Planning the trip.
One of the things we had planned to do while we’re in Copenhagen is travel and explore Europe as much as we can. The list of possible places to go has already far exceeded the time we have to do it.
I’m always asking friends and acquaintances what they recommend. And of course asking the girls and MBH what they are interested in. Amsterdam, [anywhere in] France, Iceland, the Balkans are all top of the list.
We also have a budget. Living in Copenhagen is quite expensive – although one huge relief is that we don’t have to worry about going in to debt from health care costs. And for me, the higher taxes (or, investment in the public good, which is what it is) are definitely worth that.
So when I got a notification from Norwegian air about “fall deals,” I excitedly looked for tickets to any of the above mentioned places during the 2nd weekend of the girls’ fall break. The first weekend we visited Legoland with friends who visited us from Rochester. It was also a fantastic weekend. I’ve got a lot of blog post catching up to do!
Anyhow, back to the looking at the “deals” offered by Norwegian air – only to find out that tickets to those places during the week that all Danish schools are closed, were still quite expensive.
Of course they were.
I was sure I could get a better deal, so I kept looking.
The place that had the least expensive tickets was Bergen, Norway.
And while Bergen wasn’t at the top of the list, I had asked friends who visited Norway this past summer – where they would recommend we go in Norway for hiking – and their recommendation had been Bergen (Thank you Lisa and Katie!)
So, I booked tickets for all 4 of us, only to go add this to our family calendar and see that MBH was scheduled to leave for an invited speaking gig in Dresden, Germany Sunday, early afternoon.
Fortunately, I had 4 hours to cancel the flights and get a full refund.
So I did.
Then rebooked the flights for the girls and I same as before, and booked a ticket for MBH for Thursday night to Saturday night. Departure time, 7pm – thinking, “Wonderful, we’ll have 2 full days in Bergen together. “
Or So I Thought.
I’d actually booked him on a 7am flight out of Bergen Saturday morning.
Dammit Dammit Dammit.
Stupid 24 Hour Clock!!!
Or should I say stupid US for not consistently using the 24 hour clock like the rest of the world.
I could also say “Neely, really, how long have you been traveling and known that air travel uses the 24hr clock?”
But I digress.
So when I saw 7:00 – 8:30, I immediately assumed 7pm. If only there had been a 0 in front of the 7 and the 8:30. I didn’t learn about this incorrect assumption until a week or two before our trip, so I couldn’t change it. These are the kinds of travel mistakes I make more often than I’d like to admit.
Next step was to find a place to stay. I did some research, and more research and finally booked our Airbnb right in the city center.
There were 3 options for getting to our Airbnb:
- Light rail – $8 total – takes the longest – 50 minutes
- Flybussen – $25 total – 30 minutes –
- Taxi – ~$55 total- 20 minutes
After much consideration (waaaay too much, honestly), I decided Flybussen was the best option for us – because our flight was getting in at 11:15pm.
In spite of the fact that I lived in Central Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer for more than two years (almost 20 years ago), have traveled a lot since I was 14 (Europe, West Africa, Central Africa and Southern Africa mostly), and traveled alone many of these times, I am a really anxious traveler.
Just ask MBH or my Peace Corps post-mate Laura…
All the more anxious when my teen and pre-teen are already off and on not always so happy about the move to Copenhagen, and not excited about this particular trip – as it was nowhere on their “list of places we want to travel to in Europe.”
In addition to that, the first thing Danes and Norwegians and others I talked to said when I told them we were traveling to Bergen was, eyebrows raised, “Bergen, the rainiest city in Norway.” “Oh, Bergen, it’s really rainy there.”
Great. We live in the rainiest and cloudiest European capital city, and I’ve planned a family trip of outdoors activities to the rainiest Norwegian city.
Spoiler alert, the weather was glorious and the trip was amazing.
