Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Fløibanen

This funicular railway begins in a fairly innocuous building just a couple of blocks from the Bryggen and is probably Bergen's most popular tourist attraction. A modest wait in line and a short, steep ride takes one to a spectacular lookout about 1000' above the city. And snack bars, souvenir shops, and a variety of activities. Besides the view, we didn't do too much besides besides pose with the troll.




Bergen

We spent two nights in Bergen, staying in a centrally-located apartment. The weather was pretty ambiguous, or at least undecided, but didn't get in the way of doing the basic tourist stuff - some of which will show up in the next few posts. We wandered around the harbor, visiting the the fish market and the Bryggen. We took the inclined railway to the top of the hill and even checked out a small museum documenting Norway's legacy of leprosy.



I found coffee in the morning at Dromedary. We assembled our breakfast from a local bakery and the grocery store. And we had a great dinner at the Munken Bistro (Local Peruvian-Fusion, of course).

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, with its population spread across a challenging landscape squeezed between steep hills and deep water.  In the summer, there are hordes of tourists, although probably relatively few who arrived and depart by car like we did. I suspect that most come by ship, train, or bus, and according to Wikipedia, a majority are German or British.






Friday, July 13, 2018

Hardangerfjord

The Hardanger Bridge was completed in 2013 and is one of the longer suspension bridges on the world - the main span is a bit longer than those of the Verrazano Narrows and the Golden Gate. But one thing that makes it a little different is that the roadway emerges from tunnels in the steep walls of the fjord at both ends. And the tunnels on both sides include roundabouts. And the tunnel on the north continues several miles. This is what happens in Norway.

By now, I was getting a little nervous about how long it would take to get into Bergen (still several hours away). It didn't help that after grabbing dinner in Norheimsund a little later, we starting seeing signs warning of construction closures in one of the tunnels on our route. But it all worked out fine and our navigation system(s) directed us right to the central garage under the city, which was five minutes from our apartment.



Låtefossen

I knew months ago that our day from Stavanger to Bergen would be the longest of the trip - which we confirmed when we pulled into Bergen well into the evening. There was a lot of driving - little of it very direct - and a lot of possible side trips. As it was, we only got to a couple of the waterfalls that were on the list of potential stops, but the ones we saw were impressive.

Låtefossen has two major falls, which converge at the bottom and flow under the road. It seems to have a few goats, too, grazing on the difficult to get to island in the middle. It also has a souvenir shop.

This final picture is from Lofthus, much farther down the road, looking across Sørfjorden (a southern arm of Hardangerfjord).


Høse Bru

In planning this trip, we had discovered Norway's Tourist Routes. These are designated stretches of road - maybe 20 or so throughout the country - that Norway promotes heavily. The promotion benefits from a combination of spectacular scenery and some intriguing architectural features. Most of these take the form of view points, pedestrian bridges, and occasionally, cafes. Many of these will appear in subsequent posts.

Høse Bru, in Sand, was the key feature of this section of the Ryfylke route. The steel bridge spanned the Suldålslagen River, just above its last falls before it reached tidewater in the Sandsfjorden. Apparently, this river is the largest in this part of Norway and is a significant salmon stream (this first waterfall on the river must pose a bit of a challenge).


Fjøløy

Our drive from Farsund to Stavanger began very wet, but dried out a little as we headed north. By the end of the day it was wonderful.

There are several islands in the bay north of Stavanger, connected by an undersea tunnel that comes up for air on each island. Our original destination fell through at the last minute, but our host found us another place on a nearby island, which worked out great. The official season hadn't quite started so we had it to ourselves. And we were right on the water.

The hotel was on Mosterøy, but right on the small channel that separates it Klosterøy. We had already eaten dinner much earlier, at a very nice beach cafe south of Stavanger in Ølberg, so after we found our room, we drove out to the lighthouse and the fort on Fjøløy (by the second day in Norway, M had shown me how to access the alternate character set on my iPhone).


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Farsund

Farsund is a town on the Lista Peninsula along Norway's southern coast and was the first stop on our Norwegian road trip. We arrived in nice weather and after checking in at the Rederiet Hotel, we wandered along the waterfront. This older, more photogenic part of town obscures the fact that just over the hill there are a couple of large aluminum mills and a lot of much less interesting development.

Before becoming the hotel, the Rederiet had been the home of the the local shipping company. It was filled with large models of freighters and merchant ships that had been built and owned by the company and the rooms were all named after old ships.

The nice weather, extended daylight, and questionable forecast for the next day led us to take off after dinner and explore more of the area. The Lista Fyr (lighthouse) is ten miles west of Farsund and looks out over a low, boulder-strewn coast. It was our first introduction to robotic lawnmowers, one of which was quietly tending the grass while we were there. We saw a number of others over the course of the trip - they seemed like they would make well-behaved and low maintenance pets and I almost wished we had a lawn.

We swung by Havika(?) on the way back to town, allowing me to collect my first Norwegian beach of the trip. The drive west and north the next day was damp - we were glad to have visited the lighthouse the night before.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Skagerrak


The Skagerrak is the eastern arm of the North Sea that separates southern Norway and Denmark. Farther east and south, it becomes the Kattegat, on its way to the Øresund, near Copenhagen, and the Baltic. I learned about the Kattegat and the Skagerrak from some strategy board game when I was a kid. I think it was called Diplomacy. Pronouncing them was easy, but now I'm having to learn how to spell them.

When you take a ferry from Hirtshals on the northern coast of Denmark to Kristiansand, on the south coast of Norway, you sail west northwest across the Skagerrak. Which is what we did, on a very large, very fast Colorline ship. The SuperSpeed ferry holds more than 2000 passengers, more than 700 cars, and can go 27 knots.

We landed in Kristiansand mid-afternoon on June 19th. We would be in Norway until July 4th, when we would drive across the bridge into Sweden after leaving Oslo.



Grenen


Jutland, the large peninsula that comprises most of western Denmark, ends in a sharp sandy spit just north of the town of Skagen.  The point is Grenen, and it marks where the Skagerrak on the west meets the Kattegat on the east. Some places have more geographic significance than others. For a good part of an hour a few weeks ago (June 19th), I had it pretty much to myself.

We were staying in Frederikshavn, 45 minutes south. I got up at the crack of dawn and drove up through Skagen and past the lighthouse, then walked the last kilometer out to the tip. There were scattered storm clouds and a stiff breeze, but it stayed dry and relatively pleasant.


Old bunkers (not surprising that this place has had great military importance and a rich history) were collapsing into the sea. A fleet of large cargo ships were anchored in the distance on the eastern, Kattegat, side, and a large three masted ship was cruising by (not under sail). The sand was blowing across the beach. Waves were crashing in the sunglint far offshore where the tides and the winds clashed. Birds hung out on the sandbar where Denmark slides into the sea, except when I got a little too close. There was someone else wandering around in the dunes, but I enjoyed being the only person out on the point that morning.

Of course, it was also nice to make it back for breakfast at the hotel with M. And with plenty of time to still make it to Hirtshals for the ferry to Norway at noon.