Explore Norway With Lisa Stentvedt

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Explore Norway With A Local CulturallyOurs Podcast

Season 05
Season 05
Explore Norway With Lisa Stentvedt
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Show Details

In this episode, we explore Norway with Lisa Stentvedt. Lisa is a local living in Norway in the city of Bergen and she share some of her favorite places to explore in and around the city and the country. She also share some off-the-beaten path adventures around Norway away from the super touristy places – a country that is known all over the world for its incredible natural beauty and landscapes. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Lisa take us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes.

Show Notes

Karthika explores the incredibly beautiful country of Norway and the city of Bergen with a local Lisa Stentvedt. Lisa lives in Norway and she shares her love for this city and country – unique experiences in and around her home town. She shares some off-the-beaten path adventures around Norway that can help us explore this amazing country that is famous for its incredible landscapes and natural beauty – from northern lights to the land of the midnight sun and everything else in between. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Lisa take us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes. Karthika and Lisa also talk about the future of travel as seen from the eyes of a local living in a touristy location.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome, Lisa, thank you very much for joining me on Culturally Ours. I am very excited to have you on the podcast and I cannot wait to chat with you. Get to know you a little bit better and get to know your corner of the world and live the better. Thank you. Before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, just to kind of help set the stage for this conversation?

Lisa: Of course. And thank you so much for having me excited to be here. My name is Lisa and I’m a travel blogger and writer from Norway. My blog is called Fjordsandbeaches, and the name is inspired by the Fjord region of Norway, where I grew up. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now. And I just love sharing my adventures and travel tips on my blog. Well, I share tips from all over the world but have been focusing a lot on Norway lately.

Karthika: Amazing, and Norway is such a beautiful country and your blog is amazing. Your pictures are amazing

Lisa: Thanks so much. It’s easy to take good photos from Norway. I’ll admit.

Karthika: Oh for sure. When I look outside my window, I just see a lot of snow and dead trees, and flat landscapes. It’s no fun. No fjords. No, I wish there were though. Lisa, tell me a little bit about Norway and the specific kind of where you are located. whether it’s your hometown or where you live and just kind of describe us, describe it.

Lisa: Of course. I’m based in Bergen, which is the second-largest city in Norway. My hometown is Aurland which is a three-hour drive from here. Aurland is where I grew up. I was born and raised there. It’s a small village with less than 2000 inhabitants and it’s based in the heart of the Fjord region of Norway. When you think of Norway and Norwegian landscapes, you are very likely thinking of the view from my childhood home.

Karthika: Oh, wow. What made you move from there to Bergen?

Lisa: It just made sense for me to move to a city where I would have easier access to an international airport. I moved here after I started blogging full time. And since I was traveling a lot of the time, the three-hour drive from rural Norway to here was bad. There are only like a few buses per day that go there. And it was very tricky to like book travel. I’d either have to go here to Bergen and spend the night with friends to catch an early flight in the morning. it just made sense to have like a base here. And a lot of my friends live here and I love the city I’m growing up in. I think I’ve become a bit of a city girl.

Karthika: Now talk to me a little bit about just the whole pandemic and, COVID and how Norway or Bergen, how has the community handled the whole situation? How are things where you are right now?

Lisa: Norway has been quite proactive in handling the pandemic, I would say. We have been in lockdown several times as late as this past weekend, we just ended one. They’ve been very proactive. For example, like this past lockdown we were in, they discovered the British mutation or a strand of the virus in Bergen about two weeks ago. And immediately we went into a seven-day lockdown. They closed the gyms, they closed everything except pharmacies and grocery stores. Then after seven days, they reopened a little bit. Like kids sports and restaurants and then yesterday, Monday that was 14 days later, they reopened everything. They’ve been kind of very proactive. Like the second they see a sign of anything not being controlled, they just like shut down.

Lisa: But then for a very limited time, it’s very interesting. And I feel like it has been working quite well. Like I think we don’t have like our numbers are not as dramatic as many other countries. And we’ve all been lucky in that our lockdowns haven’t lasted as long and they haven’t been as aggressive as others. like yesterday I went shopping and I had comments on Instagram. People were like, are stores open? Can you go to H and M and Saraj? And I’m like they’re, that’s fine. It’s not a problem. But they were closed for 14 days and then they reopened. They’re very hands-on but all make it less short.

