Norway is magical. No disrespect to Denmark or Sweden, both wonderful to visit, but Norway has this serenity to it and mysticism you can feel as soon as you breath in the air. I value a place by its vibe, its people, and scenery. I love to see the way the sun shines in different latitudes and how that changes everything.
I’d recommend going to Norway in the springtime. The sun only sets for for a few and even then it’s more like twilight. You might think it’s hard to sleep and it could be for some, but I didn’t think so. I experienced so much that I was exhausted after dinner. Didn’t stop me from having a couple glasses of cava, Scandinavia’s version of champagne. It tastes kind of like it’s been made inside an evergreen tree.
Is food and drink expensive there? It’s the same as a big city like NYC, Paris or Copenhagen. $15 to $20 per entree, $8 to $10 per glass of wine. $2 to $5 for a coffee depending on how fancy it is. You can find more expensive options but I refuse to spend more than that.
If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend bringing tin foil and ziplock bags, making a huge plate at your hotel’s continental breakfast (many are complimentary) and wrapping up something like a sandwich, the cheese there is mouthwatering, and bagging some fruit. Do it on the down-low. You won’t be starving at dinner so you’ll spend less.
The people there really know how to make themselves happy. Restaurants put taper candles on their tables; here in NYC, it’s votives. It’s understood that during the few hours of sunlight in the winter, all employers wouldn’t think of asking anyone to stay inside and keep working. Their government makes it clear that all Norwegians are valued and well taken care of from the cradle to the grave. Imagine that! Here are a few wonderful destinations I’ve visited that I highly recommend.
While Oslo is a very cosmopolitan and bustling city, it still has that serenity to it. No one’s ever in a hurry, people are friendly and it’s incredibly clean. I’d recommend spending two or three days in Oslo. There’s so much to see and while it has an excellent bus system, it’s a very walkable city. Wide sidewalks, no shortage of places to sit or stop for a bite. It has a dichotomy that I love. It’s very industrial as you can see in the picture above. That’s an area called barcode. It also has areas that are steeped in history and vibrant color.
Voss is a sleepy little town located between Oslo and Bergen. It’s right on the banks of a fjord so you can go swimming or kayaking as you see the gentleman doing here. It has a charming town center with plenty of small shops to browse in. It’s a great stopover to grab a bite to eat at one of its charming little boutique eateries. I had some ice cream and I swear it was creamier and somehow lighter than anything I’d ever tasted!
Lom’s claim to fame is that it has the oldest stave church in Norway. Stave churches were built by Christians in a time when Viking gods still watched over the land from Valhalla. Legend has it, that if you see a boulder near a church, it was thrown by a disgruntled giant in protest of the growing Christian presence. Christians am I right? That’s what the giants would say to each other in their giant pub over giant pints of mead poured by elves. Giants are gone from Norwegian hearts today but elves? They’re everywhere!
Lillehammer played host to the olympics and remains a premier ski destination. I like it for a different reason. Nestled in the mountains, it has roaring rapids that go right through your back yard if you live there.
It also has an interesting vibe. It’s in conflict with itself. It has that serenity but there’s an edge there. It’s as if it was put there recently, like the last 100 years. It’s actually at the surface while the peace and calm lay comfortably beneath it. Something happened there and I actually saw clothing in a store window that looked like it was straight out of the American west in the early days of the Mormons arrival. There’s also some satanic graffiti!
If you’re into weird yet beautiful, Lillehammer is the place for you.
Like Oslo, Bergen is a big city but it’s quirky and a little edgy. Just a little. One of the best things you can do in Bergen, is get lost. Every little turn you make will show you something different.
You can take the funicular (cable driven cars designed to travel up a steep incline) to see all of Bergen. There is food and drink available up there and if you’re lucky you might run into a few billy goats. This is one way people commute to the city center from their homes up in the mountains. The other way is hiking. Norwegians are very physically fit. You won’t find many handicapped accessible entrances here.
I’d recommend visiting classical music composer Edvard Greig’s house which is now a museum. He got his inspiration from the natural atmosphere around his house, the sound of birds chirping, wind rustling leaves, the hypnotic lapping of the tranquil waves coming from the shores just a short stroll from his house.
Bergen has a creative creative energy to it. It’s brightly colored buildings only add to this.
Although we can’t travel right now, I know we will eventually. Norway is a great place to reset and get back to nature. Happy travels!