Tuesday 4 June 2024

Norway 2024 London to Balestrand 8–15 May 2024


This blog has lots of photos and videos, but I will put them below the text.

We  booked a weeks holiday in Norway with Newmarket Travel, a company we had not used before. We flew from Gatwick Airport, which was very quiet at about 11am. with Norwegian Airlines. It was our first time doing an online check in and having our boarding pass on an app, also the first time booking in our own luggage but it all went smoothly and efficiently, The first time we needed our passports was when we went to our gate ready for the flight.  We arriving in Bergen about 2pm local time. Of course now we are no longer a member of the EU we had to have our passports stamped, there were 4 booths open, two for EU passports and two for others. Needless to say there were only two queues, but the officers soon had us using all 4 lanes and unlike most Countries seemed very friendly. 
Steve Parry, the Newmarket holiday rep was waiting for us at the airport with a coach ready to take us to our hotel. When we arrived the weather was warm and dry, this came as a surprise as the weather forecast indicated that it would be a maximum of 8 °C and rain every day. You will see the actual weather from the photographs.
It was about a four hour coach journey to our hotel, this was an excursion in itself. through some spectacular scenery passing over one mountain well above the snow line at 1000 mt.  We stopped for a comfort break at  Vossevangen about half way to Balestrand where our hotel was situated right on the banks of Esefjord and Sognefjord. As we had a little bit of time in hand due to the fact we had to catch a ferry near the end of our journey, our rep and coach driver thought it would be nice to go through a very small village and visit one of the few remaining stave churches. IMG_0244

This nearly all went pear shaped as when we left the church to re-join the main road the road was blocked by road works. Luckily one of the locals came by and advised the coach driver of another route out of the village, this meant that we arrived at the ferry just before the barrier went down, literally two minutes longer and we would have missed the boat. There are three electric ferries that work this route, they are roll on/roll off and can each carry 80 cars and visit 3 locations, Vangsnes where we were getting on, then a ten minute trip to Hella followed by twenty minutes to Dragsvik where we would get off. One thing we were told not to be worried about was our coach getting off at Hella without us, as it needed to turn round and come back on so that it faced the correct way for Dragsvik. From here we would drive round the banks of Esefjord, a very small Fjord past a small avalanche to the Kviknes hotel in Balestrand where we would be staying for the week. 

The Google map above shows all our coach and boat routes for the week. The coach route is in blue and the boat route reddish. As you can see we covered quite an area and the map is fully zoomable.
We went from sea level to over 1000 mts by coach way above the snow line, saw loads of waterfalls and frozen lakes. Most are not in specific places so are just grouped below.

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Norway 2024 Ferries

Where we were staying meant every where we went at some point we had to use a ferry, be it as foot passengers or on our coach.

High Speed passenger Ferry   
On the second day of our holiday we had a day excursion to Bergan, this was on a high speed ferry from just behind our hotel right into Bergen by the fish market. The journey takes just on 4 hours so the same as the coach. We left Balestrand at around 8am arriving in town at mid day. We had 4 hours ashore before the return 4 hour journey to the back door of our hotel. When I say these ferries are fast they travel at a steady 36 mph. only slowing down for some of the narrows sections.

I don’t know how many passengers these ferries could carry but the seating was very comfortable with rows of seats across the hull with two walkways running bow to stern, There were three seats in each outboard row and probably 12 in the centre isle. There was also a small snack bar, toilets, luggage area and access to the rear upper deck.

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Electric Vehicle  Ferries

As I mentioned in the first page to reach Balestrand we had to use the electric car ferries, These can carry 80 cars or a mixture of cars, lorries and coaches. The shore mounted loading ramp adjusts automatically to the height of the ferry as it comes in and once docked there is a very clever fully automated charging system to recharge the batteries while the ferry loads and unloads. For those that are interested there is more information on these ferries online HERE


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TIMG_20240515_111302his is something your really don’t want to see when you are on the ferry at the start of a 3 hour coach ride, the driver tightening the front wheel nuts. It turned out they had fitted new front tyres the afternoon before and its routine to go round and check them after driving a short distance.

Norway 2024 Bergen

The was a full day excursion Traveling back to Bergen but this time we would go by High speed ferry from just by the back of the hotel all the way to Bergen calling at lots of places on the way and taking 4 hours, so we would arrive at lunch time, we then caught the return ferry at 16-30 for another 4 hour trip back.
Once in Bergen we decided that we would go up the Funicular railway first which was a good move as it was very quiet unlike the queues waiting when we got back down. Like most railways of this type its single track with a passing place half way, there are also 4 intermediate stations, so if one train stops at a station the other is stopped in the middle of nowhere.

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Although there are cafes at the top being right on lunch time they were packed so we waited until we were back below before having a coffee and cake.
We wandered along the harbour front by all the old wooden buildings, most of which are now tourist shops.   



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And then on to the church, They charge rather a lot of money here for looking inside a church and several people when they saw the price turned away.

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Then on to the castle

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By now there were lots of private boats gathering in the harbour, mostly motor cruisers but the odd yacht, as we made our way back to the market for a late lunch of Reindeer soup. We walked along the quay passing some other interesting sights.


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After a tasty lunch served at a table in the back of a market stall we wondered past a couple of fish stalls to the indoor fish market and what a display of fish on sale .

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With that it was time to return to catch our ferry home, boarding was interesting as they count everyone on board and also look at tickets, as we didn’t have tickets we had to say “Newmarket” as we boarded so that they knew we were in the group. The strange thing is that once the boat sets sail there is an announcement to ask every one without a ticket to go and pay at the café, and they all do. It was now another 4 hours back to base and a slightly late dinner.