Day 12: Today we explored Bergen. We tried finding our budget hotel room, and finally found one after a few hours. We figured we had camped enough- 8 or 9 days- and now that it isn't really feasible in this city that it would be fine to indulge. The peace of mind itself is worth it. Now, we can actually enjoy spending time without worry. We wandered around the streets, a lot. There is so much graffiti and street art, much better than anything I've seen at home. It doesn't look dirty at all. I think it makes the city vibrant.
From what I've seen, Bergen is incredibly beautiful and clean, and has some great public spaces and recreational areas, with the Scandinavian architecture and design as an added bonus. We walked down the harbor where the fish market was. We strolled through all the tent stands- King Crabs are enormous!! You could buy anything you wanted --- including whale meat. We both tried a sample of minke whale. Writing about it, I'm not sure how I feel about whaling and eating that piece. Obviously, I'm against harming the oceans, overfishing, and hunting endangered animals. But Norway only hunts the minke, a whale that is abundant in their waters and is the only country to consistently follow regulations set forth by the IWC. They've been whaling since the dawn of time, so is our hatred toward it based in cultural imperialism? I don't know. Coming from the West, I feel torn about it, but I can see both sides. For what it's worth, smoked whale tastes pretty good.
We made our way to Bryggen, the wharf area. We learned from one shopowner that this part of town is completely made out of wood, by hand, without the help of power tools. It is always being restored or worked on. Walking through the alleyways is like walking through time. We found shops selling all kinds of goods, including leather and furs- fox, minx, seal fur (a whole nother taboo I don't want to begin to tackle). Then we took the funicular to the top of the city- what a view! We opted to walk down after spending some time at the top.
The path brought us through, what I assume was, a troll forest? It was a woodland playground decorated with wood-carved trolls all over the place. Trolls are a Norwegian cultural icon, as they are prominent figures in Norse mythology, and you will see them in any gift shop. There were also weird signs with witches on them. At the bottom, we walked to the fortress at the end of the docks, and turned in for the night. Bergen seems like an incredible spot for nightlife, but unfortunately, I'll have to save that for next time. We have to wake up very early for our tour.
Days 13 & 14: Yesterday we got up early to take the Norway in a Nutshell tour through FjordTours, a self-guided tour that takes about 9 hours to complete. It began with a ride on the Bergen railyway to Voss, then a bus trip to Gudvangen, a boat cruise through a part of the Sognefjord, and a trip on the Flåmsbana and then back to Bergen. The tour itself was well put together, however, I don't think I'm going to do a "touristy" thing like this again. There were just too many stereotypical tourists that made the day really hard to get through. I probably should have expected it.
Aside: It truly is incredible to me how annoying and disrespectful people can be to eachother. For the first 3 hours, my ears were practically bleeding from a child that would just not stop crying; it was so bad that people were making jokes about it all day. On the fjord cruise, it drove me nuts how people didn't seem to want to admire where they were at all - instead they were incessantly trying to get that perfect selfie. And selfie sticks - or narcissticks - don't even get me started. Not to mention, how often our personal space was violated on the trains anytime there MIGHT have been a possibility for a scenic view. And a word of advice to everyone: never feed the seagulls, wherever you are. You ruin other people's trips by training them to bother you, and other people, like Andrew, get pooped on because of it. He wasn't happy about that.
I felt that the hairpin turns, valleys and villages in the mountains were stunning, but I had a bad taste in my mouth the whole time. Going forward, I'll stick to my own travel ideas unless it's necessary to join a group.
Overall, our trip was fantastic. I'm proud of us - we managed to camp in near freezing temperatures, even though the most camping we've done is for a weekend in the White Mountains. We didn't overspend, or so I think, (and if we did, it was in Bergen only). And, we didn't kill each other, even though at times I thought we would. We also made new friends. I'm sad that I don't know when I will be able to take a trip like this again, but I'm happy I will get to sleep in my own bed, to cook my own food, watch Game of Thrones. We're thinking about Peru/Bolivia or somewhere in South America, or Australia/New Zealand or the American Southwest. We'll see. I learned a lot about a lot of things on this trip, and I can't wait to do it again!