Norway is like that girl at school who is always, always well-presented and put together. You know, the one who exudes class, grace, ethereal beauty, and enduring coolness. We all know this girl, and may even love to hate this girl. But I guarantee you that you’ll only be able to love Norway. She is just stunning.
We spent four days exploring the western part of the country and were completely under her spell. Liebling and I had numerous conversations about how we could live here, could start a little brown family here, and buy a house and a car and become blue-haired pensioners rocking in little Norwegian rocking chairs on little Norwegian verandas here.
Yup, it was that serious.
We started our adventure in Bergen, Norway’s second most populous city and gateway to the fjords. Walking off the plane at 11:30 pm on a Friday, we were struck by one thing: the lightness of the sky. This far north, the country profits from an extraordinary amount of sunlight. It was nearly midnight and yet the sun had just barely set; dusky blues, oranges, and pinks streaked the horizon. While I had already experienced this phenomenon on my visit to Iceland two years ago, it was still strange to see.
Another surprise: the chill of the atmosphere. London is far from sizzling in June, but here in Norway, it was becoming abundantly clear that my thin, double-breasted jacket was not the best choice of travel garment. But with the cold air came something else my nose had become unaccustomed to after 7 months in London and 2 years in Hong Kong: fresh air. The air was crisp, but unfailingly clean. I inhaled deeply and greedily on the bus ride to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Hotel Norge.
After a deep sleep and hearty breakfast at the hotel, we took to the streets of Bergen. Bergen is one of those pretty little towns one immediately wants to put in their pocket and take back home with them. It may be Norway’s second city, but with only 265,000 inhabitants, it’s still quaint to a big-city girl like me. Our first stop was a walking tour of Bryggen, the oldest part of the city, which dates back to the 11th century. The tour guide, decked out in traditional Norwegian dress, explained how the ancient commercial buildings that comprise Bryggen are in fact a symbol of Norway’s cultural heritage, gaining Bergen a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Next, we took a funicular high atop the city and observed beautiful Bergen from above.
It was lovely, but extremely brisk; the wind beat me about the face and head and my ashy fingers were gnarled from the cold. Solution? A chic Norway hat and some knit gloves acquired from a souvenir shop at the summit! Problem solved!
Bergen has tidy landscapes that surround the city, well-manicured lawns filled with flowers in full bloom, and brightly coloured houses bordering on neat public squares. You probably know from my post on Valparaiso, Chile that I am in love with buildings painted in vibrant hues- I am happy to report that Bergen did not disappoint.
The beautiful views didn’t stop there. The harbour is filled with boats large and small, and flanked by more charmingly decorated buildings.
Call me superficial, but I am often easily swayed by the aesthetics of a place: well-maintained cities, where every detail is painstakingly taken into consideration, get me really excited. This tends to happen the more I get older. While I love grittier, chaotic destinations, it was so nice to have a relaxing vacation in a place as pristine and beautiful as Norway.
How important is a country or city’s aesthetic to you? Do you prefer to go to “prettier” places or are you indifferent?
I was a guest of Visit Norway, but all opinions and long-winded gushing are mine.