Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oslo-Arendal-Stavanger-Bergen-Hardanger-Oslo























This summer, we decided to take a week’s vacation and travel around Norway; our plans were to drive from Oslo to Bergen with stops in Arendal and Stavanger, and then to return to Oslo via Hardangervidda. We’ve been to Arendal and Bergen before, but never Stavanger. The trip was about 780 miles (1255 kilometers) long. We followed the E18 highway south out of Oslo to Arendal, and then as we made our way to Stavanger and Bergen, we followed the E39 highway. On the way back to Oslo, we followed RV 7 instead of E134 that would have taken us through the Telemark region of Norway. I’ve mapped out the route we took on the map above.

We had booked hotels for one night in Arendal, two nights in Stavanger and two nights in Bergen. In this way, we didn’t have to drive too much each day, and it gave us a chance to experience each of the cities at a leisurely pace. Arendal is a small charming seaside town that is a summer destination for many Norwegians who have cottages there. However this year, the town was rather empty, strangely enough, since July is the month when most Norwegians take vacation. South Norway, in the area around Mandal (the southernmost town of Norway), is one of the most beautiful areas of the country in my opinion. I really enjoyed being in Stavanger; the city has a very open feel to it, as well as being quite pretty. Its city park is beautiful, as is its waterfront. We drove out to Sola Strand (beach) one day, a long sandy beach with dunes and beach flowers. It can be quite windy there, so it is popular with those who like to fly kites. We took a long walk along the beach, commenting on the large number of dead jellyfish that were half-buried in the sand. There is a resort hotel not far from the beach where we ate lunch--the Sola Strand Hotel (http://en.sola-strandhotel.no/?_ga=1.143502581.1544536728.1406195460); it would be a great place to stay, perhaps on a future trip to Stavanger. We also walked around Gamle Stavanger (the old part of the city) on the last evening we were there. This part of the city has lovely old white homes with picket fences and beautiful flower gardens; they are immaculately maintained for the most part.

The following day, we drove on to Bergen, which is a beautiful coastal city, but not one for timid or impatient drivers. If you want to become completely flustered, try driving in Bergen. We had problems not only localizing our hotel, but physically getting to it. Fortunately, we managed. We had a great seafood dinner one night at Bryggeloftet & Stuene located on Bryggen (the pier), and also spent time visiting the Bergen aquarium as well as an old friend who lives on the island of Sotra that is located west of Bergen. It was pleasant to walk around the city, packed with tourists, boaters, and classic car enthusiasts, quite a different atmosphere compared to Arendal. We also spent some time listening to the street musician Gee Gee Kettel and his daughter Soluna Somay.

And then it was time for our return trip over Hardangervidda. The last time we drove over this huge plateau in Hardanger was in 1991 when we attended the International Society for Analytical Cytology conference that was held in Bergen. According to Wikipedia, Hardangervidda is the largest eroded plain in Europe. I remember being fascinated by the landscape then—both hilly and flat (plateau-like), rocky terrain, stones here and there, dotted with small lakes and streams and patches of snow, and mostly treeless. I had never seen anything quite like it. At that time, I made my husband stop so I could get out of the car and walk to one of the small pools to touch the water to see how cold it was (it was cold). Hardangervidda’s somewhat forbidding landscape was used as the ice planet in the Star Wars film "The Empire Strikes Back". After having driven over the moors in northeast England last year, I realize that Hardangervidda resembles the moors in many ways. It stretches for miles, and is often closed to traffic during the winter months due to the large amounts of snow that pile up on the road. Sheep wander about, often coming up to the road or crossing it, exactly as was the case on the moors last summer when we drove over them. When we reached Geilo in Hol, we enjoyed an afternoon visit with more friends who have a cottage there. And then it was a few more hours of driving before we reached home. In my next post, I'll include some photos from our trip. 

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