Heading to Scandinavia we really didn't know what to expect as not being a popular destination for Aussies we didn't know anyone who has ever been here before. Along the way we had heard that Norway was the most expensive country in Europe and after paying $14 for 2 cokes when we arrived in Oslo we quickly realised that it would not be a cheap stop, but one we're definately glad we made.
Arriving in Copenhagen we soon found out that we needed to buy some warmer clothes as the Scandi summer is the equivalent of our winter, around 15 degrees and wet. So we hit the shopping strip (Stroget) and bought some hoodies which are all the rave over here. The hoods come in very handy to keep the rain off your head (it rains about 270 days a year). We took a stroll though the city and checked out the Royal Palace and Elise got really excited when she saw Queen Magarethe being chauffered out of the palace. After coming all this way we were kind of hoping to chew the fat with Princess Mary about life in Denmark but she gave us the royal brush. Oh well her loss!!!
I managed to score a free city bike and rode around the city while Elise checked out a Danish war museum. My ride came to an abrupt halt when the chain snapped. I had to walk the bike back to the stand, luckily I hadn't gone too far. I knew there was a catch! Nothing is cheap, let alone free in Scandinavia.
Next stop was Norway where we had read about the scenic railway from Oslo to Bergen so we hopped on the train from the airport for the 7 hour journey. What a spectacular journey it was as we were both glued to the windows for the entire trip. Magical mountains, glaciers, snow and greenery cutting through lots of water...like nothing we'd ever seen before. Seven hours has never seemed to go so quickly. A bonus for Elise was she she did not have to sit next to a wet smelly dog this trip.
Arriving late into Bergen we prebooked our accomodation, a youth hostel run by a church charity. It was my first taste of dormontory sleeping since school camp days down in Bowral and after spending 102 nights in private rooms I thought it was time to mix it up a bit. Little did I know that this hostel had one large dorm with 20 triple decker beds (yes...that's 60 people!) and not lots of smaller dorms as is usually the norm. Our timing was perfect as Thursday nights were waffle night and we got there just in time and scored the last batch of waffles... yum just what the doctor ordered after the long train ride.
We soon got chatting to some other travellers at the hostel and before we knew it the time was 2am and time to head for bed. The challenge then was to try and make our beds. One problem - a pitch black dorm full of people trying to sleep! Thankfully I eventually dug out a torch Mum insisted I buy (good tip Mum..thanks!). It came in very handy and we managed to make our beds and get to sleep although a few snorners initially stood in my way.
Next day we headed to the tourist office to try and figure out the best way to plan our trip around Norway. Lady luck was definately on our side. After talking to one of the ladies at the office she invited us on a road trip with her and a friend which she was leaving for in a few hours. She was taking us to the Hardanger fjord region... and then we could continue our trip around Norway from there after some good tips on where to go. We stayed in a hut on a campsite in Sundal at the base of a massive glacier mountain....beautiful spot.
Hiking is really big here, given the amazing mountainous setting we were not surprised. From Sundal we hiked up to the lake at the base of the glacier which was an awesome experience. The air is so fresh here and the scenery so breathtaking you kind of forget about the physical challenge involved with the climb. Unfortunately we didn't have the right gear and not enough time (we had to get back down to get a connecting bus) so we could not reach the top...but I hope one day we might be able to come back and do it..would be a great experience.
We kept on loosing track of the time as it did not get dark until midnight. It was great to go for late night walks around the mountains. One night we were admiring the views when all of a sudden Elise screamed at the top of her voice. She had been zapped by an electric fence.... ouch!! A couple of meters down the road we spotted the smallest sign warning about the fence. We wondered what the fence was protecting, it didn't seem to fit with the beautiful natural setting. Then we saw a lonesome bull about 50 meters away. Cattle are prized possesions over here, unlike bears, deers, whales and anything else that moves which are all fair game in Norways national passion for hunting.
Norway definately has been a surprise packet for us. It is postcard views everywhere (though you do have to pay for the privelage). We've met some very friedly locals (thanks Yolande and Jurenn!!) They went out of their way to show us their fantastic country. We loved it so much we extended our stay here for an extra couple of days so we have to squeeze Sweden in maybe at the end as we need to get to St Petersburg ina couple of days.