Finally travel has opened back up after 2 years of Covid. Planning for this trip began in February, 2020, when I saw information about Sweden’s Inlandsbanan and Hurtigruten Classic Voyage South, on one of my many travel feeds. I then contacted Fifty Degrees North, the travel company I had read about, and we began planning the trip. That year, I received an email asking when we might want to schedule the trip, I responded that September might be a good time. Turns out Covid got in the way. In the 2 years since that initial contact, our travel group (Etarae and Jerry, whom we had met in 2014, and Susan and Dennis, travel friends of Etarae and Jerry), made many adjustment to the original itinerary.
Unfortunately, once we had settled on an itinerary, set a start date, paid the deposit and made the final payments, the InslandsBanan changed their starting date in 2022. We had already booked our flights and decided to replace that portion of the trip with a bus. It was a disappointment, but some of our payment was refunded.
We all flew into Stockholm on June 13, 2022 – Pat and I from Salt Lake City; Etarae and Jerry from Washington, DC; Susan and Dennis from Kansas City. We stayed at Hotel Rival, a very nice place for our first stay. This hotel was just south of the old part of Stockholm (the Gamla Stan) and was convenient to local transportation (bus and subway). Nearby, was a good bakery, which we visited often.
Things we did:
- Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury) – This museum had many royal suits of armor, dresses, weapons and carriages.
- Skansen – This is an open-air museum (the oldest in the world), recreating some of the old Swedish buildings, farmsteads, an old church and period gardens. There is also a zoo focusing on Nordic animals.
- Vasa Museum – This is a must see in Stockholm – well worth the price of admission. Once you enter the doors from the lobby, you are met with the huge, impressive ship. The Vasa sunk in 1628 on her maiden voyage, after less than a mile from the launch. The ship was top heavy.
- Fotographica Museum (Whydes and Weinsteins) – For me, the best part of this museum, was the restaurent, Bread & Wine (see below, under “Food”)
- Hop-on/Hop-off Boat Tour (Breeds)
- Geocaching – We found 3 in the city and earned our Sweden souvenir: Wollmar Yxkullsgatan [GL17HN364] – Elektrisk [GL17j6Q2V] – Montelius [GL17jB0ZE
- Chic Konditori (Pastry Shop) – We never get tired of going to places like this.
- Bistro SuD – a very pleasant reataurant, a couple of blocks from the hotel.
- Under Kastanjen – We all went here after our walking tour was finished.
- Emanuel Bistro & Bar
- Timmermans 1857 – This was the best restaruant we went to while in Stockholm. The food was excellent and the waiter was very entertaining and enjoyable. If we ever make it back to Stockholm, we’ll make every attempt to get here again.
- Esperia (Greek Restaurant)
- Bread & Wine (at Fotographica Museum) “The (Michelin) green star is given to restaurants at the forefront of sustainable cooking. The star can be given in addition to the regular stars and is awarded to restaurants that go out of their way to use locally sourced produce, and take extra measures to reduce their carbon footprint and food waste.” – visitstockholm.com
North through Sweden
We left Stockholm on Friday, 17 June, on a train to Östersund, Sweden, where we checked in at the Clarion Hotel Grand Östersund. Our stay in Östersund will be brief, as we need to be at the bus station at 06:45. We asked the hotel desk for a restaurant recommendation that was not the hotel restaurant – they recommended Republiken Bar & Kök, a 5-minute walk from the hotel.
We were then on a bus between Östersund and Arvidsjaur. It rained much of the day. The most exciting happening on the trip was when traffic was stopped to allow a herd of reindeer to cross the road. It was still raining when we got to the bus station and we had a 15-minute walk to the Hotel Laponia. We had dinner across the road and the meal was included with our stay.
The next morning, we walked back to the bus station to continue our journey through Lapland, to Gallivere, where we will catch a train into Norway. This bus ride will cross the Arctic Circle (if we were on the Inlandsbannen, the train would have stopped to mark this event), before we arrived at our hotel in Gallivere – Grand Hotel Lapland. This is a very nice hotel and its located across from the bus and train station. For dinner, we walked to Fat Tony’s, a local brewery.
On Monday, June 20, we boarded the train to Narvik, Norway.
