Mountains, forests, little wooden houses and stunning fjords; Vikings, legends, sagas, runes and dark music; moose and reindeer. These are the most common things that we associate with Norway. These were what I expected to see and/or explore on my trip this May.
What I actually experienced was far beyond those and much better than I expected and imagined.
Now to understand how crazy this trip was you need to know few important data. There was four and a half of us: three smart blondes – Asia, Dominika and I (Magda) and Bartek – one brunette guy (nobody’s perfect) and Bigos Różowos. We were driving from Kraków, Poland through Germany and Denmark to Norway and tried to get as far north as we could but we really wanted to see Trondheim. We had a willow-green Peugeot aka. autos seledynos tiny light green car, loads of food and toilet paper, tent and sleeping bags. The plan was that there is no plan.
We started on the 3rd of May, which is usually very warm and sunny in Kraków but this time lovely global-warming-weather decided that it should be 2 degrees Celsius and snowing! Yes snowing in Poland in May is the same as snowing in Ireland or San Francisco in May! It never ever happened in my life before! I have to say that lovely and absolutely packed car (I couldn’t move and getting in and out caused serious problems), which at this time of year had already summer tyres, made it perfectly and safely to the border with Germany, where it magically was 18 degrees and sunny (borders do matter for weather!).
We only saw about eleven accidents on the road. Thankfully no one died during that day on the roads, which I say is a true miracle.
Our road through Germany was quite boring – we drove. We only stopped in Berlin for very short tour through city centre – Unter den Linden and museums quarter, later delicious dinner in 22nd century digitalised restaurant called Holyfields (http://www.holyfields.de/de/restaurants/berlin-unter-den-linden.html). If you ever have a chance to be in Berlin go there and have a burger sandwich with baked potatoes in sea salt and rosemary. The place looks very posh and kinda chill-out style which I hate when it comes to bars, venues, restaurants etc. for me this style lacks any kind of spirit or character. But Holyfields was a bit different. I won’t tell you why because the curiosity will make you go there! Let’s just say there is an interesting way of ordering the food. The staff are extremely friendly and food is beautiful and it’s cheap so even if your vintage/retro-loving rock chick like me you’ll fit in there.
And guess what we did next – we drove! Our next stop was in Denmark, first town after the border, where we had a small nap in our willow-green car. Actually from there until Hirtshals I was mostly asleep, so please allow me to skip that part.
Hirtshals was a lovely little town with extremely handsome shop assistant who sold us the best and biggest cinnamon rolls I’ve ever eaten. We love you!
Then we went on FjordKat, a lovely catamaran who took us straight to Kristiansand.
Unfortunately Norway greeted us with bit of greyness and rain but we already have been awed by its beauty and different architecture. The first day we just drove from Kristiansand to Stavanger beside which we wanted to stay for the night.
And here finally we come to a funny part. After we crossed the city we took a long drive through 10 km tunnel. Now, I’ve been in few long tunnels in my life like going under the Alps etc. and all those we usually flat tunnels sometimes with few bends but that’s it. This one was a little bit different, we went steeply down and then back up again… and coming back up was not so easy, the car was completely packed and we didn’t want to exceed speed limits, so we went up quite slowly… snail slowly actually. All would be good in we weren’t stalked by a huge white truck which was making weird sounds and giving us light signals , we couldn’t move anywhere cause there were cars coming on opposite way… so the truck had to stop because of us. Let’s just say we run away after that and till the end we were scared of white truck revenge!!! I bet it is still out there looking for our autos seledynos!
Our first campsite just outside Stavanger was pretty nice. Actually the best part was our first grill-and-instant-meal: Heineken, instant soup in a mug, grilled sausages and grilled toasts with cheese. Delicious and it kind of became our set menu for the most of the trip. The tent was easy to set up but it was just so damn cold that during the night that I could actually feel the blood running through my veins and freezing on its way.
In the morning after making ourselves fabulous we went on. Honestly I have absolutely no idea where we went as we were just loosing ourselves in ferries, fjords and amazing landscapes between Stavanger and Bergen, where we finally got to in the evening just for a short run around city centre. Later on we were driving through millions of underwater tunnels and mountain peaks with snow. In these conditions we couldn’t find a place to stay so we ended up in a car. Note to self – never ever sleep in a car again! But we caught the earliest ferry from Ytre Oppedal and it was a start to the most amazing day on the whole trip.
