Norway 2006: Day Ten (Waiting for the bus…)
Day ten. Last full day on holiday. Oh and my electric razor has broken. It had stopped recharging a few days before. No idea why. Maybe it was the multitude of adaptors and sockets involved. Razor leads into wire. Wire goes into UK shaver plug adaptor. Shaver plug adaptor goes into 3 pin travel adaptor. Travel adaptor goes into suspiciously dodgy looking plug socket in the building.
Shaving catches me out every time. The year before I hadn’t had a travel adaptor, and ended up buying razors and shaving foam out in Iceland. This year I took a travel adaptor so didn’t think I’d need any supplies. Next year I just think I’ll fill my suitcase with shaving accessories of various kinds. It seems safer that way…
On getting home it transpired the 1 amp fuse had blown, but at the time I didn’t know. What I did know was that I hadn’t brought any wet shaving equipment with me – stubbly I would have to be. And that’s one thing I don’t like. Thankfully my facial hair isn’t particularly thick so not shaving the following morning wouldn’t be hugely noticeable to anyone other than me.
Anyway, enough of razors. It was our last full day in Norway. That evening we’d be back in Bergen. But first we had to get there. And that was going to be a problem.
Now as everyone knows by now, if you want to leave Ulvik, you do it on the 08:55 bus. There’s just one trouble. It was Sunday and it was September. And on Sundays in September, the 08:55 bus doesn’t run. The first one was 15:25. We had six hours to kill.
And what a town to kill it in. For Ulvik’s not a bad base to wander round the area from, but the town itself has next to nothing in it. No museums, no cafes (bar the dodgy Grillkiosken), no attractions. Just two small supermarkets, some orchards, a church and a hydro-electric plant which doesn’t have a visitors centre.
With few options, we opted for a Sunday morning walk. Up the road, through Ulvik and towards a place called Osa. There’s something interesting at Osa apparently, but there’s no chance we could have walked there and back in time. However looking at the map, there appeared to be another fjord (Osafjord), so it seemed worth a look.
We walked up quiet main roads – despite being 10am, there was barely a soul around. Everywhere looked deserted. Shops shut tight. Cars not on the road.
Eventually we got to near the fjord, although it was hidden from view by huge spruces which lined the edge. Walking further on, we finally found a spot where we could admire the view.
And a lovely view it was. We sat on a stone wall for a while in this peaceful, tranquil spot, looking across a still lake at a few buildings on the other side. The water lapped gently, and some boats moored up nearby, bobbed up and down. It was relaxing, nice, calm. Which is ironic because right behind us was a small pile of rubble surrounded by diggers, trucks and big rocks – sure signs of noise and destruction when turned on.
Closed for business
It was about 11:30 when we began to trog back in order to seek some food, taking us about an hour to walk along the main road to get to the edge of town. In our absence, things have begun to liven up – there’s people outside and cars zooming along – but back in town the place is still quiet.
We walk past the Rica Strand hotel, which is empty and closed until (for some reason) the 7 September. Further along we go past the Rica Ulvik Hotel, which features the place to meet locals (according to a brochure in our hotel) – the Ulvik Pub. Well no one would be meeting locals that day. It too was closed – this time until the 8 September. Two large, chain hotels. Both empty, shut up, deserted.
We’re getting hungry. We need food. But this is Ulvik, and today is Sunday. The Coop Marked supermarket is closed. The ICA supermarket is closed.
One place is open – the Rica Brakenes Hotel. The third large Rica owned hotel in this small town. But inside it looks dead. There’s a small coffee shop area in the depths of the hotel, but it’s deserted – not a soul to be seen. The dining room is open, and features one lonely looking woman in amongst a sea of empty tables. Mind you, with prices beginning at 300 NOK (£25) for a main course, it seems a bit excessive.
Catherine is convinced our hotel will be able to rustle something up, so we return there to find out that they’ve shut their cafe up for the season. Closed for potato wedges. Just like the town. Ulvik is closed.
For food we have one, very depressing option. Starve.
But the proper option is more depressing. Grillkiosken with its dodgy chips, horrible looking burgers and wierd hot-dogs wrapped in bacon.
