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Breaking out of the Nutshell: Oslo, Bergen, the Sognefjord and Copenhagen

Breaking out of the Nutshell: Oslo, Bergen, the Sognefjord and Copenhagen

Aug 6th, 2010, 09:45 AM
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Dayenu, I never saw that thread, sorry. And, no, I never did get to try aebleskiver. Maybe I'll have to go one of those pans from Williams Sonoma and make it myself, because it sounds wonderful!

I felt more like looking at photos than writing this morning (I have to write a lot for work), so I'm jumping the gun with an initial album from our next day. This involved driving around the Lusterfjord and then taking the Kaupanger-Gudvangen ferry to our next stop: Stalheim. I'll try to post the narrative this evening.

ms_go is online now  
Aug 6th, 2010, 10:32 AM
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MsGo, confess, did you eat that raspberry after taking the photo?

I hope my photos will be half as good!
Dayenu is offline  
Aug 6th, 2010, 10:46 AM
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Terrric !
The shot of the cross is my fav. And, the vista at Stalheim.
bobthenavigator is online now  
Aug 6th, 2010, 11:18 AM
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Thanks, Dayenu and Bob.

No, I did not eat the raspberry. I think it might have been in someone's yard. But, as you'll read whenever I get around to posting, the cafe at the Urnes Stavekirke had raspberry juice that was out of this world! I need to find some of that here.
ms_go is online now  
Aug 6th, 2010, 04:20 PM
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Luster to Stalheim

Fortified by the very nice breakfast spread at Nes Gard, we bid our farewells (we would have liked to have stayed longer) and set out for our next destination. The weather was almost as nice as the day before—maybe a few more clouds here and there.

Our plan for the day was to drive around the Lusterfjord, do a little hiking, visit the Urnes Stavekirke and then drive on to Kaupanger to catch the 4 pm ferry to Gudvangen.

Once you’ve reached the top end of the Lusterfjord, the road changes. Driving down the eastern side requires quick reactions. For the most part, it is just wide enough for one car (there are passing points now and then), and there are a number of blind turns. We only had one near collision. Add into the mix a tractor here and there, and it can be interesting…or a lot of fun, depending on your perspective. One thing’s for sure: The views, for the passengers, are very nice.

We stopped about half way down the eastern side to do some hiking around the Feigefossen (the waterfall we could see from Nes Gard). Turns out some of us weren’t up for a strenuous hike, but we did go about 20 minutes or so up the path, past some small waterfalls and wild raspberry bushes. It is very pretty offers some nice views of the fjord as you climb.

Highlight 4: From there, we moved on to the end of the road—the Urnes Stavekirke, one of the oldest existing stave churches (dating from 1100) and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’d read that the parking lot was along the main road and that you have to hike about a kilometer or so up the road to the church, so that is what we did. When we got to the top, we found there is a parking lot up at the church, itself. Oh well, what’s a little extra exercise?

The Urnes Stavekirke is smaller than the one we saw at Borgund, but it is more elaborate on the inside and is considered the best preserved. We caught the tail end of the English tour and were fortunate to be able to go in. They were locking the door as we left. We also ran into the family from Bristol who had been on our glacier trek the day before and compared notes about plans for the rest of the day and beyond.

DD was hungry, so we made a quick stop in the café at the church, and thank goodness we did. The area around the church is home to apple orchards and raspberry farms. We opted for some apple cake and cold raspberry juice, and the latter was just divine! We went back for seconds, and if I could find it at home, I’d have a refrigerator full of it.

There is a small ferry that runs once an hour between Urnes, on the east side of the Lusterfjord, and Solvorn, on the west side. The ferry holds about eight cars (fewer if there are RVs or tractors involved, as there were that day). Even though we were done at the church about 40 minutes before the next ferry, we decided to go down to the dock to get in line, and that turned out to be a good idea. There were already three cars in line, and anyone who arrived less than 20 minute before was probably waiting an extra hour. For a car and three people, the ferry cost about NOK 170.

Solvorn, at the other side of the ferry, is a cute little town. It looked like it might be a nice place for a rental cottage. By now, it was lunchtime, and we stopped at the first restaurant we could find (maybe the only one there??), the Linahagen Café. This would not be our least expensive lunch, but it was likely the best—particularly the smoked salmon and the shellfish sandwich. DD enjoyed her hamburger with “vitaminbombs,” whatever that means.

