The Exchange IV. Weird Flex but Norway
After spending the previous day completing a 3000 word essay in a day I yet again found myself on a FlixBus heading south, this time to Arlanda for a flight to Bergen. I was accompanied by Olivia ‘Olive Oil’ Panozzo and Andie ‘Scandi’ James, both Australians, but I didn’t hold that against them. Not yet anyway. The first hiccup was caused by Liv’s attempt to smuggle a jar of peanut butter across international borders. She was so committed to her PB that she actually went back through security to put her backpack in as check-in luggage. Turns out Scandinavians love their coffee so much that you can get your coffee topped up on the flight. They also put their milk in weirdly shaped containers that lend themselves to spilling the contents on your lap. The view out of the plane was basically non-existent, although bright sun shone above the clouds.
It wasn’t exactly clear how we would get from the airport to the city proper. Andie was complaining of a blocked ear, Liv was still chuffed about getting her PB to Norway and I was just happy to be there. We eventually found the light-rail, which took us to the centre of Bergen in about 20 minutes. The weather kept considering raining but held off for the most part whilst we bumbled around trying to find our hostel. This was the cheapest place we could find in town and it had the unique attraction of not having any staff. As soon as we stumbled in the door an interesting character offered us his leftover pot of tomato soup. The girls weren’t too keen but my stomach commanded me to devour the dredges in their entirety.
Eager to make the most of our time in Bergen we trundled off to the waterfront. The place was bustling with all sorts of people, as was the water with all sizes of ships. On one side of the harbour a collection of colourful elderly buildings rest, waiting to be photographed as they had been a million times before. Whilst their charm could not be questioned, their structural integrity was another matter, with the whole row of structures exhibiting a very noticeable lean. We made our way through an archway in one of the buildings, walking down the narrow alley to a backstreet on the otherside.
From there we made our way to the right, before finding ourselves at the foot of a winding path way that led up a hillside. We wound our way upward, taking moments to peek into quaint little streets that punctuate the steep hillside (It’s not quite Baldwin Street but close). From the top of this steep little slope we got a rather nice view of Bergen, reaching out over the harbour with the Cathedral in the distance.
We ventured along the high hillside roads, winding our way along. When we were directly behind the hostel we found a track that cut down back to the city streets. We cautiously descended this muddy slope, finding ourselves at the back of some residential buildings. It was just a quick pop round to the hostel from there. After a quick stop at basecamp the girl’s stomachs were getting the best of them (regretting not eating that tomato soup now eh?) so we made tracks towards the supermarket. There was a lot of faffing at the supermarket, eventually we emerged with plenty of veges, cheese, pesto and bread. In addition, since we were in Norway, Liv and I indulged in some fish in tomato paste. Really quite nice, although Liv was insistant next time we find one with more fish and less tomato. Back at the hostel we put dinner on and the cards came out. Andie had an essay to finish, so I played Liv in Rummi, Didn’t exactly help that we played with different rules. We were stuffed after dinner, so of course we went out in search of chocolate. On the way we checked out the Cathedral. All rather nice. The night concluded with more cards, chocolate and a cuppa.
The next morning we had cheese, bread and pesto for breaskfast, because why not? Our ferry to Stavanger was at midday, so we spent the first few hours of our day walking up the peninsula that separates the two harbours in Bergen. At one point I slipped under a fence to investigate the waters edge. To get there I lowered myself down on a rope, what I discovered was a small swimming area that must be quite popular in summer. Around the coast we came across more swimming related things, like a pool and a jetty. It was a bit cold for us.
On our way back into town we invesitgated a local op-shop. After that we were a bit at odds of what to do, so we made the 15 minute trek over to the ferry terminal which was situated at the far harbour. We stocked up on supplies in a ‘Kiwi’ store before having lunch in the terminal, surrounded by plenty of drunk Norwegians.
We had quite a feast. When the call to board finally came Liv dared me to drink one of the left-over beers sitting on a table across the way. I did so, but in the process knocked another half-filled one over with my bag. Safe to say we promptly moved on to the ship. We found a place to sit on the top deck of the ship, from here we watched the harbour slowly slip away. Periodically we braved the wind outside to get a better view of the Fiords.
After some napping, journal writing and natter the girl’s wanted to move to somewhere with a better view, so we headed down a deck to find a better berth. We ended up sitting on the floor by a window, much to the curiosity of the Norwegian family next to us. We made ourselves at home there until the buffet opened at 5:00pm, making space at some of the tables. I continued my game of Rummi against Liv until it was time to get off, whilst Andie watched, she’s not too keen on cards.
