Norway greeted us with a fine, drizzly rain as soon as we stepped foot out onto the runway at Bergen. The Scandinavian air had an invigorating freshness to it, and was entirely devoid of that "closeness" old people in Britain always seem to waffle on about given half the chance.
The airport building itself was rather small and therefore limited when it came to any sort of reliable food or drink chain — to our horror, there wasn't even a Starbucks. I would've given anything for priority access to an M&S Food Hall, but alas, there was nothing of the sort.
Instead, in the centre of the main open area — beneath one of the large ever-changing departure boards — sat a small kiosk serving coffee...and hotdogs (as if that was a totally reasonable combination).
It makes no sense.
Both of these items are notoriously difficult to consume one-handed; one poses a stain threat, the other a burn. You occupy both hands with that particular combo and you quite literally have a problem on your hands.
I don't want a shitty hotdog.
I want one of those fancy chicken and pesto pitta bread quarters from M&S.
And a posh mini quiche.
And some hand-cooked vegetable crisps.
And a little slice of Victoria sponge for afters.
I DON'T WANT A SHITTY HOTDOG.
The terminal was bustling full of people dashing every which way, but suspiciously, there was no queue at the counter. Nor was I able to pick out anyone amidst the throngs of travellers that were indulging on any mustard encrusted wieners.
JUST GET A COFFEE FOR NOW, FOR FUCK'S SAKE.
I made my way to the counter and ordered a small, black Americano.
"That'll be 75 Krones please."
I automatically did the currency conversion in my head when I was told the price.
(It just meant adding a decimal place in the right spot, I'm not Stephen Hawking or anything.)
That’s...£7.50, for a standard, unbranded coffee with no extras.
That's fucking criminal.
I'd been pre-warned that it was going to be a bit steep, but it still felt a bit wrong, like I was being taken advantage of for being a foreigner.
And so it begins...
The young barista readily accepted my contactless bank card as legal tender, while simultaneously advising me that they’d run out of takeaway cups. Before I could respond, she was pouring my coffee into a thimble-sized espresso mug with a smiling cartoon hotdog on the side of it — the hotdog was doing a "double thumbs up" and this just sought to annoy me further. Nobody does a double thumbs up. Not even cartoons.
There's not even anywhere to sit down.
I can't tell her to tip it.
I'm too nice for my own good.
*Why'd you think you're so nice all of a sudden?*
With no adjacent seating area, I was left to hover near the till with my piddly brew. You'd think that this would make the barista feel a bit awkward, wouldn't you? Not this gal. She straight up didn't give a fuck. She stood there with her arms folded, while watching me at the corner of her eye, presumably to make sure I didn't pilfer the mug away as my own.
This better be nice.
Whatever happens, I'm drinking it.
Every overpriced drop.
It's the British way.
After one sip, my mouth confirmed my deepest, darkest fears to be true: I’d been plied with lukewarm, odourless brown water that tasted faintly of fag ash.
I've been properly mugged off.
Is it too late to order a fucking hotdog?
Upon arrival at the Hertz desk to pickup our hire car, I could just sense that some bad juju was afoot. The source of which soon became apparent: a fellow passenger (and mother of three young kids) had just been told by desk staff that the broker she booked with (“Bondiddly” or something like that it was called) didn't "technically exist" anymore. This meant that she wouldn't be getting her pre-booked motor and she was understandably furious.
This is one of those situations where someone else's misfortune makes me feel better about my own life.
I get a very similar feeling when I watch "My 600-lb Life".
And I do feel bad for thinking that, 'cause I do feel bad for every single one of 'em.
"Jon, we didn't use a broker, did we?"
"Yeah, it was called 'Badoodler' I think,"
Jonny fumbled with some paperwork and looked down at the floor.
SHIT, WE'VE BEEN BADOODLED.
The effects of the murky hotdog-themed spittle quickly surged through my veins and gathered anxious traction with every sharp inhalation of breath.
"Don't be silly you 'edda. I booked with Hertz,"
Jon laughed, quickly confirming that he’d opted for a reputable service, and not looked up “hire cars” on Gumtree, as the unfortunate mother obviously had.
Do we offer our car to the mother in need?
At least I've thought about it though, and 'they' always say it's the thought that counts.
Good deed done for the day.
