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Norwegian Coastal Voyage

David Cross (DavidX) from England

Norwegian Coastal Voyage and some places on the "Norway in a Nutshell" Tour

Slow Travel Google Map - Norway, Coastal Ares

Slow Travel Google Map - Norway, Coastal Areas

The ST Google Map and these travel notes are complementary. I took ages even giving the rough route with a blue line on the Google Map. I don't think I could stand the hundreds (literally) of markers needed to show it precisely. Sufficient to say that, however it may look in some areas seen at high zoom levels, the ships of the Hurtigruten fleet are not amphibious (the route on the map makes it look like they go on land, but they don't).

I thought it would be helpful to include all the ports where the ship stops. However sometimes I was asleep when they called at night – or I was awake but can't remember anything distinctive to say. Therefore I have put asterisks with the ones that contain significant information and/or a website where you can "read more."

We left the boat on its return voyage at the Lofoten capital of Svolvaer and made our own way back. Our return route is the subject of the black triangles, which I have not asterisked on the Google Map.

Lastly I have put a few markers from other holidays I have spent in Norway on my own – some from the Norway in a Nutshell Tour; Røros (the town, not the port) Molde and its fishing museum were part of my first visit. I have spent a little time in Oslo and love the city but I have not tried to cover it here, although there is a good "read more" website.

There is nothing below a line connecting Oslo and Bergen because that area I have yet to see.

Slow Photos - Norwegian Coastal Voyage: Photo Album

The Coastal Voyage (2003)

General Pattern of the Trip

A ship leaves Bergen every day in the evening. Counting that as day 1, it arrives at Kirkenes on the Russian border on day 7. It then returns, arriving back at Bergen on day 12.

There are meetings for different language groups on the first evening. It is also necessary to arrange the sittings and table that you will have for the whole voyage. There are two sittings for lunch and dinner. At breakfast you can sit where you like but for most lunches and dinners people are allocated to tables with others who speak the same language. There is also a cafeteria and a few bars.

No entertainment is provided. You are told at the first meeting that, "Nature is the entertainer here." There were few, but some, times when nature seemed to be having its entertainment at our expense. In general we were lucky; however you take the risk that nature can be malign and then it would be a terribly expensive way of seeing nothing! Given good weather, it's an amazing trip.

You can tell from the company's website, www.hurtigruten.com, which boat is starting on each day. Hence you can choose – or avoid – an older or newer boat. We were in a new boat, the Polarlys, in April 2003. The year may matter; I may be out of date and you should check before accepting anything I say. The month undoubtedly does matter. In winter the trip to Geiranger was out; in spring, which covered us, you only see the mouth of the wonderful Trollfjord because falling rocks cause a navigation ban; some of the shore trips vary according to season; costs are never low but they do vary hugely according to season.

There are washing, drying and ironing facilities on the ship.

Meals

Meals in the restaurant are included if you are doing a half voyage, equivalent or more. You can just travel for shorter distances, in which case meals are not included and you can choose between the restaurant and the cafeteria. Whereas you can save a bit by taking cafeteria meals, I should be sorry to forego the great breakfast and lunchtime buffets, that we found a real treat. (Do try sour cream porridge if you get the chance!)

Dinners are set menus, some of which you obviously might find more appetising than others. If you have them included, you can have a dish from the cafeteria in place of the main course if you dislike it. If your dinners are not included, this would be your chance to save a bit of money.

Drinks

Water is provided as required at meals and tea and coffee are provided in the restaurant. Alcoholic and soft cold drinks are very expensive and are put on your bill if bought with meals. We developed quite a taste for water!

Shore Trips

These are basically of two kinds of shore trips:

1. Alternative travel to the boat: One attitude (it was ours) is that, having paid a lot for the boat voyage, we saw no reason to pay again to avoid using it. However there are some things worth considering. If you are doing the voyage when the trip from Geiranger back to Ålesund is via the Golden Route to Åndalsnes (mid June to mid September, when the pass is clear of snow) this is tempting, if expensive. The other is that if we had not been leaving the boat at Svolvaer on the way back and we had seen the coast between there and Stamsund on the way up, we might have been tempted to see a bit more of the Lofoten wonderland by taking the shore trip and doing it by bus.

2. Trips while the boat is moored: I make no apology for saying that in my opinion most of these trips are overpriced and somewhat pointless. This applies to the city tours at Trondheim and Tromsø and the trip to the Russian border at Kirkenes. By doing your own research and using local transport I think you can do better. I should have wanted to do the Nordkapp trip later in the year when the Sami and their reindeer would have been there but I now think we made a mistake in not taking that particular trip anyway.

