NORWAY - Blue sky days

Trip Start Aug 15, 2012
Trip End Jan 10, 2013

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Flag of Norway  , Oslo,
Thursday, September 27, 2012

It was not our intention to go to Norway on this big holiday of ours but after talking to our mate Geir and checking the working visa options it seemed like there might be some viable work opportunities worth exploring there and so we wanted to understand what it was like there in the event something came up while we were there or in the future. Besides, we’d been to Bergen (Geir’s home town) back in 2005 and loved it so seeing more of the country was definitely appealing. With a population of almost five million Norway is small in population on the world stage but it sure makes it up in beauty.

We started in Oslo, Norway’s capital. Geir asked us if we had our wellies and winter warmers ready as Autumn is usually cold and wet. Well, I don’t know what happened but we were blessed with some remarkably sunny days during our eight days with one or two drizzly days in between. Oh and we hadn't packed for winter by even Australian standards... oh - oh...

Norway is expensive! One night in Bergen we’d had a late and large lunch so we popped out to a bar just for a drink. Leigh had a beer and I had a glass of wine, the cost… $30 (AUD). We stayed in apartments in Oslo and Stavanger and were able to cook at home which helped us to keep the costs down. We were really only having lunch out and we were spending around $60-80 (AUD).  I know you will all be proud of how many meals we ate at home. Our budget was blown on accommodation as well as food. We over spent by 25% in Oslo, 100% in Bergen and by 50% in Stavanger. Oh well, we loved Norway and still had fun.

Of course eating at home so often (one day we had a three meals at home) meant we also needed to buy some beer and wine. Beer you can buy any old grocery store but buying wine and other hard liquor requires you to visit one of the government controlled Vinmonopolet (wine monopoly).  Now before you start thinking Norway is a strange place, there other places around the world which operate the same kind of monopoly including Ontario - Canada

So what is a wine monopoly?

It is a wine/liquour store based on government policy following a period of prohibition "to limit the citizens' consumption of alcohol, primarily by means of high cost and limited access, the primary goal of the Vinmonopolet is to responsibly perform the distribution of alcoholic goods while limiting the motive of private economic profit from the alcohol industry. Equally significant is the social responsibility of Vinmonopolet, to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors and visibly inebriated customers". This policy is much relaxed from when it was first founded back in 1922 (Wikipedia, 2012).

Our highlight in Norway was the sights we experienced during the internal traveling we did. We had a four hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen through the towns, mountains and fjords and a four and a half hour ferry ride from Bergen to Stanvanger through the fjords. 

I didn't know exactly what a fjord is but Wikipedia via Google helped out "is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity." The word fjord is a Norwegian word. One of the fjords in Norway called Sognefjord is very deep... 1.3 kms below sea level! The second deepest in the world (following Skelton Inlet in Antarctica which is 1.93 km) Sognefjord is also the third longest in the world. I don't know how many fjords there are in Norway but from what I can see there is between 3,000 and 4,000.

The train trip we knew was going to be nice and it exceeded our expectations. We saw lakes, farm animals and cottages, forests and snow capped mountains and coloured with all the beautiful colours in the autumn spectrum we all know and love. It was spectacular.

One of the top touristy things to do in Norway (aside from skiing and hiking) is a tour called Norway in a Nutshell. There is a day trip and some multi day options and we were going to do it but subsequently decided to organize it ourselves being the overly qualified travel operators that we are. The day trip costs about $175 (AUD) each. While it would have been nice to see it all in slower motion between our train and boat ride we felt like we had it covered for now. Perhaps we’ll pop back there one day when we have jobs and can afford it =).

The day of our ferry ride to Stavanger was unfortunately the worst weather day we had in Norway but it did not detract from the awesome views of the fjords/small islands. The coastlines were so beautifully rugged and dangerous looking. It was a four hour journey and I must say I was quietly nervous about getting sea sick! I haven't in a while but with bad weather usually comes choppy waters... It was a little dicey for a while there and I wasn't able to go outside to cool down. I think the positive thinking helped and we arrived without incident.

Our apartment in Stavanger was literally five meters from the water. It was so incredible to be sitting in our dining room watching the swell of the water. It reminds you of the absolute strength of the water and was almost hypnotic to watch. We also really enjoyed the thoroughfare which was the water traffic.

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