Sept 27, 2016
Rean accompanied me to Cityterminalen, Stockholm’s central bus station which is a stone’s throw away from the apartment. I rode the Flygbussarna, an airport bus which takes around 45 minutes going to Arlanda Airport Terminal 2. I love the fact that they have many options to go to the airport, this being more affordable at 99 SEK per way (online price, less than PHP 600) than the 20-minute Arlanda Express at 280 SEK per way (around PHP 1600). I pre-booked 6 Flygbussarna rides for my sidetrips (from/to Arlanda Airport), first of which is Bergen, Norway.
With the Flygbussarna incredibly on time by the minute (as with all the other modes of transportation in most of Europe), I arrived 2 hours before my 930am flight. Terminal 2 is smaller than Terminal 5, because it caters for the smaller, short-haul flights. I already had the screenshot of my electronic boarding pass, having checked-in the night before. I went straight to security, and then found my gate. With some time to kill, I had breakfast first, and then answered an airport survey on an iPad as requested by a fellow Filipina who is working there.
Helpful info: Being a first-timer in Europe, I thought this might help. There is no passport/immigration control within the Schengen area. Think of it like taking domestic flights – when we fly from Manila to Palawan, we don’t have passport control, right? Same in the Schengen area, you can fly from/to anywhere within the area without passport control (say Paris to Amsterdam to Brussels to Stockholm to Madrid to Rome, etc, as if the whole Schengen area is just one country), hence no passport stamps. But of course, being in a foreign land, always bring your passport with you.
I also learned that arriving 2 hours before a “domestic” short-haul flight is an overkill here, because unlike in Manila, the queues to security and others are relatively faster. But then again I won’t risk it, since it’s better to be early than sorry (?).
TIP: Always check-in online to get your electronic boarding pass on phone. In Europe (at least in the cities I visited), you simply put your phone (showing the boarding pass) underneath the scanner and it will read your QR or bar code. Actually, everything you buy with a QR/bar code (bus tickets, flights, entrances to museums, etc) you simply have to store in your phone and have them scanned.
We finally boarded the plane (Finnair, PHP 8000 roundtrip) and I was grateful for the unlimited drinks offered onboard. The plane even had a dashcam and a flight tracker (interesting). Before we know it, we arrived in cloudy Bergen Flesland after a short hour. There is only one terminal in Bergen Airport. I followed the signs to Flybussen, this time an airport bus going to Bergen city center. I also pre-booked my roundtrip airport bus for this (NOK 170, around PHP 1000 roundtrip). The driver and his aide asked for my hotel, but I booked an AirBnB for this. Though I know where to get off and where to walk going to my AirBnB (thanks to Google Street View), the aide got a map and drew on it, and detailed how I am going to reach the address I gave him. At this point I realized that the rumors are true – Norwegians are really a nice bunch.
After 30 minutes I got off at Busstajon. I pulled my trolley against the cobbled walkway and found the NBS Railway station where, according to my *cheat sheet (travel-cheat-sheet-by-meanne), is where I should get my tickets to the Norway in a Nutshell Tour. After getting my tickets, I decided to drop my luggage first at my host’s place.
This was where I figured out I should’ve booked a more-centrally located place. Don’t get me wrong, by European standards, the place is indeed walkable from the city center. However, being a girl too lazy to walk from SM Megamall Building A to B, this was quite a walk, not to mention that to get to the house one has to walk some steep paths. Carrying my luggage going up there amidst the strong winds and rain didn’t help.
My host was not around so I went to their basement laundry area to leave my luggage, and then made my way back to the city center. For some reason, the weather decided to be very uncooperative that day. I know it rains most of the time in Bergen, but I didn’t expect it to be that typhoon-ish level. I literally struggled while walking; I wished I was wearing a windproof/waterproof jacket, my umbrella almost broke, and it was freezing cold. So much for an introduction to Norway, eh? Don’t worry, the following day was perfection and all the misfortunes were paid off.
Anyway, I found a warm shelter by the name of Bergen Visitor Center. I stayed there for a good hour while thinking of what to do with the rest of the day. If I just booked a hotel, I probably went back there that afternoon. The downside to my AirBnb is that I agreed with the idea of 7pm check-in. The room is actually a playroom for the host’s kids during the morning, and transforms to a guest bedroom at night, and for the price of PHP 2000/night I think it’s fair enough. Visitors would spend the day outside anyway. My host told me they would be at home at around 6pm. I just had to find a way how to kill time until they get home.
