Day 1: Arrived in Oslo around 1:00. Getting thru Immigration/Customs was a breeze. Found the Starbucks and had my 1st ‘taste’ of what things cost in Norway.
I went to catch the express train to central Oslo, following directions I got from TripAdvisor forum on where it was located. I had registered my credit card ahead of time and simply needed to swipe my card to go onto the platform. I recommend doing that because the lines at the ticket counter were long.
Once at the train station, I walked around a little bit and also got some cash from the ATM, just to be sure my card worked. I got directions from someone on how to get to Karl Johans gate. My hotel Park Inn was located on a side street a few blocks up. See my review of the Park Inn. I highly recommend it!
I then walked back towards the train station and decided to go on the Hop on/off Bus. The bus was good – it went around to all of the main highlights of the city, such as Bygdoy, Vigeland Park, etc. After that, got some take out food and headed back to the hotel.
Day 2: I went to the Tourist Office in order to get an Oslo Pass. I got there maybe around 10:00 and it was very crowded. In order to get service at the office, one must take a number. I needed to do this even though I simply wanted to purchase the Oslo Pass. I think I had to wait 30-45 minutes. There are a couple of gift shops across the street from the tourist office so I was able to go there to kill time until my number came up.
Then I had plans to meet up with a connection I had made through some relatives (long story). He was going to show me the Oslo Fire Museum, because my great-great uncle worked for the Oslo Fire Dept. Unbeknownst to me, he works at the Oslo Opera House. I made plans to meet up with him there and he gave me an unexpected, behind the scenes tour of the Opera House. He also made arrangements for me to see the ballet Swan Lake that evening. After the Opera House, we walked to the Oslo Fire Museum and I got to see the old fire equipment and other stuff they had. He also gave me some items to take home, such as a patch and a book about the museum.
Later on the 2nd day, I took the public ferry to Bygdoy. Once at Bygdoy, I went to the Norwegian Folk Museum. I recommend the ferry and museum, it was nice to walk around outside and get a taste of Norwegian culture/history. Near the Stave Church, there were ladies dressed in period clothing. When getting off the ferry, everything is well marked as to where to go.
I took the ferry back to Oslo waterfront. I ate at a restaurant on the waterfront and had a meal consisting of delicious smoked salmon with a fennel slaw, bread and a glass of wine. Then back to the hotel.
Day 3: I had plans to meet up with a 3rd cousin, once removed. We met on Facebook. She was my tour guide for the day. We started at the National Gallery and had a guided tour in English of the Munch exhibit, which was excellent. Then we stopped and picked up some picnic items, took a tram to Vigeland Park. We spent some time there looking at the sculptures and had a picnic. Then we went to the waterfront and met up with her boyfriend. Although she told me the word they use is “samboer”, which I believe translates to co-habitor. We had a couple of drinks and then went to another restaurant for dinner. Then we walked back to my hotel.
Day 4: I took the train from Oslo to Flam. I booked the tickets myself, but basically followed the NIN route. I had purchased my tickets in advance on the website. See my forum posts regarding using a US credit card. I also downloaded the NSB app for my iPhone. This was very easy to use and then I had my tickets on my iPhone. One item to note: if you do not have a data plan on your phone (which I did not) the NSB trains have WIFI so I was able to access my ticket on my phone and show the conductor on the train from Oslo to Myrdal. But on the Flam RR from Myrdal to Flam, it did not have WIFI and I was unable to access my ticket to show the conductor. He seemed to understand and it was not an issue. I really enjoyed the train from Olso to Myrdal. Because it was a few hours, I could relax, watch the scenery and use the WIFI to catch up via email with friends and family, as well as post some photos to Facebook. The Flam RR was beautiful. The scenery was amazing! I also met a few Americans – the first I had really met since my arrival in Norway.
The train arrived in Flam early evening. I stayed at the Flamsbrygga Hotell. I highly recommend this hotel – see my review. After checking in the hotel, I checked out the gift shop, hoping to get some souvenirs and gifts to take home. I also went to the Tourist Office to get more information about a bus schedule I would need the next day. I also bought my ticket for the ferry for the next day. Then I had dinner at the Brew Pub connected with the hotel. I also highly recommend it. After dinner, I went for a long walk around town. The waiter was very friendly and helpful and the food and beer were great. I had gone back and forth about whether to stay 1 or 2 nights in Flam and I’m glad I decided on 1 night.
Day 5: I took a boat from Flam to Gudvangen down the Naeroyfjord. This was spectacular! I highly recommend it. Thanks to folks on the Tripadvisor forum for recommending it. The scenery was beautiful. I also met a few Americans on this trip and some folks from Australia. Once in Gudvangen, it was a little bit confusing about where to catch the bus to Voss. There was a “bus stop” and it was labeled and it had a Norway in Nutshell sign. But it would have been helpful for more signage because most people seemed confused. Anyway, the bus came about ½ hour later on schedule. This bus went from Gudvangen to Voss and made a stop at the Stalheim Hotel. This bus ride was not what I expected and went down a mountain with multiple hair-pin turns!
