Hei from Norway! (Part 1)

22 Feb

Greetings from the Arctic! Well, technically not anymore as we got home late last night, but you catch my drift 😉 Y’all…Best. Time. Ever. I’m not even kidding. This was absolutely one of the best trips we’ve ever been on. It was just so unique and so different from anything we’ve done before, or anything we’ve seen before, for that matter. I don’t even have the words to describe such beauty and such vastness. That’s a word we kept coming back to, though- vast. Everywhere you look, it applies. The huge mountains, the wide open tundras, the majestic fjords…You’re constantly reminded of just how small you really are- how miniscule your little slice of life really takes up in the grand scheme of things. And it’s an incredible feeling.

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We took three flights to get there, as you can see by the bigger dots- Stuttgart to Copenhaven, Copenhaven to Oslo, then Oslo to Tromso, nearly 500 miles inside the Arctic Circle. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s about the same as driving from the east coast to the west coast in the US…

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So, that’s what I’m going to go with for today’s post- the awesome vastness that is Arctic Norway and that indescribable feeling we had being part of it. One of the best decisions we made was to rent a car for a day and venture out on our own with nothing more than a paper map. No tour buses, no guides, no audio headsets talking in our ears…Just us and Mother Nature. It was absolutely perfect.

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But because I’m all about the history and the story- y’all know this- I just want to touch a little bit on that good stuff before we get to the pictures. 😉 Norway is a long, skinny country on the western side of the Scandinavian peninsula. There’s evidence of people being there as early as the end of the last Ice Age, about 11,000 BC- they’ve found primitive arrowheads, spears and drawings. And for those of you who love the History Channel show, Vikings (we love this series!), this would’ve been their home from about the 8th to the 10th centuries- and yes, you can totally picture Ragnar and the gang, paddling out from the fjords…

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Norway’s total area is about the size of New Mexico (although it would take up nearly from Florida to New England) with about 150,000 sq. mi., so definitely larger than many people realize. One of the neatest parts, for me anyway, is that it only has about 5 million total inhabitants! To put that in perspective, New York City has over 9 million people. Yeah. Let that soak in. Ha! Its government is a monarchy and the powers are divided between the Parliament, the Senate and the Supreme Court, all of which fall below the King.

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Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. On a per-capita basis, it’s the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East. Coincidentally, before they discovered oil, Norwegians were actually quite poor because the fishing industry could only take them so far. As a result, more than 800,000 (ie. nearly 1/5 of their entire population) immigrated to the US- specifically, to Minnesota, which to this day has the highest number of Norwegian descendants of anywhere in the country. Neat, huh? In addition to currently being the 4th highest per capita income in the world, they are consistently ranked in the Top 3 of both Quality of Life and Overall Happiness Indexes.

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Another interesting tidbit- Norway is not a member of the European Union, despite being very involved with many of its practices and programs. The issue has come before the Norwegian people twice and both times, they have voted ‘no’ by a slim majority. The arguments for the decision were that membership was a threat to the sovereignty of Norway, the fishing industries (second only to oil) and agriculture would suffer, that membership would result in increased centralization, and there would be less favorable conditions for equality and the welfare state. Basically, the Norwegian economy is strong, unemployment is low (among the lowest in the world), and Norwegians therefore see no economic argument in favor of EU membership.

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Every road in Tromso and the surrounding islands look just like this. Snow/ice covered and no evidence of the asphalt beneath. Fortunately, all roads are lined with red poles marking the edges so you know where to drive. All cars are fitted with studded tires.

During our day of exploration, we saw so much beauty, much of it a kind that we’d never seen before. The size of the mountains, the color of the water, the reindeer foraging, the snow built up on every tree branch and every rooftop, the bright colors of all the wooden houses dotting the shores…Absolutely incredible. And something that really helped our drive? Once out of the city and on neighboring islands, the only roads are the ones following the shorelines; none turning inland, so no possibility to get lost! Ha!

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Northern Norway is comprised of THOUSANDS of islands. Some are connected with bridges, some with ferries and some are just on their own. Tromso is the red island in the center of the map. For our exploration, we followed the red road going around Kvaloy and some of Ringvassoy. And yep, the red roads are the ONLY roads.

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A very old shipwreck…

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There’s no way for me- or this picture- to convey the sheer magnitude of these mountains, the Lyngen Alps. They are MONSTROUS.

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Those are reindeer grazing…If you look really closely, you can see one that’s solid white.

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They saw us get out of the car and came running! So curious and so gentle- not fearful in the least.

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I seem to have only gotten pictures of the red houses that day, but the Norwegians appear to love color and paint their houses lovely shades of green, blue, yellow and even black. And they’re all wooden- very similar to some American styles, actually. We just loved them.

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Blocks of ice floating in the fjord…

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Definitely one of my favorite moments of the day. Reindeer are such pretty creatures, and they seem to have really neat personalities. There’s very little ‘deer like’ about them- must closer to an elk or moose, just smaller.

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Look at that majestic boy…

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Single lane bridge crossing between two small islands…And that’s a fisherman with just a hook and line about halfway across…

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Innermost part of this fjord was completely frozen over…Have you ever seen frozen saltwater?

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So many little reminders from Mother Nature on this day…Of the awesome beauty that is our Earth. Of the incredible wilderness not yet touched by man. Of the undeniable power of our natural elements. Of the history that has been being written here for ages and ages. Of our duty to protect and preserve all of the above. Of how we are all but little blips in a creation so much bigger than we can either fathom…Beautiful lessons taken away from an even more beautiful experience.

Be sure to stop back by tomorrow to chat about the cool town of Tromso and the Northern Lights (SPOILER: We saw ’em and they were glorious! 😉 )

2 Responses to “Hei from Norway! (Part 1)”

  1. Anne February 22, 2017 at 4:58 PM #

    Great pictures and info. Thanks for sharing! Was Neve ok with all the driving?

    • Erin T. February 22, 2017 at 6:54 PM #

      She did great! She was in awe just like us at all the snow, the mountains, the water…And of course, she loved the reindeer! We stopped a good bit to get pictures, too- on beaches, on bridges, whenever we saw wildlife…So I’m sure that helped 🙂

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