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Published: September 3rd 2009
Motorhome News from Europe 22
Norway June 2005
From Norfolk to the outskirts of Oslo in a week.
Yesterday, the last day of May, we ‘cast a final clout’, looked forward to a June, ‘bursting out all over’ and planned our departure from Norfolk for phase three of our motorhome tour of places that previous European holidays have failed to reach. Our unplanned return home in April offered us the chance to review our immediate options for our travels and, with just seven months before our departure for North America, our hearts and compass were finally set on Scandinavia.
Fine English drizzle accompanied us for a leisurely 200 mile drive to get a quick glance at the puffins at Bempton Cliffs in East Yorkshire before leaving for far away places. A few puffins sheltered from the driving rain amongst the red campion at the top of the chalk cliffs, guillemots were busy nesting, along with a good number of razorbills and thousands of gannets and kittiwakes; all battered by the wind and clinging desperately to the sheer face. We were never this cold or wet even on our winter tour of Italy. I don’t know about you,
but it’s time to see if the weather’s any better somewhere over the water, and we’re off again at last! There’s a ferry from Newcastle to Kristiansand in Norway at 3pm tomorrow and we’ll be on it.
DFDS Ferries make regular crossings to Kristiansand on the southern tip of Norway, en route to Gothenburg in Sweden. We decided to jump ship in Kristiansand and drive round to Gothenburg over the next week or two. Our fare, including a ‘basic cabin for two’ and Smiley our trusty motorhome was just £108, one hell of a deal for a 17 hour cruise. OK, ‘basic cabin’ is a loose term for a box with a couple of bunks, but who’s complaining? A battleship had arrived overnight off Whitby where we camped last night, presumably to protect us from pirates, and an aircraft-carrier complete with a flock of Harrier jump-jets was moored at Newcastle just behind our ferry, The Princess of Scandinavia. Perhaps it’s all part of ‘Sea Britain 2005’ to celebrate Nelson’s greatest hour (We did Nelson a few months back, in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Trafalgar as you might remember, but sadly we won’t be home for the celebrations later this summer).
white timbered houses in the old quarter are more reminiscent of Canada or New England.
The fine drizzle travelled ahead of us across the North Sea and greeted us on our arrival in Kristiansand, grey and overcast. This is Norway’s fifth larges town; population 57,000, though you wouldn’t know it. There were a few cars around the broad tree-lined streets, all driving leisurely, and politely stopping to let us cross the road. What a change from Italy! The pace of life here appears even slower than than at home in Norfolk and the still harbour waters and white timbered houses in the old quarter are more reminiscent of Canada or New England. There are similarities with San Francisco too, though the tolls are on every road as you enter, rather than just when you leave. We felt very welcome in Kristiansand. It’s pretty despite the rain and extremely friendly. The town, 1km square, is built on a grid, bounded by sea on two sides, the river on another and the parks to the north. Strange, but true (well, almost), every other shop is a hairdressers!
The weather improved as the day progressed and we ventured to the beautiful Baneheia park on the edge of town to take a stroll through the birch woods
amongst the pink granite rock and dark mirror pools where a pair of golden-eye dived for us. Spring was late here in Norway this year; the cherry trees still in flower, their bright pink blossom somewhat forlorn in the morning’s puddles. We learned in the hiking shop that there is still a lot of snow on the hills. That’s good news for the skiers but not so bright for us walkers.
Our first taste of Norway suggests that it will be somewhat expensive, but we’ll reserve judgement for a few days. The two Public loos we’ve tried so far have been 1Dkr, (9p), and 5Dkr (45p). Whatever happened to ‘spending a penny’? I think I’ll wait! There is also VAT on food here, which adds considerably to the cost of living, and meat is around twice the price it is at home. Perhaps it’s time I invested in some new fishing kit. There are salmon in the rivers hereabouts I’m told, and trout in the lakes. It’s possible to buy whale steaks here in Norway, but I’ve not seen any harpoons for sale yet, so I might just leave that to the experts - and I don’t approve anyway. We
Norway's biggest, near Nottodden in 'Blue Grass' Country.
made a start today with the purchase of a self-contained gas cooker for use outside on warm evenings and particularly for cooking fish, which is not recommended inside campervans!
