Norway: The Land of Majestic Fjords, Beautiful People, and Beers That Cost More Than My Fish & Chips. (PART II)
Through Misty Fjords We Go.
The last time we spoke, I introduced you to the first day of the 2017 Norwegian Experience™. Given that it was my longest post yet, you likely expected an in-depth journey that encompassed my entire trip and you'd never have to return to the shadows of my blog again. I don't apologize for misleading you. As I'm sure you'll admit, you were left wanting and waiting for the continuation of the potential epic trilogy of posts that are only bested by J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in terms of greatness. Many fortnights have passed and it's time to continue the story. Go grab yourself some food and a cup of tea because part 2 starts NOW. (Note: If you missed part one, it's right: here.)
As I've mentioned previously, Aaron, Meredith, and I tend to develop a general outline of our trip, booking things like our accommodations, an excursion or two, and our rental car in the months leading up to it -- I also usually make a pretty ballin' Google Map of the top spots on our bucket list. We also, of course, research the culture of the country so that we aren't those terribly disrespectful American tourists. We don't, however, look much beyond those things... and sometimes just winging things backfires.
As some of you may be aware, Nordic countries are incredibly strong in their social programs and general appreciation of human health and happiness (a reason that Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland top the list of Happiest Countries on Earth.) One such reason for happiness is the number of paid days off each year, generally exceeding 30 days annually per employee. So knowing that they like their days off, you'd imagine that we would research this fact, correct? False. We started off Day 2 on one of those grand ole public holidays - Whitsunday.
Our second day began in classic Aaron/BPow fashion, with us somewhat desperately trying to determine the best solution for getting our bodies from Bergen CBD to the Bergen Airport on a Sunday in which all services were on holiday weekend schedules. After much debate and failed attempts at purchasing advance tickets through digital means, we finally settled on taking the new-ish tram from one of two stops within walking distance of our AirBNB. With the mode of transportation out of the way, our conundrum now became which stop to walk to since both were of equal distance. Rapidly, this decision of which direction to walk became the biggest conflict on Norwegian soil since the era of the Vikings. Eventually we said enough is enough and decided on the station we had stumbled upon the previous evening. The only problem was that we had neglected the most important factor in all of this -- the clock. We had 12 minutes to walk and exactly 10 minutes until the tram left. It was time to run with our suitcases.
In a moment that will forever be engraved in my memory, I laid witness to the true meaning of punctuality. Despite there being no ticking watch on any of our wrists, I could hear the dramatic tick-tock of time fading away as we closed in on the idling tram. To give ourselves a chance, I took Aaron's luggage and let him dart to the street-side stop to purchase tickets. In the end, it was all for not. We had just made it within arms-length of the tram doors when the hour of doom hit. It was as if the gunshot had sounded and gates had opened at the Kentucky Derby. Without so much as a glance in our direction, the soulless human operator floored it and raced away, leaving us emotionally obliterated. It all ended up okay as we were able to grab another tram 30 minutes later and make it to the airport only 15 minutes after our scheduled rental pickup, but the moment will forever wake me from my dreams.
I wish the drama of the morning ended there.
Once we arrived to the airport and to the window for the rental car company, we discovered a sign fastened to closed gate. It read that office was closed in celebration of Whitsunday. That had not been indicated anywhere in our booking process. Several nervous minutes elapsed before the window magically opened and a wizard of some sort magically appeared in anticipation of our arrival. He quickly alerted us that we were being charged a hefty sum for picking on a holiday (which we later were reimbursed for). Again, the damn holiday had struck us. The ridiculous morning continued as we were given a completely electric vehicle -- a normally awesome thing, but not when you're prepared for hundreds of miles of adventuring through remote fjord lands. After a little convincing, we negotiated up to a plug-in hybrid.
Finally in possession of a vehicle, we set off on our journey towards our next stop -- Voss.
We chose the scenic route and optioned for an additional one hour of driving time in order to view the heralded Hardangerfjord region. The route was loaded with breathtaking vistas of the fjord and its surrounding cliffs. Here are a few photos to give you a sense of the natural marvels:
And here's a general idea of the route we took on day two, in case you were interested in a similar route:
Excited to see the gondola in Voss that Tove (the woman we had met on the train on day one) had told us about, we let our anticipation overwhelm us with joy. Blasting Vanessa Carlton, Of Monsters and Men, and The Lumineers, we weaved our way through misty mountains stopping for lunch at a random restaurant that I wish I could forget, at the edge of Hardangerfjord. The greasiness of the food still lingers in my stomach some 18 months later. A few hours of indigestion later and we had made it to Voss, a tiny but adventurous town at the edge of a lake called Vangsvatnet. We were startled to find no gondola ride.
We thought it best to grab some food after reaching our adorable lakeside AirBNB. Of course, being that we plan terribly, all of the grocery stores were closed and the beer sections of gas stations were cordoned off due to the religious holiday. So we did what any adventurer would do - we bought popcorn and Nutella (turns out we also didn’t have a microwave and needed to go to a different gas station bakery and ask the young man to pop it for us). A feast of hazelnut and chocolate and a bowl of buttery goodness was just what we needed. With that, it was off to bed as we prepared for the best parts of the trip to start: Sognefjord and the Lofoten Islands.
As a quick aside, I wrote everything but that previous paragraph about 11 months ago. Needless to say, I don’t really remember my thought and probably will end up just skipping ahead and writing the highlights of the trip as my terrible memory remembers it :). I also have been on trips to Hawaii and Switzerland since then and probably should write about those as well! As is tradition, I just cut things short and then forget to write about them.