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Up Guide to Norway


Up Guide to Norway

Learn from a local connoisseur.

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Up Guide to Norway


Up Guide to Norway

Learn from a local connoisseur.

Photo: Barcode Oslo by Kenneth Spadberg/Foap/Visitnorway.com.

Up Guide to Norway

The Up Guide to Norway is written by insider Sondre Sommerfelt; a cosmopolitan, anthropologist, travel writer and cultural entrepreneur. Sondre is the Chief editor of the Oslo Gazette, he loves the outdoors and city life (who doesn’t), and knows everything that moves on Norway’s cultural and music scene. Enjoy his humorous - yet useful - guide to Norway.  

 

1. WHY NORWAY?

Norway is final proof that paradise doesn't have to be in the tropics.

2. SERVICE NORWEGIAN STYLE

Practicality first, politeness second.

3. LUXURY OUR WAY

'Hytte til hytte' (Hut to Hut) in the great outdoors.

 

4. THE ART OF SKIING

Norwegians; born with skies on their feet.

5. DRESS FOR SUCCESS

‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes'.

6. EATING AND DRINKING 

Who can resist putrid fish or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

 

7. GETTING AROUND

Slow travel, sustainable travel.
 

8. THE MUSIC SCENE

The Nordic countries are trailblazers on the global music scene!

9. CITIES BORDERING NATURE

‘Gå på tur’ or ‘take a hike’.

 
Bad Norwegian Weather
Tree Top Hut Telemark

10. OUT OF SEASON AND OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

Insider tips to amazing experiences.

10. norwegian weather

To Put It Bluntly: Norway’s Weather Can Be Unpredictable

 
 
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1. Why Norway?


1. Why Norway?

'Norway is final proof that paradise does not have to be in the tropics'
 

1. Why Norway?


1. Why Norway?

'Norway is final proof that paradise does not have to be in the tropics'
 

Photo: The Aurlandsfjord in Autumn by M_dickson/Foap/Visitnorway.com

“Norway is final proof that paradise does not have to be in the tropics.”

What’s the difference between Norway and the rest of the Nordics, you may ask? Oh, come on! The Nature is amazing! Out of this world. Seriously! Mountains, glaciers, fjords, flora, fauna and fornication - from mainland Europe to the Arctic, if you turn 180 degrees and travel the same distance southward you will reach North Africa. That’s a long stretch of Adventure Park. Moose! Reindeers! Whales! Eagles! Puffins! Even the muskoxen, a real stayer! What else do you need to know?

Making things all the more alluring, this land enjoys the finest of Northern celestial phenomena: up north you can enjoy the midnight sun in the summer, while Northern Lights will keep you fertile through the winter. In the south you can unwind in those long midsummer nights, but also go nuts in its winter wonderland. The mountain ridge going South-North all through Norway, you can climb up with a rope in the summer, and slide down on skis in the winter. The North Sea in front is filled with voluminous quantities of fish and intelligent sea mammals, guarded by graceful (and less graceful) birds. The land itself is inhabited by 5 million robust folks, a couple of million sheep and reindeers, hundred thousand of moose, plenty of lynx, a few bears, and numerous fairy tale creatures. Slightly shy all of them, but give each one a big hug when you meet them, and they will be your friends for life. 

Varanger Detaljer fra Vardø. Gatekunst preger deler av bybildet i 2014. Vardø ligger ved Nasjonal turistveg Varanger . ©Foto Per Ritzler  Statens vegvesen (2).jpg

2. Service Norwegian Style


2. service Norwegian STYLE

‘Practicality first, politeness second’

2. Service Norwegian Style


2. service Norwegian STYLE

‘Practicality first, politeness second’

Photo: Streetart in Vardø by Per Ritzler/Statens vegvesen

‘Practicality first, politeness second’