For that day actually we had a plan! To get to Geiranger Fjord, and camp there, through Trollstigen – trolls’ way, very steep and winding road up to the mountain viewing over one of the most beautiful and stunning fjords in the world.
We went from Ytre Oppedal to Stryn through one the most amazing places I have visited in my whole life: valleys, mountains, fjords, lakes, glaciers and waterfalls – all in just a day drive. Words cannot describe its’ beauty so I will just attach few more photos here.
Oh and we saw the reindeers. We almost hit the ditch after four of us, including Dominika the brave driver, screamed out loud REEEEEEIIINEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRSSSSSSSSS STOOOOOOOOP! She actually put the foot on a brake and turned abruptly right! We all couldn’t breathe for a while as the seat belts cut the air coming to our lungs but in a split of seconds we remembered about the reindeers and run out. So here they are:
Stryn was our stop for a hot and not instant meal and to stretch legs for a bit longer as it was the closest biggest town before Trollstigen and Geiranger. We supposed to be there in the evening so we took our time.
The road from Stryn towards Geiranger was absolutely stunning. It started as a steep, mountain way and then led us through few long and quite rough looking tunnels which run through the glacier until we finally got to the beginning of Trollstigen we got this:
We had two options: go back or go back. So we decided to go back as the sun was starting to set and the closest town that had some campsites was midway from Stryn.
Searching for a campsite in the middle of nowhere, at night before the official tourist season is actually great fun (I was still bright but I’ll get to that point later, actually you probably know… it is quite close to polar circle so during the spring and summer it is bright for a long long long time and it’s dark for a short short short time, in winter it is other way around so if you’re going there then bring loads of happy pills). We were quite lucky that a lovely gentleman in Holmevik (http://www.holmevik.no/frame1.htm) thought we must be out of our heads to sleep in a tent there and at night it’s going to rain and it supposed to be temperatures below zero. So he offered us a lovely hytte (cabin) for a really low price. We were in heaven! Cabin was really home-like and with everything you need there, we had a view on the lake and mountains.
Obviously we had to have our grilled-and-instant dinner along with Heineken leftovers with a lovely sunset around after 11pm. Oh yeah!
Next day we started off quite early, which is not going to happen in the coming days because we created a new tradition (I’ll explain later on). But this time we were determined to see everything we didn’t yesterday and still manage to get as closest as we can to Ålesund.
First stop was a ferry to Geiranger Fjord and back. I have to say it is a pity we didn’t see it down from the mountains but sailing through it was a great experience either. It’s breathtaking, beautiful, long fjord witch a picturesque little village at its end. We didn’t have much time to explore it but a quick run through souvenir shop was successful one. Oh and we met a new friend.
After the ferry we drove through yet again stunning and magical landscapes which were changing with every 5 minutes, so we had to stop all the time to take photos. On one of the stops I have been attacked by ants (I have this massive , irrational fear of ants so my reaction was somewhat hilarious to my companions – I run away from the car screaming and undressing in the middle of a road. Thankfully Asia rescued me!).
Then the road led us to another ferry through the fjords and finally we got to Ålesund. It was still early and bright so we decided to wander around the town and go to the hill with panoramic view on the town, fjords and little island surrounding the shore. The photos should explain a bit more:
Surprisingly we still got loads of time left until we should set up the tent, so we went to one of the islands – Giske. On the island there is an old stone church and lighthouse. The church is famous for being made of stone. There is not many churches like that in Scandinavia, most of them are wooden. I have a bit of a crush for lighthouses, they are just magical to me, so going to one at a sunset was a true highlight of the Norway trip to me. Magical!
It actually didn’t take that long to find another campsite. This time we found ourselves in a forest beside a lake feasting! Now this time for a dinner we went luxurious! Asia cooked couscous with some sauce! Try to do that in a forest! Another morning the surroundings were so beautiful and peaceful we decided to stop running like mad and take some time and relax after last few days. So the new tradition started which was actually celebrated from that day on till the end. We had a long breakfast outside and two additional coffees by the lake staring at water and enjoying the sun.
