Thursday, 27 April 2017

Visit Norway. Part IV: Clothes and Weather

When you pack your suitcase before going to Norway, remember that the clothes should be comfortable and cold-proof – even in summer. I do not speak about a coat, but a normal water- and wind-proof jacket is a must. And a sweater. Sometimes, you will want to put on both!

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Try to put on layers of clothes – a T-short, a sweater, and a jacket. So, you can add or remove the layers depending on the weather. Take a couple of pairs of trousers, preferably at list one pair should be with fleece lining. Everything water-proof is preferable. Add tracking shoes and tracking socks for hiking, do not forget to pack running shoes and flip flopes – the latter are great at campings. Do not forget about a hat or anything to cover your ears.

Tracking sticks will make your journey considerably easier. Add some torches (if, of course, you do not travel during the midnight sun period) – just in case. It is useful to have a water-proof cover for your backpacks. On the route, you never know when the rain starts, and how strong and long it would be.

Visit Norway

No matter where we planned to go, we always had a spare set of dry clothes for each of us in a trunk: a pair of trousers, a pair of socks, a T-shirt, and running shoes.

WEATHER 

Here is the main weather website in Norway: YR.

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The weather, as I have already said above, is unpredictable. It may be hot and sunny in May, and July may be rainy and cold. It is often cloudy in Norway, not foggy, but cloudy, when thick flock-beds cover the mountains from the top to the bottom. It is really impressive, however, if you have such weather for several days running, you cannot see a lot of sights.

My advice: be morally and physically prepared for all kinds of weather as there are no rules.

SEASONS 

To be honest, there are some rules that allow to distinguish seasons.

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For example, in May and June, the mountains are especially beautiful, with snow-covered peaks and stripes of white and black, like zebras. Waterfalls are in full power, filled with waters from melting glaciers. There are many flowers, the nature is awakening, and mountain lakes are half covered with ice. And it is a real beauty. Days are long too. However, some high mountain tracks and roads are still closed in May, glaciers are not yet blue enough, and it is often quite chilly. Spring in Norway reigns until the end of June.

By August, you will find less flowers, mountains are less snowy, and the green becomes of that deep dark mature color. August is not the most beautiful time, but it is rich in berries and mushrooms, all tracks are available, and it is warm enough even when it rains.

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September often features warm and soft weather. Sometimes you can even see Northern Lights in the North. The end of September – beginning of October is a period of golden and scarlet shades – a treat for your eyes and a photo camera. However, the weather is unstable, it rains often, days are shorter, first snowfalls occur in the mountains.

Overall, every season in Norway is great, you just need to find a right approach!


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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Visit Norway. Part III: Money Matters, Food Matters

Norway’s national currency is the Norwegian krone.

Visit Norway

In 95 per cent of situations you can use your credit card. In the majority of cases a debit card will do too, but, judging by some comments, people may face trouble with a debit card sometimes, like on gas stations, so it is useful to have a credit card as well, especially for such cases. And remember your pin-code!

It is wise to have some money in cash. For example, for the following cases:

  • when you buy berries outside; 
  • on some paid roads to famous sights (around NOK 30-40); 
  • in one of campings we stayed the payment was only in cash (NOK 500-600 per night);
  • for some excursions/guide tours for some banal technical problems with card machines. 

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Usually we buy NOK 400-500 for various cases. You can also withdraw money from every cash terminal. I do not recommend to exchange currency because of huge commissions. In a whole, you can buy a souvenir magnet or a ticket for a ferry using a credit card.

FOOD 

Public catering in Norway resembles its hotels: expensive, rare, and not everywhere of good quality. Almost all travelers prefer to cook themselves. Sometimes it is nice to go to a cafe and treat yourself with tea and a national dessert – waffles with jam. However, the prices are quite high.

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You may buy food for cooking in various supermarkets. Coop and Kiwi often offer discounts and reduced prices. Moreover, they have websites with all addresses and opening times.

Disposable grills are quite popular for cooking meat or fish. You may find them at supermarkets and gas stations, NOK 15 each. If you have a big company and are going to cook a big piece of meat, it is better to purchase several grills.

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Some tourists, especially those who travel with their own tents, use gas stoves. Just mind that it is prohibited to transport gas cylinders by plane, so you will have to buy them on spot.

We did not use a gas stove. We had our breakfasts and dinners in camping huts, and had picnics for lunch: sandwiches, fried meatballs/fish fingers/sausages, bread, some vegetables and some desserts. Plus, a thermos with hot water and tea. Disposable cutlery serves well for such picnics. 