Once in Voss, I had planned to take a bus to Bergen, again based on advice from people on Tripadvsor that it would be more scenic than the train. I had a bus schedule and thought I knew what time the bus would come. But, again it was confusing. The bus station is at the train station, but the people who work there didn’t seem to know about the bus schedule and suggested I ask a bus driver. I did ask the driver and he gave me a schedule that didn’t match up with the schedule I had gotten online. There was a train leaving in ½ hour for Bergen. I decided to take the train because I thought if I couldn’t get the bus I wanted, I’d have to wait another couple hours for the next train to Bergen. The train to Bergen was very pleasant even though it traveled through a lot of tunnels.
I had no problem on any of the transportation with my suitcase. Although it wasn’t huge, it was difficult to lift onto the trains – especially since I was carrying a handbag and a camera. Each time, however, someone always offered to assist me. All of the trains have ample place to stow luggage. On the ferry, I was able to roll my bag onto the boat and there was place on that level to put the suitcase.
Once in Bergen, I was able to walk to my hotel, the Clarion Havnekontoret. See my review; I highly recommend it. After checking into the hotel, I walked around Bergen for the rest of the day. I went to the Tourist Office and got lots of information. The young woman that helped me was very helpful explaining where things were and the best way to get there. The hotel includes a ‘light supper’ so I ate there.
Day 6: Walked to the Floibanen. I got there around 10:00 and there was a long line but it moved fast. I talked to a local girl while waiting and she described the walk down so I bought a one-way ticket. I highly recommend doing the Floibanen. It is only NOK 40/80, one-way, round-trip respectively. What a bargain! The view from the top is beautiful and you really get a great overview of Bergen – fjords in the distance. Spent some time at the top walking around and taking photos, then started the walk down. You can get a map of the trails you can take down. I just sort of followed the crowd on the paved path. Once you’re almost at the bottom, you reach neighborhoods in the city that are very quaint and I spent time wandering around and taking photos. Also, the streets around the Floibanen building are very nice – cobblestone streets with cafes and shops – away from the crowds of the waterfront area. Had lunch at a restaurant at the waterfront.
Day 7: Legs were sore from walking down the mountain. Decided to take a boat ride. Went on the “White Lady” and did the 4 hour fjord tour. I enjoyed it and recommend it. This was a much smaller boat than the one that went down the Naeroyfjord. They gave narration in Norwegian and English and talked a lot about the scenery and landscape. But, after a couple of hours it sort of all looked the same. So it was 2 hours out, 2 hours back. On the way back, most everyone included me, just relaxed in the cabin below. Again, I met lots of people. Once back in Bergen, spent the rest of the day relaxing.
Day 8: Spent the morning shopping and walking around. I highly recommend the Husfliden shop which sells Norwegian handicrafts. It is on a side street near the fish market – Vagsallmenningen. They sell beautiful textiles and the best sweaters I saw anywhere. I purchased a beautiful blanket and some other gifts such as cheese knives. They also sell yarn. After that I walked to Bergen University, with the intent to see the Museum of Bergen. But too much shopping and I got there too late. I was able to see the beautiful garden which was another reason for going there. Note – the walk to the university is uphill. I then walked back to downtown and had a meal at the fish market for the last night in town.
Miscellaneous observations: Everyone in Norway speaks perfect English. I actually felt guilty that I really didn’t learn much Norwegian while I was there. As expected, everything was very expensive. The drinks I had with my cousin and her boyfriend were approx.. $90 for 2 beers, 4 glasses of wine. Norwegians are very friendly and seem to like Americans. I did not feel uncomfortable at all traveling by myself (I’m middle aged American woman). A lot of Americans I met were there due to some family connection like I was. The Norwegians know how to make a great cup of coffee. Each hotel I stayed at had excellent coffee – strong like I like it. I loved how the restaurants with outside seating supplied blankets for the patrons to keep warm. In Oslo, the trams, buses etc. are on what I’ll call an “honor” system. Although a ticket is required, you don’t need to show it to get on. So I had the Oslo Pass which included transit. But people will tell you, you need to have a ticket just in case there is “CONTROL”. That means I guess, a surprise ticket check. I did see this once: when taking the tram and getting off the stop for Vigeland Park. We got off the tram but when exiting the area around that stop/station, it was surrounded by transit police (?) and they were checking everyone’s ticket.
Day 9: Travel home. I took the Flybussen from the hotel to the airport. This was VERY convenient. I got to the airport very early. This is really not necessary, especially if you’re flying Icelandair. They don’t even open their ticket counter until 2 hours prior to the flight. There is not much to see and do in the Bergen airport and it was hard to connect to the WIFI – you need to ask one of the information people walking around who will give you a password. Once you go to the site to logon, it is in Norwegian.
I connected thru Reykjavik both ways. This airport is really nice and reminded me of an Ikea store. Everything is clean and new. However, there is only 1 small place to buy premade food. I thought the food they sold was unusual for an airport: sushi, chicken tikka masala sandwich. But they also had a good selection of yogurt. The airport also does not have a lot of seating and lot of people were sitting on the floor. Not all airlines make announcements for boarding so pay attention. They did have a good Duty Free store that sold Icelandic sweaters and scarves that I thought were very reasonable.