Norway – August 2014

A different, but hugely enjoyable, travel experience for us recently….a short suck-it-and-see trip to Norway with Great Rail Journeys.

Flåm Railway from Myrdal to FlåmGRJFlamRailway(photo courtesy of GRJ website)

Gill and I are independent souls and would usually recoil in horror at the thought of following an umbrella-hoisting tour leader on and off a coach, barking orders to the camera-toting flock….right, it’s now 4:30, you’ve got 20 minutes to explore the ancient ruins, have a comfort break, exchange your currency and buy some souvenirs. From that place over there, where I get the best kick-back. Meet here at 4:50, otherwise make your own way to the hotel for the gala buffet dinner (wine not included, the salmon’s rubbish), in the Peer Gynt Suite at 7:35.

But we were travelling with good friends Sam & Annie Key, from the Dordogne via Yorkshire, and they had valued highly the GRJ guided experience on a recent trip of their own to India.

Our concerns were quickly allayed. Tour leader John – a diplomat and businessman in previous lives – was an urbane, informative host who imparted useful information with good humour. And without an umbrella in sight.

The itinerary was essentially to spend 2 nights in Bergen on the west coast, 2 nights in Flåm in the Western fjords and 2 nights in Oslo, with thrilling rail journeys connecting the destinations.

Bergen highlights:

  1. The fish marketBergen fish market 3Bergen fish market 2Bergen fish market 1
  2. Bryggen waterfront, a UNESCO World Heritage site, including a museum portraying the powerful Hanseatic trading organisation’s key site for 400 years from the late 14th centuryBryggen
  3. The walking tour with a local guide, giving real insight into the history and hidden parts of the delightful city
  4. A trip on the Fløibanen funicular railway to the top of Fløyen Mountain…and the walk back down into Bergen

Flåm highlights:

  1. The serenity of this small community at the edge of the Aurlandsfjord…when a huge cruise ship wasn’t in dockAurlandsfjord
  2. The wooden church in old Flåm, built in 1670Flam church
  3. Hospitality, food and service at the Fretheim Hotel…and the dream-like fjordic views from every window Flam cruise ship

Oslo highlights:

  1. The spectacularly contemporary design of the Opera House, allowing you to ascend to the roof, almost by stealth
  2. Culture, especially museums. We barely scratched the surface, but enjoyed the Henrik Ibsen museum and Norway’s Resistance museum….both very different but equally insightfulHenrikIbsen
  3. The Aker Brygge area, originally home to Oslo’s shipyard industry but now imaginatively converted to a vibrant car-free area of shops, restaurants, bars and free entertainment
  4. A guided coach & walking tour, especially through the thought-provoking Vigeland Sculpture Park, containing more than 200 bronze and granite creations from this controversial artistVigeland4

Vigeland3

Vigeland2

Vigeland1

On balance, a different and hugely enjoyable holiday, with thanks to Sam & Annie, John, GRJ and our fellow group members for opening our eyes to the benefits of being led. Sometimes.SamAnnieGill

 

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