Did you know this about Norway?
Although you’ll know it best for its iconic fjords, there’s much more to discover about Norway. Sea parrots and the Norwegian equivalent of Hay-on-Wye are just the beginning…
Tourists get their own roads!
Norway is a land of beautiful contrasts, with islands and fjords that offer visitors some of the world’s most dramatic and peaceful of landscapes…and the Norwegians know it! They would like nothing more than for visitors to experience this splendour and to make the most of their travels in Norway. Eighteen sections of highway, totalling 1,850km have been designated National Tourist Routes and take you through a plethora of spectacular landscapes; these are probably some of most memorable drives in the world.
Enroute there are areas for you to take a break from the wheel and to perhaps go hiking, take photos or simply park up and admire the surrounds. There are also opportunities to take in cultural highlights, go fishing and join guided waterfall tours and much more, plus the routes conveniently pass a host of services and accommodation options. Furthermore, the designs of these routes follow a strict aesthetic code to ensure the routes are in harmony with the surrounds and accentuate the visitor’s appreciation of the pristine and unspoilt countryside. What more could you ask for!
And you can drive up the Troll’s Ladder
Yes, you read that correctly. Trollstigen (‘Trolls Ladder’) as it is known in Norway is a trans-mountain road route that spirals (literally!) up the mountains with eleven hairpins between Valldal and Andalsnes. Opened in 1936 by King Haakon VII, the road took 8 years to build and is an incredible example of engineering. The road begins in a serene valley and ascends up and away through to barren mountains from which the road climbs higher to an icy plateau-pass, Trollstigplataet, which is the highest point of the road. Once you’ve reached the top enjoy the magnificent views of valleys and mountains from the various observation decks. Admire the Stigfossen waterfall as it cascades down the mountainside and know that you have experienced one of Norway’s most dramatic sights.
Rudolph had a very shiny… collar?
Norway is home to around 200,000 reindeer, most of which are owned by the indigenous Sami people and are used for their meat and skin. Reindeer are integral to the traditional way of life in the Lapland region.
With this many reindeer in a country four times the size of the UK and an abundance of wide open space, you would think that the reindeer would be relatively undisturbed by human interference, think again!
Each year around 500 of these magnificent creatures meet their end on the roads and recently the Norwegian Public Roads Administration came up with a plan to reduce these road collisions.
How? Why, reflective reindeer collars of course!
Around 2,000 reindeer were fitted with reflective collars and antler tags to increase their visibility. Sami previously tried to protect their herds with reflective spray but it caused the animals coat to be less insulting during the winter months. So if this trial is successful, it is hoped that the Sami may consider purchasing the reflective collars to protect their reindeer.
If you see a flash of yellow on your Norway adventure you’ll know you’ve just seen a reindeer…or at least its reflective collar!
See Sea Parrots
The ‘Sea Parrots of Norway’ are better known as puffins! In Norway, they’re found on Runde Island. Not a large bird, at about 10 inches tall and weighing around 1¼ pounds, you’ll know a puffin by its puffy black and white chest and its brightly coloured beak.
Puffins are a threatened species in Norway, which may be partially due to their inability to fly and land well. But you can’t judge them for not giving it a good go! Their little wings can flap up to 400 beats per minute and then they literally crash land. In the water though, it’s a different story. Sea parrots are quite the hunters, and are able to load up their beaks with up to 10 small fish! Their webbed feet act like little rudders and the wings push them through the currents.
Puffins try to impress potential mates by sprucing themselves up. During the winter, puffins’ feet and beaks fade, then turn a bright orange in spring… which is basically a neon sign flashing for “I am looking for love!” The success of their efforts can be recognised with a “puffin kiss”, which is where they rub their beaks together.
Dress up for National Day
Norwegians have really embraced their National Day (17 May) and it’s becoming more and more popular to dress up in their national costume. So what is the national costume? It is based on regional folk costumes that were created nearly 100 years ago when a wave of romanticism swept across the country with a desire to preserve everything that was historic, including traditional dress.
With hundreds of different costumes, each belonging to a valley or town, the country becomes awash with an array of colours and styles – definitely a sight to behold. A difference from similar celebrations in other countries is the focus on children (rather than military parades, for example). They lead colourful processions, flags are held gaily, music fills the streets, and spirits run high throughout the country. It’s a great time to visit!
There are two written languages
…multiple ways to say the same word, plus many different dialects. Thank goodness Norwegians speak English too!
The two written languages are called “Bokmal” (Book Norwegian) and “Nynorsk” (New Norwegian). There are a few words that mean the same thing but are spoken the same…
- God Dag, Hei and Heisann all mean hello in one form or another.
- Remember also that Swedish and Norwegian are very similar but look out for the verb “pula”. In Swedish it means to play, but in Norwegian it also means to play in the more sensual sense!
And then there is the matter of manners…
Pass the gravlaks!
Not holding the door open for the person walking behind or simply not saying thank you for passing the milk at the breakfast table… in most countries, this is the criteria for someone with terrible manners. However, as you experience the wonders of Norway, you may be a bit shocked when you experience one of these actually happening to you. But it is Norwegians just being Norwegian.
Norwegians are often misunderstood as being rude or impolite. This, however, is just their way and not to be taken personally. And if you are at the dinner table, you can expect similar etiquette to most European countries. Just never talk business – Norwegians like to keep business and pleasure very separate.
It’s a book lovers paradise
Some of you may be familiar with Richard Booth of Hay-on-Wye? In the 1960s he decided to revamp his local disused cinema, and filled it with thousands of second-hand books. Word caught on and the small rural village sprang to life with other little book-related shops. Visitors now come from all around the world, especially when the famous literary Hay Festival!
And there born was the concept of ‘book towns’. Commonly located in rural villages of historic interest and set in magnificent surrounds these little pockets of the world are absolute havens for book lovers.
Fjaerland was the world’s eighth booktown, and the first in Scandinavia. Located spectacularly along the Sognefjord, it opened in 1996 and now sells around 250,000 titles in a range of deserted buildings from quaint sheds alongside the dramatic fjord to the stables and local post office. The idea of this book town also serves to preserve these old characterful, historic buildings.
Until 1985 the only way to reach Fjaerland was by boat and the good news is that today you can now happily drive there – so what are you waiting for! While away an afternoon in the wealth of books shops, sit back and relax in a café or peruse one of the art galleries.
The shops are open every day from May to September.