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  • Destination: Jawohl; great news for you Germans planning a trip nach Alta, Norwegen

    It was a surprise last summer in Finnmark. Or perhaps not, really. In any case, I came across large quantities of converted fire trucks, Volkswagen T2s, T3s, T4s, and Unimogs. I've always found it charming; you Germans with your highly creative vehicles, often originating from decommissioned military airfields. Well, I digress a bit. Because the reason for this article is to celebrate that soon there will be a direct route from Frankfurt to the exotic Alta, Norwegen. In fact, Discover Airlines will start their direct route to Alta in the winter of 2024. But it's not only in winter one should explore arctic Norway. Considering that it takes about 35 hours with your Unimog, and now perhaps only 5. I sincerely hope to encounter you en masse in the far north in 2024. So, it's high time to raise the flag for Alta and give you an introduction to what awaits you here. First, I'll provide you with a list of the coolest places to stay in Alta for at least the first night, assuming you also want to explore the rest of Finnmark. My personal favorite is tucked away among tall pine trees. A beautiful little sanctuary with highly comfortable beds: GLØD Aurora Canvas Dome. You might hear some barking occasionally, but that won't surprise you given the name. The accommodations (for guests and dogs) are in excellent order. And the staff excels in providing excellent service, making your stay a very pleasant experience: Holmen Husky Lodge. Right by the river, bathed in luxury. For that, you can easily go here: Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness Lodge. Straightforward and with an excellent hotel breakfast. For that, book a night at: Thon Hotel Alta. Now that your accommodation is sorted, it's time to tell you a bit more about Alta itself. As you may know, the Alta Museum is world-famous. This is due to an enormous amount of exceptionally well-preserved rock carvings (by chance discovered by a Norwegian boy playing hide and seek way back in the 70s). The Alta rock carvings, incidentally on UNESCO's World Heritage List, contain thousands of images engraved in the rock by early inhabitants. These drawings are more than 6000 years old and provide insight into the life and culture of that time. Incredibly fascinating and sometimes very moving to see. I can't imagine what it must have been like living there. I can't barely imagine what it must be like living there today (joking of course). The Northern Lights Cathedral of Alta is well worth a visit. This imaginative building was inaugurated in 2013. The Christian symbolism inside the church is abstractly designed, giving the church a very unique atmosphere; not so traditionally Christian, which personally puts me more at ease. And take it from me; reserve a dinner table at Trasti & Trine. So cozy, you can't even imagine. Furthermore, the true allure of Alta and the region lies in the untouched nature. Rarely have I felt so insignificant and, at the same time, so 'alive' as during my time in Finnmark. My top recommendation is to rent a car in Alta and drive into the wild tundra. First, set course for Havøysund and be overwhelmed by the breathtaking route to get there. This is part of a total of 18 routes spread throughout Norway that are designated as particularly photogenic. Along the way, you'll find yourself pulling over more than average to take in the stunning landscapes. A golden tip for when you arrive in Havøysund: have lunch or dinner at Havets Smak. An amazing restaurant with incredibly good dishes in a place where you really wouldn't expect it. And another thing; almost no one knows about it. If you decide to drive even further east, then I recommend reading the article I wrote about Vardø and Hamningsberg and the surrounding areas. I'd suggest you do so and deliver back your car in Kirkenes and fly back to civilisation from there. Because believe me, it's worth it. It really is. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Alta Airport (ALF). Due to popular demand especially during summer, it is most wise to reserve a car (long) in advance.  Check here for availability.

  • Destination: a boutique hotel in a storm-weathered paradise; a two-night escape to Austevoll (Norway)

    The reason I felt compelled to write an article about Austevoll (Norway) is not coincidental. I first visited it a long time ago and became a little enamored with this charming group of islands. As the emblem of the area suggests, it's all about fishing here. And it has been for a long time. Crab traps are stacked against the wooden boathouses, and here and there, a massive fishing trawler is moored. The allure of this area is the spectacular landscape. You can kayak, fish, hike, and cycle. That might sound like the island is only populated by people in their fifties and older, but the opposite is true. It buzzes with activity in the summer. Especially in Bekkjarvik, pleasure yachts dock frequently, creating a very lively atmosphere. Most tourists can't tear themselves away from the urban life of Bergen. Understandably so. This makes Austevoll and Bekkjarvik, in particular, popular among Norwegians themselves. And they undoubtedly want to keep it that way. But it's too late now. Because not too long ago, a stunning boutique hotel opened here; Beckerwyc House. The name is derived from an old English sea chart where Bekkjarvik is presumably translated to 'Beckerwyc.' The rooms are incredibly stylish and often have views of the picturesque coastal landscape. When you have a cup of coffee in the lounge, you might think you're in a modern Italian apartment in Milan. But no, you find yourself in a coastal village with just over 500 inhabitants. You'll be slightly confused again in the morning when your breakfast is served in your room. Big city a Norwegian fishing village. To elevate the whole experience at Beckerwyc in the evening; award-winning chef Ørjan Johannessen cooks up a Michelin-worthy storm at the Mirabelle restaurant. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that the Mirabelle restaurant alone is worth traveling to Bekkjarvik for. The culinary journey one is boarding, is of a worldly quality based on the local riches fished up from the sea. My prediction is that it won't be long before Beckerwyc House and restaurant Mirabelle become a destination in itself because they have that potential. And it's up to you to beat the crowds long ahead. When on Austevoll, do not forget to visit Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri, the boat and kayak rental and the Marstein Lighthouse.