It began to pick with rain as soon as we got out to the carpark, so we hastily scouted for our car, which was luckily, directly in front of us — a medium-sized, budget Japanese hatchback. We lumped our belongings into the poky little boot and jumped inside, to avoid getting soaked through.
As Jonny turned the ignition over, sizeable pellets of hail lashed down upon the roof with venom. The sky was black. A rolling thunder bellowed above us. The north wind whistled, and the flag of every European nation lining the grass outside of the airport quivered, before a large streak of lightning tore the sky asunder. We would be the riders on the storm.
Given that we were in the undisputed home of black metal — you know, all that devil worshipper stuff with the black and white face paint — I thought it apt to play some in an attempt to enrich the experience.
*20 MINUTES PASS*
"Jon, I feel a bit odd, do you?"
I said turning to Jonny, after enduring an onslaught of banshee-like shrieks, wailing, and poorly distorted tremolo picked guitars.
"Yeah. Let's get this shit off."
The powerful black metal had proven to be too severe for our traditionally emotional souls. It made us both feel a bit...weird. The sort of weird where you've listened to someone screeching about raping, satanism and murder for a little bit too long. That very unique and often unspoken sort of weird, that to be fair, is rarely an issue.
As a suitable alternative to the audio horror I'd initially chosen as the soundtrack to our adventure, I quickly selected Bon Iver's seminal indie masterpiece: For Emma Forever Ago, so that we could both unwind and relax (aka slump into melancholic bliss).
This is way lovelier.
I don't think I like black metal.
It's all a bit nasty and..."satan-y".
*And you're famously nice, so that isn't you at all, is it?*
That is true.
Why can't they sing about love, instead of wanting to mutilate the corpses of their enemies and burn churches to the ground?
Angry, angry bastards.
*BOTH IN UNISON*
"COME ON SKINNY LOVE JUST LAST THE YEAR."
PROBABLY THE MOST EXPENSIVE COUNTRY...IN THE WORLD.
A pit stop, a couple of ferries, and many, many tunnels later, we vast approached our first stop: Odda — a little town that would serve as basecamp for attempting to tackle the infamous Trolltunga hike the following morning.
"We'll go for a quick food shop on the way there, yeah? Maybe get some beers in?"
Jonny said enthusiastically, while tapping the steering wheel in anticipation.
In order to prevent us from having to sell a spare organ to pay our rent when we got home, Jon and I decided that throughout the duration of our trip, we'd buy all our food from the supermarket. To reduce the budget a little further [tight arses], we made it our quest to find the cheapest chain in all of the land: it was called "Rema 1000" and it was as close to Lidl as we were going to get in Norge.
As fate would have it, there was one just down the road from our first BnB, so to quell our aching bellies, that's where we headed first.
*ROAMING THE AISLES OF REMA 1000*
"Who came up with these names?"
Said Jonny astonished, while pointing to a chocolate bar named "Japp", which was a like-for-like rip of a traditional Mars bar.
I never knew a chocolate bar could be culturally insensitive.
I'm sure they just say that the "J" is silent. Maybe it is?
You're not getting away with it just because you put a double "P" at the end.
Are those sweets actually called "Gomp"?
While perusing the many aisles filled with foodstuffs I couldn't accurately pronounce the names of, I was slowly overcome with the urge to purchase some booze. My poison is normally red wine for a casual drink and some sort of ale for any elongated session. Long gone are the days where I'm prepared to settle for some weak, gassy, chemical-filled piss.
If I'm drinking, I want something quality. Something obscure. I want it to have a backstory. I want to be invested in it. I want it to be handcrafted by artisanal hipsters in Williamsburg who've wanked over high quality images of hops their entire life. I want it to have been filtered through a pair of white Converse daps worn by the guy who invented Tumblr. I want it to have an artsy/unassuming name, similar to one that you'd give a racing horse, like "Mulecropper" or "Night's Illusion".
Basically, I just want it to be little bit...cunty.
Give me what I want.
"Mate, there's not one decent ale here,"
I said, with a confused look across my face, desperately trying to convince myself that I might not've been looking hard enough.
(I've been notoriously shite at finding things my whole life. That goes for everything, including "myself".)
