30th August 2019, Friday
Day 11 of the Norway in a Nutshell Cruise
From Cruise to Lofoten Islands
Before we arrived at the Lofoten Islands, we were already out in the deck. The sun was back again, and the sea glittered in the rays of the sun. It was warm, but the cool winds balanced the heat. The Lofoten Islands appeared in the distance. It was great weather, and being on the cruise ship for the whole day, I was looking forward to visiting the islands.
The Hurtigruten docked at almost 7 pm. But because it was still late summer, the skies were still bright. The Italian guide remarked that we were the second last island tour for the season - as summer has ended and there would be no further tours. We quickly boarded the coach that would bring us through the various connected islands of Lofoten all the way from Nusfjord to Svolvaer.
Chasing Daylight at the Lofoten Islands, Norway
Perhaps we were trying to chase daylight, and the sun was gradually setting, the landscape changed as the hues of pink covered the skies. Lofoten's landscape was a mixture of rolling hills with occasional peaks, and surrounded by water, of course.
Personally I expected a little bit more from Lofoten, and maybe because it was already getting dark, the overall experience was not as fantastic, as compared to the Trollstigen tour. Eventually, I was happy to get on board the ship at about 11 pm, after a quick dinner at Svolvaer.
Arriving into Trondheim
It was a rainy day today. I supposed the rains have finally caught up with us as we arrived in Trondheim. The cruise ship would be stopping by at this City for 3 hours, and we would be skipping the organised tours to walk around the city on our own.
Walking from the Hurtigruten to the Wharf Area
Trondheim is the third largest municipality in Norway. The key highlights, if you have got a few hours to spare, would be the colourful houses along the wharf area and also the Gothic Cathedral. Fortunately, everything was within walking distance and the cathedral was only 1.7km away from the Hurtigruten terminal, which was about 20 minutes of leisurely walking.
We joined the group of visitors who disembarked and quickly outpaced them, since their median age was probably about 60. We soon arrived at the canal area. What was nice about Trondheim was that it wasn't swarmed with tourists. We managed to find a floating platform where we can take nice photographs without having to jostle for space with other similar enthusiasts.
There was an old bridge called Gamle Bybro that connected both banks, and if one went to the middle one could possibly take wide angle shots of the entire area. The river was flowing rapidly but without turbulence. This helped reflect the colorful houses, making the scene even prettier.
Nidarosdomen Gothic Cathedral
From the bridge, it was just a short stroll over to the cathedral, Nidarosdomen. This Gothic-style cathedral was the most impressive cathedral that I've seen from the trip. It's towering high, and had the usual gargoyles and buttress supports. Due to the lack of time we decided to look okay the exterior and not pay the extreme fee. The Archbishop's Palace was just beside the cathedral so we took a quick look too.
Then we walked down Munkegata towards Stiftsgarden, the small Royal palace of Trondheim. As the weather was turning bad we decided to return back to the ship.... Just in time before it started to rain. The rest of the day was spent on the cruise where I did some work.
Waking up to a sunny morning in the Hurtigruten
The morning started in the cruise ship. I was naturally roused from my slumber by the alarm clock at 7am. Somehow I recalled the ship being rather turbulent early in the morning, and I actually wanted to rest a little bit more. But I decided to get up anyway, and then after washing up we went for breakfast. M wasn't feeling too good because he had a bad headache. It was so bad that he didn't eat much for his breakfast, which was unusual. Fortunately he wasn't in a bad mood.
Strategising while Travelling
Weather-wise, it was another sunny day. I'm certainly not complaining, knowing that the good sunny days would not last long. Make hay while the sun shines. Post-brekkie, I found a cosy corner at the deck to do some work, while M nursed his headache in the room. I've been rather busy planning the strategies for the following two months, and while I am overseas there was still much to do. It's always more difficult when there's a need to strategize, and in formulating new strategies, there are no yardsticks and benchmarks. It's like swimming in the open waters. The wind, the current, predatory sea creatures.... They all could disrupt the best possible plan. Hence there's a need to think through the strategy, and then go over it yet again. The dynamic nature of market forces are such that if one is unable to catch the wind and ride the wave, one sinks.