The hiking was incredible, and morale 98% of the time we were there was higher than it’s been in a while. The 2% was after strenuous hiking- hungry, tired, hurting feet. Perfectly understandable.
So, back to my travel anxiousness. Things I get anxious about when planning travel:
- Booking a place to stay in the wrong city.
- Booking a place to stay on the wrong dates.
- Booking mode of travel for the wrong dates.
- Booking mode of travel to the wrong city (Rochester MN and Rochester NY have the SAME AIRPORT NAME).
I’ve made each and every one of the mistakes above more than once and I absolutely hate it when it happens and this has led to my developing a few travel OCD habits over the years.
Things I get anxious about when actually traveling:
- Confusing AM and PM Time of Departure: Think 700 with 1900 or 630 with 1830
- Arriving to airport early enough. My anxiety eases by arriving at least 3 hours early. For domestic flights. I know I know, this is really absurd, but like I said, I’m an anxious traveler. I can usually convince MBH and children to get there a little more than 2 hours early.
- So for our 2155h flight, I convinced everyone to leave our apartment at 6:45pm. The 150S bus then Metro Line 2 to Kobenhavn Lufthavn. Takes about 40 minutes.
- Getting from airport to the airbnb in Bergen and not missing the earliest Flybussen. We had to run a bit through the Bergen Airport, but made it to the 2330h bus. Which runs every 20 minutes. Not a big deal during normal waking hours, but that late at night it makes a huge difference.
- Getting the key and getting to our Airbnb apartment. The host and I had swapped texts – there was a key lock box and he’d given me the code. But I kept thinking “I hope the box will be easy to find”
- For this small detail, I decided to take a deep breath and just trust I’d be able to find it easily. And sure enough:
We took it easy on Friday morning. Slept in a bit since we’d gotten in so late.
The plan was to spend the day hiking/exploring around Mt. Floyen. I’d spent [probably too much] time scouring guide books and websites, to get a good sense of the hiking trails so I could plan out the day perfectly.
But the best I’d come up with was: the trail head to get to Mt. Floyen was in the Bergen City Center and the trails were well marked and there were a bunch of trails from the top of the mountain.
And I was not at all willing to just wing this hike to Mt. Floyen for several reasons:
- my days training with and volunteering for the Southwest Virginia Mountain Rescue Group while an undergrad at Virginia Tech.
- getting quite lost, hiking alone on a day hike, in the Bavarian Alps in my early 20s.
- MBH is an Eagle Scout. And what is the Boy Scout Motto?
- Be Prepared.
- Quick clarification in case you’re imagining MBH always telling me to “be prepared.” He doesn’t, never has. He is far far too laid back for that. I’m just using this to justify my own OCD issues.
All these things left me unwilling to ever wing a hiking trip – no matter how short or simple.
And the one thing many webpages had mentioned was the Bergen Tourist Information Center.
So that was our first destination.
And I had to take a few pictures along the way.
“So Mom, how will we find the tourist information center?”
Another tip for traveling through [maybe much of? maybe not?] Europe:
In many places, instead of a physical line, there are these little machines where you get your number:
Maybe this is in other parts of the world too? Maybe in the US? I just haven’t seen them in very many places, but they are everywhere in Denmark: Pharmacy, Bakery, Library.
The tourist information center staff were so very helpful. Gave us a topological map, directions to the trail head, recommendations for taking the more scenic (but more strenuous) route to Mt. Floyen.
It was time to head up the mountain.
Trail head a 5 min walk from Tourist Information Center
Maybe you’re wondering about the yellow house by now?
Here it is. I took this as we were walking down the trail from the Eiffel Tower.
And alas, no picture of the glacier because there was at least one ridge between us and that view…
Exchange between the two siblings that I’m still laughing about.
Oldest sibling “Does anyone see a stick? I need a stick? Dad, do you see a stick?”
Youngest, immediately: “Sibling, we’re above tree line, there aren’t going to be any sticks.”
