Monday, June 20, 2011

Pining for the fjords - June 20 2011

Olga Kindling on the
Oslo-Ål train
What can I possibly say about the Norway in a Nutshell tour? It's a fun, tiring, breathtaking series of rides and views the likes of which I have never seen before. The fjords are so beyond compare, the only way I can describe them is that I was previously living in a 2-dimensional world and I just saw 3-D for the first time. Everybody should learn about the Norway in a Nutshell tour just to open their mind to the idea that something like this exists. It cost us each $200 end-to-end, which includes a train from Oslo to Myrdal, the scenic rail down the mountainside Flåm (including a stop at a Niagara-quality waterfall and tongue-in-cheek tempting siren show), a 2-hour cruise through the Sognefjord to Gudvangen, a bus ride to the closest train station in Voss (didn't have a chance to taste the water), and then we rejoined the train continuing to Bergen. What a unique, well-planned, thoughtful, well-coordinated daytrip!

Trying a Norwegian snack on
Ål-Flåm bus - consistency
of a dishrag with sugar,
butter, and cinnamon
The beauty of the fjords can't possibly be captured in photography (though many have tried), so here are some photos of the beauty of Olga overwhelmed by the majesty of the fjords.

Napping on the Ål-Flåm bus
The weather kept changing from sunshine with rain - to cloudy rain - to sunny - to dry cloudy. Olga kept promising rainbows, but sadly none arrived on demand. Sometimes it would drizzle and we'd try to figure out if it was coming from the sky or mist from the waves or the cascades of snowmelt from a height of 1200-1500 meters.

Reading maps on the
Myrdal-Flåm scenic railway

After arriving in Flåm via scenic train through an incline of 55 degrees, we treated ourselves to the Ægir Bryggeri (brewery). I had the porter, which has the consistency of chocolate milk with an airy cappuccino foam - delicious!! Olga's Wit (wheat) was a thicker version of Blue Moon with a noticeable built-in orange flavor. Please feel free to submit comments with your impressions of Olga's Wit.

Waterfall stopover on the
scenic railway - trying to
not be lured by the sirens!
Our path kept weaving through that of several other curious travelers. There's the family of four that seemed to be in dire straits in the morning, the father and two teenage boys sitting on one side of the traincar, the mother sitting on the opposite side and throwing only occasional sidelong glances at them, us never knowing for sure whether they were together until somebody mentioned being from Maryland, and both the father and the distant mother both replied "yeah huh" at the same time. They seemed to get along later in the day, but it was still eerie: every time we saw just the 3 guys, we wondered if something had 'happened' to the mother on the fjord cruise.

Ægir bryggeri in Flåm

There's the professor, living in Maryland, originally from Belgium, who had studied at Stanford and taught linguistics at a college in Pittsburgh. He's on sabbatical, with some time to kill, so he headed straight to Bergen, with plans to do a more in-depth visit to the fjords, while we did our one-day overview tour.

Munching on carrots during
the Flåm-Gudvagen fjord cruise
There are the 3 ladies from Colorado - two perhaps in their late 40s - and their mother - who were continually victims of circumstance. There was a change in the train schedule, which mostly affected only them as they tried to do a roundtrip in one day. First they were told there wouldn't be time to take the scenic railway and/or the fjord cruise, then they considered following us to Bergen but realized their luggage was still in their hotel room in Oslo, then they panicked realizing their rental car was abandoned in a 1-day parking spot in Oslo, and so on. The last we saw of them was in Bergen at 8:30pm, they were going to get a bite to eat and then take a train-bus-train combination back, returning to Oslo at 6:30am.

On the fjord cruise - knocked
out by the carrots

Then there was the Jewish couple from Lexington Massachusetts, daughter studying abroad in Europe, reuniting for this Norwegian trip.

Kindling on the
Gudvagen-Voss bus
It's like character development for a really bad movie. Our paths crossed a bit with a large Thai family, a few French people, some ItalianSpanish students, a family of four from Australia, but for the most part we seemed to be on a trajectory with other Americans.

Hot dogs and french fries on
the Voss-Bergen train

In Bergen, we found Dickens Kontoret (office), a Victorian-style hidden-away room tucked inside a major downtown restaurant. Contents: movers, shakers, wheelers, dealers, one Dave, and one Olga. Dark wood tables, vintage red leather upholstery with French brass tacks. You can almost smell the pipe smoke lingering from centuries prior. Business travelers from branches all over the world, coming for orientation at the head office, tentatively making their attempt at smalltalk, receiving tips on how to compromise, how to say hello in Norwegian, how to drink...

We made it to Bergen!!
Olga ordered the Ægir IPA (from the brewery we visited this afternoon in Flåm) - she says there's an openness to it, what one imagines chamomile pollen would taste like. I had the Nøgne Ø Porter, from Oslo suburb Grimstad, which proudly lists Grimstadvoss (water) as its first ingredient. My impression is of blackberry pie without the blackberries - and an aftertaste of shoepolish. I think that's what every porter strives to be - nice job Nøgne Ø.


The other Olga said...

It really looks like I was reading, eating or napping the whole time. I swear I saw some blue parrots!!

mizzkg said...

It did look like that. Glad to hear you saw things like blue parrots. :)