  • Drink: the best bar in Tromsø that feels like a livingroom full of friends

    Envision this scene: You stand amidst the aisles of a supermarket, facing an array of jam jars, each flaunting an assortment of around thirty diverse flavours, leaving you in a state of indecision. A predicament indeed, particularly when one considers that jam is merely the first item on a list of forty-five other items on your shoppinglist. Yet, in the best bar in Tromsø, Agenturet, such conundrums cease to exist. The sole decision demanding your attention is the choice between left and right. On the left, you'll find the wine bar; on the right, the beer bar. Moreover, these two domains elegantly intertwine in the rear of the establisment. Should you regret your choice for left or right, well, reconsider whilst being inside and simply swap sides. Don't be intimidated by the word 'winebar'. Should you not be an adept connoisseur of Chiantis and Pinots, worry not. Merely convey your favoured flavours, and you shall be presented with a direct hit to your preferred palate. The same principle extends to the realm of beer. I count myself as equally enamoured of beer as I am of wine. As long as a flavour intrigues, bewilders in the most delightful manner, and ultimately gratifies, I stand content. Truly, whether a bottle costs 5 (dollars, pounds or euro's) or 50 bears little significance. Let alone indulging in obsceen displays of my refined tastes. My joy lies in the realm of surprise. No mattter what the price. The revelation arrived through a beer on the 'beer side' of the establishment. Paradoxically, after my prior proclamation against flaunting expensive tastes, I can unabashedly declare this the most expensive beer I've ever paid money for. However, the cost isn't the focal point; rather, it's the fact that it happened to be the last available of the 'Neon Raptor Carrot and Walnut Cake Pastry Stout'. Yes, you read that correctly. This particular brew was emphatically recommended to me by a fellow beer enthusiast, who, incidentally, also happened to worked at Agenturet. Stout, a type of dark beer, frequently exudes a sweet undertone. Nonetheless, never before had I encountered a Stout that evoked thoughts of carrot cake. Remarkably delectable and worthy of every penny spent. The stewardship of this establishment by beer aficionados, harbouring a distinct preference for obscure, independent, and diminutive breweries, scarcely surprises. The gentlemen tending to the bar narrate their recommendations with an enthusiasm as if it were their first day on the job. Curiously, this enthusiasm proves most inspiring. Beyond the realms of fine dining establishments, such fervour is a rarity in the hospitality sector (altough the word 'hospitality' clearly suggests the opposite). Hence, Agenturet emerges as a resounding recommendation for anyone paying Tromsø a visit. As the title implies, the atmosphere within is profoundly convivial; the coziest bar in the Arctic if it was up to me. An ambiance akin to that of a comfortable living room pervades the space. One table accommodates a group of six students engrossed in a game of Besserwisser, while a slightly older Italian couple finds it nearly impossible to conceal their subtle smiles. The majority of the clientele is comprised of local Tromsø'ers (if they can even be called that). It's truly one of those locales that one is loath to depart, a place that indubitably contributes to the indelible memory of Tromsø. Such establishments deserve far more credit then they usually do. Equally contributory to an enchanting stay is one's lodging. Pertaining to Tromsø, I present two recommendations for surprising reasons: light, or rather, the absence of it. In the summertime, darkness is an anomaly in Tromsø. To ensure and undisturbed night of sleep, thick curtains and effective sound insulation, adept at quelling the incessant squawks of seagulls, are indispensable. In this regard, the Skaret Studios excel. Permit me to assert, as a former interior designer (yes, I was that in a not so distant past), that these petite studio's are splendidly designed and decorated with both warmth and elegance. Another rationale for my endorsement lies in the autonomy they supply. Equipped with a tiny kitchen, one can either consider to shop for breakfast, or to explore local eateries. This variability lends charm, diverging from the standardized hotel breakfasts. And, there's simply just too many great bakeries in Tromsø to leave unattended. The second recommendation finds relevance during the dark months in the north, particularly when one can marvel at the Northern Lights in Tromsø. During such instances, impeding one's view with curtains is a bad idea. Rather, one craves candlelit ambience, a sumptuous bed with an expansive view of the nocturnal heavens. Should the need arise to rouse from slumber in the dead of night, there is a big chance one awakens to the splendid undulating emerald northern light curtains straight overhead. For this scenario, I advocate selecting the Aera Panorama Lodge. Analogous to the visit to Agenturet, a winter stay herein endows Tromsø with a memory that shall endure for eternity. It will!

