Published: July 12th 2007July 12th 2007
Sitting in the airport in Kirkenes, Norway. Practically the end of the earth ... or at least it looks like it. We're waaaaaay up on the planet. Roughly a thousand miles from the North Pole, which from here is only reachable if you get on an ice breaker. There's a good ice breaker joke in there somewhere, but I didn't sleep well last night and am too tired to work for it. And as fun as that may sound, I'm headed back to Oslo.
The airport is actually a tin-roofed shack where little turbo props buzz up. The guy who took our ticket is also the guy who loads the luggage. And the security guy was also restocking the snack bar.
I don't think unionized labor has really taken hold in Norway. But socialism definitely has, as it's estimated that Norwegians work less than 130 days a year, and everyone has a guaranteed pension.
They also have a guaranteed 25 percent tax rate, which only adds insult to injury when you're buying a $30 cheeseburger in Burger King.
All that business about Norway being expensive? They've downplayed it. It's impossible to explain how everything. EVERYTHING. costs
so flipping much. Even the weak dollar can't be entirely to blame, as buying anything in Norway makes spending Euros in Amsterdam look like you're tossing around pesos in Tijuana.
Actually, I lie when I say it's impossible to explain the cost of Norway. Rusty and I think we've come across the reason.
During our Norway days, we've pretty much been the only Americans around. There were a half dozen women from LA on the boat, but that was it: The gays and the housewives of Orange County.
But German tourists have never been in short supply. They were in the cafe at 10:30 a.m. having their morning beer. They were at the buffet in the evening sorting through the seafood buffet ... with their hands. (The Brits and the Americans seemed to realize that the tongs weren't only for the staff.) And they were in the lounge at night blatantly staring at my tattoos. (I never quite figured that out. But it happened every day. Either they're big fans of Georges Seurat, or they were trying to figure out how I qualify as a 40-year-old street tough.)
So. Lots of Germans visiting Norway on holiday.
Which is a damn sight better than how they visited Norway in WWII, when all of this country's ports made Germany hotter than a $10 hooker on a Saturday night.
Norway really got it coming and going in that one. Nearly every town bombed by the Germans on their way in and then burned to the ground by the Germans on their way out. (Which apparently didn't do much to slow down the Russians who were on their tail.)
It had to cost Norway a fair amount of Kroner to rebuild the country once everyone had trounced across it.
is the basis of our theory for why Norway is so expensive. They're getting back at Germany one tourist at a time. The rest of us ... like the Russians were, I suppose ... are caught in the crossfire. It's reparations via the tourist industry.
Speaking of Russians. On the way to the airport here, there are "military restriction" signs that very sternly outline what you're not allowed to do since you're so close to the Russian border. Although the sign lists a considerable number of possible infractions, it pretty much all boils down
this: Don't do anything near the Russian border. Don't even think of Russia. Don't say that a vodka would be really nice right now.
And no photos. Seriously. According to the sign, taking a photo across the border of Russia is the same as crossing the border or Russia. I'd have had Rusty, the official blogtographer of the Kenneth and Rusty travel blog, take a photo of the sign saying you couldn't take a photo ... but I can hardly afford a cheeseburger. Heaven only knows what bail must cost.
So we're back in Oslo this afternoon before heading home tomorrow. It'll be lovely to see the sun set tonight, even if it'll be around midnight. It'll be the first sunset we've seen since crossing the Arctic Circle four days ago.
And it's been a lovely trip, but it's time to come home. One of the joys of living in San Francisco is that it's a place you always look forward to seeing again.
There are more photos below