From Solvorn, it is about 30 minutes back to Kaupanger, where we were to catch the 4 pm ferry to Gudvangen. We stopped briefly to see the Kaupanger Stavekirke, the longest continually operating among Norway’s stave churches, and then we queued up for the ferry. At the recommendation of one of our hotels, I had made a reservation for the ferry about three weeks ahead. The reservation is essentially a confirmation number; you still pay just before boarding the boat. On this particular day, the reservation was not necessary; there was plenty of room. But, I understand this ferry, which is basically a tourist ferry and only runs three times a day each way during the summer, can and does fill up on occasion. Fee for a car and three persons: NOK 960. Scenery along the way: Priceless.

Information here about the route, with reservation contact:

It is a good sized boat and, thus, felt pretty empty. There was plenty of space to spread out. With the sun to our west (front of the boat), we opted for a couple of deck chairs on the back of the boat for the first half of the two hour journey. It was very relaxing, and the scenery just gets better and better as you go along. Oh, and did I mention the sun was still out, providing us with nice blue skies?

Highlight 5: About an hour in, the boat makes a turn into the Naeroyfjord, which is (along with the Geirangerfjord to the north) a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From this point, the passengers started milling about more—and for good reason. It is just spectacular cruising through this narrow fjord with towering cliffs on either side and remote little villages every once and awhile. There are a couple of villages that have no road access (so said the PA system, which provides commentary at a few points). The clouds were clearly building as we moved up the fjord, but it certainly didn’t detract from the experience. This is exactly what we were expecting from a trip to the Norwegian fjords!

The ride ends at Gudvangen, where we’d had lunch a few days before. Without stopping, we hit the road for the Stalheim Hotel, and this time we didn’t miss the exit.

Stalheim is a historic hotel that sits in a particularly striking spot on the side of the hill, looking down the valley toward Gudvangen and the Naeroyfjord. While the current hotel dates from the 50s or 60s, there has been a hotel on this spot since the mid 1800s—and before that, there was a postal inn.

We picked Stalheim because of its location, about halfway between Nes and the Bergen airport, where we were headed the next morning. More significantly, it was on the south side of the Sognefjord, meaning it was all highway from here to the airport and we wouldn’t have to work around ferry schedules.

Clearly the hotel’s most redeeming quality is its view. It has been featured in Conde Nast’s list of “Rooms with a View.” To this point, we were thinking our room at Nes Gard had perhaps the best view we’d ever had in a hotel—and we’ve had some pretty darn good ones over the years. Our room at Stalheim completely blew that away. We threw open the curtains of the three large windows in our room and just stood there saying, “Wow!”--even though the clouds had now taken over the valley and the rain was soon to begin.

(actually, that photo is from the next morning)

Now, view aside…we reserved a family room, which was quite large and pretty comfortable. With a location at the far end of the hall, it was quiet and it had a better vantage point for admiring the view (IMHO) than rooms in the middle of the hotel. The bathroom was tiny, but it appeared to have been refurbished pretty recently. We had a light dinner in the hotel’s restaurant that evening and thought the food was pretty good. Staff service was friendly and efficient throughout.

But, we do have some mixed feelings. Some parts of the hotel clearly look like they are from the 60s—most notably the hallways. This was the only hotel on our stay with no Internet in the rooms, and the wifi available in the lobby was barely working. For $300+ per night, I’d kind of like some way of getting on line. And, this hotel is pretty much tour group central. Judging from the number of cars in the parking lot, there were relatively few guests who arrived that day by means other than a bus. We noted at least three large groups, whose members pretty much took over the public spaces before and after dinner and pretty much all of the breakfast room (we had to ask to have a table cleared for us).

You clearly feel the history here, and the view really made the stay. But, if we’d had a room on the “other” side of the hall, my assessment would not have been particularly positive.

A little footnote:

The next day we drove back to the Bergen airport to catch a 2 pm flight to Copenhagen. Originally, we’d planned to take a different route from Voss to Bergen—one that is a little longer than the E16 route and runs along the Hardangerfjord (also supposedly very pretty). At the last minute, we decided to go back the way we came, for several reasons. We weren’t sure how long the other route would take. It was cloudy. And by now, we realized that whatever scenery it offered, it wouldn’t compare to what we’d just seen. This also gave us just a bit more time to enjoy the view from Stalheim.

