Category Archives: Norway

Lillehammer to Stockholm

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Lillehammer, Norway

Lillehammer was more or less developed around the 1994 Olympics. Its main street was empty at the early hours of the morning but anyway we could not spend too much time because we had such a long way to go so we left around 9:30 am for a 600 km/8 hours ride to Stockholm.

After a quick stop at the border that is represented by a road in the woods where the locals are walking their dogs where we got the shopping taxes refunded we crossed in Sweden where we found the roads being larger and in a way better than the small and narrow Norwegian roads. The road from the border to Karlstadt is more or a less a highway, with parts that are interrupted but even then the lane is very large with shoulder and good pavement. Around Karlstadt we stopped for lunch at a beach place. The sun starved Swedes were swarming to the beach that was on the shore of the sea, or a fjord going to it. Played with pigeons, took some pictures and left for Stockholm. The highway continued and you could drive with over 120 km/h an improvement after the 60km/h we had to drive in Norway. The pattern of the highway was new to me, 2 lanes on one way combined with one lane of the other that changed at every several km. It was actually a 3 lanes highway!!!! The drawback is that at one point it was an accident on the one lane section and police had to detour the traffic on the incoming lanes. But the best thing of the drive, otherwise a boring one through a not so great landscape, was admiring a parade of old cars drove with enjoyment by the Swedes. On the entire drive, hours after hours, you could see 2-3 old cars every 5 minutes. There were hundreds of Buick, Chrysler, Volvo, Opel and Oldsmobiles sometimes painted in pink, red, white or green caring behind them an antique camper. Most of them were convertible drove in a glorious sunny day. Sometimes the drivers, women or men, were dressed in matching dresses and suits including the hair do of the 1950, 60s and 70s. Without that parade the 8, that was actually 10, hour drive would have been boring.

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Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

We arrived in Stockholm around 7:30 pm and we started to look for the hotel address and after many investigations we were able to find Alexandra Hotel. A working GPS would have been great….. Unfortunately we found out that the Internet was down at the hotel but the good news was that we could park the car on the street over the weekend. Parking in Stockholm’s secondary areas is about SK15/hour, about $2. Not too bad like all the prices in Sweden that are way lower than in Norway. We took the car and parked close to Gamla Stan, the island that has on it the old town, and we walked and took pictures in the sunset light, watching occasionally glimpses of the small final game in the World Cup between Germany and Uruguay. After we got a pretty good idea of the city layout we were able to have dinner. We were billed SK30 for water, plain tap water with ice and asking about this the Polish waiter told us that nothing is free anymore in Sweden and started to complain about the very low level of life here with working people having to pay for African immigrants that bring their entire families and do not want to work and live on welfare… Food in school is mediocre; medicine is expensive; hospitals are not good, etc. Nobody is happy…..

Briksdalbreen to Lillehammer

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Ornesvingen – Eagle’s bend

Glorious morning. We had a great breakfast served at the table and we left back towards Geiranger and further toward Sweden. We stopped several times on the way for pictures and we took this time the new road from Stryn to Geiranger through the tunnels, not so nice but extremely fast.

Around noon we were in Geiranger and after a short stop and a quick lunch admiring an oyster catcher sitting on eggs annoyed by the surrounding tourists, we left toward Ornesvingen, the Eagles’ bend, on a road that climbs from the side of the fjord. The view from Ornesvingen viewing platform is fantastic and we caught also Hurtigruten coming to drop her passengers in Geiranger. We continued to the top of the mountain and we stopped on great sites on the way on Trollstiegen plateau. Waterfalls and snow capped peaks surrounds you all over. The road is supposed to take 2.5 hours but with so many stops we were able to leave the last stop on the Trollstiegen pass around 5pm. Here the National Tourists Bureau built a spectacular platform over the steep valley and right near a thundering waterfall. It is a great view that should not be missed.

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Trollstiegen

From there the road is going down the spectacular plateau landscape being replaced by forest and you drive through villages at low speed. It is quite boring. We stopped in Otta where we had a large pizza for dinner in the only open place except a burger place and where three small dressings that were casually offered were charged Nk60. Normally in the US all these are free…..We arrived in Lillehammer around 11pm after another 2 hour drive on a road that is marked as a highway but is just a larger road and finally after several tries we got a room in Birkenbeineren Hotel right by the ski jump site of the 1994 Olympics.

