Have I mentioned (or bored you with) how much I love Norway? When we learned that our Baltic cruise would be departing from Copenhagen and that there was an optional pre-cruise option to ‘do’ Norway, we jumped at the chance to return to this stunning country.
After SAS lost (and then found) our luggage on the way from London to Bergen, we checked in at 1 AM to the Hotel Screaming Seagull (no, that wasn’t its real name. But it should have been. Our room opened onto a small courtyard that was currently home to a pair (or hundreds – who could tell?) of mating seagulls – which is noisy business at any time, but especially so at night. Seagulls must be part bat. Don’t they ever sleep?) ‘You’ and I have been to Bergen before, so I’m not going to linger here. Suffice it to say: salmon, boats, rain, fishy smell, old (but lovely) buildings, souvenirs, outdoor market, Ibsen. There. Now we’re all caught up.
We had a measly 5 days in Norway (making me SO happy we’d been there before. If and when you go, please DO plan to spend more than 5 days in this magical country.) It does mean, however, that I’ll keep this post (relatively)short.
Trains, buses and boats kept us moving around the country and a MOST entertaining and informative guide filled our heads with fascinating facts. These stick in my mind:
Anyone can attend college for free in Norway; no matter the country of your citizenship. (Sadly, Norway feels the US delivers an inferior high school education, so a US citizen has to complete at least 1 year of college before they can apply to university in Norway). All Norwegian college students are given interest free loans to live on while in school. No bugging mom and dad for beer money.
Spanking is NOT allowed. Even pre-school kids are given a phone number to call if mommy and daddy suddenly go off the rails.
Every new car purchased requires a $200 deposit, which you (or any subsequent owner) gets back when you ‘retire’ the car. Drivers licenses are good for 99 years.
There are no billboards or power lines to mar the view.
All tax forms are public which led to a period of ‘tax porn’ when everyone was online surfing everyone else’s income. The only glitch – it wasn’t anonymous. The lookee was notified when the looker had peeked.
Organized religion is supported by taxes, with Lutherans receiving 80% of the ‘religion’ budget.
Sugar and cigarettes are taxed and there is virtually no litter. Anywhere. It’s so beautiful.
We bid the seagulls goodbye and headed to Stalheim – a tiny village in the mountains where a quirky (but scenic) hotel awaited.
The owner not only managed this remote outpost, but assembled a group of historic buildings attesting to the Norwegian way of life in centuries past. Imagine living in these huts in the depths of a Norwegian winter. We ‘sort of’ understood why so many Norwegians upped and moved to Minnesota (same winter, no mountains, lots more food). (Only 2% of Norway’s land is given over to agriculture.)
Norway is not only a land of fjords, it is awash in waterfalls. (Bad pun intended.)
We took the obligatory tourist trip on the Flam Railway, a 20 kilometer ride through some of the most bewitching scenery in all of Norway. Or so we were told. Sadly, our assigned seat was on the ‘wrong’ side of the train. (Keep this in mind if you go. Sit on the right side!!) Since most of my photos were of passing rock walls (except for the 3rd waterfall, above, where the train stops for a true touristic moment), I had to content myself with this photo of the destination – Myrdahl – known for … well, mostly for being the end of the Flam journey. (This is also where you catch the train to Oslo. Again, sit on the right for the relaxing 5 hour ride.)
Since you’ve been to Oslo with me, I won’t revisit sites you’ve already seen. (But promise me you’ll go!) Here are a few new ones:
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in the Oslo City Hall each December (all other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden). The dream-like Vigelund Sculpture Park is a must-see; the sculptures, all by a single artist and representing a life’s work, will stir surprising emotions as you wander among them.
We knew we’d be taking an overnight ferry to Copenhagen to board our cruise ship; visions of sleeping on mats atop metal benches had us dreading this part of the trip. Much to our suprise, the ‘ferry’ was as big as most Carnival Cruise ships – with 10 restaurants, an enormous Duty Free shop and lots of activities. Even our cabin was pretty nice. But the seas weren’t. Tossing and turning took on whole new meanings that night.
Next: The cruise