Norway at last
Trip Start Apr 29, 2012
8Trip End Jul 12, 2012
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Where I stayed
On a Car Park
We slipped quietly over the Sweden/Norway border around noon on Friday, no customs or border patrol, not even a sign, just a welcome text on my mobile, to tell us we were in Norway . This was somewhat surprising in view of all the warnings we'd received about restrictions on bringing particular foods – and most alcohol, into the country. This specifically mentioned potatoes and I almost regretted the kg or so of Swedish potatoes I’d felt duty bound to boil the previous evening.
The first thing we did notice was a deterioration in the road surface – maybe because Norway doesn’t receive, or need, those huge EU handouts. Whilst on the subject of roads, I have to mention tolls. We expected to pay them in and around Oslo and other large cities, but have been surprised to be driving down a totally unprepossessing, even poor quality, road to see a sign indicating an automatic road toll in 2km. Nigel’s theory is that they collect the money first then repair the road!
As we drove towards Oslo little else changed, the buildings were still picturesque, the scenery was beautiful and it was still raining when we pulled into a car park/picnic area on the banks of the River Gomma in Sorumsand, to stay for the night
Along with some other Scandinavian countries, Norway has 'Allemenstratten, or ‘everyman’s right,, including the right to camp anywhere along the road for up to 2 days as long as it’s 150m from a dwelling – or the local authorities haven’t applied their own restrictions. Later that evening, the rain finally stopped and we were able to take a soggy stroll along the river bank. Next morning it was on to Oslo where we spent two long days.
We saw the old wooden houses on the oldest streets, Telthusbakken and Damstredet,
admired the old church, Gamle Aker Kirk, and were surprised at the warm and decorative interior of the Cathedral,
admired the brand new Opera House with it’s multi-faceted tiled roof and had, what is probably our most expensive, beer and sandwich ever in the restaurant there – but it was delicious and served with a wonderful view of Monica Bovicinci’s sculpture in the harbour.
We visited the Norwegian Folk Museum, another ‘living museum’ (but not nearly as lively as the Vikinge center in Denmark), with a collection of old buildings and demonstrations of baking and apothecary.
Yes, some beautifully restored apothecaries, in one of which a young man demonstrated the lost art of pill rolling – using marzipan and, as he scraped the sticky goo off his fingers imparted the (unverified) gem that one of the earliest strikes in Norway was when employees who worked with sulphur demanded the right to be able to wash their hands and not have to provide their own soap. I just love to receive – and share, these little tid-bits of gratuitous information.
That particular day we were lucky enough (!) to see a one-off parade of National Costumes. Unfortunately, for us, all the interviews were in Norwegian, but we entertained ourselves by imagining it was some version of Blind Date!
In Oslo we over-nighted on the car park for a park full of wonderful sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, and described in my fellow blogger’s post as ‘a quiet spot’. He obviously wasn’t there on the night when hundreds, even thousands of Norwegian-track-suited Oslo teenagers completed their final day at school and chose the Sculpture Park as the place to celebrate – all night!
We aren’t great fans of cities at the best of times and after a disturbed night were happy to leave Oslo and head south to Sandefjord, a former ‘Whaling capital’ of Norway and home to one of only two Whaling Museums in the world so, of course, we had to pay it a visit, besides the advertising said they had a full size model of a Blue Whale there, and I wanted to see if it looked possible that an elephant really could stand on it’s tongue. The museum was smaller than we expected, but the Blue Whale model was only a juvenile, and suspended from he ceiling of one of the rooms – and I believe only a baby elephant could have stood on it’s tongue. As for the display on whaling, it was actually very interesting and informative, presenting the facts without bias. For myself, I can see why whales would be hunted, given their economic and functional value, and could even perhaps accept the old days when man was pitted against whale, and many a brave man died in the industry. However, once they started to fire explosive grenade spears into the poor creatures, my sympathy is entirely with the whales.
It’s now been over a week since we had access to a washing machine and our laundry bag is getting pretty full, so we thought we’d visit a laundrette. We couldn’t find one, so asked at Sandefjord’s Tourist Information Office. The girl was very helpful, looked through several directories and made three phone calls but eventually had to admit defeat saying that everyone in Norway has a washing machine – have done for years, so there is no call for a laundrette. She did refer us to a dry cleaners cum laundry, but they wanted 65 NOK a kilo to wash, dry and fold our bedding, towels and smalls, that would work out at over £40 for the bag – so I guess tomorrow’s challenge is set!