Norwegian prices

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Bryksdalbreen Glacier

Norway is expensive. This statement is a norm and you hear it from many. But to understand the real situation you have to come and visit, the most expensive country in Europe, where what strikes you the most is not what exactly you have to pay but the lack of choices. After you visit for a while you understand that the real issue in the country is not the business climate but the Socialist government that taxes everybody so high that businesses run obviously at a very low margin. Finding a hotel to accommodate 3-4 people is possible but the cost incurred can be high. First, if you want to book over Internet not too many hotels have listed a room a 3-4 people. Then when you get one you realize that beside the regular price, very high already, they might add NK250 per person so the least expensive rooms goes for around NK1000-1200 or $200 for a basic room in a basic hotel. Sometimes for this you get breakfast but not all sheets and towels that are charged extra. A top hotel like Raddison charges in a city like Bergen NK1600 same price as similar ones in any small town/resort.

This taxation system compresses the price scale towards the higher prices leaving almost no room for low and medium priced hotels. The American version of cheap motel does not exist. Even if it might look like a motel, inside it is clean looking brand new with impeccable sheets. But this system scales down the offer, in any resort being only 2-3 hotels, all are extremely clean and well maintained. The food is a worse problem if you do not plan in advance. The restaurants outside of the main cities close relatively early and their prices are steep. Like in the Oslo’s restaurants any dish is around $50 and in some of them you may get a fixed menu for this price or higher. The result is that in most of them you may see old families eating out and with such a high tag even in Akker Brigge in Oslo the number of occupied tables is limited and only once a night.

The youth are in the bar across the street and in most of the restaurant’s terraces in Oslo, that are absolutely packed that you could not find a chair, everybody has just a beer on the table and ABSOLUTELY no food. In small towns in the fjords the food options might be limited to only one pizza parlor and one hotel with restaurant that closes the kitchen at 8-9pm, so if you missed your 7pm dinner the Arab’s pizza parlor is the only option. Any soft drink is about NK25 and a beer is around NK50. Banks exists in some towns but you have to investigate thoroughly to be able to find it and when you find it the exchange rate is taxed that you get 10-15% less than the expected rate. Because of lack of available banks we ran out of NK many times and we had to negotiate a rate, surprisingly slightly better than in a bank, to pay for food or even the hotel in US$.

The roads are free but occasionally it comes up a toll road where the toll is so high like the one toward Fraeling where for 34km you have to pay NK180,  coming to $1/km Anything you visit is around NK50-70/person. For families kids pay half so it comes to NK160-180. And this is for absolutely any place you have to see inside, be a museum, a church, etc. But after you pay this entry you get interesting extra fees. You go to museum OUTSIDE of the city and after you pay NK160 the entry fee you find out that the parking should be paid also, NK10/hour and sometimes is a fee for the museum toilet.

Transportation is highly expensive with any ferry crossing being around NK120, $20 and you need a number of crossings.The tickets prices for buses and trains, as we heard from other travelers, are very high also but surprisingly the plane tickets are reasonable. The Flam train is NK340 RT and the bus ticket for inner city in Bergen is NK25. The gas is slightly more than $2/liter. The parking is expensive in large cities that is expected but at rate of $10/hour on street parking in Oslo it comes to be more expensive than NYC. The prices are as they are. You pay and you forget but what shocks you the most is that these are fees and prices that the locals are paying on a regular basis and they have to deal with the lack of options similar in a way with a way of life that was happening 20 years ago in Eastern Europe. Knowing that the government is a coalition of parties with the Socialists in the middle is no surprise. People are quite unhappy as we found out.

The life was affordable till about 1985 when the prices started to skyrocket and it became really unaffordable after 2000. The Socialist government policies makes unemployment compensation higher than the pensions and elderly people suffers of neglect and lack of care. With the higher taxes and steep local costs I just mentioned, you really wonder how much these people have to earn in order to afford living in this country. As I just found out last night all the people working in the hotel are paid flat NK125/hour ($20/hour). Businesses do not make a good profit but just get by. Of course we assumed that everything else is taken care of like medicine, but a retired person mentioned that they have to pay NK2800 from their own pocket in order to qualify for medicine to be paid from government programs.