Karthika: It’s, it’s kind of similar here. We’ve not had an official lockdown as such. I mean, I’m in the suburbs of Chicago. Things up pretty much kind of back on track and it’s crazy. It’s like many people you kind of see you, they behave like there was never a pandemic. Right. And then on the flip side, you have people who are completely home-bound, everything is online. It’s quite interesting to see the whole, I guess, the psyche aspect of it as well.

Lisa: No, it’s very interesting. And there are so many different ways of handling it as well.

Karthika: For sure. For sure. Now, Lisa, you are in the travel industry, you’re in this travel space, and Norway as such is such a beautiful country for travel and just exploration and outdoor adventure. Talk to me a little bit about how travel has changed, especially where you are. And I’m talking from the perspective, not just of you as being in the industry, but just people around like, are people traveling, is their movement or is kind of everything can, is completely blocked off.

Lisa: The village where I grew up has been especially impacted for sure, excuse me. Because of the location of Vietnam by the fjords, tourism is the number one kind of industry in the area. We would welcome thousands of visitors a day from all over the world to the village, which is insane. But like, it would just be such a bustling, crowded place. Like there was always life and now it’s, it’s like a ghost town, it’s quiet there now. That’s impacted Norway because tourism is very big here, and it’s very sad to see because I don’t see a lot of my friends. Growing up in such a tourism-based area, I have a lot of friends in the travel industry I’ve worked in even before I was a travel blogger. I worked in hospitality in the summers. And like that was the industry I was in before I started blogging full-time as well. And now like most of my friends are on furlough. They have lost their jobs or have had to like to go look elsewhere because there’s not much travel to Norway at the moment they’ve closed the borders in all practicality.

Karthika: Oh that’s very sad.

Lisa: Sad but necessary. Like I understand all the restrictions. I understand all the decisions of the government, but it’s still, it’s heartbreaking to see how many businesses are struggling now and how many people are struggling as well as a result of this.

Karthika: Now you being a travel blogger, how have you handled it? Like if you don’t mind sharing from a personal perspective, what have you done to kind of keep going or pivot or, or just kind of walk us through that?

Lisa: One of the main ways I pivoted was that I finally got around to writing in Norwegian. If you’re at the beach, it’s an English blog. It always has been. But for years I’ve been saying that I would like it to be bilingual because Norwegian is my first language. When the pandemic hit and they started closing down borders or just making it harder to enter Norway as a tourist. And the summer of 2020 was very focused on domestic travel. I did like a complete one-eighty and started writing in a region. In addition to English, I still write in English, but in our region, Norwegian travel tips or travel tips in our region have been kind of my number one focus lately to kind of like hone in on that.

Karthika: Lisa, if I, or somebody else out there were to plan a trip to Norway, hopefully, things open up and you get back to travel. Tell us about where you would take us. I guess I’m asking for a course like this. We can travel again.

Lisa: I know Norway, the tourism and travel industry here in Norway are very excited to welcome tourists again. I get that. I get this question often like I get many emails and DMS and messages about this and you’d be surprised by how many people want to go to Norway, but they don’t know what they want to see or why they want to go to Norway. Like them, they’ve just heard that Norway is a great country. They’ve heard that it’s beautiful, but they don’t because I’ll often like to go ask, ask people will. what’s your kind of like, what’s the purpose of your trip? What do you want to see? And they’re like, Oh, well we just want to, we want to experience Norway. First, off I would say always advise someone who likes before they like start thinking of their itinerary or their trip, I’ll always advise people to like just read a few blog posts, do me research and figure out like, do you want to go to Norway because you dream of seeing the Northern lights, for example, which is, I mean, Norway, great country for the Northern lights. or would you, or do you want to see the few words is that, cause those are two very different trips? I’ll usually assume most people want to see the viewers on their first trip, but if you do dream of seeing the Northern lights, I recommend visiting the Lou Fulton Isles, which is quite far up North, a beautiful region, absolutely stunning. And all there are all great locations where you can see the Northern lights that are in the winter. Right. That would be a winter trip. You can’t see the Northern lights up there in the summer because they have midnight sun. they’ll have it sunny 24 hours a day. That’s all. And that’s, that’s another reason people want to visit Norway. They want to, well ask me, can we see, we want to see the Northern lights and the midnight sun on this trip. And I have to kind of explain that those are two very different times of the year. but, no. I usually like it, most people want to dream of seeing the fjords when they visit Norway.

