I’ve finally gotten around to part 2 of our Icelandic + Nordic adventure last year (read part 1 here).
Norway is a different kind of beautiful – way more chill with all the nature; it’s got more of a calming picturesque wallpaper vibe. No boiling water shooting out of the ground or scary snow storms. Even the waterfalls are gentler and you don’t feel like like a catastrophe might befall you at any moment. The sense of adventure in Iceland was fun but it was a nice change of pace in Norway.
From Reykjavík, we flew into Bergen where we spent 2 days in the prettiest little town surrounded by water and mountains and fjords.
Oh wait, remember our bus ride out to catch the northern lights in Iceland? We had the most disinterested tour guide who spent the drive out being all like “you need a lot of patience and luck to see the northern lights. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes not so lucky and you have to try again for many days…” and that was that. Turns out that we didn’t get lucky and as a consolation prize on the drive back, he decided to tell us a story about Grýla, a terrible ogre who ate naughty children. We were all dozing off on the bus and we didn’t expect the story to escalate very quickly into how Grýla would round up all the badly behaved kids, put them in her sack, haul them home and cook them in her cauldron. This was the only time he came alive with excitement, and he enjoyed telling the story so much that it was almost worth the trip out. Yeahhh maybe not, but it was a hilarious story.
And guess who we saw at Reykjavík airport? Grýla!! With her cauldron and everything!
The kids had a great time hanging out in Grýla’s cauldron making like they were getting cooked for dinner. Meanwhile, the other Icelandic kids at the airport were like “these guys are nuts, we’re staying over here where it’s safe.”
Bergen is my kind of small town. I loved those 2 days walking along colourful houses by the wharf, looking at fish in an old school fish market, riding the Fløibanen funicular railway, and hanging out at Mt Fløyen, the spot where you get the best view of all of Bergen.
As far as food goes, there were more hotdogs and fish and chips to be had, but we were nearing the limit of fish and chips a person could put into one’s mouth so we had other delightful food such as burgers, nuggets and ham sandwiches. When we finally came upon a food hall with (very decent) katsudon in Oslo, the kids cried tears of joy and gave thanks for their food with more enthusiasm than they have ever done before.
In the evenings, we had crepes + mulled wine at the Christmas market, then went back to the hotel for more board games.
Getting to Oslo from Bergen was one of the highlights of this trip. We did what was essentially the Norway in a Nutshell tour, except that instead of buying it as a package from the tour company, we purchased all the tickets separately on our own, saving about $200 in total. It is way more convenient buying it as a package but um $200 in savings for some research? I’m in.
From Bergen, we took a train ride to Voss, hopped on a bus to Gudvangen, then took a gorgeous cruise to Flam, where we spent the night before taking two more train rides to Oslo. This could have been done in one day (11 hours) but we decided to take it easy and split up the journey.
It’s actually very easy to do and I highly recommend it. I was a little nervous about missing the connections but the entire journey is customised for tourists and there’s no way of getting lost along the way. If you’re unsure, the conductors are really friendly or just follow all the other tourists and you’ll be fine.
The fjord cruise was jaw-dropping level of magnificent. It was the first time I’ve seen a fjord and it was one of those “why have I waited so long to see this?” sort of moment. It was cold and windy but the water was perfectly still and there were mountains on both sides, with small clusters of pretty houses along the edge of the water.
Norway is number 2 on the list of happiest countries in the world and as I stood on the deck of the fjord cruise with the wind in my hair, it was easy to see why. There’s a certain lightness in the air and I think if you’re looking at something so beautiful every day, the madness that life throws at you suddenly seems a little less overwhelming.
Upon arriving in Flam, we spent the rest of the day at an Airbnb overlooking the water in Aurland (about 15 minutes away). The hosts were lovely and we managed to chat a little about life in Aurland vs life in Singapore. They bike down the mountain in the summer, brew their own beer for fun, and spend most of their free time enjoying the beautiful view and fresh air. I feel like I want to be the kind of person who thrives in an environment like this but when she told me about having to drive out 2 hours to buy Christmas decorations, that was a straight up dealbreaker for me.
So that night, we had planned to head out for a quick dinner at the town centre (a very tiny town centre with 1 grocery store and a handful of diners) nearby. It was supposed to be a 20 minute walk out but by 6pm, it was already pitch dark with zero street lamps around. We brought a torch along and walked for 3 minutes before turning around and heading back because the 3G was spotty and walking for 20 minutes in complete darkness without secure internet connection seemed like a very bad idea.
There was no food delivery service or McD’s or pizza, plus we were also out of grocery supplies so the kids shared the last 2 packets of instant noodles while the husband and I shared a can of Christmas beer, a cup of Milo and half a leftover cookie. We were all too hungry to play board games so we spent the night talking about how we were dying of hunger, it was great! On hindsight…because it makes a for a memorable story. While we were actually starving, it was much less great.
The next morning, we got back to Flam early for our train out, hoping to grab a bite at one of the cafes near the train station. Believe it or not, all the cafes were still closed so we had to continue our starving streak till we got to the next stop 2 hours later.
The Flam railway was gorgeous though, so that made up for the misery brought on by the lack of food. It’s an old school train very much like Puffing Billy in Melbourne, one of our favourite train rides. As train pulled out of the station, it started to snow, which made everyone forget about how hungry we were because snow makes everything better.
We discovered that there was a cafe on board our next train, and I will tell you that there have never been 5 people so happy to see ham croissants + hotdogs.
We didn’t spend much time in Oslo but in the 12 hours or so that we were in Oslo, we had delicious katsudon and the second best cookies I’ve ever tasted. #1 is still Levain but while I wait for our next trip back to New York, I’ve been on the search for the next best cookie. I found it at Backstube bakery in Oslo while we were on a quick grab and go breakfast run.
The cookies were just sitting there next to the pretzels and I knew I found a winner when I saw them. It was respectably chunky, crispy around the edges and gooey in the middle with melty chocolate chips – basically perfection in a cookie. I bought one, bit into it and went back to buy 7 more.
Instead of hanging out for a couple of days in Oslo, we drove out two hours to the mountains to do some snowboarding in Trysil.
We stayed at Radisson Blu Trysil and while the slopes aren’t as good as those in Niseko, the resort was incredible. There was a bowling alley, a playground, an arcade, several excellent restaurants, and a huge indoor pool with a wave pool, a hot tub and a rock climbing wall.
It was Finn’s first time on the snowboard and after watching Tru and Kirsten blitz down the hill, this little guy picked it up in a day.
On day 2, he was already going up on the ski lift for a black run, which might have been a little ambitious but all the other runs were closed so yolo, amirite? Look at how exhausted he was after making it down. He was like “I cannot feel my legs, I need to lie down now. You’ll have to drag me back because I’m done.”
This is the face we call peng san.
I missed the babies terribly the entire trip and I think from here on out, we’ll have to bring all 5 of them on our next adventure but it was such a treat spending time with my big kids who are growing up way too fast.
For two weeks, these big kids got my undivided attention and I got to snuggle up with them until they fell asleep every night. There isn’t much more a girl could want.