We were a bit weary ahead of our trip to Norway, knowing that we had a full schedule of planes, trains, buses and boats packed into five days with two kids that we would have to motivate to keep up. What young girls wouldn’t want to visit Norway, the land that inspired Arendelle the mythical country featured in Frozen? Ours.
“I don’t want to go to Snore-way!” H cried a few days before departure. The past 11 months of trains, planes, gondolas, funiculars, buses and boats had taken its toll on the kiddos and they just wanted to stay home during their five day school break. Cry me a fjord! Surprisingly, they perked up as they packed their bags and headed to the airport.
This was our first plane trip that wasn’t direct, and we had to change planes in Munich, which caused some grumbling from die Kinder (but it was also nice to interact with people for a couple hours who were speaking high German). We arrived at dusk in Oslo (around 10 p.m.) and found our way to our hotel.
With a couple hours to kill the next morning before boarding the train for Bergen, we hit the streets of Oslo. One of the first things we noticed was that the entire city center where we were staying was under construction with cranes and crews everywhere you looked. A constant background noise of jack-hammers and table-saws followed us as we walked around. We found the Opera House and walked right up onto its roof which slopes down into the harbor. We searched Google maps for playgrounds in our area but did not find any. I think that is a first for our travels in Europe – no parks/playgrounds within walking distance of us in a major city. So much for tiring the kids out before the long train ride!
We boarded our train to Bergen (land of trolls) and settled in for the seven hour journey. One of Barry’s favorite ’80’s bands is Norway’s own A-ha. And, amazingly, the kids also like them. Barry has been prepping them with their music for the past couple months. As we passed snow-capped peaks and thawing alpine lakes, we listened to the sweet Norwegian harmonies of A-ha‘s early work (Scoundrel Days is our favorite album, in case you were wondering).
The train we were on had a great double-decker kids play area to help munchkins pass the seven hours as non-violently as possible and the girls spent a solid three hours in there, strengthening their immune systems. As for the scenery, the second half of the trip had some of the most stunning mountain views we’ve seen. It was Spring conditions with swollen rivers and raging waterfalls and still tons of snow on the passes.
We arrived in Bergen in the early evening with two tired and grumpy trolls of our own. Barry and Jana’s mood did not improve when they realized we had a half-mile walk through town to our AirBnB. But things perked up considerably when, after checking in, we decided to take the funicular up to Mount Floyen to play at the playground and have dinner at the top. The view from the top of the mountain overlooks the city and ocean in a stunning panorama and is Bergen’s top attraction (Barry’s opinion).
There was a large playground and recreation area at the top of Mount Floyen that looked super-fun, but since we were also trying to eat before the restaurant closed at 10 we couldn’t stay long.
Traveling in May is nice because there are fewer crowds. The downside is, the weather can be quite rainy in much of Europe. We woke up to a steady rain the next day and decided to spend the day indoors at the Vilvite Science museum for kids (Bergen’s top attraction C & H’s opinion). We walked through town in the rain, buying a couple of umbrellas along the way. H was not a happy camper, but her mood vastly improved upon seeing the kids science museum.
We spent four hours here as the kids played with the many interactive exhibits. We weren’t the only ones escaping the cold Bergen rain that day – the place was packed.
The next day was sunny so we headed off to our pre-booked “Norway in a Nutshell” fjord tour with high expectations. Turns out Norway, even the nutshell version, is big, quite big. We took a train, which was beautiful, to a bus, which was also beautiful but quite a lot of switchbacks (C got a little carsick), before we made it to the boat on the fjord.
The boat trip was only a few hours, but was the trip highlight for Jana, and the girls loved it too. It had windows and comfy seating everywhere, as well as open air decks and roof-top viewing of the fjords that were breathtaking. The thing Jana enjoyed the most was how quiet it was, the boat was electric and besides a few kayaks and farmsteads the fjords were a bucolic paradise. It sort of looked like someone took Switzerland and then filled all the valleys with oceans and then served yummy waffles.
The quiet was broken only by the excited sounds of our very own Elsa and Anna. It was chilly out there, but the cold never bothered them anyway.
The boat docked in Flam for a couple hours and we quickly found a playground and had lunch before boarding a very picturesque train back to Bergen that went past raging waterfalls with dancing Nymphs!
One thing we would do differently next time is book a flight back to Oslo instead of another seven hour train ride. The kids did great, though, either staying in the kids’ playcar or listening to our audiobooks, Harry Potter for Jana and C and Ready Player One for Barry.
Wrapping up our five-day whirlwind trip was a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call in Oslo the next day to catch a train back to the airport. Amazingly, our hotel sent us off with a bag of breakfast goodies – yogurt, breads, etc. Everyone we came across in Norway was super-friendly.
Overall, it was a beautiful trip although probably a bit too rushed between all of the trains, buses and boats. It was fun to see all of the trolls, although not as much Elsa and Anna as we had thought. We are already pining for the fjords and might have to come back when the kids are older to try out the kayaking!