Trips

Postcard living

Last weekend I went to Olden in the western parts of Norway to join my Guzzi friends at the annual Guzzi Spring Rally. People in that part of Norway are living in surroundings of stunning beauty. It must be like living in a pic postcard…

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The Oldevatn lake is filled with melted glacial water, making it green – and coooold…

I took my new (to me) 1990 Guzzi SP3 for its inauguration trip to meet fellow Guzzisti at Oldevatn camping, not very far from Geiranger. This part of Norway is famed for its stunning beauty, and this weekend it certainly showed off in all its splendour.

I took Friday off from work, so I left for the rally on Thursday afternoon. It´s some 500 kms from where I live to Olden, so I opted for a stay-over at Lom. I chose a route which is not the fastest, but nevertheless pretty: Up to Fagernes, Road 51 over Valdresflye, the Stryn mountain road to Stryn and onwards to Olden. The bike ran flawlessly, apart from showing signs of a worn clutch boss, which of course is about to be fixed.

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Valdresflye mountain road is one of the 18 National Tourist Roads.

The Valdresflye mountain road – Road 51, one of the National Tourist Roads – is closed during winter, and opened for the season not many weeks ago. There is still some snow up there, but not on the roads, of course. It gets a bit chilly up on the top, so when you ride there – use your extra layer of clothes under your riding gear. In the summer there tends to be quite a few camper vans and other slow-moving tourists on the road, but as there is no vegetation to hamper the view of any oncoming traffic, they are easily overtaken.

After a rather unspectacular night at Lom, I did the last leg down to Olden over Stryn mountain road – Road 15. This road meets Road 63, which takes you down to the famous Geiranger fjord (also only open in the summer). But I kept following Road 15 towards Stryn.

The Stryn Mountain Road is tried to kept open also in the winter, but it´s frequently closed due to heavy snowing combined with tough winds. In the summer, it´s usually a tranquile, nice piece of mountain road with spectacular views. Be aware, though, that the tunnel starting the downclimb towards Stryn is VERY dark! Do not use sunglasses or tinted visors when you enter! The trick is to close one eye before going into the tunnel. When you´re inside and open it, your eye should have adjusted somewhat to the darker surroundings. There are three longer tunnels leading down to Stryn. Take precations when entering them. Just in case.

Stryn has a slogan – “Beautiful Stryn” – which is somewhat generic, but in this case it fits the area. The Stryn area IS beautiful! As is Loen, Olden, Utvik Mountain Road, et cetera. You cannot go wrong wherever you choose to point your front wheel. The roads may be considered somewhat narrow, but on a bike this is not a problem. Be aware of the many coaches carrying cruise ship passengers to sightsee the Briksdal Glacier. Or what´s left of it. Also – if you really want to part off with some cash, try the newly opened SkyLift cablelift in Loen. It´s some 50 euros, but those who do it says the view is awesome at some 3000 ft above the sea level.

I have stayed at the Oldevatn camping several times, and prefer this to any over-priced hotel accomodation: Due to heavy tourist traffic, accomodation prices tends to be in the higher end of the scale in the summer. But the camp sites are usually set at wonderful sites, and renting a cabin for a night or two shouldn´t break your budget.

The return ride was a rather uneventful ride in poor weather back home. But still – it was a day on the bike, which is always a good day.

Categories: bikes, Images of Norway, norway, Rallies, Routes, Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Norway from the saddle

How does Norway look from the saddle of a bike? Swede Markus Vikberg rides Norway quite frequently. This is a couple of videos he shot on a trip he did on his Triumph Tiger 800 last summer with a couple of friends. Enjoy!

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On gravel from South to North

This year’s great escape was a gravel tour from Oslo in the south to Kirkenes way up north in Norway.

Stuck in the mud somewhere in Sweden.

Stuck in the mud. I was glad I had opted for the relatively light Yamaha WR250R…

I am from up north and had planned to go there this summer to do a few preparations for my mum’s 80th anniversary. I could of course go by plane, do my stuff, and return in a couple of days. But then again – why bother doing it the easy way when I had got hold of a GPS route that would take me and my bike by gravel through all kinds of “roads” in a week? Plus another week for the return trip?

I invited a couple of riders from the local Offroad Touring Club who knew about my plans and wanted to tag along. On a trip like this I thought it would be better to be at least a couple of riders to back each other up – just in case.

