Archived Story

Norway a memorable experience [UPDATED]

Published 7:42am Monday, March 24, 2014 Updated 9:42am Monday, March 24, 2014

I’m just back from a week in Norway, where we stayed with My True Love’s daughter, who is and has been married to a Norwegian man. They have three kids, and she is a rare combination of American and Norwegian, language, habits, customs.

Here’s what was fun and memorable about Norway.

It’s hilly, bordering on mountainous everywhere, rocky and wooded. Straight roads almost do not exist. If it is straight, it’s probably a passenger rail line, and it has to be, because it tears through the countryside at speeds in excess of 85 miles per hour. (I don’t know the real speed, just close, because of the kilometer-kilogram-metric thing.)

So the roads go twisty-turny not only because of the hilly terrain, but also I think because of the Norske’s affection for going around in circles. I was told that the only straight automobile road in Norway was built in the forties, when the German Nazis invaded.

They blasted and dug and tunneled — the heck with mountains. That straight road is a continuous reminder that curvy is better. And more Norwegian. (Norske is a word, incidentally. It means Norwegian.)

Norway may not have vivid memories of Nazi occupation during World War Two, but the murmured memory of it is everywhere, just beneath the surface. “A Nazi sympathizer lived there.” “That house over there was occupied by German officers.” “There is a picture of this house by the Fjord with daisies planted in a Nazi symbol.” “Quisling? You of course know of him.” (The word has become synonymous with “traitor.” He was a Norwegian who sympathized with Germany, and is famous in a bad way in Norway.)

In keeping with their affection for going around in circles, I saw only one stop sign in our visit. They use something called a “roundabout.” This is a circle drive into which everyone enters. Then, as you’re all speeding around this circle, you pick the road you want out on, which would be one of four, five, or more, depending upon which twisty-turny path you choose. You’re in the circle, looking for the way out. You have the right of way. It’s pretty neat, and works way better than you would think. But it seemed at first like circular suicide by auto.

The rail system there in Norway in comparison with the light rail which we just rode to get back and forth to the airport in the Twin Cities is a study in contrasts. How? First, it runs rigidly on time. Minneapolis’s light rail? Ummmm, well, it runs. How else? Riding the Norske (pronounced nor-ski to us, but norsh-ski to them.) means smooth, smooth, smooth. Riding the light rail in The Twin Cities more closely resembles a start-and-stop hang-on carnival experience, complete with square wheels.

Next are the cars. There are no pickup trucks. And almost all the passenger vehicles are hatchbacks, either small SUVs or station wagons. I was in heaven. I love station wagons.  Volvos. Mercedes. Audis. Renaults. Even Ford sells a full-size wagon over there. Nearly all the manufacturers of the world sold models we cannot get here. I even saw a Toyota Corolla station wagon! Beautiful!

Station wagon-like cars were everywhere. To add to my delight, the majority of them are diesel powered, this due to the government encouraging — by tax breaks — their use. Gasoline is expensive at fifteen kroners ($2.50 US) a liter, which isn’t far from a quart, which makes that 10 bucks a gallon.

Electric vehicles are everywhere, once again because there is just about no tax at all on them.

No article on Norway is complete without visiting taxes. Yes. They’re high. Prices? Yes, they’re high too. But minimum wage over there is probably close to our twenty-five bucks an hour, so it’s all relative to them, just not to us when we arrive with dollars in our pockets.

One thing about Norway is not different. It seems, judging from the Amsterdam airport, and Norway, that children from eight to 30 are all bent over their phones, tapping, sweeping, scrutinizing.

I wonder where we’re going with all that. Probably to a time when we have one implanted in our brain, which will also serve to motivate us to be more active, because not only will it communicate, it will shock us to get our butts off the couch. Activity is not a problem over there; neither is obesity. They get their kids outside, weather be damned. And it shows.

Oh boy, the cars. Big, black station wagons. That was the best part, oddly enough. More next time.

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