In the summer of 2019, I began learning Norwegian by myself. And shortly thereafter, I felt the urge to travel to Norway – like physically. But unfortunately, I still had to go to school and so I simply needed to wait until the next vacation. If only everything was so simple. As we all know there was a minor disturbance that prevented many all around the world from traveling. Thus, my dream journey had to wait a little longer – and longer – and longer. Covid-19 made it impossible to plan a journey in advance because either my home country, Germany, or my target country, Norway, had restrictive travel rules at one point or another.
And now we write the year 2022. Almost three years after I first felt the craving to visit Norway, I was finally able to fulfil this dream. I searched for some friends who also wanted to travel that country up north. Eventually, we were three guys making big plans for a road trip to Norway in May. But not just any road trip: a road trip with an electric car.
The plan was rather straightforward: we’d drive about 930 kilometers from Cologne to Hirtshals to take the ferry from there to Bergen. We remain in Norway’s second largest city for a few days. Then, we get on the road to reach the inner part of the country: Vest-Telemark. After a stay in a cabin in the nature, we continue our journey to Stavanger and thereafter to Kristiansand. That concludes our time in Norway, we take the ferry back to Denmark and just need to drive the remaining 930 kilometers to get back home.
Well, we would have been lucky if it all went according to plan… We estimated that the first trip to the ferry should take about 13 hours including charging in the worst case. To have a bit of a buffer, we left at 4 in the morning, so it should have been easy to reach the ferry by 8 in the evening. According to the plan, we would be in Hirtshals by about 5 in the afternoon leaving enough time to grab some food and reach the ferry without any stress whatsoever. But for several reasons nothing should follow that plan. The last few hours before the departure at 8 p.m. were quite stressful because we had very little time left, and very much distance remaining. And in addition to that, we still had to charge the car several times. I believe there was one point in time when we had about 100 kilometers to go and it was about an hour before check-in. But the car’s battery was almost empty and the charge process took longer than expected.
Actually, you should be at the ferry by 7 p.m. – but then it was already 6:50 p.m. and we had another 50 kilometers to go. And on top of that, we had to charge up the car once more. Eventually, we reached the ferry dock at 7:42 p.m. We were entire 42 minutes late to get on the ferry. But we had more luck than we could’ve hoped for: the incredibly kind Dane at the check-in did his best to still let us on the ferry. There were just five RVs and one truck left that needed to drive onto the ferry – and then there were us. We were the very last ones to board the ferry. But you can’t imagine how relieved we were that our goal to reach Norway wasn’t out of reach anymore.
There was just one little problem: we got out of the car on the ferry with 8 percent battery remaining. During the journey across the sea, the battery lost a bit of charge. Thus we arrived in Bergen with only 5 percent charge. I can only hint at the tension we experienced after having driven off the ferry.
Anyways, in this article I don’t want to go on about the experience of driving an electric vehicle from Germany to Norway. That story can wait for another time. The main topic is supposed to be how I liked it in Norway. And to give the short answer: it was impressive. Sadly, we had only spent two weeks in Norway – but it felt like having spent multiple months there.
The first few days we explored Bergen. We walked around in the city center. We enjoyed the wonderful weather. We visited the famous Bryggen. We met some absolute units of Norwegians who just ran uphill and back down as if it was nothing.
Especially confusing was it when we hiked up on the Ulriken to get a view of the entirety of Bergen. We already had some problems climbing up the 1333 steps to the top. But at the same time, there were quite a few who just ran up those stairs. But nevertheless, it was worth taking those steps. The view from the top is just breathtaking and even more so on that day as the sky was clear, so that you could see incredibly far.
So, the view was great. But what I found almost more impressive was the fact that on the top of that hill, there was perfect 5G internet coverage. As a German, I’m used to losing my cellular data connection whenever I leave an urban area. But in Norway, you’ve easily got 5G on the top of a mountain (or rather a hill from a Norwegian perspective).
But the actually most impressive experience in Bergen was Grunnlovsdagen (= Constitution Day). During our planning we didn’t really pay much attention to other events occurring on the travel dates. So, we naturally decided to leave Bergen for our next stay on May 17th. As everyone with at least a little knowledge of Norway knows, May 17th is Norway’s national holiday. Our host in Bergen was very irritated that we would sit in a car all day during the celebration. Anyhow, we managed to attend a few of the events in the city center of Bergen before we parted. And, especially as a German, I have to say that it was more than I’ve ever seen. The German national day, on October 3rd, is rather boring in comparison to Norway’s May 17th. There were Norwegian flags everywhere, the women were wearing bunader, the men suits. There was an awesome parade along the historic Bryggen and all around the port area. And even though we only saw a tiny part of all the festivities, it was incredible and very exciting. I have to thank Norway just for this impression. It made the entire trip so much more memorable.
Around noon we eventually got into the car and drove off after having visited the celebration. We took quite the detour to our next target: Grungedal. I don’t think most people would know this little village in Vest-Telemark. But it’s a beautiful and calm stay and provided me with several experiences I’m glad to have. Grungedal is located south of the Hardangervidda national park and east of Haukelifjellet next to a calm, little lake. The ambiance can’t be described other than idyllic. We resided in a cozy hytte on an old farm built over 400 years ago. We didn’t have any warm water, just a fireplace, wood, a little electricity, and a stream right next to the cabin. That’s exactly how I imagine the Norwegian dream of living in a hytte.