Lisa: I usually recommend that you start in either al or Bergen, which are the two easiest cities to fly into. They’re the, like the two biggest cities in Norway. And, say if you start in Bergen, if you fly into Bergen, you can spend a day or two exploring the city. It’s a beautiful city. It’s quite old. there’s a lot of history to be explored here. You can hike up to me in the mountains in the area. For example, mode Mount fly-in is so close to the city center that you can walk up to it in like 30 to 40 minutes. If you start in the center like in the city center, you can start by like Starbucks and walk up to the top of this mountain and the views are great. that’s, I always recommend that. And to all see Brigham which just means the doc, but again, it’s a UNESCO world heritage listed old part of town. it’s these like colorful wooden houses along the docks. You might’ve seen like if you Google Bergen, it’s the phone, it’s the first photo that comes up always. and from Bergen, you’re very, the reason I recommend starting in Bergen instead of all slow or slow is all a great city, but Bergen is closer to the fjords and kind of like the regions, you’re most likely to want to explore on your first trip to Norway. I either had North to outline or the area where I grew up. Well, that’s if you want to see the UNESCO world heritage fjords, which are the natto field and the guide on it, Fjord, those are like the two number one fjords in Norway. In like just the municipality where I grew up, you can see as mentioned the not field, there’s al a Viking village that I recommend visiting they’ve built. It’s cool. They built it like an authentic Viking village and people live there as Vikings. it’s like a, it’s not even like paid actors. It’s actually like Viking reenactors who are passionate about what they do. They live there and they earn a living, selling whatever trade they’ve decided that they want to focus on. These are people that live like Vikings and they will like, for example, dye fabrics and make dresses. You can buy like an authentic Viking dress or as authentic as it can be in 2021, but it’s made in the old way. Like it’s made, everything is done using the Viking way. they are very kind of strict on authenticity. that’s, I love visiting. We usually go a few times every summer if there’s like, sometimes they’ll put on like festivals and stuff. Like it’s great fun. and all in outline, near the nada field, this is all in the same area. you all have the phloem railway, which has been named one of the most scenic railways in the world. It’s beautiful. It’s a two-hour round trip. it doesn’t take all day and it’s just, the nature is just stunning. That’s one option from Bergen. The other one is to go to Stavanger, which is Norway’s fourth largest city. And there you’ll find the Lucy field, which is another beautiful Fjord, of course. but mainly that’s where you’ll find pulpit rock, which you might have heard of. It’s one of the, like, one of the number one hikes in Norway. if you enjoy hiking and you’ve seen this photo of the squid perfect square mountains, squared mountain, like high, high above a Fjord that’s pulpit rock. It’s a very famous hike, very popular. And like, not as hard as you’d think. That’s all, that’s a few hours south of Bergen, that’s like, heading into Bergen, you get like you’re in the middle of everything and then you have a lot of options.

Karthika: Interesting.

Lisa: I can’t wait to welcome tourists back. It’s been a very sad year without speaking English in my daily life.

Karthika: Now, Lisa, this is something you kind of alluded to as well. when we were talking about pivoting, but one thing we kind of are seeing in this travel space is a lot of like more grassroots hyper-localized art of experiences and people just want that one touchy-feely. Right? the next round of a series of questions, I would love to know your perspective. Lisa’s perspective, because I think it gives a lot of insight for somebody like me. Who’re thousands of miles away to see it from a local point of view. Right. What do you see as your favorite restaurant and more importantly, why?

Lisa: All right. I might do these, this might be a mix of Bergen and Aurland. If I hope that’s fine. Like, sometimes for the restaurant, for the restaurant, it makes sense that my favorite is in Bergen, which is a city with several restaurants in Aurland or the Fjord area. There are very few restaurants, it’s hard to have a favorite cause they’re all just great. Oh actually, no, I’ll do, I’ll have one for each. Okay. None of the fjords I would love to recommend, I love there’s a restaurant called agate, which is a brewery, it’s a microbrewery. And then they all have a restaurant where all the food is inspired and made with the beer that they make in the brewery. That’s a local beer and the beer has won a few national awards here in Norway and it’s yes. And it’s become very popular. They sell this beer in grocery stores here now in Bergen and it’ll be slow and it’s made in a tiny village, like hours from here. That’s one recommendation. And in Bergen, my favorite restaurant is an Italian restaurant. And the reason is my favorite is that they have the biggest wine cellar in the city. it’s very small and the menu is quite basic. Like they’ll have, like, they make pizzas and they have like me snacks for the table, but then every day you go there and you can just like, they’ll just like tell you what ingredients they have that day. And then you like to make your pizza because it’s all about the wine. And I love trying different wines, especially when I’m traveling, but since I’m not traveling at the moment, I’m never disappointed when I visit pedagogy. The food is really good as well, but it’s really, it’s all about the wine. And then it’s just a great time, especially if you’re traveling with friends.

