We began our trip with an hour or so in the Lan VIP lounge at Ezeiza before our flight to Oslo, via London. It was very convenient because the VIP lounge was directly across from our gate. We had an uneventful flight to Heathrow, and had a 5 hour layover there, which was nice because we could use the British Airways VIP lounge in Terminal 5, and were able to get our legs back to normal. Yes, we still fly coach. ;o( We arrived in Oslo at 2:30 in the afternoon. Elis told us that we would take the Flytoget, a train, from the Oslo airport to Drammen. It was a one hour trip. We were amazed at how smooth the train tracks were. It was like we were riding on air, and the electric train was so quiet. The seats were very comfortable, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery en route. I thought the name Flytoget was a bit strange until I figured out the 'toget’ part is the Norwegian word for “train”.
When we arrived in Drammen, we exited the terminal via an incline that took us directly outside. We didn’t see Elis there. I needed to use the facilities so I re-entered the terminal via the front entrance. I discovered that it required a 10 kroner coin, which I did not have. I asked a very nice lady where I could get change for the bathroom, and she was so nice, she went behind a counter and came out with a key for the toilet. As I was leaving the terminal to rejoin Pete outside, I saw this very familiar face sitting in a chair in the waiting room. It was Elis.
Here I should explain that Elis was our neighbor in Mountain View for the ten years we lived on Sierra Vista. She is Norwegian, and she left her country for Canada with her family during WW II in the wake of the German invasion of Norway. She later moved to the U. S. and has lived there ever since. When we moved to Argentina in October of 2000, not long after that Elis decided to go back to Norway and find her roots once again. Over the next 14 years we stayed in touch, and we finally decided it was time to pay her a visit, especially because she had beguiled us by telling us about the amazing Hurtigruten company which has ships that leave Bergen every day and travel north to Kirkenes and back, a 12 day trip. We were told that it is every Norwegian’s dream to cruise through the fiords on a Hurtigruten ship. That was certainly enticing enough for us, and satisfied our cravings for adventure. So the planning began a year ago, and now here we are.
From the train station Elis walked with us to our hotel, where she had made reservations for us beforehand, and it was very conveniently located just across the plaza from the train station. We checked in and put our bags in the room, and then went with Elis to her home, where she had prepared a wonderful Norwegian feast for us. We talked for hours, catching up on the 14 years since we had last seen each other. Norway is very far north, and it was still light, and quite late when we left Elis to go back to our hotel. We were pretty tired from flying for over 15 hours, not counting the 5 hour layover in London.
Before heading up to our room, we stopped at the lobby bar for a nightcap, a gin and tonic.
Our room at the First Ambassadeur was small, but the bed was comfortable, and we had a nice view of the city from our window. The next day we met with Elis in our lobby, and she took us on a walking tour of Drammen. It is a beautiful city, with the Drammen river running through it.
We wound up back at Elis’ home, where we talked while we waited for Aud (Elis’s sister-in-law) to come by. She had offered to take us by car for a more extensive tour of Drammen. This was very kind of her, and we saw some very interesting sites this day.
The first place Aud took us was through the Spiraltoppen, an amazing spiral tunnel which took us to the top of this huge mountain via a spiral tunnel inside the mountain, which when we had reached the top and emerged, had spectacular views of Drammen and the surrounding countryside. The YouTube link below is a short 5+ minute video of the trip up to the top through the spiral tunnel. It was truly a breathtaking ride for the first time. Being inside the center of a huge mountain for so long was a very strange sensation. Watch the video, as I think you might enjoy it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBFNfPsmck0
The cannon is Norwegian, and it was one of several on this hill installed to protect the harbor below. We walked further up the hill to the restaurant for a coffee and a waffle.
The waffles were delicious. There was a wasp staggering on the edge of our table, looking like he was on his last leg. Aud put some jam on a napkin and pushed it over where he would see it, and see it he did. The wasp went directly to it and began to eat, and he ate and ate, and finally he was like Lazarus rising from the dead. He had so much energy from the sugar he could fly once again, and he started flying up and down the window, trying to find a way back outdoors. Pete said ‘now you can see why mothers shouldn’t give their kids sugar’. ;o)
We left the mountain of the spiral tunnel, and the next interesting place Aud took us was this archeological find that was accidentally discovered when they were building this road. It is a huge granite rock with drawings on it that have been carbon dated to 4,000 years ago, showing that there were people living here in Drammen that far back in time.
We really appreciated Elis organizing this tour of Drammen via Aud’s car, It was a really nice surprise for us. Next we were taken to an old church, way out in the country. It was well kept, and although we were not able to go inside, the outside was very nice indeed, as you will see in Chapter 2.