  • Eat: squishy fishy (or Norwegian fermented fish); the rakfisk festival

    Renowned chef Gordon Ramsay couldn't quite appreciate it, but as everyone knows, his understanding of fine cuisine is utterly lacking. I'm, of course, referring to rakfisk. Allow me to provide a brief explanation of what Rakfisk truly entails. Put simply, Norwegian rakfisk is fermented trout. The fish is thoroughly salted and arranged in a plastic container, with a blend of salt and sugar sprinkled between each layer of fish. After a few days of refrigeration in an airtight container, the fish becomes pickled. And of course there's a variety of sorts. It carries a scent, well, reminiscent of fish, though nowhere near as potent as the Swedish surströmming. Yet, in Norway, it is held in high esteem as an outright delicacy. Such is its reputation that an annual rakfisk festival is organized each November. Fagernes, a locale with just under 2000 inhabitants, transforms entirely for this occasion. Various stages host an eclectic array of musical acts, a grand market tempts with the finest local treats to savor and purchase, and naturally, one can sample an array of rakfisk variations. There's no doubt that this is a genuine celebration of the people. I attended for the first time last year and was particularly taken by the overall ambiance. The streets were awash with a sea of brightly colored raincoats, for in November, a cloudless sky is far from assured. The scent of wood fires permeates many corners, bestowing a uniquely snug feeling to the affair. A series of vast tents are erected, offering the chance to sample rakfisk from various producers. Naturally, one of the days culminates in the crowning of a victor. And the party continues with music and banter during the evenings. Even if fish isn't entirely your preference, a visit to the festival comes highly recommended. Not only for the splendid atmosphere but also for the rare insight it provides into Norwegian culture and customs. It really is jolly good fun! For accommodation, one location truly stands head and shoulders above the rest. Danebu Kongsgaard - Boutique Hotel. As the name implies, you'll slumber in utmost comfort here. A bed of roses, high up on a ridge not too far away from Fagernes. Do ensure you secure your reservation promptly, for the influx of fish aficionados is substantial. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll come from Oslo. Public transport runs, but not frequent, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you back to Danebu Kongsgaard when you've had your share of fish. Also know that taxi's are very, very occupied during those days. Check here for availability.

  • Destination: the best views and scenic drives in Norway; and how to see most of them

    In this exposition, I undertake the formidable task of guiding you through the best and most enchanting and majestic views and the most scenic drives in Norway. Having personally seen each one of them, arranging them in any hierarchical order proves an insurmountable challenge, for they each radiate a distinct and splendid in themselves. However, I assure you that subsequent to perusing this discourse, you shall not depart empty-handed. I have stipulated the sole condition that these destinations must be accessible by electric car, excluding those strenuous 5-hour hikes, as I do not know about the physical endurance of my esteemed readers. For the most breathtaking panoramas, the Norwegian Scenic Roads are an imperative. Should you seek an itinerary or a compendium, it is advised to adhere to these routes in structuring the remainder of your sojourn in Norway. The exceptional attribute of these routes lies in their varied character, encompassing rugged coastlines, captivating deep fjords, and picturesque forests alongside lower-lying realms. Scattered along these routes are numerous meticulously marked halts, often conceived by Norwegian architects, offering essential amenities such as lavatories and seating. Without exception, these stops warrant a pause, presenting either a splendid view or a historical landmark. Despite protracted contemplation, I refrain from declaring a definitive preference, yet allow me to share my top 3: Varanger, Rondane, and Aurlandsfjellet. As previously articulated, selecting a favorite proves an almost insurmountable endeavor. Breheimen and its environs have left an indelible imprint on my consciousness. Breheimen, an offshoot of the majestic Jostedalsbreen, once extended through a prolonged valley, now adorned with diminutive birch trees. From the easily accessible visitor center, an awe-inspiring vista unfolds toward the imposing glacier formations. Reveling in a cup of coffee and a quintessential Norwegian waffle with jam, this vista is destined to linger in one's memory. Stegastien, an architecturally remarkable structure, offers a particularly breathtaking panorama overlooking the Aurlandsfjorden. Predominantly constructed of wood, the edifice culminates with a glass panel at its terminus, serving as a vantage point over the abyss. I have encamped in its proximity on several occasions, bearing witness to the sunset casting its brilliance upon this landscape—a veritable spectacle. The journey thereto is equally awe-inspiring, traversing barren high mountains adorned with sporadic snowfields before gradually descending towards Aurlandsfjorden. Exquisite. Snøhetta, a legendary architectural firm renowned on the global stage for prestigious projects, has etched its mark in the Norwegian wilderness. This exquisite pavilion, unveiled in 2011, serves the singular purpose of allowing visitors a tranquil appreciation of the resplendent natural surroundings. While the structure itself is a masterpiece, the surrounding milieu unquestionably steals the limelight. Furthermore, the prospect of encountering a procession of reindeer during the approximately 20-minute walk from the parking area is quite high. Another noteworthy vantage point, of an entirely divergent nature, is the subaqueous locale of restaurant UNDER in Lindesnes. As the nomenclature suggests, this establishment is predominantly submerged. Having dinner here entails relishing a breathtaking view through towering glass walls, affording a captivating insight into the aquatic tableau below. Beyond the unique dining experience, the culinary offerings are of superlative quality. Though I have not personally partaken in the repast (I'm not rich), should you find yourself in Norway, reserving a table well in advance is advised. The coastline of Sørlandet, especially between Grimstad and Risør, stands out as one of the most picturesque and captivating coastal stretches I have ever encountered. Century-old wooden dwellings, weathered fishing vessels, and around each bend, a distinct perspective on a tranquil bay. The small hamlets lining the coastline exude a postcard-perfect charm. I particularly endorse a halt in Brekkestø for a serving of ice cream or cake. Alternatively, traverse the B roads through Grimstad, Lillesand, Arendal, Tvedestrand, and Risør. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly endorse the city of Ålesund in its entirety. The singular allure lies in its proximity to the sea with a bustling harbor, while simultaneously affording a breathtaking view of an Alpine landscape from the city and its surrounding islands. The snow-capped summits at times lend an almost surreal, photoshopped quality to the panorama, yet it is undeniably authentic. On my initial visit, I occasionally found myself pinching to ascertain the reality of what lay before me. Truly unparalleled in the global landscape, this city also boasts a selection of superb hotels, as I wrote about previously. As previously noted, the task of delineating the most extraordinary viewpoints could undoubtedly span 30 pages, given the spectacular nature of the entire country (in my humble opinion). However, presuming time constraints on your part in crafting a meticulous itinerary, I reiterate the earnest recommendation to utilize the Norwegian Scenic Roads as a foundational guide for structuring your journey. Easily accessible by car, boasting impeccable facilities (with lavatories adhering to a stringent cleaning regimen), these routes unequivocally offer the optimum value for your invested time.