A spectacular crash on day 1, but no harm done to neither man nor machine.

A spectacular crash on day 1, but no harm done to neither man nor machine.

So Nikita, Arne and myself set out 20 July. None of us had done that trip before, so we guesstimated that it would take us some 5 to 7 days to complete the trip one way. We had already agreed that the official part of the trip would end at Kirkenes, and that every man was for himself for his chosen mode, route and speed of the return trip. We set off from just outside Oslo, heading for Os in Hedmark county, where we would spend the night at a friend who’s an accomplished enduro rider, and whom had done the trip a few years earlier. But drama set in on this first day of riding: Nikita, the freshman in the trio, misjudged a right bend, locked all wheels and went off the gravel road in quite a spectacular manner. We all thought this would be the end of his trip, but luck was on Nikita’s side: No harm done neither to man nor machine, except a few scratches on the side panel of his Africa Twin and a broken indicator. A very steep learning curve indeed for our man, who learnt a lesson or two with regard to paying close attention to the road especially when riding on gravel.

Entering Finland from Sweden.

Entering Finland from Sweden.

At our friend Inge’s place we were treated with a great meal and sauna, plus some advice on the route ahead of us. Arne, who was by far the more experienced gravel rider among the three of us, took care of the navigation. We had decided to go through Sweden and Finland in search of gravel, as it is shorter (but not necessarily faster) to go through our neighbouring countries. Besides, especially Sweden has a great selection of gravel roads in a variety of qualities.

Day 2 took us from Inge’s place to another friend of ours, Fredrik. His family has a summer house in Sweden, so we were to meet him there for a stay-over. We were again met with a full meal and an outdoor spa-like mini pool with amenities such as Jägermeister and beer. Needless to say, we had to have a slow start the morning after.

The trip through Sweden was fun, and at times rather exhausting – especially through a “jungle” with muddy tracks pretending to be roads. The heavy rain in the days prior to our trip had turned it all into a swamp, and – of course – the air was quite .packed with mosquitos and midges. At least they served as great motivation to get us as fast as possible out of the swamp.

A roadside fix. A few mozzies helped on the motivation to get going...

A roadside fix. A few mozzies helped on the motivation to get going…

The northern parts of Finland had plenty of gravel roads – but not so many that went all the way through. They tended to go in to a cabin or something, and just end there. So we were forced to do quite a few miles on asphalt. Not so much fun, but at least the area is pretty to look at.

After 7 days of riding we crossed the border from Finland back into Norway and finally arrived at Kirkenes. Even though many have done this trip before, we had a high sense of accomplishment. Before we split, we toasted in coffee and ice cream and decided it had been a great trip. Actually so much that at least a couple of us wanted to do it again sometime. But that will be another story.

Reaching Kirkenes after 7 days of gravel. We felt it like quite an accomplishment.

Reaching Kirkenes after 7 days of gravel. We felt it like quite an accomplishment.

Nikita stayed on in Kirkenes and did a trip to Nikel and Murmansk. He speaks Russian, so it was practically a must for him to go there. Arne and I went on to the Varanger peninsula to try out the gravel roads there, and made it for a fast return on asphalt down south after a couple of days. Whereas Arne aimed for a week at the Bukkerittet gravel bonanza, I headed home to have a few days off before starting work again.

What I can say, though, is that my Yamaha WR250R was a really good choice for a trip like this. I was especially glad for chosing that bike when I was stuck in the mud somewhere in Sweden, and could lift the bike out to get going. So if you want to do a trip like this: Choose your bike wisely!

 

Back home to wash off the mozzies...

Back home to wash off the mozzies…

 

Staying the night at a couple of good biker friends in Nord-Trøndelag county, Liv and Merete.

Staying the night at a couple of good biker friends in Nord-Trøndelag county, Liv and Merete.

 

Another ferry on my way southbound.

Another ferry on my way southbound.

 

Troms county had put on its finest colors to greet us.

Troms county had put on its finest colors to greet us.

 

Yours truly, Arne and my brother-in-law Fritjof awaiting for the sauna to get warm enough. Vadsø in Finnmark has the highest density of saunas in Norway - or so they claim.

