So, I spent around 12 days in Norway. Just the south for now. The basic plan was a round trip Oslo - Stavanger - Bergen - Oslo with a couple of d-tours. And needless to say, I am in love with this place too.OSLO
OK, first Oslo. We arrived there on a Tuesday night and the first thing I noticed is that Oslo, unlike any other Nordic capital I’ve been to, is scary at night. Apparently their “gangs” and prostitutes have moved to the city centre. There was a girl on every corner around our hostel, and we were 2 minutes walk from the main station, the opera house, the main pedestrian street towards the palace etc. But nothing bad happened, so I might have over-reacted.
In the next few days, we roamed around Oslo, visited some cool museums, like the viking ships and polar explorations (they have the Fram ship there, which was awesome, because in elementary school decades ago I wrote a report on it, heh), the Kon-Tiki one, the open one where they moved several preserved wooden buildings from around the country, including one stave church, and so on.
What really stroke me in Oslo was the bombing/murder aftermath. When we went to visit the cathedral, the pavement in front of it, the road, and a bit of a square on the other side, was covered in flowers, candles and messages for the victims and their families. All around were reporters from everywhere with their equipment and vans. Masses of people were visiting the church and the memorial. Mostly they were talking silently, showing respect, every now and then you saw a person crying. Also with the messages, some were addressing people or victims in general, but others had photos or just names of the victims they were dedicated to. The whole thing became more personal like that, and got me down completely. The same thing happened in Stavanger and Bergen.
The flowers were actually all over the city. They were supposed to have a peaceful walk just after the happening, but so many people showed up that authorities cancelled the thing for safety reasons, encouraging people to leave their flowers around town.
We didn’t plan to go see the actual bombing site at first, but then we saw so many people taking flowers there (we were having coffee and didn’t realise at first how near we are - the building just next to us was having its windows replaced and after we saw all those people, we figured out that the bomb must have caused those to break). So we went there and I cannot believe what a huge area was affected. The buildings themselves are alright, but the windows were gone for several blocks away.
OK, now to happier things. Of course we did some very metal turisty stuff. You can’t be in Norway and not visit some of the black metal related sites. So we walked a bit to the place that used to be Euronymous’ Helvete. It is now a bakery and sort of a coffee place. As soon as I entered, the owner didn’t even bother with Norwegian, he greeted me in English before I even opened my mouth, so it was obvious he knew what I came for. I ordered breakfast and coffee and took it to my friend outside (they have tables). So there we were, drinking coffee in Euronymous’ Helvete. After that, we asked if we could see the basement, and quite obviously that was not surprising to them either, so they took us down to those chambers, still with Black Metal written on the wall.Sipping my coffee in front of the ex-Helvete.
Other place we visited was Elm Street, a bar that supposedly was a birth place of black metal, but is now a standard rock pub. A cool place to be is a store called Neseblod, aka modern day Helvete. They sell all these vinyls and rarities and even cassettes, signed stuff, BM memorabilia and so on. They seem to have original stuff from Helvete as well. Curse the Norwegian prices, tho.
Of all the rock/metal bars/pubs we visited (and there are only few in Oslo), the best place was Unholy. We got there on a Wednesday night or something, and all the tables in front were full and the tables in the back had their music too loud so we sat at the bar directly by the DJ. He turned to us, saw our t-shirts, and told us very apologetically that tonight is 70s rock/metal night, so no black metal. Which was actually very cool music-wise. It took us a couple of minutes, tho, to realise the DJ is actually Fenriz. So that was an odd/cool experience STAVANGER
After Oslo, we took a night train (9 hours) and arrived to Stavanger on a Saturday morning. Everything was closed and the city looked like they were having a huge party last night. It turned out that we arrived there at the time of a longboat race. Excuse my ignorance in the navy vocabulary, when I say longboat, I mean old huge ships that only go on oars or sails, you know, the Pirates of the Caribbean ones
Only these were not all so old, but they were fashioned old-style (some actually had very old dates). Anyway, a harbour full of those looks better than any other harbour.
Not much to see in Stavanger itself, except for an iron age farm, but it’s the starting point for a couple of cool visits. One is Sverd i fjell, the statue of three swords in a rock by the sea. The second, and this one takes more effort, is Preikestolen (also known as The Pulpit Rock). That’s a rock 604 metres (1982 feet) above the sea, hanging down at the edge of the cliff overseeing the fjord.At Sverd i fjell
It takes a ferry to Tau and a bus to the starting point, then it’s 2 hours walk up the hill to the rock called Preikestolen. I can guarantee you it’s worth it. The path is not that hard, with exception of 3 steep parts, of those the last one is quite bad, you need to step very high over huge rocks. Not so hard for going up as it is for going down. So they’re not kidding when they say you need appropriate shoes. But there’s people going up with dogs and little kids so you can imagine it’s not really that bad.