  • Stay: agritourism; Norway as a champion of extraordinary farm stays.

    If you possess even a modicum of knowledge about Norway, it will come as no surprise that Norway has been an agricultural society for nearly a thousand years. Let's set aside, for the moment, the significance of fishing. The country is truly adorned with (former) farms. As urbanization and prosperity increased, the number of farmers able to sustain the farming life diminished. Faced with significant competition from abroad, the country began to transform gradually. To cut a long story short, due to the decline of small farming operations, agritourism in Norway has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade. In fact, I dare say that Norway has emerged as an absolute champion in the realm of farm stays. The level of creativity exhibited by Norwegians in transforming former farms into holiday paradises is nothing short of impressive. In this piece, I wish to inspire and encourage you to book at least one, preferably several, of these accommodations during your travels through Norway. I am convinced that this adds a unique dimension to your journey that cannot be found in any hotel. Certainly, there are hundreds of farm stays to choose from. To simplify matters, I have selected the most exceptional and unique ones (in my own humble opinion). In fact, I've compiled a top 5, a decision that might incur the displeasure of the rest of the country. Nevertheless, I'll take that risk for now. If need be, I may write another article later. Here we go, in no particular order: The epitome of rural romance seems to have been recently reinvented by Steinar and Yngve at Åmot. Åmot is the name of an ancient farmhouse that has been in the family for over a century. It has been transformed into a marvel of aesthetics, hospitality, and romance. Everything here is tasteful, from the décor and colors to the presented cuisine, not to mention the impeccable attire of the hosts. The attention to detail at Åmot influences the entire experience, leaving you impressed at every moment of your stay. Moreover, Åmot is excellently situated on the west side of Norway, nestled between the Sognefjord and Dalsfjord – an ideal base for exploring the stunning nature of this part of the country. And rest assured, there are still sheep. During my travels, I often sleep deeply, perhaps due to the plethora of impressions. Occasionally, I wake up not entirely sure of my surroundings. This may happen when you stay at Flatheim. The landscape alone is breathtaking, situated just below the tree line with snow-capped peaks seemingly within reach. Which is no surprise since Flatheim is situated right next to one of Norway's scenic roads; the Gaularfjellet Scenic Road. The rooms at Flatheim are beautifully decorated, evoking a pleasant sense of nostalgia. During summers, they run a charming little café serving homemade bread and pastries. Flatheim has elevated the essence of agritourism to an art form. For those seeking responsible travel, reserving a few nights here is highly recommended. Who could have dreamed of a Michelin-starred restaurant on a farm a century ago? Perhaps the guests of Boen Gård, as for centuries, elites have frequented the area for fishing in the adjacent river teeming with salmon. It's no surprise that Boen Gård understands hospitality, but what must be emphasized is how they have truly elevated it. As mentioned, the dinner is of unparalleled quality, prepared with mostly local ingredients. The service is equally outstanding. However, what makes it truly remarkable is that you can also stay overnight. This makes it an excellent base for exploring the beautiful southern coast of Norway, and the town of Kristiansand of course. And don't forget to encourage the hosts to share the history of the manor. The stories that emerge are astonishing. Huser Gård is just under 20 minutes' drive from Oslo Airport. In the rolling landscape, right by the river, it is a rural oasis of tranquility. The farm consists of several buildings – a residence, a barn converted into an event venue with a particularly cozy communal space. What Huser Gård is most famous for is WonderInn. They rent a series of completely different micro-houses: an igloo, a gypsy caravan, and a glass cube. Additionally, there's an amazing sauna right by the river that you can use for free. Last but not least, a herd of alpacas, a couple of ponies, two little pigs, and a troop of chickens. This is the perfect marriage of rural romance and Instagram. Brimi Sæter is quite an institution, and by that, I mean it's world-famous... in Norway. And for valid reasons. Besides world-class hospitality, there's a cheese factory, and the buildings and outdoor spaces are populated by all kinds of animals. You stay in a manner you couldn't even imagine in your wildest dreams. The attic (låvelofte) is traditionally furnished with a multitude of traditional beds. You wake up, and breakfast is served more or less at your bedside. Absolutely unique in the world and an unforgettable experience. Moreover, the food served is of immense quality, most of it homemade. The farm is situated above 800 meters, meaning you are above the tree line in Norway. From every window, you have an incredible view of the surrounding mountains. And the spectacular Jotunheimen is within close reach. I trust that this list has managed to inspire you. In fact, I sincerely hope you visit all the aforementioned destinations, as each possesses its own distinctive character and is situated in diverse locations across the country, each with its unique charm. If you happen to peruse my article on the most spectacular roads in Norway as well, your holiday can't help but be a resounding success.

