In no particular order, here are my top thoughts on Norway:
1) MOTHER NATURE IS INCREDIBLE IN THIS COUNTRY
|The romantic and eerie black-blue of Lyseford|
2) I ALMOST FELL OVER WHEN THE 7-11 CASHIER RANG ME UP (YOU WANT HOW MUCH FOR THIS PACK OF GUM??)
According to a 2011 Businessweek poll, Oslo (the capital of Norway) is the 2nd most expensive city in the world (Stavanger was 4th). Having visited the country (and two cities) myself, I back that poll 100%. It was the first time in my life I had ever paid 5 USD for a can of coke. Street food, such as meat patties and hamburgers, started at 15 USD. Magnum ice cream bars were 4-6 USD (I don't even like magnum ice cream bars, but I never wanted one more). My four postcards and stamps were 25 USD. My advice to broke college students looking to do a backpacking trip around Europe? Save Norway for your post-college days.
3) SNAKKER DU ENGELSK? = DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?
The overwhelming answer was yes. Almost everyone in urban or tourist areas spoke and understood English, but it certainly would be respectful to the Norwegians to at least learn how to say "thank you" (takk), "hello/good day" (hei or goddag), and "please" (vaer sa snill). I have very few travel rules, but I always make it a point to learn how to say a few key phrases in the mother tongue of the country I'm visiting. Don't be that snobby foreigner who automatically assumes the whole world uses and understands English. At the very least learn how to ask, "Can you speak English?" in the native tongue.
4) IT'S JUNE AND IT'S STILL COLD...
As soon as I stepped off the airport shuttle, I was struck by how chilly it was. It probably felt much colder than it was because I was not prepared for it. I had just left London and naively thought (or hoped) that it would feel around the same. For the record, it was about 45-55 degrees fahrenheit (7-12 celsius).
5) ...BUT WHEN IT'S NICE, IT'S REALLY NICE
|Unreal. I want some cotton candy now.|
6) NOT A POTHOLE IN SIGHT
The second thing I noticed in Stavanger was how nicely paved the roads were. Norway is the top oil-producing country outside of the Middle East, so the fact that its roads are well-kept shouldn't be too surprising I guess. Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway, is where it all happens. There's even an oil museum there detailing the history and evolution of this industry.
|Almost at Sognefjord (the largest fjord in Norway)|
|Waterfalls flowing into Sognefjord|
9) I'M GONNA DIE, I'M GONNA DIE, I'M GONNA DIE
|This looks more dramatic than it was...we weren't really as off-balance as the picture makes it seem|
10) STREET ART, EDVARD MUNCH, AND SECRET ROOMS
|Moona Lisa by Nick Walker...I just love saying Moooooooona|
Edvard Munch's infamous painting, "The Scream" I couldn't miss, not because I was particularly fond of the piece or anything, but I wanted to see it to understand how someone could have stolen it. Also, the museum that houses it, Nasjonalgalleriet, is gorgeous and free. Lastly, secret rooms. I am a sucker for anything secret. Secret dishes, secret bars, secret clubs, secret anything...it always gives me a thrill and makes me feel like a kid again. In Oslo at the contemporary museum, Museet for Samtidskunst, there's a semi-secret room with a hot (temperature wise) installation piece. If you want to get technical about it, it's not really a secret, but definitely easily missed because the entrance just looks like a small door shaped whole in the wall.
11) BODIES EVERYWHERE AT VIGELAND PARK
|A glimpse of what you can expect at Vigeland|
12) COFFEE AND FISH SOUP WARMS THE SOUL
This thought occurred to me when I had my first cup of coffee during my first winter in Japan: you can't truly appreciate hot liquids until you've had it in a bone-chilling climate. It is kind of strange to me, but for some reason there are lots of cities and countries vying for the title of "Coffee Consumption Capital of the World". Norway is among them.
So there you have it...my very brief summary of Norway for you. I feel bad for not dedicating a post to each of the cities we visited in Norway, but this is a good start for now yeah? Now, onto Iceland, Barcelona, Paris, Valencia, Croatia, Montenegro, Austria, San Marino, Venice, Berlin, Perugia, London, and of course my (current) home sweet home, Naples.