Geiranger to Bryksdal

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Geiranger Fjord

Norway is an enchanting country. Everything that surrounds you is breathtaking keeping you awake till late into the night; high mountains with steep cliffs that look like falling over you, glaciers hanged in the sky, waterfalls pouring down from everywhere surrounding you with their majesty and sound, a nature that exults power and freshness. And the summer light helps you. Even if you do not cross the Artic Circle the light is enough at midnight to be able to read. Till around 10:30 – 11:30pm is light like during the day so you do not want to go to sleep. The entire tour we walked or drove every evening till 10:30 – 11pm and got a hotel around 11pm usually being the last people to check in. The next morning we rushed to get up to start all over again so we had in general around 5-6 hours of sleep per night. And you still feel that you miss so much. Wherever you drive or walk is so beautiful that you feel that you don’t have to hand pick routes to enjoy the day just go where your eyes carry you. No matter how much ground you covered you have the feeling that you barely scratched the surface and determines you even more to return.

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Dalsniba

After an early breakfast we parked the car at the harbor and we got on the 9:30 am cruise on the Geiranger Fjord, a 1.5 hour trip every two hours. The boat ride is spectacular, the UNESCO listed Geiranger Fjord being a very narrow with steep climbing cliffs. During the ride back people were getting off and going for hikes or were picked up from hikes but I did not investigate to see how this can be arranged. This cruise is one of the best in Norway’s fjord and should not be missed. When we returned after some phone calls and shopping in the harbor and many pictures from vantage points, we checked out the very nice hotel room and we drove all the way to Dalsniba, a 1500 meter mountain peak with fantastic views over the fjord and the surrounding mountains. The peak is covered in snow and when the sun goes in the clouds it is chilly.

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Strynefjell

We spent there way too much time and we continued on the way to Grotli from where we turn right on the old Styrn route, Strynefjell, a narrow one lane road not properly maintained that goes deep inside a plateau valley in a moonlike landscape. Tourist buses use the road coming from Styrn and you have to stop and go on the side or drive back to an area where they can pass you. Fortunately they drive in flocks and after they passed the entire road was ours with some occasionally cars coming from Styrn. the road is one of the most spectacular roads we drove in Norway. After about an hour we reached Stryn summer ski resort but that looked closed. I read that you can ski here till late in the summer and seeing the amount of snow still left in the middle of July was no surprise. The road improves from the resort till it meets the new road from Grotli to Styrn.

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Nordfjord

On the we stopped and had lunch in a bucolic valley surrounded by waterfalls, wild rivers and snowed capped peaks. This road is a treat not matter that is not easy to navigate on its first portion. From Styrn, the main town in Nordfjord, we drove to the closest glacier, Kendelsbreen, where we got info regarding the glacier walks in the local restaurant where the guides were eating. The glacier walks start at 10 am and is a whole day affair ending around 5pm with about 3 hours on the ice. Unfortunately our schedule could not afford this so we decided to have dinner on the terrace with a view of the lake and glacier in front. After dinner we drove to Briksdalebreen, the second glacier where we started the hike toward the glacier around 8:30 pm. It takes about 40 minutes to hike to the glacier. During the day there is a trolley that for NK100 takes you there also. After admiring the glacier and watching an avalanche of ice coming down, we backtracked our route reaching the base hotel around 11pm where we were able to catch the manager right when he was closing to go to sleep, got a room and slept over night in Briksdal and the base of the glacier.

Voss to Geiranger

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Unes Stave Church

The plan was to wake up early and drive to Flam, one hour, and get the train ride from Flam to Myrtle, 45 minutes one way, NK850/family ticket. The train comes every 80 minutes but when we reached Flam in a constant drizzle we found a huge cruise boat and all the trains being sold out till afternoon. A little disappointed we decided to leave and drove all the way to Songdal and Lom to get to Geiranger Fjord. Looking on the map more attentively we realized that we did not plan right the roads and we drove the same roads several times. We could have been more efficient but when you rush because of lack of time you always miss something.

