Highlights: Norway

July-August 2015

Laundry day in Oslo. Eight days in Norway have left me with dirty clothes and smelly hiking shoes. I’m holed up in the Laundromat Cafe in Oslo, just opposite the Bislett Stadium where Sebastian Coe set a world record in the mile run when I was in high school.

Your clothes take a beating in a country like Norway, what with the weather and outdoor activities. I’ve been rained on, waded through muddy water, climbed to a precarious waterfall overlook, driven, boated, trained, ferried, bused, and slept in a hostel. The least I can do is leave this place smelling pleasant.

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Bygdoy Peninsula, Oslo

You’re never far from nature in Norway, even in the cities. Water is everywhere along the seacoast, in the fjords, the rivers running through the mountains, and waterfalls galore. A half-hour outside of Oslo, and you are in a green countryside. Same for Bergen. On the train rides east to west or north to south, Norway’s beauty flies by your window.

There’s weather, too — even in summer — so bring a jacket and an umbrella. Rain similar to the Pacific Northwest in both Oslo and Bergen. Cold in the mountains. But oh, when the sun does come out, everything is bathed in the brightest green and the water turns the deepest blue.

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Flamsbana Railway

Summer days are long in Norway, so there’s much to explore after the museums close. It doesn’t take long to adjust to the ten o’clock sunset.

I was surprised by Norway’s diversity, particularly in Oslo. If I expected a country of tall, blonde Viking descendents, what I encountered was a nation that has accepted people of many colors and the influences they bring.

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Sunset over coastal islands

But prepare for the extra expense here. Everything costs more in Norway than other places I’ve visited lately. There’s a 25 percent sales tax, as well. Dinner at a relatively nice place in the cities will set you back at least US$40.

Favorites: The fjords by boat and car, Hardangervidda hike, the Flamsbana and Roumasbanen railways, Eidfjord, Akerhus Fortress and Castle overlooking Oslo’s harbor, and the Bygdoy peninsula’s museums.

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Hardangervidda

Less favorite: Early closing times, closed restaurants in summer, rain.

Best food: Pingvinen in Bergen, mountain trout at Viks Pensjonat in Eidfjord, and Cafe Skansen and Cafe Sara in Oslo. Street hotdogs.

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Trollstigen

Places I stayed: Ellingens and Cochs Pensjonat in Oslo, Skansen Pensjonat in Bergen, Viks Pensjonat in Eidfjord, the Hurtigruten Lofoten, and the Åndalsnes hostel.

Biggest surprises: Eidfjord and the Trollstigen.

Best day: Geirangerfjord and the Trollstigen.

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