After deciding that 2006 was going to be the year for our long-intended trip to Norway we looked into several tour operators who offer both independent travel and tours to Norway. Many of our friends recommended Brekke, a small travel agency that operates out of Grand Forks, North Dakota, and specializes in Scandinavia with emphasis on Norway. They offer both independent travel arrangements and organized tours. A look at their web site at http://www.brekketours.com convinced us to send for their 2006 brochure. At our age it was easy to decide to choose an organized tour, and Brekke offers a wide variety of choices.
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The tours range from seven to fourteen days, with three to four day extensions available for many of them. They have names like "Spirit of Norway," "Best of Norway," "Spectacular Norway," "Splendor of Norway," "Nordic Delight," "Majestic Norway," and "Norway: Scenic and Historic." We chose the latter, "Norway: Scenic and Historic," because the itinerary was the best match for our interests and because the schedule was optimal for our summer plans.
In February there was no charge to put our name on the list of those interested in this July tour. It didn't take long until we were notified that enough people had signed up to be assured that the tour was guaranteed to go. A $500 deposit per person was enough to reserve our spot, with the balance due sixty days before departure.
Shortly after our final payment we received a comprehensive package from Brekke with lots of information about all of the destinations for our tour, as well as advice about such things as packing and currency exchange. Meanwhile we had applied for and received our new passports. We debated whether to purchase trip insurance, and decided to buy a policy for about $300, the cheapest we could find on the Internet. It seemed, then and now, like an unreasonable and unnecessary expense---but others were charging two and three times that amount for essentially the same coverage. Fortunately we never had to test the quality or reliability of the policy we purchased!
Everything went very smoothly, and we were delighted with the job Brekke did in organizing and carrying out this tour, and the way the "scenic and historic" theme was consistently carried out. From our first inquiry through registration and commitment to completion of the tour the professionalism, experience and reputation of Brekke were evident at every step. The tour exposed us to an incredible sampling of not only the spectacular scenery but also the interesting history and culture of Norway.
Our Norwegian tour director, Marit Wold, could hardly have been better, with her knowledge, humor, and observations, offered in articulate English. She was consistently conscientious and charming, and quickly became a warm friend to all 47 participants on the tour. A couple of incidents might have been unsettling---a minor injury on the bus, a missed ferryboat, and a disoriented 88-year-old participant---but Marit handled them all efficiently and calmly. We all developed great respect and affection for Ms. Wold and the outstanding job she did!
The Volvo bus that carried us some 1500 kilometers (about 1000 miles) was perfect for the tour, comfortable and with ample window space to enjoy the wonderful scenery---and Torgeir Kosmo was a highly competent driver on the challenging mountain roads, and a friendly and courteous personality. He also quickly formed 47 new friendships!
We did our tour in the last two weeks of July and enjoyed perfect weather for the entire trip---so I'm inclined to sat the best time to visit Norway is July. But I'm sure there is much to experience there at other times of the year as well!
Four months later we are still reveling in our fantastic Norway tour. We took more than 300 pictures, as well as an hour of video. When we returned we put together a cloth-bound photo-book with forty pages of pictures and text to help us share the experience with our family and friends. We enlarged one of our pictures of the harbour at Bergen to poster-size, framed it and have it hanging prominently in our living room! And finally we have posted reviews of ten major destinations along our tour, to share the experience.
The Brekke family has been Norway travel specialists since 1956, and have well-established relationships with hospitality companies in Norway---who consistently showed respect for Brekke and their clients. One of the hotels at which we stayed was managed by a Brekke relative.
So---for anyone thinking of travel to Norway I'll give Brekke my highest recommendation. Five stars in every respect!
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Best Suited For: Friends
Tour format: Bus
Tour length: Over a Week
Tour type: Group