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So it was back to Oslo with added trips to Bergen/the Fjords and Tromsø above the Arctic Circle which I'd wanted to do for a while. We went at a time when we had neither the midnight sun nor the arctic lights but it was a good time nonetheless. Once you get over the sticker shock of how expensive it is there, which I knew going in, but they pay about 3 times more for things than we do (the most famous example being my not quite $7 chocolate chip cookie). Whatever, we started in Bergen where we had a relative deal of a guesthouse but "you get what you pay for". We wandered around in the afternoon waiting for the owners to get home and saw some folks obviously there for the Hole in the Sky fest (http://www.holeinthesky.no) also checking out the tourist spots. Actually ran into a friend of a friend from SF who was there for the metal fest. Andrew says I always see someone I know in other countries but that's only partially true. Checked out the Leprosy Museum, a unique museum, then had a nice lunch and rolled our bags to the house and Andrew lugged them up 3 flights to our tiny attic space in a house with many little rooms crammed with tons of stuff. I wish I'd been in a real hotel but at least we saved money. After regrouping, we got to the show at the Garage where Stian from Devil had come thru with a pair of tickets for us (about $63 each). Bands were good to okay to blech but I can't sleep on a plane and literally fell asleep standing up during the 3rd band In Solitude. Our walk to get a cheap rullekebab down the street didn't revive us so we left before the headliners St. Vitus. Wimps, I know.
Hole in the Sky fest
The next morning we headed off on a fjords trip where we took a bus to the boat, cruised the fjords (where thankfully the weather cooperated), stopped for lunch in scenic Flåm then a train ride up the mountains and a bus back home. We met fellow metalhead Stefan from Germany on the boat who was jealous of us getting into Hole in the Sky. Some very pretty scenery as expected. That evening we walked by the club the USF Verftet where the metal fest continued (almost too nice a location on the water) then walked to Hulen, a cool club that used to be a bunker. Lots of the big Scandi bands have played there. The weather then turned on us so we ducked into an old restaurant Wesslestuen for a nice reindeer dinner (full food report here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/807000) then around the corner to Inside Rock where the music was decent and beer choices were good.
On Sat. we rode up the Bergen funicular for nice if foggy views then as walked down, we could hear live music by the fountain, so caught some bands there including young kids Erase who I assumed would laugh when I asked why they didn't cover the Backyard Babies but they had no idea who I was talking about. Look at their picture, they seemed like a young BYB. Checked out downtown, got the weirdest fish cake ever from the famous fish market but it had such an odd consistency, I threw most of it away. After a real lunch we walked around the Bryggen section which is what you see in all the postcards of Bergen. The employees at one bar told us that Biblioteket in the meat market bldg made the best cocktails in town. That nite we had nice, civilized cocktails there and a fun time talking to Julian the bartender who knew his stuff having traveled to NYC and SF learning all about craft cocktails. Walked over to the bar Legal then to Finnegans. Normally a place called Finnegans would keep me away, but the In Rock guys said they played good music which they did, but the place had an odd vibe and the door guy asked Andrew if he'd had too much to drink when we walked in. Ended w/ another rullerkebab.
food and sights
Sunday we rode out to see the Fantoft Stave church, kind of a redone one but it's hard to find originals after all those crazy black metallers went on their burning sprees in the 90's. Saw the Bryggen Museum then that nite was another drink at Biblioteket and an amazing Sun. 3 course dinner special at the fancy Smauet Mat & Vinhus. Ended up at the oldest bar in town which also had a bunker vibe.
