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Unlike some of my other trips I felt quite prepared about this one, as our time here was so short I really felt that I needed to have a steadfast plan in place so we could do as much as possible in a short space of time... oh how wrong I was.
When flying into 'Oslo' with Ryanair you have to remember that this isn't the main Oslo airport near the city, this is in fact a smaller international airport located 4 nautical miles northeast of Sandefjord, and 110 kilometers south of Oslo.
I was well aware of this before setting off and so rather than travel the 110km to Olso we decided to go off the beaten track and try somewhere a little less known.
After spending some time on my favourite website google maps I stumbled across a curious town called Rjukan.....
I had come across stories about Rjukan on social media a few years ago due to the fascinating fact that between September and March. Rjukan lies in the shadow of the mountains and does not get sunlight due to its location far north. In 2013, at a cost of 5 million NOK (404K GBP), large mirrors were placed on the northern mountainside to reflect the Sun into the town square to give the townspeople somewhere to go to enjoy the sun on their face.
I absolutely love quirky and wonderful things like this and so at this point I was sold.....we were going to Rjukan!
I used google maps to find out how long it was going to take us to get to Rjukan and at 2.5hrs I thought it was more than doable and we would see lots of lovely sights on the way. However what I hadn't quite taken into consideration was the fact that google maps does not take into consideration road conditions and as because there had been a very heavy snow the night before we arrived it took a lot longer than we expected. It was more like 4 hour before we arrived in Rjukan, it was super quiet but very beautiful and being in between two huge mountains was very impressive. It wasn't until after we arrived we found out that the mirrors are currently not working due to a recent storm.... oh that's ideal! However we were really excited to do the other things we had planned including a cable car ride and a finicular ride INSIDE a mountain!!
Norway is quite a costly country however it is possible to do it on a budget, as we were only going for a couple of days we took some supplies with us, we knew we were staying somewhere that had limited restaurants and so we decided to take some provisions with us, this not only saved us money but put our mind as rest when we were far from any shops. Even though we only had our cabin under seat bags we still had plenty of room for this little haul and while more expensive you can also buy extras from duty free once you're through security as these bags are also permitted as cabin baggage (top tip, I have been known to take duty free bags home with me and actually use them for extra clothes as cabin crew just think it's your duty free)
We decided to take a look at AirBnB for some accomodation and came across this extremely cute and cosy cabin right next to a lake, it had very basic amenities such as a toilet outside and no running water (bathrooms are available in the owners own property however we just roughed it)
The location was absolutely amazing and the hosts were beyond helpful, on the first night they brought us bottled water and firewood. The wood burner inside the cabin warmed up the cottage beautifully and within 45 mins we were toasty warm.
The view the next morning was absolutely stunning, we could have quite happily stayed nestled in the cottage all weekend watching movies, eating pot noodles and watching the snow fall but that would have been a waste.... or would it!!
So we headed off on our first adventure, The Gaustabanen.
The Gaustabanen is a mountain funicular that runs from Langefonn 1150 meters above sea level almost to the top of the Gaustatoppen 1800 meters above sea level. It is open all year and the mountain tramway that runs inside the mountain was originally built as a secret military facility.
The track consists of 2 stretches and 3 stations. From the lower station an electric tram takes 850 meters horizontally into the mountain to Brekket.
From there you go to the cable car (funicular as seen in the picture) which takes you to the upper station and the exit at the top.
From the top on a clear day you can see 1/6 of Norway.
I will forever and ever beat myself up about this morning, the night before I had said to JP that we would get up and be at the mountain for 10am sharp in order to get an early start on the day.
However once we were up and saw the amazing views from our cabin on a bright sunny day we decided instead to enjoy the lake and take some pictures and have a lovely Yorkshire Tea (yes we take our tea bags everywhere) next to the lake...what a terrible mistake that was.
When we finally arrived at the mountain base at around 12.30 a small cloud (the ONLY cloud in the sky) had decided to have a relaxing day at the top of the mountain. We decided to still head up as the winds can change quickly and we were hopeful that it would clear and we would get to see 1/6 of Norway
(See Instagram highlight reel for videos)
It isn't the cheapest acitvity and cost £35 each.
