MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2017

Category: Scandinavia

The Final Leg Of Our Trip – Stockholm

A Week In Stockholm Video – ‘Click Here’

In The Air Again….  A short airline flight from Bergen to Stockholm, jump on the Arlanda Express Train to the city, then a short subway ride to our apartment in Sodermalm. As luck, or good planning, would have it the entrance to our apartment was 5 meters from the subway entrance.  We unpacked and did some exploring of the local area which has everything we need.  Shops, pubs, restaurants and easy public transport.

Our apartment in Stockholm

View from our balcony in Stockholm

Our First Full Day…..  Our first stop was back to Central Station to book rail tickets for two journeys out of Stockholm, one to Gavle and Uppsala, and the other to Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast.  We then caught the Metro and a Tram to the Vasa Museum.  On 10 August 1628 the ship Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage and sank in Stockholm Harbour after sailing 1300 meters.   The wreck was salvaged in 1961 after 333 years under the sea.  The reconstructed vessel is 98% original and is adorned with hundreds of carved sculptures.

The magnificent ship Vasa – Launched 1638

Carvings on the Vasa

Nothing can prepare you for the scale and grandeur of this ship.  This is a wooden ship that weighs 1210 tonnes, is 69 meters long and 53 meters tall and was built between 1626 and 1628. The exhibition is on 7 floors which take you from the bottom of the hull to the top deck.  Above that is still the first section of the mast.  The next two sections of the mast are displayed outside the Museum extending from the roof. We spent a total of 4 hours in the Museum and probably still missed part of the exhibition. This is claimed to be the most visited museum in Europe.

A 1/10 scale model of the Vasa in full sail

On The Ferry….  We then jumped on the ferry across to Gamla Stan.  This is the old town of Stockholm dating back to the 13th century, and consists of medieval alley ways, cobbled streets and archaic architecture.  Gamla Stan has what is claimed to be the narrowest street in Stockholm, Marten Trotzigs Grand which has 36 steps leading down to the narrowest part which is 35 inches wide.

The narrowest street in Stockholm

Stortorget in Gamla Stan – The oldest square in Stockholm

Another Day Making Tracks….  For our second day in Stockholm we again made use of our Eurail pass and went to Gavle and then down to Uppsala.  In Gavle we did the city walk which takes about 1 1/2 hours which took us through the old town, across the rivers Gavlean and Testeboan, through their beautiful parkland and then back into the downtown precinct. 

Old Town in Gavle – A residential area with no gift shops.

Boulognerskogen City Park in Gavle

Back on the train to Uppsala, a university town with a beautiful Cathedral which is grand in scale and dates back to the late 13th century.  It is the tallest church in the Nordic Countries at a height of 119 meters.  Uppsala is a vibrant city with lots of young people and has a very different feel to Gavle.  It has some beautiful old buildings particularly around the university precinct.  

Uppsala Cathedral – A truely magnificent building

Inside the Uppsala Cathedral

A Day On The Ferry…..  On our third day we jumped on a ferry to see some of Stockholm from the water and traveled to Vaxholm known as the gateway to Roslagen because it is a hub for travel to most of the islands in the Swedish Archipelago. We walked the small town, had a nice lunch in a local restaurant and then rather than take the ferry back to Stockholm jumped on a local bus to see some of the countryside.  Bridges connect many of the small islands making this journey possible.

Woxham Hotel in Voxham

Voxham Fortress

And Yet Another Ferry…..  Saturday turned out to be a beautiful Autumn day so another one hour ferry trip to Drottningholm Palace on Lake Malaren where the Swedish Royal Family live. Part of the Palace is open to the public and for a small fee you can have a self guided tour of the main staircase and many of the rooms within the lower two floors of the Palace.  

Drottningholm Palace – Home of the Swedish Royal Family

Drottningholm Palace main staircase – A marble masterpiece

Drottningholm Palace Gardens

Back on the ferry to Stockholm and then immediately on another ferry to Norreport Malarstrand to walk along the foreshore to see the display of boats of the Stockholm Ship Association. Some of these vessels date back to the mid 1800’s with most being built in the 1900’s particularly during WWII.  This is almost an outdoor museum of boats and was an unexpected highlight of our day as we had not set out to find this display but purely tripped over it by accident.

Stockholm Ship Association display of historic vessels – They are home to some people

We then walked back to our bus stop via City Hall to see the many brides and grooms having their photos taken after the ceremonies at City Hall Registry Office.

