When asked to think of Norway you might be inclined to think of Fjords, Trolls and Knitted Jumpers with rather intriguing patterns. And while all of these things exist, (especially the trolls, they do tend to get everywhere!), there is a lot more to find in Norway.
Although Norway may not be everyone’s first choice of travel destination, I have been keen to find out what the country of brooding, tall, blonde people is really like, and wanted to get to know a bit about our Scandinavian neighbours. You hear tell of their reserved nature and quiet way of being, and it is very appealing; totally different from the outgoing Aussie or American disposition and perhaps more British than even us Brits.
And so it was that my husband and I spent two weeks travelling around Norway. We chose to travel by train and boat in order to get the most out of the scenery. From our passenger windows we saw sheer cliff faces, glaciers, pine forests and beautiful countryside in all shades of green and blue (and a bit of grey too; but hey, they’re even further North than us!) While travelling I was really struck by the picture perfect wooden houses which were scattered throughout Norway, with pitched roofs, all painted in a range of colours from pillar box red to sky blue. Lots of houses and outbuildings had living roofs too, with snug greenery and even little trees sprouting from them, giving them a seamless, blended look with their surroundings.
The cities too were interesting places to be. In Oslo we sat out and ate our evening meal by the harbourside, with the restaurant’s warm rugs and blankets draped over our knees. And Bergen’s old fishing village and world heritage site was a real rabbits warren of side streets interweaving with each other (and the obliglitory trolls!)
What really impressed me about Norway was the culture of engagement with what they call ‘the nature’. While in Bergen we climbed up into the forest and came across a real fairy tale land, which looked like the Three Bears House with Goldilocks lurking nearby! It turned out to be the local nursery school, or barnehager.
Tucked in amongst the trees were little buildings with sets of child-sized chairs and pots and plants scattered around outside and a very neat and tidy vegetable patch. While we were there we bumped into one of the pupils, out for a walk with her mum. The mother told us all about the school and introduced us to her daughter. The little girl, beamed when she realised we were from Scotland and said to us in English, ‘Hello, my name is Anna, what is your name?’ I was so impressed, she was only 3 years old! It really was an amazing place where the pupils played and learnt outside amongst the trees, I had heard about this type of outdoors education before I went, but to see it first-hand really did leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling; that Anna was one lucky girl. Apparently this early introduction stays with Norwegians and it is really common place for whole families to decamp out into the countryside each weekend and to visit the family cabin in the woods over the summer holidays; no-wonder they all look so lean and healthy!
I’m sure you have been waiting for me to mention the price. And yes it is definitely expensive. Beer, wine and eating out will cost you. But if you wanted a more pocket friendly option, you could have yourself a great holiday by hiring a cabin, which would allow you to cook your own evening meals and make up some tasty packed lunches.
Vegetarian food was sometimes a little tricky, but I learnt the phrase “serverer dere vegetarmat?” and they always managed to rustle me something up. Although we did boycot anywhere with Whale on the menu (although in fairness, we only came across this once).
And what about those Norwegians, were they cold and withdrawn? Not a bit of it, everyone we spoke to was friendly and helpful and although we only managed to pick up the basics of Norwegian, communication was always polite and welcoming and everyone spoke excellent English (oh it puts us to shame!)
During our trip we didn’t get any further north than Alesund, so we still have plenty to explore next time. The Northern Lights, wolves, reindeer and polar bears are all on the list of things to see next time around. It sounds like a description for a Phillip Pulman novel doesn’t it! I might even be tempted by one of these snazzy wooly jumpers next time I’m there! www.visitnorway.com/uk
Carrie has just begun another very exciting adventure. A journey to a new life! Follow her progress at http://theonelifeproject.com/