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One Summer in Europe: Norway


I took a whirlwind tour of the museums in Oslo to get the most out of the pass I bought. I started at the Fram Museum, which housed the first ship to travel across the arctic icepack in the north, and took the first successful expedition to the South Pole. Also inside were stories of arctic exploration both in the north and south, including a detailed account of the race to the South Pole. After years of many explorers trying to reach the southern most point of the planet, Robert Scott won, beating Ernest Shackleton by just a few weeks. Shackleton died on his return voyage. All his struggles were after his incredible rescue from the South Pole years early during his epic voyage on the Endurance.

The Nobel Peace Prize Museum was mostly liberal propaganda about how awesome the EU is because it has not started a world war.

A creepy skier troll outside the Oslo Ski Jump

The Akershus Fortress was a large fort originally built to defend Oslo, and even survived a siege or two. The castle inside had been restored to the time when kings and queens ruled Norway, and I quickly browsed through the royal rooms of the old building. The Norway’s Resistance Museum museum was inside the fortress, and detailed what happened in Norway during WWII, including the swift invasion by the Nazis, their take over of power, the exile of Norway’s king, life under Nazi rule, and acts the underground committed to try and repel the occupiers.

Norway’s Military Museum was nearby, and recounted Norwegian military campaigns from the Vikings all the way to Afghanistan. The English translations were sparse, but the displays were still well done, enjoyable, and informative.

For yet more museums, I was off to Munch Museum, mainly to see the original copy of The Scream. The famous painting basically looked like all the prints and copies made from it. The rest of his works were in a similar style and included lots of weird naked people.

The Oslo Ski Jump was a tall ski jump tower in the hills above Oslo. The tower did not seem quite as big as I expected, although I am sure my opinion would change if I was jumping off it on a pair of skis. The view from the top across the city and hills was impressive though. Inside the base was a museum dedicated to all the different types of skiing and their history.


Bryggen, in Bergen

While hopping back an forth between scenic areas in Norway, I found myself in Bergen. I walked to the top of Fløyen, which provided great aerial views of the city. Back near sea level I wandered about the fresh fish market, which had some delicious smelling sea food for sale, but was a little out of my price range. I wondered how much of it was actually sourced locally, or if it was just brought in and made to look pretty so the cruise ship passengers could be charged double for it. The area of Bryggen, with a bunch of old, colorful building packed close together was also nice.


I rode the Raumabanen train down the valley into Åndalsnes. Although billed as one of Europe’s most scenic railroads, clouds hung over many of the mountains, and I could not much for a lot of the trip. On my way back out at least, the weather was slightly better, and some of the magnificent mountains were partially visible. Despite the lackluster views, I still experienced the unique switchbacks on this rail line. They cut back and forth up and down the mountainsides just like roads. There was even a 180° turn inside a tunnel, where the train came out directly below where it entered, only twenty meters lower.

Looking at Romsdalshorn in the distance from Åndalsnes

I hiked the trail up Romsdalseggen, which crossed a tall ridgeline above town. It was a bit cloudy, but I had already been holed up by weather for a day, and needed to get out to relieve my cabin fever. I took the bus to the trailhead and then climbed up a wet hillside, into the clouds. I did not get many great views, as the weather only occasionally opened up. The trail followed the ridgeline, climbing up and down the undulations, with chain handholds installed in a few areas for assistance. The route was quiet steep in spots, with sheer cliffs on each side. I walked through fog though, and could not truly appreciate the drops, which probably made them easier to deal with.

Further along the ridgeline the trail descended and the clouds opened, providing impressive views of the valley, fjords, and town. There was also a sheer rock wall that dropped straight down to the valley below. After traversing the ridgeline, the trail dropped very steeply as it travel the last couple kilometers into town. Of course by the time I got back the mountaintops had cleared, but there was no way I was climbing back up a couple thousand feet just to take a look. Even though the views were not the best due to the clouds, I was still glad I got out and enjoyed my hike through the mountains.

The long climb up Trollstigen


The tourist bus to Trollstigen was too expensive and touristy, so I instead rented a bike and peddled there. The ride was flat until the base, where the road began abruptly climbing over a mountain pass through a long series of switchbacks. Because of the numerous curves, the grade never seemed overly steep, even though it was advertised at 10%. The road was an impressive engineering feat, carved right into the cliff side along with several bridges. It snaked in front of a large waterfall that crashed down the middle of the cliff. I progressed up the monster steadily, cranking in granny gear the whole way.

After a lot of heavy breathing and pumping I made it up nearly 500m to the top of the pass and was greeted by a large tourist shop. The parking lot was sunny, but unfortunately the lookouts a couple hundred yards away were cloudy. After all that hard work, I could not see anything at the top of Trollstigen. I was not in a hurry though and thankfully the clouds parted after a little wait. The valleys and mountains were nice to see, and the aerial view of the road zigzagging up 500m in just a few kilometers was even more impressive.

The way back down Trollstigen was much easier on the legs, and I just had to be careful not to run into the slower moving cars in front of me. On the way back into town I swung by Trollveggen — the highest sheer rock wall in Europe, but it was of course covered by clouds at the top.


I took the much lauded Flamsbana from Myrdal of Flåm. Unfortunately my experience riding the train overloaded with tourists was not very enjoyable. It was packed with people so I did not have a window seat and could not see much. Also, literally 30% of the route is through tunnels, which do not offer much to see anyway. When there was something to see, clouds often obstructed much of the scenery. That evening I walked back up the valley partway from Flåm and had a better time on foot. I got to take my time and take in the scenery, which included sheer vertical rock walls and several powerful waterfalls.


The next day I rented a bike to explore the entire valley up to Myrdal. I had not ridden a bike in a while, and I soon learned my butt had lost much of its ability to sit on a small seat for long periods of time. My legs actually held up okay, but I could not stay in the saddle for long. I really enjoyed my ride though, even as it misted occasionally. Pushing my heart and lungs hard for the first time in a while also felt great. Seeing the valley on the bike was very nice. I could enjoy it more, stopped when I wanted, and could feel the powerful river nearby. As I climbed the clouds got thicker, but most of the scenery was still visible. I rode the entire length of the valley to Myrdal, until the last series of twenty-one abrupt switchbacks which I walked up.

When I got back to Flåm I was once again crammed onto transport overcrowded with tourists, this time a boat cruise through the fjords from Flåm to Gudvangen. Seeing the fjords from the water was awesome, cruising through narrow passageways with rock walls that grew straight up for thousands of feet.

Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock, with a drop straight down the fjord below

Pulpit Rock

I visited Pulpit Rock, a natural rock platform with perpendicular rock faces crashing down into the fjords below. The climb to it was invigorating and got my heart pumping. After about an hour I reached the sheer rock cliff that jutted from the mountain walls. The sides of the ledge plunged hundreds of meters vertically down. Pulpit Rock was a bit cloudy when I arrived, but since I was not in a hurry I hung around and thankfully the clouds eventually cleared. This gave great views of the fjords, and I was now able to fully appreciate the height of the cliff faces. My vertigo and fear of edges kept me from getting very close to the precipice. I tried to overcome my phobia and force myself nearer the edge, but I did not get very far. I seized up before getting very close. Even seeing others near the cliff dangling their feet over it made my uneasy.

While I was at Pulpit Rock a rescue helicopter landed there and evacuated a couple people. They walked to the helicopter under their own power though, so I was not sure what was wrong.

While hiking out, I was amazed at the vast number of people still heading in. I constantly passed an unending stream of people. Pulpit Rock was all ready busy early when I was there, so I could not image how crowded it would get later in the day.