When your days starts like that you might be either sleepy or go mental. We are known company for rather being the second one, so we went mental. I’ll skip the part that whole day we drove through stunning landscapes (surprise!) towards Trondheim, which was our northern point we managed to get to on this trip. Finally we saw the signs warning us about moose and loads of little hyttes, regular houses and even the bus stops with grass covering its roofs.
On the mental part – whole drive we were playing the oldies and legend songs (like Bohemian Rhapsody). Imagine three insane blondes singing their thoughts out and dancing like mad in the car. Even Bigos Rożowos went mental while singing Bohemian Rhapsody! And that was a real life not just a Fanta Sea!
We decided not to go to Trondheim that night but camp outside town in a huge campsite in forest, on the hill beside the fjord. We got our little hytte with grass roof overlooking the campsite and its little beach and fjord on the other side. After few photoshoots when the sun started to set after midnight we started our biggest feast: instant soups and puree, grilled sausages and toasts with cheese, salmons, pickled red peppers and Norwegian beer (can’t remember the name anymore, we tried few and they were all nice lagers). Oh here I have to say that I fell in love with Japp. It is a chocolate bar very similar to Mars but less sweet and miles better! I got obsessed with it.
According to our new tradition we had lovely breakfast and coffee on the beach in the morning and we went to explore Trondheim. I have to say I truly fell in love with that little town. It’s lovely, great spirit and loads of friendly people. We saw the cathedral and park beside it and then just got lost in town buying fresh bread and some pasties, visiting chocolate shops (my new Mecca) and wandering around. I met a really good old friend of mine who lives there – Magda. So we had a lovely chat over ice cream about all recent gossips and news and also I learned loads about Norway and bought brunost (sweet and salty, dark brown cheese – delicious, a must-try item!). Also we found out why all teenagers wear weird, tracksuit like trousers with Norwegian flags on them… well they simply have to when they are graduating. There are three or four colours of them and that depends of the faculty of your school/class. The urban legend say they cannot take it off for the month, they can’t wash it cause all friends are singing them and also they have to go through all different test and trials and get some badges, they can’t take them off not even to take a bath… I really hope that is an urban legend!
We said our goodbyes to Trondheim and went south on our slow way to Oslo and the end of the trip. Oh! Another tradition started – waving to the cameras that record you so later on you have to pay for the motorway. I really hope they will send us those photos!
Next stop was a picturesque old town of Røros, where we wandered around for a while and then went on searching for the campsite as it was starting to get late and we were running out of petrol.
Two hours later we were still running out of petrol… badly and there were no signs of civilization or a open campsite!
After another two hours I think we were driving on vapour when we finally found one petrol station that was closing in next 10 minutes! Phew!
Another two hours we were still driving in the mountains with no civilization and even the road ended (and the song in the radio started: “…bad miles are tearing us apart…” we all burst in mad laughter) and it was so late that actually it was starting to get dark (after midnight), then luckily in the middle of nowhere somewhere near enough to Tynset and we found a small campsite and rented tiny hytte from a lovely old lady, who charged us really little. We had our usual feast and went to sleep with some mad addictive laughter… maybe because we all slept almost on each other.
Next morning we slept long time and treated ourselves a lovely breakfast and few sets of badminton. We were going through Norway’s midland – hills, forests, lakes, little rivers and lovely little towns. Still no sign of moose. Well ok there were signs all the time but we didn’t see an actual beast.
Our way led through another winding road in the mountains and national parks and then down again to a little town called Ringebu. This town is famous for a stave church (stavkirke – Viking style wooden church). The most famous examples of those are in Urnes but we missed them, so we couldn’t miss this one. The surrounding and town were very romantic and I have to say I took my favourite pictures on that location from the whole trip.
That evening we decided to try to look for campsite early. First we had loads of time before Oslo and we could relax and take it easy. Second we were freaked out after last night. So we found this amazing spot by the lake and forests just after Ringebu and after Asia’s wonderful dinner we went drinking on the beach having loads of competitions like “hit the can with a stone” and playing cards.
Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast! This time our tradition went even further cause it was 26 degrees and beautiful sun so we had a breakfast at the lake, 3 coffees and then just did nothing for few hours before driving even more south. Next stop Olympic Lillehammer.
We went straight to the Olympic town and climbed the ski jumping jump. When we were on the top there was a huge storm cloud going our direction, so being on the top of the hill on the top of the metal structure was a bit stupid place to be, so we had to rush down the metal steps. Thankfully we didn’t get soaked and we had lovely views on Lillehammer town.
We started our before last drive in Norway this time we wanted to camp just outside Oslo. Unfortunately all the campsites were closed or we could not find them or looked really dodgy, so we ended up in only one that was open and actually it was in Oslo already very close to Holmenkollen. Actually we could see the ramp from our tent. Also Oslo welcomed us with rain, so in the morning our tent was absolutely soaked (we didn’t thankfully) so our last night in Norway we had to spend indoors.
Our plan through Oslo was easy: Holmenkollen, Vigeland’s Park, Vikings Ship Museum and wandering around city centre and buying souvenirs. My favourite part though, was when we were reversing on the roundabout on a motorway trying to turn to city centre. It is always fun when you are a tourist and you can get away with things like that. And there was white truck behind us! Ha!
I have to say I loved Holmenkollen, the Park was stunning as well and museum was lovely but the Oslo town itself was not that nice. It’s just my opinion. It’s a bit unfriendly and lacks any spirit. Even though I was shown around by a friend it didn’t change my feeling about the town. As we all felt the same we decided that the same night we’re going to hit the road and try to sleep on some campsite before the Swedish border.
And again looking for a campsite was quite difficult as those parts of Norway are not too popular tourist attractions. Very late at night we got to last campsite before the border and met the loveliest owner and nicest person we did in Norway! When he saw the state of us he gave us an excellent price for a new hytte (he told us not to tell anyone… so shh! You haven’t heard anything from me!).
Next morning (after traditional breakfast) we had to say goodbye to our lovely friend grill and to Norway. We did last shopping in duty free shops on the border, collected our VAT (Yuss! It’s good to travel outside EU sometimes but still in Schengen so you don’t need any documentation). We went very quickly through Sweden. Goteborg, Malmo and through the bridge to Copenhagen.
There was astonishing sunset while we were going through the bridge. We could see whole Copenhagen with lovely red sun hiding behind it. Beautiful! And I already fell in love with that town. It was very late and we just wandered around city centre and end up in some lovely restaurant to celebrate Dominika’s birthday and recover strengths for further road.
Copenhagen was truly beautiful, magical, friendly and with romantic spirit. I have a personal plan to come back soon to explore the city properly! The only thing about that town was that our GPS died and to get out of that city was not so easy. Anyway we all fell asleep just outside town in the car.
Traditional breakfast was at a petrol station but we had a bit of grass and for our last money we managed to get coffees and pastries. Next stop was in Berlin for dinner in the same chill out digitalized place. Another stop was Kraków.
Oh! We didn’t meet any moose! That’s a disgrace!
I have to say this was one of those amazing trips that you will remember for a lifetime. In magical surroundings your thoughts become magical as well. And when that happens you can breathe more freely, clear your mind and set your thoughts. Also the company you are with is very important. I really have bonded with my fellow blondes: I know Dominika for over twenty one years so we had this mutual madness and Asia I only met once and she became a good friend of mine on whom I can rely. Sharing such a beautiful experiences with beautiful people is extraordinary nowadays. Most of the time I felt like I’m sixteen and I can go crazy and no one will judge me (well almost no one) and what’s more they gonna follow.
I never felt for Norway but after this trip it became really close to my heart. It is a place I definitively want to go back to. Especially that I haven’t been north from Trondheim and that is a completely different country. Therefore the recent horrible things that happened there really moved me and I can’t express my sadness and sympathies for Norwegians.
To end this, already too long story (dear readers if you managed to get to this point I admire you), I want to say that Norway is really a must-visit place and no words, blogs or guides will describe it. No photos will show its beauty and magic. You just have to go there, close your eyes and take a deep breath in and then you will know what I mean!