Full Trip or Less

The company's view is that the return voyage is not repetitive because you see on the return voyage the things you slept through on the way out. Certainly we had great enjoyment in seeing Hammerfest and the Vesterålen Islands on the return voyage but I'm sure that if we had stayed on after Lofoten on the way back, we should have found the remaining time an anti-climax. We thoroughly enjoyed the voyage, were absolutely ready to leave when we did and loved returning by land.

Special High Spots

I can honestly say that no part of the trip was other than high but there are things that stick out in my mind. Others might well have different predominant images.

  • Day 2. The trip up the fjords to Geiranger and back is a real treat.
  • Day 4. The boat arrives in Bodø just in time for a trip (at low cost!) on one of those tourist things meant to resemble a train. This includes a visit to the lovely modern cathedral.
  • Day 5. This trip and the reverse over some of the same route in the evening of Day 8 is tops for snow and ice scenery.
  • Day 6. The constant parade of all kinds of seabirds along Norway's north coast is phenomenal.
  • Day 7. All that way and I pick on a museum! Sadly I can't find a website in English. The works of the Sami artist Jon Savio and the particular slant on the second World War in the Arctic are something else.
  • Day 9. (when we left the boat in the evening) The trip through some bird rocks with all the auks, then winding through the Vesterålens before seeing the mouth of the Trollfjord was a really fitting send-off.

As far as the return goes:

  • The bus to Fauske was something we had simply regarded as the necessary way to reach the railway. In fact it made a terrific contrast to all we had seen previously by taking us in the evening light through high mountains past frozen lakes.
  • The branch line from Dombås to Åndasnes is spectacular even by Norwegian standards.
  • Ålesund and in particular the Brosundet Gjestehus, where we were staying, are absolutely fantastic if you have any taste for art nouveau. I should very much like a longer stay there to see some other outstanding sights in the area.
  • Going up the funicular in Bergen and walking down in sunlit warmth made a fabulous end to a great holiday.

Norway in a Nutshell (1999)

From the first time I heard of this tourist route promoted by Norway Tourism (www.norwaynutshell.com), I had two conflicting thoughts. The first was that if the Norwegians themselves regard it as special, it probably is. The second was a sort of revulsion at being told what I had to see and on what I had to travel.

I compromised. I wanted to see Oslo again after my first visit and Bergen sounded well worth a night. I was going for 5 nights and had a profound wish not to sleep in 3 different places on my middle ones. Given a certain friend and travel agent pressure in favour of staying in Voss, I decided to spend all the nights in Flåm – and was I glad! This was something that I feel I got right.

I was never convinced that I was going to do the Nutshell tour properly like a good tourist should (?). I loved the rail journey from Oslo – the line from there to Bergen well deserving its fame. I was thrilled by the magical rail trip from Myrdal to Flåm.

I dipped out in my intention to go on the ferry to Gudvangen, the bus to Voss and the train back via Myrdal to Flåm – as explained in my Google Map note on Aurland – so I went by bus to Laerdal, a blessing in disguise as far as seeing more of the Nutshell was concerned as the weather was dreadful that day!

The following day I did take the ferry to Gudvangen along the Aurlandsfjord and then the Narrøyfjord, which rivals the Geirangerfjord in beauty for a ferry trip. As described in my marker on my Google Map on Gudvangen, I then lost interest in the Nutshell. I had been on a superb bus trip on my previous visit over the Golden Route and the Eagles' Highway from Åndalsnes to Geiranger and I didn't feel the need for another a year later. On the other hand returning by the ferry and then having a walk appealed mightily so that's what I did.

In leaving Flåm the following day I did see the part of the Nutshell from there to Voss – good but nothing like up to the parts I'd already seen – on the way, by the rest of the line from Oslo, to Bergen.

First visit (1998)

Things not already mentioned on this trip, my first on my own after severe heart problems in 1995.

Røros

(The town – not the port with the same name!) This is a town built for mining and inhabited compulsorily from all around. There are substantial remains of mining in the town, the whole centre of which is like a very living museum. The guided walking tour was outstanding.

Molde

Yes, I know I mentioned it as a port on the coastal voyage, but it was on this earlier trip that I was there (accidentally but very happily) at the time of the International Jazz Festival and that I went to the Museum of Fishing and Fisheries on a nearby island. No; it doesn't sound my scene and I only did it to kill some time but it was marvellous – a lesson in social history and a visit to a wonderful place.

Oslo – but that's for another day.


David Cross was born in Plymouth but is now a "happily naturalized" Yorkshireman. He has grand-children in Wales and Scotland. David is a moderator on the World Travel Experience forums - groups.yahoo.com/group/worldtravelexp/. See David's Slow Travel Member page.

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