David Forrester and his wife Ethel have just returned home from their 15-day Follow the Lights escorted small group tour after winning the prize with Bentours at last years Scandinavian Film Festival. We recently had the pleasure of catching up with these lovely customers in our Melbourne office where they told us about their amazing journey through Norway and Finland. Hear what they had to say below.
From the moment we arrived in Oslo to the end of the trip in Helsinki we saw and did things we had never dreamt of.
"Norway in a Nutshell" was a well worthwhile extra. The hotel in Oslo, part of the Central Railway station and right in the heart of the city, was a great launching place to visit many sites. Our room overlooked the Opera House and the harbour. A stroll around the water's edge to Pipervick is well worthwhile if you are looking for a beautiful seafood meal. It also leads on to the sculpture park and the Modern Art Museum.
The following day catching a local train to Myrdal and then boarding the "Flam Railway" and travelling through the mountainous scenery covered with frozen waterfalls. Twisting and turning across precipitous cliff faces and through tunnels in a heritage train was exciting. We arrived at Flam and stayed at a beautiful hotel. Part of this excursion included a "Viking Plank", a five course meal accompanied with five different beers. Sumptuous.
The next day we boarded a ferry and sailed through the fjords, surrounded by towering snow covered mountains. We passed small settlements snuggled into protected areas. Then a bus and train to Bergen. It was a good idea to have our luggage sent independently which was in our hotel when we arrived.
Once again, a wonderful city to explore with its quaint buildings and fantastic eating places. Here we met our tour leader who was a wealth of knowledge. The most caring man who went out of his way to be of assistance.
The journey on the M.S. Nordkapp, a Hurtigruten ship, took us up the coast of Norway, stopping at various ports to pick up passengers, vehicles and goods and to deliver necessities. We were able to get off the ship at various places and explore the villages, often covered in a blanket of snow. Each town was like a Christmas postcard.
The scenery here is unbelievable. Snow and ice covered mountains rising out of the water. We were amazed at the isolation of some of the hamlets.
We were fortunate to see the northern lights as we were about to cross the Arctic Circle although not very spectacular. A little earlier in the year and I am sure they would have been better.
The M.S. Nordkapp is a very comfortable ship. The cabins are well appointed and serviced daily. The meals were absolutely mouth-watering. Much seafood (salmon, prawns, mussels), a variety of meats and vegetables and cheeses. A variety to suit all tastes. The wait to service was of an exceptionally high standard.
On disembarking the ship in Kirkenes, we began our journey through Finland. Visits to the Sami Museum, a unique night in a glass igloo, an exciting dog sled ride and a visit to Santa for a chat and a photo. We took the opportunity of paying extra for a snowmobile ride and a visit to a reindeer farm. There is nothing like travelling across a frozen lake at 40 kph.
Then a train ride to Helsinki, travelling at 165 kph through the frozen lakes of Finland. More exploring of a beautiful city. Then a ferry trip to Tallinn in Estonia and a wander through the Old Town with its souvenir shops and cafes.
I would recommend this trip. It was well organised and our group leader made certain that everything went smoothly. I guess other times of the year would be completely different. This was at the beginning of Spring. Not too cold but we needed to be well rugged up. Bentours advises on the clothing to take for the various seasons.
Once again, I would like to thank Bentours for a well organised and smoothly run tour.
By David Forrester.