Every time we saw the pictures of Norway, we went crazy to visit this exotic country soon. While planning our 10 days itinerary, the only things we could think of were the Northern Lights and the world’s most scenic train ride from Bergen to Flam.
From India, there are no direct flights to Norway, so we had to choose between Oslo and Bergen as our landing city. It was a difficult choice as we didn’t wish to miss any of the two, but the connection in between was either costly or long.
Oslo, the capital city (3 days)
Considering our budget and the awesome connectivity of the glittering cultural hub of Scandinavia, Oslo made more sense to us; as we landed in Oslo, we were quite happy with our choice. Most of the attractions had free entrance and with a 24 hr day pass, we could use trams, buses, subways, and ferries to visit each one of them. As we walked around, we were totally mesmerized by the outdoor sculptures and the captivating architecture of the buildings along the bay.
The Sculpture Park
The city has a sculpture park which houses more than 200 sculptures in different materials and moods by a single artist Gustav Vigeland. The Fountain, the Wheel of Life and the Monolith are few of his prominent works.
History of The Fountain
When Gustav Vigeland first modeled the Fountain in clay in 1906, the municipality of Oslo wanted to place it in a square in front of the Parliament. However, the location was rejected later and it was then thought to be placed in the public garden of the Royal Palace. It was only in 1924 that the Fountain finally found its place in Frogner fields.
The Fountain by Gustav Vigeland
The Fountain has 20 sculptured trees, 5 on each corner, and underneath them, the life of man unfolds from the cradle to the grave. Human life is only a part of an eternal cycle with no beginning and no end. Gustav Vigeland beautifully expressed this through his masterpiece. Within the group of trees is a skeleton which is about to decay. It is followed by a tree full of children to show that life arises only after death! Isn’t this amazing!
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
Another exciting place was the Norwegian Museum of cultural history in Bygdoy. This place has one of the oldest and largest open-air museums as well as hundreds of traditional houses from all parts of Norway and a 13th-century stave church.
Nail-less Wooden Architecture
In the past, the walls of a house were made of horizontal logs without a single nail. The logs were long and massive and seeing them held up together with a notch alone, was remarkable. In a single building, the logs used were of similar diameter and length. The buildings which were meant to be lived in had a podium, but the ones meant for storage were raised above the ground, with support from logs to keep them safe from rodents. A few of them were a two-storeyed structure. The lower floor was meant for cooking and day activities, while the first floor was meant for sleeping.
A double story structure
The structure of a stave church was different, as it was built using a special type of fir called Malmfuru which is no longer available. The fir was hard and had long straight trunks. The roof-bearing posts or the staves were dug into the ground. While the horizontal beams or the horizontal staves tied to the vertical posts completed the structure. The walls and roof were made of planks. The entire structure didn’t have a single iron nail, instead, wooden pricks were used. Metal was used in the building only on doors, for decoration and locking.
A replica of Stave Church
The stave church standing inside the museum is a replica of the original church in Gol. Out of more than 150 stave churches in Norway, only 28 remain. To see an original stave church, one should visit Borgund which is a 3 hrs drive from Bergen and 4 hrs from Oslo.
After viewing so many beautiful examples of wooden architecture we can definitely say that Norwegians in the past were masters of woodwork engineering.
We also visited the Oslo Radhus in the city center, and then the modern building of the Oslo Opera house. We could cover everything in a day and a half either by bus or tram.
Since, we read a lot about the beautiful hikes around the city, on the 3rd day we chose to hike around the Sognsvann lake.
The place was very well connected from the center and took only 15mins to reach. It was also a great picnic spot for the residents.
Lofoten Islands (3 days)
After enjoying our three days stay at Oslo, it was time to get closer to the majestic fjords of Norway.
Bodo to Moskenes
The best way to enjoy fjords is by taking the Hurtigruten ship cruise which is famous for its picturesque route through narrow fjords. But we were short of time and had little chance to enjoy the water ride. We had two options with us, one was to fly directly to the island, or to enjoy a ferry ride from Bodo to Å in Lofoten. We chose the latter.