You will quickly notice that Norwegians are not overly polite or correct. They do not have a word for ‘please’. Well, they do, but they do not say ‘please’ after every single thing said, and will rather use a grunt, ‘Hæ’, to say ‘excuse me’. Norwegians do, however, have a few fundamentally polite proverbs, and every one of them is cute. These include ‘takk for maten’ (thanks for the food) and the heartfelt 'takk for sist' (thanks for the last time we met). Really: how more polite can one get? These are thoroughly genuine, too. Another you will hear is voiced after you have been invited as a guest for dinner: 'Er du forsynt?' (were you provided with enough food?’) This is always a customary enquiry, even if you have consumed a whole elk, and gravy is dripping from your chin. Norwegians are certainly not impolite. They are genuine when they are polite, and they are polite when it really counts.

Norwegians have always heavily emphasised egalitarian principles, tossing in a healthy portion of common sense for good measure. They do not treat people differently based on wealth or rank, and they are as polite to men as towards woman, as well as children (that goes without saying). Waiters may be there to serve you, but they’re nonetheless your equal. Of course, you could be forgiven for thinking Norwegians are rude: service levels sometimes feel as low as the fjords are deep, a wise man once said. But, if you believe you are not being properly served, try ‘pragmatic’ instead of ‘angry’, and think ‘practicality’ before ‘politeness’. Life's too short for politeness when there's a door to be opened. 

 
Photo: CH - Visitnorway.com. Enterntainment along the ski slopes in Geilo. 

Photo: CH - Visitnorway.com. Enterntainment along the ski slopes in Geilo. 

 

Voulez Vous

When it comes to Norwegian styled egalitarianism, first names are okay in most settings, and the use of the polite form of ‘you’ – the equivalent of the French, plural ‘Vous’ - is a definite no-no, although it does in fact exist. Even if you do not know someone well, it is totally unnecessary to use a title like Herr or Fru (Mr and Mrs). Scandinavians find this courtesy antiquated, even rude, especially since you can go very wrong indeed addressing a woman with her husband’s surname. Modern Norwegian women prefer to stick to their own family name, unless both spouses take both names, which is now the trend. 

Photo: Golden Fire Place by Geir Grung at The Energy Hotel in Suldal/Historical Hotels & Restaurants

Photo: Golden Fire Place by Geir Grung at The Energy Hotel in Suldal/Historical Hotels & Restaurants

* Most advice mentioned here does not apply when Norwegians have been drinking. 

Just do ‘koselig’, and you will be fine

Norwegians just do not see the point in constant gratitude for the tiniest things. As with their world famous Scandinavian design, so it is with linguistics: less is more. Too much ‘please’ can feel like begging, too much debate can feel intrusive, and we certainly don’t want any of that. So, it's not really that we are rude: Norwegian "politeness" lies more in being friendly than in decorum. 

Maybe we are not into small talk because winters are long and it is freezing cold. We would rather cherish the energy that is inside, and wait for spring. There is an old Norwegian saying: ‘Can somebody light a fire in the fireplace? - after that, nothing else was said all winter’. This is what the Norwegians call ‘koselig’: snuggling up in front of the fireplace in silence to read a book… most likely one of those Nordic Noirs we love so much.

In other words, it’s all about egalitarianism and practicality. And, yeah, enjoying ‘koselig’.

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3. Luxury Our Way


3. luxury our way

'Hytte til hytte' (Hut to Hut) in the Great Outdoors

3. Luxury Our Way


3. luxury our way

'Hytte til hytte' (Hut to Hut) in the Great Outdoors

Photo: The Norwegian “Matpakke”

‘Taking in the natural beauty that Norway has to offer, Up Norway can offer you a smörgåsbord of truly unique hiking experiences.’

Up here, lavish spending is no proof of expertise, and the experienced traveller to Norway knows that splendour can be found off the beaten track and outside of peak season. That does not mean travellers up north should be parsimonious, of course. The smart traveller may spend some extra kroners on a dinner out of the ordinary, a great journey of far out fishing, sailing or skiing - or other extravagant and exotic experiences – and always consider it money well invested. That being said, a concept worth trying is ‘Hytte til hytte’ – ‘hut to hut’.  

