Bergen’s funicular railway

When I saw the queue for the funicular railway in Bergen I nearly walked away in the opposite direction, I’m not the most patient of queuers (is that a word?) but Jack was keen to go on it so we joined at the end. Luckily it moved quickly. I was a wee bit disappointed that it was so packed with people because it meant that we couldn’t really see anything on the way up.

Bergen Funicular Railway

On the other hand that probably made the view more spectacular when we got to the top.

View of Bergen

As you can imagine it was packed with people up there and after having a bit of a walk around admiring the view and taking photos, we had a bit of a sit down to rest because we had decided to walk down the steep path back into the town.

Goats in Bergen

We had to negotiate the goats, thankfully they were friendly, despite the fact that a bevy of nursery age children were paying them some too close attention! I think it was a local nursery afternoon out.

We walked down the path, not realising that there was a much quicker way down – if you took the steps. But I wouldn’t have chosen to go down the steps anyway because whenever I’m up high and there are stairs involved I get a horrible feeling that if I trip up I’ll just about go into orbit!

Our ship the Black Watch is the one most to the right in this photo.

View of ships at Bergen

A week after we got back home from our cruise we were surprised to see that Bergen was the venue for the World Road Cycling Championships, and Bergen was really well show-cased, it was lovely to see it all again, and in some ways to get a better view of some places than we did when we were actually there. They were incredibly lucky with the weather too.

Bergen (Gateway to the fjords) Norway

I had visited Bergen before when I was eleven years old, on an educational school cruise, sailing on the SS Uganda. I had hardly any memories of the actual town, apart from the fish market that was on the quayside way back then. I think it was probably the horror of that that stuck in my mind. The Bergen housewives chose their fish from small sinks full of writhing live fish. I suppose it meant they were super fresh, I’ve never been keen on fish dead or alive, but I was even less keen on seeing them getting the chop, literally. Anyway the fish market has changed quite a bit, I only saw some crustaceans alive in tanks and the plastic awnings weren’t an improvement.

Street View in Bergen

I had no memories of the old wooden buildings in Bergen, probably because we were taken by bus to the composer Edvard Grieg’s home (he was of Scottish descent) and I have a lot of memories of that. Jack didn’t want to visit there though, so we walked around the town, going a bit further than most people probably. Jack is always on the lookout for art deco style buildings to photograph, and he did find a few but I’ll leave those for him to blog about.

Bryggen, Bergen

Bergen is a very old city, it was probably founded around 1070. In the 13th century it was the capital of Norway and eventually became a city of the Hanseatic League which was a sort of medieval European marketing union. This square was bit more modern though.

A Street in Bergen

After doing a wee bit of shopping we took the funicular railway up a very steep hill to get a good view of the city from above, but I’ll leave that post for another time.

You can see more images of Bergen here.

Norwegian houses – Olden

Wherever we travel I’m always keen to see the sorts of houses that the locals live in and I have to say that I love the wooden houses in Norway, I think they’re almost all mainly made from wood. The one in the photo below has a turf roof, if they painted the wood green I think it would be difficult to find amongst those trees.

a Turf House

Until very recently I’ve rather looked down on wooden houses as opposed to those made from stone, probably because of that children’s story The Three Little Pigs – wooden houses never seemed that safe to me for various reasons and not just the possibility of fire. I love the one in the photo below, which I believe (if my memory is behaving itself) is in Olden in Norway, as are the others.

white wooden  house
The same house, different angle, I wouldn’t be at all happy about that big tree being so close to it though. A lot of the houses in Norway have narrow permanent ladders on their roof leading to the chimney. An aid for Santa maybe!
white house
When I thought about it I realised that the wood is a far better insulator than stone is, especially as in Norway they seem to have more than just an outer skin of wood, certainly at least two layers. They’ll actually be far easier to heat than stone or brick houses as when they get the cold air on them they become ice boxes and are impossible to heat up with modern central heating. Coal fires are needed to heat up the walls through the flues, but coal is too expensive and polluting now.

If you look to the right in the photo below you can just make out a flagpole and flag. This is quite rare in Norway, even rarer in Scotland mind you. In Norway they have very strict rules on who and when you can fly the flag. Only high up officials working for the government can fly it, unless it’s their national day and then anyone can fly the flag. I think that’s sensible, there’s something rather unbalanced about enthusiastic flag fliers – and constant national anthems too for that matter.
yellow house

The more modern houses are just as nice I think and this one below has a particularly colourful and well kept garden.
Houses  in Olden

Back to old houses and the smaller buildings seem to have been built on stone pillars, I think they were probably grain stores or barns and that would have been a way of keeping vermin out.

