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Lucy Travels

​One of our favorite parts of this trip is that everyone, EVERYONE thinks we’re Norwegian. It must be the blonde hair. We are always addressed in Norwegian, and we feel slightly ashamed answering in English. We can get away with the charade for a few minutes, as “hej” (hey) is “hello” in Norwegian and nodding is universal.  It’s nice to be treated like a local when on holiday. Even in other European cities like Paris or Barcelona we still clearly reek of foreignness and they don’t even bother speaking French or Spanish to us. Yesterday morning after another incredible breakfast at the hotel (where the maître d’ thought we were Norwegian), we checked out (where the guy at the reception desk thought we were Norwegian), and got on our train (where the ticket inspector thought we were Norwegian).

We settled in for the 6 and a half hour trip to Bergen. Norway tries to encourage eco-friendly behavior, something Claire and I find laughable considering the lava-hot temperature of the hotel rooms and the lights everywhere that never seem to turn off. Anyway, because of this, the train is heavily subsidized and even the first class tickets were extraordinarily cheap. Our carriage at the front of the train was comfortable and quiet, and we had so much leg room I couldn’t even touch the seat in front of me with my toes. There was unlimited tea, coffee, and (to Claire’s delight) hot chocolate, along with free wifi and electric outlets for every seat. Elsewhere on the train were a cafe car and a family car, complete with a tiny enclosed jungle gym. I made several passes up and down the train, and enjoyed watching the tracks disappear behind us from the caboose window.

Norwegians are notably reserved and quiet, and the train was no exception. Even if you’re in their way they will stand impatiently, maybe grunt, then just push past. The silence was fine by me, and I watched the scenery pass while listening to music and podcasts. It’s not that they’re not friendly, though. Everyone greets you with a smile, and a conductor lounging in the cafe joked with me about juggling the apples I bought (which I dutifully demonstrated for him).

The journey went from Oslo in the east to Bergen on the west coast. The train is famous for being high in the Norwegian mountains –the train seemed to endlessly zig and zag, which made the altitude climb almost imperceptible. You could definitely feel the tunnels, though, even in the pitch black morning. Our ears popped uncomfortably a few times every hour.

I had been looking forward to the train trip for weeks, and it lived up to expectations. The landscape changed from hour to hour: lush and green, then enormous dark lakes; craggy black mountains then little multicolored ski towns; complete snowy white-outs then deep blue rivers rushing through holes in the ice. The tracks passed so close to the sheer rocky faces of the mountains I thought the paint would be scraped off. The tracks were at times over a kilometre in the air, and I was treated to brief glimpses of trees and houses deep in the snow-blanketed valleys below. Just as my eyes adjusted to the perspective, we would enter another tunnel and emerge into a completely different view.

As I walked up and down the train, snowflakes would sneak into the spaces between carriages. It helped remind me this wasn’t a film or a Disneyworld ride. As we got closer to Bergen, suddenly the snow disappeared and the train rounded through the misty fjords. At least I think they’re fjords. I’ve always heard of them but never really seen them. Bergen has the reputation of being “Gateway to the Fjords,” so I reckon it’s a safe assumption.

When the train pulled into the station at 3pm, it was starting to get dark but thankfully the rain had stopped. Our hotel was directly across from the station and in its old mahogany-panelled grandeur reminded me of the Grand Budapest. We quickly checked in and hurried to make the most of the fading daylight. We actually saw glimpses of sunlight and blue sky, a first for our time in Norway! We also saw the old harbor at Bryggen 

Just as we got to the historic side of the city it started to pour. We scrambled up the muddy ramparts at the old castle to catch the sunset, then ran through the freezing rain to the military museum. As our jackets dried off in the hallway we skimmed through the modern and medieval history of Bergen to focus on its importance as a centre for the Norwegian resistance during WWII. The locals were sure that the British would come to the rescue soon after the Nazis arrived, but days turned into months and then years. I had read a little about Quisling, a puppet Norwegian leader so reviled his name is now an insult, like Benedict Arnold. They had more about the individual efforts of resistance members, as well as some interesting artifacts like a real Enigma machine. They also had a bit about a Dutch ship carrying German explosives that “accidentally” exploded in Bergen’s harbor in 1944. Claire and I were unconvinced. 

Starving, we left the museum in search of food. Any adventurous notions of trying lutefisk or other Norwegian delicacies had disappeared. I just wanted something comforting and warm, and gelatinous lye fish wasn’t that. We ended up at a cute little cafe for dinner, but our search for dessert was foiled by Norway’s completely incomprehensible winter opening hours. We spent our evening curled up in the hotel room with some sweets from the local supermarket and fell asleep.

We’re at breakfast now and getting ready for our last day in Norway!


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