One of the things I had always wanted to do was to go to Norway and take the train from Oslo to Bergen. I had read that this is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. After spending a few days in Oslo - visiting wonderful museums and sculpture gardens and eating fabulous seafood we jumped on board for the seven hour journey that would take us to high altitude lakes through a gorgeous fjord down a winding descent of switchbacks past the siren songs of a Norwegian Mountain Wench past trolls and finally into the seaside city of Bergen with its UNESCO world heritage site - Bryggen. Come along for the ride.
The train in Norwegian is called the Bergensbanen and is operated by the NSB. We had secured tickets before we traveled to Norway so we knew both date and time of departure. We also had planned to arrive in Bergen in the early evening. The station in Bergen is in the city center and was just a short walk to the historic Bryggen area and our hotel. Very easy to get around.
The initial part of the journey is somewhat inauspicious. Traveling out of Oslo reminded me of taking the train out of Denver to Winter Park or Glenwood Springs. The countryside is non-distinct and you slowly gain altitude as you traverse the hills (or mountainsides). It was raining or more closely misting as we left and I wondered if the entire trip was going to be like this......I couldn't have been more wrong.
As we reached what felt like the higher altitudes of the trip we were in a cloud bank - but we burst through and were greeted with amazing views of high altitude lakes - partly cloudy skies where the sun periodically broke through - snow fields and deep blue waters. It was magnificent and beautiful. Even by Colorado standards.
The next part of the trip took us to a small city atop the Alpine lakes where a number of hikers and some backpackers disembarked for - to us- unknown destinations. But they were all smiles and giddy. We enjoyed watching their excitement.
Eventually and not too much longer we were dropped into Myrdal to catch the Flam train.
The Flamsbana (Flam Railway) is a beautiful ride past waterfalls and canyons filled with greenery. After catching this next train we entered the fjord Naeroyfjord....and I know I didn't spell this correctly. Where I was so impressed with the first part of our journey - it was about to get even more spectacular.
The boat ride through the fjord was beyond beautiful. The ferry was not very busy - at least on the bottom of it where the cars are parked. I was alone for much of the trip and had the opportunity to serenely sit and wonder at the fabulous vistas that came around every corner of the trip.
I met a commercial photographer who lived in this little mail stop - Unredal Brygge. He told me his professional business was out of Oslo but his home was here. IN the peace and quiet of this little - gorgeous - place on the fjord where he and his wife wanted to raise their kids and where they knew and cared about everyone in town.
Disembarking at Gundvangen - we boarded a bus and road the spectacular switchbacks of Stalheimskleiva to Voss to catch the final train to Bergen.
Coming from such a beautiful place as Colorado with majestic mountains and canyons - valleys and parks in between - from Telluride to Estes Park and Steamboat Springs - we live in a gorgeous place - but this trip was special. The weather gave us unimagined vistas. It was green - filled with waterfalls and foliage - it was wonderful.
We finally arrived in Bergen. There weren't too many tourists - matter of fact we almost had the city to ourselves.
The seafood - the shops in Bryggen - the museums - hiking from the top of the funicular down to the city. The girls at the picnic table - having lunch - laughing and just enjoying themselves. The "Pulverhekser's" - I will include a few pictures but to say the least we had a wonderful time.
We were told we were lucky. The weather was beautiful. But what was or were even better were the people. You hear stories of how "private or cold" Norwegians can be. To us they were gracious - charming and warm. Matter of fact as I write this - I am wearing the sweatshirt I bought in Bergen at the top of the city ! It simply says - Norway - 1814.
I LOVE IT !
Travel Well Travel Safe -
Time flies - it truly does. I never finished blogging about our trip to Scotland before writing about the other trips I (we) have been on since and what a shame. We loved - yes LOVED Scotland. It is a land of enchantment. The people were so kind and wonderful to us we won't forget it. But....with all that has happened since - including an after Thanksgiving trip to Nuevo Vallarta Mexico - I wanted to go back and highlight our last couple of days in Edinburgh AND give a couple of BK Travel Tips in case you find yourself lucky enough to go.
"BK Travel Tip": we learned that although there are over 100 souvenir ships scattered in Edinburgh with many of them along the Royal Mile and side streets - they are owned by the same family. You won't find a bargain in one shop and not another. The prices are the same and although you might find some different merchandise from place to place - after a few stops - they all blend in together. Still fun.