Karthika: Sounds amazing. Now, what’s your favorite activity?

Lisa: In all of Norway I think hiking is one of my favorite things to do. It’s such a great way to see the country. like I mentioned earlier like there are me hikes you can do in Bergen. Bergen is nicknamed the city amongst the seven mountains. Because seven mountains are surrounding the city, which is amazing. It’s like, if you’re visiting Bergen, you can decide if you want to do the 30-minute easy hike from the center, or if you want to hike up 800 meters of Sherpa steps and do something more intense and regardless you get spectacular views of the city.

Karthika: I would imagine. Amazing. Now yes, you’ve, we’ve talked about hiking and you’ve talked about the Pulpit rock and a lot of these places are super positive. Right. In a normal situation, that would be a ton of people. Tell me a few sorts of outdoor spaces that maybe are more Hm. I don’t know, like a local hangout where you’re not really like bumping into everybody on the trail. Right. something that’s out there off the beaten path.

Lisa: I would like to mention here that locals love hiking. You will find locals on all these mountains most of the time. In Bergen, there are a few nice parks that most tourists don’t take the time to visit. one that’s quite close to the city center it’s called [inaudible] park. the Negro park that’s like the translation of it. And Negros Parkin is a lovely park, but it’s actually like parts of it are uphill. It’s quite steep, uphill. And from time to time and especially in the summer the local Philharmonic we’ll put on shows there for free. People will gather, you bring a blanket, it’s all locals. Like most visitors don’t know about this. Like the Philharmonic we’ll put on a kind of concert and usually like a 20-minute concert, like not very long. This is like I mean they usually do like longer shows and they’re really expensive, but this is like a free show and then locals will bring blankets. People will bring me beers and just like find a spot in the Hill, like going up the, like the Hills going up in the park and just sit there and enjoy the music.

Karthika: Amazing. Now. What about local experiences? I know you talked about hiking as being something that a lot of locals enjoy as well. I’m thinking kind of, I don’t know, is there a cooking class, are there like bike tours or something that is part of a local experience that you wouldn’t find anywhere else?

Lisa: This is something that I haven’t tried myself, but I’ve heard of, and then I didn’t get the chance to last summer because COVID, and I went, I went back to the Fjord for a while and spent most of the summer there. but there, they have these self-paced walking tours of Bergen that take you through the history of the city. And like I mentioned, Bergen is an old city. There’s a lot of history here. I know I kind of like it in pieces, like pick it up. Like we learned a lot of it in school. Bergen used to be the capital of Norway. There’s a fortress here, for example, there’s lots of interesting history and I feel like I only know parts of it. I know chunks of it. I would want to try one of these walking tours. Cause it’s like, self-paced and you, like, you’d just download this audio kind of like an audio guide to your phone. And then you, can you walk around at your own pace and listen to all these like fun facts and like fun history about the city. That’s, like I mentioned, I haven’t tried it, but I want to, and I have a feeling I would recommend it because I love history.

Karthika: And it’s a great way to kind of learn about a place. I mean, especially really touristy places. Everybody goes to the ones that are super popular and then you miss out on all these subtle nuances that tell such a beautiful

Lisa: And it’s like, if you’re traveling, for example, with children or in a larger group of friends, it’s tricky to sign up to like walking tours with a guide. Cause like the kids might not be paying attention or like you want to like, Oh, look at that public square, grab a beer. Then if it’s a self-paced tour, you can like to stop and grab a coffee or a beer whenever you want. Or you can stop this. The children need to stop for love, for any reason. I think I love the idea of that. I’m excited to try it once the weather gets warmer.

Karthika: Now you mentioned pivoting in your blog and you are doing a lot more domestic travel. Talk to me a little bit about sort of where you recently went or you’ve discovered may be something that you probably did when you were younger or had no idea that even existed.

Lisa: This is very local to where I live in Bergen, which is a place called Denmark’s place. I don’t know why they would name this place that but sure. The whole area here has changed a lot since I moved to Bergen. I’ve lived in the city for two and a half years now. And new restaurants and places are popping up all the time, even during COVID they’ve had new things open. I recently fell in love with this restaurant. That’s just a short walk from my apartment that I hadn’t even, like, I’ve walked past it a few times and it’s called Jalya and they specialize in international street food, which has been such a gem now that we can’t travel.

