We arrived into Stockholm, and took the RV park option for the first night (we need them for emptying our toilet, filling up with water, and to take a shower). It really is a business we should be getting into. It’s such easy money. As long as there is a slab of concrete somewhere near’ish a city (or a bus/tram/train stop into the city is also fine if space is at a premium), then you can call it an RV park and charge $30 for not a lot. This one was under a railway bridge, and near a boat repair yard. Glamour or view was not high on the list of selling features. But, fair play to them. It was packed, and I’m sure the owners will be closing down for the winter and going off on a nice winter break somewhere (so, in no way envious..)
The first day, we walked around the city, while Meg got her bearings (I have no bearings, so there’s never any need for me to pay attention to any North or South or landmarks). We first stopped off at the Photography Museum, which had some interesting pieces – I never knew Bryan Adams (yes, of that Robin Hood song fame) was such a famous & accomplished portrait photographer? Next up was Sodermalm. Stockholm’s Williamsburg/Dalston/’hipster’ part of town (they’ve called theirs ‘SoFo’). The usual mix of second hand clothes stores, arty coffee shops, and people in tight trousers with no socks. It’s nice to be an observer there, but I think the required expense to dress and live in these places, means it’s not something I’m rushing towards (although, I have to admit, ‘age’ is probably more the key factor!)
In the morning, we made a break for a parking area right in the centre that apparently allowed RVs to park there, and wasn’t extortionate in fees. And, by the luck of the gods, there was one space available which we gladly took. We then headed off on a museum day. First stop the Vasa Museum. The museum housed an olde ship that sank 1km from the harbour (in 1628). Supposedly it was built just way too big & top heavy, and a gust of wind essentially toppled it over. A little embarrassing. But, in the 1960’s they raised it from the harbour and it’s now fully restored (something like 98% is original) and quite a mighty sight – with a few preserved dead bodies to boot.
After that, it was on to the ABBA museum. Meg took a pass on this one (she’s too young to have grown up with ABBA), but I happily took it all in, and reminisced seeing the various album covers that I remember lying around our house growing up. What was also interesting was that in 2014, 25% of all US top 10 songs were either written or sung by Swedes. After the US, and the UK, they are the next most successful musical country in the world – who knew? Next stop was the ubiquitous modern art museum – not really much to report on this one unfortunately. Pretty standard issue. Overall, Stockholm gets a very pick TICK from us. We both really liked it.
The end of the week was spent visiting Trollhattan (more land skiing events going on, and a rather disappointing Saab car museum), and then Smogen (very attractive, but expensive, little seaside town) as we head towards Gothenburg and our next big city break.
After leaving Geiranger Fjord we headed for Alesund. We had been here 4 years ago, but just enough to see the inside of a hotel room, before having to move off. But, I remember it leaving a big impact on me, so I was excited to see if it lived up to my memories. It does. It’s a gorgeous city. Having burned down over 100 years ago and rebuilt in a sort of Scandi Art Deco, it’s gorgeous. We climbed up to a look out over the city, which gives you an idea of both how beautiful, but how small it is. We also took time to visit the aquarium (I love aquariums, there’s something relaxing about fish). This one was less relaxing, a scuba diver got in a hand fed the fish, which was both fascinating and strange - seeing a man hand a piece of squid to a stingray isn’t something you expect to see.
After leaving Alesund we drove to the Atlantic Road - we were quite disappointed in it last time, but wanted to give a second shot. It was still disappointingly small and short, but gorgeous nonetheless. We drove back and forth several times, took loads of photos, climbed a few muddy hills and then decided it was time to ‘treat yo self’. After three weeks on the road we had a large pile of dirty laundry and a hankering for some oven baked goodies. It turns out it’s equally cheap to rent a small fishing cottage, with a washing machine, in Norway as it is to stop at a campsite and use their laundry facilities, so we delighted in a fisherman’s cottage for a full 24 hours. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Trondheim was next, which is a very cool university town about half way up Norway. It’s the first real city we’ve been in since Bergen over a week ago. We had planned to go to a festival to see the Lumineers play, but it sold out this week and apparently it’s illegal to resell your tickets in Norway, damn. Instead, we took in some “land skiing” - apparently if you have snow 9 months out of the year, for the three months you don’t you want to go ahead and pretend that you still have snow. The guy told us that these were the “premier” land skiiers in the world. Sure…
Trondheim was as far north as we made it four years ago and we had ever intention of making it all the way to the top, however things change. Norway, as we’ve much bemoaned, is very very expensive. So much so that it’s become fun prohibitive. We feel really constrained, so we’ve decided to stop at Trondheim again and head eastwards towards Sweden. As such, we quickly made our way through the very empty middle of Sweden and towards Stockholm.
