Staff Review

Norway in a Nutshell


18 Nov 2016

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

Day 1 - I meet with my colleague Nicky at Heathrow for our early morning 2 hour British Airways flight to Oslo and on arrival we are met by a friendly driver who whisks us into the centre of the city, which is mainly traffic free as we are travelling in early August before the end of the Norwegian school holidays. We are staying for just one night in Oslo at The Grand. This traditional hotel opened in 1874 and is famous for its restaurants and bars. Henrik Ibsen, Norway’s most famous dramatist, used to eat lunch every day in the hotel’s “Grand Café”, which overlooks Karl Johans Gate, the city’s main avenue which leads up to the Royal Palace. Oslo is noted for its museums and is investing heavily in its cultural institutions, symbolised by the striking Opera House which is located on the waterfront and the new National Museum which is due to open in the renovated Aker Brygge harbour area in 2017.'We headed around the corner from the hotel to the National Gallery, which contains Norway’s largest collection of paintings and sculptures, including works by Manet and Cezanne. Our real reason to visit was to see Munch’s “The Scream” which was easy to find as the work was surrounded by tourists. More impressive were Munch’s other works on display, including “The Sick Child”. A major exhibition will take place at The National Gallery in summer 2013 to celebrate 150 years since the artist’s birth. Olso is renowned for its café culture and we stop at “United Bakeries” for delicious sandwiches and pastries and enjoy the late summer sun before heading across Karl Johans Gate to The Continental Hotel for a short tour. This privately owned 5* hotel is a member of the “Leading Hotels of the World” and is Oslo’s most luxurious address, therefore it is recommended for those looking for the highest standard of service and accommodation. We also visit The Bristol, a traditional 4* hotel and flagship of the Norwegian Thon hotel group and renowned for its personal service. Open sandwiches and cakes are served in the hotel’s winter garden, accompanied by music from the resident pianist. After a busy day, we decide it is time to mingle with the locals and head to a local bar to watch Norway’s female handball team win their Olympic semi-final. Alcohol is expensive in Norway - £8 for a pint of beer, while a bottle of house wine costs approximately £38 - we drink very slowly! We have dinner in “Oro grill”, a Michelin Bib Gourmand recommendation serving modern Norwegian cuisine in a contemporary setting.'Day 2 - We leave on the 08:34 train heading for Bergen. The railway journey between the two cities takes 7 hours and is one of the great rail journeys of Europe. The train winds past fjords and wild forest and crosses the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, which separates East and West Norway, passing through ski resorts and stopping at Finse, Norway’s highest railway station. Our train is comfortable and there is an opportunity to meet fellow passengers in the restaurant car. We descend at Myrdal to start our “Norway in a Nutshell” tour which showcases Norway’s spectacular scenery and is a recommended day trip for clients staying in Bergen. Our journey includes a steep descent through the Flam valley aboard the Flam Mountain Railway, a masterpiece of Norwegian engineering which winds around hairpin bends and through 20 tunnels, passing waterfalls and remote hamlets before arriving at Flam. Here we board a ferry for a spectacular two hour journey which includes the Nærøyfjord, a Unesco protected narrow arm of the Sognefjord. We then board a coach and pass through the Nærøydalen valley before rejoining the main line at the mountain resort of Voss, to arrive at Bergen in the evening. We overnight at the First Hotel Marin, a 4* centrally located hotel. Rooms with view over the lively harbour front are recommended.'Day 3 - After breakfast we head to Bergen’s lively fish market situated on the waterfront before visiting our second hotel in Bergen, The Clarion Collection Havnekontoret. This superior 4* hotel has recently been renovated and enjoys excellent harbour views, as well as offering all clients a complimentary light evening buffet. We then join a walking tour of Bergen, which starts in Bryygen, Bergen’s Unesco protected historic warehouse district, which was once the forefront of trade when the city was a member of the Hanseatic League. We continue our tour through the quiet cobbled streets of old Bergen and finish at the Domkirchen, Bergen’s cathedral. Bergen is surrounded by seven hills and after lunch we take the Floibahnen funicular railway to the peak of Mount Floyen, which enjoys spectacular views of the city and from where we see the next leg of our trip for the first time - our Hurtigruten vessel.'Since 1893 Hurtigruten has linked Norway's coastal communities with departures every day, all year round from Bergen to Kirknes - deep within the Arctic Circle. Hurtigruten is not a typical cruise experience and will appeal to those who want to discover Norway’s coastline and wildlife aboard a comfortable, intimate working vessel. We board the “Richard With”, which entered service in 1994 for a two day voyage to Trondheim. We settle into our sea view cabins, which are simply furnished, compact but well designed, cosy and have en suite facilities and drinking water. Most vessels also offer suites which will appeal to those looking for more comfort, particularly on a longer voyage. We depart at 20:00 and enjoy a delicious buffet dinner which includes a selection of smoked and cured fishes, cold cuts, hot dishes, Norwegian cheese and desserts. Hurtigruten takes great pride in sourcing local, fresh ingredients and the menus reflect the regions that you visit en route.'Day 4 - While we have breakfast we briefly stop in Alesund, renowned for its Art Noveau architecture, before entering the Geiranger fjord, which is only possible during the summer months and is another highlight of our trip. Norway’s most famous fjord is over 100km in length and there is ample space on board to enjoy the spectacular views from one of the ship’s panoramic lounges or from a deck chair outside on deck. As we approach the village of Geiranger, the fjord narrows and is flanked by thundering waterfalls and sheer cliffs on each side dotted with remote hill top farms. We arrive at Geiranger and are fortunate that we are the only vessel in port as this is a popular calling point for cruise ships. Hurtigruten offers a comprehensive optional excursion programme and some clients disembark by tender to join a tour which includes the Eagles road, which offers magnificent views of the Fjord and a dramatic drive across the Trollstigen pass, before rejoining the vessel later on its return to Alesund. Dinner this evening is a three course set menu and later we disembark briefly when the vessel arrives at Molde.'Day 5 - The ship arrives at Trondheim on schedule at 08:15, where it will remain in port for 4 hours. We join a walking tour which provides an invaluable insight into the city. Once Norway’s first capital, today Trondheim is a buzzing university city with a proud history. Highlights include the mediaeval Nidaros cathedral, the wooden warehouses and buildings of Bryggen and the open air Sverresborg Trondelag Folkemuseum. We collect our baggage and have time to visit two hotels. The Clarion Collection Hotel Bakeriet, located in one of Trondheim’s oldest shopping streets and on the site of a former bakery is perfectly positioned for exploring the city, while The Britannia is the city’s grand hotel and offers excellent personal service in traditional surroundings, boasting an excellent spa. We then head to the airport for our flight home. While there are several direct flights each week from Trondheim to Gatwick with Norwegian Airlines, we fly with SAS to London Heathrow which includes a seamless connection in Oslo and where we sample friendly Scandinavian service one last time.

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