Karthika: That sounds pretty interesting. What kind of food did you try?

Lisa: Oh, I’ve been back several times since I found it. They have these like spicy chicken Bao buns, which have been great. And of course, they have many street tacos and a lot of Mexican food. and then what I’ve found that I enjoy is that they change out the menu every two to three months. You’ll come back and they’ll have something completely different. And for Christmas, they had like Norwegian Christmas food, but with an international theme. We have like me specific ways of cooking the sheep. And they had that, but it was like a kebab like never heard of before. it’s just like, it’s fun. It’s very nice to see how now when we obviously can’t travel, it’s very nice to still get to kind of like trying different flavors from around the world.

Karthika: Fusion of flavors and textures and stuff. sounds amazing. Now, this next question is again, Lisa’s perspective. There is no wrong answer because everybody’s perspective is different and unique, whatever you’re comfortable sharing. Okay. Where do you think travel is headed in the future?

Lisa: Oh, that’s a tricky one. It’s hard to say really. I do think it’s going to take a while before we’re back to normal. but I hope that slow travel will find its way back to the trends. Because we were kind of starting to like slow one sustainable travel and we were focusing more on supporting local ventures before the pandemic hit. Even though I think it’s going to take a while before we’re back to what we would call normal. I hope those trends and those that focus sticks and that we keep like that bring that back. because I do think that I, I believe that after being long without traveling, we are going to go about it in a more thoughtful way when things open up, but that’s just like my kind of theory on it, but it’ll be interesting to see, like I hope we can. I hope we can get back to a new kind of normal very soon, but it’s very hard to say.

Karthika: And I agree. I think, just people are not coming into travel in a very different mindset because they’ve not done it for long or they kind of everybody around them is shifting focus. I completely agree with you. I hope it’s slower in the sense of not just pace, but all just kind of the things that we want to, it’s no longer like go and hectic and just you’ve, you’ve gone to the top of the empire state building check it’s not, it’s not that more like just kind of slow a pace, more eating full at least I hope too.

Lisa: I agree. We’ll see. But fingers crossed

Karthika: Now as a travel blogger as a travel writer what are your travel plans whenever, whenever that happens, where would you like to go next?

Lisa: Oh, I’ll go anywhere. I don’t care at this point. Currently, I don’t have any travel plans because in Norway we are being advised to avoid any unnecessary travel, both abroad and domestically right now. I haven’t been abroad since you and I were in Sri Lanka a year ago. That was my last trip abroad. very sad, but it is what it is. And at the moment, as I mentioned, they are actually, the government in Norway is advising us to not travel domestically either just mainly because of these, like the virus strengths that they’re not quite sure what they mean. but I do hope that that will change by summer because, by the smell of 2021, we’ll all be able to explore more of Norway, very lucky to be from such a beautiful country. And there are many like Norway is on many people’s bucket lists. and I still have a lot to explore even after like 30 years of living here. I think that’s kind of like my plan right now. That’s my most realistic plan, but I will admit like if they open or if they find a way to let us travel, like, I’d be happy to just go to Sweden at this point. I don’t mind exploring and liking. It’s just, I think it’s just a feeling of getting outside what you have been experiencing for a long time. That’s the thing. just having my things. but, or I do have, traveling to cabins is very popular in Norway. It’s a whole, it’s a very cultural thing and a lot of Norwegians will have cabins as their like holiday home. you live in a city or you live by the fjords and then you’ll have a cabin in the mountains where you can go skiing. I do have. I’m going to Mara or next month I will be going to a cabin for a weekend with my family and a few weeks later, I and a few of my girlfriends are all going on a cabin trip for a weekend. I’m that, they’re advising us not to travel domestically, but they’ve all said that you can go to your cabin. you’re allowed to travel if you have a cabin to travel to. I do have plans. that will be just like spending a weekend skiing and drinking red wine by the fireplace with friends.

Karthika: Amazing. something to look forward to. Right. Exactly. That’s all we need now. Well Lisa, thank you much. This has been amazing. I haven’t stepped on a plane internationally since our last trip to Sri Lanka. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to go home. I mean I’ve been away for a year now. And you’re right. Norway is on many people’s bucket lists and I hope we gave them good tips.

Lisa: Thank you much for having me.

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