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Trip Report Trip report: Bergen, Norway in a Nutshell

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Recently, hubby and I were in Europe for a month (mid-April thru mid-May '08) visiting family in the Netherlands. We managed to take some side trips to Spain, Norway, and Belgium. This trip report will cover our trip to Bergen and the fjords. I'll post the other trip reports in their respective country boards.

First of all, I know it's been said so many times how expensive Scandinavia is, but I have to say it again: Norway was so expensive! We've been to Switzerland in the past and thought it was expensive there, but Norway seemed even more expensive. A 500 mL bottle of water that costs $1.25 at home was the equivalent of $5 in Norway.

We were lucky with the weather. It was relatively warm (low to mid-60s) and sunny. No rain in sight and the Norwegians were all out sunbathing in the parks.

Flight: We flew SAS. The airline was fine, no complaints but nothing extraordinary to write about either.
We took the Flybussen (http://www.flybussen.no/bergen/?article=37) from the airport to our hotel. Bergen airport is so small, you just walk right out of the terminal and the bus is out at the curb. Buses leave every 15 minutes.

Hotel: Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret - the airport bus made a few stops along the route into town, but ours was the last stop which was right in front of the hotel. The Clarion is directly across from the Radisson SAS Royal, so if you see info on the Flybussen about stopping at the Radisson, it's perfect to take the bus if you stay at the Clarion, too.
We were very happy with the Clarion and recommend it. The service/staff and location were great. We needed extra towels for the bathroom, which were brought up to our room immediately when we called the front desk. The bathroom, by the way, had heated floors, which I can imagine is wonderful during those cold winter months. We were entitled to free breakfast, afternoon waffles, and a light dinner with the price of the room. The food wasn't that great, but it's something to take advantage of so you don't have to pay for an outrageously-priced outside meal.

Sights: Norway in a Nutshell (http://www.norwaynutshell.com) - we bought our tickets at the tourist office (http://www.visitbergen.com/info) the day before we went on the tour. The next morning we walked to the train station to catch the train to Voss. There are dozens of tunnels along the way, but this first leg of the tour was still nice. The sun was shining down on the water and it was like a mirror the way it reflected the green mountains and little towns hugging the shoreline. The second leg of the tour was a bus ride to Gudvangen, passing through the Stalheimskleiva. It was amazing how the bus can maneuver those hairpin turns! After that we boarded the boat for the fjord cruise which was the highlight of the tour. It was a 2-hour cruise and the first hour was great as you sail across the calm fjord waters and enjoy the dramatic cliffsides. By the last half of the cruise, though, it seemed like practically everyone on board stopped taking pictures and was anxious to get to Flam. We overheard someone making a remark about 'if you see one fjord, you've seen them all.' Once we reached Flam, we had a long 3-hour wait until we boarded the Flam railway. Just like with the first train to Voss, there were plenty of tunnels along the Flam railway, but each time you came out of a tunnel, it was exciting to see what the landscape would look like. The train kept climbing in elevation, so the green landscape turned into snow-capped mountains. The last leg of the tour was by train again, from Myrdal all the way back to Bergen via Voss. At that point, we were so tired from such a long day, and by then you're backtracking between Voss and Bergen, so the scenery didn't matter anymore and we just wanted to get back to the hotel for dinner.
We did the Nutshell tour in the clockwise direction. Some people say it doesn't matter which direction you travel, but looking back, we thought it was nice clockwise because you go downhill on the Stalheimskleiva.
As far as sights in Bergen, we mainly just walked around the Bryggen. We had some tiny open-faced sandwiches from one of the vendors in the fish market which were excellent (fresh fish and shrimp) but expensive.

Food: Holbergstuen (http://www.holbergstuen.no/english) - we ate fish and homemade meatballs. This place is supposed to serve typical local dishes. The food wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. Same with the service.
Mezzo (http://finnegaarden.no/Mezzo_Site_New/Mezzo_Website_EN.html) - The food here was a little better than at Holbergstuen, but then again, Mezzo wasn't serving Norwegian dishes.

Overall, we were happy to be able to visit Norway, but I doubt we'd visit again. We liked it, but we didn't love it. It's extremely expensive and although the fjords were gorgeous, we've seen similar scenery in Austria and Switzerland (i.e. green mountains set against beautiful lakes). Plus, for us (who are in our 30s and 40s), we prefer to go someplace with a little bit more to do/see (i.e. better restaurants/food, shopping).

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