I love Norway. I don't know what it is about Scandinavia, but I love it and would dearly like to live here. I'm sure there are things which would annoy me if I did live here, but this is my fantasy, so I can ignore them.
Getting here was pretty awful. When I got home from India I felt like hell. The M4 eastbound was closed, so it took me over an hour from the airport to home, and I then had to sprint off to the doctor. I rang them when the plane landed, explaining that I was landing from India and had to fly to Norway early the next morning, and needed an urgent appointment. The triage nurse rang me back and agreed that having a sinus infection would make being an air hostess miserable. I had a good laugh at that: clearly the only occupation the doctors' staff could think of when faced with my itinerary was cabin crew. I put on washing, took it to the laundromat for drying and dragged myself up our stairs to pack my bag. I felt ghastly at this point, and everything was taking me at least 3 times as long as it should have.
Somewhere around this time I realised that I had no idea where the information for our accommodation was, and it had only been sent to me in paper format. I found the telephone number of the agency, but the first website I went to gave their hours as 09:00 - 20:00 Monday to Friday. No use at 22:00 in London on a Friday night. I looked up the owner in the Norwegian phone book online, but they weren't listed. At this point I had a small meltdown. Thankfully my partner wasn't home to see me wandering around crying and being loopy. Eventually I got over this, and made a plan. I still had the address of the owner, who I knew didn't live far from the house, and there was a hotel nearby where someone might know who they were. I found another website, which gave the agency's hours as 09:00 - 20:00, 7 days a week. I rang the agency number, but the answering machine was in Norwegian or Danish, and I didn't understand. Plan A was to email the agency and then ring them from the airport to get the details. If that failed, then plan B was to drive to Strandebarm and try to find the owner. Plan C was to sleep in the local hotel overnight and try again in the morning.
Having worked out that, I collapsed on the couch for an hour and took antibiotics and Neurofen Plus. Things started to look a little better.
The taxi was booked for 5:45, which meant getting up at 4:45. I got to sleep some time after 4, after I had packed everything (including copious amounts of knitting) and printed out information for our stay. The prospect of being cut off from the internet for a week makes me a little frantic, as I usually just keep everthing online and don't worry. I actually got asked for my ticket in Hyderabad airport, and I didn't have a printout or know my flight number. Too much flying means that the desk is lucky if I turn up with my passport and know what city I'm flying to. Occasionally I get the wrong country on the first try.
The taxi arrived on time and then drove like a demon. We shut our eyes and tried not to think about it. Stanstead was surprisingly OK as we weren't in the first rush around 7, so there were no queues. The agency answered the phone and my email, and I bought some wireless time to download the details of our accommodation. Our plane wasn't at all full. Once on it, I slid into a dead sleep until we started descent into Bergen.
Once we got our car we had the challenge of driving into Bergen to find the tourist information office. We couldn't get a map of southern Norway at the airport, and Hertz gave us a spectacularly useless one. Now remember that I had had 40 mins sleep the night before and just over an hour on the plane, was suffering from a sinus infection, and was navigating from a tourist map. My partner had had two hours' sleep and was driving a manual car on the right side of the road for the first time. We got very, very stressed in Bergen. There were emergency vehicles at some point. We finally managed to park somewhere after much swearing and explosiveness. We found the tourist info. We found a place that sold very expensive knives (the other half wanted to get a Norwegian knife for her father). We found a supermarket, we found a public toilet. We tottered back to the car and tried to get out of Bergen. It wasn't easy. We went the wrong way a couple of times. Part of this was due to the fact that the detailed map of the city didn't have North pointing to the top of the page, whereas the map of the surroundings did. We then went exactly the opposite way to the direction in which I had been trying to go, and I realised that this would actually work. Two-and-a-half hours later we arrived at the house we had rented.
The house was superb. There was a combustion stove with firewood in the cellar. We drove around and looked at fjords and mirror lakes and windy roads and apple orchards. We drove up to a glacier and watched people ski down it. We fruitlessly tried to get tourist information (we were here after that magic date, 1st October, when tourist activities cease to exist). We drove into Bergen and out again without too much swearing. There was knitting (but not enough), relaxing (definitely not enough) and cooking (probably too much). We bought apples and pears from the roadside, so there was apple crumble and pear crumble. There were roasted vegetables, egg and lemon soup, sausage jumbalaya, more roasted vegetables and hot chocolate. There was a rotisserie chicken which had been soaken in brine, I think, and was the most delicious chicken I have eaten in Europe. One of my partner's colleagues heard that I was having trouble finding tapioca flour and got some for us, which was very sweet of her. I brought it on holiday and made these little cheesy buns. I made them with Jarlsberg, and as long as you knead them until the motor on the little hand-held mixer tries to give up, they are lovely and not too slimy at all. The house had a dishwasher. Lots of cooking did not require lots of arduous washing up. I think a dishwasher may be our first investment once we return to Australia. Life was good.
We sat on the verandah and looked at the fjord. We watched Battlestar Galactica on the laptop of an evening. We had some long overdue deep and meaningful conversations. Can I have a month here? Please?
View from the verandah... more Norway photos here
In the next exciting installment I will detail the fibre and craft activities we partook of in Norway. There were two yarn shops, a bead shop and a knitting industry museum. My partner willingly watched a 20 minute video on the history of a knitting factory which primarily made underwear. Admittedly she was coming down with the flu, but it's still a noteworthy event.