Preikestolen is important to me because I am sort of afraid of heights. I can go as high as I want if there is a fence up to my belly, but if there is not, you won’t get me close to the edge even on a steep hill, let alone cliff. A couple of years ago I was at the edge of tears going up a tiny hill that was by no means dangerous, toddlers could make it up there, but the path was narrow and if you’d fall, you’d tumble down among the trees for quite some time. It wouldn’t kill you, but it wouldn’t be nice. But at Preikestolen, it’s a possible several hundred metres drop many times. Not to mention climbing the path that was steeper and more dangerous than that little hill. But I decided I’ll go anyway.
It’s sort of weird - to reach the rock, you must pass some places that are more dangerous (if you go too close to the edge) than the goal itself. I made myself to watch down a very high cliff, holding to a tree for balance. Slightly before reaching the top, I laid on the floor and looked down. Shit.
At Preikestolen itself, the rock is huge so you don’t need to walk to the edge. The view over the fjord is fantastic. I’ve seen pics of it and saw people who sit at the edge of the rock, their legs dangling towards the sea 600 metres below. Going up, I thought I’d never do something like that, being afraid of heights and all. But up there, with the adrenalin flow, I just went and set on the edge. Twice. The first time was scary, but the second one completely terrifying, because at that place the rock hung slightly down, so it felt even less secure. But I did it, so now I’m super happy. It’s a sort of a small personal victory. (But I think I’m still afraid of heights.)Feet over the edge at PreikestolenAnd showing horns on the edgeBERGEN
After Stavanger, we took the bus to Bergen. As soon as we arrived, we were yelled at with “death metal aaarghh” by some stranger in a not very nice way, but after that we had no problems. Bergen is definitively one of my favourite cities now. We were there for two and a half days, saw again some museums, and also Edvard Grieg’s house and grave which to me felt special. My friend gave me his headphones when we were there sipping coffee by Grieg’s house, and I listened to Peer Gynt.
I also met Skygge - conveniently we made an appointment to meet at the Fantoft Stavkirke. As you probably know, this is a replica of a bit older church that Burzum burnt down in 1992 and then put it on the cover of Aske. The few pieces of the previous church are on display, and today - probably in fear of copycats - this replica is the most guarded building I’ve seen in Norway. It is nice indeed, and it’s a shame someone was burning down historical churches anyway. But I was put off a lot by its guard, who was eying us even when we were approaching the church. He obviously knew we were metalheads and seemed paranoid or something. When Skygge, who didn’t go in, came to me to the fence to tell me something, this guy rushed to us, forcing Skygge to move away. It was odd.Fantoft stavkirke, or its replica
Anyway, we also met with Skygge later in the city and also the following day, roaming through Bryggen. He gave us some useful tips on Bergen and took us to two awesome coffee places and we also hit one bar in the evening. It is always nice to meet fellow Trolls
Bergen also has a neat beer place called Garage which was recommended to me both by Skygge and Shamaniac, and where we discovered Grutle Kjellson of Enslaved works as a bouncer. Heh.AND AROUND.
From Bergen, we continued to a place called Flåm. There’s nothing signifficant in this small town by itself, but it’s famous for its Flåm railway, a very steep and curvy track that takes you away from the city over a mountain and by Kjosfossen waterfall, where they put up a great surprising performance of a Norwegian folk tale for us tourists. But that was when we were leaving - to get to Flåm, we went by boat that took us through two fjords. Bad thing is, it was raining. Good thing is, it was raining so it made the nature look even wilder. And since it’s very deep in the fjord, the sea wasn’t ruffled, at least not much.
The reason why we actually stopped at Flåm, not just go through it, is that we rented a car to go see some more stave churches. These are only found in Norway and are, if you ask me, the best looking churches in the world. One of those was a big one in Kaupanger, but the other was the most beautiful one (and unlike the Fantoft one, it is still standing where it was built), the Borgund stavkirke. We spent hours there just admiring it.And finally, Borgund stavkirke
After that, we headed back to Oslo and then home. The surprising part is that since the railway station in Oslo is closed due to renovation, the train only takes you to the closest big city and from there they put you on a bus to Oslo. Buses have of course different routes than trains and ours was actually driving pass the island of Utøya, and that exactly 2 weeks after the mass murder on it happened, and even at the appropriate time. It was a sad sight around the island - the traffic was slowed down because there were cars parked everywhere and people bringing flowers. After passing this, we actually stopped chit-chatting and just drove towards Oslo with each our own thoughts in mind.
Back in the city for the final night, we hit Unholy again, and to my sheer love and happiness, I ran into a Finnish friend I’ve known since my first trip to Helsinki 10 years ago, and his bunch of buddies who just started a drive through Norway. So we met up a bit. That was a nice closure to my Norwegian holidays. And that’s pretty much the main parts of the Norway experience