WHERE IS THE YELLOW HOUSE!?!?!
HOW DID THE YELLOW HOUSE GET ALL THE WAY OVER THERE?
In all seriousness, if there’s one-lesson I re-learned yesterday is how easy it is to get lost in a place like this. Looks are very deceiving, and can be dangerously so.
So we’re on the top of this one ridge and hadn’t seen any signs of animal life (human or otherwise) since the Eiffel tower. And we’d had convos about what animals might be living up here, how the streams and lakes we kept passing were likely super clean and free from giardia because there weren’t any cattle around.
But as we’re taking in the views, a jangling sound entered my consciousness.
So I started looking around, and sure enough across the valley (opposite from where we’d come from) there was a herd of something – sheep? cattle? that had cowbells on.
From the bells (*cow* bells) and the color and the shape I could make out from a distance…I’d say the animals were cattle (and yes, I know that not all sheep are white).
But I’ve never really thought of cattle being above-tree-line-grazers. But really I know next to nothing about this.
Even though I was an animal science major in college, “alpine animal husbandry” wasn’t a lesson or class I remember taking.
In any case, I took a picture.
As I’m typing this out I’m realizing I did not get a picture of myself or the oldest at the top. Darn it.
But I did take a few pictures of our view.
I think it was a 45min – 1 hr walk from the Vikinghytten to the Eiffel Tower.
In hindsight I wish I’d kept a better eye on the timing of all this hike. But I was so taken with the day and the beauty of it all, I just didn’t think to keep track. I do know that we left the Airbnb at 1o:30am and made it back to the Mt. Floyen funicular right at 5pm.
If you recall, at some point we had decided to try and get to the yellow house because we thought we’d have a better view of what we thought was the glacier.
If only I’d looked carefully at the yellow house on the hike up, I’d have noticed the big ridge behind it that would block any glacier view. Sigh.
I knew I was close when I passed this troll forest.
We decided that it was in everyone’s best interest to take the Mt. Floyen Floibanen (funicular) down.
Even though it was scary steep.
So I’m 1/8th Norwegian. My paternal great grandfather was Norwegian and I believe it was his father who immigrated to the US- South Dakota- in the mid 1800s.
And while I often attribute my love of cold weather and winter to that 1/8th Norweigan blood, I give a hard pass on “cross country skiing on the Vidden Trail.”
My palms are sweating just thinking about it.
Anyhow, back to the hike. Our first leg of the hike was from the Tourist Information Center to Mr. Floyen.
And from Mt. Floyen along the path marked in red to Vikinghytten.
The smallest red circle is where we left the Vidden trail in search of the yellow house and a view of the glacier.
While there were trail markers, with this kind of hiking, hikers should always have a topo map.
Day 1 in Bergen concluded with take out from Pingvinen Restaurant. I knew we needed some heavy food for dinner and this seemed like a good one. Good reviews on yelp.
Turns out it’s fine dining and fine dining restaurants often don’t like to do take out. The hostess kind of gave me a hard time about this. But the youngest was adamant about getting take out.
I thought our dinner was delicious and filling. But it was very Scandinavian. So different than what we’re accustomed to. Mashed potatoes mixed with flakes of roasted fish and covered with bacon.
Baked hake with mashed peas and lingonberries (may sound weird – who eats mashed peas!?!?!? with lingonberries?) And I learned a few new ways to prepare peas and potatoes and fish.
So, to conclude Day 1 in Bergen Norway.
It was extraordinary. I’m ready to go back. And highly recommend it to anyone who can make the trip.
If we’d finished the trip with just this one amazing day, it would have been a success.
But [spoiler alert] we had 2 more amazing days where we:
- explored old Bergen,
- walked through the Bergen fortress,
- took a stunning fjord boat cruise,
- took an early morning hike to the top of Mt. Ulriken (tallest peak in Bergen)
- visited the largest aquarium in Norway