We packed up and waited patiently for a tour bus to get out of the way so we could leave the parking lot. Two and a half hours later, we pulled into the rental car return at the Bergen airport.

We stopped a few kilometers from the airport to fill up our tank. We drove just under 700 kilometers in the four days, not always in the easiest of conditions, and this was the first and only time we had to fill up—at a total of about $80. Not bad at all!
ms_go is online now  
Aug 6th, 2010, 04:58 PM
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RainyDay09 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2010, 05:05 PM
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Would you believe that we were the only guests at the Stalheim when we stayed there one May? They had just reopened for the season. We asked for the best room in the house and got it. The entire hotel was ours.
Marija is online now  
Aug 7th, 2010, 04:06 AM
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Marija, that would have been interesting! Our room was pretty good, although I'm sure it wasn't the "best."

Somehow, we got into a discussion about the "Overlook Hotel" while we were there, so I probably would have found it a little creepy being the only guests

Dayenu, I'm afraid I'm not going to get to the Copenhagen part before you leave. In a nutshell, we really enjoyed it, although it was raining and cool about half the time. We did a lot of walking. The Metro was very convenient for getting to and from the airport, although I guess that depends on where you're staying. Happy to answer any questions if you have some (although we are far from experts on the city). Have a great trip!
ms_go is online now  
Aug 8th, 2010, 05:11 AM
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Copenhagen, Rain or Shine

We spent the last three nights (two full days, plus a late afternoon/evening) in Copenhagen.


After considering various hotels in various locations, we chose the Hotel Kong Arthur, located about 10 minutes from Nørreport station and just off the lake that divides the city center from Nørrebro. We quite liked the hotel and the location. It was convenient for taking the metro to and from the airport, and it was easy walking distance to the city center and many sites, but just far enough away to be a bit quieter and less congested.

Our room was very good sized, comfortable, attractively decorated and nicely appointed (okay, the bathroom was very small and the shower was a bit challenging). I booked a superior double with extra bed, but am not certain that’s what we had; it might have been a junior suite. Our room doesn’t look like any of the rooms on the hotel’s site or other available photos. There is no air conditioning. It wasn’t really necessary while we were there, but we did sleep with the windows open to keep it from getting stuffy. For the most part, it was pretty quiet, but there occasionally was some noise outside when someone rolled a hotel trolley across the cobblestone walkway.

The included breakfast was great—all the usual things, but all of very good quality. There also is a nice bar and sitting area in the lobby (as well as an outdoor courtyard), where we spent too much money! And, the staff were all very friendly and helpful. Overall, just a really nice vibe here.

DKK 1590 per night for a superior double room for three people, with breakfast included


We had mixed weather in Copenhagen—light rain for most of the first 24 hours were there, and then dry with mixed sun and clouds the rest of the time. A couple of times, we planned our stops in order to get out of the rain, but for the most part we just raised the umbrellas and kept walking. Over two-plus days, were able to squeeze in a lot:

Nyhavn. We saved this for the sunniest part of our visit, of course.

• A walk around Christianshavn (although we really didn’t get into Christiania).

• The Rosenborg Slot (Castle), including the crown jewels in the basement, and the Kongens Have (Kings Gardens).

• A walk on and around the walls of the Kastellet, one of the best preserved fortifications in Northern Europe and still a military facility today.

Changing of the guard at the Amalienborg Slot (Palace), at noon…and in the rain.

• The Botanisk Have (botanical gardens), and specifically the floating “bowls” on the lake.

• The Trinitatis Kirke and the Rundetårn (Round Tower), one of the oldest astronomical observatories still in use today (observation platform at the top with nice views).

• The Marmokirken and then a very quick peek into the Alexander Nevsky Kirke (Russian Orthodox church) nearby.

• A walk around the Slotsholmen, an island in the city center where the original castle was located (1100s) and today is the site of the Christiansborg Slot/Danish Parliament, various other historical buildings and several museums.

• A walk into the heart of the more diverse area of Nørrebro, across the lake from our hotel, where we saw a few Friday night gatherings still going on well into Saturday morning.

