Picturesque fjords, thundering waterfalls, bizarre glaciers: Norway is a country that appeals to adventurers as well as romantics. The scenery around the major city of Bergen is particularly varied. It’s hard not to feel completely overwhelmed by these sublime surroundings. Time here appears to have come to a standstill. The roads and buildings have hardly changed since 1900, while the views, too, have remained the same.
Norway here really does look like something out of a picture book.
The most beautiful of all the fjords is the Hardanger Fjord. We explore the lanes around it in a model O 319 panoramic bus. The bus belongs to Arvid Ove Vikør, the owner of a workshop in Norheimsund that specializes in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. “It’s like a reflex”, says Vikør. “People start to smile when they see this creation approaching.”Meanwhile, on the Hardanger Fjord, pleasure boats and ferries ply their course. As did once the “Hohenzollern”, the yacht belonging to Norway enthusiast Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
The mild climate of the fjord allows apples, pears, cherries and plums to flourish. This is where the mountains of Europe’s most extensive high plateau come down to meet the North Sea. The ideal setting for an O 319, one of the most characterful of small buses ever built and thus a perfect match for the local population around the Hardanger Fjord. The Norwegian writer Jens Tvedt once characterized them as a people with powerful emotions and strong wills, yet somehow also as dreamers.
Arvid Ove Vikør found his O 319 of 1964 – also the year he was born – as a wreck in someone’s garden. Its restoration took 20 years. These days its 68 hp gasoline engine burbles away happily, and the one-time hotel shuttle bus is ready for another panoramic journey. As far as Vikør is concerned, an O 319 is far more attractive than a 300 SL Gullwing: “I much prefer my bus!” he says with a smile. Which is why he also insists on taking the wheel himself to show us the finest spots on the Hardanger Fjord.
Our first port of call is the Steindalsfossen waterfall near Norheimsund. You can actually walk behind the curtain of water here. We then take to the tiny lanes right at the edge of the fjord, flanked by rugged cliff faces. We even explore the old road through the Måbø valley, where cars are in fact prohibited. The open air museum at Utne is a tempting proposition for a visit, as is the protected heritage site of the hydroelectric power station at Tyssedal. For those who prefer to take to the water, the route can be shortened in places by using ferries.
It’s quite a struggle for our O 319, up through the many hairpin bends to the Folgefonna glacier. As a visitor, the best way to get to know this stunning ice world is by taking a guided tour with crampons and an ice pick. And quite a tour it is: climbing boots are the order of the day for those who want to enjoy the very finest views down to the fjords. The last stretch of our journey takes us through the Skjegge valley and on to the Hardangervidda National Park.
It was in this national park that polar explorer Roald Amundsen used to prepare for his expeditions. Wild camping is still permitted here. The spectacular highlight of our tour is provided by a brief diversion to visit an awesome natural feature: a rock shelf that protrudes from the cliff face some 700 meters above the Ringedalsvatnet lake, offering breathtaking panoramic views.
The Norwegians call this caprice of nature “Trolltunga” - because of its resemblance to the tongue of a gigantic troll.