We flew up to Tromsø on Mon., checked into the friendly Viking Hotel then walked around and stopped at Ølhallen pub in the Mack Brewery the world's most northernmost brewery. We unfortunately just missed a tour and when we went the next day to take one, they wouldn't give it to just the two of us, lame. A drizzly nite brought us to a modern Italian restaurant then to café/bar Driv where on Mon., they had a cheap beer special. The DJ's itunes wasn't working but he had a few decent CD's and was surprised I knew he was playing The Cynics. The next day we saw the Arctic Church, botanical gardens (world's most northernmost), the Polar Museum and Perspektivet Museum (cool exhibit on life in the wilds of Greenland). Andrew got a burger at Flyt but I kept up my moratorium on having burgers in other countries, weird meat. That nite we checked out the very cool Blå Rock Bar, 3 floors of awesome posters, guitars, good beer selection but no bands playing when we were there. Down the street was another cool spot, Bastard Bar, playing better music than Blå. A pretty happening town for so far north.
Got to Oslo on Wed., Thon Hotel Munch was in a good location. Walked around and ran into a crowd by the Nobel Inst. where the president of South Africa showed up. Yo Pres. Dinner was at this funky place Ya Ya's Thai Beach Café where the schtick is a jungle atmosphere and the occasional "monsoon" (lights go down, wind and water noises) that happens during dinner. Stopped at the bars Rock In and Unholy, both playing pretty brutal stuff for the most part. Big surprise that's what they play at a place called Unholy. Thurs. I wandered all over town, knew the Munch was closed (thankfully stopped there on my trip in 2000) but stopped by their café and got my famous 35 NOK cookie. I got lunch in the hip part of town, Grünerløkka, and stopped by the famous Nøseblod records where the guy was helpful trying to help me pick out some "bargain" records. That nite we wandered around the Grønland section, got a nice meal (as I said, when we saw entrees 199nok/$40, it felt like a bargain) then a stop at Elm St. Bar where good tunes were played and Andrew enjoyed the beer selection. We didn't see the "sleaze rock" shows the next couple nites (and were shocked to learn that Chris Holmes from WASP is still alive) but definitely enjoyed the bar.
Fri. was a trip to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump which was more interesting than it sounds. Nice views and pretty impressive to think guys jump off that giant thing. Then got on the ferry to and from the Viking Museum, Andrew grabbed a reindeer hot dog, then back in the touristy section I got a relaxing strawberry capirinha sitting in the bright sun (weather was good 3/4 of our trip). That nite we went to an outdoor show where the band Kvelertak was playing. But by the time I figured out which park to go to and taking a bus way out in the boonies, we only caught 3 songs but they were pretty rocking. Ended up with a nice dinner (don't yell at me for eating whale) then went across the street to the bar Tilt, tons of beer choices and games and very good music that nite ( but horrendous the next nite). We ended the nite at "Super Friday" at Unholy where every drink is 49nok. Ran into Stian there, heard some good tunes and walked the 5 min back to the hotel.
Last day in a constant drizzle we hit the Vigeland park where I couldn't stop taking photos of those crazy sculptures. after stopping by a couple flea markets, I made a special trip to the bakery Vårt Daglige Brød which used to be the infamous record store Helvete. They serve a good iced coffee and if you ask nicely, a young Asian man who barely speaks English will bring you into the basement which has one "black metal" scrawl across the wall, not quite living up to what I thought I'd find down there. (And I'm not the only geek who does this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/headovmetal/sets/72157616762842480/). Went to the very interesting Resistance Museum and learned about Norway's role in WWII then had lunch at Sub Scene, a cute café and all ages venue where I got a super bargain grilled ham, cheese and tomato for 25NOK! They also sell some records and while talking w/ the manager, I asked if they had the The Ghost CD but was told they don't carry it cuz it's all Christian rock and yes, black metal. Is Christian black metal not an oxymoron and a half? That nite Andrew took me out for my travel agent dinner at Theatercafeen, fun brasserie style place but not sure it was worth the price. Then beers at Deville where the music was good then a last stop at Tilt where the music was so much worse and the beer didn't live up to Andrew's expectation. We should have ducked into Unholy real quick to get that taste out of our mouths but we called it a nite. Uneventful flight home and I immediately went out for a cheeseburger at Costello's ha ha. Another good trip to Scandinavia.