Yours truly, Arne and my brother-in-law Fritjof awaiting for the sauna to get warm enough. Vadsø in Finnmark has the highest density of saunas in Norway – or so they claim.

 

Vardø in Finnmark county was the scene for quite a few brutal execution of people accused of witchcraft during the 16th century. They were all burnt, and this monument is raised to their memory.

Vardø in Finnmark county was the scene for quite a few brutal execution of people accused of witchcraft during the 16th century. They were all burnt, and this monument is raised to their memory.

 

End of the road. Hamningberg in Finnmark county.

End of the road. Hamningberg in Finnmark county.

 

Arne at a road crossing somewhere on the Varanger peninsula in Northern Norway.

Arne at a road crossing somewhere on the Varanger peninsula in Northern Norway.

 

Way to go! Finnmark county has plenty of nice gravel roads to offer!

Way to go! Finnmark county has plenty of nice gravel roads to offer!

 

Yours truly giving the end-of-the-trip speech in Kirkenes...

Yours truly giving the end-of-the-trip speech in Kirkenes…

 

Entering Finland from Sweden.

Entering Finland from Sweden.

 

We saw this beauty at a stay-over in Finland. A Guzzi California 1100.

We saw this beauty at a stay-over in Finland. A Guzzi California 1100.

 

A river we chose not to cross due to depth and rocks.

A river we chose not to cross due to depth and rocks.

 

Getting to know the local beer.

Getting to know the local beer.

 

A wee bit posh eating style...

A wee bit posh eating style…

 

Break by the lake.

Break by the lake.

 

A Road Warrior rests whenever he can...

A Road Warrior rests whenever he can…

 

Kebab lunch.

Kebab lunch.

 

Nice view over the waters.

Nice view over the waters.

 

Nikita at a break somewhere in Sweden.

Nikita at a break somewhere in Sweden.

 

Arne packs his new-to-him KTM 690 Enduro.

Arne packs his new-to-him KTM 690 Enduro.

 

Chillin' out after a day's riding at a camp cabin.

Chillin’ out after a day’s riding at a camp cabin.

 

A few scares on route: A close call to riding the front wheel into the hole in this broken pipe in the middle of the woods.

A few scares on route: A close call to riding the front wheel into the hole in this broken pipe in the middle of the woods.

 

Fredrik (left) watches as Nikita packs his Africa Twin.

Fredrik (left) watches as Nikita packs his Africa Twin.

 

Arne (left) and myself prior to departure

Arne (left) and myself prior to departure

 

My weapon of choice for this trip: A Yamaha WR250R. More than capable of a trip like this.

My weapon of choice for this trip: A Yamaha WR250R. More than capable of a trip like this.

Categories: Images of Norway, norway, Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gravel goodness

The other weekend I couldn’t resist the urge to get more gravel under the tires. So I headed for Tynset.

The Osendalen area is really, really a pearl for gravel riding!

The Osendalen area is really, really a pearl for gravel riding!

There was a hotel based rally going on at the Savalen Spa this particular weekend. Not my usual cup of tea, but it proved ideal to bring my wife, daughter and dog along, as neither of them are particularly fond of staying the nights in a tent. But to here they could drive in my wife’s convertible, bring along the dog, stay in a comfortable hotel room and even have a spa treatment. In return, I could ride my Yamaha WR250R on as much gravel as I could find to the same place. Not a bad deal, after all, as I was looking at some 10 hrs ride each way.

I was glad I chose the Yammie as it was light enough for me to manhandle around a few obstacles - not on this road, though.

I was glad I chose the Yammie as it was light enough for me to manhandle around a few obstacles – not on this road, though.

I did some route planning on my Garmin Basecamp software, and decided on a route that was some 70-75% gravel, which is not half bad. It’d take me through some magnificent areas in the midst of Southern Norway, and even across the Birkebeiner road. Yep, I was looking forward to this one! I opted for the Yamaha as it is quite a bit lighter than my KTM, and also had Garmin Zumo 660 already in place. I thought that as I was riding alone, I wanted as light a bike as possible, just in case of spills or other incidents where I’d have to manhandle the bike.

I was glad I chose the Yammie, as I encountered a couple of areas where I’d need to get around a few obstacles in the roads by going along the ditches. Some of them were quite stoney, and having meager enduro skills I was not able to ride through it: I had to walk along the bike to get it through. It was an ordeal – I’m glad I’m in good shape (well, round is a shape, right?)

