Saturday, August 13, 2011

Norwegian Wood: Flam to Bergen to Balestrand to Fjaerland

I was going to make some joke about John Ford Westerns as technically I am Jon in the Western Fjords but I'll save you my lame attempts at humour. After the physical destruction that was the Finse bike ride, we had a luxury day of sight seeing to get to Bergen. The first part was taking a ferry through some spectacular fjords to Gudvangen.

We got to the ferry early and were lucky enough to sit next to some Australians who were relieved we were Australian too because it meant they didn't have to "sit next to any Asian tourists." High five for Australian racism on the road - what a bunch of pricks. We soundly ignored them for the rest of the trip and hope they die in a fiery pit of their own ignorance. However, even overt racism couldn't ruin the view.

It's hard to convey the scale of the fjords here but they are frickin' massive. There wasn't much wildlife to speak of except for a herd of mountain goats high up in the hills - sadly, I missed them as I was in the loo.

On wildlife, I experienced something I'd never seen before. As the ferry moved through the water a flock of seagulls flew alongside and a whole bunch of tourists would hold up food which the seagulls would take from their hands as they were flying. I guess you have to do something to take your mind off the incredible scenery all around you. The woman in the picture was a master of taming seagulls - I was totally jealous but food is so expensive in Norway I couldn't afford to waste it on a bird.

Anyhow, I was too busy acting like a thug for such shenanigans. Them Crooked Vultures represent! Once the ferry got to Gudvangen, we hung out in some tourist hellhole waiting for a bus to take us to the train to Bergen. I have one question, why are Norwegians really into ugly trolls. It seems like they're a master race of statuesque six foot blondes and they champion squat monsters - what's that about? Maybe there is a level of irony that I'm missing there. Anyhow, we took the bus/train and arrived in Bergen.

Do you ever have those moments where you say 'if I was a billionaire, I'd definitely live in {insert city of choice here}!' Well, you can add Bergen to my list of cities I want to live in because it is a beautiful town on the edge of the Fjords. A cobbled maze of streets with houses hundreds of years old (in the old town at least), I think I fell in love a little here.

Here's Ruth on the streets and continuing her tradition of collecting cats from around the world.

Also, we totally scored because there was a double booking of our accommodation which meant we got bumped to a great apartment in the heart of the city which would have cost about twice as much as we paid. Awesome. We basically had the entire second floor of this house.

I was mistaken in thinking Bergen would be all about bread but it was mainly about the fish markets. As I hate eating fish, here's a picture of a dead moose instead.

ALTHOUGH, can a city be blamed for having the worst buskers in the world? Apart from the ever present piano accordion mafia on the streets, there was these two people doing a country/folk version of Bob Marley's Could you be loved. My lord, it was terrible - it's as if they hate music. I secretly suspect they were Australian buskers.

Anyhow, one part of any visit to the city is to take the funicular up the hills that surround it and take photos of Bergen in action. You're welcome. Bergen was a beautiful place that I wish I could stay forever but Balestrand was a calling...

It seems to me I haven't taken enough ferry rides in my life as it seems like such a refined and nice way to travel. I'd take ferries everywhere if I could - I'm sure there must be someway to get a ferry from Marrickville to the city.

Anyhow, we arrived in Balestrand, a little town on the fjords. It was very beautiful once again but this was the first place on the trip where we actually encountered any seriously bad weather (which is pretty good going really). As such, we spent a bunch of time hanging out waiting for the rain to stop.

Before the rains set in we stopped for a burger. When I said food was expensive in Norway, I wasn't kidding. That hamburger probably cost about $57 Australian dollars so eating out on this trip is pretty rare. Savour that burger Ruth, it's 2 minute noodles again tonight.

We stayed in this lovely hostel which was based in an old hotel where we had separate dorm beds (another cost saving measure). I had this nice dorm mate who was a London police man and I feel a bit sorry that I gave him a bit of a hard time about his views on multiculturalism. Why? He was heading back to work on Monday which was just in time for the London riots and probably didn't need some idiot from Australia talking about 'if only we could all get along' rattling around his brain.

Anyhow, it rained a shit load while we were there.

The next day we caught a ferry through more kick-arse fjords to Fjaerland - the home of a few glaciers and stunning, stunning landscapes.

We were dropped off in Mundal, the book capital of Norway which is a bit sad really because even though it has a main street filled with second hand book stores selling Norwegian copies of Stephen King novels, the town itself is about the size of your fist.

They had lot's of stands with honesty boxes where you could pay your 10 kroner (approximately $AUS97) and take the book of your choice.

The real insult was there was only one coffee store in town and having the monopoly in the town has led them to be a little lax in their service. The hot chocolate I ordered consisted of a Nestle hot chocolate powder packet and the directions to an urn of hot water. Apparently, the coffee (pre-mixed) was not too dissimilar. I haven't tried every coffee shop in Norway so I couldn't say it was the worst in the country but surely they're vying for a place. A book town without a good cafe? What would the indie kids think?

Fortunately, we didn't come to Fjaerland for literature or coffee but for the ridiculously exquisite scenery. We stayed in a camping ground which was in the valley base between some small mountains topped by glaciers.

It was probably the greatest location we've eaten tacos (we were taking a break from noodles that day).

As such, we got to see some amazing glaciers up close but not too close because apparently glaciers will kill you if you get too close. We also went to the Glacier museum which is 120 Kroner (approximately $AUS12,083) I'll never get back - sorry kids, you can't go to college, I went to that crappy museum in 2011.

The next day, Ruth and I decided to do a hike to a glacier from Mundal. The hike started well and I did my best Julie Andrews impersonation - yeah, I know wrong country but Nazi occupied Austria was unavailable on that day.

Oh I get it now. A genuine troll bridge.

Even though I have hiked a lot in my life I never really know what to do when cows cross your path. Apparently you don't look them in the eye. Call that rookie error number 1 as I seemed to unnerve every cow we passed. Look at that shifty looking cow lying in wait for me.

Anyhow, after a few hours of walking we made it to this amazing vista although there was no glacier in sight. Didn't matter or undermine the sense of accomplishment though.

Yay! Victory over nature! Suck it mother Earth!

Did I say victory or is that some incredibly threatening looking storm clouds with a three hour descent ahead of us? I take that mother Earth gibe back - aw crap.

So, for the next couple of hours the rain came down pretty hard making it difficult for everyone (including the angry cows).

The first casualty of the trip - my foot and the biggest cowpat you've ever seen.

Even the torrential rain couldn't take away our Norwegian jaw expression though.

By the time the rain stopped, every animal in the area seemed to have taken a disliking to us. This sheep literally chased us off his land and then stood and watched us go. He's probably still looking down the road to guard against us coming back...

Oh well, when we got to Mundal, I could have a rewarding cup of hot chocolate. Oh right...



slalor said...

Loving your travel blog Jon, hilarious!

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