Choosing Norway as a destination for a careless escape from the working routine, everyday life and classical life regimen, is not considered to be a usual pick out of the top tourist destinations. Tropical, and often Asian, destinations somehow seem to be more usual choices. Camping Norway.
But with that idea, I got off the plane at 22:30 in Oslo, still in the dusk. The first difference between what I am used to from the sun and the sky at that time of the day, and what is currently being offered to me, is noted with just a hint of fear considering the idea of falling asleep in not an absolute darkness.
I spent my first seven nights staying with a Couchsurfing friend whose home is 20 minutes away from the centre of the capital, which equals being deeply hidden in the woods. The road to it is asphalted, lighting is carried out. There are few similar houses visible from the road that give the impression of cottages belonging to bohemian people who want their peace and privacy.
My thesis on these houses quickly falls under all Norwegian bridges, since these houses are actually the living and family spaces of Norwegian citizens, not vacationers. The pure privacy of the houses with their surrounding squares of never-ending forests and lakes that seem to be everywhere (unlike in our Croatian villages – freely expressed as in the entire Balkans – and suburban settlements where homes are often too close pressed one onto another), just confirms the Norwegians as very respectful of their intimacy. In the outskirts of the towns, there are usually no neighbours, unless bears and other forest animals are taken into consideration.
Each of these family houses looks alike, of fairly uniform construction in terms of size and constitution. The differences can be found in their colour that usually varies from red, brown, blue, yellow to white. The possession of at least two to three vehicles, most often a luxury SUVs can be noted. Every house stands equipped for the pure joy of its owner, not the jealous eyes of the neighbours. Bears, of course, don’t mind it. Mentality!
If it houses young children, the never-enclosed house yard is equipped with swings, canopies, tree houses, holes and benches. Norwegians wisely insist on children spending their lives playing outside. Just like kindergartens do – small houses with large courtyards whose function is dictated by the concept of the curriculum based on outside activities of preschool children in minimum of 4-5 hours per day. They made me want to play with them.
Oslo like Oslo, a beautiful town, had no particular impact on me. Thing that caught my attention for a bit is no particular positioning of huge piles of advertising materials and prospects at every corner. It is a simple and beautiful city uncluttered by people.
I spent the following days acting as a typical Norwegian resident on an extended weekend – camping in nature.For the first location a small fishing town on the island of Hvasser, that lies on the coast of the North Sea, was chosen.
Mornings, fishermen, clean deep dark sea, colourful houses, small local grocery store, few more fishing markets, sea and fish smells and of course gulls; the first experience of Norway you get when someone briefly mentions it in the conversation.
The plan was to stay one night in a small town, but it lasted for 72 hours (since there is practically no night), and this place literally pinned us down due to its simple energy to the stay three times longer than what we had planned. Similarly, near us was a place well-known to the locals as a place “at the end of the world” or “verdens ende” in Tjome. A place that overlooks the unseen power of nature, the ultimate lighthouse to infinity, huge rocks and cliffs.
It is interesting that for all these beauties and riches of nature, which are a part of a protected Færder National Park, no one had issued, for our walk through it and beautiful experience we had there, any single receipt while being in such an expensive country. The locals explain that whatever nature offers is available and free to all, it is no one’s possession – and it is there for the pleasure of everyone. Again, what a mentality!
As a thank-you to this reciprocal human-nature relationship, people are compelled by some unwritten rule and return the nature back the favour by picking up every last bit of paper or trash that remains where it does not belong – and not only after themselves (what is implied), but also after others who may have accidentally forgot to pick up after themselves. In addition, driving Tesla electrical cars is the trend that most follow.
Alongside sea view, we swam in salted sea water, which is, unlike our Adriatic, not warm when measured by our Mediterranean sensory cells. The kids next to me were pleasantly playing in the shallow sea, while I was trying to hide just how frozen I was. No wonder they all have fair skin colour and blue eyes – you cannot mistake the Scandinavian for someone else.
The similarity, if you seek it, to our sea lies in its beautiful cleanliness.
