Nordics. Part 2 - Oslo & Voss, Norway.

I was up around 7 am, after a fantastic night of sleep while cruising to Norway - much better than the sleep I was able to get on the plane to Denmark.   I headed out to the deck, expecting to see the fjords and Norway in all their splendor, instead I saw fog.  It was thick, and it was everywhere.  Disappointed, I grabbed a coffee from the cafe for Sloane and headed back to the cabin to take a quick shower while Sloane slowly woke up.  After packing our things we headed down to the restaurant where we had a free breakfast waiting for us, to our surprise it was way better the expensive dinner we had the night before.  We even had a seat with a view of the fog.  The ship arrived in Oslo's port around 930am, where we had expected to see the whole city from the water - which we had heard was fantastic - but again it was more fog.  

A foggy Oslo view from the top deck of the cruise ship.

After we got off the boat, we dropped our luggage off at the airbnb, had a quick chat with the owner about what to see, and headed out on foot to see what we could.  We were in Oslo for less than 24 hours, but made the best of our quick visit.  Our first stop was the palace park, right down the street from our room for the night.

Sloane at one of the new huts for the Norwegian Trekking Association, A.K.A. the DNT.   This new modern hut, along with an old school one were brought to the palace park as part of a celebration this past summer.

Some cool mirrored sculpture in the palace park.

We found a design store, imagine that.

Sloane was in heaven.  All of the throw pillows!

Found while wondering the streets of Oslo.

This fellow stared at me the entire time we ate lunch.

After some serious wandering, a great lunch at a small burger joint, and some shopping, we found ourselves at an old fort near the water.  We decided to check it out.  Turns out this was the Akershus Fortress, it was built around 1290 and has been defending Oslo ever since.

Sloane on a foggy path in the Akershus Fortress.

More fog at Akershus.

A foggy view of the small harbor from the walls of Akershus.

There were these creepy statues of little girls crying and hiding all over the fortress grounds.  I talked Sloane into imitating one of them.

Akershus reflections.

Fallen soldier at Akershus.

After a magical hour of fog rolling in and out of the fortress, Sloane got bored watching me chase light around and decided it was time to see something else.  We headed towards the new Opera house on the waterfront, which is pretty impressive.

The new opera house at the Oslo waterfront, you can walk all the way to the roof of this awesome building, and people were certainly taking advantage of the sun that had finally poked out.

The ship we came in on.

Sloane on top of the opera house roof, that Norwegian fog off in the distance. 

Texture and angles on the roof of the opera house.

This lobby (opera house) was ridiculously amazing.

An old section of Oslo.

I'm pretty sure these were hops growing on the side of an old house.

We were pretty exhausted after our city tour, and headed back to our room to take a break before dinner.  We stopped and grabbed a few snacks and beers at the corner grocery, and enjoyed them on our balcony overlooking the courtyard of our building.  Our dinner that night was good, and fast .  We ate at a very old restaurant called Lorry that was directly behind our apartment.  We sat outside and enjoyed the brisk evening air, drank some expensive booze while we waited for our food.  We watched what we could only assume was a group of kids taking part in one of those games where you are locked in a room and need to find clues to get out, in the apartment across the street .  It was quite ammusing  to see from the outside - everyone just kept picking up random objects in the room looking closely at them and then setting them back down.  

The following morning we were up at 5 AM to catch a train from Oslo to Voss, as part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour, one of best ways to see the different landscapes of Norway.  Norway in a Nutshell is a group tour that uses public transportation to take you from Oslo to Bergen, with the option to stop over at any town you want along the way for a night or two.  I found out that if you simply book the tickets yourself, instead of using the Norway in a Nutshell site, you save about $100 per person, so we did it that way.   

Our train coming out of a tunnel, passing a mountain lake en route to Voss.

A mountain stream along the way, near Finse.

The platform view from Hallingskeid station.

The tour takes a detour from the Bergen Railway at Myrdal Station.  From here you board the Flam railway and descend almost 3000 feet in 12 miles, to Aurland and the Fjords, making it one of the steepest train routes in the world on normal tracks.  

Kjosfossen - a 780ft waterfall along the Flam railway.  There is a small Hydro power plant here used to power the railway.

Heading into the valley on the Flam Railway.

Another giant waterfall along the Flam railway.

At the bottom of the railway is the small village of Flam with a visitor center, a brewery and a few restaurants.  We were suppose to have a few hours here to explore the area, but our first train had an issue that delayed us just enough to miss out on exploring.  So we grabbed a few cans of beer from the local store and hopped on board the next leg of the tour, a cruise through Naeroyfjord.

The waterfront in Flam.

Our first real glimpse of a Norwegian Fjord that wasn't covered in fog.

I forgot to mention there were a few other people with us on this journey.

We found out that the lower deck, where cars would normally go was absent of people, so we spent most of our time down here.

The village of Undredal, accessible only by boat until 1988.  The population here is 100 people and 500 goats.

Looking back at the rock faces climbing straight out of the water.

Looking towards Gudvangen, our destination.

Looking up to the peaks from the water.

