Published: August 28th 2009August 18th 2009 Slartibartfast: "Perhaps I'm old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what's actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, 'Hang the sense of it,' and keep yourself busy. I'd much rather be happy than right any day." Arthur: "And are you?" Slartibartfast: "Ah, no. (laughs) Well, that's where it all falls down, of course."
From: Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
There are no straight roads in Norway.
They all go meandering around some fjord, twisting around a lake or powerfully zigzagging up a pass. The roads are almost never level. They keep bobbing up and down. At one moment you are at sea-level and a few minutes later you are at a snowy mountain. Enter a tunnel and some moments later you are down at a low river delta. Up and down. A manic-depressive topography.
It’s been a while since our vacation was so time-limited - less than 2 weeks is what we got. Norway was not our first destination alternative for our
very short break. We like being thorough and wanted a place we can “cover” in the limited time-frame. At first we thought about North-Greece but the expected crowds discouraged us. Then we thought about one of the “Stans” of Central-Asia but we could not find a rent-a-car in any of them and one of them has recently cooled off relations with the West due to extremism. We thought it better not to go this year. For a long time we were sure we would go to Georgia until 2 weeks before departure when the mother-in-law of one of Yaron’s colleagues (who is from
Georgia) told us we should not go now due to a awful combination of bad politics, dreadful neighbors and coup in the air.
So we decided on Norway with its geography-challenged roads. We always did
want to see some salmon jumping in a Fjord and from reading Douglas Adams's “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” we knew that Slartibartfast - the designer of planets, specializing in coasts - won an award for designing Norway's "lovely crinkly edges"
Norway landscape lived up to expectation. Every place we looked was postcard-perfect scenery. This
made my disappointment in the middle of day 6 of our vacation so devastating.
It had been raining on-and-off since we landed. It was almost constantly cloudy. We found no correlation between the weather forecast and the actual conditions. On day 3 we lingered a full day and night in Jotunheimen National Park for the weather to clear enough to take a short walk. It did not. So we drove north to Trondheim were the forecast was fairer and even if it isn’t we “can find something to do in the city”. It wasn’t fair and we didn’t even enter the city from the gloom . We continued along the beautiful Atlantic coast road all rainy and damp. It was now day 6 and the forecast was for sun. But at noon, with us about to start what was expected to be one of the most spectacular roads in Norway (Trollstigen - the trolls ladder) we experienced the rainiest day yet.
I was utterly disappointed with Norway. Every place I looked was a picture perfect view. Nature was all around us waiting to be walked in and felt with all our senses and we were cooped up
in the car for the last week waiting for the sun to come out. We could barley open the window to take a sniff at some fresh air. This was Norwegian summer sun. And to think that in winter they don't even have a sun! No wonder Scandinavia has such a high suicide rate.
From my disappointment I thought of all the bad things in Norway. All the reasons I didn’t think I would like traveling in North Europe in the first place have come true. The ridiculously high prices, the lack of good local food, the excruciatingly slow roads. No real cultural experience. “Sterile cleanness" when I like my travels to be filthy, challenging and tasty. And NOT rainy!
But most of all I felt disappointed with being in the car most of the day. I kept thinking how I will survive a year cooped in my office when I didn’t get a chance to roam free on my vacation.
Hagit and Liya were sleeping and I had no inclination to go up a nice but crisscrossing road in this weather. So I continued driving along the fjord with the general direction of Ålesund
2hr away thinking we can visit the aquarium there in bad weather as well. I drove fast. I wanted out of this weather.
1hr 20min later we were in sunny Ålesund. We had a lovely afternoon and then drove the 2hr back to the Trollstigen area. We slept in a beautiful cabin above Eidsdal and woke up to perfectly clear skies. They were clear for ½ a day. This was enough for us to do a nice day walk and recharge our batteries. In the early afternoon the sky was cloudy again and we arrived at an excellent cabin overlooking a Fjord in Loen. We entered the room and just spent the time looking out the window. When it stopped raining we went out to stroll on the waterfront and play in the playground with Liya.
That’s when I “got” Norway. There is no need to drive from place to place. All places are stunning. All you have to do is stay in one place and wait for some fair weather to reach you.
The rest of time in Norway was still mostly cloudy. The sun peek-a-booed a few times. We drove much less every day,
finding a place to stay early and just ambushing the good weather spells. We got to hike a few times near Jostedalsbreen national park.
We ended the week having a good time. But remembering the feeling of disappointment I had on that day along with my preconceptions about travel in northern Europe resulted in our decision that apart from my mandatory business trips here and the fact that we might want to experience living here once it will be a long time before we return to vacationing in these parts of the world.
Next year we will go to someplace warm.
Maybe some beach.
Someplace 3rd world …
maybe some place with hurricanes
Norway - Bottom 5 #5 Roads
- the roads are painfully slow. you might cover 250km in a FULL day of driving. The road are narrow with many places not wide enough for 2 cars to pass. There are NO highways. The highest speed limit on most roads is 80km/h and even that is unreachable most places. All “highways” pass trough little villages that reduce the speed
limit to 60 or 50km/h. and sometimes the road jut ends and you have to wait for an expensive ferry to take you on the rest of your way. #4 Food
- Norway is not the place to go to have a culinary experience. Apart from the ridiculesly high prices (25USD for a small
hamburger and fries) the food is not that special or even tasty. #3 Iedfjord
- the LP guide book mentions this at the top of its “top-10” Fjords. Don’t get me started on why it’s NOT. Just trust us when we tell you to skip this boring, unattractive, un-scenic, crowded little spec of a place. #2 Accommodations
- since Norway is so expensive we mostly stayed in huts at campsites or simple room hotels. We still paid 100-180USD for a night. Usually in these placed breakfast is not included . In all places bed-linen is not included in the price (need to pay extra), and cleaning of the room in not included in the price (clean yourself at the end of the stay or pay more) and. How rude! #1 Weather
- see story above
Norway - Top 5 #5 Roads
- what wonderful scenery! What excellent maintenance! How convenient it is to find a rest area or picnic table! What excellent views! No delays for traffic or road work. Most surprising was what was missing (and I took us a few days to notice this….). No posters to distract you from enjoying the view. There are no billboards in Norway to tarnish the scenery. Not even little signs advertising a place to sleep or eat in. Just 100% nature around a compact non-environmentally impacting topography blending road. #4 Food
- - in all the places we stayed in we had a little kitchen where Hagit managed to make tasty dinners with fresh food we bought in the supermarket. Nothing fancy. Some fish, some salad, some soup. Yummy! #3 fjords
- though not unique to Norway the Fjords are bind-boggling amazing. And Norway has so many its like a fjord zoo. The clear water, green hills, steep cliffs, snowy mountain tops. Truly Douglas Adams was right to award this creation. #2 Accommodations
- next week
we will describe the wonderful rooms with a view that truly made our trip worthwhile (just a teaser for next blog
) #1 Weather
- arriving back, we left BEN GORION airport at 4AM. We were immediately struck by 25deg Celsius air with 80% humidity. Why couldn’t we have stayed in the cool rain just a little longer?
There are more photos below