Once the train stopped in Narvik, Norway, we were shuttled to our hotel in Harstad, Norway where we we stayed at the Clarion Collection Hotel Arcticus. Dinner was included at the hotel. The hotel is convenient (10-15 minutes from the port where we board the Hurtigruten Coastal Express, the next morning. Pat and I got our first geocache in Norway – Bybrannen [GL17K91W7].
In the morning, we walked to the Hurtigruten terminal and boarded the MS Polarlys for our day-trip to Svolvaer on the Lofoten Islands. On this ship, we had no room, so we spent our time in the bakery, on the deck, and in the dinning area.
Late in the afternoon, as we approached Svolvaer, the ship turned into the Trollfjord. What an amazing place.
This part of the trip was always going to be one of the highlights we were looking forward to. Our days here didn’t disappoint. Geocache near our cabin – Svinoya mitt barndoms hjemsted [GL17KKCRP].
We were taken from the port to our accomodations at Svinoya Rorbuer. We stayed in a 3-bedroom rorbu, originally a cabin used by fishermen. Although the rooms were sparse, with little room to lay out our clothes and personal items, they were comfortable. Above the 3 bedrooms, there was a living area, with a kitchen, table, comfortable chairs and a tv. (We actually used the upper level to do our laundry, both washing and spreading out to dry and to make morning tea/coffee.
When we arrived, we were too late for dinner at the main building, so our van driver agreed to drop us off in Svolvaer’s town center at Bacalao, a restaurant on the harbor. Bacalao was a cod dish Pat had on her list of things to find and try. This was what the restaurant was known for. It was wonderful. After an excellent meal, four of us walked back to our cabin (about 1/2 mile), while 2 took as taxi.
One of the first things Eric pointed out to us, as we started out, was someone on top of “The Goat”, twin peaks on a nearby mountain, just north of where we were staying. He mentioned that some climbers jump from peak to peak. Although we did get photos of the peaks, this postcard shows someone in mid-jump.
A highlight of this tour, which included a boxed lunch, was enjoyed outside Eric’s home, with him and his wife. Eric wanted to try using his backyard as a lunch spot but hadn’t tested it out until he met the six of us. It was very special.
Our boat tour of Trollfjord the next day was cancelled because of high winds and rain. We spent much of our time in our cabin until time for dinner – laundry time. We had dinner in town at Fellini Lofoten.
Our final day in Lofoten we had another tour by Lofoten Lights, a Photography Tour. We were lucky to get Eric Fokke as our guide, as we thoroughly enjoyed the earlier tour with him. Lots of photos were taken. It’s hard to take a poor photo with the wonderful views everywhere you turn.
At about 6 PM, June 24, we boarded the Hurtigruten’s MS Nordnorge for a 3-night trip to Bergen, Norway. Unlike the day on the MS Polarlys, we are “Full Board”, with rooms and meals included. After finding our rooms and unpacking, we met in the dining area for a buffet dinner.
Most of the next 3 days was centered on reading and relaxing, with an occasional stop with enough time to get off and look around. We were able to leave the ship at Bronnoysund, where we got a geocache – Hurtigruten Travel Bug Hotel [GL17M5AHC] and Trondheim, where Pat and I walked to the Trondheim Cathedral (a very long but very interesting walk in high humidity).
On Monday, June 27, we arrived at Bergen at 14:45, and were taken to our hotel, the Clarion Hotel Admiral. After checking in, we walked around the area and stopped at Bergenbunaden yarn shop, where Etarae and Pat bought yarn. Dinner was a Babin Grill, a Kurdish restaurant, with very good kebabs and other Mediterranean dishes.
Geocache found near the fish market the next morning – Mathallen Fisketorget [GL17MW46F].
The next day, before our walking tour of Bergen and leaving on a train to Voss, we had to pack an over-night bag and leave the rest of our luggage with the hotel for delivery to Oslo. Then, the Discover Bergen walking tour, with Sue Lindelid (“… guiding in Bergen & Norway for over 25 years… enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, & sharing my knowledge & love of Bergen & Norway“). A highlight of this tour was a ride on the funicular railway up Mt Floyen, where we enjoyed beautiful views of Bergen and the harbor. After the trip down from Mt Floyen, Pat and I continued, with the guide, to walk through the Bryggen quarter. “Bryggen, which has burned down several times, has become gentrified and boutiquish, but it’s still lots of fun. This heart of the old town and former trading center is still a trading center of sorts as you’ll find plenty of atmospheric restaurants, planky alleys, slouching wooden warehouses, and shops bursting with pewter trinkets, trolls, and hand-knit sweaters.” – Rick Steves. All of this was very true. Next time we are in Bergen we will spend more time exploring this area.