Of course, given where we stayed, we were in the Latin Quarter quite a bit and up and down the Strøget (world’s longest pedestrian street) and the other pedestrian side streets around it—a few times. DD particularly enjoyed window shopping in Copenhagen (and a little real shopping). One unusual thing we happened upon was an outdoor performance of La Bohème at Nytorv, part of the Copenhagen Opera Festival. It was raining, however, and the crowd stretched pretty far back into the square and all of the adjacent cafes were full—so we had to move on after a bit.

And then there’s Tivoli Gardens. We spent a lovely Friday evening (only a brief rain shower) at Tivoli, where we rode many of the adult or marginally adult rides—best, The Demon; weirdest, The Mine—saw a small bit of a free concert, and had dinner. Although the park was pretty crowded, and became more so later into the evening, the lines for rides were not that bad for the most part. The longest wait was about 20 minutes, and ironically they closed the ride (The Star Flyer) due to winds just as we reached it. Admission, DKK 95; multi-ride tickets, DKK 205.

We did not take any boat/canal rides or go to any museums other than the one at the Rosenborg Slot.


I’m afraid we don’t have much to offer to those looking for Copenhagen’s best dining experiences. We were looking for low key and moderate (for us; say around $100 total) options.

The included breakfasts at the Kong Arthur are very substantial, and since we tended to eat later in the morning (well, later than we usually eat breakfast—say 9-10 am), they pretty much held us through to dinner with just a small snack somewhere. We had to leave too early for breakfast on our last morning and settled, instead, for breakfast at the SAS Lounge at CPH.

Dinners included:

Thai at Eastern Corner, near the university and the Botanical Garden. This was a recommendation from someone at the hotel (to our request for Asian or Middle Eastern, but casual and not too far away). It was pretty good and a nice space, although quite a bit more expensive than we pay for Thai at home. Two appetizers, three entrees, and a few drinks: $128.

Færgekroen Bryghus in Tivoli Gardens, one of the park’s oldest restaurants. It was atmospheric, but a little average on the food. The veal was okay, but DD didn’t much care for her chicken. Three entrees and drinks: $122.

Kaffesalonnen, a bar/restaurant across the lake from our hotel with tables on a floating platform. The burgers and sandwiches were fine for this sort of thing. We really just wanted something outdoors, low key and away from the crowds, and this served the purpose. No English menu, but the staff will help translate. $80 with drinks.

(BTW, I’ve downloaded the credit card statement now, so I’m able to quote prices a little better)


We used the Metro to get from the airport to our hotel and then back at the end of the trip. At first, we had a bit of trouble with the ticket machine at CPH, even with the help of an attendant. It would not take our US credit cards, and otherwise required coins (which we didn’t have yet). We went back into the terminal to the ticket office and were able to purchase round-trip tickets (two “clips”) to cover both directions. The Metro runs every 10 minutes and it took just 15 minutes to reach our stop—a very easy and efficient way to get to the airport if your hotel is reasonably close to a station. Ours was about a seven-minute walk from Nørreport Station. Of note, the Nørreport station (and probably others) has an elevator if you’re traveling with bags.

We took one other one-zone, one-way ride on the Metro, from Nørreport to Christianshavn—this time, we came prepared with coins for the ticket machine.


We really enjoyed our short time in Copenhagen, although we just scratched the surface. While it doesn’t have that one “big” attraction, there is something pretty interesting around just about every corner. We love just getting out and walking in the cities we visit, and this is a great city for that sort of thing. I wish the weather had been a bit sunnier, but better that we run into rain here than in the Norwegian fjords. It really didn’t detract from our experience here at all.

I'll try to post our last set of photos today or tomorrow. Then, we'll be back later in the week with some final thoughts and information--after I get some work done and mr_go recovers from Lollapalooza.
ms_go is online now  
Aug 8th, 2010, 06:49 AM
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A few notes on air travel while I think of it.

We had six flights in ten days—two on United, one on Lufthansa, and three on SAS—and every single one of them departed and arrived on time. And our luggage arrived with us every time, as well. That’s more than we can say for our last trip, when two of our bags took an extended vacation in Istanbul and arrived home 24 days after we did.

Our tickets from the US were open-jaw Chicago-Frankfurt-Oslo on United and Lufthansa, and Copenhagen-Frankfurt-Chicago on SAS and United. Frankfurt is generally an easy airport in which to make connections, but there’s ongoing construction, and it seems like the route through it changes every time I’m there. The only surprise this time: no security check (in FRA) at all on our return—not that I missed it. My last trip through Frankfurt in April included probably the most “intrusive” security pat-down I’ve ever received, anywhere.

