After exploring Oslo for 2 days, it was time to prepare for our 7 day road trip around Norway. Well, around the middle of Norway. We weren’t going too far north or south. We walked to the Sixt office in downtown Oslo. We had booked the cheapest car available, a small 2 door hatchback. Because we had booked about 6 weeks in advance, we were fortunate enough to be given a free upgrade to a brand new Peugeot 308 station wagon. This can sometimes happen if you book a rental car well in advance. As the dealer sells out of cheaper cars and honours existing bookings with more expensive vehicles that are still available. Driving our brand new car on the wrong side of the road, in the darkness and chaos of Oslo rush hour was a challenge. It was only 2 days before Christmas and the streets were packed. But after only hitting the kerb once, and driving through a few tram stations we eventually made it safely back to the hotel.
Day 1 – Oslo to Dombås
We set off early in the morning on Christmas Eve. The roads were nice and quiet and I was slowly getting used to driving on the other side of the road. The first few hours weren’t very scenic, but as we drove further north the landscape became more mountainous and snowy. We stopped in at Lillehammer for lunch, a ski resort town situated on a lake. It was roughly halfway to Dombås, our destination for the night. We hadn’t heard of any of these places until planning the trip, but knew they’d be fun to check out. Lillehammer was fairly empty, most of the shops were closed and we only found a kebab shop and cafe open.
We drove further not to Dombås, a very small little town among snowy mountains. There was snow everywhere, Church bells rung as we walked the empty streets. We found a note on the door of the small hotel. A message told us that our keys were in the door of our rooms and we should leave cash on the table as no one would be there to meet us. A freezing wind and light snow set in as we walked the empty streets, looking for somewhere to eat. Beautiful and neat houses lined the streets, dim lights and candles illuminated the rooms of the homely looking lounge rooms and kitchens that we could see from the street. It made us think of our own families and what they would be doing for Christmas. The only place open was the town’s petrol station. In Norway most of the petrol stations sell basic hot meals such as hot dogs and other similar snacks. We discussed past times and memories and reflected on the year, which was soon coming to an end.
Day 2 – Dombås to Ålesund
We met Christmas with a breakfast of hot dogs and terrible coffee, but the weather was amazing. We set off for Ålesund, and were in for some spectacular scenery. The Peugeot had a massive sunroof, which provided some awesome views of constant mountains along our way.
We constantly stopped to admire the amazing scenery and were lucky enough to spot a deer crossing the road in front of us. We found ourselves driving through epic valleys dotted with houses and farms. It must have been snowing heavily in previous days, but the roads were all well ploughed and safe to drive on. There weren’t many other cars on the road either as most people must have been at home enjoying Christmas.
With many stops, we eventually made it to Ålesund. The wind was insane. Boats rocked back and fourth in the harbour and street lights blew about wildly, illuminating the snow that was blowing in every direction. We checked in to our hotel and set out to find food and beer. Nothing was open except for a seafood kiosk on the street. We purchased burgers and retired to the warmth of our room where we shared a bottle of Norwegian spirits that we had bought along the way. It was a different Christmas dinner than what we were used to, but life can’t always be the same.
Day 3 – Exploring Ålesund
We woke up to light snow covered on the streets, as the storm seemed to have passed. We were staying at First Hotel Atlantica which offered an amazing buffet breakfast. Above the city of Ålesund is a lookout atop a mountain. We grabbed our cameras and made our way up a massive set of stairs to reach the top. We arrived to an amazing view. We spent the rest of the day exploring downtown Ålesund and hopping from bar to bar. It was here in Ålesund that we encountered the most expensive prices of all our time in Norway. A pint of beer at one bar cost us 22 Australian dollars. This wasn’t enough to get in the way of our love of beers, and we kept drinking well into the evening.
Day 4 – Ålesund to Førde
More spectacular scenery was to greet us on our drive to Førde. After a short drive from Ålesund, we had to cross a massive fjord on a car ferry, and queued with others as we saw the ferry approaching in the distance. We gazed across the fjord as the mountains in the distance slowly passed by. There was a small cafe on board, but most people sat in their cars, a route crossing for them most likely. We arrived in Førde after dark and soon found a restaurant for dinner. It seemed strange to be dining in a local restaurant in the suburbs of regional Norway. Watching families go about their normal activities while we were embarking upon an epic adventure. We were always greeted in Norwegian until we replied in English to a surprised smile.
Day 5 – Førde to Bergen
The next morning we enjoyed a pleasant Norwegian breakfast put on by the owner of the hotel, the Førde pensjonat. She asked us about our trip and as we told her our plans to visit Iceland and the Faroe Islands, she stopped us and went to fetch her son. They both listening on with interest and her son epressed his envy. He pointed to a photo of a large fishing boat on the wall and told us that it was his. We shared stories for some time until we had to hit the road. We said our goodbyes and set off for Bergen. The landscape transitioned from green grassy hulls to high snowy mountain passes.
We crossed another fjord on a car ferry before eventually arriving in Bergen. In high school we had a Norwegian exchange student do a year at our school, she was from Bergen and we had been talking leading up to our trip. After exploring Bergen for a few hours we met her for dinner and spent several hours catching up over some amazing Norwegian food at a fantastic restaurant called Pingvinen.
Day 6 – Bergen to Vossevangen
After exploring Bergen for a few more hours it was time to head to our next destination, Vossevangen. It was a short an uneventful drive, which was okay for a change. We arrived in Vossevangen just before dark. It was quite a cool little town, we had no real reason to be here, a part from not wanting the drive from Bergen to Oslo to be such a rush. So we thought we would spend the night. It would have been good to come back in summer, which is what most of the locals had told us our entire trip.
Day 7 – Back to Oslo
Our final day saw us driving through green hills and complete icy plains as far as the eye could see. It was quite a contrast, and would depend on the altitude we were at. Snow would turn to grass in a matter of a few kilometres. We reflected on the amazing week we’d had, and looked forward to the next chapter in our adventure. Tomorrow morning we were to catch a flight to Reykjavik to start our road trip around Iceland. This had just been a warm up.