When in Norway, Do as the Vikings Do
If you need to commune with your inner Viking, Allison knows just the place.
Now, you actually started this trip in Iceland, why was that?
I had some friends that were running an ultra-marathon in Iceland because they’re crazy.
And you went to Norway after; did you run this marathon by the way?
No! Heavens no, they were all going and I said “I want to go, that sounds fun (the trip not the marathon). I’ll go hang out and be supportive.”
I’m getting distracted, so about Norway…
Yeah, while we were in Iceland we thought, “Might as well go to Norway while we’re here.” It’s really the reason I tagged along.
Where did you fly into?
We flew into Oslo and jumped immediately on a train to Myrdal where we transferred to the Flåm railway.
The Flåm railway is an awesome way to see the real Norway, one of the best train trips in the world, like the top three for scenery. Incredible mountains and amazing fjords with beautiful little Norwegian villages, beautiful lakes, and waterfalls everywhere, it was all just impressive. Flåm was one of my favorite parts about the whole trip. The train can sell out quick, so get tickets beforehand from the NSB (Norwegian State Railways).
Was this organized with a tour group?
We didn’t, but you can do that. We just sort of put it together ourselves. If you wanted to do a tour, Norway in a Nutshell (https://www.norwaynutshell.com/) would be a good place to start.
Still, that’s a lot of activity in one day.
Yeah. We did that all Monday. After the Flåm train we took a ferry over to Gudvangen with a stop at Underdahl on the way.
Underdahl, by the way, has this brown cheese that tastes almost like caramel, but it’s cheese and brown and delicious. They’ll slice off a little bit and melt it over waffles then top it with jam.
The town also has this tiny stave church from the, I want to say, 1200’s? It had cool paintings on the walls and in good condition since they still use it for church services.
It’s called a stave church because it’s held up by four pillars (they call them staves), and the rest of the church is built around them – just a name for the architecture.
After Underdahl we arrived in Gudvangen while they were having their Viking festival.
Wait, Viking festival?
That’s…awesome. Like a Renaissance fair?
But with Vikings.
Tell me everything.
That’s pretty much what happened. They had sausages, cheeses, and goats, lots of goats. It was all pretty great. Big burley guys with braided goatees running around shirtless, women wearing big furs with bows and arrows, and kids walked around bare foot with plastic swords. There was this one kid, probably like two or three, with a GIANT play axe that kept hitting it on things – just tottling about looking for something to chop down. That was pretty funny.
Shirtless and bare foot? Good thing it was summer.
Yeah it wasn’t too bad. 60°’s maybe? It was definitely jacket weather. It rained a little but no snow.
Was it easy to communicate?
Most everyone speaks English pretty well. I think they learn English in school. The people were so nice and helpful – just cool, cool people. Driving though the country we pulled over to take pictures and turned our hazard lights on since we didn’t want people to hit us. They have really tiny roads. A guy from a house nearby ran out and asked, “Are you guys ok, do you need anything?” Just so nice.
(At this point, Allison pulls out a very detailed Itinerary of her trip)
Did you get that from a tour group? That looks professional.
No I made this (laughing). I kind of took control and made all of the arrangements for everybody. I was like “this stuff isn’t getting done and we’ve got to figure it out.” So I had a general outline, heard what people wanted to do, and what we had heard about Norway then just kind of figured out the train times, car rentals, and costs from there.
Putting those Event Coordinator skills to work I see. It says you went to Trolltunga next?
Yeah, the Trolltunga hike. It’s gorgeous. Trolltunga (which means troll tongue) is a rock formation up that juts out like a cliff overlooking the fjords. It’s really high.
Hope that’s sturdy.
It was kind of terrifying. I’m not usually afraid of heights, but when people said, “ok, go sit on the edge,” I thought “Noooooo!” People like to take pictures of people getting as close to the edge as possible. I just ended up lying down. The hike, though, was great, but it’s really hard. 4000 feet of elevation and about 15 miles, so it was really steep and challenging. It took about 8 ½ hours. Not easy, but worth it.
You probably had to start early; I’d hate to be up there at dark.
The sun never set. Well, it kind of did at 11 pm, but it came up again at 4 am, so only 4ish hours of “night.” I didn’t have trouble sleeping, but some of the people in my group did. It was never really dark, more like a constant dusk.
Did you stay in hotels? It sounds like more of a backpacking trip.
We did a lot of Airbnb, hostels, small hotels, and bed and breakfasts. But there were only 6 of us, so it worked for us.
We circled back to Oslo and went to this sculpture gallery. Well, it’s really more of a park, Vigeland Park. There are hundreds of sculptures done by Gustav Vigeland. He was given the land by the city to display his work so long as the city could have it all when he died.
Afterwards we took a hop-on-hop-off bus to get an overview of the city and see all the cool sites and stuff. It’s helpful since we only had a half day left.
What would you do if you were to go back?
I wish I had more time in Oslo. They have this Viking museum I wish I could have seen.
Any final tips?
It was kind of expensive. I think I paid $40 for one meal, and that was just a pizza and a shake. That’s the only negative thing, so plan ahead for that. Decide if you want to drop $150 for a souvenir scarf.
Also, you can’t always rely on GPS. We were trying to get quickly get back to our hotel late one night, and the GPS was still telling us “get on the ferry,” but all the ferries were closed. So there we were standing at the docks thinking “this isn’t going to happen.” Then the GPS tried to direct us on a 7 hour detour…yeah, that’s not happening either. We managed to backtrack and reach our hotel in an hour and a half, but still it was kind of crazy.