No less vigorous than their Viking ancestors, Norwegians retain a deep closeness for the land and a great love of the outdoors. A strong hiking tradition has given rise to an extensive network of trails and footpaths, as well as spectacular hideaways built for summer backpackers and winter skiers. This concept is called simply ‘hytte til hytte’ – ‘hut to hut’. Run by the Norwegian Trekking Association, Norway is home to the largest and best public hut system in the world, in some of the last stretches of true wilderness left in Europe, a way of life for locals and a novelty for visitors.  

The vast route network is developed in part from older thoroughfares and local footpaths as these mountains have been tackled by the Norwegians since the first Norse woman and man followed the reindeer when the ice cap retracted ten thousand years ago. With such and old and strong tradition of hiking in this country, you could also call this gigantic trail system, in part a question of supply and demand, in response to the needs of trekkers, as ensured by their ‘public right of access’. Yes, this law of the land is important for a simple Norwegian - the right to roam if you want to. In Norway everyone has the unrestricted right of free access in the countryside, including the national parks. So in a way, the trails serve both to guide trekkers, on foot or on skis, and to protect plant and animal life by serving as limited channels for human foot traffic in the outdoors. All trekking routes are clearly marked at intervals short enough to see from one mark to the next, even in rain, fog or the occasional blistering storm. They are of two types: summer hiking trails and winter cross-country skiing tracks.

It is custom for all travellers to follow the traditional nine-point mountain code ‘Fjellvettreglene’ (Ask a local what they are before you go, we all know them by heart). This set of rules from 1967 was in 2014 supplemented with ‘Fjellsjekkereglene’ – another nine-point guide intended to ‘help people find love in the mountains’. If you are single, remember to wear a green beanie. 

 
Photo: Rest in Rondane

Photo: Rest in Rondane

 

The Hytter (Huts)

The rustic cabins are a pleasure to stay in and make Norway’s wide-open terrain far more accessible. Equipped with firewood, gas, food and kitchenware, they have a unique charm you will not find in a five star hotel. And unlike any glittering hotels, you can hang around the lobby in your socks and long johns. Some of the huts are staffed, but most are self-catering. Some of them even come with a supply of provisions. Most self-service huts have solar panels for their led lamps, but no running water.  But, the huts are usually located very close to a river from which buckets may be filled. Yes, it is like Walden, and it is time to find your inner Henry David Thoreau. Before leaving a self-service hut, it is considered good etiquette to carry in firewood, do the dishes, clean the floor and lock the door behind you before you head into yet another day of wilderness fun.

Photo: Skåpet, Lysefjorden

Photo: Skåpet, Lysefjorden

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4. The Art of Skiing


4. The art of skiing

'Norwegians; born with skis on their feet'

 

4. The Art of Skiing


4. The art of skiing

'Norwegians; born with skis on their feet'

 

Photo: Cross country tracks between Finsehytta and Finse train station.

‘Norwegians; born with skis on their feet’

 

Skiing for beginners:

  1. Put a soft drink and a chocolate bar in your rucksack, preferably the Fanta-like Solo and the Kit-Kat rip-off, Kvikk Lunsj. Norwegians just love milk chocolate!
  2. Do not worry, everybody falls. Even the pros.
  3. Remember, a Norwegian will always lie about the distance you will be travelling. When out skiing they will tell you the distance is shorter than it really is. Once safely back home in front of the fireplace, they will exaggerate about the same distance.
  4. The most important advice is from Frank Zappa himself: ‘Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow.’
 
Photo: Emil Eriksson. Slalom, Kikut. 

Photo: Emil Eriksson. Slalom, Kikut. 

