Saturday, March 17, 2018

Norway in a nutshell during winter

J and I were just browsing through options for a December winter trip via skyscanner and we stumbled upon Norway. The return ticket from Dublin was €126 per pax, so €146 per person from Cork.

Norway is such a big country! We spent our first night on the train, and arrived Bergen from Oslo after a 7-hour train ride. Thankfully, it was quite comfortable, with pillow and blanket provided.  The single train ticket is 749 Nok/person (€78). If you purchased the ticket earlier, they usually have minipris price, which would be a lot cheaper.


Accommodation in Bergen:

Blue room from one of the Airbnb apartment. Christina, the host was very accommodating and allowed us to check in at 7am. The room wasn't ready yet, but she let us freshened up at the yellow room so that our room could be cleaned. 

What to see in Bergen?

 Bryggen, one of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site :)

Visit Fløyen & admire the view of Bergen city from top

There are a few hiking paths which you could take to explore Fløyen but it was quite slippery during winter and we opted to just roam around & take pictures with snow xD We used the Fløibanen to get to Fløyen. 

Enjoy their heart-shaped Norwegian waffle with a variety of toppings. I tried their brown cheese & like it!!

This was actually my first snow experience. The snow in Cork was never thick enough to be stepped on; they all turn into water as soon as they reached the ground. 

Visit Bergen fish market and try fresh seafood!
Fjellskal Fisketorget
Symphony of fish: choice of 2-3 fish from their menu 
309 Nok (€31.90)
Our choice: Monkfish, Turbot & Salmon 

We used the Norway in a Nutshell itinerary as a reference, but we didn't book from the website. A couple of websites stated that booking it yourself is a lot cheaper. NiN quoted us approximately 1,600 Nok/person (€167) for a return trip. However, we wanted to stop by Geilo, while returning to Oslo. The price difference of doing NiN on our own wasn't significant; we only paid €15 less than the original NiN:
Bus from Bergen to Gudvangen (199 Nok, €21) 
Fjord cruise from Gudvangen to Flåm (490 Nok, €51)
Flåm railway from Flåm to Geilo  (403 Nok, €42)
Geilo back to Oslo (349 Nok, €36.40)

Norway in a Nutshell is a packaged tour that showcase the best of Norway, mainly targeted towards travellers who have limited time, but desire to hit all the must-go-spots in Norway. 

The highlight of NiN would be the fjord cruise which combines the narrow Nærøyfjord & magnificent Aurlandsfjord. Nærøyfjord is listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage list & one of the most narrow fjords in Europe. The reflection on the waters was unreal!!

Flåm Railway, rated as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, took us from Flåm to Myrdal mountain at 867 metres above sea level. From Myrdal, we then changed to Bergen Railway to reach Geilo. 


Accommodation in Geilo:

Geiloveien 55-57, Geilo

Tried all their cheeses & caviar tube. The caviar in a tube tastes like mashed salmon with a really distinct, strong flavour. I ate it with bread and cheese...but it became too rich and creamy after a few bites. However, I still purchased it back to Cork as I think it's an unique, good souvenir from Norway as well :)

View from our room

What to do in Geilo?
Popular skiing places in Norway include Hemsedal, Trysil, Lillehammer, Geilo and a lot more. Geilo is a less popular location compared to the others, but it's a great choice for families and for those who're traveling between Bergen & Oslo. Our choices were narrowed to Hemsedal and Geilo, but Hemsedal is a bit out of the way as we would need to change buses and stuff to reach there.

However, we opted for dog sledding instead!! 
J had dog sledded in Iceland before and he's been dying to dog sled again. We searched for a few potential companies and our ultimate choice was Fagerlund Husky. They have the best reviews and indeed, they did not disappoint. 

The ride was 45 minutes, with each of us on our individual sled. They provided warm overalls for us, and hot blackcurrant tea after the ride. 

Team Black

The view

The only Siberian husky that Fargerlund has :) So charming!! The other huskies are of Alaskan breed.

This cute dog followed us into the tent. He's so adorable!! He requires constant affection and petting. Whenever I stopped petting him, he would nudge me using his head and followed me wherever I go so I can pet him. He's also the only dog that wasn't chained; 100% trust there y'all.

They light up their skiing track in the evening. So pretty!!

Geilo is probably the highlight of my trip. I felt that the people I interacted with in Geilo, are friendlier than the Bergen and Oslo crowd. 


Our accommodation:
We booked via Bernt-Erik from Airbnb as the reviews were good with reasonably good price for its location. However, Erik did not open his door for us, despite us ringing his apartment bell twice. We called him, which he picked up and hung up on us. We thought he might be drunk or something..but we arrived Oslo at nearly 11:30pm, and our host did not open the door for us. We're nearly staying on the streets for the night! 

J booked whatever hotel was near & we eventually landed a room in P-Hotels. It was near New Year so most of the hotels were fully booked! 

Decent room with clean toilets. All basic facilities were included. Their breakfast was simple; ham and cheese sandwich with a bottle of juice. 

What to do in Oslo?

Oslo National Gallery
Entrance fee (for students: 50 nok, €5.30)

The famous Scream

Oslo Opera House

The ground was so slippery and I nearly fell down a few times!

Jul Vinterland - Christmas market in Oslo

What to eat in Norway?
Everything in Norway is so expensive! We survived our trip by splurging on cup noodles and unhealthy chocolate digestive biscuits from Ireland. However, if you must try, the must eat specialities of Norway include Kjottboller (Norwegian meatballs), Lutefisk, Krumkake (norwegian waffle cookie), and a lot more..which I tried none btw.

Whale meat
Tried it, didn't like it..

Venison (reindeer meat)
Tasted exactly like how it tasted in Brunei!

Norwegian flatbread, made with riced or instant potatoes, flour, butter, milk or cream. Personally, I think it's too starchy and bland. We ate it with eggs to make it more tolerable.

Most of our meals are home-cooked! We bought bread, eggs, lettuce, ham and smoked salmon to prepare our lunches everyday. The only time we ate out was at Bergen's fish market. The others were street food from Christmas markets, etc. I definitely recommend booking a B&B with kitchen so that you can cook dinner yourself. Save us lots of money €€€

Supermarkets such as KIWI & Rema 1000 are the lower range supermarkets that have their own brands, so it'll be cheaper (but it's still more expensive than Ireland). After traveling to Norway, I am extremely grateful for Ireland's local produce as I could easily get diary products and fresh vegetables at less than €1!

Some of the must tries chocolate!

Melkesjokolade is Milk Chocolate, and Freia brand is probably the most popular one. The chocolate is very creamy, rich and smooth! The small wordings beneath the title 'Et lite stykke Norge' literally means 'a little piece of Norway'. We also bought the Freia's Firklover (hazelnuts) & Walter Manders (caramelised almonds) to try & absolutely love it!!! The crunchiness of the nuts complement the creamy milk chocolate so well!
Kvikk Lunsj is the Kit Kat of Norway. Tasted exactly like KitKat, although some argued that it's better. 
Smash! is probably my favourite of all!! It's basically salted corn cores covered with milk chocolate. I was skeptical to buy it because I don't really like salty chocolate..but after I tried one, I couldn't stop myself from munching another piece!! It's the combination of sweet & salty, light & crispy; my type of divine gustatory pleasure. 

Bought these home as souvenirs. 
Cured elk meat, cow brown cheese & caviar tub

Chocolates as souvenirs would never go wrong as well; bringing a piece of Freia's melkesjokolade technically means you're bringing a little piece of Norway back home xx