  • Destination: sleep in a lighthouse and eat on the ocean floor; the south of Norway

    As a young boy, we rarely ventured abroad for vacations. There was that one time to northern France, a campsite in Belgium and another time with my grandma to one of the Canary Islands. I believe that's where my fascination with maps began. I would often flip through my atlas, studying all the unique place names, especially those in faraway lands. North Russia, Canada, and of course, Scandinavia, particularly intrigued me. I would daydream about distant places as I traced the Norwegian coastline and imagine all the magnificent places I would come across. And now, I do that in reality. Let me take you on a rather grand recommendation. In its entirety, the south of Norway is a fantastic area to spend a week. However, this recommendation focuses on the region between Kristiansand and Stavanger. I won't describe the entire area because you should experience it for yourself. But I do have a few recommendations for you, places where you absolutely must pull over your car. I've already covered Kristiansand previously, so I suggest you read my article on that or enter "Kristiansand" in the search bar above. We'll move a bit further southwest. First off, the beaches in Mandal. If the weather is lovely and you're a fan of beaches, this is one of the best spots along the entire Norwegian southern coast. There's a large beach, but if you're willing to walk a bit further, you'll find a few smaller coves. It's incredibly beautiful and somewhat reminded me of Ibiza when I first visited. The water is crystal clear, and the adjacent pine forests possess an enchanting kind of magic. I visited years ago with my loved one. That memory has firmly anchored itself in my visual recollections. A bit beyond Mandal lies a remarkable place. Despite people living here since the Iron Age, Lindesnes never truly grew into a place of significant importance. Yet, Lindesnes is now known to a very specific audience. These are architecture enthusiasts and those who adore exceptional seafood. You might have come across it already: restaurant Under. Words genuinely fall short when describing this restaurant. In short, you're dining at the bottom of the sea. From your table, you'll watch the fish swim by. I must honestly admit that, although I've been there once, I've never eaten there. Due to dedicating the last 4 years to traveling to and from the Netherlands for family-related matters, indulgences like these sadly aren't a financial priority. However, as soon as I can, I'll provide an extensive account. Friends were, in any case, extremely enthusiastic about the whole experience. Keep in mind that there are waiting lists. So, if you want to enjoy the most incredible seafood next summer, it's best to make your reservation now. Now that you find yourself back above sea level again, tired and content after numerous courses and good wine, it's time for accommodation. You can sleep in a lighthouse in Lindesnes because the former lighthouse keeper's house is available for rent. It's incredibly romantic to sit by the fireplace as the waves crash against the rocks. If you prefer a bit more luxury and comfort, book a night at Lindesnes Havhotel. Comfy beds, a sea view, and a hot tub for those who love it. The following day, you'll get in your car and head towards the start of the most southern national tourist route that begins in Flekkefjord (put Helleren i Jøssingfjord as a waypoint in your navigation). This tourist route goes from Flekkefjord almost all the way to Stavanger and is characterized by a relatively flat landscape with numerous beaches, beautiful coastlines, and, of course, several points of interest marked with large brown signs. For example, Orrestranda is the country's longest sandy beach and provides a spectacular sight, especially when clouds roll by and the wind picks up. Due to my love for sailing, I get quite excited when the wind blows a bit. During the drive along the Jæren National Tourist Route, there are a few stops you should make that aren't on the map. Starting with Köhler-Paviljongen. It's a beautiful old building steeped in history. Moreover, you can buy the best rhubarb juice in Norway here. As a Dutchman, I'm occasionally jestingly referred to as a 'cheesehead.' I generally don't take offense, partly because it might be true. I do indeed have a fondness for good cheese. And Norway produces a considerable amount of excellent cheese. Hence, my recommendation for a brief stop at the Ystepikene (or cheese girls). It sounds all rather cute, but they take their profession very seriously. In fact, they win awards for their cheese. And you'll witness that firsthand as you look directly into the cheese-making facility from the shop's large window. In this area you will truly find the best of Southern Norway. Undoubtedly, I may incur the ire of many by not enumerating a multitude of other stops along the route that are more than worthy of mention. However, the charm of travelling lies in relinquishing a portion to serendipity. After all, must every hour be meticulously scheduled? **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at either Kristiansand or Stavanger. From there public transport isn't really an option to properly explore or the secluded locations I just suggested. So it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Destination: the best of Norway in a nutshell in Sogndal (all the cliches, but the good ones)