We drove this time through the long Laerdal tunnel, 24.5km that has places to stop inside lit with colored lights, got on the same ferry as before and arrived in Songdal, 3 hours from Voss, and started to drive to Hasflo to go to Urnes Stave Church. The church is on the other side of the fjord so we boarded a ferry, NK142, and after a short haul we got on the other side and drove up. Inside the church was a wedding so we waited to finish and after that we had the chance to listen to a remarkable presentation about the Vikings, their customs and knowledge and the way they built these churches. The church is one of the best we visited in Norway and it is worth a detour to see it and to listen to the presentation.

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Skjolde to Lom

We continued on a extremely beautiful road right on the shore of the fjord to Skjolde where the roads combines and we drove over the mountain pass to Lom on another picturesque road. The landscape around the 1500 m pass is desolate. Snow, drizzle, wind and some fog forced you to get quickly in the car after you take a shot.

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Lom Stave Church

But when we descended from the top of the mountain the weather was balmy in Lom, the driest place in Norway and people were enjoying the sun at the cafes in town. We visited the Stave Church and we had dinner, again relatively mediocre food but as the waiter said: ”The food is very expensive” . From Lom to Geiranger is about 90km, 2 hours tops but the road is so nice again that it took us almost double to cross it with so many stops for pictures. In Grotli we stopped and watched a little the Spain goal in the match against Germany and we continued in the magnificent landscape of the mountains surrounding Geiranger, crossing the deserted plateau. After a stop at the motel at 1039 meters in Djupvasshytta we drove directly in town around 11pm, booked a room in Union Hotel and got the information about the daily cruises in the fjord for the following day.

Bergen

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Bryggen

 

“How much does the room cost in your hotel?” “NK800 without bathroom in the room and NK900 with bathroom. Do you need sheets and towels?” “Well, obviously…” “ In this case is an extra NK70/person” This was in Bergen, the second largest city in Norway and we picked this hotel because it had parking. On the door it was a sign that you have to pay for parking but nobody bothered. This was a youth hostel but the youth age was very relative.

After the breakfast we packed, left the luggage in the car and after we waited for the drenching rain to stop took a bus for NK25 into the city, kids riding free. Bergen is a very nice city. An old city part of the famous Hanseatic League was a major trading port in the 15-17th century and latter. The German merchants came and set shops in Bryggen, the old part of town where the league was securing for them a sort of monopoly in fish trading. In a deeply religious country the fish was an important food eaten mainly during the lent. The high prices commanded by fish made the merchants rich and the houses they built in the harbor, UNESCO protected, are even today centers for businesses companies with offices on their upper floors.

We visited the city center with its beautiful buildings around Johanes Kirche and Bryggen with its old houses in the highly animated harbor where ships were helping to recover another ship that sunk that morning. New technology, old ways. The fish market was in full swing and we had an eye on it for lunch/dinner like all the other tourists. Beside fish of all form, there are lots of souvenir places, cheese, salami, jam, fruit and vegetable, etc. all sold at quite steep prices. We walked in Bryggen that is a charm of the place. The old buildings have pulleys that were and still are used to carry merchandise on the top floors balconies that hang over the tiny alleys. From there we took a short walk and got in the Floihban, a train on steep tracks that was bringing people on top of the hill from where the view over Bergen is astounding. Not too much time was left so we walked down and went to visit the Hanseatic Museum, located in the first house in Bryggen, a UNESCO protected building. The museum has the original layout of a merchant house during the league, with the floors where the merchant and his family was living and the floors for apprentices, a desired position that was placing the person on the track to become a merchant and a member of the League having him set for life. The visit was followed by dinner in the fish market where the food was average but expensive. After a little more walk in Bryggen I took a bus, got to the hotel, picked up the car and picked up everybody from the city and drove all the way to Voss, one hour, to the same B&B we got info the night before. Before going to sleep I had to do a Skype to NYC not to get too detached from work…..