The journey to Grungedal was magical too. We took off in a city (Bergen) which was quickly replaced by farms that were reminiscent of the alpine pastures from Bavaria in Southern Germany. Then, we arrived at the Hardangerfjord where the road was immediately by the water and the view was incredible. As part of our planned detour, we drove toward Ulvik. On the way there, we suddenly felt as if we were in Canada or even Alaska. From Ulvik it went on to the Hardangerbru – a bridge spanning across the Hardangerfjord – and that was the first time I experienced driving through a roundabout inside a tunnel. It was quite exciting to drive through the roundabout in the dark, leaving the tunnel, and immediately being on top of the bridge across the fjord. And from the bridge in went straight into the next tunnel. There are a lot of tunnels in Norway, apparently.
We followed the Riksvei 13 along the Sørfjord and made a break at the end of the fjord. Next, the journey proceeded to the waterfall Låtefoss. Thereafter, we carried on following the Europavei 134. After a couple of tunnels, we found ourselves far above sea level. All around us was snow and ice as the road cuts straight through Haukelifjellet’s highlands. It had been years since I’d seen that much snow at once, so it was quite impressive but also humbling. For a short time, it almost felt as if we were teleported to Antarctica. The only problem was that we were dressed for hot weather still being influenced by the warm morning in Bergen. Thus we were worried about the weather conditions at the cabin, being dressed in shorts and all that. We didn’t really know what to expect. But fortunately, the weather at the cabin was relatively mild and, after another tunnel, we left the winter landscape just as quickly as we sat foot on it.
To keep this article short, I’m going to tell the detailed story of staying in the hytte another time. So, after five amazing days we got in the car again and set off for the next target: Stavanger. We drove back through the snow landscape of Haukelifjellet. But instead of taking the E134 north to Bergen, we took Riksveien 13 southwards. The snow and ice was soon replaced by a beautiful spring scenery. We came along lakes, fjords, mountains, and trees and the view was just as impressive as during the rest of our journey.
In Nesvik, we arrived at the first ferry we had to take while being in Norway. It was interesting to see how easy it can be to take a ferry. It was nothing more than waiting for a few minutes, drive onto the boat, and let the ferry do its work. You don’t have to take out your wallet to pay because everything is tracked automatically by scanning the license plate. The fee is paid later as soon as you get the receipt. By the way, this is also how the toll roads work – there are almost no gates on Norwegian roads as everything is processed automatically and digitally.
Having crossed the fjord we continued our trip to Stavanger. The remaining distance was about 70 km and we didn’t experience any problems on the way. The scenery was also great. But I almost have to say that the highlight was driving through the world’s longest under-sea tunnel: the Ryfylketunnel. It’s stretches on for nearly 15 kilometers! And just as you leave the first tunnel, you drive right into the next one which is several kilometers long as well. I was impressed by the Norwegian tunnel building skills and the fact that the entire Ryfast project was comparatively cheap when I feel like there are only building projects from Germany with a horrendous price tag attached.
Nevertheless, we were happy to have come to Stavanger. The city felt completely different to Bergen. While Bergen had a more historical atmosphere with the medieval Bryggen and the old-fashioned houses, Stavanger seemed to be far more modern. Sadly, we didn’t get to see much of the city. We just took a little walk along the Strandkai and grabbed something to eat in the city center.
The next day, we drove off to Lauvvik in order to take yet another ferry. This time we wanted to cross the entirety of the Lysefjord from west to east where we would end up in Lysebotn. The boat trip was incredibly beautiful. You move along the middle of the narrow fjord being surrounded by humbling mountains on both sides. There are waterfalls plunging into the sea, high cliffs, and a bit of snow. To put it briefly: it was amazing – and surprisingly not very expensive in comparison to a lot of other attractions in Norway. But the actual destination lies at the end side of the fjord: Lyseveien. It’s a road leading from the sea in Lysebotn 932 meters up and consists of a kilometer-long tunnel as well as 27 hairpin turns. That alone is a thrilling experience. But it’s even better when you reach the top. For one, you have an incredible view of the road and fjord below you. And when you turn around, you’re surrounded by a far-reaching landscape covered with snow. As we drove along the road, there was snow higher than our car. It goes without saying that it was definitely worth it to step out the car and wander around in those mountains. To get back to the accommodation, we carried on and followed the rest of the Lysevei until we reached the road leading to Stavanger.
Now it was already Wednesday and we had already spent one and a half weeks in Norway. To have a change for once we decided not to look at mountains that day. So instead, we drove towards the islands north of Stavanger, also connected to the city by tunnels. It was also quite interesting but by far not as exciting as the other things I’ve talked about so far. Still, when you are in Stavanger and have enough time and fancy to see something different, it’s definitely something I can recommend.