After our experience there a few days before, I’d hoped we’d never have to eat there again, yet as we wandered round a town closed for business that day, I knew deep down that there were no options. There was an inevitability about it all.
We go in. Catherine has chips. I look at the menu which has to be the only menu in a major tourist resort, that is in Norwegian only. I pick something at random. It turns out to be chicken and chips.
After eating it, I feel deeply that I should apologise to the chicken. I deeply regret that that chicken had to die in order for it to be served up on a place in the most greasy, bland and miserable ways one can find to do with a chicken. Mon poulet – I apologise deeply and profusely.
With little else to do, and time still to kill, we head back to the Ulvik Fjord Pensjonat and read until the bus arrived at 15:25. At which point we celebrated. We were going towards civilisation.
Spending the morning and half the afternoon in this place had not exactly filled me with joy. I’d spent hours scouring over bus timetables wondering if we could somehow get out earlier, even if it meant getting a taxi half way there. Sadly the answer was no – the best I could find would have seen us get to Voss about an hour earlier. Barely worth the effort.
This is when I get a little annoyed with the tour company. One of the benefits of getting someone else to organise everything for you is that you should have the human touch. Someone glancing over the options and going “Well, if they can’t get out of Ulvik until 15:25, that might not be a good idea”. I know we’d booked for four nights in Ulvik, but if someone had said to us that we’d be stuck there for half the day with bog all to do, and would we like to have an extra night in Bergen instead, I would have jumped at the chance. Like I say, Ulvik’s not a bad place to use as a base – but when you need to kill time there, it’s just painful.
What is it with continental trains?
Getting to Voss, it was just a short wait for our train to Bergen. We’re in carriage 442, which according to the chart on the platform, is near the front of the train.
I confess I never quite understand this carriage numbering system at all. Why not just number the carriages 1 to 8, or A to G, like we do in Britain? Why does the front carriage on the train at lunchtime be carriage 1, whilst three hours later, the same carriage is 438? Call me funny, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me. It just confuses me – some years earlier we’d got on a train in France desperately trying to find out carriage on a train which was something like 20 long. We were not far from the end of the train, in (say) carriage 4 and looking for carriage (say) 12. So Catherine walked all the way down and couldn’t find it. Then she returned and stood with the luggage whilst I looked for it. Only after asking a guard did we find out that the train went something like carriages 10 to 19, then 1 to 9…. There was a chart on the platform where you had to check where your carriage was…
Back in Norway, we were treated to another spectacular journey, through fjord and forest. And despite it’s bonkers carriage numbering system, the train is comfortable with plenty of leg room, and a seat that reclines. And this is just a standard class carriage. Virgin Trains may have a lot to teach mainland Europe when it comes to numbering carriages, but they have a lot to learn about a comfortable travelling environment…
True our carriage was a little shabby, but it did feature a quite frankly enormous recycling station with separate bins for bottles, food, paper and other stuff.
Bergen – food and views
It was about six when we got back to Bergen, and for some reason, it was not raining. Checking back in at the Hotel Augustin, we washed and refreshed ourselves and went out for food. Proper food! No potato wedges!
We’d settled on a place called Pygmalion – a relaxed looking cafe/restaurant place with bare brick walls and absolutely lovely food. Catherine took her fill with two crepes filled with feta, olives and spinach, whilst I opted for a tapas plate featuring marinated pesto chicken, parma ham, prawns, olives, alioli and salsa. Oh and some gorgeous organic bread. All washed down with wine and beer.
Even better, the tapas was supposed to come with potato wedges, but they’d run out!
Oh well, it’s our final night – bring on the desert too! Daim cake (yum) and luxury cheesecake was to be had.
Luxury is an understatement. This is one of the finest cheesecakes I think I have ever had in my life. So fluffy, so tasty. A base that appears to be crushed chocolate biscuits. Divine. Heaven in a plate!
With the sun setting, Catherine suggested another trip on the Fløribanen to give us the chance to look down over the city at dusk. We got the 20:00 train and went up hill.
Cities at night from a hill, with nice, calm, summer evening weather. Who could ask for a better way to end the day?