Sognefjord to Bergen

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Luster

The rain showers in the forecast proved correct and in the morning the sky was full of clouds and rain on the ground. We packed and left to Gaupke, 12 km away where we had breakfast in a mall, all the real coffee places being closed before 10 am. The rain was going on and off alternating with sun, making it even more difficult to figure out what to do.

We drove all the way to Luster, another 24 km where we started to drive back and took the way to Jostedal Glacier from Gaupke. At 487km2  Jostedal is the largest glacier in continental Europe. The rain proved more acute in Jostedal, especially in the glacier proximity, and we could not do a climb/hike so we decided to leave toward Bergen with a stop in Songdal for food  and gas, and from there to Kaupangen to board the ferry to Gudvagen. We were not decided to take the ferry, 3 times a day only, but we arrived right when the ferry was boarding so we drove on  it (NK960) and sailing through the fjords we got in 2.5 hours to Gudvagen navigating in occasional showers with sun through the magnificent Naeroyfjord, one of the narrowest and most beautiful in Norway.

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Kaupanger-Gudvagen Ferry

From Gudvagen there are 120 km to Bergen and we drove another hour a beautiful road with waterfalls, the one in Tivden being a real treat, to Voss where we ate at another pizza/pasta place held by Arabs, the last food available before Bergen. Unfortunately if you arrive after 7pm it is no more pasta or anything else available, just pizza that becomes a drag after a while….At the exit from Voss we stopped at a B&B from where we called and made a reservation in Bergen in a hotel recommended by the locals, Bergen Montana and we drove a little more than one hour through many tunnels to get to Bergen where after several tries we were able to locate the hotel and crashed for the night, again after 1am.

Sognefjord

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Stave Church in Gol

After a good sleep in the quietude of the mountains and a great breakfast in the hotel we left and stopped to visit the Stave Church in Gol. The entrance to all these churches is around NK 70-90 and for families it goes to about NK170-190. The stave churches’ structure is made out of long poles that have a sculpted face on top, representing probably a heathen god. The tall poles are called Stave and give the interior a lofty aspect bringing your view towards the sky. Close to the church was a museum with the Norse legends and gods and a tomb of a Norseman warrior. We had an interesting discussion about life and prices in Norway with the lady that was hosting the place and it turned out that people are rather dissatisfied, not to say angry, with the government and what they get back for the taxes and the prices they pay.

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Borgund Stave Church

From there we left towards the Songsfjord, the most famous fjord of Norway, trying to take advantage of the sunny day followed in the forecast by some rainy ones. The roads proved to be excellent, well paved and well maintained in spite of the waterfalls that are pouring around their sides. And in spite of the surrounding peaks and fjords there are few hairpins or sharp curves and no matter that there are no four lane roads the traffic is smooth with speeds around 80kmh. We stopped on the way to admire great waterfalls and fantastic landscape. Close to the fjord we stopped and visited the Stave Church in Borgund, one of the oldest in the country, dating from 1160. The church is covered with tar in order to be preserved and is one of the best in Norway. Same NK 160 ticket and the surprise is that the toilet access was at …NK5/person. Norwegian way…..

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Sulphebreen Glacier

Leaving towards the fjord, after some tunnels the road ended in a ferry and we crossed (NK 115) getting in 15 minutes to Songden, the largest town and in a way the heart of Sognefjord. Here we got some information and a map about the fjord and after checking some places to sleep and eat we drove toward Faerling, where close to it there are two glaciers, Boyabreen and Sulphebreen. The road toward the town is marked as a toll road without saying how much is the toll and only when you finished the 34 km drive you get to pay the equivalent of $30. …And you have to pay again the toll at your return to Songden. Quite an entry fee. We visited the glaciers. In Bovabreen it is a lake at the glacier’s base and you cannot reach its base but in Sulphebreen you are able to go to its margin and walk on ice.

We returned to Songdal and continued towards Luster stopping in Hasflo at a guesthouse. But being Sunday night everything was getting closed early so after several tries around Hasflo we drove back to back Songdal (12km) and ate in the still opened pizzeria held by some Arabs and returned towards midnight to Hasflo. We have to thank the long Scandinavian day light that gives you a lot of flexibility. In Hasflo the night never sets in, the evening light holding over the town after midnight. The disadvantage is that you end up staying very late and going to bed every night around 12-1am. The guesthouse we stayed was the best deal we had in the entire stay in Norway with a very cozy two bedroom apartment for NK800. But you have to find it….