The castle absolutely dominates the central part of the city. Along the main Old City thoroughfare the central "street' is the Royal Mile. It runs from the "high side" to the low end where you can find the Holyrood Palace. It is cobblestone and littered with souvenir shops, pubs and intermixed with some additional higher end establishments.
The castle and the streets surrounding it are crowded since it is the major attraction in the city.
There are a number of ways to get to the castle - walking - bikes - taxis - etc. We had decided that morning to take the Hop-oN Hop-oFF bus tour around the city. Since the castle was one of the first stops - we decided to visit it first.
BK Travel TiP: Thanks to our guide we found out we could get tickets to the castle directly from the driver. We didn't go online....so we bought the tickets and started to get off the bus. He took us off to the side and this is where is gets to be a TIP. There is an entry gate by the ticket office...but that IS NOT the gate you need a ticket to get into the castle grounds. The actual entrance to the castle is farther up the hill. At the entry gate there is a right hand que but on the left side is an area marked for people who are exiting. He told us since we had our tickets to skip the lines - go to the left - walk in the exit up to the actual castle entrance where we would produce our tickets. Instead of waiting we just walked right in the castle - it was AWESOME !!!!!!! Thank you Hop-On and Hop-Off !!!
The castle is quite extraordinary. It is home to the Crown Jewels, Royal Apartments, Canon from the 1800's, the prison which housed prisoners up until the Gulf War and the National War Museum with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As are most castles the walkways are not exactly steep but slant fairly dramatically. It isn't difficult to traverse but it was hard on a number of people - especially those who had walking difficulties to start with.
We did see a golf cart that was being used to shuttle folks - but didn't see how you could hail it.
The Tomb was quite moving and the ceiling above it reflective with beauty and peace.
In the adjacent corridor are books with the names of soldiers who had died - lined up side by side. It must have been at least 30 yards long. One of the amazing ironies of travel is that my wife - Marian - opened a book dated from the 1800's at random and on the page she opened - was her dads name. He had passed away on May 23rd of this year. It gave us great pause and wonder if he wasn't connecting for just another moment. Amazing..........
Another fascinating area of the Castle is the prison. It has been used for centuries although no longer today. To think of being incarcerated in such dismal, unsanitary and dark circumstances. Awful.....not that it is any better today but at least you might get a little light.
There is much to see here. The Crown Jewels and the Throne of Stone are incredible but no pictures were allowed so you will just have to go see for yourselves.
Leaving the castle we decided we needed to lift our spirits - so what better place than to try some spirits.....Whisky that is !!!
We opted for a tasting and found this little place: The Scotch Experience. It is touristy but we didn't care. We were treated with four different Whisky's from four different regions of Scotland - Highlands - Lowlands - Isle - and Central. Each one was unique and to be able to compare them side by side and not just taste from one distillery was fun.
AND .......in case you are interested..........here was the most expensive we found in the shop:
Translation - about 24 ounces for a little over $20,000.............seems like a lot to just rent it....becasue in the end that is all you are doing. We skipped the purchase.
There were so many remarkable places to visit and highlights that I could go on and on and on....you might feel like that already. Needless to say this was a fabulous trip.
When we arrived in Edinburgh it was Sunday night. We had chosen a hotel on the Royal Mile for the convenience and location. We only had a reservation for one night so we needed to find a place for the next couple of days.
The hotel we were at was nice - but it wasn't where we wanted to be or where we wanted to stay for the rest of our trip. It was part of a major chain - very nice but a bit "boring".
We found a hotel at the bottom of the Royal Mile - one block off by the Dynamic Earth attraction (where we picked up the Hop-On Hop-Off bus) and across from the trails to Arthur's Seat.........it is the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.
BK Travel Tip: If you are going to Edinburgh - stay in this hotel. It was terrific. Great price - excellent location - wonderful service and you felt like you were in a boutique hotel not a major chain. Across the street were restaurants - around the corner more restaurants - they have their own Bistro. A little convenient grocery store was a block and a half away. We found a wonderful spot. Here are a few pics to give you an idea....
Finally ...the view out our window instead of a parking lot:
Edinburgh is a stunning city. We barely scratched the surface of this magnificent place. Of so many that we have visited - this is one we want to return ----- can't wait.
Travel well Travel safe
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.