Norway was part of a union with
until 1905 when it was granted independence, now it is one of
the few countries in western Europe that has not joined the
The standard of living is the highest
anywhere in the world, and as a result everything is a lot more expensive for the humble tourist.
Our first eye-wateringly expensive Norwegian meal was at a burger joint called Jafs! (Norwegian for
"big mouthfuls"). The only thing that appeared cheaper in Norway than in
was petrol. Now that's saying something.
My first visit to Norway was with my flatmate in October 2003, hopping on a cheap Ryanair flight to
Torp, which isn't really anywhere near Oslo. We stayed in the town of Asker, a suburb of the capital with
our friend Al. Oslo was not as cold as I had thought it would be for the time of year, in fact somewhat
disappointingly it was warmer than
We also spent a night in a cabin up in the mountains,
and had a very expensive night out at a nightclub in Oslo called "So What".
Karl Johans Gate is Oslo's main street, full of fancy shops and hotels. It is named for the former
king of Norway and
who stuck around until 1844. In the distance is the Royal Palace, which
wasn't finished quite in time for poor old Karl Johan. It was surprisingly quiet for a late Saturday
afternoon before the shops had shut, none of the frenzied bustling of
King Haakon VII was the first king of Norway after the break-up of the union with Sweden. He was very
tall and worryingly thin as can be seen in this anatomically accurate representation, but he lasted
as king for fifty-two years.
The Oslo Hall is the city's municipal headquarters, a massive edifice in brick that I didn't particularly
like at first, but has begun to grow on me. The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held here annually,
and Billy Joel sang about the building in "Scandinavian Skies", one of my favourites of his.
Norway is also particulary well known for its Viking past in tandem with
Denmark, as celebrated in the
Viking Ship Museum which is specially dedicated to three Viking longboats discovered in burial mounds
around the country. The ships date back to around the year 800, and were discovered around the
Detail of the Oseberg ship's bow. It is in remarkable condition for a wooden boat that had been buried
for well over one thousand years.
Gol Stave Church is certainly one of the more forbidding-looking religious buildings I have encountered,
it was built in the early 1200s and relocated to the Norwegian Folk Museum more than one hundred
years ago. Scary.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, as it is officially known, has exhibits of houses throughout
the ages of Norway, including this Old Town quaint section. Quite amazingly, they are all real buildings,
relocated here from around the country.
Norwegians like nothing better than to fling themselves off ramps at over one hundred miles per hour
each weekend. Holmenkollen ski jump is the prime place to do just that, but as you can see during
October the sport also requires a working knowledge of water-skiing. It is drained during winter and
people leap for joy as they have done here for more than a century.
We climbed to the top of Holmenkollen ski jump to take in the view of the surrounding pretty Oslo suburbs.
You can also climb the ski jump at
One thing that struck me about Norway was the complete abundance of trees, even in an urban
setting. I wasn't to see a place like this again until moving to
more than ten years later.
Our pal Al hosted us at his house in Asker for two nights, which had a prime location on Oslofjorden,
and views across the water of the cruise ships sailing up to the capital. There was a private pier
hut built on it so you could leap out of the steamy wooden room into the fjord for a refreshing dip.
On our drive from Oslo deep into the Norwegian highlands, we came across this pretty wooden church in
a town we passed through.
Traditional log cabins are highly sought after in Norway, these ones here are classic examples of the
old architecture, complete with a lawn on the roof for insulation. Cutting the grass is a bit awkward
I reason that Norway must look much like
did three hundred years ago, before all of Britain's ancient forests were chopped down for the industrial
revolution. The scenery here at Haglebu, a tiny
mountain village, is not as dramatic as the
and the fjords, but is nonetheless quite spectacular.
These mountains reach to around four thousand feet, and there is already some snow up there.
Our night at the hutte was a great Norwegian experience, with Al, his family and friends.
After collecting wood for the fire, we had a dinner of moose and potatoes, followed by the Norwegian
liquor Akvavit. Akvavit is matured in a ship which sails over the equator to
Australia and back, to mellow
the drink on the slowly rocking seas. The wood fire kept the whole cabin very warm, and we sat up late
into the night telling tales in a mixture of Norwegian and English.