Oslo to Gol

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Rathus – City Hall, Oslo

The next morning I got my camera, packed and went outside to park the car in an area the receptionist recommended. Everything around the center of the city is extremely expensive and very strict, with parking cars being seen so often. I drove about 5 minutes away, close to Anker Hotel and I found the free parking on the street in a very quiet area. I walked back to the hotel and picked up everybody and went to eat to the same place where we ate dinner the night before, close to the hotel. The pizza/ bar places are way less expensive than the regular restaurants but the prices are in any case higher than US or Euro zone. I went to a 7Eleven that abounds in Norway and I purchased some bread rolls. They do accept any kind of currency but they cannot tell you at what exchange rate. It is kind of weird and it ended up costing $6 for 3 small rolls of bread!!! The breakfast was good and the cappuccino was great.

After breakfast I wanted to go and see how I can change money at the only open place the Forex bureau in the train station. This is a big rip off . I did not do the exchange because it was a long line but latter on I did it and the rate was so bad and he commission so high that for $50 I got about NK250 no matter that the official rate is 6.67….Walking back I started to look for an AC adapter. In New York costs around $1 and can be found relatively easily. Here it was a trip and when I found a specialized store it was NK299, about $50!!! They told me that it exists another version that is only NK99 and after several tries I found a store that had it and I bought it happily not without pointing out that is expensive. And the salesman confirmed: “Norway is a very expensive country”. It was the first time I heard the statement done by a local and I kept hearing after that on and on. I walked and shot video in Karl Johanes gate, the main pedestrian area in Oslo going all the way to the STOSSEL the royal palace and at 12 pm I was at the RatHuis to get to visit the place where the Nobel Foundation offers the Nobel Prize for Peace, awarded this year to President Obama. The halls are impressive, made out of material from Norway and completely painted with frescos done by Norwegian artists. Impressive is the large hall on the first floor where the ceremony is held. Across is a pavilion dedicated to the prize that now housed an exhibit with Obama and another about the South Africa.

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Thor Heyerdhal Museum – Ra

From there after another very quick tour on the Aker Drygge we went to National Gallery that has a great collection of Norwegian artists, having in the middle a hall dedicated to Munch, that has also the “The Scream” plus many other interesting paintings. Jumping from one to another I went to get the car and after a short stop at the hotel to pick up the luggage we drove to Bygodf , a very close suburb of Oslo that has an amazing collection of museums. Short time, long list so we decided for the seafaric museums. So we visited the Vikings Museum, a museum that contains three Vikings ships and a number of carts and other artifacts found in Ostenxxx. The next museum visited in a hurry was the one about Kon Tiki and the expeditions of Thor Heyerdhal. This one it is a very inspiring for anybody who has a relative sense of adventure. Both Kon Tiki and Ra are in the museum. Right before we left we were able also to pick inside the museum that houses Fram the ship used by Nansen to go to the North Pole. It was already 6pm but this does not mean late in Norway because you have at least 5 good hours of light in front so we started to drive towards Bergen on very nice roads in a great mountain landscape through dense forests planning to stop on the way after about three hours. The road from Oslo to Bergen takes about 6 hours and we split it is two at Gol, a summer and winter resort, where we were able to get a room at a Best Western Hotel for the promotional price of NK1200. Food is an issue if you want to eat latter. Because of the driving many times we were forced to eat around 9-10 pm and almost everything is closed. But luckily we found some Turks with a Pizza/pasta place open. We noticed latter on that not only they have the lower cost food in a country where restaurants are prohibitively expensive for the regular guy but also these immigrants are the only guys open till 10-11 pm.

Goteborg to Oslo

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Goteborg Opera House

In Scandinavia the hotel’s breakfast is extremely good. Generous, diversified and delicious is something to look forward for. Beside everything that was offered I was able for the first time to have a really great machine made cappuccino. I did not believe that something like this exits, at least not in the US.

