The hotel is advertised as a hostel and I suppose it could be if it was populated with large groups but it’s not. We’re largely single like me or couples and the demographic is well mixed.
I’m not good at categorising things but what I can say is that it is comfortable, wonderfully placed on the banks of the fjord with fabulous views and en-suite toilets although in that department they’re not suitable for cat-swinging; however, for oldies like me, it adds an element of security when you’re showering and slip/fall/lose balance/go dizzy/knock the hot tap on full/knock the cold tap on full/underestimate the jet strength of the power shower when rinsing your dangly bits (only applies to men) you can reach out with both arms and wedge yourself before damage is done. Well clearly, the ‘hot tap on full and the power shower to the dangly bits may require an immediate evacuation but being able to claw your way along the walls could facilitate! They also impose a well respected rule of ‘quiet after ten’. Breakfast is equally generous although there is nothing cooked; however, if that is a problem you are allowed to take in your own food and cook it and that goes for lunch (if you’re in) and dinner too. I haven’t described the other hotels becase they’re normal and this one isn’t – in a positive sense.
The trains are a bit special too. The Norwegians have planned their rail system and brought it up to date according to practical needs and there are many. They’re a very socially aware country with family areas and that goes for the trains too. One of the carriages is dedicated to family and children with a soft play area and more room between seats so you can feed the little ones. On the trains that I’ve been on the soft play area is well used and the train manager/ guard ensures that all is well and there are no delinquents causing difficulties. Half of the next carriage is for heavy luggage and bikes followed by a compartment carriage like we used to have before Beecham’s axe and subsequent modernisation. These appear to be purchased by families but there are units with only one person in them. The next carriage is a food kiosk that sells all kinds of things including a limited amount of hot food and the guy running it knows the allergens in most of the food , I know this ‘cos the lady in front is celiac and asked him questions closely followed by me who did likewise and received fulsome and knowledgeable replies.
Today I’m going to Bergen, I’m only going to be there for three or four hours and the journey from Voss is as spectacular as the trip over the mountains from Oslo. It takes about fifty minutes and we follow rivers with rapids, waterfalls and smooth lazy meanderings as countryside transforms itself from bleak mountain to forest clad hills to still fjords with small wooden framed cottages painted in a variety of pastel shaded colours. It’s like a child’s illustrated story book captivating and forever changing.
I arrive in Bergen and I’m immediately taken by it. Like all Norwegian stations it is open and has no gates or impediments to flow. I had a long discussion with an off duty train driver and she told me that the accent was on safety so the train guard is an essential element of ‘system’ and it would seem that all journeys have tickets checked. She told me that the astronomical cost of ticket gates was not justified if you have a person walking the length of the train checking tickets and as a by product looking after the security needs of the passengers. I’ll leave that last statement here for your thoughts.
Bergen has a beautiful old town feel and really exceptional wooden area where the buildings have been renovated and painted in various colours and now have artists, artisans, a visitors centre and a pilgrim centre. I spend an hour in the area then spot a sign to the funicular railway.
Well I like a funicular, it gives you another perspective on the city so a ticket is obtained and off I go the top of Mount Fløyen The views are spectacular and I would urge you to do this unless you have an extreme aversion to heights.
On return to sea level I walk through the market and in to a delightful park with a statue of Edward Grieg where families, shop workers and business men and women are lying in the sun and making full use of their lunchtime break. The Norwegian emphasis on mental health and ‘down time’ to relax may be one of the reasons for their current position in the happiness index. (See earlier post).
The Pilgrim was here a couple of weeks ago and reported an adventure on a cable car so I’m into Sherlock Holmes mode looking for evidence of it. Bingo, TripAdvisor comes up trumps again and within twenty minutes I’m on the tram and six stops later I’m at a parade that leads me to the bottom cable-car station and almost immediate access to the gondola. This is another must do. It’s a bit higher than the funicular and you are hanging on a wire so again use discretion if you have issues with heights. I did fifteen years ago and became desensitised through the encouragement and help from walking friends and specifically Doreen Malone and George Renwick. Doreen took me on the first one with my arm up my back and George has been a constant source of encouragement over the years when we’ve been at a height on the moors and mountains.
There is a very pleasant cafe at the top and plenty of safe places to appreciate the views with children. There’s also some more rocky areas where you can take the path down. I take advice about the time to get down this way as I need to be back at the station by 1740 and decide it’s worth the risk. It’s zigzag, sometimes steps and sometimes rocky track but always with a view. You’re walking down from about 2000 feet so take any phobias into account. I loved it but you do need to be aware of where you’re putting your feet.
The train back to Voss is already waiting at Bergen station and there are plenty of seats. I sit on the right this time to pick up on what I missed on the way here and it’s well worth it.
Voss is quite busy this evening and I manage to get an outstanding meal at the Japanese restaurant sitting outside in the sun. It’s at this point I realise the time is gone ten and it’s still daylight, it’s full of surprises is Norway.
I’m up at five this morning. It’s light and the sun is making its appearance over the wooded mountain and casting long shadows off anything that has the physical structure to get in its way. A bird dips into the water and several seconds later reappears with some hapless creature in its beak and the circle of ripples is the only evidence of the encounter. I watch as they expand far out into what was the flat calm of the water now creating undulating distortions to the reflected mountains that had been perfect reversed images in the water only seconds before.
I’m sad to be leaving Voss on such a perfect day but I’m looking forward to the wonderful train journey back over the snowy mountains with their icy lakes followed by green valleys and raging rivers, there’s never a dull moment on this train – and today, I’m on the right!
Enjoy the snaps G x