PICNIC 

 Along highways you may often notice a sign with a conifer tree with a table under it. It means that soon there will be a ramp to a special resting place. Usually it is equipped with tables and benches, sometimes there is a clean free of charge toilet with a sink. Or. like in the Fjord Region, you may find a small house with a shower and a laundry, NOK 10 per usage!

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Often, such places are located in picturesque places, with a view to a lake or a fjord.


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Friday, 21 April 2017

Visit Norway. Part II: Accommodation and Public Transport

Norway is really expensive, thus we had to skip hotels. Plus, our focus was on the nature, not on towns. Luckily, the country offers a lot of campings of all shapes and prices. Starting from tents that you bring with you and finishing with comfy cottages with all necessary camping equipment. 

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Showers and toilets are usually very clean and situated in a separate building. Shared kitchens have all necessary stuff. You will find a laundry as well.

Showers, washing machines, and dryers are paid. A shower costs, in average, 10 NOK for 5 minutes. Washing machine and a dryer are also 10 NOK per usage.

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If you stay in such a house, usually you will find all camping equipment: a set of dishes for cooking and eating (not without several upsetting exceptions though), a small oven, a fridge, pillows and blankets. Almost always bed linen is not included in the price. They are quite costly, so you’d better have your own. If you book a house in advance, remember to clarify those moments!

Final cleaning is almost 100 per cent is not included in the price. It is costly, so many people prefer to clean themselves, as all the necessary stuff like mopes and baskets can be found inside the house.

You may write to a camping or make a phone call in order to book a place. Usually there is no deposit or even credit card information required. Or, you may insert the word “camping” in your Google-maps and choose.

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Some travelers do not book in advance at all, and prefer to find something on the way. However, we feel safer to have a guaranteed place in advance.

Another type of accommodation in Norway is private cottages. They may be cheaper or more expensive than campings. Note, that during a high season (from June until the end of August) they are usually rented for the whole week – from Saturday to Saturday. And that is not always convenient when you plan a trip and have a short holiday.

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Finally, motorhomes that are very widespread as well. It is also a decent way to explore the country.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT 

Public transport in Norway is not as comfortable as, for example, in Swiss. However, it is quite decent in Norway, especially in the Fjord Region, but not in the North, for example.

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Travelling by train or by bus may have some disadvantages, like:

  • it is expensive; 
  • the number of places you can go to is limited; 
  • you depend on the time-table (of course, buses do not shuttle every quarter an hour in rural areas); 
  • you will have to look for an accommodation in the vicinity from bus stops/stations. 

However, despite all those factors, your travel by public transport may be feasible and quite pleasant. I myself know a number of very positive examples. Still, I recommend to have a car.


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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Visit Norway. Part I: Festina Lente

When you prepare to visit Norway for the first time, it is necessary to collect as much information as possible. Your trip to the home of Vikings will be wonderful, breathtaking and will not be like anything else.

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Norway offers a fantastic mix of untamed nature with civilization and developed infrastructure. However, to fully appreciate it you shall be prepared to some particularities. Norway stretches from South to North, and if you trip will last no longer than two weeks, I recommend you to choose only one part – the south or the north of the country. Many people start to visit Norway with world-famous Fjord Region where some fjords cover several regions at once – Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane, Møre og Romsdal.

Many tourists prefer to move from one place to another for the whole time of their visit, it means that they sleep in a new place almost every night. Thus, you have a chance to see various regions mentioned above for 10-14 days, however you have a limited time for every one of them. Moreover, you will have to pack and unpack almost every night! And if you travel with a child, the longer you stay in one place, the less tired you all are.

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Another important factor in Norway is the weather. It is absolutely unpredictable. Sun and rain may interchange several times a day, heavy thick clouds may cover the skies for days and days. That is why the weather may prevent you from visiting a sight or going along a track, when in the evening you have to be in another place!

We decided to choose another way: if we did not manage to do something today, we can do it tomorrow. Plans, in my opinion, should be flexible, correspond to our tiredness, mood, weather, wish or health. So, we decided to explore one region and look beyond traditional touristic sights.

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In the result, we select three or four places to stay where we spend several days, and explore just one or two regions instead of five. Do not have any doubts, you can stay for several weeks in just one, and you will not get bored.