Rather than set off along the coast towards Oslo, we headed due north for 60 miles along route 9 as far as Evje to get a feel for the river valleys and the hundreds of beautiful lakes nestled amongst the pine forest. We camped in the early evening overlooking the lake just beyond Evje, surrounded by Scots pines, red above the soft grey lichen line (around 6ft) in the spring sunlight.
We learned a little about the Norwegian Saturday night yob culture here; racing their noisy cars in the street, horns blaring, wheelies in the road and much drunken shouting long into the night and not a copper to be seen. One local drunk started banging the side of the motorhome with a stick around midnight and we decided to move into town. ‘Go home English,’ he kept shouting! We had never experienced this type of behaviour anywhere else in our travels through Europe and had always believed Norway to be a safe place. I pulled on a pair of
A common sight in beautiful Norway
white wooden buildings and bobbing boats in the sea towns of Lillesand and Grimstad,
trousers, started the engine and pulled off at speed with headlights blaring, through what appeared to be thick mist. It was not until we arrived in town that we discovered I had been wearing Janice’s glasses, the first that came to hand in the dark! We would be more careful where we parked overnight from then on.
From Evje, we headed southeast into the sun and back to the coast, through endless spruce forest softened with swathes of birch draped in the fresh green of spring. The charming white wooden buildings and bobbing boats in the sea towns of Lillesand and Grimstad, and the intriguing rocky coves between the hundreds of tiny wooded islands typify the wonders of this lovely Skagerak coast. Grimstad was the home of Henrik Ibsen (Peer Gynt, Pillars of Society, etc.) and it is also renowned as the sunniest spot in Norway, with an average of 266 hours of sunshine in June. That’s nearly 10 hours each day, and it didn’t disappoint us (The huge soft-ice-creams were rather special too!).
The white wooden buildings with their picket fences and neatly turned out gardens, tiny coves and wooded islands characterise the whole of this
a land of dreams - where the 'Wow!' meter was invented.
coast, up through Arendal, Lyngor, Risor and on to Kragero. As we travelled northwards there were more ‘English red’ and ochre houses. English red, as it is known, is a redder version of terra cotta. Here too, away from the rocky outcrops, there is more agriculture, onions and leaks, fields of rye, potatoes, strawberries and neat rows of lettuces and cabbages. Houses here hug the shoreline, their stark outlines reflected in the still waters of the fiords. Along the coast, we spotted Eider, Wheatear, Linnet, Yellow hammer and Arctic tern. Before settling in for the night, we wandered through the woods beside the rocky beach amongst wild lupins, water-avens, marsh marigold, bloody cranesbill and, a new one for me; swathes of bright pink ‘sticky catchfly’.
It doesn’t seem to get dark here at night - at least, not when we’re awake. In a few weeks we’ll be in the land of the midnight sun, but I don’t think we shall notice the difference. It’s 11pm now, it’s still light and the sky is just getting pink to the west.
Tuesday brought more sunshine and we opted for the longer inland route to Oslo, northwest via the locks on the Telemark Canal to the great stave church, Norway’s biggest, near Nottodden in Norway’s ‘Blue Grass’ Country. Whilst heavily restored, many of these wooden churches date back to the 13th Century and they are really quite magical, like fairy-tale castles. This road is on the Oslo to Bergen road and it’s a honeypot for German and Dutch motorhomers. We’re the only Brits about for some reason.
There are some bigger farms in this area below the snow-capped mountains and the tree lined hills. Their white houses and huge red cattle and hay barns stand out against the gently rolling pasture and arable fields. The cows and sheep are in the meadows now, enjoying the lush buttercup and dandelion enriched grass.
Tomorrow, the 8th June, is Janice’s birthday and we should be in Oslo to celebrate. Our first week, travelling from Norfolk across the sea into the south of Norway has been rewarding to say the least. There are fresh horizons every day and each day we learn something new. Life is too short to miss such opportunities. Janice will be a year older tomorrow and we’ll make the most of the next year too!
Janice and David
The Grey Haired Nomads
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