Our first night in our apartment on wheels was not quite level. I think we didn’t even bother with the levellers (two bits of plastic ramp that you are supposed to drive up if parked on a slope). The slope was mostly down toward the front of the vehicle so we slid down the bed and out rather than across it which was good.
By a few days in though we were getting pretty good at this. First night the chardonnay had to be only half a glass because of the slope, by now though our glasses could be at least three quarters full. We did have one near disaster as I tried to get too clever with the levellers and we sort of fell off.
So this instalment covers a number of ferry crossings, mountains, lakes, and Fjords; Geiranger, Nordfjord, Sonjefjord, Lysefjord, Hardanger. We also got to Norways second city, Bergen, which we were a wee bit disappointed in. Its really interesting and the old part is a UNESCO site but totally over-run with tourists.
The first stage though was a drive out to Kristiansund, which seems to be an oil services city, on the Atlantic coast. Kristiansund did have a well stocked vinomonopoly where I restocked the mobile cellar having done the supply and demand math quite badly. I Know no-one will believe me but it was mostly about the supply side. Kristiansund was, apart from the wine shop, somewhat boring by comparison with the previous few days.
The tourist route from Kristiansund going south is a piece of engineering excellence starting with the 6km long, 250m deep, 10% grade, Atlantic tunnel which is an open ocean tunnel connecting Kristiansund with an adjacent island. From there the road “island hops” via a series of bridges along the coast connecting various towns and villages. Its only about a 30km but truly outstanding drive. There was one stop where they had built a walkway out around the coast and where you could see some of the bridges they had constructed, and there was a unique art piece made from flotsam.
It was at the end of this route, while looking for somewhere to moor and have lunch that we had our run-in with a local van driver pretending to be a Viking. I felt I had done everything right by slowing right down and pulling over to the right. With the possible exception of actually indicating left and then giving him (or possibly his Kid who was in the passenger seat and reported me) the middle finger when he used his horn.
I know…How many things I could have done better. But I only indicated left because that was my original intent in order to execute a 3 point U-turn. It was an abundance of caution that made me pull over to the right to think through the other possibilities and not create a problem. And as for my other hand signals…so easily misinterpreted.
Anyway, enough said. Doors were locked, window was only cracked open, and he didn’t actually punch the window hard enough to do any damage. Had it been my face he probably would have.
From there we headed to a small town at the beginning of one of the Fjord tourist routes that went over the Trollstigen (trolls road) https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/trollstigen-the-troll-s-road/5937/ and then down to Geiranger Fjord for the next days adventure. This was our first experience of navigating the Motorhome over what was genuinely long stretches of single lane (or perhaps not even single lane).
The narrow mountain pass road went from sea level to about 900m at 10% grade over a series of switchbacks that actually gave me some sympathy for the navigator when my side of the vehicle was on the outside of the road. I had read the website and was confident that we wouldn’t have to deal with any large vehicles given the length restriction. However the Bus companies had not read that rule.
At the summit was a stopping area and visitor centre designed by a famous architect to show off the amazing view which in our case was cloud and drizzle but was nevertheless amazing.
From there the road wound its way more reasonably a little higher and then down a mountain valley to a ferry across a Fjord and then up another valley to another pass and down into Geiranger on another narrow series of switchbacks.
This road into Geiranger is where one of the most famous stopping points and photographic points in Norway is found. We didn’t know at that point that there were other stunning Fjords and more, maybe similar but better, vistas so were stunned. Neither words nor photos can do it justice.
The little town of Geiranger itself was a bit of a disappointment being so highly touristed and with a cruise ship on the town pier but the scenery made up for it. Instead of taking the road out through the mountains we decided to take a 3 or 4 times daily vehicle ferry an hours transit down the fjord to another town and find somewhere to camp near there. All along the Fjord there are abandoned (and a very few still functioning) “farms” on the steepest of slopes. And the seven sisters waterfalls. Amazing.
