I grew up hearing about Norway and what a terrible time they had being occupied by the Germans for 5 years. The Royal family and parliament escaped to live in London and the one man who stayed to cooperate with the Germans was hanged after the war for being a traitor. Coming from Scotland, I heard about the “Shetland bus” which was an armada of fishing boats who went between Scotland and Norway regularly, picking up people wanting to escape. Today, there are five million in Canada, America, and England, and four million in Norway. When the enemy was retreating, they burned every house in each village in the north, and killed the men.
Norway is 1,100 miles long, and in some places 60 miles wide, with only two percent of the country farm land. With its 1,700 glaciers, and magnificent scenery, only one other country is as beautiful and that is New Zealand.
Norway has 50,000 islands which protect the mainland from the worst storms in the North Atlantic. Taking a cruise is like going through the Inland Passage in Alaska, very sheltered waters.
The best way to see the country is by boat and you see the rhythm of life with the local people. There are 450 different regional National costumes, and on May 17 everyone dresses up and they enjoy lots of festivals and parades.
I just spent two weeks in Norway, starting in Kirkenes on the Russian border, and took a Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal cruise down to Bergen. This is like a bus service, all the Norwegians use it to visit family and travel at a reduced rate. This is the lifeline for the local people, carrying supplies, food and mail to the whole country. More on the Hurtigruten cruise next week!
I’ve been on over 100 cruises, and this route is definitely the world’s most beautiful no matter what the season is. They have eleven ships sailing daily, visiting 34 ports. You can get off, spend a few days in a port, then get back on another boat. I wanted to see the Northern Lights, and experience the little out of the way villages which tourists normally don’t visit. If you can, take an excursion to learn about the Sami people, nomads, who drive their reindeer herds across Sweden, Finland, Russian and Northern Norway. Every building has been rebuilt of wood, painted in lovely bright colors, and surprisingly, the churches were not burned during WW2. 90% of the Norwegian people are Lutheran.
Norway has tightly controlled immigration so it is not a melting pot like so many European countries.
Best buys are knitwear, silver jewelry, Christmas ornaments, paintings and photographs of the fjords and Northern Lights.
One of the most scenic villages and towns is Bergen, the gateway to the fjord country - visit the fish market and enjoy great shopping.
In Fredrikstad, founded in 1567, the ancient buildings in the old town have been converted to studios for craftspeople and artisans.
Trondheim, my favorite, with its organ in the cathedral is magnificent, so attend a concert if you can. You can only go into the cathedral on an organized tour, guided by a red robed University student. Visit the Archbishop’s Place Museum to see the Royal Regalia, also Ringve, a must for music lovers.
Tromso, this is the most scenic town north of the Arctic Circle. This is the best place to observe the drama of the Midnight Sun – June and July. Visit the Arctic Church, shaped like an iceberg, Polar Museum, and the Northern Lights Planetarium.
Best active excursions are dogsledding, rafting, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing and skiing. Birdlife is amazing, so take your binoculars.
Even if you are not a museum buff, you must go to the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, and also to the Vasa Museum. Great story: a battleship built by the King in 1641 and on its maiden voyage was blown over in the harbor with too many guns on the top deck. It was raised in perfect condition in 1960 and they built a museum around it at the edge of the fjord. Also worth seeing, the Norwegian Folk Museum and the Edvard Munch Museum, which has 1,100 paintings by this famous artist. I would spend three days in Oslo, visiting the Noble Prize Hall and some of the museums.
Norway is not in the common market, so you must only use Krone. It has always been expensive, since all the food has to be shipped in. Most economical way to visit is on a cruise, or a motor coach tour such as Insight Vacations where all your meals are included in the price. If you have never been to Scandinavia before, perhaps take a Baltic Cruise and visit Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland on the one trip.
Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm are all absolutely wonderful destinations, at any time of year.
I was having a meal in a little restaurant in Kirkenes and a young man came up to me and said “thank you for visiting my country. You are most welcome.”
Visit Norway, a special place.
Maureen Jones, Scandinavian expert, is president of All Horizons Travel at 160 Main Street. Members of her staff are experts in business travel, cruises, and all types of leisure.