Friday, July 26, 2013

So You Think You've Been to Norway?

A view of Skjomen. The fjord south of Narvik has an unusually mild climate for its latitude. The characteristic
Mount Lappviktind to the right. All photos under a Creative Commons license by Gunnar Garfors.

- I love Norway, it is so beautiful here!

View from Mount Reintind.
I often overhear such comments in Oslo, Norway's capital where I live. Visiting friends, colleagues and business contacts from abroad often say the same. It usually turns out that they have never been outside Oslo. They do in other words have no clue what they are talking about. I usually enlighten them and let them in on the secret. Do not get me wrong, Oslo is a great city which I love dearly. Despite it being more expensive than any other. But it isn't especially beautiful. Compared to the rest of the country, that is. I'd say that you haven't really been to Norway until you have been to the West Coast and Northern Norway. That's where you find the real scenic pearls, rubies and diamonds. Islands and fjords, glaciers and mountains, rivers and waterfalls, streams, lakes and forests. And mindblowing views. In air that defines fresh.

And you can enjoy it all! Free of charge. In the most expensive country in the world. In Norway, there is a right called "allemannsretten." It literally means the right of every man and it means that anyone can enter another persons land in order to enjoy Norwegian nature.

The highest point you can see here
is the main peak of Mount Reintind
in Skjomen, Narvik.
You are however required to respect nature, farmers, land owners, other users and the environment in general. "Allemannsretten" distinguishes between domesticated land (farmed land and land that has been built on) and land which is "untouched". Anyone can use the latter as long as you respect the land and other people. That means that you can put up a tent free of charge for up to two days in one place and that you can pick berries, mushrooms and nuts. Or fish in the sea. For pollock, cod, halibut, salmon or trout. Similar rights also apply in the other Scandinavian countries.


Throw in the midnight sun, the northern light and a very rural country with small villages, towns, cities or just isolated farms in the most unexpected location, and you have a limitless source of exploration ahead of you.
Frostisen, the third biggest glacier
on the Norwegian mainland.
By Skjomen, Narvik. 
Of course Oslo and the other cities are still were you should go for nightlife, restaurants, galleries and most cultural experiences, but for the scenery that makes up one of the most beautiful countries in the world, you have to look elsewhere.

I am certainly biased, but here it goes. I have two favourite places in Norway. Skjomen is a fjord south of Narvik. My dad was born in a farm next to the fjord, and I have built a log cabin there. The end of the fjord is surrounded by such steep mountains that German war ships used it as a hiding place during WWII. British bombers simply couldn't go low enough to hit the ships. The fjord and the surrounding area has an unusually mild climate for its latitude. You can find the second northermost 18 hole golf course in the world here and rock carvings prove that houseless people lived in Skjomen as early as in the stone age. 


A view from the top floor bar of
Rica Hotel Narvik. Mount
Den sovande dronning
(The Sleeping Queen, you
can see why the name)
in a distance. 
The second is Naustdal, where I grew up in Sunnfjord on the Norwegian West Coast. The name means "boat shed valley" and vikings were known to live there. It lies next to The Førde Fjord and boasts many mountains and Nausta, one of the best salmon rivers in the country. The area is very diverse with a coastal climate in the south west and an inland climate in the north east. Only 2,700 people live in Naustdal which is only 10 kilometers from regional center Førde with shopping centers, cafés, bars and the odd restaurant.    

So, whenever you visit Oslo next, please do consider taking a few days outside the biggest city in the country. It will so be worth it. 

Naustdal, my home village in Sunnfjord region on the Norwegian West Coast. Mount Heilefjellet in the background. 
En route Mount Reintind.
Of course, merely visiting a country's capital city rarely shows you "the real country" and I always prefer to visit different regions of a country to get more of a full picture. The difference between capital city and the rest of the country applies to most countries, except for tiny Monaco, Nauru (which doesn't even have a capital) and the Vatican.

But I'd still say more so in Norway than in most countries.

Have you got other amazing photos from Norway? Please share and I will add them underneath this article.


3 comments:

  1. I thought the capital "town" of Nauru is Yaren, am I wrong ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yaren is the de facto capital, but the tiny island nation doesn't have an official capital. The UN classifies it as "the main district".

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  3. I just came across your blog and have been enjoying reading it. Specifically regarding this article about Norway, I definitely agree with your thoughts about remote parts of Norway. I worked in Norway in the mid 1980s and took the opportunity to travel extensively by car, by public transport and on foot and on skis. I particularly loved Northern Norway. I have just revisited Norway (May-June this year) for the first time since 1998 and it was a wonderful "homecoming", helped by immense good luck with the weather (24C in Tromso!!!)
    Best regards from Dave.

    ReplyDelete