. It only took going to the other side of the world to finally try it. It was as much fun as it looked. Getting the axe to stick to the tree trunk proved much more difficult than the local, living, viking made it seem. During the tour, one of the people living there takes you through most of the houses and gives people a lot of historical background about the village. When we returned home, we learned their blacksmith is one of the best in Norway. It was a missed opportunity to take a blacksmithing lesson with him.
After spending the night on Gudvangen, we took another bus to Aurland.
Aurland is a peaceful small town outside the bounds of busy Flåm. Here, AirBnB was king in finding an affordable and beautiful spot. We had rented a cabin proper to finding the AirBnB but once we saw it, we knew we had struck gold and changed our reservations.
The town has a small church with the only bus stop in front. We waited at that bus stop to take our shuttle to the Stegastein Viewpoint. There are several amazing spots to stop along the way.
The time had come to face our fears in the longest zipline in all of Scandinavia.
In the end, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The only scary part is sitting on the swing chair waiting to be launched, staring down and realizing how high up you are. But once the ride starts, everything is smooth and goes by in a flash.Viking Valley
At the bottom of the zipline there are bike rental services as well as some snacks. Since we had our luggage with us, we had to walk for almost two miles carrying three backpacks and a rolling suitcase to the nearest trains station to head to Oslo. We enjoyed views of rivers and scarred houses, as well as small tunnels and hills.
Train to Oslo
Once in Flamsbana, we had to hop off in Myrdal to switch trains to Oslo. The views aboard Bergensbanen made you feel like you were in a movie looking at a make belief set were everything looks perfectly in harmony. The train stop had a small cafe with a lot of snacks, hot dogs, pancakes, drinks, Wi-Fi, and restroom.
During the train ride, I watched the entire series Ancient Apocalypse, which I had been meaning to watch. It’s great to use the downtime to catch up on things you seem to never have time to do. Of course I was constantly licking pause to look out the window in awe of the view.
We visited a few museums and it is obvious the city is rich in history. Two and a half days were barely enough to see it all.
Reserve at least two hours for this museum. It is a large open-air museum with more than 150 buildings, which means it has a ton of stuff to see and walk round. It has its own replica of a stave church, a village, as well as a candy shop and what looked like a four story British museum with furniture, clothing and more.
Fram, Maritime, and Kon-Tiki
Prepare to walk. There are a few museums right next to each other. The Fram Museum, The Maritime Museum and the Kon-Tiki museum are right across each other, and are jam packed with cool stuff to see. I absolutely loved The Fram Museum, where you can walk not only board ships, but inside of them. There is a lot of information and exhibitions, as well as a simulated ocean around the main boat. It’s very cool. The Kon-Tiki museum has exhibits of real excavations, as well as rafts. The maritime museum has a small vikings section as well as a lot of scale models of various boats and ships used during the time.
Vigeland Park, Royal Palace, Munch
The next day, we visited the Holocaust Museum, Vigeland Park, the Royal Palace, and ended with a visit to the Munch Museum. We had a blast! It was very hot, and this was probably one of our longest walks on this trip without counting the hikes. Vigeland park was a nice place to sit under a shade and eat some snacks to regain our energy before heading out to the Royal Palace. It was immense, with hundreds of sculptures that are sure to get your attention.
We returned to Bergen taking the same train we took to get to Oslo. Our intention was to stay there for the remaining week, slowing down and taking in the local culture as best we could.
We conquered the steps of Ulriken and were rewarded with amazing Ox tacos and lamb hotdogs at the top.
Hakkon’s Hall and other notable places
The last Joyride
As it usually does, the thought of the trip ending sparked a fire in us. There were a lot of things we hadn’t done yet: we hadn’t tasted the famous goat cheese at Undredal, or visited the historic church at Borgund, or saw the famous tunnels of Norway. So we took. bus to the airport, rented a car, and drove for a whole day. We returned to our AirBnb well beyond midnight. If you rent an electric car, download the Tesla app, set up an account, and get your credit card information into your account. Charging at the Tesla superchargers was a vastly superior experience than the other overly complex stations. If you still have souvenirs to buy, int he last picture you will find a nice shop we found in front of a famous waterfall.