Norway’s a cool place, and one of the most focussed areas of natural beauty on the planet. And this is proper beauty – long haired and distant, with pale eyes and cold, desolate, wild beaches. Maybe I’m mixing my metaphors a little bit here, but the fact remains: Norway has so much to offer for any traveller worth their salt. Don’t expect Norway to come to you, though: you’re going to have to be persuasive and persistent to get the best out of this wonderful country; but once you do, you’ll be grateful you kept at it.
First and foremost of Norway’s attractions is, of course, the wild. It’s rugged, unapologetic and unspoilt – and plays an enormous part in Norway’s cultural identity. Norwegians have hundreds of stories that have grown and spread for as long as people have been living here. One of the most famous is the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff – a worldwide favourite. My personal favourite is Why The Sea Is Salt. You can find your own favourite here.
As far as visiting Norway’s wild goes, consider taking one of the world’s strangest safaris and going to see eagles, moose, ox, deer and giant crabs in their natural environment. It’s worth it when you get to see a herd of reindeer galloping on either side of your van – as I said, you have to be persistent, but you will be richly rewarded. If you’re less into the natural stuff, though, and would prefer to visit beautiful towns and cities, Norway still doesn’t disappoint.
Trondheim and Bergen are tall, cold and imposing: like the male lead in one of those awful mummy-porn books that are springing out of nowhere recently. Except, unlike the mummy-porn characters, they’re great fun. I’d go for a drink with both of them; but not at the same time – I wouldn’t want to have to choose between them if they got in a scrap. Don’t spend too long in Oslo: there’s sights there, but it’s prettier elsewhere.
Trondheim is Norway’s original capital, and is probably the very best for tourists: full of students and partly entirely pedestrianized, this place is lively and exciting, with great, local food and lovely classical sights to see. What sights, you ask? Well, Trondheim has, at the last count, two palaces, one cathedral, five museums and, notably, a fort. Enough to be getting on with, to be sure. One must-visit spot is the islet of Munkholmen, which is now a picnic sight but was once an execution ground, a prison, a military fort and a monastery. It’s a cool little place.
Make sure to visit a market, whilst you’re in Trondheim, too – nowhere does markets quite like the Norwegians – it’s like stepping backwards in time. Buy some fresh salmon whilst you’re there. It’ll be the highest quality you’ll ever taste outside a Michelin starred restaurant.
Bergen has a similar appeal to Trondheim – it’s simultaneously modern and very, very old at the same time. Make sure you check out the aquarium in particular – it’s excellently designed and a great way to pass a couple of hours.
Norway has a lot to offer to a traveller who wants to get stuck in, but one of its very best aspects are its people. Norwegians are lovely, welcoming, relaxed people, almost exclusively; and will be flattered to asked them for directions. Don’t let them offer you food, though – the pickled (and sometimes fermented) fish is not to everybody’s taste.