We purchased two sets of one-way tickets on SAS: Oslo-Bergen (about $100 each) and Bergen-Copenhagen (about $80 each). SAS charges for everything on the plane, but these (and our CPH-FRA) flights were short, so we really didn’t need beverages, etc. Service at all points—airports and onboard—was pleasant and efficient. Minimal mileage earned on heavily discounted fares, but that made virtually no difference in these cases.
ms_go is online now  
Aug 8th, 2010, 04:41 PM
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I still have another camera to go through, but in case I don't get to it for a few days...here is the start of an album from Copenhagen.

ms_go is online now  
Aug 8th, 2010, 06:22 PM
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How was your Lufthansa flight? We will be going Chicago-Frankfurt-Copenhagen. Have only flown Lufthansa on short flights in Europe.

Just knew you would love Norway. We have been there 2 times and will be returning in Sept. Our relatives live there and we have been on our "family" farms. Norway is beautiful!

Thanks for the trip report - always like to read about Norway and look at the photos.
bratsandbeer is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 03:26 AM
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Thanks, bratsandbeer. It is beautiful. How nice that you have family there to visit! Enjoy your trip.

Our Lufthansa flight was Frankfurt-Oslo, so just a short one. Were were on United for the transatlantic flights, as we were using United upgrade certificates. It was about the same as all the other intra-European flights I've taken. I have flown Lufthansa across the Atlantic, but it's been a few years.
ms_go is online now  
Aug 10th, 2010, 06:30 AM
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Wonderful report ms_go!! We love, love Norway and promised ourselves to return again someday and explore more areas, particularly the north.

As a side note, we too stayed at Stalheim Hotel {with the to-die for views!!!}. Although we are not really hikers, we discovered a pathway right at the side of the hotel towards the Old-Farm Museum, pass those log houses, that is geared for hiking. We did about a 4-hr hike in the area and it was incredible....hidden waterfalls, fast-moving mountain streams flowing through beds of rocks and snow-capped, 360 degree mountain views as far as your eyes can see. Unbelievable!! One of our most unforgettable trips for sure.
JoyC is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 07:10 AM
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Thanks, JoyC! Yes, the scenery is just amazing, and I'd definitely like to see more sometime. I knew there was some good hiking in the area of Stalheim. Unfortunately, by the time we were done taking in that view, the rain started to move in, and then we left fairly early the next day.

I meant to mention this above...if anyone who reads this wonders why we didn't mention seeing The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, she's in Shanghai at the moment.
ms_go is online now  
Oct 18th, 2010, 07:25 AM
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FYI... we just posted the trip report to our web site, in case you're interested in following along day-by-day with some nice photos thrown in for easy visualization.


(I say "we," but of course ms_go did all the hard parts!)
mr_go is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 11:33 AM
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crusty is offline  
Mar 27th, 2011, 05:37 PM
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I can't thank you enough for this great report & pix. The loop from Bergen to the fjords and the glacier is exactly what I hope to do in August -- but it seemed completely overwhelming, and I was thinking I'd have to do some kind of organized tour.

FYI, on a previous trip I did “Norway in a Nutshell” from Oslo to Bergen. I overnighted in Stalheim with those breathtaking views. I loved it, but it poured during my time on the boat in the fjord—and I would have liked to have time to explore the areas and do some long—but not overly strenuous—walks.

You've given me hope ;-)

Question: is there anything you'd suggest I do differently? Places to include--or avoid? I'll be leaving Oslo (to fly to Bergen) Monday morning, August 22 -- and have to be back in Bergen by late afternoon Friday. I don't need to include any time for Bergen itself because I've been there before--and will have some time off while I work in Bergen.

Thanks so much for your report--and any advice.
Songdoc is offline  
Mar 27th, 2011, 05:42 PM
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I'll second the thanks for this great trip report.

We are heading there in a few weeks and I'm soon to hit the panic of 'omg, what will the weather be like? Will it work? Will the kids kill me if we spend too much time in the car ? Where should we stay overnight ? Should I take my GPS with pre-loaded maps or rent one with the car ?'

: )
surfmom is online now  
Mar 27th, 2011, 06:13 PM
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Surfmom, I assure you, the country is gorgeous in any weather.
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