After Hvasser we moved on. Our goal was to reach the well-known cliffs. We faced long and time-consuming drive in an old timer convertible. Nonetheless the panoramic views that the nature created to its own image and, thus, did an amazing job, made up for it. While driving for ten hours or more on new majestic roads, we were passed by fewer than 10 vehicles.
We experienced abundance of lakes, rivers and creeks. I was thinking more than once during that ride how at least one clear, pure and crystal lake must belong to every citizen of this planet. Reflections of green branches, blue skies and all those waters created the spectrum of phenomenal colours which made me repeatedly remove my sunglasses to make sure this was not due to the merit of opticians, but to the magic of nature itself. And sunglasses had nothing to do with it.
We placed our tent in Evje, what made us miss a visit to Bergen and its great cliffs, but what rewarded us with surely the deepest relaxation we have ever experienced on holiday. Evje is a place through which the large, but shallow, Otra river passes. The place with numerous waterfalls and lakes. We spent three full days of camping there and we would have stayed longer if our return ticked had the option of changing dates.
We placed our tent in the middle of the river on a stone island, surrounded by water and forest. Grilling, fishing, yoga training, swimming and maintaining hygiene in the water heated to somewhere around 13 degrees Celsius, watching the sunset and sunrise happen almost at the same time, were all irreplaceable experiences that classic tourists do not aim for.
To fall asleep listening to waterfalls in possibly not the most comfortable position or the most pleasant temperature, but underneath open skies surrounded by pure and untouched nature, really enables the most careless and deepest dreams. The lack of darkness does not present a problem.
Preparing food from a local grocery store, far away from the ideal cooking conditions, really does make food taste better, since the stomach in such circumstances appreciates more the modest taste than the taste of restaurant masterpieces.
Looking at the undisturbed sky while eating on the bare ground, drinking the freshest river water from your hand and lying on the warm concrete searching for the spring of life, you feel the uniqueness of what you belong to and from which you cannot be separated from – you feel as a part of this wonderful unity. In these so humbling conditions, the greatest gratitude for that what we possess was born. Naked, barefooted and somewhat dirty, we didn’t mind – we were alone and surrounded by everything we needed. The limits of personal comfort are pushed to the extents, the silent wild urges awaken and suddenly the uncivilized things in metropolitan circumstances, are accepted as if they were normal.
However, there came a moment when everything seemed like a great discomfort and disgust – you desire a bed and a glass of warm water, but then the shoal of fish fly by your feet emerged in the cold river and flutter at great speed, some bird near you sings and you decide to join it in a song, a light wind blows carrying the scents of the mountain freshness and you inhale it deep in your lungs thus banishing negativity to other parts of the world. You feel the freedom within again. Complete regeneration.
I have skipped the visit to well-known fjords and important cities this time here, but I have allowed myself to experience peace. This was a bit different than other travels I took, but you should know what you want out of your travels before starting them. I’m not sure whether I was searching for this exact experience, but I have found it here in Europe, just three hours away by plane.
And at the end, regardless of camping, I would like to add something:
I am throwing under the bridge the theory of the Scandinavian unavailability and coldness reprimanding myself in shame for ever believing it. While camping, there are hundreds of small things you might need that you always forget to bring along and remember them only when needed. Our neighbouring tent has willingly opened its doors to let us recharge our mobile phones, connect to the Internet, lend numerous small and yet so important things we needed to ensure the minimal of comfort, with total mutual trust from giving to receiving without any expectation of profit from the seekers. And I’m not just talking about one person or instance.
The theory of expensive state
I will be clear … it is more expensive than Croatia, but it is cheaper (that is, it is free) when it comes to exploring natural beauties and national parks. Free parking is available everywhere. The most delicious water is available maximally 500 meters away from your current position, regardless of where your current position may be. Money wise, it should be taken into consideration that in our tourist locations, half a litre of water costs around 15 KN, and the temperatures outside are around 35 degrees Celsius.
It is even more costly and nerve-wrecking when it comes to parking. I will not even mention the cost for national parks entry tickets. The accommodation can be completely free if the option of sleeping in the “hotel” under the millions of stars (without worrying that the police or the locals will drive you away) is acceptable to you. Camping, in those conditions, is quite normal, logical, acceptable and even desirable. Maybe things are not as such as what others make them seem to be.
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