    I've just lowered the car window. Phone in hand, I'm using Vipps (a Norwegian mobile payment system) to send NOK 40 to, presumably, the owner of a fruit orchard. A box of ripe plums is for the taking from the little stall, hands down the juiciest and most succulent I've ever held. This vignette captures the essence of the place I'm about to take you in your mind's eye—an encapsulation of Norway's finest. Let me elucidate the reasons behind this claim. The scenario I just described isn't an isolated incident. It's the very tableau that unfolds along the narrow lanes enfolding the fjords. Countless farms adorned with fruit orchards, time-worn boathouses skirting the fjord's edge, and vistas that can only be called breathtaking. Particularly in May, when the fruit blossoms burst forth, the scenery is nothing short of spellbinding. I've experienced it several times during summer, and the magic is undeniably alive then too. We're in the vicinity of Sogndal, nestled on one of the branches of the majestic Sognefjord. Our initial stop is the aptly named Fjordpanorama where you will spend at least two nights. The view here lives up to the billing. From your personal hot tub, with a glass of apple cider in hand, you'll survey the vibrant emerald slopes. Far below, the blue expanse of a Sognefjord offshoot shimmers. Here, one sleeps with curtains ajar for reasons abundantly evident. Whether this locale stands as one of the nation's most spectacular lodgings, I'll leave open for discourse. It's undeniably high on the list. Furthermore, this is a destination worth visiting throughout the year. Personally, I'd opt for spring—a touch of snow still gracing the land, yet the valley teeming with blossoms. Don't tell her yet, but I'm taking my girlfriend here for her birthday next year (and this is a test to see if she actually reads my blogposts). Anyway, moving on! The next day heralds yet another highlight: Urnes Stave Church. Expressing such claims is a challenge, but I'm inclined to label this one of the most imaginatively evocative stave churches. UNESCO concurs. Erected in the 12th and 13th centuries, it stands among the oldest surviving stave churches. A diminutive structure housing a fairytale interior, its woodwork recalls the ancient tales of Norse mythologies. You'll sail there from Sogndal on a petite ferry. While you can bring your car, going on foot is just as convenient. Do check ferry timings beforehand to minimize waiting. Should a wait arise, indulge in a cup of coffee at Urnesgard. This charming terrace, a facet of the farm, serves as both a gathering spot for the fjord's scant inhabitants and a haven for fortuitous tourists in the know. After the return voyage, acquainting oneself with local flavors seems a splendid notion. And, without a doubt, apple cider reigns supreme. Near your abode, Amblegaard beckons. This farm crafts exceptional apple juice and cider. They even arrange tastings, although for groups of eight or more. Who knows, with a bit of charm, they might offer a sip of cider to a solo adventurer. And bring a bottle back to Fjordpanorama. Nothing better then a cold sip while sitting in the bubblebath (I mentioned that before, didn't I?). This region isn't brimming with eateries or lunch spots, but for the famished, Dampskipkaien presents a fine option. Don't expect haute cuisine, but the Skagen sandwich and fish soup are more than satisfactory for the ravenous traveler. Additionally, on a pleasant day, you can bask outside, taking in splendid waterfront views. Should time allow, venture forth to Fjærland. I've penned an exuberant piece about it—do give it a read. Dining is an option there, too, a worthwhile pursuit indeed. Dinner is served at the Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel and is absolutely excellent. I'm smitten with this region, as it packs the best of Norway in a nutshell. And of course, I have not been able to cover everything there is to see and experience on, in, and around the Sognefjord for this deserves a multitude of blogposts, which will start to litter this forum in the not-so-distant future. **Getting there: it is most wise to reserve a car in advance for public transport can make your venture a little complicated. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere in utter calmness. Check here for availability.

