Stavanger & Bergen, Norway
It was a long day of driving today, about 6.5 hours in the end. We travelled via back roads as much as we could to avoid the tolls, but in Norway there are times when the only road you can take is the toll road. We drove over green hills and down narrow streets, looking out at some of the best scenery we had seen in a long time. One of the bigger mountains was partially covered in snow (in summer) and was dotted with beautiful clear lakes, offering fantastic wintery reflections in the patches where ice hadn't formed. I couldn't take enough photos. If I was driving, I made Danny take photos for me. We didn't pass through many urban areas, but the ones we did drive through were like ghost towns. They weren't abandoned villages, so that only meant one thing: public holiday. Another one. It felt like Europe was always on holiday.
Two ferry crossings were needed to reach Stavanger, which cost far too much (as did the petrol - over €100 to fill up the tank). The first ferry was only a short ride and the man selling tickets gave us a discount because "we come from so far away". He had also lived in Australia for a while. Gotta love the kindness of strangers.
It was 6 p.m. by the time we arrived in rainy Stavanger, and we made our way straight to a caravan park. This park had a beach volleyball court that was surprisingly popular, given the poor weather. We parked beside it, as it was next to the reception and we thought it would be the best place to pick up a WiFi signal. It turned out we could only use the internet when the computer was on the dashboard of the car, which wasn't the most convenient location to kick back and watch TV.
I managed to have a shower with no problems the next morning but there was a line out the front of male shower block. There was no way Danny was going to stand in line for a shower, so he left without having one. We drove into Stavanger, parked close to the centre and wandered around aimlessly. It was a beautiful town, right on the harbour, and full of old, wooden, brightly coloured buildings and cobbled streets. It was extremely windy and started to rain while we were taking in the sights, which always dampens our day. Our self-guided tour of the town came to a halt at a lovely ancient church beside a lake, with the rain forcing us to hurry back to the car before we got soaked. We didn't think there was much more to see in Stavanger, so we hit the road again.
Our next drive was to Bergen, five hours and three tolls away. At one toll booth I was handing over the money and the wind swept the note right out of my hand. I had to jump out of the car and chase it down the road. It was fairly embarrassing. The cashier thought it was hilarious, as did Danny. I was not amused.
We also caught two ferries to reach Bergen, so all up it was a fairly expensive day of travel. At one stage we waited 20 minutes for a ferry, only to be told that we were waiting at the wrong terminal. Our terminal was 15 minutes down the road. Thanks Garmin.
Overall the scenery wasn't as mesmerising today, which was not helped by the overcast, misty conditions. Most of the landscape was very green, with small rocky protrusions sticking out of the water. Danny said it was similar to Scotland. I imagine the weather in Scotland is similar too.
Thanks to Garmin we had a lot of difficulty navigating our way through Bergen, and we kept finding ourselves stuck on toll roads or in bus stations. We gave up on the city and parked about five kilometres out. Braving the elements, we walked through the rain to a bus stop so we could determine how to travel into the centre tomorrow. We were successful in finding the right bus but we were drenched by the time we reached the van again. On the upside we found we could access free internet in our car, so we watched TV while it continued to rain outside (and slowly seep into our van).
After catching the bus into town the following morning we spent a few hours wandering around Bergen, attempting to stay out of the light rain. We visited a castle (not impressive), walked around the harbour (mostly industrial, so not amazing) and made our way through the old town (very cool). The buildings were all constructed of wood, painted in a variety of vivid colours and were sort of wonky. Construction was going on to restore them, but I liked the ramshackle look about them. Bergen was mostly full of souvenir shops and cafes but there were also some old-fashioned stores, such as the "pipe-making" shop, which was probably geared towards tourists as much as the souvenir stores were.
Walking back to the centre the houses became more modern but were still colourful and charming. We stopped at a couple of markets where I bought strawberries, which are supposedly fantastic in this part of the world because of the amount of sunlight they soak up. I admit that they were pretty good. Whale and reindeer sausages were common, and Danny caved on the latter. The town didn't have a whole lot to offer other than the overall picturesqueness of it all. It was enough to keep us entertained for a few hours, as did the maze-like alleys that had us lost for the better part of the morning. Just as we were going to get the bus back to the car the sun came out (of course) and made everything look ten times better. Unfortunately we were short on time so we jumped on the bus and left now-sunny Bergen behind.