Norway in a Nutshell

13 April 2013 · 11 comments

After a week in Paris and a week driving around Great Britain, Kim and I moved on to the third leg of our European adventure. We flew to Oslo for a four-day crash course in Norwegian culture.

The real reason we were flying to Norway (and the entire impetus for this trip, actually) was to join Chris Guillebeau in celebrating the completion of his quest to visit every country in the world by the time he turned 35. His 35th birthday was April 7th, and a couple hundred friends and colleagues gathered to congratulate him for finishing his ambitious global adventure.

Before the big party, though, a smaller group took a two-day train tour (called “Norway in a Nutshell”) from Oslo to Bergen — and back again.

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On the train from Oslo…

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A Norwegian village…

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Kim and Michelle, riding the rails…

The train from Oslo climbed the mountains to the western side of Norway. We saw lots of frozen lakes, snow-covered mountain cabins, and frosty fields. Eventually, we transferred to a second, smaller train for the descent to sea level. There, we boarded a ferry to take us through a majestic fjord to nearby Bergen, where we spent the night.

kim_jd_train
We didn’t intend to wear matching black turtlenecks, but it happened…

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Sleepy Norwegian village at the top of a fjord…

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Avalanche!

While in Bergen, Kim and I met with Henrik Larsen, a long-time reader of Get Rich Slowly. Henrik runs a very successful Norwegian financial blog and is a charming fellow. He spent several hours showing us his home town, leading us through the streets and up the funicular for a panoramic view of the city.

bergen

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Kim knows how to deal with trolls…

JDRothinBergen
J.D. and Henrik at Fløien, Bergen.

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Henrik points out parts of Bergen to Kim as they ride the funicular.

Oslo to Bergen (and back) Group Tour
The “Norway in a Nutshell” group…

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Kim and Benny Lewis sing songs on the train ride back to Oslo…

Back in Oslo, we had time for a single morning of sight-seeing. We took in the Viking ship museum and the Kon-Tiki museum, but didn’t have time for anything else. In the evening, we joined a bunch of other folks for Chris Guillebeau’s “End of the World” party.

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End of the World Party in Oslo, Norway

End of the World Party in Oslo, Norway
Chris Guillebeau talking to the party-goers…

End of the World Party in Oslo, Norway
Kim and J.D. hitting the dance floor…

I don’t have a lot to say about Norway. Our time there was brief, and we didn’t get to do much. We enjoyed the time we spent with Henrik, but to be honest, the rest our interactions with people weren’t that great. That’s unusual. We had many great experiences on our trip, but Norway was the exception. Maybe we need to see it in the spring or summer, when the landscape and the people have had a chance to thaw.

1 Pauline April 14, 2013 at 06:54

Sorry it was not the experience you hoped for. I rode a motorcycle from the North Cape down to Oslo last summer and had my hopes high as well but was disappointed in the people. I found them a bit arrogant, closed, only interested in making as much from tourist money as possible until winter comes back and their income is gone. The country was incredibly expensive and most hospitality businesses did not even offer good value for money. We asked for the price of a night in a small cabin like the ones in KOA. $200 a night, “but we wash the sheets. Other places leave the same the whole summer”! The usual rate was $120 in other places, which was really high too, and sure, the mattresses didn’t even have sheets.

2 Henrik April 14, 2013 at 08:02

Yes, norwegians can be a bit closed I am afraid, but we are not arrogant even do it may appear that way. Its just not in our nature to interact with strangers. I dont know why it is like this and I certaintly dont like it, but that is just how it is and has always been. Its not just around tourists, its like this between norwegians as well. Sometimes we just need a little time to come around and you will see that we are as friendly as any other :) This has been up to a big discussion in the norwegian media lately (after a young girl that moved from the US took it up) were people are tired of it beeing like this, but its hard to change. If you go around a talk to strangers here, they will give you a weird look like you are crazy or something and finally you just give up and even avoid eye-contact like everybody else…

J.D.:
The link you put up is from my new blog, the financial blog is aksjebloggen.com, not that any other than the norwegians would have noticed that ;)

Thank you for an awesome day with you guys, I am glad you at least enjoyed Bergen and my little tour :) If you have the opportunity I am sure you will enjoy Norway much more in the summer and with a little more time on your hand :)

3 stellamarina April 14, 2013 at 16:43

Was thrilled to see you did the “Norway in a Nutshell” trip. Even though it is a bit touristy, the scenery is just fantastic and I recommend it to everybody. I did it several years ago with my daughter. We stayed a night in a little cabin in an apple orchard in the little town of Flom (sp?) at the bottom of the steep train ride down the mountain. Scandinavia is not cheap but we paid hostel prices for the cabin.

4 William @ Bite the Bullet April 15, 2013 at 07:00

There is always something to enjoy, everywhere you go. It’s interesting that in many places, the prettier the scenery, the harder it is to connect with the people. They say Switzerland also has that. It’s almost as if they’ve gotten gun-shy of tourists or something…

5 Doug Edwards April 16, 2013 at 08:33

Thanks J.D. and Kim for all the great pictures and commentary. Norway is beautiful, in spite of the high prices. Looking forward to visiting you both and hearing more about your trip. Will be at Doug and Jenn’s on the 18th of April for the baby shower.
Love,
Dad

6 Crystal April 16, 2013 at 13:28

It looks amazing – sorry the general atmosphere wasn’t as welcoming. Congrats to Chris!

7 Maverick April 17, 2013 at 00:26

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Norway numerous times for my employer. Usually in Oslo and Kongsberg (old mining town). Met wonderful people and enjoyed long evening meals outside in the summer. A reindeer steak is excellent! Had the opportunity to take long drives in the upper elevations on weekends. I’ve been to the museums you mentioned as well as the military museum in Oslo, the Oslo symphony, Kongsberg mining and skiing museums, and hydro generating station to name a few more. They “queue-up” at the post office and liquor stores. It is, without a doubt, expensive for a tourist. It’s interesting to see, and hear, the many liquor bottles that residents bring back with them on flights from europe due to their high level of taxation. I guess that since I knew local residents, I’m past the “getting to know you stage.” They are, as a society, very independent and fiscally responsible. They wouldn’t have the “wealth” they enjoy today if it wasn’t for finding oil in the north sea.

8 Somsiah April 17, 2013 at 02:54

Still, those photos from the “Norway in a Nutshell” trip are amazing. Would certainly put Norway in our future destination.

9 Stephen at SE April 17, 2013 at 08:28

I recently decided that I too want to travel to Norway. The pictures look pretty cool. I think what you said about the people was really interesting to me also. I have found that for me often the people make one of the biggest impacts on how I feel about trips long after I return.

10 Karen April 17, 2013 at 17:06

I’m glad you are both having a great time. Norway looks like a beautiful place.
That party looked fun too.

11 Gaute April 18, 2013 at 03:42

Hi.
Just a comment to Henriks reply. I think the Nowegians are not so open because of our 1500 year and longer history with small, closed communities especially on the western and northern part. They had a very rough life to keep themself alive.
After 500 years of Danish and Swedish rule they also learned not to trust everyone at first sight. But if you get a norwegian friend, he will stand up for you.
Come visit again in spring/summer
Best rgds Gaute (immigrant from Holland 300 years ago)

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