After a quick lunch/snack, we all went to the train station to start the next adventure – “Norway in a Nutshell“.
Norway in a Nutshell
The first part of this tour started with the Bergen Railway between Bergen and Voss. The route between Bergen and Oslo is the highest railway in Northern Europe.
At Voss, we switched to a local bus to Gudvangen. There were a few local passenger getting on/off the bus. However, once all the locals were off the bus, the driver offered to divert to one of his favorite spots – the Naeroy Valley as seen from the Stalheim Hotel. He gave us 10 minutes, while he turned the bus around. We made a quick transit through the hotel lobby to see the valley. I didn’t get any photos that looked as good as the images on the hotel site. The views were wonderful and the hotel looked inviting.
The driver delivered us to the boat terminal at Gudvangen where we boarded an electric boat that would take us to Flam, through two fjords – the narrow Nærøyfjord and the Aurlandsfjord, both of which are part of the larger Sognefjord. We started on the Nærøyfjord, turned on to the Aurlandsfjord , and finally docked at Flam, where we stayed overnight at the Flåmsbrygga Hotel, which also has a brewery.
The next morning, our view from our hotel room was startlingly blocked by a large passenger ship docked nearby. After breakfast, this ship seemed to empty their passengers towards the railway station and one of the 2 Flam Railway trains to Oslo. This train trip, although short, was through some spectacular scenery, including a wet stop at Kjosfossen waterfall.
In Myrdal, we switched to the Bergen Railway to Oslo, while many of the other passengers got back on the Flam Railway for a return to Flam.
Our hotel in Oslo was the Clarion Hotel The Hub, located very close to the train station. Unfortunately, we left the station by the wrong exit and ended up in a shopping mall, where we had trouble find the correct exit to get back on the Oslo streets.
Before going out for dinner, we discussed. with hotel staff, how to get around on public transportation. They recommended the Rutter# app. We installed it on Pat’s iPhone, where it work well. Android phones, which the rest of us had, would only accept PayPal. As Dennis was the only one that uses PayPal he was able to use the app to purchase tickets for trams, subways and buses.
After getting the apps installed, we headed to the Olivia Østbanehallen Italian restaurant, next to the Oslo train station. Very crowded. Since we didn’t have a reservation, it took about 30 minutes to get seated but worth the wait.
Geocache found – GeoPol#9 – groensen [GL17NDyK9].
Highlights of Oslo:
- Oslo Walking Tour – The tour started in front of the train station. We then walked to an area across from the Opera House. Then into the old town where the city was, according to legend, originally started (there is a statue of a glove, representing where the founder dropped his glove and declared “here is where the city is”. Then we went to an area outside the Fortress and then to the Parliment building.
- Vieglund Sculpture Park – The sculptures are striking. Many years ago, Pat’s uncle had been here and took 35mm slides of the statues. We saw the slides, but for many years we didn’t know where he took them. Now we do!
- Norway National Museum – This had been recently opened. We enjoyed the modern art and ate in the museum cafe.
- Oslo City Hall – On the walking tour, our guide told us about the murals inside. We went back the next day. It was well worth the visit.
- Opera House Roof – On a very hot day, I did this on my own. The view over the harbor and the city was worth the climb to the top.
- Dinner on 13th floor of The Hub – On our last night together, we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant on the 13th floor. The food was good and the views very nice.
On July 2, we all left Oslo – the Weinsteins to Washington, DC; the Breeds to Kansas City, and the Whydes to Copenhagen and beyond by train.
- Gunnar Berg – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunnar_Berg_(painter)
- Eric Fokke (Journalist, Photographer, Tour Guide) – https://www.lofotenbilder.no/en/
- Henningsvaer football/soccer field – https://www.fifa.com/news/heavenly-henningsv%C3%A6r-and-its-picture-perfect-pitch
- Flam Railway – https://www.norwaysbest.com/flamsbana/flamsbana—the-flam-railway/
- Vigeland Sculpture Park (Atlas Obscura) – https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/vigeland-sculpture-park
- Vigeland Sculpture Park (Vigeland Museum) – https://vigeland.museum.no/en/vigelandpark