Off the ship we had to walk from the terminal to the main road to catch a public bus into Stavanger. As we approached the road I saw a bus idling there that fitted the description of the one we had to catch into town. I did an awkward walk run to hold the bus, reaching it just in time. The bus driver couldn’t take payment by card so he waved us onboard, telling us to pay online. I don’t think he really cared, because he never followed it up. To our merit, we tried to download the app but it wasn’t working, so we didn’t feel so bad when we got off from our free bus ride.
It was only a short walk to our Air BnB at “Peter’s House”. We had hyped up our expectations, mostly based on the fact that it said he provided breakfast. As we approached the front door we saw a smiling middle aged man through the window. As we knocked he promptly opened the door and welcomed us inside his home. He was enthusiastic, which was a bit contagious considering the grand scale, yet apparent cosyness of the space we had just been ushered into. After checking out our digs for the night we came back downstairs for tea with the man himself, Peter.
We were treated to a wide array of tea and biscuits, followed by fish soup which he conveniently had lying around. This was a welcome break from pesto and cheese. We never made it to the supermarket that night, instead Peter helped us sort out a trip to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), a conversation that somehow evolved into learning his life story. The girls eventually had to tap out to bed before they collapsed with exhaustion at the table. I followed behind, and we settled down to bed around midnight.
The next morning we came downstairs to find the kitchen table laid out with a full spread of breakfast. I had to pick the girl’s jaws up off the ground. The food really was incredible, exceeding even our highest expectation. We could have predicted this breakfast would run over time, between us stuffing our faces and Peter’s yarns. No matter, he even offered to drop us at the ferry terminal. Legend.
The first step of our journey was taking an ordinary car ferry from Stavanger to the village of Tau. This was super easy, you just walk onboard and paid €10 on the ship. At the other side we had prearranged to be picked up by Pelle’s bus service which runs a return service for €20 that links up with the ferry service (https://www.pellesreiser.no/bussturer/preikestolbussen/). And so, on a cloudy but fine Winters day we found ourselves at a lodge, which stood guard over a mirror clear fiord.
It was so beautiful that we messed around here for awhile. Eventually we did build up the motivation to start our hike, and so we started the search for the start of the track. We had to be back for our bus pick-up at 4:30pm, leaving us precious little time to get up there according to the track time. This was no problem, both the girls are troopers, the track was well formed and the skies were clearing. We quickly found ourselves shedding layers, zipping past slower groups on our quest to reach the Pulpit.
Leaving these people in the dust, we were having the time of our lives. I certainly was. The sun had started to shine as we skipped our way up the track. There were some patches of icy snow around, but nothing that changed our route. Closer to our destination the landscape flattened out, with small frozen over tarns adorning the mountain top. As we crossed this a river came into view, cascading down from a lake shielded by trees in the distance. Further on the track cut around the side of an outcrop via wooden bridges with rather substantial drops below!
Around this section we came out onto fields of smooth rock leading to an impossibly narrow ledge that hung over an eye boggling drop down to a fjord below. It was the sort of thing that makes you take a deep breath in, not quite believing what your eyes are seeing. Now I approached this experience with a grain of salt, as I do all touristy things, but it truly did blow me away.
We plonked ourselves down on the ‘Pulpit’ surrounded by small clumps of people, maybe 20 in total. There was even a group BBQ’ing sausages, whilst another had a small dog on a leash. Liv took the chance to crank out her hallowed Swedish PB. Andie produced a flask that Peter had lent us containing hot water for tea, along with a block of chocolate stashed since Bergen. And so we had a rather splendid cuppa in a rather spectacular location.
We enjoyed our tea so much that it began to get rather chilly on top. With much regret we retreated from our perch after a quick photo on the disposable camera. The walk down was predictably faster, but no less beautiful. Golden hour approached as we neared the lodge, coinciding with a parting of the clouds. This only amplified the beauty of the place. It took no longer than 2 hours to get up and down from the lodge all in all. Andie produced the flask again for tea, and I couldn’t resist one more trip down to the water.
This nearly resulted in all of us missing our 4:30pm bus, but I think you’ll agree it was worth it! We followed the same steps that took us to the lodge to get back, and soon we were back at the terminal in Stavanager. Because we had had such a good time with Peter (and we hadn’t had a chance to make the most of his Netflix) we decided to stay there another night. On our way back we stopped off at the supermarket for some supplies, for that night we would cook for Peter.
