All I heard about Norway before I visited was that it's expensive, cold and somewhat hostile to foreigners. While the cold and expensive bit are definitely true, I discovered that in the middle of a wind so crisp it cracks your lips is a country full of warm hearts. Our first stop in Oslo - a surprisingly tiny major city. Right away I was blown away that to get into the city by public transport cost more than my plane ticket there (of course I did get a bargain on my plane ticket - $30 round trip). It's a true mixture of modern architecture and beautiful landscape. The central area can feel like a future world that transitions in a few blocks back in time to 90's style advertisements and golden trees lining the streets. I watched roller-skiiers skate up the big hills in their training gear. There's a museum where people can see the actual slopes from the Olympics.
It was 6 o'clock on a Saturday night, but it felt like a ghost town. There was barely a person to be found. The restaurants were empty, cafes closed. We wandered down to the opera house where a collection of people gathers to climb onto the roof and watch the sunset over the harbor. Back at our hostel we had heated floors and large white duvets to cuddle underneath.
We then flew to Bergen the next morning. Bergen feels like a small town, but it's definitely not small. The people we met have been living their with their families for centuries. They were eager to share the history of the town and it's people. The atmosphere of the area is full of smiles regardless of the daily sprinkles and harsh winds.
Bergen used to be the capital of Norway and a major trading port. The houses maintain their perfect white rectangular style under a red tin roof. The houses scale the mountains and the citizens will trek up to their homes without a second thought. There is a park every prescribed set of meters, but it's hard to miss the nature sitting in the middle of mountains. At the top of Fløyen we could gaze upon the whole city in its fullness and the billion dollar light rail that cut up the center to the airport.
In Bergen we were transported back in time again, but now to the 18th century with houses preserved by the government to maintain their original form. Some are still insulated with newspapers from the 1920's! The city is known for the Byrggen colorful trading houses, but a little deeper in we found an entire old town that was taken and rebuilt board by board in order to keep the buildings from fire or damage. We even found a replica of Edward Grieg's little house that he would bundle up in seven layers and compose. The streets are mainly cobblestone to prevent the city from flooding because the stones separate the direction of the water.
The character of the colorful roofs, fish markets, traditional dress that is still worn today as women push their strollers by the small lakes lined with maples, and splendid gaping mountains builds the city to be something special. That's without even getting into the fjord boat tour we experienced with the water that seemed to slice the mountain in half and reflect the rest perfectly in the stillness. We passed towns with only 500 residents and houses without any access to the outside world without boating - even to the school house. We drank from the waterfall and it tasted like pure crystal perfection.
We ended our night with five courses between us at Anne Madams. A starter of homemade fish soup that's cream warmed my throat. Reindeer meatballs that tasted lively, and rich with game flavor. Whale steak that apparently must be cooked very specifically in a short period of time. It was brown to my surprise considering it's a mammal I suppose it makes sense. It was a mixture of liver, beef and an aftertaste that was a little raw. Next, a 100-year-old fish cake recipe in the shape of a heart. We wrapped up with the classic fish and chips, minus the fresh cod that's known in England. For dessert - waffles with creme, jam and brown cheese. The brown cheese had sweet tones, but a dairy after math.
I'd recommend Norway and all its glory to anyone looking for a full breath of fresh (and chilly) air and to rest somewhere quaint, but unique. I'd love to go again and see the Northern Lights from Tromsø or hike to the top of Trolltunga, but I feel energized and giddy from all the things I was able to see. I mean who can top the three story Christmas shop in a little red house or hot coco and Friea chocolate (aka a Norwegian Kit-Kat) overlooking the white tree houses (as they call them - three generations would live together in a connected house not so long ago). The only thing I would say was there isn't a night life, most the people are in their houses by 7, but then again I was in bed by 10 myself and perfectly content.