We arrived in Bergen at lunchtime, but had to wait until 2:30 p.m. until we could finally leave the ship. As everything else, this very well organised. We rode the 2 km to the Hotel right next to the main highlight in old Bergen: the Bryggen quarter. It was partly sunny and 23 C warm – but in our motorbike gear, this was definitively too hot. We changed clothes and left for a walk through the harbour and Bryggen. The fish market is still there where I last found it in 1993 – not very big, not impressive – but a nice motive for tourists. It seemed that many of the vendors were Spanish (?). There was even “home-made” paella. Kind of. We entered then the of quarter of Bryggen. I want to quote my old friend Wik I. Pedia:
“Bryggen (the dock), also known as Tyskebryggen (Norwegian: [ˈtyskəˌbryɡːn̩], the German dock), is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings lining the eastern side of the Vågen harbour in Bergen, Norway. Bryggen has since 1979 been on the UNESCO list for World Cultural Heritage sites.
The city of Bergen was founded around 1070 within the original boundaries of Tyskebryggen. Around 1350 a Kontor of the Hanseatic League was established there, and Tyskebryggen became the centre of the Hanseatic commercial activities in Norway. Today, Bryggen houses museums, shops, restaurants and pubs.”
The area is not very big anymore, but it is quite charming to stroll through the narrow passages between the old wooden buildings. Lots of them have been taken over by other merchants now – dealing with jewellery, stones, hand crafted items…you could even buy seal furs there!
We had a break with a small beer and enjoyed the sunny weather, knowing it would not last. After a return to the hotel, we were prepared for the complimentary dinner at the hotel restaurant. We had some expectations as the hotel was not cheap, but had announced this free dinner. Well, our deception was remarkable. Not only ours. Everybody who entered the room had the same look on the face. “This is it?” A little bit of salad, potatoes, a kind of IKEA-kötbullar-hamburgers with gravy and crumble pie for dessert. The biggest disappointment was written in the faces of the Japanese guests. Well, at least it tasted ok.
You can imagine our surprise when we entered the breakfast room the next morning. What a change! Any kind of warm and cold dishes, fruit, juices etc etc. Very, very good and tasty. After that, we set off for the fjord land. Soon it started to drizzle and MJ’s new Stadler gear could prove it water tightness for the first time. Riding in Norway is deceleration…the normal speed limit is 80 km/h, but there are many zones of only 70 km/h or even 60 km/h…..OOOOMMMmmmmm….on the positive side, the fuel consumption dropped to 4.5 L/100 km (63 mpg )!!! I haven’t seen this consumption since I went with my XBR500…..to Norway? LOL. After two hours, we arrived in Gudvangen. We didn’t follow the E16 where the next 51 km would be riding 43 km in tunnels (!). No, I had (luckily) pre-bøøked the ferry through the scenic Nærøyfjord. It took us for 2.5 hours through a fantastic scenery, starting first with the Nærøyfjord and then crossing the largest fjord of all, the Sognefjord.
This was a pleasant boat trip, even in the rainy weather. Some villages are only accessible by boat. Huge waterfalls were falling down the fjells. It seems obvious where Alan Lee got his inspiration from when he sketched his paintings of Rivendell…
From the ferry port in Kaupanger, we only had half an hour to get to our hotel in Solvorn at the Sognefjord. The Walaker Hotell is the oldest hotel in Norway for nine generations now. It keeps a an atmosphere of the 1900s. The interior and the furniture, decoration and even the bed made you feel like your grand- or grand-grandparents. And the situation and view on the fjord is also very special. MJ stayed in the hotel and I made a trip to one of the side tongues of the largest glacier in Northern Europe, the Nigardsbreen. I first had to ride up the valley to the parking at the lake, then I took a little boat towards the glacier. However, in contrast to 25 years ago, I had to walk much more up. It was more than half an hour of climbing and walking over polished rocks before I reached the mouth of the glacier. I couldn’t get to the very last rock for my boots were no climbing shoes and the rock was very slippery. So I used my zoom to get closer to this deafening thunder of the glacier river that came spurting from underneath the ice cap. An impressive sight. At the same time, it is depressing to see how the length and thickness of the glacier has decreased over the last years. Despite the cool temperatures, I was soaked in my own sweat. Three quarters later, I was back at the parking and I rode back to the hotel.
We had booked the hotel together with the dinner so a delicious four course menu was waiting for us. In good old Belgian tradition, we opted also for the wine package that was accompanying the food very well. We were asked if we wanted to meet the hotel owner at 10 p.m. in the hotel’s gallery and curiously we said yes. It turned out to be a very good decision. The owner presented himself as Ole Hendrik, asked for our and the other guests’ whereabouts and started a conversation that was equally entertaining and funny, explaining the history of the family and the buildings, why he doesn’t fancy rich Russian tourists etc. It cumulated in the hilarious story of a prank robbery of raspberries at night together with some rich CEOs from Oslo. The guys from the capital didn’t know the raspberry farmer was informed so the noise of the shotgun was part of the comical plan to fake a kind of adventure. The way it was told was truly hilarious and we all snorting with laughter. Later Ole showed us around in the gallery and, as nobody else was able to play the piano, played some piano music in the background for us. A memorable finish of a great day.
In the morning, we had another great breakfast buffet before we packed our stuff and took the first ferry right in front of the hotel. It lead us to the other side of the fjord where the oldest wooden church in the world is located, the Urmes stave church. We were happy to escape the rain and listened to the guide in the inside explaining the interesting history of the building. Dating back to 1130, the church is entirely made of local pine wood and has some exterior carvings from the 11th century in a Celtic style that survived the weather for almost 900 years. An impressive building.
We followed the single track road along the fjord until we were on the main road to the highest pass in Northern Europe, the Sognefjellet (1440 m). It was raining more and more and the temperature dropped from 19 to 11 degrees. The weather was too bad to stop and take pictures, only on the top the views of the blue glaciers made me stop twice.
We descended eastwards and metre for metre, the weather improved and the temperature went up. We almost saw some sunshine in Lom where we stopped for a long lunch break. We went north-west and in Grotli, I turned left on the old Strynfjellet Road, the alternative to the modern road. However, after riding 4 km on gravel and dirt, I decided to turn around. I expected the rain to come back and going 23 km downhill on mud with a 600 kg flying fortress did not seem the most clever thing to do.
The modern road was mostly in tunnels and it turned out that I had made a very wise decision, this could have been quite nasty and potentially dangerous. The rain was back so we made no stop until we reached the Visnes hotel in Stryn. Normally, the landscape is one of the best in Norway, but rain and clouds covered our view. At the hotel, we put our gear in the drying room (skiing area!), what a good idea. The hotel is again very rustic, but this time it has a 1950s feeling. Our room looks like from the fifties. Funny.
We had an aperitif on the veranda before we had our dinner in the nostalgic dining hall, very much in a traditional Scandinavian style. This is a bit like time travelling.