  • Stay: the landscape is the architecture; one of the best hotels in Norway

    I discovered this hotel for the first time due to my interest in architecture. In particular the Jensen & Skodvin architectural firm. The remarkable thing about this place is that it's not primarily about architecture. Just like in photography, it's not about the picture frame. You'll understand my analogy as soon as you look outside from one of the hotel rooms. This hotel serves primarily as a frame for a ever changing exhibition of seasons: a forest so green it almost hurts your eyes, water from the wild-flowing river so blue it seems like dye has been added, and mountain slopes disappearing into the low-hanging clouds, leaving much to the imagination and making this in my opinion one of the best hotels in Norway. Don't forget to visit their sauna as well. The view from there is equally spectacular. For those adventurous and warm-blooded, taking a dip in the icy river is a must. The hotel staff is amazing. They are highly customer-oriented and will ensure you have a great time. The Juvet Landscape Hotel is the epitome of what makes Norway so fantastic: stunning nature, reverence for the elements, and warm hospitality. Even though the prices might be a bit high, once you realize that this is one of the few hotel experiences you'll never forget, it's actually quite reasonable. Due to the hotel's small size, it's important to book early if you want to stay here. I recommend booking at least 3 months in advance to secure the most beautiful bedroom in Norway. I've never been able to manage to book a night with all my spontaneous trips. By the way, the location of this hotel is no coincidence. The road leading to it is breathtaking in both directions. Numerous subtle architectural interventions in the form of countless pedestrian bridges and viewpoints give you plenty of reason to pull over every half hour. Take the Gudbrandsjuvet cafe, for example. The coffee here is outrageously expensive, so you might as well skip that, but treat yourself to the magnificent structure that offers an impressive view of the raging river cascading down in multiple waterfalls. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Ålesund Airport (AES). From there public transport really takes forever, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability!

  • Hike: the hidden charms of Setesdal and the southern most reindeer herd in Norway