And that concludes our short stay in Stavanger. The next destination is Kristiansand. So we packed our bags and carried on. On the way to Kristiansand, we stopped as usual at several places which seemed interesting. Among them was the southern-most point of Norway: Lindesnes. But to be perfectly honest, Norway has more beautiful things to offer than the region in the south. Most of the stops were rather underwhelming compared to the stunningly beautiful landscapes of the last few days.
At least, the route from Stavanger to Bergen contained the road where I was able to drive the fastest so far in Norway. All the other roads had a speed limit of either 80 or 90 kilometers per hour while there was a short stretch on the E39 where 110 kilometers per hour are allowed. Of course, it’s still a lot less than the speed limits in Germany. Here, it’s completely normal to drive 130 kilometers or more every hours on the Autobahn. Still, I felt a lot more comfortable driving in Norway, even at 110 kph, than I’ve ever felt in Germany. And I believe that is caused by the significantly lower speed limits so that the speed differences between different vehicles isn’t as big. Maybe I’ll also write another article focusing on all the details I’ve noticed my first time driving in Norway.
We arrived relatively late at our appartement in Kristiansand at about 6 p.m. Thereafter, we walked around the Venstre Strandgate in the city center. We didn’t feel compelled to stay much longer there because the weather wasn’t very nice. So, we originally decided to eat at a restaurant and go home afterwards.
First, we tried to get some food at an oriental fast food restaurant. Both the other two wanted kebab and I wanted some falafel. Unfortunately, the waiter said they didn’t have any falafel anymore. That was definitely a problem because the restaurant didn’t offer a single other vegetarian dish other than falafel – and I’m a vegetarian. Thus, we had to experience the overly embarrassing moment of leaving the restaurant again without having ordered anything.
After having recovered from that moment, we looked for an alternative nearby. And we were lucky as there was another restaurant just a few doors away. At first, we tried to order our newly chosen food in Norwegian but the owner didn’t seem to understand us. But then I saw the German flag in the window so, naturally, I asked him if he spoke German. And would you believe it – he did. He was really thrilled to meet Germans as he himself had grown up in Baden-Wuerttemberg. He had moved to Norway and opened that restaurant in Kristiansand. After having finished our meal, we had a pleasant conversation with that guy and he told about how much he likes living in Kristiansand and that it’s the best city in all of Norway. It was definitely very nice and amusing to meet a fellow German there.
After the meal, we changed our minds and didn’t go straight home. Instead, we went bowling.
The next day, we didn’t plan to remain in Kristiansand. We wanted to go climbing in a climbing forest in Hornnes, north of Kristiansand. It was a lot of fun to climb between the trees and the best part was the zipline at the end of each course leading across a little river. The climbing forest was split in to parts with a little lake cutting through the middle. The experience of sliding along above the water is definitely recommendable.
So, they day was going great all in all – apart from a tiny problem. About 3:30 p.m. we received a text message notifying us that our ferry for the next day at 3:30 p.m. was cancelled due to the weather. It was getting windier by the hour and the weather forecast expected strong wind gusts for Friday afternoon. Without question, it was correct to cancel the ferry in order to protect everyone. But sadly, we felt left alone and were quite nervous. We didn’t really know how to get home in time.
During the following hours, we had to conceive a new plan for how to get back to Germany. We had a couple of more or less good ideas. For example, we could drive by car up to Oslo and take the land route through Sweden and across the Øresund bridge to Danmark. But that would taken a long time and been very exhausting. I mean we’re talking about a distance of 1500 km and over 17 hours just driving – plus time for charging.
Luckily, we came up with a better idea. We could try to take he ferry from Kristiansand to Hirtshals on Friday but early in the morning at 8:30 a.m. Okay, if you say it like that it doesn’t sound like very early. But we had to buy a little food before the ferry departs and you should be there one hour in advance to check in. Additionally, we had the problem that Thursday was a public holiday so that most stores weren’t open. So, we had to wait to the opening time of the closest REMA 1000 next to the ferry dock at 7 a.m. We were actually waiting in front of the entrance and were the first ones to storm into the store. I believe the poor sales assistant with the morning shift was completely confused over three tired guys running through the shop. We bought everything we needed for the ferry trip and for the road trip afterwards.
That was the actual problem: we had to drive the 930 kilometers back home within a day – again. But in contrast to the trip two weeks earlier we did not start at 4 a.m. but at 11 a.m. when the ferry eventually arrived in Hirtshals. In our planning, we foresee to stay overnight in Vejle to split the retour trip into two. But because we had taken the earlier ferry, that plan was now senseless. So, it was definitely good that we bought twelve cans of Coke in Norway to be able to endure the drive somehow.
But in the end everything went well and we did in fact arrive home on Friday. Actually, we were earlier home than originally planned – but with a lot more stress.
Nevertheless, this article shouldn’t sound too negative. After all, all the experiences in Norway and the trip itself was very impressive and worth it a thousand times. I feel like having made some valuable memories I’m glad to remember for a long time into the future. And by writing and telling this story in this article I had a great opportunity to recap that amazing time up north. I really loved my first time to Norway and I hope that I’ll be able to come back soon.
Ha det bra!