Hammer Time!

The ski jump at Lillehammer

Tour of southern Norway

Once again I embarked on a road trip with my travelling companion Big Boy; this time in Norway, starting in Oslo. Of course, the first thing to ensure when travelling, is that you actually take a flight that lands in your destination city. Not to take a budget airline flight that lands somewhere amongst a thicket of trees, somewhere near a reindeer farm… 1.75 hours away from Oslo. Torp airport is so quiet that the ‘express’ bus to Oslo actually waits for the Ryanair flight to land before setting off!

After finally checking in to our hotel, we set off to explore the city and enjoy the stunning sunshine. Oslo seems to receive unwarranted flak for being dull but, if you are lucky enough to experience great weather, there are more than enough sights for tourists. Particular favourites of ours were the Opera House, bizarre sculptures in Vigelandsparken and the Palace gardens. Yes, you have full access to the royal grounds – take note Queen Liz! The general vibe was relaxed and friendly, and we ended up spending Saturday night in the company of a nice couple, who took us to this weird nightclub playing 50s and 60s music. At £10 a pint, we were never going to be drunk enough to do the ‘twist’ unselfconsciously!

Our first destination on the road trip was Kristiansand, a small town on the south coast. Unfortunately, due to Norway’s draconian speed limits, it took 5 hours to get there, and on the way a passing truck pinged a stone at our windscreen, causing a dent and two small cracks. We knew that we needed it replaced, but were loath to change the car, since it was a free upgrade. We decided to press on with fingers crossed.

Speaking of crossing body parts, I noticed that Big Boy had an irrational fear of large vehicles passing us, causing him to either move his legs together, or bring his arm in to his side. Presumably, this would help the car to ‘breathe in’ to squeeze past the oncoming vehicles. I think maybe Big Boy had just been treated to a viewing of the Cars animated film

It was in Kristiansand that we encountered the table-top version of Shuffleboard, a great pub game and, on this occasion, a much-needed diversion from two drunken hags who had invaded our personal space and wouldn’t leave us alone. One of them kept mumbling something about Turkey. I had no idea what she was on about – a recent holiday or maybe where she was from? It turned out that she was referring to a holiday she had taken in Torquay. Great. Still don’t want to talk to you…

The next day we headed for Stavanger, on the west coast. This involved the first of many ferry trips across picturesque fjords and several mile long tunnels through mountains. It’s a pleasant enough town, but the main attraction is the nearby Pulpit Rock, an outcrop that involves a steep hike but offers superb views. I didn’t fancy dangling my feet over the edge like some people do. It was way too windy!

It may have been only a Tuesday, but we were ‘treated’ to a glimpse of what carnage there is at the weekend with a drink or two in Beverly’s, a ‘fun’ pub near the waterfront. All of the men looked wound up to f*** or fight. Or possibly both. The girls were less than appealing and very drunk. A highlight of the evening was seeing a tall man who, trying to join girls dancing on the pool table, hit his head on the ceiling when he stood up. The big idiot.

Typical Norway: fjords, mountains and glaciers

The next day we realised that there was no way we could see as much as we wanted in the time we had. Our average speed was only 65kph (40 mph), even with the helpful locals pulling over to let us past! So polite. We cut our proposed route in half and travelled to Lofthus, a village overlooking – you’ve guessed it – another fjord. Once we checked in to our log cabin, all we could do was crack open a few beers and admire the scenery. The next morning we noticed that the cooler night temperature had caused the windscreen crack had grown to the length of a forearm. Oh

The route to our next destination, Boverdalen (near Lom) in the Jotunheimen national park, covered the highest mountain route in Europe, passing glaciers and more beautiful scenery. As we were there for two nights, we took advantage by rising early(ish) for a hike. “Just follow the red signs” was the instruction we had. Several hours later, after somehow losing the red signs, we were climbing up rocks and jumping over a river, desperately trying to work out where we should go. And seeing a mountainside grave was not the best mood optimiser…

Nevertheless, we eventually made our own route back down. The next day saw our first rainfall, so we decided to head off to our final destination, Lillehammer, home to the 1994 Winter Olympics. God knows how, as its tiny! When we arrived it was miserable. We couldn’t see the surrounding scenery due to cloud cover. The drizzle was affecting Big Boy’s mood for the worse. But at least it was Saturday night! There is only one nightclub in Lillehammer and it’s actually not too bad. But it seems that the only way the locals endure such a lack of variety is to drink a lot of expensive booze. Horses for courses. We had fun.

The next day saw sunshine once again, so we visited the ski jump just outside of town, and bobsleigh run in a nearby town. Did we try them out? No. Rather them than me. After two nights in a rather grim guesthouse (a mere £60 per night for no en suite facilities), we made our way back to Oslo.

Final thoughts on Norway: beautiful scenery, more tunnels than an anthill, expensive everything – like you’ve never experienced before. Oil money has inflated their economy to a ridiculous level. We did, however, find that the cinema was cheaper than the UK. Whoopee! And guys, the girls are not all stunningly attractive. It is not heaven-on-Earth! But the laid-back attitude and party atmosphere make the larger towns a great night out. I hope to re-visit once again, as soon as my bank manager recovers from his stroke and can extend my overdraft.

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