This cruise was pretty amazing, and we were lucky enough to have some sunshine grace us during the tour.  We docked at a much smaller town called Gudvangen - from here we boarded a bus and headed for Voss.  Along the way is a famous road known as the stalheimskleiva.  This is one of northern Europes steepest roads, and has some serious hairpin turns.  It is a one way road, thankfully, and some how the busses were able to navigate it.

A view of the Naeroy Valley from the stalheimskleiva.

Coming up on a hairpin bend, at close to a 20% grade.  Sivelfossen waterfall in the background.

The hair pin turns of the stalheimskleiva.

After a very eventful bus ride, we finally arrived at our destination for the next two nights - Voss.   Voss is known as the outdoor adventure capital of Norway.  White water rafting, kayaking, paragliding, bungee jumping, canyoneering and skydiving are all things we didn't do, because they cost about a million dollars in Norway - and I will never willingly jump out of an airplane.  We opted to do some serious hiking.  Our Air BnB this time was hosted by a friendly Canadian, his Norwegian wife and their kids.  We had a small apartment in their basement, and a view of the valley from the front yard - it was pretty fantastic.  The hosts even picked us up from the bus station, which was above and beyond AirBnB standards.

Sloane on the way into town, checking out some Norwegian graffiti. 

We decided to cook our meals in Voss, not many restaurants were open anymore - since it was past peak tourist season - so we headed to the grocery store to get some food and booze.  To our horror, the grocery store stopped selling alcohol at 8pm, and it was 8:15.  We got our food and decided to try another store on the way home.  We got a bunch of beer up to the register, only to be turned down by the clerk, it ended up being a very sober stay for us in Voss.  The following day we had a leisurely breakfast and took our time getting ready for the our hike.  It was nice to not pack all our belongings up for a change.  We didn't get out the door until close to 11 - not the best way to start a 12 mile hike. The trail we were hiking wasn't actually 12 miles, but to get to the trail head was a 3 mile walk from our house, so that made it a little longer.

Sloane on the footbridge over the Vosso river, just the beginning of our day hike.

Looking over the Vosso river, if you look close you'll see a paraglider - they seemed to be raining down from everywhere.

Vosso River Foot bridge.

We had a quick detour on the way to the trail head, to hike the bordalsgjelet gorge.  This is similar to Watkins glen in NY if you have ever been there - only much shorter.  

Sloane in the gorge

Waiting for the crowd to clear to get a shot of the gorge.

Really the only view in the gorge, very pretty, but we had bigger things to see, like the top of a mountain.

After a quick hike in the gorge, we were back on the road and on our way to the trail head, only 1.5 more uphill miles to go.

Finally at the trailhead, it was 2 pm, and the sun was still hiding.

The trail started out pretty much straight uphill, and continued that way - forever.  We quickly were surrounded by the colors of autumn as we climbed higher and higher.

Rosett Cabin, part of the DNT system for hiking trails in Norway.  Any one can rent/ and stay in these cabins.

The sun came out while we took a rest after nearly 2600  vertical ft of hiking, the fall colors were pretty vivid here for mid-september.

We thought we had found the view, but it only got better from here with every step.

Above the treeline, at 2900 feet.

Up we go.

This was our summit at 3200 feet, not the actual summit which was 4314 feet and still a mile away.

We made it to this cairn in the boulder field around 5 pm, and decided at this point it was best to turn around and head back down.  The climb down would most likely be quick, but could also be a bit dangerous with a lack of light due to how steep it was.  We also wanted to get to the grocery store before 8, so we could get some much deserved booze to go along with our dinner.  And I forgot to mention, Sloane's boots were falling apart - you will hear more about this later.

The top to us.

Snow!

Voss is down there somewhere.

Sloane begining the trek back down.

Long Shadows and boulders.

Mountain top pond.

On our way back down, we discovered a herd of cows grazing on the trail - Sloane was super excited, I was a bit nervous.  I had never encountered mountain cows before.

Sloane amongst the cows.

This guy stared me down the whole way, he definitely made me the most nervous.

We timed our hike perfectly, just at the bottom of the gorge that we had hiked earlier, we had a great view of the sunset over the lake in Voss.

We made it down off the trail before dark, and across the river to town just as the street lights were coming on, around 745 - plenty of time to get some booze, or so we thought.  As we started loading up our basket with different types of beer, the cashier came back and informed us that today, for some weird reason, you could only buy alcohol until 7pm.  We thought he was kidding, but unfortunately he was not.  We left the store empty handed again, and decided we would head to a bar to get a beer instead.  Nothing was open.  The only place we found was a semi-fancy steak house type restaurant - and it had 2 bar stools, which we quickly sat upon and asked for a beer and a red wine.  We sat and drank our victory drinks, in our stinky, sweaty hiking clothing as people filed past us to have a fine dining experience - but we didn't care - we deserved this.  We headed home, still a 3/4 mile walk, with some very sore feet after having sat for half an hour, and made our selves some dinner at the apartment.  We took some time to pack our belongings once again, as the following day we would be leaving Voss for Bergen, the next and final stop on our tour of Norway.   

Our mountain view from the apartment window in Voss - it was pretty spectacular.