The magnificent Stockholm City Hall

Weddings at the City Hall Registry Office

A Day Trip To Gothenburg…..  We decided to see more of the Swedish countryside so took a day trip to Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden.   The train journey took 2 1/2 hours in a very comfortable high speed train.  This was one of the longest passenger trains we have ever seen.   16 carriages long and four locomotives to pull the train at 200 kph.   We arrived in Gothenburg, orientated ourselves and walked around the city for a couple of hours before jumping back on the train back to Stockholm. Trains in Europe are a very relaxing way to travel particularly in first class.

Gustav II Adolph – A great military commander

The sailing vessel Viking – Very majestic

Our Final Day…..  For our final full day in Stockholm we decided to visit the Fotografiska Museum (Photographic Museum) which turned out to be really interesting, particularly the works of Anton Corbijn a photographer renowned for taking photos of pop stars.  His black and white photos were outstanding.

Fotografiska Museum – The Rolling Stones photos by Anton Corbijn

After spending 2 hours in the Museum we went to the top floor restaurant for lunch and wow!!!  The views from this restaurant are amazing and on a sunny day made each large window look like a photo.  This is a must if you are visiting Stockholm and it is a sunny day.

View from the Fotografiska Museum restaurant windows

We Say Goodbye…..  From the Museum we walked around to the ferry terminal for a our final goodbye to Stockholm from the water.

Goodbye to Stockholm

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And Now On To Bergen

On The Train Again…..  The train from Oslo to Bergen departed on time but we were informed at the station that we would have to take a bus from Voss to Bergen due to track maintenance. We arrived in Bergen around an hour behind schedule and transferred to our modern apartment on the edge of the downtown area, and walking distance of ferries, fish market and the old town.

View from train on the way to Bergen

View from our apartment in Bergen

To The Top Of The Mountain…..  Our first activity the next day was to jump on a bus to the Ulriken Cable Car.  This cable car takes you up to the top of Mt Ulriken which is 643 meters above sea level.  Whilst it was calm when we left our apartment, the wind at the top of the mountain was quite strong making it an interesting visit.  The weather is very changeable in Bergen and one minute it was sunny and the next minute dark grey skies and heavy rain.  By the time we had a coffee in the restaurant and it was time to head down the mountain, the weather was fine again. The views from the top were spectacular overlooking Bergen below.

Cable Car to Mount Ulriken 643 meters above sea level

Breathtaking view from the top of the Ulriken, 643 meters above sea level

Around The Town…..   For the rest of the day we explored the main downtown area of Bergen.   This is a quaint and beautiful town with nice architecture and a population of around 280,000 people, but it feels much bigger. There were plenty of tourists, some heading out for day trips to the fjords or continuing on their journey to many small towns as it is the gateway to the fjords.

Typical quaint buildings in Bergen downtown area

The small Fish Market in Bergen – Expensive

Up Another Mountain….  On Saturday we took the Floyen Funicular tram car to the top of the mountain overlooking the township of  Bergen. Once again spectacular views and very changeable weather.  Fine when we arrived, within 10 minutes it was raining and 10 minutes later fine again.

Floyen Funicular Railway

View of the Harbour in the centre of Bergen – Fjord Cruises all leave from here

History Revisited…..  We then walked the historic World Heritage listed area of Bryggen.   This is a very interesting historic area of old wooden buildings and cobbled streets which date back to the year 1070.  Many of the building were destroyed by fire in 1702 and were  subsequently rebuilt.  Today the area is a tourist mecca with gift shops, galleries, cafes and pubs.

World Heritage Bryggen area of Bergen

Walking through the Bryggen district

Walking through the Bryggen district

Our Full Day Tour…..  Up early on Sunday morning for our big day.  First on the ferry to travel 5 1/2 hour up to Flåm through the Songnfjord.  This trip is spectacular with the luxury ferry stopping off at a number of small villages along the way to drop off or pick up passengers.  The scenery is amazing with forests,  waterfalls cascading down the sheer rock faces to which small farms  and holiday cottages cling perilously in the middle of nowhere and the tallest mountains have a permanent covering of snow.

Boat Houses at the township of Vik

Main street of the village of Vik

One of the many waterfalls during the Fjord cruise

A hotel at Balestrand, one of the many villages on the Songne Fjord

More Gift Shops…..  We arrived in Flåm on time at 1:30 PM and had an hour to look around Flåm.  As you would expect it is mainly gift shops, cafes and restaurants and accommodation but beautifully presented and oh so clean and tidy. 

