Thursday, August 30, 2012

Weekend in Bergen

Over Bank Holiday weekend, Keenan and I jetted off to Bergen, Norway. Why? We've heard the magnificent Norwegian fjords should not be missed. We also heard that Norway is the most expensive country in Scandinavia, if not the most expensive place on earth. We've visited most Nordic capitals (Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Stockholm), and whilst these cities are expensive but more or less comparable to London. However, Norway is on another league in terms of cost. Both Keenan and I were sticker shocked, take for example beers at the supermarket. At first glance, 40 NOK (4.32 GBP/7 USD) for a four pack of beer at the local supermarket wasn't so bad, but upon closer look, it was actually 40 NOK per can! Yes for one can. A pint of microbrew at a low-key pub cost a  whooping 15 GBP. Ouch. So it is no exaggeration that Norway is extremely expensive.

Despite the high cost, Norway is by far one of the more scenic places I have visited in Europe. The stunning fjords with ribbons of narrow waterfalls, calm deep-blue waters, and steep gorges is jaw-dropping beautiful. Pristine, serene, and untouched. This is a nature lover's playground.

We started our tour of the fjords with Norway in Nutshell. It's a self-guided tour really using a multiple forms of public transportation.  The tour started with a dramatic train journey onboard the Bergen Railway which snakes along the water to a little town of Voss. From there it was a harrowing, nail-biting bus ride of twists and turns to the town of Gudvagen. The scenery was truly spectacular, and we counted no less than a dozen or so waterfalls along the way.

We then hopped on a boat and snagged seats on the upper deck to enjoy a leisurely, if only a bit chilly, for a 2.5 hour cruise through the Nærøyfjord, the narrow (500 metre) fjord of the larger Sognefjord and  a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you're an avid photographer, the Nærøyfjord will not disappoint. Honestly, pictures do not do it justice -- you'll have to see fjords at least once in your life.  Then it was back to Bergen via Mydral. A long day trip and rather expensive, but well worth it.

We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the cute town of Bergen, stopping off at the famous fish market; Bryggen, the old historic wharf of Bergen; and Bergenhus fortress. Small, compact, and lively.

We also enjoyed a morning hike up to Mt. Floyen, one of seven mountains that surrounds Bergen. It was a short but relatively steep hike through some lovely woodlands. On top, fantastic panaromic views of Bergen awaits you. If hiking is not your thing, there is a funicular that takes you up to Mt. Floyen. We got lucky with the weather -- amazing blue skies and sun!

We came back from Bergen a lot poorer, but feel incredibly blessed to visit one of the most beautiful corners of Europe.

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