Bergen Norway

Why start a Norwegian holiday in Bergen on the west coast?  We thought it would be easier to travel from the west coast to the east and then on to Sweden without repeating ourselves and back tracking.  It was also as easy to travel from Copenhagen to Bergen as it was to Oslo.

Bergen Airport to Clarion Hotel Admiral

Arriving at Bergen Airport at 5:40PM, it was dark and a little rainy.  We hired a taxi for the 20km, half hour trip into Bergen.  Our hotel the Clarion Hotel Admiral was on the wharf opposite the historic Hanseatic Wharf.  Despite the rain, we went for an evening stroll around the wharf area.  The Hanseatic Wharf was lit up and very picturesque, as was the sailing ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl.

Bergen Hanseatic Wharf at Night
Sailing Ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl
Sailing Ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl
Bergenhus Fortress at Night

Further down the Bergenhus Fortress was also lit up.  We spent around an hour walking around, before heading back to our hotel to warm up and have a hot meal at the restaurant.

The next morning, we had a huge breakfast, which was included in the cost of our stay.  A very impressive array of foods available to cater for tourists and tastes from all over the world.  We then took an easy 10-minute walk to the funicular (Fløibanen) for a trip to the Mt Fløyen lookout over the city.  The funicular is a steep train, which goes up the side of the mountain.   The trip itself is an experience. But is also an operating train, used by the local residents.  In summer, it can be very busy, but as this was winter there were only a few of us on this trip, which was the first for the morning.

The views from BergenMt Fløyen are spectacular, overlooking Bergen and the harbor.  There is a coffee and gift shop at the lookout but in winter opens later, so we had to do without coffee and snacks until we got back into town.  Be careful of your footing in winter and early mornings.  We had hiking boots on but some of the pavement was still icy and slippery underfoot.  The return trip down the mountain was as great as the one coming up as you look straight down the steep train track.

Bergen From Fløibanen Lookout
Fløibanen Railway in Bergen

At the bottom, we made our way to a nearby café and had a very welcome hot chocolate and cakes.  If you really want to, there is a Starbucks and McDonald’s, but we wanted to taste something made locally and there is plenty of choice around the wharf area.  Even reindeer sausages if you feel up to it.

Local Bergen Cuisine

The Bergenhus Festning (fortress) just past the Hanseatic Wharf, is a small historic castle.  We spent half an hour looking around, before taking a much longer look through the shops on the wharf.  Many of these sell local crafts and really are worth looking around.  Even walking up to the second floor of some of them is a fun experience with creaky stairs and uneven floor boards.  We found some excellent Christmas decorations that now take pride of place on our Christmas tree each year. 

Bergen Hanseatic Wharf

Also near the fortress is a small museum, with artifacts from Bergen’s past.  We spent an interesting hour looking around learning about the Hanseatic League, Vikings and Runes.  It is certainly worth looking at.

After having a walk around the church and Cathedral, we went to the fish market.  This is marked as being world-famous, but to us just looked like a fish market.  However, above it is the tourist information office.  The staff were very helpful, and told us about a ginger bread house exhibit that is held in December.  To get to it, we walked down some of the old historic windy streets.  The exhibition was better than we expected.  There were hundreds of houses, all made of ginger bread, depicting scenes from all over the world, Paris, London to name just two.  Even better, they even sold ginger bread (Pepperkakebyen).  Of course, we bought a few samples to take with us.

Bergen Ginger Bread Exhibition

After a walk through the pedestrian mall in the centre of town, we returned to our hotel for a meal and a good night’s sleep.  We had to be up early the next morning to catch the train for out Norway in a Nutshell trip.

So, what did we think of Bergen?  It was great.  We particularly liked the Hanseatic Wharf and the trip up the funicular.  The ginger bread exhibition was also a nice surprise.  Without travelling outside of the wharf area, we easily filled in a full day.  We didn’t go to the aquarium, as we have seen many of these elsewhere and the fish market was nothing special.

