If you are a traveller like us, you can’t wait until a friend or family member returns from a trip so you can sit down with them and find out all about it, vicariously living through their tales and photos.
When Clint recently returned from travelling through Norway with Travelmarvel on board their Arctic Circle Express tour, we couldn’t wait to drill him on all the details, and share them with you! And we’re pretty sure those pics of the spectacular fjords will make you as envious as they made us!
Clint, you’ve recently returned from touring Norway with Travelmarvel on board the Arctic Circle Express. What surprised you most about the journey?
The dramatic landscape of the mountains (Trollstigen, Geiranger and Dalsnibba for example) is something you simply cannot prepare yourself for!
Also the beauty of the cities which are quaint, colourful and have so much history. The main cities are small compared to European standards so they didn’t feel crowded. I felt like everything was ‘ordered’ and no one was in a rush which gives you such a feeling of calm while you’re there, and can just stroll at your own pace and take it all in.
The tour includes some of the world’s most famous and scenic rail journeys, including the Flam Railway and Rauma Railway. Can you describe these experiences?
Let me say first of all that along with being some of the most scenic experiences on the planet, both rail journeys are incredible engineering feats. I marvelled at how both the Flam and Rauma Railways had been built as we climbed to dizzy heights and passed through hundreds of tunnels carved directly into the mountains.
The Rauma Railway captures everything from rolling hills and incredible mountain peaks (including Trollveggen cliff face) as well as the many bridge crossings and rivers which are a beautiful sight.
Flam Railway finished too quickly – I wanted more! The journey takes you to a height of 866 metres above sea level and the 20-kilometre track winds its way through small towns perched on the side of streams and rivers as well as through tunnels – with the longest being 1320 metres long! Our stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall was awesome. The sight of it and its sheer power was well worth getting up close and taking the small soaking it dished out.
In all, the rail experiences on the trip made it such a unique journey. It was so relaxing to sit back in the comfort of the trains with your eyes glued to the breathtaking scenery out the window. Trains really are one of the best ways to travel straight through amazing landscapes at the perfect pace to see everything.
What did you learn about Norway and its people and culture?
There is so much history and the local people are incredibly proud of their culture. One of our local guides Gunn, who showed us around Trondheim, explained this sentiment to me and I think it rings true.
She also said the locals are discerning at first but once you chat and engage with them they will be your best friend, and truly, we encountered so many warm and inviting locals who loved showing us their amazing country.
What was the food like?
I love seafood so I was in the right place! Norwegian cuisine isn’t too well-known so it was such an interesting experience discovering it. We ate many dishes that took advantage of the local seafood, including chowders similar to Bouillabaisse and many other dishes with an international influence.
We were also surprised to learn how much produce is grown on the land surrounding the fjords including so many fruit orchards!
Every opportunity I had, I ordered seafood and it didn’t disappoint!
Try and describe the scenery for us!
Dramatic, grand, mystical, and lush. When I first laid eyes on Geirangerfjord I was captivated by the sheer size of it! Cascading waterfalls around every turn was certainly an experience and you always have to keep your eyes wide open for the next spectacular scene to appear before you!
Tell us about travelling with the group – what were the dynamics like and how did you find the itinerary?
We had a small group with many different personalities. As the trip went on, the more you got to know each other and the deeper the stories flowed – there were new friendships formed between all of us and always someone to chat to.
The itinerary was perfect with long travel days split up with short breaks to keep things interesting plus lots of free time is always a winner as you get to do your ‘own’ thing when you get the chance. I took the opportunity to use my free time to experience an electric car tour of Geiranger, check out the Bergen Fish Markets and Funicular, and tour the Kristiansten Fortress in Trondheim. We also discovered so many great cafes and restaurants in our own time, and have so many good memories.
Tell us your favourite experience/memory from the trip!
I loved the city of Bergen. It has ‘everything’ including the beauty of historic Bryggen waterfront, great places to eat and drink by the wharf including the fish markets, and a funicular to the top of Mt Floyen for a breathtaking view over the city. There were even walking tracks for a hike if you liked. And all of this was 5 minutes walking distance from our hotel!
Any funny stories to relay to us?
Yes, but It’s not a funny one. One of our fellow passengers travelled to Bergen for work 20+ years ago and he stumbled on what he regarded as ‘one of the best pubs on the planet’. He shared many good stories with us which included sampling the wonderful local beers (he brews beer himself and he loved the local mix) and singing songs with strangers well into the night. This was one of main reasons why he wanted to bring his wife on the trip to Norway, as Bergen was one of the last stops on the tour and he could take his beloved wife to show her his version of ‘the best pub in the entire world’.
When arriving in Bergen, and as soon as he possibly could, he led his wife towards the harbour and his night was short lived when he discovered that the ‘best pub in the world’ had been completely refurbished and replaced with a large modern restaurant.
While enjoying the modern ambience he quietly shed a tear to himself and then picked himself back up and on reflection realised that all was not lost as he said the beer is still magnificent, the midnight sun was slowly setting and he got to share this moment with his beautiful wife which meant more to him than sharing it alone all those years ago!
What was it about the journey or destination (or both) to truly made it unique?
For me it was the fjords, as this was the first time I had ever seen them. It’s definitely a sight and a feeling that I will never forget. While I was on the boats, staring up at the mountains that dwarfed us, and watching the water cascading down the sides I knew that all of this was Mother Nature’s work and it blew me away.
Lastly, tell us why we should all go too!
If you like a destination that has interesting history, mind-blowing nature, incredible rail journeys and experiences being brought to life by knowledgeable, happy and caring locals, then Norway is the place to visit!
Have you been to Norway or planning to go? Tell us in the comments!