Turf roof Houses

It occurred to me that when the Scandinavians immigrated to the USA as many of them did in the 1800s – they took their way of building homes with them. So what I thought of as being an American house style was really originally Scandinavian it would seem. The yellow wooden house below really stands out but I couldn’t believe how close that massive beech tree is, it must make it very dark inside – upstairs anyway. I’d be terrified of it falling on the house in a high wind, although the captain said that Norway doesn’t get much in the way of high winds, which seems strange to me.

Yellow house
I like all these homes and would be quite happy to move into any of them. Interestingly they only use electricity for heating in Norway. They do have natural gas but they export it all. Although things in Norway are expensive in general necessities such as power and housing costs are reasonable and that’s really the way it should be I think. Of course they have lots of hydro-electric power, they’re way ahead of us with renewables, but in Scotland we’re catching up.

Houses

Norwegian settlements

Joan @Planet Joan mentioned that the photographs of the fjords and mountains in Norway reminded her of the Scandinavian murder series on TV and I can see what she means although when you’re actually there it just looks majestic, despite the greyness.

Houses, Lysefjord, Norway

But it means that the occasional patches of greenery, the rare places where there is enough earth to actually grow some grass long enough to make hay, are a sort of Norwegian equivalent to seeing an oasis in the desert. A real feast for the eyes.

Green Space, Lysefjord, Norway
I’m sure that must be what makes these wee settlements so attractive and comfortable looking, well that and the fact that they look like something that a model train enthusiast would set up to landscape their train tracks.

Some of these houses are only used in the summertime, there’s a danger of avalanches in the winter and even in the summer there’s danger as some of the houses now have huge piles of scree balancing behind them. It looks like if you moved one small piece of stone then the lot would come tumbling down. I saw a few houses that I definitely wouldn’t want to live in for that reason.

Reflections, Norway

Olden, Norway

Olden was the second place we sailed to on our recent trip to Norway. I had never even heard of the place, I felt a bit embarrassed by that but actually visiting Olden cured me of that as it’s really a very small place, but rather lovely.

River
We were keen to get off the Black Watch and into the lovely countryside, we had eschewed (how do you pronounce that word? I opt for shoo rather than chew) the organised trips and took to the road, winding through some house lined streets and going up into the road that leads to the scenic Oldeelva river.

It wasn’t a blue sky day but I’m quite glad of that as the low wispy cloud was so atmospheric.
Oldeelva river ,Olden

Oldeelva river , Olden

In parts the river became a roaring torrent.
Oldeelva river falls , Olden

Walking further on you reach a lake, called Floen. When we got back to the ship later that day we seemed to be regarded as heroes for managing to walk that far, and back again of course. The onlly other people who went there under their own steam had used hired bikes, and we beat them there!

Lake at Olden

I had wanted to go and visit a glacier too, but if we had gone on that arranged trip we wouldn’t have been able to do the walk, a glacier visit will have to wait for now.
Lake  at Olden

The photo below is taken from the bridge over the river at Olden looking up the valley back towards Lake Floen.
looking up valley  at Olden

On the way back to the Black Watch we decided to take the path along the opposite side of the river, but eventually the ground became very boggy so we had to go further up the embankment onto the hillside where it was drier. All in all I think we must have walked about seven miles or so. The photo below of Olden and the Black Watch at anchor was taken when we were really quite tired and longing to reach our temporary home. It was a great afternoon out though!

looking back to Olden

Flam Church, Norway

Church building designs are usually quite distinctive, each country has their own style. I must say I like Norwegian churches or kirks as we say in Scotland. The really old stave churches have incredibly steep roofs that I love, they seem like something out of a fairy tale book and a bit like somewhere a witch might live although I’m sure I’m not meant to think that! This one just has simple pan tiles though.There was some digging going on in the foreground of the photo below, pipes being renewed I think, but it gives you an idea of the surroundings.

Flam church was built in 1667 and the altar piece is dated 1681.

