Thursday, July 26, 2007

We arrived back home in Bristol on Monday afternoon after a lovely trip to northern reaches of Europe.

It was a holiday of contrasts, wet but wonderful scenery in Norway, sunny and perfect metropolitan living in Stockholm. Before leaving the UK we had a pleasant little interlude in Glasgow and hooked up with some friends in Edinburgh, all told a round trip of around 2200 miles.

In Glasgow we made our normal pilgrimage to the wonderful Monorail record shop, within the Mono complex. Bought loads of CD's which they kindly agreed to post to us in Bristol, saving us from carrying them around Europe. In the evening we went to the GFT to see the beguiling Paris, je t'aime. It's a film of many parts as directors such as the Cohen brothers, Wes Craven, Gus Van Sant, Oliver Assayas, Gerard Depardieu and others take us on a fictional tour of 18 arrondissments of Paris. The next day we took the short rail trip to Edinburgh where we spent several hours having a splendidly relaxed catch up with Rhona and Duncan. Then it was off to the airport for the real adventure to start.

For the Bergen flight we were using an airline that we (and no-one else that we spoke to) had not previously heard of - Widroe. The plane was so small it didn't justify a set of steps being wheeled out to it, the door simply opened and 2 small steps dropped down to the tarmac. I'd guess that about 35 people were on board, so it was a flash back to the early days of European air travel! All went well, and later that evening we landed in a very Bergen, a sign of things to come.

Three things immediately strike you about Bergen, it's very cute, it's very hilly and it's very wet. The airport bus dropped us off and with the rain splashing onto our map and email containing the apartment address we set off. Uphill of course, suitcase wheels bouncing over the lovely cobbled streets! Arrangements regarding payment for the apartment were splendidly lax, no deposit to be paid, just turn up at the owners house which just around the corner. If they weren't at home the key would be in the little hiding place and we can pay the full amount by cash or credit card. Our genial host was at home and smiled sanguinely when we commented on the weather as he showed us around our home for the next week. We took off our damp clothes and went to bed looking forward to the next week.

Within a couple of hours of getting up the next morning Orynthia had made her first purchase, a pair of very stylish wellies. The next priority was to sort out some travel plans, the tourist information centre in the centre of town was able to take care of all our needs and we booked a 4 hour Fjord cruise from Bergen harbour and a combination day long trip called Norway in a nutshell which involved travel by train, coach, boat, mountain train, then normal train back to Bergen. Both trip gave us some amazing experiences and sights, luckily for us the weather even held up for us, so whilst we were on the Fjords we could stay outside and gawp in wonder at the amazing views which we were passing. It's probably obvious to say that If you are ever in Norway you should spend some time on the Fjords, the other I would really recommend is a trip on the Flam railway, which runs through the mountains to a station where you can switch trains to join up with the Oslo - Bergen line. It's a classic winding trip through incredible scenery, including a brief stop in front of a magnificent fast flowing waterfall, truly exhilarating stuff.

Other than that we really enjoyed the Museums alongside the large lake near the railway and bus station, the City Art Collection is in a great 1930's building, just along from that you can find the Contemporary Art collection and the Museum of Decorative Art both of which are worth a visit. The funicular ride up one of the central mountains which surround Bergen rewards you with great views, walk on a little further from the stopping and you will have some amazing scenes around Bergen. Amazingly given the normal weather conditions we found in Bergen, we made this trip on a warm and clear day so the views stretched out for miles and miles as Fjord melted into mountain and back again.

Everything that you may have heard about the prices in Norway is true. It's horrendously expensive, even for us English who are quite used to paying rather a lot for food and travel. Luckily having the appartment we could load up with things in shops and eat at home and the duty free booze that we picked up in Edinburgh airport came in very handy!

That's enough for now, update on the Stockholm part of the trip to follow.


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