Apart from these couple of less dignified moments, the ride up through the route was quite nice with even a few high speed gravel roads to choose from. As I came to the Birkebeiner road, I encountered a sign saying it was closed – which was strange at this time of year. I asked the couple who are running a small cafe and collects road toll in the middle of the forest why the

Sometimes, when I go motorcycle riding, I opt to stay in a hotent...

Sometimes, when I go motorcycle riding, I opt to stay in a hotent…

road was closed. “Because there is still some 2 meters of snow on the top, and they haven’t cleared it yet. Maybe next weekend”, was the reply. I was a bit astonished, but then again not really: It has been the coldest, wettest and snowiest spring in Norway since 1946, and there is still a lot – A LOT – of snow in the mountains. I had no option but to find an alternative route. As I was running a bit behind schedule and I needed to get to the hotel in reasonable time, I called it the day and went “high speed” along the tarred roads. It was only the last 150-160 kms of a total of 555 kms anyway, so it was fine.

Very sweet gravel roads on the route I found.

Very sweet gravel roads on the route I found.

I arrived at Savalen some 10 hours after my departure, and I suddenly felt that I had been riding all day: All stiff and a wee bit sore here and there. A nice dinner and a glass of wine later I was sound asleep, even with my dog yapping all around the place.

The rally in itself was ok, I guess. Not too many attendees, but nice folks and good music on Saturday evening. I opted for a ride-free day to recuperate and get ready for the return ride on Sunday, so we had ourselves another great dinner, some wine, music, a few laughs and hit the hay in due time for an early-ish departure.

Nice old cabins decorates the area.

Nice old cabins decorates the area.

The return was not so gravelly as the trip to Savalen, but some 200 kms in total wasn’t half bad. I know several of the guys in the Offroad Touring Club (OTC), which I am a member of, know these neck of the woods pretty good and know the good routes. But I hadn’t had the time to consult The Elders, so given that I think I fared pretty well. Besides, I heading back to the area in August, when OTC has its annual “Bukkerittet” – a four day gravel bonanza with plenty of roads to enjoy.

I’ll save the best for when I go back 🙂

Nice scenery by the lake at Savalen.

Nice scenery by the lake at Savalen.

My dog Diesel enjoyed the stay at Savalen.

My dog Diesel enjoyed the stay at Savalen.

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A tradition is born

9 people, 7 bikes, 4 days, 3 nationalities – 1 brilliant ride! Actually so brilliant that we need to do it again next year. 

The crew from Finland: Antti, Mia, Jaana, Reijo, Ilpo and Timo, flanked by Danish Andreas.

The crew from Finland: Antti, Mia, Jaana, Reijo, Ilpo and Timo, flanked by Danish Andreas.

Ilpo (FIN), Andreas (DK) and myself (NO) are working for the same company in our respective countries. When we learned that we also loved to ride motorcycles, the plans for a joint ride in Norway took shape rather rapidly. So when the day arrived for a proper Tour de Force in the tenderloin of the Southern and North Western Norway this Thursday in June, we were no less than six Finns on four bikes, two Norwegians on each of our bikes, and a Dane on his. A pretty good set-up for an extended weekend.

Even though the bike models were spread from my rather off road biased KTM 690 Enduro via my wife Sølvi´s Moto Guzzi Breva 750 and Andreas´ Honda SP1 to the Finns´Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Heritage whatever, the route we chose was suitable for all. You can find the majority of the route here.

We had decided to go for a more luxurious accomodation than I usually prefer. Tents and self catering was substituted with hotels and multi course dinners with a fine selection of wines. Very comfortable and dangerously addictive…

Therefore we chose to meet at Nermo Hotel just north of Lillehammer. I met up with Andreas as he pulled off the ferry from Copenhagen on the Thursday morning, and we set off for Nermo. My wife had some work to do first, so she would join us later in the evening. The Finns – Ilpo, Mia, Reijo, Antti, Timo and Jaana – arrived by ferry to Stockholm the very same morning and set in for a 700 km ride towards Nermo. Andreas and I tried to find all the smallest roads towards the hotel, just to extend the trip a wee bit in the warm and sunny weather.