I didn’t have an itinerary for that day. I just wanted to get lost in the city, but the weather didn’t permit me to. I found myself walking (with great struggle) towards a familiar place – Starbucks. I had my second pumpkin spice latte for the day, and a very undesirable bagel sandwich as tasty as a rock. Good thing they have free WiFi, so I was able to document my sentiments on Instagram like a real millennial. Like a friend said, that’s what makes a solo trip memorable – all the imperfections will soon make up for a good story to tell and laugh off with friends.
The weather didn’t show any signs of improving. I headed to a mall (still struggling) and looked for a jacket. It was a real struggle to get from point A to B because the wind was keen on making me stumble. It must be my not-so-proper meals that I ended up really tired. I knew I was no longer thinking properly and I lost my appetite to eat. I just wanted to curl up on a bed and sleep and wait for that day to finish. I lurked around the mall and managed to buy myself a gray hoodie from H&M for NOK 199. It was cotton, not really waterproof but at least it has a hood. I wore it underneath my leather jacket (imagine how cold it was). I also bought water and sandwich from the grocery store so I can have something to eat if ever I felt hungry. Finding renewed courage to brave the wind outside, I went to the bus stop nearby and bought a ticket from a dispensing machine, boarded a bus that took me somewhat nearer to my AirBnB. I decided to stay inside the laundry area until my host arrived, and you can imagine how I felt that time. I just thought, at least I can sit there and stare outside. I was on the verge of crying. I was alone, hungry but no appetite, and dead-tired.
It was just 5pm. My host was not yet around. The house is 3-storey and the lower floor is being rented out. I went to the lower floor and saw again the old man I saw earlier, in their living room and this time was kind enough to attend to me. The old man turned out to be a Filipino! He called his Norwegian wife on the phone to ask whether she can contact my host to come home early. He said he’s about to pick up his wife from work – and, probably torn between the thoughts of leaving a stranger outside their house versus bringing me along, he chose the latter. I was having my own doubts, too, naturally. It’s not a good idea to ride inside a stranger’s car in a faraway place. But I had no choice. My instinct told me the old man only had good intentions. So I got in the back seat and he drove to his wife’s workplace. At the back of my mind I was praying Kuya Jun will turn out to be a genuinely kind man like I assumed, and when his wife got in the passenger seat (and not an armed man in a bonnet and mask) all my doubts just disappeared.
Kuya Jun’s wife, Bente (pronounced as Banta), is a beautiful, extremely chatty woman in her 50s. I told them why I got in Bergen instead of the capital Oslo and why I’m staying in their landlord’s children’s playroom instead of a proper hotel. Bente (I’d like to call her Tita) never ran out of questions and her own stories to tell. The couple welcomed me to their home where I met their 2 fat Norwegian forest cats and 16-year old dog (smelly dog as Tita puts it). Kuya Jun made a dinner of beef stew, rice and meat loaf and we had dinner like a small family. Their 2 daughters are already living on their own and making careers as artists in Oslo. They turn out to be a family of musicians. Kuya Jun even gave me a copy of their daughter’s album (CD).
My host Sebastian finally arrived and visited us while we were having dinner. He turns out to be a funny guy. He asked me why I brought that weather that day. Apparently, that strong rains and wind is a rare occurrence when there was no hurricane forecast in Bergen. The two Norwegians discussed something about the house and us Filipinos had our own Tagalog convo. A native of Negros Occidental, I learned that Kuya Jun has been living in Norway for 37 years already. He rarely comes home to the Philippines, but he’s updated with the news. As usual, we discussed about politics. I sensed that the couple missed having youngsters in their house with their daughters being away, so I gladly accepted their invitation to coffee even though I was already shy and grateful enough. Sebastian left and told me I can go upstairs anytime. I spent another hour with the old couple just watching tv and talking about things and stroking their cat’s fur. After thanking the couple a million times, I went upstairs to my room.
Sebastian gave me a folder with all the FAQs and presented me my cute little room filled with toys and the bathroom outside. I also met his stunning Japanese wife Eri and their extremely cute baby Aaron and beautiful daughter Amanda. The house was spacious and had a great view in the balcony. I arranged my things and had shower and changed to my fresh sleeping clothes and talked to Rean, then slept early because the following day will be my Norway in a Nutshell tour.