Back at the Air BnB we got washed up before starting our dinner prep. I had chosen pavlova, if only as a cheeky dig at the girls. To compliment they had decided to make carbonara to use up the egg yolks. I started by hand whisking the whites, but after not even being able to master anything even worthy of being called impotence Peter came to the rescue with an electric beater. By the time the pav was ready for the oven the pasta was just ready for the table. Our efforts did not disappoint, at least I didn’t think so. After an hour of chatting and then pav, we retired to the lounge to watch some Netflix. We had to try really hard not to fall asleep!
We were treated to another huge breakfast the next morning. Our plan for the day was to explore Stavanger before catching a bus at midday back to Bergen. So after way too much food, and a heartful goodbye to Peter our feet hit the road. We wandered down to the port, which is flanked by elderly wooden buildings and was filled with an assortment of different ships.
On the left flank of the harbour was Gamle Stavanger (old Stavanager), an area that was saved from destruction following town planning in the 1950’s and has retained the charm of a Norwegian seaside town. Rows of white wooden buildings rose from the shore, with a network of cobblestone streets running through them.
The area was not large, so it wasn’t long until we had stomped through it all. By the time we got back to the water the sun was shining again, a welcome change to our vitamin D drained bodies. We wandered up for a look at the Watchman’s Tower before finding ourselves in the charming little shopping district. Turning a corner we found ourselves in a fabulously colourful street, with buildings painted in every colour of the rainbow and small flowers adorning the shop fronts.
This street ran back down to the port area and we stopped there in the sun for a well deserved rest. Our sun bathing was cut short when Liv made her need to pee known, and so we leisurely walked up the road in the sun to Starbucks. Just after I had exclaimed that I was still full from breakfast Liv emerged and proposed we ate lunch. Not one to fuss I ate my PB sami in peace. There was a bit of time to kill before the bus, so we stretched out our stroll to the central bus station.
Even the bus journey didn’t disappoint. Given Norway is a country of fjords it makes sense that they love their tunnels and ferries. The ferries were a welcome opportunity to get out and stretch the legs, plus a good chance to get some photos.
The sun was setting as we neared Bergen. The wilderness in the area just outside the city were stunning. It is the most frustrating thing not being able to get out of buses and enjoy beautiful scenes. Lakes lay mirror flat and trees carpeted mountain sides, I think it rather reminded me of home.
In Bergen we made our way yet again to the Bergen Budget Hostel. Our first job was to search for some greens to supplement whatever leftovers we could muster. We manage to snag some rocket next door, so dinner ended up being rocket, pesto, pasta and oil. It went down a treat with three hungry mouths to feed. After this was devoured we went for a walk down to the waterfront. Sick of boots I opted for jandals, which turned out to be a rather chilly (but still wholey sensible in my opinion) option. The waterfront was as beautiful at night as it was during the day.
On our way back we stopped via store to pick up some cookies and chocolate (can you notice a theme?). At 8pm a Norwegian friend I had met in New Zealand dropped into the hostel to say hello. Afterwards Andie, Liv and I sat around drinking tea and eating biscuits, pondering important questions such as “does making tea in a pot make it a teapot? and is that a pun?”. We even got to bed at the reasonable hour of 11pm.
The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed early (for us) as our flight was at 10:40am. We polished off the remainder of the PB before hitting the road around 9am. The light rail to the airport was quick and easy so we got to the airport without a hitch. With Liv’s PB reserve exhausted getting on the plane should have been easy, except she had also decided to bring several families worth of toothpaste. The flight itself was rather sleepy, that being despite having two coffees (got to get your moneys worth). Getting off the flight I realized that I recognized some of the other young people on the plane. We had shared our flight with my student nation (GH)’s ultimate frisbee team. Alice from Lunsentorpet was there as were a few guys I had been running with. Small world. And just like that we were back at Arlanda, just a FlixBus away from Uppsala.
Link to Peter’s Air BnB listing, can’t recommend more: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/28203229?guests=1&adults=1
P.s I was extremely irritated to learn on getting back to Uppsala exhausted that my bike had a flat tire!
Read my next adventure here: https://medium.com/@Triompher/the-exchange-v-but-i-thought-honolulu-was-in-haiwaii-866f436b456