I’ve had several people come and visit Norway, and for those whom I wasn’t able to see, I came up with a general list of tips for visitors. Enjoy and go visit!
- Norway is expensive, so come in with that expectation. Don’t come in thinking that this will be a cheap holiday; HOWEVER, now is a great time to come since the dollar is strong.
- Norwegians generally speak superb English so I wouldn’t worry about language barriers.
- We use the Norwegian kroner. Yes, there are three types of kroner in Scandinavia (Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian). No, Finland is not a part of Scandinavia (they use the Euro).
- In the event that you don’t want to carry cash, never fear. Cards are accepted almost universally.
- Keep in mind what time of year you’re visiting Norway. In the summer you’ll experience very long days, while in winter your daylight will be minimal. If you’re visiting in winter you’re also going to want to invest in some sort of crampon type things for your shoes. I know a lot of people liked using Yaktrax.
- If you plan on drinking, buy all of your alcohol at duty free since booze is expensive (think $12 for a beer at a bar). If you’re flying in from abroad you’ll notice that:
- You will have to pass through duty free anyway in order to leave the airport.
- All of the Norwegians are also going there to stock up on booze.
- It’s pretty easy to get a SIM card if you want data. Go to a Netcom store (they are everywhere) and ask for a 14 day SIM card/starter pack. It’ll cost you 99 NOK (12.27 USD). More info here at this old blog post.
- It’s actually really easy to get around Norway.
- The train system can be found at nsb.no/en. Tickets are usually very affordable if booked in advance, the trains are clean, relatively new, AND they have wifi.
- For flights you qualify for youth tickets if you are under 26.
- Finding the youth tickets on SAS is a bit of a hassle, but it can be done and tickets apply for both domestic and international flights.
- Norwegian Air also has youth prices, but only for flights within Norway (code UNDER26). They also have the newest planes and wifi on all of them. I love them.
- If you’re coming at the right time of year you can also snag some great ferry trips on the Hurtigruten ferry (combination of a postal ferry and cruise ship).
We finally made it! At around 8am the Finnmarken docked in Trondheim after a particularly impressive bit of parallel parking.
My first view of Trondheim
A tough parking spot
My parents graciously decided to stay with me in Trondheim for a few days so my first impression of Trondheim was a hurried mix of sightseeing, grocery buying, and Ikea constructing. My initial thoughts on Trondheim are that it’s very beautiful and very walkable. You could easily walk all of downtown, otherwise known as Sentrum, in a few hours. The bus system here is also great, if very expensive.
The first place we had a chance to walk around was the Stiftsgården, or the official residence of the Norwegian Royal Family in Trondheim. The building was originally built by a wealthy member of Trondheim society and was later purchased by the government and eventually converted into the royal residence. Norway has not always been a prosperous country so many of the Stiftsgården’s original antiques were sold long ago. The current furnishings were mostly provided from the marriage and coronation of Princess Maud of England, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to King Haakon VII. Fun fact: the Norwegian Royal Family didn’t actually come from Norway. When Norway achieved independence from Sweden in 1905, the Norwegian government decided that it wanted to remain a monarchy instead of becoming a republic. In order to actually establish a monarchy (since they could no longer use the Swedish one), they invited Prince Carl of Denmark to become the king of Norway. When Carl accepted, he changed his name to become King Haakon VII, and Princess Maud became the Queen Consort.
We also got the chance to see the Nidaros Cathedral and bought a combination ticket to see the cathedral, archbishop’s palace, and the crown jewels. Because we were short on time I wasn’t able to see too much of the archbishop’s palace, but I did learn that the building has been reappropriated throughout the years, and was most notably a site of resistance against the Nazi invasion. As for the crown jewels, they were of course beautiful but I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures.
Now for the cathedral! The cathedral dominates the Trondheim skyline and is in fact the largest and most northern medieval cathedral in Scandinavia. The cathedral was built in this location because it is where Saint Olav was buried. Saint Olav was the king responsible for brining Christianity to Norway, and with the help of his sword, Olav managed to convert the entire country to Christianity within two years. Olav was believed to be a saint because when he died in battle it was said that those who came in contact with his body were healed of their wounds. When the body was exhumed a year later it was said that his body smelled of flowers and showed no signs of decay. The body was originally laid to rest inside the cathedral so that pilgrims could come pay homage to Saint Olav; however, when the Reformation took hold in Norway priests feared that harm would come to body and hid it away inside the cathedral. To this day they still haven’t discovered where the body is, although they continue to test graves within the cathedral. While the cathedral itself was beautiful, for me the highlight of our tour was climbing to the top of the cathedral tower and getting a great view of the city skyline. Overall it’s an experience that I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Old Town Bridge in Trondheim
Part of Sentrum
The Hurtigruten ferry line is the odd combination of ferry, cruise, and mail delivery boat. Because Hurtigruten was started as a mail delivery service it stops by both big cities and remote coastal towns. Depending on the kind of experience you are looking for, you can take longer trips that stop by more towns or take shorter ones. I have always loved boats and was really excited to take the ferry up to Trondheim. I got a lovely cabin all to myself and spent the rest of our 3ish day trip admiring the view. The only real downer to this leg of the trip was the mist and fog. Unfortunately it was tough luck catching a clear day, but I’ve included some of the better pictures that I managed to take. All in all our boat, Finnmarken, took us from Bergen to Florø, Måløy, Torvik, Ålesund, Gerianger, Molde, Kirstiansund, and finally Trondheim.
The one other hitch I encountered during this time was an email from the Fulbright Office. Quick aside: the Norwegian Fulbright office is generally amazing. They are always well organized and incredibly responsive with email. For instance they let me know that I moved to the second round of the Fulbright application before the US government did. Anyways, I received an email from them today telling me that the upper secondary school that I’m working at might be affected by a teacher’s strike. While the school itself was still open, the central administrative office in Trondheim was on strike. The email included one of the few English articles available that explained the situation. I must admit that when I first opened the article, I was expecting to see the strike touch upon some of the education issues that frequently appear in the US (testing, curriculum, etc.) but it was actually on how teacher’s should organize their work schedules. Many teachers have a flexible schedule that allows them to do part of their work at home, whereas the government wants to restrict this and mandate a number of hours that teachers must work on campus. For now, it’s just a waiting game to see if things are resolved before the school year starts.