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Trip Report Trip Report Part 2 - CPH, Bergen, Ice Hotel

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I was very surprised how crowded the airport was in Bergen when we arrived. I was expecting a very tiny place. We stopped in the duty free shop thinking it would be nice to bring a couple of bottles of wine to the apartment that we had rented for our 3 nights stay. The shop was packed!! No problems again retrieving our bags. Took a taxi to our apartment which was located up some steep streets behind the Bryggen area. We arrived in late afternoon. Took a quick break and we walked on the other side of the town to attend an Easter mass in English. I was surprised that most of the congregation was Vietnamese! Afterwards, we headed to Easter dinner at the McDonalds. My oldest daughter gave McDonald’s up for Lent and the younger one saw it on the way to church, so the decision was made. Spent $50 for dinner there! We then headed up the Floibanen for a very pretty view over the city. I had originally planned on eating dinner there. I’m glad that I gave in to McDonalds since the café and gift shop were both closed. Headed back to the apartment early since we were heading out the next morning early for the Norway in a Nutshell tour.

The tour itself on Monday worked out fine. The train from Bergen to Voss was crowded with people going skiing for the day. Easter Monday was still a holiday and everything was still closed. There were no people on the streets of Bergen. The scenery along the way was beautiful. My daughters did get a bit tired of traveling to marvel at scenery. My little one literally read a book on the train and the Flam Railway. Both daughters wrote in their travel journals on the ferry. The ferry ride was very nice but it wasn’t worth it for our daughters, even the 20 year old. She’s used to “doing” things so taking a train to a bus to a boat to a train and then another train wasn’t her thing. One of the highlights of the day for my husband and I was the train ride back to Bergen from Myrdal. The train was packed with people returning from their Easter holiday break. There were suitcases and skiis everywhere. The Norwegians were still in their ski clothes. Looked like everyone had just come off the mountain. Entire families were together which was neat to observe. When we got back to Bergen, we couldn’t believe how the city had come alive. People were returning home. We were tired from sitting around all day so decided to hang out in the apartment and my husband picked up some pizza for us. It was nice to stretch out and do some catching up with our older daughter about her semester.

The next day was a very lazy one before our trek to the Ice hotel. We headed out around noon and went to the Hanseatic Museum, shopped and walked along the Bryggen. My oldest daughter wasn’t too enthralled. She had been to larger cities like Berlin, Prague and Budapest with her friends the week before. I was feeling like Bergen was a flop for her. I’m still glad we went there but Stockholm may have been a better choice. I chose Bergen since my daughter was very keen on taking a boat through a fjord. She got easily bored with that. We walked to the other side of town to the aquarium since the other museums were now closed. We had a good time there. The snakes were very intriguing. A couple of very large ones were actually climbing up along the glass like they were trying to get out. We had fun watching them. The marmosets were also hysterical. We then headed to dinner at Pingvinen. I had made a reservation there before leaving the States. We enjoyed our traditional Norwegian dinner there! On the way back to our apartment, we stopped Bryggeloftet and Stuene for dessert.

The highlight of our trip for the girls was the visit to the Ice Hotel and the dog sledding and snowmobiling excursions. We were up very early for our 7am flight from Bergen, to Olso, to Stockholm to Kiruna. Our flights were all frequent fliers so we had too many connections! I’m so glad the volcano waited a week before our trip! We were picked up from the airport in a van by a dog sledding company (Mats Sleddog) to their kennel. Watching the dogs get hooked up to the sleds was fun. My little one was a little scared to help at first because of all the barking. My little one and I rode with a guide and my husband and older daughter shared a sled. Everyone loved this! We stopped in a tee pee along the way for some coffee, hot chocolate and little cakes. Being in the middle of nowhere was really exhilarating! The company took us to the Ice Hotel after our sledding.

The Ice Hotel is beautiful. Seeing pictures of it beforehand didn’t prepare us for seeing it in person. We only had about 10 minutes to explore it before it closed for tours but knew we’d have time the next day. We ate dinner at the restaurant since we really had no other choices. I was very worried about the cost. I refused to spend $400 for dinner. Luckily, there was an a la carte menu. The cheaper Homestead Restaurant was closed for the season. Going very late in the season had its advantages and disadvantages. We were not freezing while dog sledding since it was about 32 degrees F. It was actually warmer outside the ice hotel than it was inside! We wanted to take an excursion the first night but there were none running because they had ended on March 31st. So, after dinner, we walked around and then hung out in the bar lounge. There was hardly anyone there… Our little one was exhausted so rather than wait for the Ice Bar to open for the evening, we headed for bed earlier than we wanted. I was in no rush to lay in the ice room in a sleeping bag. The kids fell asleep very quickly. We had been up since 4:30am. Everyone slept fine but me, but I’m a light sleeper anyway.

The next day, the older daughter took an ice sculpting class. She loved it! The rest of us had fun checking in on her and watching the younger daughter ride on one of the kick sleds down a hill nearby. A bonus of going in April was being able to watch big blocks of ice being cut from the river and stored for next season. That was very interesting! We then walked to the Sami Museum since our little one wanted to see a reindeer. The walk was way too long for her and she lost interest before we even got here. We did see 4 deer but they didn’t have antlers so the older daughter was disappointed. The museum was mildly interesting for the gang so we went through it quickly and headed back to the Ice Hotel to pick up our things and a catch a bus into Kiruna to check into our next hotel.

When we got into Kiruna, I wasn’t sure we were at the bus stop closest to the Scandic since I didn’t see the hotel anywhere. I showed the driver where I wanted to go and he actually took us there. It was uphill so we were very grateful! We again tried the local pizza for an early dinner since we were eating again as part of our night snowmobiling excursion with Kiruna Guidetur. The pizza was an adventure since my husband wanted peppers and onions and found jalapenos on his pizza! The Kiruna Guidetur office is right next to the Scandic hotel. Our snowmobiling excursion was great!! Riding through the the dark wilderness and on a frozen lake was so cool! Our little one rode in a sled that was hitched to the back of the guides snowmobile. My husband and older daughter drove their own. We stopped for dinner in a small hut. We met the other tourists and sat around the fire talking about what we all have been doing and learned more about our guide. It was very cozy! I was again very glad that we did this in April! I never got cold on the ride. We were in the warm suits that they provided but my hands and feet never got cold. We did learn from another family in our hut, that they saw the Northern Lights at the Ice Hotel the night before we got there. UGH!!! They showed us their pictures and we were insanely jealous! The guide pulled over on the road on the way back to our hotel when he thought he saw the remnants of the Northern Lights. We got our hopes up for a few minutes  We learned that this has been a bad year for the Northern Lights and the night that family saw them was the best all season. We also learned that the Northern Lights work in 12 year cycles and that in 5 years they will be at their peak! We’ll have to plan a trip someplace in 5 years!

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