 

Cross country

The way to really get a Norwegian is to try to understand their obsession with cross-country skiing (langrenn). For the unenlightened, this is the skiing technique in which the sportswoman (or man) propels themselves across snow-covered terrain using skis and poles. This is not the same as alpine skiing (slalom), where the skier takes a chair lift up a hill and then skis down again, repeatedly. Purists think that is cheating. You need to struggle hard to ascend the mountains – on slippery, properly waxed skis of course – then walk straight on into the woods for hours, before, finally, whizzing down again.

Cross-country skiing is what a Norwegian would argue is the fixie bike on snow, the Sūtra of frost – Asthanga, Norse style. A Norwegian will tell you that cross-country skiing involves the highest endurance levels of all sports, as its motions makes use of every major muscle group, and that it burns the most calories.

Photo: Mountain skiining in Finse

Photo: Mountain skiining in Finse

 

Randonnée

An accepted alpine discipline for purists is the off-piste randonnée skiing, that is, in simple terms, climbing up a mountain before skiing the hillside down again. People doing this are stoic Transcendentalists. They immerse themselves in nature to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection. Simple living and self-sufficiency are the idea, though simple living and luxurious Carbon ski wear are the reality. The best places to ski down are the ‘gaddis’, vertical cracks for climbing up and then skiing down again - unless you want to bike down with spikes on your wheels or, even better, fly down in a wing suit.  

The Lyngen Alps in Troms - North of Norway - and the Sunmørs Alp and Romsdals Alps in the west are some of the best Randonnée spots in the world. These places you can start your adventure by the fjord, climb up steep hillsides before you do some delicate skiing or snowboarding on down again to the fjords - “Vive la pudre!” as they say in Chamonix. 

Photo: Freeride - Lyngen. Svein Petter Aagård - Visitnorway.com

Photo: Freeride - Lyngen. Svein Petter Aagård - Visitnorway.com

‘Big thoughts for simple Norsemen’

 

Buns & Chocolate

If you get the hang of it, and find a rhythm to slide on the skis smoothly, conquering the mountains, you might understand what all the fuss is about. The best thing about the whole experience is the cabins (hytter) spread evenly throughout the mountains and in close proximity to the cities, where you will be served boller (sweet buns) and kakao (hot chocolate). Also handy is the floodlighting of many tracks after dark (which is not very late in the wintertime), making skiing possible straight after working hours. 

Waxing slightly philosophical, as many Norwegians do when it comes to skiing – some great skiers have indeed become philosophers – what makes it so intriguing has to do with escapism, the notion that you can just put on your skis and leave the strains of daily life. From the last metro stop in outskirts of the capital, Oslo, you can in theory follow the woodland all the way north to Lillehammer, or if you are very frisky, walk further north all the way to the North Cape Plateau above the Arctic Circle and on to the border with Russia. The mountains of the west of Norway is the starting point of the massive Taiga, the world’s largest terrestrial biome, a subarctic forest that stretches all the way through Siberia to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast. Just the idea of this is enormous, and not only for Sir David Attenborough and his BBC crew, but also for a simple Norseman. 

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5. Dress for Success


5. Dress for success

‘Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær’ (There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes)

 

5. Dress for Success


5. Dress for success

‘Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær’ (There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes)

 

Photo: C.H. - Visitnorway.com. Skaller - Sami Footwear

'Its all about being in the weather.'

 

Dress for success, people, which means dress for each and every surprise that may come your way. That is why locals tend to spend their lives wearing Gore-tex and down jackets throughout the year, or at least keep one rolled up in their rucksack for safety reasons. So bring good outerwear, at least in the winter. Yes, in Norway it’s practicality first, fashion week second. A tip for inexperienced foreigners: please do as the Scandinavians do – wear a wool layer against your skin when it is cold. Cotton or synthetic fabrics may keep you warm when you are dry, but it does not help when you get wet, humid, or sweat like a sow in a steam room. Wool does the trick. And because it is ‘all natural’, it will not transmit unpleasant body odours, so you can wear it over and over again. (Well, that is the theory!) At the very least, invest in woollen socks. Please! And nope, modern woollen sports fabrics do not itch – try the Merino wool or cashmere varieties. The wool-aficionados of course favours a silk cashmere mix. That probably goes without saying. So, prepare to gear up before you go out on thrilling outdoor extravaganzas. Even in the summer. 