Flam Kirk

Internally it’s quite dark, probably because of the folk art painted decoration, but I really liked it, although as ever I’m not keen on depictions of crucifixion. I think this must have been a Catholic church.
Flam Kirk

Flam Kirk /church

There were trees and animals painted all around the walls, if I had gone to that church I would have spent all my time looking at the decor. It would have cheered up my church going days no end!
Flam Kirk /church in Norway
Although most of the lights were on and the window glass is clear it still seemed dark, compared with outside anyway, but I think that might all add to the cosiness of it on a wintry day.

Flam Kirk /church

It’s all made out of wood but there seems to be more than one layer of cladding on the walls so hopefullly that insulates it a bit.
Flam Kirk /church

Prior to Flam church I had only visited the Fantoft Stave Church in Bergen before and I recall that as being pitch black inside. I see from the link to it that it was burnt down in 1992 and has been rebuilt exactly as it was, it certainly looks as I remember it from way back in 1970. Do you see what I mean about looking witchy?! Mind you in Scotland we used to add fancy pointed clay or metal points to rooftop edges – to stop witches from settling on them – I’m not kidding you.

Fantoft church

Flam, Norway

Our first port of call in Norway was Flam (pronounced flom as in from) , somewhere that I had never even heard of before so I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out it was perfect for us, just some shops selling the inevitable trolls and knitwear as well as T shirts and mugs, the usual tourist stuff.
Flam

We hadn’t booked any of the organised trips, preferring to be independent and strike out on our own, so that is exactly what we did. The weather was fine and we were keen to stretch our legs so we went a walk in search of the source of a large waterfall, sadly we didn’t find it as the route became too muddy after a long yomp uphill and we had to give up, in fact nobody seemed to have managed to get to the waterfall.
River
High above the river there is a small group of buildings as you’ll see if you click the photo below to enlarge it. I suspect that those places are only inhabited in the summer months. Apparently Flam only has 350 inhabitants.

Flam

Turf roofs are fairly common in Norway, in rural areas anyway.

Flam

The river is very fast flowing and noisy and it has a lot of fishing platforms situated above it, you can walk on some of them. Strangely though there are also ‘fishing forbidden’ notices there too. In the background you can see that waterfall we didn’t reach.

fishing platforms

The bird life and planting in this part of Norway seems to be much the same as in the UK, but I’ve never seen a tree like the evergreen one in the photo below before. It was very pretty with ‘fruits’ like teeny trees on it, lemon yellow.
evergreen tree

We passed a church at one point and luckily it was open so we were able to have a peek in it, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Aurlandsfjord, Norway

From Lysefjord we sailed into Aurlandsfjord which turned out to be even more spectacular. It’s a branch of the much larger Sognefjord as in the map below. If you look to the right hand side of the map you will see Aurlandsfjord.

Sogne Fjord map

The photographs don’t look that wonderful, it was a grey day, but I think you can get a flavour of the ethereal atmosphere with the wispy low clouds.

Aurlandsfjord

I think of Norway as being just like Scotland – with knobs on! It always amazes me that trees can thrive in such grim growing conditions, this is a very heavily wooded mountainside and the trees have their roots in the rocks.

Aurlandsfjord mountains

Aurlandsfjord leads to the small town of Flam (pronounced flom as in from) and on the way there there are small communities, wherever there are some small patches of greenery people have settled there. These pieces of fertile land are few and far between, most of Norway is too rocky for growing crops. That was the whole reason that the Vikings had to get on their ships and look for somewhere else to live, the land couldn’t support all of the inhabitants.

Aurlandsfjord houses

Some of these houses are only lived in during the summer, they look idyllic to me but I can imagine that the winters are long and grim.

Aurslandfjord houses

I was quite happy with our grey sky views of the fjord but if you want to see other people’s blue sky photos have a look here.

The next Norway post will be of Flam.

Lysefjord, Norway

For the first couple of days in Norway we sailed through some fjords before actually getting off the Black Watch.

Lysefjord

There are loads of waterfalls tumbling down the sides of the mountains. It’s all quite magical, so atmospheric.

Lysefjord in Norway

Pulpit Rock below is famous, it’s a flat piece of rock about 25 metres square and people go up there to sightsee, I’m not sure I fancy that!

Pulpit Rock

These are just a wee taster of our first fjord on our trip, I have loads more photos. Sadly they don’t capture just how spectacular the area is – but I’m sure you know that feeling when you look back at your own photos, they still bring back the memories though.

Lysefjord