Norway is the sort of country that spoils all other landscapes for ever. It is hard to compare to the majestic fjords, towering cliffs and luminous green grass. We flew into Bergen for the bank holiday weekend and made our way immediately to fjord region, travelling to Sognefjorden which was about four hours drive. The scenery on the way is just stunning so the drive there is really part of the whole experience.
Boat trip on the fjords
In researching the trip I got some great tips from Nordic Nibbler and A forkful of spaghetti. I learnt that seafood plays a huge part in the Norwegian diet which is not surprising given the long coastline of the country and the pristine fjords. What is more surprising perhaps is that Norwegians also eat reindeer. Most of the reindeers natural predators have died out so every year the government counts the reindeer and farmers are allowed to cull a certain amount. The farmer who ran the property we stayed had recently killed some reindeer and was busy skinning them then leaving them to hang for a week. I found it fascinating but perhaps some people wouldn’t! Besides the seafood and reindeer I was also keen to sample Norwegian berries, brown cheese and cinnamon buns all of which came with recommendations.
The view from the house we rented
Unfortunately our first meal in Norway was pretty atrocious, we stopped at the small town of Voss and headed to the guidebook recommended Vangen Cafe for lunch. There weren’t really any Norwegian dishes on the menu so we had to eat flaccid reheated lasagna and a rubbery veal schnitzel with greasy chips. It may have got a guidebook recommendation but this was one cafe that is not getting a recommendation from me.
Details: Vangsgata 42, Voss, Norway (Ph +47 56 51 12 05)
Reindeers being hung at the farm
We were staying in the tiny village of Flam, a further hours drive from Voss. There is really only a choice of about three places to eat in Flam and the friendly owners of the house we had booked recommended the Aegir Brewery which is a new addition to the village. The brewery itself is well worth a visit with its striking Viking style architecture. A huge fireplace dominates the room and you can sit on reindeer fur rugs around the fire while you sip on your beer. It produces five micro brews and you can do tastings or just opt for a pint. The light wheat beer was particularly good.
The smorgasboard at the Aegir Brewery
The Aegir Brewery also runs a restaurant which offers a buffet of Norwegian food for 300k (£30). It felt very touristy to eat at a buffet but I placated myself with the thought that the word smorgasbord is actually Scandinavian and a buffet style of eating is actually quite traditional. As far as buffets go, this was pretty good. The best options were clearly the different varieties of smoked and cooked fish served with rye bread to begin. The smoked salmon was delicate and almost translucent and coloured a vibrant orange. The other Norwegian specialty of reindeer was not so successful. The meat was served in a creamy stew with lingonberry jam which is a fairly traditional way of eating it. However the reindeer itself was tough and chewy. Desserts of a pavlova style slice and logs of airy chocolate mousse helped erase the reindeer memory.
Chocolate mousse and coffee mousse at the Aegir Brewery
Details: Boks 44, Flam, Norway (Ph +47 57 63 20 50)
Gourmet Traveller Tips
Bergen is a two hour flight from London and we flew with Norwegian air (£110 return) and then hired cars, it is also possible to get to Flam quite easily by train but we wanted the independence of our own cars.
From Flam there are stunning walks in the surrounding fjord region and we also did a two hour ferry ride along the fjord to explore the region from the water.
The Bergtun house
We stayed at the idyllic Bergtun house. The house sleeps eight and has the most amazing views out over the fjord. It was clean and welcoming inside, well equipped with kitchen equipment, flat screen TV, wifi and even its own boat and very reasonably priced compared to other accomodation options we tried. Between six people it worked out to be the equivalent of £50 a night each. The owners, Anders and Sue who live on the farm just up the road were very helpful and own a few properties in Flam (Anders’ family has lived there since 1600) so be sure to get in touch with them if you are visiting the town.
Details: Flam, Norway (Ph +47 57 63 22 45)