After a fun couple days hanging around the fjordlands of Voss and Flam, we returned to Bergen for a rainy day before boarding our ferry boat. Logistics were funny. Bryan dropped the kids and I off in downtown Bergen, and then drove to the airport to return the rental car and take the Flybussen back into town. In the meantime, it started raining and both kids were grumpy: we tried going to a toy store but it (along with most of the town, it seems) was closed for Easter week. The downpour got pretty heavy when I noticed a small pedestrian tunnel for us to duck into for a spell. Turns out, it was actually the entrance to the funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen. I had no Norwegian money (Kroner), since Bryan had a stash we had been using. Luckily, the place took credit cards and wasn’t very pricey…so we went up. It was a fun, quick 5 minute ride with a pretty view of town until we reached the top and were inside the cloud that had been raining. So, just a picture of white over the railing. The rain let up a bit up there, and was more of a fine mist to wade through. AND, lo and behold, this is where the Bergenites were on such a day. While the town itself seemed dead, Mt. Floyen was crawling with families… decked out in full body rubber rain gear…. and playing at the super cool playground. Though the kids had no actual rain gear, they were in water resistant coats and fleece lined repellant trousers, so I let them go to town and get as wet and muddy as they wanted. We busted out the hats and gloves and they had a blast. There was a traditional playground, a troll-themed forest play area, and even a ropes course. We had a lot of fun, and then had to run to catch the down-funicular so we could meet Bryan at the designated time.
He was there, and dragged our suitcase all over the Bergen bryggen (old town) for an hour of sightseeing, and then another hour of dragging it alongside three slow gawkers on cobble streets through the cute neighborhoods over to the ferry terminal. We were there promptly at 2:50 for the 3:00 pm check in, and only waited a bit before being second in line for our tickets and ushered upstairs in the terminal to wait 45 minutes until there was a safety breifing and we could board at 4:00pm. Being tired, muddy, and wet, we found this warm and dry arrangement to be just fine. Zoe busied herself reading Highlights and Avi colored his dot-to-to book. The briefing, as everything on the boat, was done in three languages; Norwegian, English, and German (which sounds quite similar to Norwegian). Finally we were able to board our Hurtigruten ship the Nordnorge, but rooms aren’t ready until 6, so we found some cushy seats on the 7th viewing floor and napped/read aloud for a bit until they announced them ready and we bolted downstair to the 3rd floor to checkout our Polar Outside Unspecified Partial View category rooms. Well, they each had two fold-down beds; one turns into a couch, a lovely little bathroom with shower, and wardrobe, plus a chair at a desk/mirrored vanity built into the wall. Both also had two portholes that were a long tunnel away through the hull. A bit dark and claustrophoic like an inside room. The rooms were at the very front end of the boat down the hall and ended up being so noisy overnight with machinery and whining hydraulic sounds that I requested a change on day two. In addition, the rough sea felt crazily rougher up there as the front bounced up and over the waves. The front desk lady was so kind and found us two upgraded rooms (for a reasonable fee) on the 5th floor. Highly recommend the fifth floor! Its quiet, from people and machinery, and completely made up of rooms. It is the promenade deck, so very infrequently people will be outside the window, yes we have an actual beautiful-view window now, walking along the promenade that goes around the whole boat, but usually they are not out there braving the gale-force winds and rain, sleet and, snow that has been March Norwegian weather. Love our new rooms!
So, the Hurtigruten experience is a bit like a toned-down cruise and a bit like a ferry. There is a daily schedule with light activities like a lecture on Vikings that Zoe and I went to, a myth story night, or informational meetings about the next port of call. We also got to participate in a Polar Baptism ceremony held by the captain and a guy dressed like the viking god of seafarers, Njord. It was an ice cold dump of water down the back of our necks, and then a shot of cloudberry win (only for me)…Zoe and I both did it, and tried for the polar crossing contest. We were to guess the exact time the ship would cross the arctic circle. Zoe guessed 7:30:14 and I guess 7:25:05. We actually crossed at 7:25:45, and one lady guess two seconds closer than me. Oh well! Mostly on the boat, though, it’s people chilling out the 7th floor observation decks watching the coastline go by and reading. It’s lovely and relaxing. I brought plenty of magazines, loaded kindle, school practice, and small toys. Otherwise, there is a fun little playland for the kids, a little shop and cafe, a library with chess, and little else to do. Love it! There is wifi, for good or bad. The boat has a daily schedule of the few events, highlights to spot along the route, when meals are served, and the port schedule. As a ferry, the boat has a freight and car deck below and we stop in quite a few ports along the coast for 15 minutes. There is at least one town to stop in for a few hours daily, though, which makes for fun exploration and fresh air. This has been wonderful as there seems to be a stretch of rough sea daily.
Mostly we go through the calmer waters between islands along the coast, but when we get out in the open it’s tough to not get sick. On our first day the rough water started just before we woke up from our (horrible) nights sleep and all but me actually puked, but we all felt like crap. We took some dramamine, though, and let it kick in while oozing from chair to chair and out on deck. Eventually, we got hungry, and though no one wanted to eat, we forced it down and the stars aligned to bring us into a calm patch of water and let the meds kick in at the same time. We spent a long breakfast progressing from crackers to bread to butter to real food. Delicious smoked salmon with brie and cavier kind of real food. yum! Breakfast is a buffet, while dinner is a served Norwegian meal. It’s tasty and fancy, and we can customize for the kids. We get two meals daily with our half-board rate; breakfast and dinner. So, we grab a couple extra rolls at breakfast, eat late, and then grab a snacky snack in the port town of the day and hold out for dinner.
The ports have been interesting. On our second day we stopped in Alesund and walked up the 418 steps to the top of their city park scenic overlook, played in the playground, and found a Coop grocery before using up our 3 hours and getting back on the boat for a giant nap (recall the first nights noisy fiasco).
On our third day we stopped in Trondheim and walked 2km into town to see the worlds oldest medievel cathedral….and it WAS GOTHIC, and Vikingesque. King Olav brought Christianity, converted the Vikings, and established the kingdom (i guess). There were gargoyles out the wazzoo and an entire fascade covered in men – martyrs no doubt – with gore, without gore, without heads, and one with three heads in a basket…not his own. Kids found it fascintating. Avi hates seeing gory Jesus on a cross, but liked the carved dragons and dogs and wierd creatures. Zoe seemed to silently appreciate it, and asked to light a candle inside the dark moody interior. oh, the feels. We then walked another 2km+ back to the boat via the old town and it’s cutesy bridge, the Gamle Bybro.
On our fourth day we stopped in Bodo. Saw a cool fortress on the way in, but couldn’t figure out how to get out to it as the port kept going in and in and in further and the fortress was out on the spit point. So, instead, we spent our two hours wandering through a snowy normal Norwegain village to the “big green spot” on the map, played in the snowy park, and walked back in the fresh, cold polar air. Saw some refugee housing. This fluffy cat was really the highlight.
Lastly, some scenery from the boat for you: