In Norway, I can’t stop staring at the women. Statuesque and slender, they stride along in skinny jeans with flaxen hair cascading down their backs in a loose french braid. I am captivated by their elegantly draped woolen wraps and stylish scarves framing their fresh, rosy faces. In admiration of their confidence and poise, I stand up straighter and tie my own scarf with a little more flourish.
Next, I notice the neatness. Tidy houses gleaming in winter white, glossy black or sunshine yellow. Bright red barns contrasting against verdant forest, orderly rows of hay bales, carefully tended gardens, and firewood stacked by size. Even the city streets are swept clean – no litter, cigarette butts, or graffiti. The fastidious pride of ownership is astounding and lovely.
I marvel at the convenience of the public transportation. During our trip, we negotiate medieval cities, traverse craggy mountain plateaus, descend into sheer valleys and navigate through towering fjords – all by tram, train, bus and ferry. Every connection is conveniently located and masterfully orchestrated – the next transport often intentionally waiting – to ensure we easily reach our daily destination.
I am impressed with the intelligent use of technology. Handheld credit card readers, self-service ticket kiosks, a wearable chip to activate gym lockers and showers at the swimming pool, keycard-activated electricity in hotel rooms, and motion-sensing hallway lighting. Energy saving designs thoughtfully and mindfully applied. Why control all the doors on a train when, with a push of a button, only the doors required slide open?
I delight in the novelty of Norwegian food. Our hotels serve mountainous buffets for breakfast and, in more remote locales, also for dinner. Crusty homemade breads, smoked fish, cured meats and local cheeses dominate the offerings. I happily try brown cheese, reindeer sausage, pickled herring, mountain trout, and every variety of salmon. Piously, I refuse to eat whale.
But, in the end, it is the scenery that leaves me breathless. Every vista is an astonishing creation of land carved by ice and water. Glittering glaciers and silvery snowfields feed cascading waterfalls, plunge into the churning rapids of sparkling rivers, undulate along valleys and disgorge into swollen crystal lakes. Soaring cliffs of purpley-grey granite, skirted with evergreen pines and tufts of magenta heather, reflect in the fjord’s shimmering blue sea. The sheer steepness and scale of the landscape is simply breathtaking.