We considered taking a tram to go in the city center but because we did not have any Swedish money we decided to drive into the city to Heden Parking recommended by the hotel’s receptionist. The parking  can paid by credit card and no matter that the parking machines in Heden were supposed to take American Express they somehow could not read any credit card so I was stuck on keep trying. Meanwhile my hopeless tries were noticed by some Swedes around and a lady decided that she wants to pay for my 4 hours of parking, about $3-4, and all my thanks and prays of giving her in exchange US$ were refused.  She said: “You are a tourist and we like tourists”. I was wondering when something like that happened last time in France, for example….. Goteborg’s center is not large and can be managed in several hours. The old part of the city is around a square located right on the shore of the canals and the harbor that is spectacular especially on a sunny day like the one we had. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit any museum, the Haselblat one being my number ONE priority. After a tour in the old town, a stop at a women beach volleyball match on a court in front of the opera  and a walk in  the harbor we were able to get on top of the harbor’s red building to get a view of the entire city and after a short stop at the mall to eat we headed back to the car and to a 3 hour drive to Oslo. But after we drove for about one hour we got on a single lane road and we realized that the three Scandinavian capitals are not connected by finished highways.

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Oslo Opera House

Luckily the highway hiatus was not so long and we crossed at one point the border with NORWAY that has also a toll, not being clear that is for the bridge we crossed or for the border, 24SK. But all the highways are free….. In Oslo we reached easily the hotel, that we reserved several days before by sort of accident. Because I could not cancel it I was stuck with it and it was not a great choice. At the time I thought that the price being high I should be safe but I missed a big point: This reservation was done in Norway, the most expensive country in Europe. A budget hotel in Norway that has three bed is close or slightly over $200…..And this was just the beginning of experiencing the high cost of living in this country.We parked ourselves at the Budget Inn 2 blocks away from the Central Station and we parked the car on the street, after 18:00 pm being free. However during the day any public parking is about $10/hour if you don’t take the deal of NK240 for the day. Trying to change some money I ended in the railway station where all the offices were closed but they had ATM. I got to one of these and expecting to work in the regular way I entered all the requested info and I asked to get $1000 in local currency. The menu was very confusing having all sorts of currencies except NK so I chose US$ and ….this is what I got, 20 crisp $50 bills. What the heck I would do now because no machine was offering NK? Cursing I got out of the train station looking for a bank but nothing was open. The exchange rate was about $1=NOR 6.62 but, as we were able to find out the following day, if you exchange money at the Forex with the low rate they offer plus their commission it may come close to $1=NK5!!!!!! Aker Drygge is the heart of the nightlife in Oslo. Built on a shipyard area in the 1980 is a modern stretch of apartments buildings on the shore aligned also with a beautiful promenade, bars and restaurants. The music is pumped from the lava bar where youngsters lay down on pillows sipping over priced drinks, Norwegian style. All over you can enjoy the fantastic sense of Scandinavian design and architecture, with ergonomic benches and small water canals and fountains that wind through the passage. Small pedestrian bridges over larger canals lit in the night and a statue of Sri Chimnoy with a flame mirroring the flames of the disco bars. We walked the promenade and enjoyed its scent of summer; you can tell that these people enjoy being out in the summer after so many hours of darkness and cold. They enjoy it so much that even in drizzle they drive their convertibles with the top off. All people from Scandinavia exult this enjoyment like no others. We watched the end of the World  Cup game between Uruguay and Ghana that put in the semifinals after so many years the Diego Forlan’s team. The atmosphere was very pleasant and the late light made us stay till around 12pm when finally it looked darker. On my way back to the hotel looking for parking rates for the next day I have to fend off an African prostitute that abound in the downtown. At the hotel I noticed to my utmost surprise that the European AC adapter was missing and I did not have a spare to charge my batteries. After we spent some time investigating it turned out that it was left in Goteborg. It was no big deal except that we could not use any other adapter except that one, the outlets in hotel being grounded and needing a special adapter .After all sorts of tries I found a solution to a unique outlet in the reception area that could take an adapter I had and I left the camera over night there hoping to find it, and I did.