Be it Australia, Japan, or Turkey, everyone has countries that call to them. One place I’ve always wanted to visit is Norway. Here are five reasons why.
1. It’s legal to camp anywhere.
Camping has some innate advantages when compared to hostels or hotels. Watching meteor showers from your tent at night, waking up to see the sun breaking over the mountains or rising over a lake, and the simplicity of finding a beautiful spot and putting up your tent are all compelling reasons for me to tent it up. The fact that the cities in Norway are among the most expensive only adds to the appeal of camping here. Norway is a skinny country, width-wise, and it would be quite a jaunt to walk from one end to the other.
2. Summer nights are really just long summer days.
When I lived in Edinburgh, it was very strange coming out of the bars at midnight and finding it was still light. Norway is even further north, and there is something surreal about nearly 24 hours of daylight. Practically, it helps the logistics of planning a trip and, particularly when you’re hiking, it’s advantageous to have so much daylight. There are many solstice festivals and music festivals that take advantage of the long hours as well. Not only do you get more from your vacation when there are only a couple hours of darkness, but you are far safer in troll country; as everyone knows, they pose no menace until it gets dark.
3. Pining for the Fjords.
The closest I’ve been is New Zealand’s Fiordland, which were incredible, but from the pictures I’ve seen the original fjords are even more jaw-droppingly stunning. (Travel writers should usually avoid hyperbolic phrases like “jaw-dropping”, but for fjords it might very well be a literal description). Lots of countries have waterfalls, forests, alpine fields, or desert canyons, but the Fjords are a rather more unusual natural attraction. They posses a wild, almost primal grandeur. In the summer, you can cool off by glaciers by the sea; which is pretty fantastic. The fjords seem special; world-class special. It’s not for nothing that Slartibartfast did his best work here, after all.
4. The people.
Most countries I have been to have been inundated with hardy German backpackers. I once mentioned to a German flatmate that I thought they must be the fittest people on earth. He laughed and said that I should check out Norway some time. Norwegians run up mountains for fun and swim in water so icy it would give a polar bear second thoughts. Though they have a reputation for aloofness, most Norwegians are multilingual, well-educated, and very friendly. I like the rhythm and cadence of their language as well; as a cousin of English (descended from Germanic) it’s interesting to hear some similarities. They have a love of nature that is obvious even in their cities, and are well-informed about world politics. And, you know, there’s the whole Viking thing.
5. History & Culture
History has miscast vikings as murderous marauders, but in fact they were sea-faring traders who found cities like Dublin and York, discovered America centuries before Columbus (and actually realized they weren’t in India), and had a major presence everywhere from Northern France to Constantinople. Archeologists have even found medieval Chinese coins in some Viking hoards. The Norse in Iceland established probably the most effective democracy the world has ever seen. These guys got around, and the chance to learn some of their history and see more about their culture is very intriguing.
Some of my favorite writers hail from Norway as well. Heinrich Ibsen is a mainstay in most liberal arts educations, and deservedly so. His plays have a relevance today that is remarkable considering he wrote 130 years ago. Knut Hamsun is an underrated master as well; his book “Hunger’ is the most memorable account of a struggling artist I have ever read. Edvard Grieg of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” fame was Norwegian, and the other Edvard (Munch) did much more than just “The Scream.” Roald Dahl, though born in Wales, had Norwegian parents. For such a small country, Norway has had a disproportionate artistic affect on the world.