From Geiranger to Trollstigen to Molde
Soon we got ready for our 7 hour long day trip. The ship arrived near the bay of Geiranger, and we went up the zig zaggy road to stop by at a vantage point. The bus took us across valleys carved away by ancient glaciers. We reached a small canyon area and then entered a nice fjord valley flanked by sheer slopes with thick vegetation on both sides. It was worth the trip. We then crossed a channel via a ferry and then reached the main highlight. This was the Trollstigen, which was a high point overlooking several hairpin turns. There was also a glacier-fed waterfall that contributed to the magnificent scenery. As usual, photographs do not do this justice.
I covered more details about this scenic route at the travel section of my blog. Click on the Read More button to get to that page directly.
27 Aug 2019
Getting ready to board the Hurtigruten - Richard With
With most of Bergen sightseeing cleared, we got ready to check out of Bergen Bors. It was another sunny day at Bergen, and despite lugging along all our baggage with us, we stopped for a while at the foot of St Mary's Cathedral for M to head up to take a few shots. As usual, the cathedral was not open so there was no entry into the building. Fortunately, the cruise terminal was not too far away. Bergen is generally a compact city (at least where the important landmarks are).
We arrived at the terminal with a couple of hours to spare and decided to hang out at the cafeteria. Bought a ham and cheese sandwich and ate it with the leftover pate and potato salad. The apple juice was too sweet so we threw the carton away (wasted!) I then took the time to do some October planning while waiting for 4pm to board the cruise ship
Soon it was time to board the ship.
The Hurtigruten ship Richard With was a fine modern ship, having undergone a retrofitting just a year ago, in 2018. It wouldn't be fair to compare it to Genting Dream (which was way bigger) but maybe compare it to St Peter Line Anastasia, which was part of the Baltic Cruise that I took in 2014. Richard With was spacious and had lots of seating areas with sockets to charge one's devices -- something definitely relevant in this modern day.
I did some Wella work while waiting for dinner time. While we had an allocated table, the first evening's dinner was a buffet. And oh my they did have a good spread.... I guess I wouldn't need to use the instant noodles which we brought with us for this segment of the trip.
Sunny weather in Bergen, Norway
Today is quite a chillax day as we have seemingly covered most of Bergen already. The weather was fantastically sunny - it was the hottest day of our visit, such that I decided to get out with just a pair of berms and a tee.
Today was supposed to be museum day, so we went to the lake with the fountain, and then bought passes for Kode. Kode art museums collection is one of the largest museums for art, craft, design and music. It is divided into Kode 1, 2, 3 and 4. Kode 1, 2, 3 and 4 offers temporary exhibitions of art and design as well as extensive presentation of works by Edvard Munch, JC Dahl, Nikolai Astrup and many others.
Forces - Drydal Kvaso Tingleff at KODE, Bergen
The current featured exhibition is themed: Forces - Drydal Kvaso Tingleff. One of the artists is a sculptor that does clay pipes, which looked really distinct, and nicer when painted a bright colour (otherwise it would be dull and dreary). We visited Kode 1 and 2, and since we were not feeling really hungry, I bought a pack of tacos and a bottle of salsa sauce (note: Medium spicy) as well as a can of watermelon cider and we sat at the bench overlooking the fountain and we had our lunch break there.
Kode 3 and 4 were only hosting a small area for the exhibitions, and soon the museum tour ended. We went back to the hotel, and I continued with my writings.
There's actually a lot of do and write about; a lot of things to plan. There's always so much to do if we know what we want to do. And there's usually not enough time for all these. Having some time on the cruise boat meant that I could allocate (and dedicate) some time to what I enjoy and used to do, write and journal.
Bergen Food and Cultural Tour
Booked the Bergen Food and Cultural Tour as part of the Norway In a Nutshell add-on package. Looking forward to it to see what exciting things I'm going to put in my mouth haha!!