Every day, we travel around – within 70-100 km from our accommodation. It is enough, believe me. The thing is that Fjord Region consists almost completely of mountains, serpentine roads, and tunnels. The roads are mostly narrow, and the average speed in the mountains is around 50 km per hour.


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Friday, 14 April 2017

5 Myths about Norway and Its People

Below you will find everything that you have always wanted to know about Norway but forgot to ask.

5 Myths about Norway and Its People

Myth 1: Norwegian people are reserved and unsociable.

Au contraire: Norwegians will be glad to tell you about their country, their traditions, and their perfect nature they take care of. They will use all languages you or they know, and sign language as well. Just do not be too passionate about Sweden, Denmark, or Scandinavia as a whole.

Myth 2: If you learn Norwegian, you will be able to speak and understand it everywhere in the country.

5 Myths about Norway and Its People

In reality, there are two official forms of Norwegian: Nynorsk that is based on various dialects and Bokmål (literally “book tongue”). That is why if you studied Nynorsk, you will hardly be able to understand Bokmål and vice versa. Moreover, every region has its own dialect.

Myth 3: Norwegians are inhospitable. They prefer to invite people to restaurants or cafes rather to their own houses, and everybody pays for themselves.

My personal experience showed otherwise several time. Once we rented a house in the mountains, 11 km away from the nearest shop. One day I and my six-year-old son decided to go there on foot. When we felt quite tired we started to wave with our hands to all passing cars. In the result, we were not just taken to the destination point, but got acquainted with a big friendly family, their cat and their lizard, were offered some tea and invited for dinner. To their house, not to a restaurant.

Myth 4: Trolls are imaginary creatures, a part of the local folklore.

5 Myths about Norway and Its People

No way! Norwegians’ attitude to trolls resembles a religion. And unbelievers will be punished. Trolls are everywhere: in forests and in the capital, in souvenir shops and abandoned huts. They can take a shape of a dog, a black goat, or a friendly person with a tail. It is important to know what to do when you meet one. First, keep your name secret. Do not take any treat from a troll, and try to run away in the manner that your footprints cross plough furrows in the field. If you meet a troll in a ravine, invite him to follow you to the sunlight. Under the rays of sun he will turn into a stone. Just be always vigilant.

Myth 5: Norwegians follow healthy way of life. They are born with skis on their feet and despise smoking and drinking tourists.

The majority of Norwegians smoke homemade cigarettes. Instead of beer they brew vodka.


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Sunday, 9 April 2017

How to Choose a Bergen Hotel

Bergen is a world-famous town with rich history and peculiar charm. A simple walk along its ancient streets is an unforgettable experience. Here people lived and worked for centuries. Here small houses cuddle up to each other, cobbled streets go sharply up, and every alley is covered with flowers.

How to Choose a Bergen Hotel

Many of Bergen hotels (there are approximately 40 of them) are located in popular tourist places like near the Fish Market, the Hansa Quay, or Bryggen, as well as next to large shopping centers. You will find several hotels not far from Flesland, Bergen Airport.

Moreover, Bergen offers a vast chain of guest houses and B&Bs (Bed & Breakfast). Another option is to rent an apartment. You may find quite affordable offers, however you will have to take care of food and cleaning up. The choice us huge and ranges from traditional wooden houses to modern apartments.

How to Choose a Bergen Hotel

You can find many hostels as well – for youth and for families. If you are an adventurer, try to stay at a camping. You will not even have to move far from the city center – campings are everywhere here. Buy a Bergen Card, and you will be able to take public transport free of charge. You can book your Bergen Card in advance and pick it up at the Tourist Information in Bergen.

BEST BERGEN HOTELS WITH WEBSITES 

Augustin Hotel

Augustin Hotel enjoys a central location, close to Bergen's express boat terminal, with excellent shopping and all the city’s attractions right on its doorstep. A popular hotel with a relaxed atmosphere and outstanding service.

Hotel Bergen

Augustin Hotel is Bergen’s oldest family-run hotel, and has been in the same family for four generations. With its friendly, intimate atmosphere and wonderful blend of traditional style and modern design, it is a popular place to stay. A vast collection of Norwegian contemporary art decorates the rooms, restaurants, and public areas.

Steen’s Hotel 

Steen’s Hotel was originally a mansion built in 1890. Much of the original interior has been preserved. Most special is the dining room with oak paneling and original wallpaper intact.