Map of Bergen

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen was the first planned stop of a three-week trip to Scandinavia. The plan was to Spend one full day, along with the previous afternoon and following morning in the city, before flying on to Norway. It was to be a brief stop after a very long flight from Australia.
As they say even the best laid plans can fail shortly after you set them in motion. Ours failed at Sydney Airport as the Airbus A380 had mechanical problems. We were delayed by almost twelve hours in Sydney. We were flying with Qantas which was code shared with Emirates. I won’t go through the long frustrating story of what happened trying to get on board the next morning. Our stopover in Dubai was brief, and basic, spent less than 12 hours there and only saw the airport and accommodation that we briefly stayed at until our next flight was ready. However, we won’t be flying with Qantas or Emirates again.
An interesting note on travel insurance, is that ours did not cover the accommodation cost for the first night that we lost in Copenhagen. They have a clause that if the delay is due to mechanical issues, they do not pay.
Eventually arriving in on December 5 in Copenhagen, a full 24 hours late, our time was cut down to an evening and the following morning. The time allocated had already been limited, just a refresher before flying on, but now it was going to be difficult to see many things in any detail. This needed a quick revision of our plans. We decided that with the time available, we would only spend time in the National Museum and the Tivoli Gardens, and view the palaces and other buildings from the outside.
First task was to get from the Airport to our hotel, the Alexandra Copenhagen. As there were four of us with a lot of luggage, we chose the taxi option. Almost as cheap as buying four tickets on a bus or train, and dropped right at the hotel’s doorstep.
Check-in was fast and friendly. Located on Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard, we chose it for its central location and competitive rates. The staff understood that we had our stay shortened, so were very helpful with suggestions. The hotel sold tickets for the Tivoli Gardens, which were only a short walk down the street and open until late at night.

Evening Walk in Copenhagen

A short walk down the Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard was the National Museet (museum). This is one of the world’s great museums with excellent exhibits illustrating Denmark’s history. Extremely well laid out, you start at the pre-historical section, and then make our way through Viking times, the coming of Christianity through to modern-day.
There is an excellent collection of Viking artifacts, ranging from swords and shields to boats and rune stones. Some of the best-preserved bog bodies are also on display. Gruesome but captivating at the same time.

Bog Body – National Museet – Copenhagen
Swords – National Museet – Copenhagen
Hindsgavl Dagger – National Museet Copenhagen

On the second floor is a very nice café where we stopped for a hot chocolate and snack, before pressing on. We spend around two hours here and could have taken longer if not pressed for time.
Leaving the museum, we went to the Christainborg Palace. It was now dark and the palace was lit up, making for a nice contrast to the usual day time views. We headed back to the hotel through some of Copenhagen’s shopping streets, taking in the Christmas decorations and markets.

Christianborg Palace at Night

After returning to our hotel for some warmer clothes, as we went to the Tivoli Gardens. The gardens are very popular with locals and tourists and were very busy. We found them to be more crowded than expected and difficult to get through at times. Certainly very pretty, with everything lit up, but we found it quite boring, and apart from a coffee and a walk around, did not stay more than an hour.

Tivoli Gardens at Night

Our hotel room was nice and warm and after a long flight and walking around the city for a few hours, we easily fell asleep and had a good night’s sleep. Breakfast was included with our stay was served in the adjoining Vietnamese restaurant. Quite a reasonable selection of food and we all had a good meal. As we were flying out at 2:00PM, we checked out of our rooms and left the luggage with the front-desk.
We were out of the front door by 7:00AM, to make the most of our very shortened stay. Walking down Strøget, we saw some nice decorations, including a lot of small Christmas trees. This early, all the shops in this famous pedestrian street were closed, but we hoped to see a few on the return journey.

Morning Walk in Copenhagen
Christmas Tree – Stroget – Copenhagen
Christmas Tree – Stroget – Copenhagen
Christmas Tree – Stroget – Copenhagen
Christmas Tree – Stroget – Copenhagen

Getting to Nyhaven, most of the usual crowds were yet to arrive, so we could see all of the docks and buildings without other people around. The same went for the Amalienborg Palace. There was only a few people there. We took it as an excellent opportunity to take pictures of the palace and guards.

Nyhaven – Copenhagen
Nyhaven – Copenhagen
Nyhaven – Copenhagen
Nyhaven – Copenhagen
Amalienborg Palace – Copenhagen
Guard at Amalienborg Palace – Copenhagen

One of the big attractions in Copenhagen is the Little Mermaid Statue. Its biggest criticism though is the size of the crowds of people gathered there. Not early in the morning though. There were less than ten of us, and could get photos of just us by the statue. Nearly is the Geflion Fountain. In winter the water is turned off, so it was not as spectacular as when operating, but still a very nice sculpture.

The Little Mermaid – Copenhagen
Geflion Fountain – Copenhagen

We walked back to the hotel the same way we came, stopping a few shops in Strøget. The Pandora shop was high on the wife’s list and as they had some specific Danish beads, we made several purchases. As a quick fun picture, we stopped at the Guinness Book of Records Store and took pictures with the statue of the world’s tallest man.
Our hotel organised a taxi for our trip to the airport. Copenhagen International was very easy to find our way around. They also had a very helpful help desk, which we needed when the automatic check-in counter would not accept our tickets. Everything was fixed with the minimum of fuss.
So, what did we think? Overall apart from the lack of time, it was great. Very easy to find your way around and we felt very safe. People were very friendly and helpful and the city centre is full of great attractions. We visited in December and the city was full of festive decorations, with most sops having candles in their doorways, as well as decorations. Would we go back. Yes, so that we could spend more time seeing the things we missed and going into the palaces and other museums as well as touring the rest of Denmark.