Turned out that the Bergen Food and Drink Cultural Tour was a fun three-hour experience. We registered punctually at 1230pm at the Bergen Base Camp, located near the Bryggen Wharfs. Turned out that we were the only guests who booked this experience for the day. Our guide was this 22 year old Bergen lady named Victoria. She started by explaining about how the Norwegiens dried their fish. We were able to sample some, and interestingly it tasted familiar, somewhat like the dried fish strips that we can get from our local grocery stores as a snack of sort. Apparently the locals in Norway pack this for their hiking trips, as they are high in protein and is easy to carry as energy snacks. We also tried the apple must, a cold-press apple drink from the apples from the eastern part of Norway.
Friendly Victoria gave a great commentary for the tour
We then went though the famous wharf. Victoria gave us a brief on the history of the wharf, and showed us some of the more interesting areas, such as the "elevator" which the locals used in the past. We crossed a street to see the former hospital grounds, and the Mariakirken.
I learned a new word from Victoria, "hanseatic". Apparently, the Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds a market towns in Northwestern an Central Europe. Growing from a few German towns in the late 1100s, the laegue came to dominate Baltic maritime trade for three centuries along the coasts of Northern Europe. Bergen was not a Hanseatic down as such, but actually one of the four Hanseatic quarters, which includes Brugge, London and Novogorod. Notwithstanding, listening to Victoria, I realised that the local residents of Bergen did not like the Hanseatic as they took away buildings and possessions from the locals.
We then went up a flight of steps to this octoganol pub and eatery that was definitely off the beaten track, as we only saw locals here for their sunday coffee and beer. Called Dr. Wiesener, we had some local soup with diced vegetables and lamp, and tried the local beer. It was a really sunny day and we decided to sit outdoors. Victoria shared a bit about her family and her Portuguese Waterdog. The pub apparently used to be a bathhouse, designed by Dr. Wiesener to promote local hygiene amongst the locals in the earlier days.
Street art in Bergen, and Banksy too!
From the pub, we walked through the neighbourhood and Victoria pointed out all the interesting street art to us. We came across one by the famous Banksy. There was another interesting backstory to Banksy in Bergen.
In 2000, Marcus Smith Hvidsten invited the anonymous contemporary artist Banksy to Bergen where he created 8 pieces for Marcus' new nightclub. Banksy, in his stay in Bergen also left behind some traces of his work. Unfortunately the Bergen municipality whitewashed away most of the signed works. This has not stopped Bergen from starting to get a new reputation for its street art.
There is another famous artist called Dolk. Dolk claims he was inspired by the British street artist Banksy to start with stencil art. Dolk started with stencil art in Bergen in 2003, where several of his works still are visible on walls in the city. He soon started travelling the world, and in London people have mistaken Dolk's works for being art by Banksy.
Into the local scene in Bergen. Bar and Barista
We then popped by at this bohemian place called Bar and Barista for the local waffles. The place had all kinds of toys and paraphenalia hanging from the ceiling, making it quite a feast for the eyes. There was also a DJ stand, and the overall vibe was relaxed and casual.
After Bar and Brista, we crossed the famous fish market to the indoor section (Fish Me) when we got the chance to taste some local fish cakes, which were made from potato flour and cod fish. The final stop was at this pub called Dyvekes. Victoria brought us down the basement cellar for a drink of their unique beer, and she gave a long history session about the place. The lower part of the bar dates back to 1305 and the special beer was once the sole nourishment of King Christian II after his jaw was dislocated in a revolt. It was a superb way to conclude the walking food and culture tour with our great host Victoria.
Up to Floyen via the Funicular
After the tour, we decided to take the funicular (costing 125 NOK return per person) to Floyen. The top of Floyen gave a breathtaking view of the Bergen city. There was a viewing deck packed with locals and tourists alike. For me, the fun part was the stroll to the lake. The lake was so so only, but what I enjoyed was the stroll through the forest, enjoying the cool air and the lush greenery, especially with the sunlight seeping through the foliage. I also managed to see the small herd of local mountain goat residents that live on Floyen.
