Reading material for those who love the camping life

Text and photo: Willem DA Laros
Motorhome and Caravan magazine, No. 5 October

Camping in Norway - through Dutch glasses

All Dutch motorhome owners know that for ultimate motorhome freedom, Norway and Sweden are the places to be. Sweden has for the endless forests. Norway stands for the more rugged nature and, of course, the fjords. We are taking a tour of Norway with an Adria Twin: Oslo - Røros - Trondheim - Stavanger - Kristiansand.

With a Dutch perspective, we are happy to take the readers of this magazine on a trip through their beautiful country. We start this motorhome tour in Trondheim, the northernmost place we will visit this time. Let's mention it once and not talk about it again: Norway is expensive for the Dutch - and most other Europeans. The terrible war in Ukraine adds to this with its high fuel prices. This high price level has consequences for the way we travel. In Germany, Austria, Belgium and France we like to eat out regularly with a glass of wine, while in Norway we don't. 

Parking

 In Trondheim, we park the Tvillingen in the spacious motorhome parking lot towards the center on Saturday. At the end of May, there are mainly Norwegian motorhomes and only a few German and Dutch ones. Practical with the app Easypark, then we can pay the parking fee and decide tomorrow whether we will stay another day. We want to visit the cathedral on Sunday afternoon, see the colored houses on stilts, the old bridge and the fortress. Visiting the cathedral costs money. It rarely happens: all over Europe we like to visit churches and cathedrals, but I don't remember ever paying for it.

History

We Dutch are usually well informed about WWII and the misery it brought to their country. But Norway, how was it there? Operation Weserübung means nothing to the Dutch. I looked it up and found: Denmark and Norway would be neutral. On 9 April 1940, however, Hitler attacked both countries. With British, French and Polish support, Norway managed to hold out until 7 June. The Norwegian king and government then fled to London. A German puppet government was formed in Norway. The Netherlands was attacked on 10 May, more than a month later. I come to this because I see Dora 1 and 2 behind the motorhome park in Trondheim. These are two former bunkers for U-boats. They were constructed by the Germans during the Second World War - and are still standing there.

Westwards

From Trondheim we set course for Kristiansund. During the morning, as we get used to, we stop at a nice place to have a cup of coffee in the motorhome. We also stop at a supermarket for fresh rolls and other food for one or more days. Because we drive regularly, we don't need power "from outside" thanks to the 125 Ah lithium battery and solar panel in the camper. We are lucky, after some cloudy and even rainy days, it is now sunny with blue skies. An ideal day to cycle the Atlantic route. I've done this before on a motorbike, and now with the motorhome. What a beautiful route this is!

Andalsnes

I also used to drive past the campsite in Åndalsnes on my motorbike. That picture, with the beautiful background, has always stayed with me. And now we are here, with the motorhome. A nice place, away from the crowds. We could use a washing machine here: we've been traveling for a fortnight now. In the evening, no, it's almost night, we witness a beautiful sunset. The sky above us turns a breathtakingly beautiful red. Of course, Trollstigen was next on our itinerary. A small setback, the road was closed due to repair work after an avalanche. Google Maps doesn't mention it, but TomTom Camper does. Fortunately, the route via the E136 to Geiranger is also beautiful. The police understand that it will be busier than usual here, a good place for a traffic control. For the third time in my life I have to take a breathalyzer test: Once in Finland, once in my own country and now here.

Cruise ship

The campsite in Geiranger is quite full and wet: "See if you can find a place and then come and pay", is the message we get. There is still one well-graveled spot by the running water. The view of the fjord and the cruise ships that moor here is enchanting. We had intended to stay here a day longer and take a boat into the Geirangerfjord. But we don't: it continues to rain cats and dogs, and we might as well drive further south. There is still so much to see! It is worth looking back when we leave Geiranger, you have a beautiful view of the village and the fjord. I pull into a parking lot, but a lady tries to stop me from doing so, gesticulating fiercely: "We're a film crew and we're going to film here. We'll be gone in two hours." There is a bus in the parking lot and all the passengers are busy taking pictures. "What about them?", I ask. "They'll be gone in ten minutes. Well, I take the hint: "I'll be gone by then, too." I go out and take my pictures. When I drive off after five minutes, she can't suppress a smile. The louder here we come, the more snow there is. An incredible amount of snow even, camper high. Making coffee in the snow: that would be nice.