What’s really interesting and a little scary is that somewhere in this Fjord along the route of the ferry there is a large slab of mountain ready to slide into the water. When it does there will be a wave that wipes out Geiranger and changes the whole Fjord so get in quick if you want to see it as it is now. They say that geologists are monitoring it and will provide advanced warning. Geology is not a precise science.
I could go on. From there it was a series of ever higher mountain passes, stunning fjords, ferries, tunnels (see the GPS post), the Norwegian Galcier and Climate Center, and ever narrower roads. Photos are here and of course we have many more but as the saying goes, they just don’t do it justice.
Bergen was in there somewhere as a stopping point. It was strategic during WW2 as it is an ice free harbour and has easy access to the Atlantic. The old town is a UNESCO world heritage site and is well preserved right down to the wood paved alleys between all the old timber buildings. Needless to say fire has been an issue over the centuries. The fish market area is pretty cool but was over run by tourists.
The best thing about Bergen for me was finding a Telia cell shop so I could top up my Norwegian SIM after discovering that Snapchat can consume 16Gigabytes in 2 or 3 days. Since turning this idiot app off (and limiting hot spot access) the 6MB top up I bought has lasted weeks through Norway, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece(thanks to the EU all European cell services are seamless between countries).
Finding the Telia shop did conflict with finding a wool shop which had been researched and anticipated. This was something I realised only after a frosty reception from the navigator to my joy at finding someone to get me back on line.
After Bergen we found a lakeside town where all the trees on the way into town had little jumpers knitted by local people. Some were just that and some were more sculptural. We found a guitar playing lady wrapped around one of the trees. We didnt have time to jam but I did get a photo.
We found a waterfall that was pretty impressive and more mountains, of course, and more Fjords…duh.
The one road that finally did my head in was on our last day on the west coast. We were indecisive about it but in the end decided to do one last tourist route which was a circuit that (in hindsight) involved about 6 hours of driving (some in reverse) to cover what was maybe less than 200km. At the bottom of the valley we were in at the start the navigator had looked at the mountain and said “Look up there, that looks like a road, cant be the one we are doing”. Yep.
I don’t have a head for heights. So I am guessing what made it even more interesting for the navigator was the fact that I had my eyes closed for some of the time. See the pics (although I don’t think there are any pics of the vertiginous road up).
By now we were also out of wine as the monopoly guys close mid day Saturday and open again Monday. Sometimes a friendly bar or camping ground operator will sell you something at a significant profit, but generally by Saturday afternoon its all over. Can you imagine?
From there it was back to somewhere close enough to Oslo to enable us to get back to the depot before 11AM the next day. Too easy. 2 hours on mostly motorway around Oslo and there we were. I could not believe that we got the apartment on wheels back without a single scratch or ding it didn’t already have and with all the food and wine gone. We were back on the train and into the city by lunchtime with quite an unexpected adventure behind us.
In Oslo we saw the sights we hadn’t seen on the first day. We missed a Oslo Philharmonia concert by a day…they were setting up outside the palace. There were multiple cruise ships in the harbour and many people on the streets including the inevitable retinue of “beggars” and their dodgy looking minders. I am sure I recognised some of them from our time in Sofia. So much so that when I got back to the hotel I realised I had been relieved of the signed receipt from the motor home rental which had been in my pocket. I am usually so careful but must have been lulled into a false sense of Norwegian security.
More fool me they also found about 200 Euro in Norwegian Krona that had been earmarked for dinner. Needless to say we didn’t starve. We had headed to a Michelin recommended restaurant but they were fully booked and recommended another place a couple of blocks away. In hindsight it was good we couldn’t get into our first choice. This was the place whose signature dish was the smoked beetroot tartare and who were very surprised to learn that we had the very same dish in Trondheim. I could go on in infinite detail but that’s it. A mystery prize of 2 weeks in Norway because it was so frigging hot in Milan. Next morning a train ride to the airport and there we were on SAS back to Milan.