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure they can't sell anything strong. You have to go and get it in a liquor store. It was the same in New Zealand,"
Replied Jonny, as if I should've already known this obscure fact. My eyes were then drawn towards a small sign above the alcohol section which stated Rema were unable to sell any alcohol over 4.7% — a figure that fell marginally short of my personal "5.0% rule".
Why can't the rest of Europe be as irresponsible with drinking as we are?
I was desperate to get my hands on some swig, but Carlsberg was about as good as they had, and like any self-respecting Welshman, I'd rather drink fermented cat urine than chuck back that watery hogwash.
(Plus, I couldn't be arsed to go to a different shop entirely just to source some. The impulsive feel of the buy would've been ruined.)
I don’t think anybody actually buys Carlsberg, do they?
It's the sort of drink people just have in their garage or shed with no recollection of buying.
When you purchase a house, I'm sure there's just Carlsberg already in it.
It's the beer that the Mums of the world panic buy in bulk when hosting a BBQ or family occasion just because, "it was on offer".
What Mum doesn't know is that it's always on offer, because it's fucking Carlsberg and it [definitely] tastes like...PISS.
"Why're you just standing there looking at that pile of Carlsberg?"
Said Jon, making me realise that I'd once again spun off into an inner monologue about nothing for a good 30 seconds.
Sobriety it is then.
Back in the car, I looked down to assess the contents of my bag. The best part of £40 had managed to get me: a Twix, some tomatoes, and a small pack of avocados (that were annoyingly hard). Jonny had opted for a bumper packet of bacon — which I believe had set him back around £17.
A Twix, Rhys? Really? What the bloody hell were you thinking?
(Go on. Have a look in your garage or shed right now. Don't be alarmed when you find a rogue slab of Carlsberg. Do the right thing and tip every single can of it down the drain, before responsibly recycling the cans.)
CAN WE ACTUALLY AF-FJORD THIS?
"Well, this is alright, isn't it? When you said 'basement' I did worry about what you'd got us in for,"
Said Jon, while relaxing in one of the BnB's worn — yet deceptively comfy — leather armchairs. It had a reclining function and Jon was taking full advantage while editing some photos on his laptop.
I hopped onto the adjacent sofa and clicked the TV on with the remote. The cable box was set to a channel that happened to be showing one of my favourite episodes of South Park — the one where Cartman gets tricked into buying pubes off a boy, who he then tricks into eating his own parents in an elaborate revenge plot.
Okay, so, you can't buy booze in the supermarket, but they have reruns of South Park on in the middle of the afternoon: talking turds, songs about fucking your uncle, and celebrities being forced to commit suicide are all above board, but if somebody wants to pickup a nice bottle of red to have with dinner, they can fucking swivel on over to the shady liquor store with the rest of the down and outs.
*LATER THAT EVENING*
Even at 11 p.m. it only really felt like it would at dusk back home. I knew this was going to be problematic as I have trouble sleeping if there's any light pollution, and the blinds looked as though they were made from that shit recycled paper the teachers made you paint on in primary school.
5:30 a.m. roll call to go for the "Troll's Tongue" hike.
I don't even like walking.
This is going to be interesting.
Before attempting to get my head down for the night, I ventured out into the front garden to document our immediate surroundings with my iPhone — as we all do now.
Right on the doorstep, stood one of the iconic fjords. It's water mirrored the pinky blue hues of the fading sunset above. An array of colourful wooden cabins lined a lonely road which snaked all the way up into the mountains. A waterfall tumbled down a hillside in the distance, and fir trees of varying sizes framed the view, as if they'd been put there just for the purpose of this specific photo opportunity.
It's like 'Middle Earth' here.
Tolkien would've went to town on this scene and written an entire chapter solely on the forming of that one waterfall.
I'd love one of those long, wooden Gandalf pipes you can put baccy in the end of.
I could puff away to my heart's content, while soaking in the view and pondering on the meaning of life.
*Life is pain*
Should've got the wine...
I postured up, and took a number of different snaps of the scene, from a variety of different angles — just in case.
If one of these photos doesn't get me featured on "Visit Norway's" Instagram page, I'm going to start a bastard riot.
(None of them did of course. Nor did I start a riot, because as you now know, I'm too nice for all that nasty stuff.)
(My photograph: The Sands of Time, will be exhibited at the back of Mo and Joe's Vegan Spaghetti Emporium in Bristol for the next three weeks, as part of a body of work I've decided to call "#Filtered".)