Check out our recommended packing list. 

 
Photo: Søren Rickards / Devold of Norway

Photo: Søren Rickards / Devold of Norway

 

Norwegianness and The Law of Jante

If you want to get under the Norwegian skin, trying reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s epic autobiographical series, whose six books stack up to over 3500 pages. To some, Min Kamp (My Struggle) offers megalomaniacal writing, with its Hitlerian title as scandalous as its prose is painfully prosaic. But its discomfiting, Kafka-esque description of the Scandinavian way of life has made Knausgaard a favourite of critical giants from the New Yorker to the Guardian. 

If time is short – and faced by 3500 pages, whose time isn’t? – you might instead consult American expat Derek B. Miller, author of Norwegian by Night, who tried to come to terms with the complications of Norwegian-ness and the Law of Jante – a description of Norwegian group behaviour that criticises individual achievement as unworthy - in a piece in the Financial Times: ‘Norwegian men wear neckties to parties but not to work, whereas they tend to wear shoes to work but not to parties. So at a party, they are dressed to the nines but in socks, whereas at the foreign ministry they are probably wearing shoes but almost never ties.’ As for Norwegian women they ‘have stunning clothes but will not wear them’, apparently because they don’t want to look better than other women. So either they are considerate as well as cute, or they just know how to wear their comfy Scandinavian design pieces – which every fashionista in the world would kill for – as the most natural thing there is.

Opening-scallops-elisabeth.bjornstad.christensenFoapVisitnorway.com.jpg

6. Eating and Drinking Essentials


6. eating and drinking essentials

6. Eating and Drinking Essentials


6. eating and drinking essentials

Photo: elisabeth.bjornstad.christensen/Foap/Visitnorway.com. Opening Scallops
 

When it comes to food, who can resist putrid fish, smoked sheep’s head or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Norway serves them all. Thanks to the Scandinavian food revolution of the last few years, traditional dishes and their ingredients are back, looking cooler and tasting fresher than ever… served on rocks, jellyfish or Norwegian Wood. Isn’t it good?

Nordic food is seasonal. The smartest way not to starve, but keep vigorous while staying up north, is to seek local food in season when it is at its maximum-flavour peak and freshest on the market. A few general guidelines: the season for vegetables, fruits, berries, beans, and mushrooms starts with a bang in August; the same goes for the North Sea crabs, and lamb. Mmmm! You can get fresh saltwater fish all year round, but the peak months are at wintertime, or as fishermen always say – every month that doesn’t start with an ‘M’ is mackerel month, oh wait, except May. Last but not least, try Norwegian strawberries in July; they’re so tasteful, as they’ve been ripening in the long Nordic summers. 

Be aware: There Might not be Kettle In Your Hotel Room! 
Norwegians do not eat much food like noodles that are prepared simply by adding hot water. (They prefer potatoes.) Expect, therefore, not to find a kettle in all hotel rooms. If you need one, let us know in advance, and we will try our best to arrange one for you.

 
Photo: "Tørrfisk" (Dryfish) - A delicacy and Norway's oldest export product.

Photo: "Tørrfisk" (Dryfish) - A delicacy and Norway's oldest export product.

 

Coffee

Surveys show that Norwegians drink the most coffee in the world (after the Finns). This is mainly boiled and infused filter coffee, but do not worry: there are espresso bars on every corner. Barista culture has flourished and many tend to be very proud of their product. It is the clean Norwegian water and the light roasting that brings all the tasty flavours out in Norwegian trademark coffee. But beware: because of extended social reforms regarding maternity leave, mothers get over a year to hang about, and their main activity is lazing elegantly in coffee shops. All day. All week. Fathers, too, get three months, and few of them want to pass up the chance either. 