The port at Bodo was 2mins by car from the airport. We bought our tickets for the ferry. The first floor was centrally heated. We took our seats and gazed out of the window for some time. The view was so fascinating that we couldn’t stop ourselves from standing on the deck even in the chilly cold wind. All we could see around us was blue water, blue mountains and the white seagulls trying to match our ferry’s speed.
We had our breakfast on the ferry and after a 4hrs mesmerizing journey we landed at the beautiful port of Moskenes, a small fishing village.
At the port, we rented a car and drove to our hostel. The hostel was a beautiful red color wooden structure which was similar to a Rorbu, also known as fisherman’s cabin. After our three tiring days in Oslo, we could relax in this peaceful village. The only sound we heard was either of the sea or the seagulls.
In Moskenes we couldn’t find a restaurant and majorly had to cook our food.
Our hostel at Moskenes
Around the Islands
For the next two days, we drove around the islands relishing the magnificent landscapes of Norway. The Rorbu in bright white, yellow and red, made a perfect composition with the seashore and cliffs behind them. Every single village we went to was so charming, that we spent hours sitting admiring Nature’s beauty
Reine, Hamnoy, Ramberg, Flaksted, and Leknes were the villages we went to. We stopped at the beach of Ramberg, fjords of Reine and Flaksted and wherever else we could, either to click pictures or just to soak ourselves in Nature.
The days were short, so we had to drive back a little early as the highway was narrow on a few turns and there were no street lights. But every single minute spent out was mesmerizing and we still carry the beautiful memories along.
Tromso (4 days)
Finally, we left the surreal landscapes in the search for northern lights. We took our flight to Tromso from Leknes. Our hotel was 15mins from the airport by Flybus shuttle which stops at all major hotels in the city.
It was the last leg of our tour and we didn’t wish to leave without seeing the Northern Lights. We unpacked our bags in anticipation and even started spotting a place away from the city lights on the map of Tromso.
What are Northern Lights?
Northern lights or Aurora as explained scientifically, are the electrically charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere which hits the earth’s atmosphere. They can be seen only on the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemisphere. As the charged particles hit gases like oxygen and nitrogen, in the earth’s atmosphere, the color changes to green, purple, red etc.
It was 7 pm. One by one we looked outside the glass window. Suddenly, we saw a cloud moving in a strange pattern. Though my friend insisted that it was a cloud and not the lights, I immediately checked the Aurora app and it showed 100% probability of them being the famed Northern lights. Excitedly we left our room to enjoy the moment. As we stood out on the road, the pale green color beams were dancing all over us.
We rushed to our selected spot, which was a 2km walk from our hotel. After we placed our camera on the tripod, our first click captured the neon color. One cannot see the neon colors of these lights through the naked eye. What a human eye sees is a pale green color moving in beautiful patterns and directions. If you wish to enjoy a complete spectrum of northern lights, carry a DSLR on the trip.
A Divine Experience!
Our emotions were at a peak, as we watched the inexplicable natural wonder right in front of us. There is no human-made a light show which can compete with this natural phenomenon up in the sky. Like a kid enjoys a magician swirling his magic wand, we enjoyed the majestic poetry in motion. Our fingers were numb and bodies shivering in that cold breezy night, but we were elated and more than gratified.
We enjoyed the light show for the next three hours and wished to stay longer, but it was too cold for us. We captured yellow, green, purple, pink and red colors on camera. We also saw a corona, where the lights are directly over you in the sky and the rays seem to be falling over and around you. It was an enigmatic soulful sight, where, for a moment we felt a heavenly presence. Our trip and our life looked complete as we were blessed to see the aurora for the next three nights.
Places to visit in Tromso
In the day time, we visited the Arctic church, Polaria- Arctic aquarium and Tromso Cathedral. We also went for a day hike to Floya to enjoy the panoramic views of Tromso.
We left Tromso on a happy note and took our flights back home via Oslo. We didn’t carry any souvenirs from Norway, because we didn’t need to, as we were fulfilled with all the beautiful sceneries we had photographed in the album of our memories of the amazing country, specially the exquisite divine lights.