Monday, July 13, 2015

Final wrap-up

Our short trip to Scandinavia didn't seem like a short trip at all, largely because the bulk of our time was spent in such a rural place and we didn't have easy (at ALL) access to the Internet. We slept late and took a long daily nap, we drove around the place, we took hikes in a forest, out near the end of a peninsula, and in a glacier valley. The trip started badly, with SAS losing our luggage and taking way too long to get Marc's to us, which was a big problem primarily because it was very cold and we didn't have our coats or warm clothing until we finally got the suitcases.

What surprised us? A few things surprised us the most:

1) The lack of fish in Norway. You just can't buy fresh fish at the markets in Lyngseidet, and we were told that this is common. In the Lyngen area you just know a guy who catches them, or you catch them yourself. Magni told us with a grim expression that there are one or two corporations in Norway, now, who control the fish. Norway IS fish, fishing, fishermen (and a history of Vikings!), so this shocked us both, and I had the impression from Magni that it's a sad turn of events.

2) The huge expense. In many ways this trip was the polar (polar, hah, no pun intended) opposite of trips we usually take. Usually we go places where the main thing to do is visit produce and meat/fish/chicken markets, and usually those same places have extremely cheap and delicious food. On this trip, though, there were NO markets of that sort, and the food was extremely expensive. A beer at a pub in Tromso was $9, and a Burger King Whopper was $15. No exaggeration. In Copenhagen, our small breakfast of two cinnamon rolls and a cup of plain black coffee was $35. That never failed to shock us. Magni and Ole told us that the taxes are so enormous in Norway that it's hard on the people; food is taxed at 50%, for instance. One thing we'd read before we left was that we should never comment on how expensive everything is, because the Norwegians know it all too well already. And boy, is it.

3) The 24-hour light. I was the only one surprised by this, Marc wasn't surprised, but I was expecting that the 24-hour light would influence my ability to sleep in some way. It didn't, at all. We also thought there might be black-out curtains since we stayed in places that were set up for tourists, but there weren't any -- and we didn't need them anyway. I thought it would make it hard to sleep, to go to sleep, to stay asleep, but that didn't happen any more than it usually does for me. It did make it hard to understand what was going on when I'd wake up in the middle of the night. 2:30? Does that mean night or day? I had no easy cue about whether I should try to keep sleeping or go ahead and get up, but that's all. Of course we were jetlagged too, but I still thought it would influence me in some way and it didn't.

And then I hadn't realized that the fjords, those enormous, deep, long inlets from the ocean, would behave like the ocean. They would go out at low tide. They would lap the beaches, in places where there was a beach.

We were both moved by the beauty of northern Norway, and we were tickled by the 24-hour light. It was a bit surreal to see the sun in the sky at midnight, and it was pretty great not having to worry about getting back to the cabin before dark, since it was never dark. We were both surprised by the incredible infrastructure in Norway; even in the most remote places, the roads were beautiful and there were streetlights everywhere -- a necessity, we suppose, during the Polar Night.

These pictures capture my favorite moments, in random order:

the gorgeous beauty of Balsfjord -- and blue skies, which were unusual. North Norway to the T.
Gosh. Copenhagen. And the thrill of an accidentally great photo. :)
Listening to Dixie Land Jazz in Copenhagen.
the beauty of a European capital, Copenhagen
this beautiful river, in the gorgeous forest (below) in  Lulledalen Skogssti

and then this magnificent glacial river in Lyngsdalen/Vuosvaggi
and drinking handsful of icy cold water in the hot sun -- helped in every way by Marc
and another square, another beautiful European capital -- Stockholm this time
and the rugged remote beauty of Russelv, on the tip of the Lyngen peninsula
and being chilly and windswept together at Russelv, but at least we had our coats
and the magic of seeing the blazing sun at midnight
and Marc making us lovely dinners every night in our cabin
in Svensby, at Solheim Fritidsgard
and the soft dreamy magic of pink light at midnight, seen from our cabin in Svensby
and the picture postcard beauty of the Lyngen Alps
and the charm of the Tromso harbor
It was a very different kind of trip for us; we're not so much European travelers as SE Asia travelers, but it was a huge thrill to see those magnificent fjords, the glacier valleys, the rugged and beautiful landscape. We didn't interact with enough Swedish people to have any sense of them, but we did with Norwegians and Danes. The Norwegians we met were friendly and helpful and very proud of Norway, although Magni and Ole's comments about the economics of living in Norway moderated that pride just a tiny bit. But Norwegians love being Norwegians, and rightly so. They are proud of their beautiful country. They keep a bit of distance between themselves and you, but they are nonetheless friendly and helpful. (And as a cashier told us in Tromso, Norwegians love machines!) One thing that struck me was that I felt so much more free in Norway than I ever feel at home in the US, and I kept wondering about that. It seemed to stem from the way you can just go anywhere you like, there, and that left me with a feeling that people trust each other not to be terrible people. (And in fact, that trust seems very well-deserved.) It isn't that I walk around the US thinking I'm going to be murdered at any moment, but at the same time it's never a shock at all when our next big slaughter happens, so in some way it's in the very far corners of my mind. But there, people just trust each other and I really felt that. We are fetishistic about fighting for our 'rights' but seem to have lost sight of the right to just be free and happy, and they seem to have kept the proper order of things, in my opinion.

One thing I felt in Copenhagen was the easy happiness that always shows up in global happiness indexes. Like people in Amsterdam, they bike everywhere, no matter the weather. Everyone we interacted with was unhurried and easy, and I liked them very much.

And so farewell, beautiful Scandinavia. I had a wonderful time. I will keep reading Norwegian authors, and now I'll have a better understanding of the stories and the people and the places.

Next up on our travel itinerary, a return to SE Asia -- Vietnam and Thailand in November.

No comments:

Post a Comment