At Nermo, we found that we had the whole hotel to ourselves, so when the rest of the crew arrived in the late afternoon, we had our riders´meeting and dinner quite uninterrupted in the hotel´s library. The Finns even brought the necessary ingredients to make “salmiakki-kosso” as a gift: Koskenkorva vodka with bon-bons which you soak in the spirit to flavour it. Apparently a Finnish speciality which we will try out in due time. Oh, and they also brought Moomin cups from which to drink the stuff. Very posh.

Friday morning was as sunny as the previous day, so when we set off for Venabygd mountain and Rondane, we couldn´t have asked for a more scenic friendly weather. The Finns and Dane, more accustomed to the flatness of their countries, seemed pretty satisfied with the scenery. Mia was even a bit sceptical when I told her that this was just a warm-up for the scenery ahead of us. But as it would prove later, it was.

After Oppdal, heading towards Sunndalsøra, Kristiansund and the Atlantic Road, the Weather Gods decided to test our spirits. They opened all the showers and sprayed us thoroughly. The Atlantic Road, which usually is quite an experience to ride across, was now cold, wet and something we hurried across to get to our chosen accomodation for the night, the Hustadvika gjestegård. My KTM´s speedo decided to call it the day at the last tank stop before the Atlantic Road, presumably getting tired of all the water. My wife´s Breva had a small oil leakage through a brittle valve cover oil seal, but none of these were serious faults and did not hamper our trip.

At Hustadvika gjestegård, we dried ourselves, seeking refuge in a wee drop of Jaloviina, and had another wonderful dinner as we watched the skies clear up and hoping for less rain the next morning. When Saturday morning broke, it was still raining. It eased off after breakfast, allowing me to fix the Breva´s wee oil leakage, so when we set off for Trollstigen, it was only raining a bit here and a bit there. The scenery as we neared Trollstigen was very dramatic, with the low hanging clouds and wet road. But the pay-off when we got to the top (and the souvenir shop where mandatory Trollstigen regalias were bought) was no less than awesome. The rain kept easing off, and we started to feel the heat from the sun as we set off towards Geiranger.

When we settled for lunch at the Jordbærstedet cafe, the sun had returned, and the ride got even more joyful. We could not have asked for better circumstances as we entered the Eagel´s Bend to look out on the Geiranger fjord. Mia now realised why the Venabygd and Rondane mountains were only warm-up. Reijo decided that the view was unreal and had to be created by special effects, smoke and mirrors. Andreas on his Honda was just a big grin inside his helmet, and Antti couldn´t get enough of video taping it all. Indeed a fantastic ride and a fantastic view. Even if we had to negotiate our bikes through a rather tourist crowded Geiranger to get to the mountain top on the other side, we were quite a happy band of riders when we met the intersection of the Stryn mountain road, which would eventually take us back to Lillehammer and our final stay-over for this trip.

Reijo, a seasoned rider who as taken his bike to most parts of the world, including the Americas, Myanmar and Africa, concluded that parts of the road he had ridden today was all the way on the top of all he had ever enjoyed on a bike. Quite a statement, and quite an endorsement of Norwegian motorcycle roads.

The trip was a success to such an extent that we decided to repeat it next year, only then we´ll go to Finland. It will not be like this trip – but it will be different. And in the end, that is what it is all about.

Andreas and yours truly on our way to Nermo Hotel.

 

Andreas and his bike, although not for rent.

A KTM 690 Enduro works fine in Norway, I´d say.

Cheers to the Gudbrands Valley!

Ilpo (left), yours truly, and Andreas. We are working for the same company in our respective countries.

My wife Sølvi´s Moto Guzzi Breva 750.

Well, the Finns have their regalias in order.

Even flying flags from their Harleys 🙂

Sølvi at Venabygd mountain, Andreas in the background.

Taking in the view of the Rondane mountains

A wee stop on our way to Trollstigen. This is at Bolsøya.

Parked at Trollstigen, watching over the bikes while the rest of the crew takes in the view.

Sølvi (left), Mia and Ilpo at Geiranger.

Final dinner at Hvelvet Restaurant in Lillehammer.

Categories: Routes, Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Viking biking destinations

Why not turn your bike trip in Norway into a Viking theme trip?

