Seeing as we’ve been on the road for a year, I feel it’s time to write about some of the highlights. Some of these were written about when they happened, but some are little things that didn’t necessarily register as worthy of a mention at the time. In no particular order:
Archive for the ‘Norway’ Category
A year into the trip I’ll share some statistics about what we’ve been spending our money on. Brett, the nerd that he is, has kept track of every yen, somani, kroner, hryvnia and lei that we’ve spent. Not only that but he’s broken down our spending into various categories – accommodation, transport, food, sightseeing, visas, communication and misc. It seems like a lot of work but actually the data he’s put together is really interesting. When we were feeling a little low on cash it was good to know how long we could sustain our lifestyle given the reserves we had left. Besides, it’s just good to know where the money goes. I’ll give a quick summary of costs in this post - I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested read on…
From Bergen to Oslo we did the “Norway in a Nutshell” itinerary which was suggested to us by tourist information. There seems to be a variety of itineraries around Norway which consist of convenient transport connections that you can get information about and pre-book. First of all we took a train from Bergen to Voss which spent a lot of time in tunnels. The scenery we saw out the windows was nice when we saw it but it was a relief to be on a bus from there to Gudvangen. It was my first glimpse of the Norwegian countryside and even in the pre-winter drabness it’s easy to see it’s a beautiful country. From Brett’s photos in the summer the brown grass is green, the grey sky is blue and the red buildings are still red.
From Gudvangen we took a ferry along Naeroy fjord which, along with Geiranger fjord, has been UNESCO listed since 2005. It’s notable for its narrowness, with the narrowest point being only 300m across. It was a chilly ferry ride out on the top deck but worth the view as we cruised past cute hamlets of colourful houses nestled between the shoreline and the 1,700m high cliffs. The boat trip took us to Flam, a small town whose tourist industry apparently started in the late 19th century with Brits coming to fish for salmon. Today most tourists pass through between ferries or cruise ships and the scenic Flam railway that snakes its way up the mountain from an altitude of 2m at Flam to 866m above sea level at Myrdal.
From Helsinki I caught a bus to Turku, on the western coast. It’s Finland’s oldest town, founded as a Catholic settlement in 1229. I spent an afternoon wandering around Turku castle, built by the Swedish rulers at the mouth of the Aura River and intended as a military fortress. Construction started in 1280 and continued into the 19th century, and the tourist literature bills it as one of the oldest buildings still in use in Finland. It’s variously served as a fortress, mansion, prison and now museum and conference venue. The medieval keep (built in the early 1400s) and renaissance bailey (late 15th and 16th centuries) had interesting and different styles.
Rauma is about 1.5 hours north of Turku, also on the coast and the old part of town is UNESCO listed for the collection of around 600 wooden buildings that are found there. It was beautiful to wander the cobbled streets between colourful low rise wooden buildings that are still lived in and used today. The sun also made a rare appearance, though it was a winter sun that warms nothing apart from photographer’s hearts. Rauma’s prosperity came from its proximity to the sea and in 1897 the town had Finland’s largest sailing fleet with 57 boats. From here goods were exported to Germany, Stockholm and the Baltic states.
Back in Turku I headed out to karaoke with my couchsurfing host. It was so long since I’d done karaoke that I was pretty excited until I realised it was public karaoke, not the private little booths I was used to in Japan. It was fun though, and I got to see a guy “sing” Metallica’s “One” while a drunk guy slow danced with his girlfriend, regularly stepping on her feet. The next morning I caught a day ferry to Stockholm, a 10 hour cruise that took me out through the archipelago with its many islands. In Stockholm I met a guy who also led tours in China while I worked for Intrepid. Pawel moved back to Sweden and has settled down with his girlfriend, bought an apartment and four months ago became a father. Little Ines was gorgeous and Majda was a calm and patient mother. I have to admit I felt a twinge of life envy.