Photo: Fuglen Coffee Bar, Oslo;  coffee, interior design and amazing cocktails.

Photo: Fuglen Coffee Bar, Oslo;  coffee, interior design and amazing cocktails.

 

Bars

Even if we are in the middle of a Protestant heartland, with formidable alcohol taxes yet widespread binge-drinking, there are numerous respectable bars in the main cities and towns. And although this being close to the North Pole, as part of the hipster trend the Norwegian bars and cocktail scene has flourished hand in hand with a barista culture, and bartenders tend to be very proud of their highly inventive products. When in Rome, ask for local aquavit cocktail specials. 

Photo: Territoriet, Grünerløkka, Oslo.

Photo: Territoriet, Grünerløkka, Oslo.

 

Local brews

Truth be told, brewers are the last anarchistic punks in the world, and in Norway most of these fat and hairy pale ale punks reside by the fjords. The regional brewing flagship lies a couple of hours to the south of Oslo, Nøgne Ø (or ‘naked island’, a term coined by Henrik Ibsen). Nøgne Ø offers the widest variety of ales. Haandbryggeriet in Drammen, just outside Oslo, is another real ale brewery (Drammen is also home for the lager beer with the most wonderful name, Aass). On the west coast in the narrow fjords there are plenty for fabulous braumeisters: Lervik Aktiebryggeri in Stavanger, Indreøy Gårdsbryggeri by Trondheim, Kinn Bryggeri on the island of Florø, and infamous Æigir at Flom in the tiny Aurland Fjord. The Vikings are famous for their mjød (mead), created by fermenting honey, but they actually drank much more beer.  Skall! Or skull!                    

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7. Getting Around


7. Getting around

‘Slow travel, sustainable travel'

 

7. Getting Around


7. Getting around

‘Slow travel, sustainable travel'

 

Photo: Ferry ride in Western Norway

‘Slow travel, Sustainable travel’

 

There’s no easy way to say this: if you’re a pedantic planner, or a less than easy lover, getting around Norway can be challenging. We promise, however, that we’ll help make your travel a great experience, and more than worth the planning. Never forget, furthermore, that these are voyages as much of the imagination as they are physical trips. So even the idea of a five-hour train ride, to see the most magnificent fjords, or an extra two hour flight to see the spectacular Northern Lights, the chances are it will not be anything you regret. 

Widerø’s fleet of twin-engine aircraft serves the grid of smaller airports dotted around this long stretch of impassable land. The airline is so important for transportation to sparsely inhabited areas in this country, in all kinds of weather, that there is made famous songs and poems in phrase to their tiny turboprops. They’re bumpy and noisy rides, but will get you where you’re going safely and offer you a scenic experience on a clear day.

There are over 120 ferry routes in Norway, and in summertime one can expect queues at some ports. Both locals and visitors alike just love travelling up and down the beautiful coastline in the short Nordic summer. Sit back and relax in the midnight sun, take a refreshing dip in the fjord, and buy local strawberries while you wait. Norwegian strawberries are ridiculously expensive until July, when the prices drop like a stone over the summer months. And they taste so much better than Belgian strawberries. Or Wimbledon ones. It’s the abundance of light in the long summer nights that gives them their vibrant sweet flavour.

 

Mountains don't have addresses

No one’s trying to be condescending here, but do you really need an address for mountains, glaciers, fjords, seas, tidal waves, the Polar Circle, the Northern Lights, or other topographical or natural phenomenon? Though it’s unbelievable what you can find via Google these days, we don’t have street addresses to all of Norway’s earthly features. Not yet, anyway.

 

The Money Question

Do you think prices for travelling – like everything else in this land - are steep? Well, yes. Put simply, they are. But the country is still heavily subsidised. Though it’s a massive stretch of land with very few people, an extraordinary transportation network serves every last corner of the map. It may cost less to take an Easyjet flight from London Stansted to Berlin Schönefeld, but we promise the high-speed ferry from Bodø to Lofoten Islands is a trillion times more spectacular, and its colour scheme is a great deal more palatable too.