Hotel Bergen

Steen family has owned and operated the hotel since 1950. Today it offers 21 rooms all with private bathroom, telephone, cable TV and wireless internet free of charge. Most rooms overlook the park. Short walking distance to the train and bus station and city center. The hotel’s reasonable rates include a good breakfast.

Hotel Park 

Hotel Park is a family owned hotel where the modern and the traditional come together beneath sparkling chandeliers. Fantastic antiques and treasures contrast with modern art on the walls. Hotel Park is a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels and Restaurants Association.

Hotel Bergen

Both of its buildings are superior examples of 19th century Bergen architecture and history. The main building was finished in 1890 as the home of one of the prominent merchant families in Bergen. The second building was finished in 1880.

Marken Guesthouse

Marken Guesthouse is an excellent base for exploring the city of Bergen. The hostel is stylish and modern, centrally located, safe and affordable. It offers accommodation for everyone from corporate clients, families and backpackers. Also suitable for school classes, sports teams and groups.

Hotel Bergen

Marken Guesthouse is proud to have won the award for the year’s best Hostel / Youth Hostel several times by Hostelworld.com. The rating includes the following criteria: character, security, location, staff, atmosphere and cleanness.

Skansen Pensjonat 

Skansen Pensjonat ("pensjonat" means guesthouse or pension) was built around 1865 and established as a pension in 1918. You will find this pension in the very center of Bergen, close to the Funicular Building.

Hotel Bergen

You can easily walk down to the Fish Market and Bryggen in two minutes. The pension is an old, small and charming house located in quiet and picturesque surroundings. Skansen Pensjonat has 8 rooms, containing 14 beds.


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Friday, 7 April 2017

A Dream Journey by Oslo to Bergen Train

Taking an Oslo to Bergen train is an ideal way to get to know Norway if you do not travel by car or a caravan.

A Dream Journey by Oslo to Bergen Train

Just fly to Oslo and participate in a comfortable adventure on Bergensbanen, one of the most picturesque Norwegian railroads. Travel time is approximately seven hours.

BUYING TICKETS 

The tickets can be purchased via the Internet without any troubles. There are two types of them – standard price and mini price. The first one can be returned, but they are 2-2.5 times more expensive then mini price.

If you travel with the family, mind that standard price tickets allows one child to travel with one adult free of charge, and there is a 50 per cent discount for the second child. Child means younger than 16 years.

A Dream Journey by Oslo to Bergen Train

The mini price depends on the time of your trip as well: afternoon is more expensive than late night or early morning. Try to book in advance, the mini price difference between reserving in a week and in a month may be 100 NOK.

While booking, you may choose a way you want to get your ticket: through the ticket machine at the railway station, in the coach by the conductor, or by mail.

A Dream Journey by Oslo to Bergen Train

In the second case, the conductor will ask your name and give you tickets. However it may be useful to have a printed confirmation with you, just to feel more confident.

Ticket machines pose no problem as well, they are quite simple. Just do not forget your reference number that you get after the purchase, and choose the English language.

IN THE COACH 

You have an opportunity to reserve a seat in the Oslo to Bergen train. In order to have more interesting things to see choose a seat in the right in the direction of travel.

If you travel with a bicycle, reserve a place for it in a special coach. You have to call a phone number provided on the NSB website.

A Dream Journey by Oslo to Bergen Train

Second class is the cheapest one, however I do not recommend it – as our goal is to admire the view through the window. Natural beauties will be on the both sides but you will have to stick just to one.

First class (Comfort Seats) costs just 90 NOK more, and offers larger seats, snack tables, electric sockets for your laptop/mobile phone, and a free of charge coffee machine. The arrangement of seats allows you to monitor landscapes in the both sides. If you travel as a group, book seats at the both sides of the aisle.

FOOD MATTERS 

A Dream Journey by Oslo to Bergen Train

Every Oslo to Bergen train has a board restaurant with adequate prices. A trolley with snacks will pass coaches several times.

INTERESTING SIGHTS 

The most interesting sights start 2,5-3 hours after the departure. You may have a nap without worries that you may miss something important.

Apart from the unique nature, special places to note are:

Finse, it is the highest station (1222 meters) of the Bergen railroad. It may snow there even in summer. And the design of the station building is quite curious.

A Dream Journey by Oslo to Bergen Train

Myrdal, from here you can see the Flamsbana train which schedule is synchronized with the Bergen train. The stop may last from 10 to 40 minutes (depending on the schedule), so you would have time to pop in a souvenir shop at the platform.

The outskirts of Bergen with considerable elevation changes.


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