This blog post is not about facts or figures, not about history or innovation. It is just a collection of thoughts about a country that has very many exotic sides – not only for first time visitors.
There are a lot of kilometres between central Europe and the Northern tip of Norway, something like 4500. Recently we were in Brønnøysund. That is 1.5 days drive from Oslo (we had taken much more time because we came with the boat from Trondheim). And this harbour town is marketed as the “City in the middle of Norway”. As a visitor you think you have gone a long way, you are now close to the Arctic Circle. But you are only half way? Yes, there is a lot of Norway.
There are a lot of bridges and tunnels in Norway. 35 years ago, when ES was visiting this part of the world for the first time, traveling along the coast meant waiting for ferries. When more and more cars were overtaking you then you knew: we are close to a ferry – and it will leave soon! Hence the famous race for the ferry. The next one might come the next day. Today most of the small ferry routes have disappeared. We drive much faster over bridges and through tunnels. But no worries, there is still a lot of stunning landscape to admire – and still enough remaining ferries.
There are a lot of Norwegian islands. When you take the slow boat traveling the coast you realise that there is no counting of islands. There are just too many. ES has a dear memory of a tiny island she has spent a few hours, more than 35 years ago. A small nameless island, somewhere up on 66°, not populated but full of “multe” (cloudberries), the arctic orange berry.
DHH and his friend went on with the boat, she was left with a big bucket. This was full of berries after maybe 15 minutes. Then she sat down, admiring the sea and several other small islands. She was extremely alone – until the dolphins came. The local variety is called “nise” (not to be confused with the “nisse” the Christmas trolls). It was a school of young dolphins, choosing the water next to ES’s island as their playground. No photo was shot, but the moment will never be forgotten.
Living on remote islands is made possible by a remarkable infrastructure. The state is investing a lot of money in bridges and tunnels. There are people that run village shops and fishermen that specify in small scale tourism. And the mobile phone companies’ big competition brings a 4G signal to almost every spot.
There are a lot of “hytte” in Norway. With a German background hytte is easy to understand: Hütte, a cabin. But a hytte is much more than a place to stay, it is a statement, a lifestyle. Norway is a country where most people own property (as a home and savings). And most people own not only their house but one (or even several) hytte, traditionally a small, basic cabin close to the sea or up in the mountains, where they spend a lot of their weekends and part of the summer holidays. This lifestyle, close to nature, often without electricity and water from the creek, seems to be part of the Norwegian gene pool. There is though a trend to more luxury: new spacious model hytte are on the market, with sauna and/or whirlpool, several magazines target the market of “hytteliv”. And more and more people turn their ancestors’ home, somewhere on the countryside into their more or less modern summerhouse. Like everywhere else, there is a trend to work and live in the city, many villages are losing population. But more and more come back for the weekends or for longer. Retired people move back to the countryside. This has a beautiful effect on the landscape: immaculate white houses and red barns.
There is a lot of Norway: fish in the sea and the rivers, elks and reindeers, hares and seagulls, glaciers, naked mountains, fascinating fjords, the dark days with the Northern lights, the never ending light during summer. And everybody can enjoy this without being closely watched by the neighbour. Because there are not a lot of Norwegians.