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Impressions of Norway

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The easiest job in the world is being the weather man on Norwegian radio and TV channels. Not because it always rains, it actually doesn't, but because the weather man is always right. Depending on which side of a tunnel or behind which bend in the fjord you are, it's either raining cats and dogs or it's all bright sunshine. And ten minutes later, things may have changed to the opposite. So, whatever our weather man forecasts, he is always right, somewhere. It's true, though, it rains a lot in Norway, why else would there be automatic vending machines in the city streets for umbrellas?


Another easy job in Norway is to be found in traffic police. For starters, this is a country where everybody seems to stick very much to the rules, in general. Besides, citizens correct citizens all the time, if by chance someone colours outside the lines. You won't park your car half a meter too close to a corner without a passer-by telling you all about it. As to speeding, this is a country where you should never be in a hurry on the road. Traffic police does not really have to do much to keep you within the speed limits, because most of times, the roads are so narrow, curvy and unpredictably meandering that the customary 80 kmph limit is often about the maximum speed you want to press out of your vehicle yourself anyway, unless of course you have stuntman or stuntwoman ambitions.


Norway is also the country where for each 100 kilometres of road you have covered, you have probably taken two ferries across a fjord or a sound. Which is another reason why you should never be in a hurry in Norway. The country is some 2,300 kilometre long, a narrow strip of land in a South to North orientation, while hundreds of fjords, sounds and inlets penetrate from the Atlantic West into the mountainous East. Obviously, dozens, maybe hundreds of ferry services are the indispensable connecting dots between the bits of road that essentially go North-South.


So, with our mind set on sticking to the rules and not being in a hurry, we are now ready for travel through this unbelievably beautiful country. A fjord is a fjord and a mountain is a mountain? Not quite. Nature in this country understands the art of surprising you even when you are already anticipating on 'something' extraordinary coming up. The awe invariably takes over your mind when the vistas unfold in front of you, each time again, whether from the high ridges above the Geirangerfjord or from the deck of a ferry boat near Balestrand, surrounded by snow-capped mountain tops, or on top of Tromsø's Storsteinen plateau, bathing in the surreal, vale sunlight at 2 am in the Midsummer season. This is a country where nature is definitely the protagonist, in a multitude of roles.


It isn't that culture and history are less precious, though. Wooden Stave Churches of the 12th century, blending ancient Viking art into Christianity, which reached these Boreal regions only in the 700s AD. Spectacular remnants of 10th century Viking civilisation on the Bygdøy museum peninsula in Oslo, insights into the Northerly Sami culture in Tromsø, 350 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, and nearly at equal distance between Oslo and the North Pole. The entire city of Ålesund, which is a more than fascinating open-air museum of Art Nouveau, evoking 'La Belle Epoque' and the early 1900s.


And, let's not forget the contemporary vibe of the country's second city, Bergen, respectful of its long and grand history as a Hanseatic town, but simultaneously enough detached from it to be open for progressive innovation in a country which rather abruptly turned from a remote and purely rural society to a nation of spectacular progress, it must be granted, largely based on oil and gas exploitation off-shore in the North Sea. There are other countries too which enjoyed this windfall of black gold, they did not all make use of the opportunity like Norway did.

Before visiting the place of your choice:

From Oslo's central street lined by the Storting, Norway's Parliament, and other monumental buildings, one can discern the Neoclassical Royal Palace, afar on a small hill. The Palace was built in the first half of the 19th century by King Charles III John, whose equestrian statue adorns the central plaza in front of the palace. In 1814, in the wake of Napoleon's defeat, the British and their anti-Napoleon ally Sweden forced Denmark in the Treaty of Kiel to cede Norway to Sweden. The Norwegians understandably did not quite appreciate to be thrown around and disposed of like small change. So, they revolted against their Swedish neighbours until the Crown Prince of Sweden came up with the idea of a Personal Union, two countries, one King: he, of course, who else... And so Charles III John, French born as Jean Bernadotte, founded the Bernadotte dynasty which still occupies the throne. But only the throne in Sweden, because in 1905 Norway declared independence from Sweden. If you want to drive a Swede up the walls, what do you do? Right, you pick a Dane to replace him. A Danish Prince, Carl, was indeed brought to the Norwegian throne with the blessing of the new Norwegian Parliament, the Storting. Carl took on a Norse name and thus became King Haakon VII, since 1387 the first monarch of an independent Norway. Haakon VII was consequently also the first sovereign to effectively and permanently occupy the Palace in Oslo.

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