Norway in Our Nutshell

Norway, August 26-September 4, 2006.  

Expect to come close to nature in Norway, but true wilderness is harder to find.  The people are friendly, and luckily most speak English, because Norwegian seems impossible to understand.  Be sure to snap up a cheap flight into Oslo or Bergen, because traveling within the country will cost you a lot of Kroners. 

 On the way to the airport, we spot a cheap flight to Bergen

 In a nutshell, Norway is pretty to look at, but I would rather live somewhere else.  Having to mow the lawn is bad enough, but what do I do about the roof?

A Norwegian innovation to insulation

Accommodation

Those seeking “budget” accommodation in Norway should stick to camping, or raise the mental threshold of what you would be prepared to fork out for budget quality. The mountain huts we stayed at in Jotunheimen National Park were cosy, well maintained and even had muffins for sale at a 300% mark-up to the Norwegian retail price. We happened to spend a night at Gjendesheim Hut at the same time as two high school biology field trips. Aside from Norwegian rap blaring from some kid’s iPod, Daniel had no complaints about our neighbours—a room full of blond teenage girls. 

 Inside Gjendesheim Hut

Teenagers on a biology school trip outside Gjendesheim Hut


In Voss, we had the luxury of an entire loft to ourselves, which made up for the fact that we slept on the floor (on foam mattresses). In Bergen, we spent one night in a military-style dorm located in the basement of a hostel, where one unfortunate soul got a rude shock in the middle of the night: “Excuse me, but this is not your bed”. In Preikostolen, we shared a room with two burly Hungarian guys in what should have been a room for two.  At least  they were friendly, even if they did smell a little. 

Yet another bad hair day


Gatecrashing a 10 year old's birthday party in Voss

Food & Shopping

Norway is famous for its salmon products and Norwegian salmon consumed in Norway tastes surprisingly similar to Norwegian salmon purchased in Germany or Hong Kong. I don’t understand why such a fuss is made about whale meat (I mean from a gastronomic sense of course) because the tiny (and I really mean tiny!) sample of smoked whale we tasted was nothing spectacular at all.  Norway is also a home to the cloudberry, a yellow berry whose fame has yet to spread beyond Scandinavia.  We accidentally spent all our remaining Kroners on nearly 2kg of cloudberry jam, leaving us 20 Kroners short for the airport bus tickets.
 

Smoked salmon and smoked whale

Salmon and cloudberries aside, Norwegian cuisine is somewhat monotonous—meat or fish is often smoked, vegetables are generally pickled, and the potato is ubiquitous. More disturbing is the alarmingly high consumption of hot dogs per capita, though credit should be given for the variety of presentation: hot dog in a bread roll with mustard and ketchup; hot dog wrapped in bacon; a pair of hot dogs on mashed potato swimming in liquid butter.  No wonder most Norwegians seem to carry excess blubber around their waists.  Presumably this comes in handy during the cold winter months.

Would you like your seal skin in poka dots, classic black or streaky grey? 

I think that was a fox but I'm not sure 

  You can never have too many pairs of shoes...

The Weather

Every cloud has a silver lining as the saying goes, and so even though it rained nearly every day of our trip, we escaped being attacked by mosquitos because apparently they prefer staying at home when it rains.  The highly temperamental weather means it is advisable to carry raincoats, rainpants and a waterproof camera bag at all times.

Clambering up the rocky Bessegen Ridge through the clouds 

As a corollary to the intermittent rain and sun, one can indulge in rainbow spotting.  Indeed I saw more rainbows in one day than I had ever seen in my lifetime to date, though the novelty soon wore off after my 10th attempt to capture a digital image of a rainbow in its full spectrum.


Morning in Gjendesheim

Activities

Norway is a very hiker friendly destination and it is inspiring to see persons of all ages, from toddlers to silver-haired grandmas, getting in touch with nature be it by hiking up mountain ridges, rock scrambling or Nordic walking.  Most hiking routes are marked with red Ts to indicate the recommended direction, especially where there is no clear path.  However a compass could have come in handy since it was at times difficult to spot the red Ts through the clouds, mist and rain.   

 A possy of grannys off for some serious Nordic walking

 A glimpse of the view from Bessegen Ridge before being enveloped in clouds, again

 Most climb up to Preikestolen for the view, and some make a fashion statement while doing so

Dan on Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) 

 Ev on Pulpit Rock

Sea kayaking is a great way to explore the fjords since if the scenery becomes a little too repetitive for your liking, there is the physical distraction of having to keep paddling to that next lunch break or pit stop to maintain your alertness.  We spent two days kayaking and camping along the Naeroyfjorden with a Kiwi guide and a Kiwi couple.  Was it purely coincidental that we encountered so many Antipodeans?  Or is there some subconscious desire at play, to travel as far from home as possible to a place with a similar landscape (to that of New Zealand)? In any case, we had a lovely group, though I had to bite my lip when Dan started to end his sentences with “Ay”.

Dan paddling into the distance along Naeroyfjorden

A break for morning tea and use of the open air toilet 

If only I can get this shot without capsizing...

Getting Around

Our tight timetable and ambitious itinerary required no small amount of pre-trip research and logistics planning, especially since our visit fell just outside the high summer period.  We arrived in Oslo armed with a spreadsheet of bus, train, and ferry connections timed to the very minute, with only one room for error.  At the end of the indicative six-hour hike over Bessegen Ridge, the plan was to catch a series of two buses to reach the Northern side of Jotunheimen National Park where we could do a glacier hike.  Eight hours later—wet, hungry and desperate to pee—we discovered that the bus that we had supposedly missed by two hours didn’t actually run in that direction at that time of the year.

A ferry ride with some Norwegian enthusiasts

See you later!

Norway in a Nutshell Tour

One of the most popular tours in Norway is a one or two day journey from Oslo to Bergen, which can also be done as a round-trip from Voss.  Frankly, I would not bother with the packaged rail-ferry-bus tour unless you: a) have only one day to spend in Norway; b) have some physical disability; c) are part of a Japanese tour group; or d) missed your bus connection and have an extra day to kill in Voss.  

 The 20km train ride from Myrdal to Flam boasts passage through 20 tunnels

After the fifth tunnel, we decided that walking would give us a better view of the countryside

Along the Flam river

 One of many waterfalls

 

Please click here for more images: Norway Highlights, or Ev & Dan in Norway