Don’t rush, breathe, traveling in Norway is all about the journey, not the destination, at least not ONLY about the destination. And think twice about the transport you are choosing, help move towards more sustainable travel, even if that means a love boat or a slow train. 

 

Trying To Understand Norwegian Transportation Timetables

Norwegians love their long, impenetrable, portmanteau language, as well as the awesome letters Æ-Ø-Å, which contribute to a stretchy linguistic blend of words with plenty of vowels. These include harbour, bus and airport names, with place names differentiated by just a letter or two.  (Yes, it’s all in the details.) Your best bet? Ask a Norwegian: they’ll know what to search for, and probably know a better route there anyway. That said, the leading heroes of any Nordic odyssey are the staff on the country’s boats, planes and trains, as well as the harbour and airport folk, who seem to be about the only people who know what’s going on and able to articulate it clearly.

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8. The music scene


8. the music scene

 

8. The music scene


8. the music scene

 

Photo: Tons of Rock, Fredriksten Fortress, Halden
 

Ever since Norway discovered oil in the North Sea in the late 60s, money has been funnelled evenly back into society, creating a significant middle class. Assisted by flexible work regulations, Norwegians have considerable spare time to spend on all sorts of activities, not only their beloved winter sports. Much of it is poured into culture, and Norway has become an increasingly exciting artistic hub. 

One of Norway’s most gratifying cultural attractions is its thriving live music scene, with every conceivable genre represented. Everybody helps out, and the enthusiasm for new and ingenious artists is uniquely refreshing. Music is everywhere, with every conceivable genre represented, from black metal and experimental jazz to black jazz and experimental metal. And of course, many other, more accessible music genres.

The Nordic countries are trailblazers on the global music scene in terms of diversity, quality, technology, commercial success and business. They are one of the largest music exporters next to the US and UK and they are early adopters of modern music technologies – among the successful startup companies from Scandinavia you find Soundcloud, Spotify and WIMP/Tidal. Technologies, music innovation and good old live music acts goes hand in hand in the Nordics.

There is a diverse range of festivals taking place throughout the year - located in the most exotic places - and with a cast of idiosyncratic artists and styles. In fact, according to recent surveys, there are over 5500 live gigs a year only in Oslo, meaning there is more live music here than anywhere else in the Nordic zone, something rivalled only by cities like London and New York. The biggest fiesta of them coincides with Norway’s National Day, 17 May. This is a BIG DAY and attendance, like other voluntary events in Norway, is compulsory. Dress code: patriotic, traditional (the national costume, the bunad, is seen in abun(a)dance). Enjoy the rare experience of reverse time travel as IT operatives and oil executives dress like farmhands and milkmaids from the estates of Marie Antoinette. There is a children’s parade with school brass bands in every city or town from 09:00. Afterwards, head for any bar to party with Norwegians ecstatic about being Norwegian, or to local park to hang out, barbecue and knock back beers. In global terms the Rio carnival may be bigger, but this is still on the scale of Spain’s Feria de Abril or San Fermin. 

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9. Cities Bordering Nature


9. Cities bordering nature

 

9. Cities Bordering Nature


9. Cities bordering nature

 

Photo: Holmenkollen ski jump, just above Oslo. Erik Haslestad/VisitOSLO.

 ‘Gå på tur’ or ‘take a hike’

 

Easy access to nature allows the people of Norway to indulge in their favourite activities: solitary walks, or, even better, solo cross-country skiing. The wilderness lies only a few minutes in any direction from the centre of any town, even the major cites. ‘Gå på tur’ – ‘take a hike’ – is a collective obsession everywhere: not everybody actually does it, but everybody likes to give the impression they do it, and everybody at the very least talks about it, especially on Sundays after a heavy tinnitus-inducing night out and an even longer breakfast: ‘We should have gone for a hike!’   

