Have you ever travelled to Norway? A question I get asked quite frequently here in Ballard in Seattle Washington USA. My answer is yes, but it was a long time ago – and I was on an American Youth Hostel cycling tour of England and the Scandinavian Countries. It was in 1959. Departure from La Guardia, or was it Idlewild, Airport, New York. On a 4 engine propeller plane operated by Flying Tiger Airlines. Sounds like ancient history doesn’t it.
This is the plane in which I flew across the Atlantic from New York to London, landing for refueling in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Gander, Newfoundland, Keflavik Iceland, and Shannon. We soon flew on to London and started the cycling part of our adventure there in England. I’ll save the England part for another time. Today I’ll write about cycling in Norway. By the time we reached Norway via the overnight trip on the”Vomiting Venus” from Newcastle to Bergen, our cycling legs were in good shape. In fact the cycling in England had been very tough – usually uphill and into a headwind and trying to do 25-30 miles a day. We were a group of 8, 4 men, 4 women plus our Danish leader Fritz. John and Earl from Indiana, Irwin Rosenhouse an artist from New York City, Chuck Johnson from Seattle, Scottie from the Mid-West, Ruth, Betty, and myself. The trip on the Venus was in fact quite smooth and the trip up the fjord to Bergen was very smooth and calm. We passed isolated houses on the sides of the fjord and that part of the trip before we finally reached Bergen seemed very long. The month was July, the hours of daylight were long. We stayed in the Youth Hostel high above the city and we marvelled at the light in the sky well past midnight. We had 2 or 3 days in Bergen to enjoy the museums and the market and the eating possibilities. One excursion was to Grieg’s home and to see a stave church. This photo of Grieg’s home is from this site.
I roamed the stores, I think I was looking for handcraft materials, probably yarn. Although this wasn’t really a phase in my life when I was doing much in the way of handicrafts, I think the latent interest was still there.
When we left Bergen, I think we must have taken a bus and our bicycles were put up on the top in some sort of carrier rack. Once the bus reached the top of that particular segment of road out of Bergen, we got out and claimed our bicycles and cycled to a hostel on the edge of the Hardanger Fjord. I can’t quite reconstruct the sequence here because looking at the map it would seem that we would have stayed in Voss for a night and then cycled to another hostel along the edge of the fjord. The hostel on the edge of the fjord was nestled down on one side of the road and to do our mountain climbing the next day we just went across the road and climbed for 2 or 3 hours to some of the higher meadows. The meals in the hostel seemed very similar – I couldn’t tell the difference between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then back on the bicycles to go to Eidfjord where we stayed in a tiny red school house. I think there was a small ferry crossing at some point along the way. Then another bus trip to gain more altitude. We reached another high point and descended from the bus. It was snowing! And here we were only July. Seemed a bit cold to bicycle but the sun eventually came out and it had only been a snow flurry after all. The cycling seemed to be mostly gently downhill along the top of the plateau to Geilo and Gol. Very easy cycling really. It was in either Geilo or Gol that I bought a ski sweater in the traditional colours of navy with red and white trim. Next came a train trip to get to Oslo where again we had a few days to enjoy the museums and the various other attractions of that city. I just loved the Viking Ship Museum and seeing the Kon Tiki raft, and then the Folk Museum, and also the sculptures in Fragonard Park. Then on to Stockholm, again via overnight train – a most uncomfortable journey sitting up all night with no facility for leaning back. A very stiff neck was the result. I’ll leave the telling of the Sweden and Denmark parts of the trip for another day.
It’s not easy to read the map but above are a few of the places – Bergen, Voss, the Hardanger Fjord, Geilo, Gol, Oslo. I can’t seem to find Eidfjord but I’m quite sure that was the name of the little settlement where we stayed in the red schoolhouse.
Not only am I trying to construct an answer to the question “have you ever travelled in Norway?”, I am also trying, in my mind, to relate, at least geographically, to another recent experience – the viewing of a documentary film about life as it used to be in some of the more remote parts of Norway. That too will be the subject of another post.