Avalon Airshow – Melbourne March 2017

We went to the Avalon Airshow, just out of Melbourne on Saturday 4th of March.  Getting there was very easy.  We bought tickets from VLine online which covered the train from Southern Cross Station and a shuttle bus from Lara Station to Avalon.  The trains were running every 20 minutes to cater for the demand.  At Lara, there was a queue of buses ready to take people.  All very well organised and it ran smoothly.

There was an easy to follow map provided at the gate when we arrived at 8:30AM. There were also several large bill boards around the airfield with maps on them.  The ground displays were very well set out, usually with defence force personnel around to talk and answer questions.  The weather could not have been better.  A top of 28oC.  A little cloudy in the morning, but this was mostly gone by midday.  We remembered the sunscreen, and were very pleased we did.  Some people didn’t bother and by mid-afternoon, a few very red a sore people were standing around.

Most of the current RAAF aircraft were present.  The main draw card was the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  We headed there first to avoid the crowds later in the day.  The barriers let people get quite close, so you could see a lot of detail and take some great pictures.  At one of the two on display, you could reach up and touch the wing if you were tall enough.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Avalon Airshow March 2017

All three types of F-18s operated by the RAAF were on display, the classic F/A-18A Hornet, the F/A-18F Super Hornet and the new F/A-18G Growler.  The Super Hornet also put on a fantastic flying display showing off its abilities.  Watching it climb vertically to 10,000m was spectacular.  Having never seen one fly before, its maneuverability was surprising and watching it fly down the runway with a 50-degree angle of attack very impressive.

F/A-18A Hornet Avalon Airshow March 2017
F/A-18F Super Hornet Avalon Airshow March 2017
F/A-18G Growler Avalon Airshow March 2017

The old P-3 Orion anti-submarine and patrol aircraft was there, along with its new replacement the P-8 Poseidon.  The other Boeing 737 derived aircraft operated by the RAAF the E-7AWedgetail was sitting nearby.

The RAAF’s lead-in jet trainer the BAE Hawk put on a flying display.  Although impressive, it showed the huge gap between trainers and a real combat aircraft like the Super Hornet which had flown earlier.

BAE Hawk Trainer Avalon Airshow March 2017

Singapore and New Zealand sent Hercules transports.  The RNZAF put on a very nice flying display with theirs.  Singapore also sent F-15s which looked very impressive on the ground.

The US had some of the best aircraft there.  Three F-22s were the highlight, along with a B-1 bomber.  The F-22 looks a lot sharper than the F-35 and its pilots were very proud of their machines, willing to talk and answer endless questions from spectators.  Several older F-16 jets were parked up near the F-22s giving a stark contrast to the old and new technology.

F-22 Raptor Avalon Airshow March 2017
F-16 Avalon Airshow March 2017
B-1 Bomber Avalon Airshow March 2017

What looked to be the biggest aircraft there was the Ukrainian Antonov AN 124.  A very impressive looking transport.

Antonov An124 at Avalon Airshow Melbourne March 2017
Antonov An124 at Avalon Airshow Melbourne March 2017

Many helicopters were also on the ground display.  The Tiger battlefield helicopter looked very lethal, despite the problems that the Army has had with its implementation.  The nearby NH-90, which has also had its fair share of issues was also open for a close look by the public.  The US contribution to this section was the Apache attack helicopter, always a great sight in its dark grey camouflage.

Tiger Helicopter Avalon Airshow March 2017
NH-90 Helicopter Avalon Airshow March 2017
Apache Helicopter Avalon Airshow March 2017

Many historical aircraft were on display from many Australian collections.  Airworthy examples from RAAF Point Cook, Temora and HARS put on some very nice displays.  The Super Constellation, looked huge (and it is a big aircraft), as it circles the runway.  On static display were a Harrier jump jet, Canberra bomber and what looked like half of the Temora Aviation Museum’s collection, including the Boomerang, Meteor and Hudson.

C-47 Dakota Avalon Airshow March 2017
BAE Harrier Avalon Airshow March 2017
Canberra Bomber Avalon Airshow March 2017
BAE Harrier Avalon Airshow Melbourne March 2017
Training Aircraft Flyby Avalon Airshow March 2017

The army had an M-1 Abrams tank on display, along with the types of shells it could fire.  They had many other types of vehicles on display, but most people were interested in the tank.

M-1A Abrams Tank Avalon Airshow March 2017

When we left at 2:00PM, there were still hundreds of people streaming in from cars and buses and the car park was almost full.  Some had decided to watch from the boundary fence, and along the roadside.  They would have seen the flying displays, but not well, and missed all the ground static displays.

The trip home by train was as easy as the journey in.  Arriving back in Melbourne, we had a quick freshen up at our hotel, a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant, and got ready to see a show at night.  Overall a very satisfying day.