I decided to post this entry specially because it was Day Two of the Norway trip, at Oslo, and at the tail end of the day, while I was about to get back to Thon Hotel Opera, I chanced upon this lovely fountain at Akersgata and decided to sit for a while.
It was a reminder that not all trips must be packed to the brim, and filled with activities. Sometimes, the best trips are the ones where we give ourselves time to do nothing. It's something good to simply plan nothing, but take a chance and do something random. Maybe sit by the bench at the fountain like what I did. Or read a book at the cafe and watch the world go by. Or buy a pencil and a sketch book and doodle or draw something that you see.
Life can be filled with wonder when we experience things that we don't plan to experience.
Vision of the Fjords from Flam
It was 1153am. I was seated in the Vision of the Fjord, the fully-electric cruise boat, looking at this amazing scenery, the UNESCO-certified view of the fjords. The cruise boat quietly sailed through the narrow channel, flanked by towering cliffs with the tops covered by the mist or clouds. I saw numerous tiny waterfalls plunging down the cliffs on both sides.
As the boat was not too crowded, there was adequate space for everyone to lounge and roam around. The large glassy windows allowed us to soak in the picturesque scenery, and even though the sun was hidden by the cloud cover, the misty, foggy environment was breathtaking. This must be the most luxurious ship that I have ever taken. A quick check on the price of this cruise placed it at over SGD300, which was not that cheap after all for a short detour between Flam and Gudvangen via the fjords.
About Vision of the Fjords and its sister craft, Future of the Fjords
The two vessels Vision and Future of the Fjords represent a brand-new standard in design and technology. They have been designed to maximise the tourist experience during any kind of weather, with large windows and walkways inspired by the winding trails of steep mountain terrain. Passengers are encouraged to go out on the top deck and enjoy a very different experience compared to traditional passenger vessels. Inside you will find Nordic inspired interior design offering a high level of comfort.
Gudvangen to Bergen
Upon docking at Gudvangen, we quickly rushed to the Norway in a Nutshell coach since it was free-seating. Managed to get us front row seats. It was then a scenic drive through the countryside, passing by some majestic waterfalls before reaching Voss. We wanted to find lunch near the railway station, but it was Sunday and there seemed to be nothing open, so we got a few slices of pizza at the nearby Esso petrol kiosk instead. The train ride to Bergen was rather uneventful and once we reached Bergen we dragged our luggage on the cobblestones (not easy!) and arrived at Bergen Bors Hotel, our accommoation for the next three nights.
Day Four of Norway in a Nutshell - Oslo
Taking the train from Oslo to Flam
Right now, I am typing away using my Tab S4 tablet in the train. Its 830am and we are leaving for Flam towards Bergen from Oslo. The weather is cloudy and overcast, and it looks like it will be raining again later in the day.
So, I wanted to use this trip to journal a bit, and perhaps even to do a bit of regular journalling even after this trip, similar to my Livejournal days. Travelling is good because it allows me to experience the world and learn more about the world, and in the process get to learn more about myself too. It also allows me learn more about my travelling companion(s) and create great memories for everyone.
Travelling and Working - Is that Possible?
One of the things I wanted to test was the ability for me to remotely manage my business with an active internet connection, no matter where I am in the world. Since April, when I left my full-time job to run the business, I have travelled to Perth, to Siem Reap and now to Norway. In the pipeline are a few more countries. Quite a lot of trips planned!! So far it seems that everything is working fine, but let's see if there would be any hiccups.
The four-hour train ride got me a little bored along the way, but there was this lovely glacier area near the top of the train ride. Unlike the conventional glacier which is sandwiched by the valley, this glacier was in an open area, and merged with the surroundings. Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of the train and hence was not in a good position to take any photos of it.
