13:22 Thursday, February 02 2012


I spent a week travelling around Norway in February, 2012. This was just me going there solo. I'd never been to Norway before, but had been to its neighbor, Sweden, about 18 months earlier, so I had a decent idea of what to expect from a Scandanavian country. Just about everyone could understand and speak English fluently, however unlike the Swedes, they really didn't like to speak English. Just about everywhere I went, there was relatively limited signage in English (and I'm talking tourist sites & hotels). Also, even in airports or on airplanes, they rarely bothered to make announcements in English. I can't say that I blame them, Norwegian is their native language, but it was a bit of shock after Sweden where they were quite happy to do everything in English, with a smile.
Yes, I went in the middle of winter to Scandavia. With all the travelling that I've done in the past few years, I've reached the conclusion that the absolute best time to visit someplace is when no one else wants to go there. Unless your idea of fun is jostling around with tons of obnoxious tourists, go when the other tourists don't want to be there. Yes, its cold, damp, and cloudy in much of Norway in the winter. Who cares? Even if I went at peak tourist season (summer), I wouldn't be going for the weather. Its not like its ever truly warm there, and if I want lots of sun, I can stay home. So I went to Norway in winter, and had a really nice time. I enjoyed the food, the scenery, and the sights. These pictures tell the tale of what I did, ate & saw for that week. They're all clickable if you're interested in seeing larger versions.

The National Gallery of Norway. A huge art museum in central Oslo, that highlights the best Norwegian artists from the past thousand years. Oh, and yes, I saw Munch's 'The Scream', and it was awesome.

One of the many bizarre sculptures in Oslo's Frogner Park.

Reindeer cakes, smashed peas, and lingonberries. Quite tasty dinner after a long day treking around Oslo.

SALG. That's Norwegian for 'sale'. A short time lapse photo taken around dusk in Oslo.

Oslo Central (train) station, and my sleeper train bound for Trondheim. It was surprisingly comfortable, and I slept nearly the entire way.

The city of Tromsø, the largest (in terms of population) city north of the Arctic Circle on earth. Yes, it snowed a lot while I was there, but that was part of the beauty of the place. I was thoroughly impressed how modern & efficient this city was. There are many cities in the US that aren't this well run in the dead of winter. Also, while there, I had dinner in a restaurant that served whale steak. This was a phenomenal experience, it was like a very briny, tender beef steak, except it was almost a purple color. Pity that whale is banned globally, and only Norway & Japan flaunt the ban. tasty tasty whale.

A (stereo)typical Norwegian breakfast and lunch. mmmmmm..lox.

Views from the top of Fyellheisen, mountain just north of Tromsø. It was obscenely cold & windy up there. The thermometer at the top claimed it was -40C, and I don't doubt that. Oh but the views were amazing.

The view outside Tromsø airport about an hour before I was supposed to fly out and down to Bergen (which is in southern Norway). Those Norwegians laugh at winter. The snow was falling fast & hard, and by the time my plane pushed back, it was quite literally white out conditions. Not that that stopped them. I could feel the plane sliding all over the tarmac as it taxied towards the run way. They ran the de-icer truck on us one last time before take off, and then we slid & skidded down the run way, and up into the air. The flight was boring after takeoff.

A few shots from Bergen. Really pretty, historic city, but jebus the weather was miserable. You think Norway in winter means lots of cold snow, but all it did in Bergen was rain. Rain rain rain, and more rain, plus lots of wind (it destroyed my umbrella). The lesson to be learned, is don't go to coastal southern Norway in the winter, unless you enjoy being cold & wet. That last picture is the central train station.

Views taken from the train going from Bergen (back to) Oslo along the Bergen Line. Some of the shots are a bit fuzzy or poorly lit, as I was sitting in a moving train, with rain, fog & icky yellow sodium/flourescent lighting, but it was an amazing trip. The highest point on this rail line is the town of Finse, which is the area where George Lucas filmed all of the scenes in the Empire Strikes Back that took place on "Hoth". I've never seen so much snow in one place before. It was quite literally about 20ft deep on the rooves of many buildings. Oh and the front engine of the train had a huge snow plow bolted on.

The Viking Ship Museum. I loved this museum. It had real, excavated Viking ships and artifacts, presented in a gorgeous austere building. I got the impression that this place was super packed in the summer, but when I was there, it was me, and maybe ten others.

From the Norsk Folk Museumm. This was one of the few places that I went in Norway that really was a PITA in winter. Much of this museum was historic buildings and farm houses transplanted from other parts of Norway. Unfortunately, they made zero effort to shovel or salt the walkways, so it was full of horrible wet sheets of ice everywhere. I lost track of the number of people that I saw slipping & falling. Thankfully I managed not to hurt myself, but it was still not pleasant. The buildings themselves were quite nice, and the exhibits in the actual museum building were really well done.

Akershus Fortress, in Oslo. A huge walled compound, dating back to the 17th century, now used as Norway's military headquarters (basically their version of the Pentagon). Many huge, imposing stone buildings. Unfortunately, they did a poor job with maps and signage, which made it a bit frustrating trying to find my way around.

This is what Oslo's subway/trains look like. Note the wet floor, as people bring tons of snow gear on & off. I'm talking skiis, sleds, boots, shovels, it was almost comical the crazy stuff people were taking with them. Oh, and HELSFYR!
Hundreds additional pictures are posted HERE