Lom stave church

Road 15 takes us past Lom, where we naturally stop to visit the stave church. However, a friendly gentleman at the entrance stops us: "There is a funeral going on, in twenty minutes you can come in." It turns out to be thirty, but of course that's no problem. Grief over the loss of a loved one always takes precedence. Near Turtagro we see ... cross-country skiers. We stop at a cabin with a hotel, where we find a Dutch woman behind the bar. "Next weekend, Norway's national cross-country team will train here," she says. We can't believe our eyes when we stand in the beautiful building. No, we are not allowed to spend the night in the car park. Further away is the hotel Turtagro, it is closed and we can spend the night here on the round caravan site.

Self-service campsite

The drive from the Turtagro motorhome station to the Vikifjorden campsite by the Lustrafjorden is beautiful again. It is only a short distance and at times quite narrow. On the way we meet the philosopher Wittgenstein, the Austrian who built a house in this area. We walk towards it, but the road is too slippery and we didn't expect that with our footwear. There is no one at the Vikifjorden campsite. There is a note with a telephone number. The friendly owner explains where I can find tokens for the washing machine, dryer and shower. In the evening he is there to settle the bill. From Viki Fjordcamping we have a view of an enormous waterfall. Feigefossen has a free fall of 218 meters, which makes it one of the highest freefall waterfalls, and one of the most impressive in Norway, I read on the internet. Our Dutch neighbor at the campsite goes there on his own.

Long tunnel

After the ferry, there is a 'tourist route' through the mountain, but we are also curious about Europe's longest tunnel: 24,5 km. With some "daylight moments" on the way to keep drivers awake. Very special! We pass Flåm, where we will do 'a spectacular train ride' tomorrow, in the direction of Undredal. Here is a small campsite with an adjacent goat dairy. There even appears to be a reasonably large supermarket. We buy buttermilk (!), a piece of goat's cheese and something good for the coffee. In Undredal we find another stave church. "Find a place and pay", is the recipe here too. The campsite looks full, but we still find a place. We are allowed to "stay" with a Dutch couple, next to their rented Sun Living motorhome: "To see if they like traveling in a motorhome". He is already convinced, she not (yet).

Goats in the way

On the way to Flåm the next morning, the road is blocked by a herd of goats. I drive up slowly, but the animals don't move aside. There is nothing to do but get out and chase the goats off the road with shouting, clapping and friendly footwork. Fortunately, they understand.

The train ride up from Flåm is beautiful, but less spectacular than expected. When we arrive at Campingpark Bergen at the end of the afternoon, the reception is closed, there is only a note with a telephone number on the door. The – surprisingly cheap – bus to the center of Bergen: that's the only reason to stay here for two nights.

Bergen and Skudeneshavn

We had already read about Bergen and everything is correct. Bergen is a great city. It is, of course, the town of the most important Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. It's a choir festival and we like to listen to a beautiful choir singing in the open air. The harbor is full of activity, the fish market, the view from above, the facades. It is busier than all the other places we have been so far. There is a queue of up to fifty meters for the train (Fløybanen, editor's note) to the top. We decide to go, it's healthy too. A tip from a Dutch friend who has lived in Stavanger for thirty years: "After Bergen, visit Skudeneshavn too". We make our way there, and have no regrets. We even stay at the campsite for three nights to wander around the old herring fishing village for two days. In the "world's smallest cafe" by the German Ruth Hermanns, the museum, the park, the moonstone... What also helps is the nice, green campsite here: good sanitary facilities and supermarket and the old village within walking distance. You can even find a caravan and motorhome dealer here. We are at the very back - only birds surround us. It is incomprehensible that there are so few fellow travelers here at the beginning of June.

war Memories

We filled up with fuel, went shopping and still got curious at a sign that referred to the Syreneset fortress. We drive up to it. The fort is part of the Atlantic Wall, a more than 5000 kilometer long defensive line that Nazi Germany built along the west coast of the occupied territories of Western Europe during World War II to prevent an Allied invasion. The Syrenes was used by the German occupying power to monitor ship movements and shipping lanes. Underneath the fort was a command post for two cannon towers that guarded the approach roads to Skudeneshavn. The fort is well hidden in the terrain: it is more than a kilometer's walk from a small car park. A school class is also there. The children, aged ten to twelve, answer my question in good English.