Norway is famed for its viking heritage, and here you can find the Top 5 picks where you can learn more about a culture that was far from as savage as it has been portrayed especially in popular culture. More importantly: You can get to drink proper honey mead!

The Oseberg ship. (Photo: Grzegorz Wysocki)

The Oseberg ship. (Photo: Grzegorz Wysocki)

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Fun in the Forest of the Finns

It was way past due to grind those off-road tyres on proper gravel roads. Last weekend, Henning and I decided  to do just that. 

We spent the night in one of the cabins which are available for free or nearly free. Peaceful and nice!

I am quite a newbie to proper gravel riding, even though I´ve been facinated by it since many years. Not until I bought my light, nimble and powerful-enough Yamaha WR250R did I dare to venture into the loose stuff for real. 

Henning, on the other hand, is a former motorcross, road race and enduro rider and instructor. Thanks to him, my learning curve has been pretty steep – although this particular weekend I felt like it was my first time on gravel: My riding was stiff, my cornering awful, and things just didn´t feel right. 

However, the area in which we were riding, Finnskogen (eng. “Forest of the Finns”), is extremely inviting when it comes to gravel riding. There are miles and miles of gravel roads, very little (if at all) traffic, and free cabins all over the place, which you can borrow for the night. In other words: A Mecca for gravel riders.

The first leg was all but muddy: The track was thick of slippery mud, so we admittedly had to struggle a bit to get our bikes through – Henning on his Transalp, me on my Yamma. Or at least: It felt like we had to struggle. I think I was the only one who did it, as Henning effortlessly steered his Honda more or less sure-footed through the slippery stuff. 

It did become a lot better when we arrived to the forest roads themselves: Dry to the point of dusty, vacant and available.

We spent a night in a small cabin, had a meal and just relaxed before riding back home the day after. A short burst of season debut for me, but it was good to shake loose a bit. I´ll even try to do better next time.

If you´re a gravel rider too, make sure you visit Finnskogen when you visit Norway. It´s well worth spending a few days on this area. 

Stay on these roads!

 

Henning (right) and yours truly. We´re heading for Kirkenes in the north by gravel this summer.

Henning and his trusty Transalp in the back and my Yamma in the front 🙂

There was no firewood in the cabin, but Rolf, who lives nearby, provided us with a couple of bags to heat the evening.

Pretty nice view by the lake Fjørsjøen

You just have to love this…

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Heavy Water Sabotage Trip

One of WW2’s most famous sabotage actions was against the heavy water plant in Vemork, Telemark. You can – and should – visit the plant on your motorcycle trip.

Yours truly selfie with Asle, Håkon and Geir-Olaf by the sabotage memorial monument.

Yours truly selfie with Håkon, Asle and Geir-Olaf by the sabotage memorial monument.

The Norwegian telly broadcaster NRK recently aired a highly popular series depicting the quite astonishing sabotage mission against the Vemork Heavy Water plant in 1943. Dare-devil Norwegian commandos, trained by British SOE, managed to get into the plant and detonate explosives – without casualties – to stop Hitler from getting his A-bomb, for which he thought he needed heavy water, or deuterium oxide. When you get there, you realize what a stunning feat this was, as the plant is on the other side of a deep, steep canyon – and especially since earlier failed sabotage missions had led the Germans to strengthen the security and placing some 3000 troops in and near the facility. SOE later reckoned this mission to be its most successful during WW2.

Although the building which housed the plant itself is no longer, you can have a tour in the older, now decommissioned power plant building, and have the story told. It is a great ride to get there. This route takes you off the main road at Kongsberg and leads you along the twisty Road 40 and 753 until you reach Vemork, which is some 200 kms west of Oslo. And if you’re in a really adventurous mode, you can do bungee jumping from the bridge that crosses over to the plant. I didn’t, though…

Have fun!

 

This is the actual building where the sabotage took place - Vemork Hydroelectric Plant 1935 by Anders Beer Wilse - Galleri Nor

The actual building where the sabotage took place, Vemork Hydroelectric Plant 1935 by Anders Beer Wilse – Galleri Nor

 

You can have a guided tour at the plant, and get an insight to the many sabotage actions that were launched against this plant during WW2.

You can have a guided tour at the plant, and get an insight to the many sabotage actions that were launched against this plant during WW2.

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