Our 2nd week on the road, and we’re now getting fully immersed into the Norwegian way of life. Which, surely for any non-Norwegian tourist must involve avoiding spending money at any opportunity. This country really is ridiculous when it comes to the price of things (except potato salad it would seem). At one point, I naively thought that a 6 pack of beer was c.£3.50/$5 which I thought, ‘finally, something in Norway that is cheap’. No. $30 for the 6 pack. Crazy Norway. Crazy.
As such, we have avoided RV parks, and general street parking (as the towns/cities require parking tickets for pretty much any street that is a resident’s permit street). $30 for a patch of grass is a cost we can’t justify.
But anyway, this is what we expected, and in no way detracts from the beautiful country this is, and the honest & charming Norwegian folk.
The week started on a bit of a dampener as we were near Pulpit Rock - the famous edge of the cliff rock jutting out thing - that we wanted to hike up to, but the weather was just not playing ball. We were thinking about waiting it out for a couple more days, but looking at the weather report, and our sanity at being held hostage in Mike for another couple of days, we decided that it was not meant to be, and we should head to Bergen instead. Luckily we did as we heard from some people that there were 3 rescues that day from people getting stranded up there, in the dangerous conditions.
So, the drive to Bergen involved lots of rain, a few ferries and endless tunnels. Man, these people must have spent a fortune building tunnels (there is one that is 26km long!). Just outside of Bergen we stopped off at the Grieg museum. Turns out his grandparents came over from Scotland, so basically he was British. The museum & his house weren’t really much to shout about unfortunately – very little information actually on the composer, and his house was pretty small, so we swept through the 3 rooms in about 10 minutes (pretending to look impressed, and feeling bad for ploughing through it so quickly)
Bergen itself was a cool little city. Nice cobbled streets, quite arty, a great vista up the funicular, the TubaKuba house thing, the old Bryggen area (means wharf) and a surprisingly interesting museum about their period under Nazi occupation. We managed to find a perfect spot to park for a couple of nights near the tram line, and next to a supermarket, so we were pretty sorted.
After Bergen we drove for a couple of days to Geirangerfjord - the famous fjord that has a constant flow of cruise ships parked up. It really was stunning, and even though the hike up & down, to get the best view, took 3 hours, it was probably worth it.
Overall, even though we might be shortening our time in Norway (weather, distance, expense, etc) it really is a beautiful country and when I am a millionaire hopefully I will be back & can drive around in a Tesla electric powered RV…
I wonder how many times we’ve used that as a title, or how many times we’ve uttered that phrase over the years. I imagine quite a lot. After a “trial week” in England, and fixing things that we found went poorly, we were finally ready to head out again and we were making a beeline for Norway.
Why Norway? Well, a few years ago we were here and found it utterly beautiful, and we felt like we didn’t get enough time to see it, so we wanted to return. And we had to go there first because they have the shortest summer & didn’t want to be freezing in Mike as we have no idea how he’s going to do in cold or heat yet. We quickly passed through France, Belgium and Germany and found ourselves in Denmark waiting for a ferry to take us to Norway.
It’s weird having a small vehicle that can do anything a car can do, and that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb everywhere we go. Mike truly is stealth: goal achieved. It’s taking time getting used to being in a tiny vehicle though, and growing pains are expected. We keep running into each other or hitting our heads on the TV when it’s pulled out (& the toilet door is an ongoing drama) - but I’m sure we’ll settle in soon.
After crossing into Norway we headed for an old Nazi fort and the second largest cannon in the world, it was never fired. It was an interesting site, but most of it no longer existed and we were following a map that didn’t really take us anywhere which was a bit of a shame. So, after sleeping on a beautiful point of a cove we hightailed it to Stavanger so we would be able to make their street art tour on Saturday.
We had a brief stop at some giant Viking swords, but found ourselves in a beautiful seaside Norwegian city on a clear day. Stavanger isn’t a large city but it had good character. Every September they have a street art festival that invites artist from around the world to come and decorate the sides of their buildings, it’s fantastic. The tour, while a bit expensive, had loads to see and the guide was full of information. We also took the time to visit the Stavanger Oil Museum (it may sound… dull and painful, but it was actually interesting). They explained what Norway is doing with all their oil money, a country with foresight and long term planning is very refreshing. Norway has invested in the future, recognizing that oil will not always be needed and their reserves will run out in around 30 years. They’ve invested around the world, everywhere but Norway, and you might be interested to know Norway owns a large stake in the shops on Regent Street and the Champs Elysee. They’ve invested in green energy in Africa, and Chinese railroads. You can just look it up online and see exactly how much has been invested and exactly where it’s been invested, very cool. It’s also very cool to be on the road again and I’m looking forward to what Europe has to offer even if it is very different from what we planned.