Discovering the Hidden Gems of Norway
Norway’s crisp air, warmed by brilliant sunshine, is almost as famous its fjords and Northern Lights. Many things draw travelers to the remote and austere nation of Norway… Skiing (the country’s national pride), quaint fishing villages that offer fresh salmon, 24-hour sunshine (during certain parts in summer) and fascinating Viking history. The modern appeal of its capital city, Oslo, cause some visitors not to venture any farther than there. However, those who are able to explore this Scandinavian paradise find a wonderland of forested beauty that looks like something out of a storybook.
Here’s our primer to get you ready for your own experience of Norway’s spectacular offerings.
If you want to blend in while visiting Norway, make sure to bring along a good book. Norwegians are known as avid readers and enjoy buying books tax-free (along with newspapers and periodicals) in their native land. A few other travel tips? If you’re invited into someone’s home, you may be expected to take off your shoes. Prepare ahead for this by taking along a pair of Norwegian knit socks, which natives often wear under their sandals in summer. You’ll fit right in!
You can also expect to be clearly understood when you ask for directions or order at a restaurant, even if English is your only language. Norway boasts a higher percentage of English-speakers than Canada does! But, as always, we recommend learning a few basic phrases when visiting any foreign land. Even if you don’t get the pronunciations quite right, locals always appreciate the gesture.
Norwegians, not surprisingly, enjoy locally caught fish as a staple of their diet. We recommend a bowl of classic Fiskesuppe (fish soup) in the afternoon or evening. Fish have even made their way into the Norwegian breakfast! If pickled herring doesn’t sound palatable to you first thing in the morning, opt for a smoked salmon omelette, which is as delicious as it sounds. Desserts are simple and butter-rich. Try pannekaker (crepe-like pancakes) with berries or a traditional kringle, a sweet Nordic pretzel whose shape you’ll see used as an emblem throughout the country.
Norway’s varied landscapes (arctic, Atlantic, dense forest) make it one of Europe’s wildlife havens. From whales and walruses to elk and polar bears, if you get far enough north, you may take in some species that most never experience in a lifetime. Imagine tracking a herd of musk ox or, more likely, some free-roaming reindeer, which are so plentiful they even turn up in resident’s yards. See if you can glimpse a white arctic fox, which seamlessly blends into its snowy habitat or an adorable orange-beaked puffin near the ocean’s edge.
The breathtaking Geiranger fjord is lauded as the best of Norway’s many fjords (narrow waterways that wind between high cliffs). The view, even on a foggy day, is memorable, but if you happen to make the summit on a cloudless, sunny morning, it is truly the kind of experience that will leave you without words.
As a Christian traveler, you’ll find Norway to have a very secular climate. Its Protestant churches tend not be be well-attended, and the pervasive attitude and worldview reflect this rift from the Bible. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is always at work on hearts that may, to us, seem cold. If you have the opportunity to go to Norway, remember that you take the Kingdom of God with you everywhere you go. Bless the people and land of Norway through your witness and prayers. Plus, vibrant churches and youth camps across Norway are experiencing His presence in exciting ways, which is always encouraging to see.
Have you been to Norway, or do you want to go? Read on for a deeper look at this fascinating land through the lens of a Christian travel photographer. We don’t get to go to Norway very often, but when we do, it’s a treat. Click below to view our other travel experiences.