Farmer Bob and I recently spent two weeks in Norway to celebrate our 40th anniversary. The trip was a semi-replication of our 1974 honeymoon to Scandinavia. In August, we flew in and out of Copenhagen, spending a night at the beginning and end of our trip in the beautiful Danish capital city. So the bulk of our time we were in Norway, a beautiful country and a photographer's dream. If you can handle the high cost of food and beverages (fish 'n chips and beers for two at a casual outdoor resto overlooking the Oslo Fjord cost $100 US), I highly recommend you put this on your travel bucket list. Here are 10 things I liked about Norway, from architecture to music, beverages to islands. Enjoy the slideshow and start saving your kroner!
Oslo is all grown up since my husband and I first visited in 1974. I made a return trip in 2008, just before the Oslo Opera House opened, so it was fun to see the finished project and take a public tour six years later. The Oslo Opera House is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. The outdoor plaza slopes toward the Oslo Fjord (that's white granite in the photo, not snow). Cost of the building, designed by Snøhetta of Oslo, was 500 million Euros. The architects at Snøhetta created a roof accessible to all, providing a new public space in the centre of Oslo.
Artist Gustav Vigeland created Vigeland Sculpture Park between 1939 and 1949 in Oslo. As the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, it's the most popular attraction in Oslo. The unique sculpture park is Vigeland's lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Nearby is the Vigeland-Museet (The Vigeland Museum), originally Vigeland's studio and residence. Other art museums of note include the newly opened Astrup Fearnley Museet (Museum of Modern Art), Munchmuseet (The Munch Museum) and The National Gallery.
I don't think I've quaffed as much beer in the past year as I did during our two weeks in Scandinavia. Maybe because it was cheaper than cocktails and wine, but also because it tasted so darn good, especially at lunch. My favorites were Dahls from Trondheim, Ringnes of Oslo and Mack Isbjorn (Polar Bear) from Tromso. I drank the latter for the first time while up in Kirkenes, prior to boarding Hurtigruten's MS Nordnorge for our five-night sailing down the west coast of Norway to Bergen. Norway also features good water such as Isbie ("the world's best drinking water") and Voss (known for its sleek bottle design, but not actually from Voss!). I also had some great java in Oslo at Tim Wendelboe Koffee, and of course, enjoyed the aquavit whenever offered.
Boats, Ferries and Ships
We sailed on 'em all during our two weeks -- boats, ferries and ships. Norway is a seagoing country, and since I've lived on an island since 1975, I'm always eager to take to the water. We took a ferry to the museums at Bygdoy, a quick ride from where they dock in front of Oslo City Hall. Travel Tip: Purchase an Oslo Pass, which is good for free admission to 30+museums, free public transportation (including ferry to Bygdoy) and other discounts. We also were aboard the Fanaraaken, a vessel that took us on the beautiful Naeroyfjord between Gudvangen and Flam. The fjord trip is part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour that involves trains, boats and buses. And the biggest ship during our trip was Hurtigruten's MS Nordnorge, which took us on a five-night cruise from Kirkenes down the west coast to Bergen. I had been on two other Hurtigruten ships, the MS Polarlys in Norway and the MS Flam in Antarctica. Beautiful ships, all of them!
Sometimes nothing tastes finer than a nice slice or two of homemade bread -- with real butter. But the brown bread in Norway (and also in Copenhagen, pictured here) was really special. I had it every day for breakfast, slapping on some local cheese, meats and fish. And for the buffet lunch while aboard the MS Nordnorge, most days I'd enjoy a bowl of homemade soup along with several Knekkebrød -- a Scandinavian style crisp bread known as Wasabröd where it originated in Sweden and simply as Wasa in the USA. So what's the secret of Norwegian brown bread? Nobody seems to be saying, but I loved that it was coarse, dense and oh, so flavorful. Maybe Farmer Bob can find a recipe that includes all those qualities!
Family + Friends
There's nothing better than connecting with family and friends while on the road. With my paternal grandparents being from Trondheim, I have cousins who still live there -- although I hadn't seen them since our honeymoon in 1974. But thanks to Facebook, we reconnected several years ago, and while our Hurtigruten ship was docked in Trondheim for several hours we got together over breakfast at the Rica Nidelven Hotel. My cousin Lise brought along her daughter Jannicke, and we all vowed to see each other again sooner than later. Pictured above is Farmer Bob, showing our island home to Henning Sverdrup, a PR business colleague from Oslo. Henning and his wife Elisabeth, along with daughters Selja and Thyra, invited us for dinner and overnight at their lovely home. It was a highlight of our Norwegian adventure!
Being an islander, it's no surprise I love islands, and Norway is loaded with them. Pictured here is one of the most picturesque places on our Hurtigruten voyage, Svolvaer, the capital of the Lofoten Islands. The Lofotens are known for fishing, outdoor recreation, and colorful small villages. Located north of the Arctic Circle in North Norway, the islands' natural beauty, rugged landscape and unique lighting make it a popular destination. Lofoten has a large number of sea eagles and cormorants, plus other sea birds including the colorful puffin. The islands are known for their old fishermen's cabins (rorbuer) that have been restored and updated into cozy accommodations for travelers.
There's nothing finer than listening to live music when you're on the road. In addition to attending a jazz concert at The Standard on our night of arrival in Copenhagen, we had two more music experiences. The first was in the resort town of Voss, where we spent the night following our day-long Norway in a Nutshell tour. I saw a poster about a free concert the next day at the Vangskyrkja (Voss Church), built in 1277. We listened to an afternoon program of Baroque music and Norwegian folk tunes performed by Trio Azzurro (pictured here). While aboard the MS Nordnorge, we signed up for a shore excursion in Tromso, which was a midnight concert in the city's Arctic Cathedral. A trio composed of soprano, cello and pianist made music magic in the candlelit church.
One of the highlights of the Norway in a Nutshell tour is getting off the train to see the Kjosfossen Waterfall. But something was added since we were last there in 1974 -- the sea goddess pictured here, accompanied by recorded music. She's in fact an actress dressed as a legendary Huldra (a seductive forest creature in Scandinavian folklore), who dances and sings in front of the waterfall. It was a bit odd, but didn't detract from the stunning beauty of the area. Travel Tip: Our Norway in a Nutshell trip was a two-day excursion, and included the morning train from Oslo to Myrdal; a boat from Myrdal to Gudvangen; bus from Gudvangen to Voss; and train from Voss to Oslo. We spent the night at the historic Fleischer's Hotel in Voss before taking the train the next evening back to Oslo.
The Norwegian capital city of Oslo has definitely altered its skyline in the past four decades. I've always considered it one of the sleepiest of the Scandinavian cities (with Copenhagen and Stockholm more lively, and Helsinki somewhat similar to Oslo). But thanks to the influx of oil money into the city and country, Oslo is on the move, and there's a new energy that's palpable. This photo was taken from the rooftop of the Oslo Opera House; it's the new complex of buildings known as Barcode -- due to its similarity to barcodes. The project is located on former dock and industrial lands in central Oslo.