Flåm – A Tourist Shop Mecca


Flåm Visitors Centre – A Well Presented Complex With A Massive Gift Shop

On The Rails Again…..  Next it was on the famous Flåm Railway for the 20 km trip up to Myrdal.  This electric train has on of the steepest gradients of any railway using a traction engine with grades up to 1 in 18 which believe me is quite steep. In 20 km the train rises from sea level up to an elevation of 867 meters at Myrdal. At one point it zigzags up the mountain 4 times to gain elevation.  Along the way there are waterfalls, spectacular valleys and snow capped mountains. The journey takes about 1 hour and stops along the way to pick up passengers and to view the Kjosfossen Waterfall with a vertical drop of 305 feet.  We arrived in Myrdal one hour later and immediately jumped on a train back to Bergen.  The end of a very rewarding day.

One of the green valleys seen from the Flåm Railway

Flåm Railway – 20 km long rising 867 meters up to Myrdal.

Kjosfossen Waterfall – 305 ft vertical drop

Kjosfossen Waterfall on the Flåm Railway – 305 feet vertical fall

A Slower Pace On Our Last Day…..  We have set a cracking pace so far on this holiday, so on our last day in Bergen we decided to slow down a bit and get prepared for our week in Stockholm.  What has struck us most about Norway.  Well it is unbelievably expensive. Coffee in a cafe nearly double the price of Australia, a beer in a cafe is around A$14 and a glass of wine A$17. Meals in restaurants can be up to double the price of Australia. Even beer in the supermarket is expensive at nearly double the price of Australia and we have found nowhere in Bergen where we can buy a bottle of wine. Not good.

Bryggen District of Bergen – Dates back to the year 1070 AD

‘Click Here’ if you would like to see a video of our 5 days in Bergen.

‘Click Here’ if you would like to see a video of our Sognefjord & Flåm Railway tour.

And Now To Oslo

We Take An Ocean Cruise….  Whilst we were sad to leave the beautiful city of Copenhagen we were interested to experience the ferry crossing from Copenhagen to Oslo.  The journey takes 17 1/4 hours departing at 4:30 PM and arriving at 9:45 AM the next morning.  We booked a Commodore Deluxe Cabin and it was right at the front of the ship on an upper deck so we had a birds eye view of where we were going. When we awoke the next morning ready to view the fjords it was thick fog and until we entered the very narrow fjords we couldn’t see anything. We arrived in Oslo and had a short wait to get into our apartment which is brand new and overlooks the Opera House and the Harbour. We can even see the ferries coming and going.

The Bridge Made Famous By The TV Series Of The Same Name

On The Bus…..  We had organised a weekly public transport ticket so our first excursion was to jump on the No.30 bus around to the Viking Ship Museum.  To see Viking boats that are over 1000 years old was amazing. These boats after spending a life at sea were used as boat graves for Viking Royals.  

9th Century Viking Ships

A short walk took us to the Norske Folkemuseum which provides you with a cultural history of various regions in Norway. Buildings have been disassembled from all over Norway and reconstructed at the Museum. A highlight was the Gol Stave Church from the year 1200. Just an amazing timber structure.  After a short rest we walked to Gronland, a suburb of Oslo.  Let’s just say this multicultural area of Oslo is interesting.

12th Century Gol Stave Church at Norske Folkemuseum

17th Century Storehouse from Northern Norway

Our Second Day In Oslo…..  We were greeted with a beautiful day with clear blue skies on Saturday and the Oslo Marathon was being contested right in front of our apartment. We had to cheer on the runners and so we spent the day in the city region.  

Oslo Marathon

After a respectable amount of cheering we hopped on the local ferry and did some island hopping around the Oslo Harbour which took an hour. 

Quaint cottages on Bleikoya Island in the Oslo Harbour

Back to the marathon, collected a bag full of free samples and then to the Akershus Fortress.  This medieval castle built around 1300 was remodeled to a renaissance castle in the first half of the 17th century. Today the fortress is open to the public and is still used for important State events. The audio tour of the fortress is very well done and provides a great insight into this beautful building.  It also provides stunning views over the Oslo harbour. 

Akershus Fortress

Next we walked back along the marathon route, did a bit more cheering, and then to the Oslo Opera House.  Rob took the opportunity to walk on the roof of the Opera House.