We reached Myrvdal and then quickly got in line to queue up for the Flam Railway. This is because there are no allocated seats - it is free seating based on first come first served basis. We managed to get the best seats, thanks for an online guide which provided great tips. The highlight of the Flam Railway must be the Vjorfoss waterfall and the red dancing girl. More about the legend of the sprite later.
Arriving into the small town of Flam
Soon we arrived at Flam, and checked into the Fleheim Hotel. Flam is a pretty small town, and there isnt much to do. We rested in the hotel room for a while, and then waited for the 4pm bus ride up to the Stegastein Lookout point. The drive was a harrowing one due to the narrow path upwards, and the bus had to make way for the other oncoming vehicles. The lookout gave a good vantage point of the scenery of the Flam area as well as the inlet.
Day Three is Cultural Oslo Day
As we were anticipating a cold day of rains, we planned for indoor activities, starting with the Munch museum. The museum was a small building containing works of Munch, including the famous Scream as well as Madonna. I found out more about the robbery of the paintings in 2004. Somewhat the robbery incident got my attention more than the paintings. Of course I had to pose with the famous Scream Painting by Edvard Munch.
The Scream by Edvard Munch
The Scream was first exhibited at Munch’s solo exhibition in Berlin in 1893. It was a central element in “The Frieze of Life”, and has been the theme of probing analysis and many suggested interpretations. The painting also exists in a later version, which is in the possession of the Munch Museum. In addition Munch worked with the motif in drawings, pastels and prints.
In 2012, The Scream' was Auctioned for a Record $119.9 Million. It took 12 nail-biting minutes and five eager bidders for Edvard Munch's famed 1895 pastel of “The Scream” to sell for $119.9 million, becoming the world's most expensive work of art ever to sell at auction.
Next stop is the Museum of Contemporary Art located in a redeveloped district that's very modern and suave looking. I liked this museum, and was pleasantly surprised by the Damien Hirst collections which brought back memories of my London days.
Review of Astrup Fearnley Museum of Contemporary Art
Arrived at the museum on a rainy day. Situated at the modern refurbished district of Tjuvholmen, I saw many lovely apartments and water channels with yachts making this a really lovely place to be able to reside. The Astrup Fearnley Museum is a privately owned art gallery which holds a large collection of international modern contemporary art. I saw Damien Hirst and his series of animals preserved in formaldehyde, which is always facinating to look at ... bewildering would be the word that I used. On the upper level, I saw Anselm Kiefer, a German painter and sculptor.
When we exited the museum, the rain started and got heavier and heavier. We made a quick trip for the oldest cathedral in Oslo but it was unfortunately closed. As my shoes were getting wet from the rain, we made a lunch stop back at Mathallen and had a duck confit sandwich and wine. The sandwich was 130 Nok or so while the wine cost about 115 Nok.
Then it was back to Thon Hotel. I decided to work on the September promotion video and cleared my emails before heading out again to catch the Oslo philharmonic.
The Oslo Philharmonic
The Oslo Philharmonic is a symphony orchestra of international renown. It was formed in 1919 and today has 108 musicians in its ranks. This year 2019 marked the 100th anniversary since the philharmonic was formed, and to commemorate this special occasion, they are starting the season with Tchaikovsky No. 5.
Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony has always had a special resonance in the orchestra. The work was performed during its very first season, and has proved remarkably popular among musicians, conductors and audiences in Oslo since the 1920’s. Half a century later, Tchaikovsky’s symphonies were in focus when the Oslo Philharmonic first achieved international recognition. Recordings of the fourth, fifth and sixth symphonies with Mariss Jansons in the 1980’s won numerous awards, granting the orchestra a new presence on the international music scene.
I did enjoy the performance generally, as the orchestra was really accomplished and played very well. Perhaps I have not been to many performances before, but this is likely the best performance for Tchaikovsky that I have ever experienced so far. Well done Oslo Philharmonic!
I am MrWildy and I am trying to journal more about my life and also my travels. Find out more about me here.