I always find it very difficult to get a real impression of a country when you just visit it for a limited amount of time. Cause how do you usually proceed? You visit the capital (whose city center looks like any other major city’s, H&M here, McDonald’s there), do a little bit of sightseeing and then go out partying at night with your friends, only to be hung over and miss most of the next day. Afterwards you come home and tell everybody how great it was.
Therefore I was not only excited, but also a little skeptical when I recently joined a trip to Norway, organized by my university. It was only for four nights, so “How could this possibly be enough time to experience an entire country as vast as Norway?” I thought. Well, the answer is: it isn’t. In my opinion it is impossible to fully experience any country in as little as 100 hours. But I still feel like I got as much out of this short period of time as possible, and had the chance to truly get an impression of Norway in all its facets.
We spent one day in Oslo and one day in Bergen, which are, even though they are still relatively small, the two largest cities in Norway.
Oslo definitely is a nice place to be, it has a beautiful view from the harbor and it is ever-present how rich this city is. This however also means that it is incredibly expensive! In fact, a leaflet in the hostel proudly announced that Oslo has been elected “most expensive city in the world” several times already. Therefore going out was limited to drinking one beer in the evening and figure out whether it tastes even better if you pay 11 euros for it (it doesn’t).
Bergen on the other hand is a city that has real charm. Beautiful old houses string together, right next to the fish market, where tourists can try whale meat (it tastes nothing like fish, more like beef). After going up a nearby mountain in a cable car, you can have an amazing view over the city and the adjoining fjord.
If you love nature, Norway is the place to be. I never considered myself an outdoorsman, I hate hiking, I don’t ski and I always thought that cycling ‘just for fun’ is just plain stupid. But quite frankly, I had never seen anything like the Norwegian landscape. The many hours we had to spend on the bus never felt boring, just following that narrow road through the hills, forests to our left, rivers to our right, waterfalls coming from the mountain tops.
A traditional rail we took led us from one small village to another, going through tunnels that were cut into the mountains by excruciating manual labor more than a hundred years ago.
And when we had to take a ferry to go to Bergen, the four-hour boat ride was a highlight itself. Seeing those fjords with their little houses on small islands and at the banks, all flooded with morning sun, you felt like the people living there must live the happiest and most peaceful lives ever.
The outdoor adventures
It is one thing to look at nature, but it’s another thing to experience it yourself!
Sleeping on a campsite in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by mountains, can give you the feeling of being completely in tune with your surroundings.
Kayaking on a glacier lake can be very exciting, while at the same time being incredibly calming. All you see is the crystal clear water, all you hear is the stroking of the paddles.
Hiking on a glacier is something you don’t get the chance of doing every day. The first thing I thought when stepping on this massive accumulation of ice was “imagine how many cocktail glasses you could fill with that!”
The way our guides talked about the glacier it almost seemed like they were talking about a living creature, something they had known for quite a while now and learned to understand, but that still has its own will and can be unpredictable at times. There were crevasses and little rivers everywhere, walls of ice so clear that you could see through it and an amazing view once you reached the top!
I truly believe that every country has its beautiful landscapes, its interesting traditions and friendly people, its stunning cities. But with some countries it takes a little longer until you enjoy them, and with some you just fall in love instantly. For me, Norway is definitely the latter.