The Oslo Opera House – The word WAR is not graffiti. It’s an ad for an Opera

Walking on the roof of the Oslo Opera House

Slowing Down The Pace…..  After the excitement and disruption of the marathon a quieter day on Sunday was in order. We hopped on the bus back around to the Bygdoy Peninsula to visit three museums all next to one another.  Our first was the Kon Tiki museum which tells the story of Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian explorer who sailed a balsa raft, Kon Tiki from Peru in South America to Polynesia to show, by using only the materials and technologies available at the time, that it was possible to complete the journey.  

The actual raft, Kon Tiki, used by Thor Heyerdahl to sail to Polynesia from Peru

Thor Heyerdahl along with 5 other crew members took 101 days to complete the 6900km journey across the Pacific Ocean before smashing into a reef on Tuamoto Island. The actual raft is in the Museum and to see this craft left you amazed at the daring and courage of these men to attempt this journey.

Kon Tiki Raft from the bow

On To The Next Museum….. Our next museum was the Fram Museum just next door.  This museum which has been in existence since 1936 tells the stories of Norwegian Polar exploration. The museums main exhibit is the ship ‘Fram’ built in 1891 for the purpose of polar exploration.  You can walk though the entire ship which is in very good condition given it’s age.  

Polar Ship ‘Fram’ at the Fram Museum

Liz at the helm of the Polar Ship ‘Fram’

And Yet Another Museum…..  A 50 meter walk and we were in the Maritime Museum which tells the story of Norwegian boating and shipping through the ages.  The highlight in this museum is the vast array of models of old sailing vessels, cargo carriers, oil rigs and modern passenger vessels.  The detail in these models is amazing.

Small boat display at the Maritime Museum

Model of one of the Norwegian Cruise Ships

On The Train Again…..  As we had a week in Oslo we decided to take a day trip on the train to a small town called Åndalsnes on the west coast of Norway.  This trip is rated one of the most scenic train trips in Europe, particularly the section between Dombas and Åndalsnes.  It was a big day as the trip takes 5 1/2 hours each way but with all the beautiful scenery the time just seemed to fly.   At Dombas you change trains to a smaller train with large bay windows which enables you to take advantage of the spectacular scenery. Well that was the plan, but when we arrived at the Dombas Station we were informed that a goods train had started a fire along side the track and we would have to go by bus to Åndalsnes. 

Lake Mjosa, the largest lake in Norway. And yes, there is not even a ripple on the water.

A Minor Delay….  Well after waiting nearly an hour at Dombas, making a whole lot of new friends and being served coffee and cake by the Station Master we were on a small bus for the trip down to Åndalsnes. We arrived at the Åndalsnes Station about 15 seconds before the train back to Dombas was due to depart, had a laugh with the conductor and we were on our way back to Oslo.

Spectacular waterfalls were a regular occurrence both from the bus and train

On The Rail Again….. The railway line from Ånalsnes to Dombas is 114km long, took 12 years to build and was opened in 1924.  The train follows the Rauma River through the valley with peaks either side up to 1000 meters high.  Some of the waterfalls plunge 380 meters from the edge of the mountain down to the valley floor.  The entire journey from Åndalsnes to Oslo is both dramatic and spectacular and well worth a day out of our schedule.

Mountain peaks up to 1800 meters above sea level with 1000 meter sheer cliff faces

A Change In Scenery…..   From Dombas back to Oslo the scenery changes dramatically to rolling plains, farm land, forests and massive lakes. Along the way there are small villages and the large town of Lillehammer.  Although this was a long day on the train it will certainly remain in our minds as one of the highlights of our visit to Norway.

Quaint little villages beside the train line

Back In Oslo Again…..  We decided to slow down a bit after our big train trip so took a bus to the Royal Palace and spent half an hour walking around the gardens.  We waved to the King but he didn’t wave back which we thought was a bit rude.

Royal Palace in Oslo

From there we jumped on a tram to the Vigeland Sculpture Park.  This park and it’s accompanying museum show the life works of Gustav Vigeland.  It is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist and is truly amazing. It should not be missed if you are visiting Oslo.

Sculpture Park

Vigeland Sculpture Park

We then jumped on another tram back to Aker Brygge which is a combined restaurant,  entertainment and residential precinct built right on the edge of the Oslo Harbour.  We had a late lunch in one of the restaurants then jumped on a ferry for a tour around the Oslo Harbour.  Very relaxing.

Aker Brygge restaurant, entertainment and apartment precinct.

Artwork at the rear of Aker Brygge


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