This sudden wilderness is, of course, also perfect for biking, canoeing, swimming or downhill skiing, ice skating according to the season, and there are cabins ready to serve you homemade cakes and hot chocolate. Wherever you put your tent is your home, but don’t forget your fishing rod.  

In the capital, Oslo, the city’s ‘Weltanschauung’ is concentrated on the surrounding forests known as Oslomarka, or just ‘Marka’, which in old Norse means to mark, as in mark a border. That’s a pretty neat description, at least when trying to get under the skin of Norwegian people – trying to comprehend ‘Norway’ – as it all starts here, in the outskirts of the city, on the border with nature.  

The Norwegian fixation on ‘Gå på tur’ or ‘take a hike’ is fortified with the omnipresence of hiking and skiing gear in every city. Nobody spends as much money on sports equipment as Norwegians. Bus and metro carriages are filled with people in heavy boots and Gore-tex outerwear with skis and poles, snowboards or toboggans, ice hockey sticks or mountain bikes (with huge puffed up wheels!) and lycra, as far the eye can see. Everybody always seems to be either just coming back from some thrilling adventure or embarking, Amundsen-like, upon one. 

Oslo has to be the only capital city where ski wear is appropriate dress code for a Michelin-starred restaurant. And don’t be alarmed if a man in full-body superhero spandex is picking up kids in the kindergarten – it’s just a sporty father coming back from his daily exercise in ‘Marka’. All this is utterly normal. 

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10. Norwegian weather


10. norwegian weather

 

10. Norwegian weather


10. norwegian weather

 

Photo: The winter weather in Vardø is normal for the locals, but exotic for visitors (Øyvind Antonsen, Norwegian Scenic Routes)

To Put It Bluntly: Norway’s Weather Can Be Unpredictable

 

If there’s one single piece of information whose accuracy this guide can guarantee, it’s that the weather will change. Despite sharing the same latitude as Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, Norway nevertheless has a pleasant climate compared to those places thanks to the Gulf Stream and warm air currents. That said, Norway has the most variable weather in the world, and some of its biggest temperature differences: the country can offer everything from full-blown storms to temperate chillout zones, with temperatures varying from freezing Arctic conditions to a balmy Mediterranean calm within days (or, if you’re lucky, minutes.) On one occasion, a 44.4 degree difference between Norway’s hottest and coldest place was measured on the same day.

So yes, the Norwegian climate can be complex, but let’s focus on fundamental positives. You may not swelter in Norway in august, but summers are instead usually pleasant, with plentiful of light. The North, meanwhile, enjoys the finest Northern celestial phenomena: you can enjoy the midnight sun in summer, while Northern Lights will keep you fertile through winter.

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11. Out of season and off the Beaten Track


11. Out of season and off the beaten track

 

11. Out of season and off the Beaten Track


11. Out of season and off the beaten track

 

Photo: Imagine waking up to singing birds in a tree hut in the forest as Winter turns to Spring.

Insider tips

 

Norway is always amazing, but try to travel outside high seasons. Spring is fantastic - its weather can often be better than in midsummer - and Autumn, in all its colours, is simply breath-taking. Then there’s winter, with dazzling snow and, if you’re lucky… The Northern Lights.

Stay clear of the beaten track – thanks to Instagram, increasing numbers of travelers visit Norway’s most spectacular, but already overcrowded, attractions, such as Trolltunga and Prekestolen. Most Norwegians who love the outdoors life (and that’s nearly all of them) have not been to these places. It’s not that they can’t, aren’t allowed, don’t have time or money, or are too lazy: It’s that, first of all - as we’ve already stated - the journey is the destination, and it’s what you see on the way that matters. Second, Norwegians don’t like to walk in a line. (Who does, frankly?) And third, there are so many amazing areas to hike that there’s really no need to choose the same trail as everybody else. Let us know what you are after, and we will help you find your way.