Vikings

Then it's off to Avaldnes for the Viking festival that starts this day. For three euros (!) we can park the motorhome under surveillance. In a light shower we go to the museum and the water where the Viking ships are moored. A real Viking shows me around his ship. Afterwards, we look around St. Olav's church, built in 1250. In 2017, the ruins of the medieval royal house next to the church were excavated, we read: a startling discovery! They are now working on a medieval park here. After another wonderful drive, we "moor" in Vikedal at the motorhome space by the marina. We can pay the money for the overnight stay with Vipps or in cash. Whoops? We have not needed Norwegian cash until now, and as foreigners we of course do not have Vipps. I send an app to my friend Ron in Stavanger, he advances the amount via Vipps. Nice place again, with sanitary facilities, electricity - still not necessary - and water. And above all a nice view of the water. When I walk a little, aggressive seagulls attack me. The Norwegians – we are the only foreigners – sit together under a shelter in the evening. 

Beautiful route

The beautiful route the next day goes from Vikedal via rv 46 to Ropeid, from there to Sauda (Svandalsfossen - what a beautiful waterfall) and Røldal, always north-east. From Røldal we take road 13 south to Nesflaten. There we are with two motorhomes on a great motorhome pitch, at the water's edge. Costs a tenner, including toilets. Can only be paid in cash (but where...?) or again with Vipps, as yesterday. It's nice that Ron is prepared to advance the money again. All night and the following day it rains and there is a strong wind. Too bad, because the route over road 13 is fantastic. Especially when we take route FV632 via Gullingen. We meet many soaked motorcyclists and Dutch campers here.

Compatriots visit

We choose the campsite in Sandnes for a visit to Stavanger and the first of several meetings with our compatriot, Ron Gort, who has lived here with his family for thirty years. Next weekend there is a big viking festival and he has booked tickets for us. But first we visit Stavanger's old wooden town and Utstein monastery. This is Norway's best-preserved medieval monastery, located in beautiful surroundings on Mosterøy, a 30-minute drive from Stavanger. There were Vikings, there was music and above all the beautiful monastery. In the Middle Ages it was a monastery for Augustinian monks and later, in the 1700th century, a baljuice farm. Utstein appears in historical sources as early as the 1000th century, and then as a royal farm for Harald Hårfagre after the battle at Hafrsfjord in 872. The monastery was built from the 1260s, but it is possible that some parts of the building are older and dated. from a former royal farm.    

Pulpit Rock

In 2013, a tourist plunged 600 meters from the Pulpit. It was my firm intention not to be in the news like that, and I succeeded. However, the trip was tiring. The deodorant gave up after an hour of climbing and we weren't even halfway there... Preikestolen Norway is a rock formation that towers over 600 meters above the Lysefjord. The view is fantastic. The pulpit is extremely popular, so some people get rich from the 25 euro parking fee. And there are many cars and motorhomes. On the way out from Sandnes to Preikestolen we took the tunnel, on the way back - nice route too - the ferry for a change.

Home      

From the campsite, it is approx. 13 km drive to the car park at Regimentveien in Stavanger (or close by). There, at the weekend, a Viking event takes place. We will visit that with Ron. On Friday it rains all day and there is a lot of wind. But so is Norway. The following day, we experience a Viking festival under fantastic conditions. Visitors are transported to three places by ferries. At one of the stops we visit a beautiful aviation museum. Viking ships sail on the fjord. And we are looking forward to the Viking market. The beautiful road 44 brings us much closer to Kristiansand, from where the ferry takes us to Hirtshals in Denmark. On the way, we pass the Jøssingfjord, where the Altmark incident (British warships freed 300 British sailors who were prisoners on the German auxiliary ship to the "pocket battleship" Graf Spee, editor's note) took place at the beginning of the Second World War. Norway and traveling by motorhome: it's fantastic in a word!

The Dutch glasses

       + What a beautiful country Norway is!

       + Rarely does someone drive directly behind you. Norwegians are not in a hurry: we are rarely overtaken. I haven't seen tough in weeks.

       + The Netherlands has been talking about it for years, here it just works: you pay for the use of some roads. Completely automatic - and that's how it is on the ferries, where your number plate is photographed.

       + Many places along the way to empty the caravan of gray and black water and fill up with drinking water.

       + Ample parking for motorhomes at most supermarkets along the road

       + Norwegians are friendly, helpful and almost all speak excellent English

       + Ferries and especially tunnels: how many there are!

       + Almost everywhere 4G and good DAB+ and FM radio reception

       + Cheap public transport - easy to buy a ticket via app

      

       - Once more: the high price level.

       - Some campsites receive an inadequate rating (Campingpark Bergen).

       - Those thermos bottles of coffee everywhere... fresh coffee is what we want. Preferably a café latte.

       - Email to campsites - 'Is there space tomorrow? - is not always answered or is answered late.

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