I have to admit, until my brother announced that he was getting married in Norway and that I really should be there, the country really wasn’t on my top ten list of places I wanted to visit. Not because I disliked it or had any preconceived notions against it but really because I just hadn’t ever considered it.
So after much planning, reading and consultation with a travel agent that knows a thing or two about Norway, my parents and I had an itinerary set and we were ready to head out to the land of the Vikings, trolls and fish.
Our travels will take us to Oslo, Bergen via Myrdal, Flam and the famous Flam Railway, and Trondheim before we head north above the Arctic Circle to a small hamlet an hour outside of Bodo, called Skjerstad. That’s where my brother lives and that’s where the wedding is.
The world always seems a much more confusing place when you stumble off an overnight flight from North America to Europe, dazed from 8 hours of wriggling in a tiny airline seat trying to keep your butt from going numb. It’s even more so when you can’t read any of the signs or understand any of the people. Luckily, Norwegians seem to take languages in stride and I have yet to meet anyone in my few short days here who doesn’t speak at least some English.
The real shock came after we got to our hotel in central Norway and decided we really needed to get a drink and a bite to eat in an effort to feel just a little bit alive again and keep the jet lag-induced stupor at bay. Three small bowls of soup, an order of fries and three coffees later we sat in stunned disbelief at the cafeteria table, gaping at the invoice.
Did it really say 350 NOK? Math and I don’t always get along very well so I did the conversion to Canadian dollars twice and then had my parents double check it. Unfortunately the numbers didn’t lie – around $70 CDN. And the 25% MVG at the bottom of the invoice? A quick text to my brother confirmed that this was the value-added-tax, the Norwegian version of our beloved Canadian GST. O. M. G.
Despite the high cost, Oslo is crawling with tourists, albeit mostly Europeans and mostly older, retired folks. Must be because students, young professionals and families with children can’t really afford to pay $8 for a cup of coffee? Souvenir shops offer troll figurines, Viking helmets with horns and Norwegian flag souvenirs in abundance and there are fish dishes of all kinds on many restaurant menus. At 11 pm the sun has yet to fully set – I’m excited to see it not go down at all once we cross the Arctic Circle!
In any case, from what I’ve seen so far, Norway is a friendly, clean and inviting place. Once we sleep off the jet lag a bit, we have exactly one day to do a blitz tour of Oslo and see the highlights before we head out on the not-to-be-missed Norway in a Nutshell tour.