Once at the top you walk through a long tunnel and through a small door, you will go past the small cafe (which sells amaxing waffles, make sure you get one!) and then there is a door outside, as soon as we got out we could not see a thing, it was a complete white wash. I am not going to lie, I was pretty gutted because had we arrived at 10am like previously planned there was not a single cloud in the sky! We spent about an hour at the top just hoping that the wind will change and take the cloud away but sadly it wasn't the day for us. That is the thing with travel, it can go wrong, it can be unrehearsed, chaotic and wild but it's genuinely what I love most about it and while this particular adventure didn't go to plan but the secret of travelling is letting every situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.
As I like to say, if plan A doesn't work out, you have another 25 letters to go at.
On the adjacent mountain there was a traditional cable car, we had earlier decided against going on it as we were spending £35 each on the funicular but after not being able to see a thing up Gaustabanen we decided it was worth having a trip up.
This cable car is £12 each and only takes a few minutes to get to the top, you're not as high as Gasutabanen and so the views are a lot less spectacular (when you're not inside a cloud) but it was still absolutely lovely at the top and we even got an amazing view of our favourite cloud just hanging out at the top of Gaustatoppen.
I took a picture of me posing with it just for the memories.
We spent about an hour at the top and got some really good pictures as the sun started to set, the snow was super deep and we turned into a couple of kids.
So it was about 3.30pm on the Sunday and we had just got off the cable car and our flight home was Monday at 9pm and we weren't really sure what else there was to do in Rjukan, we had originally planned to go to the skiing village here but had scrapped that idea once we had worked out the full costs etc.
So right at the last second we decided to skip our last night in the cottage and head towards Oslo so that we could at least see a few more sights of Norway before heading home.
I was lucky enough to have a couple of free hotel nights saved up on my hotels.com app so we used one of those on a hotel in Oslo which actually later ended up being reinstated due to the particluar room us booking not being available when we arrived.
(Yes JP wearing jeans on this day was a fail, he has learnt his lesson)
We arrived in Oslo at around 7pm, we dropped our bags at the hotel and after a bit of confusion at the hotel we set off into Oslo to find some food, we both fancied Italian and after a quick google we found Mamma Pizza and decided to give that a whirl and wow.... it was delicious! As like everything in Norway it wasn't cheap, we had 2 mains, 1 side, 2 beers and a glass of wine and the bill was around £70 but thankfully it tasted amazing so was well worth it and after we had lived off pot noodles we were ready for something different.
After our meal we walked around for a little while and then headed back to the hotel for an early rise and a decent day out in Oslo, we got a 24 hour tram pass so that we could ride the trams all round Oslo and cover as much area as possible.
We got up and had breakfast at the hotel then headed out into Oslo, we walked to the opera house. The roof of the building angles to ground level, creating a large plaza that means you can walk up and enjoy the panoramic views of Oslo.
It is completely free to walk on the roof of the Oslo Opera House, and you don't even need to stand in line or anything like that to get it.
We then walked for miles all around Oslo and headed to the palace at 1.30pm where they have the daily changing of the guards which was really exciting to see, we spent the entire day just walking until around 4pm when we started the drive back towards Torp airport which was approximately 90 minutes away (in rush hour)
One of the main questions I get asked is how I travel so light, first of all you need to think about how many times you have been away on a holiday and brought back loads of clean clothes that you haven't even worn???
I obviously find packing for colder trips more difficult as winter clothes take up a lot more room but you can easily layer up and maybe wear a hoodie and put another one round your waist to save room!
The picture here shows everything I took to Norway, I also had room for half of the food that you can see on the image further up (me and JP split that between bags) the Cabin Max Bags are really good and fit absolutely loads in
I always take swimwear even if I have no swimming planned as it is always handy to have with me for any unplanned adventures, I also absolutely have to have my Yorkshire Tea with me!
For any more packing tops head to the packing page
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