    Delving into the annals of Norwegian history often reveals a tapestry lying just beneath the surface. In this instance, I am specifically alluding to a history where distinct regions remained markedly isolated from each other. Whether due to geographical barriers, considerable distances, or a combination of both, the result birthed unique identities within many valleys and secluded locales. This distinctiveness is notably preserved in dialects to this day. Although I've grown fairly proficient in Norwegian, I confess that when I sometimes venture into new territories, about 15% of the words remain an enigma. Setesdal in Norway stands as one such region, boasting an entirely distinctive character. Stretching from the wooded haven of Evje to the winter wonderland of Hovden, this elongated valley is nestled between two mountain plateaus: Setesdal Vesthei and Setesdal Østhei. It exudes a sense of fascination with its ensemble of small villages predominantly centered around agriculture and forestry. Tradition weaves itself deeply into the fabric of this land. Notably deviating from the norm, the variations in Norwegian folk attire (Bunad) here are among the most exquisite. Additionally, the music that emanates from this realm bears an unparalleled uniqueness. The idea of dedicating an entire blog post to this realm feels tantalizingly justified. Perhaps that endeavor shall come to fruition in due time. My inaugural encounter with Setesdal occurred in 2016. Chosen primarily for its proximity to Kristiansand and its accessibility, it served as the perfect backdrop for a small weekend expedition, complete with numerous peaks surpassing the 1000-meter mark. The treeline sits approximately between 600 and 800 meters, thus etching the number 1000 in my mind as a symbol of the awe-inspiring mountainous panoramas that await. Allow me to introduce you to a particular trail that I hold dear within Setesdal. This trail beckons to both travelers with and without an automobile. Upon journeying through the valley, you'll eventually arrive at a place called Valle (Harstadberg bus stop). Here, a narrow bridge spans the gap. Just beyond this bridge, a sinuous mountain road takes you through eight sharp hairpin bends, leading to a parking area. If you're arriving by car, this is your designated haven. A bit further along the route, however, a small fee is levied for the maintenance of the road, as it falls under private care. So you can drive in a little further if you please, once the fee is paid. The inception of the hiking trail commences at the bend of the aforementioned gravel road. In the event of recent rain, anticipate a slightly muddy and damp initiation. The trail is well-maintained, sporting intermittent wooden planks to aid in keeping your feet dry. Yet, I must stress the imperative of stout hiking boots, impervious to immediate soaking even in the face of the first puddle. If you're in the market for hiking footwear, do take a quick three-minute read of my piece detailing my cherished hiking boots I bought a few years ago. The initial stage ascends steadily, weaving through a low birch forest. Particularly during early autumn (from August to late September), the scenery transforms into a spectacle of unparalleled beauty. Midway through, a modest climb presents itself, offering terrain slightly steeper in incline. Even for those less accustomed to hiking, this ascent poses no significant challenge. Beyond this ascent, you'll walk alongside a lengthy lake, experiencing, for the first time, a profound connection with the mesmerizing mountain landscape. On either side, mountain ridges soar to heights surpassing 1000 meters. During my initial visit, a veil of mist hung in the air, imparting an almost intimidating aura. The journey from the gravel road to the first resting point takes around 2.5 hours. Here, a small cabin stands, originally built in 1920 as temporary shelter for local shepherds. Today, it's managed by the Norwegian Tourist Association, offering overnight accommodations when necessary. I once found myself stranded there overnight due to an intense storm. The cacophony of wind battering everything in its path meant sleep eluded me that night. Still, it remains a remarkable experience in hindsight. Embarking from Stavskar, a three-hour trek leads to Bossbu. This recently refurbished trekker's hut, also overseen by DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association), is reached via a journey that leaves one breathless. Especially upon reaching the apex from Stavskar, gazing out across the highlands, the landscape unfolds in breathtaking fashion. Sparkling lakes and rivers catch the sunlight, while in the distance, a majestic mountain ridge with snow-clad sections beckons. I've mentioned it earlier, but it's worth reiterating that this is among the most southern mountainous regions of the country. My last visit likely took place in autumn, probably around the beginning of October. A touch of frost had already graced the land, and daytime temperatures hovered around 4 degrees Celsius. The highest peaks of the mountains had already embraced a blanket of snow. That day marked my introduction to a herd of reindeer. It took a while for me to spot them, their gray-white coats blending almost seamlessly with the partially frozen mountains behind them. The sight left me utterly elated. It was a late afternoon, the sun had descended considerably, and the cold air tingled in my nose. Immense rocks cast long shadows, creating a scene too beautiful to be real. A few pointers to bear in mind before embarking on your journey: Study the map meticulously, and do not underestimate time constraints. What might take me, a seasoned hiker, five hours could easily demand a few additional hours from you. The website offers a comprehensive guide to all marked hiking trails the country boasts. Electricity is scarce (or virtually absent). Thus, packing a power bank is a necessity. While certain huts might feature solar panels allowing for half an hour of charging, it's wise not to rely on this as a primary source. If you're venturing alone, make sure someone is aware of your plans. Share your destination and estimated duration, enhancing your traceability in the event of an unforeseen mishap. Err on the side of excess rather than scarcity when packing provisions. Ensure they are securely packaged, using dry bags, a concept I previously discussed. Water is plentiful along the way. Do make sure to tap from fast running water, preferrably above the treeline. One principle prevalent in Norwegian outdoor pursuits is, 'There is no shame in turning back.' This implies that when weariness sets in or the weather abruptly shifts, persevering at all costs is not the main goal. Your personal safety is the most important thing to take care of. When utilizing DNT huts, acquaint yourself thoroughly with the specific hut's protocols. Reservation requirements or the ongoing hunting season (September-October) might necessitate extra preparation. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive from Kristiansand. There are busses driving through the valley, but they do not run very frequently. Thus it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Eat: a goat in a world of sheep; the best restaurant in Oslo

    I am talking about head chef Axel Nordahl and his talented team of culinary wizards. Their restaurant takes its name from the street it occupies, affectionately known as 'Goat Marsh Street'. This is not any ordinary eatery; it's Oslo's finest culinary gem, standing out from the rest. Or as I put it in my title: a goat in a world of sheep. Ok, I said it. But there's more to unveil! You could read numerous newspaper articles to get a taste of their culinary prowess, but those accounts only give you a glimpse until you've truly savoured their gastronomic creations. So, instead of delving into the intricacies of their dishes or flavours, let me explain why this restaurant captures the essence of Norwegian dining (and maybe even the Norwegian spirit, if there is one). It all starts with its unassuming location and understated charm. Nestled away from the city's hustle and bustle, it finds its place in a tranquil and captivating residential area. (If my memory serves me right, I believe the chef comes from these very surroundings.) There are no flashy signs of "food," "restaurant," or "luxury." If the blinds were drawn, you might even miss it altogether. The interior design perfectly complements the exterior—nothing too showy or flamboyant, just tastefully refined. The tables display exquisite craftsmanship, as do the striking artworks. Exposed concrete takes the spotlight, in its natural state, untouched. But beyond all these elements, it becomes evident that this establishment revolves around culinary artistry and its devoted chefs. I guess that's why they've opted for a spacious open kitchen. In addition to their meticulous work, there's a sense of joy behind the counter. Laughter fills the air, lighthearted banter livens up interactions with guests, and an unwavering enthusiasm permeates the dining experience and the moments between the twelve courses. The staff, for the most part, share a camaraderie akin to friends enjoying good company. The speakers gently whisper the sounds of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and 2Pac joined in on the stage too, bringing a broad smile to my face. Not because I'm a die-hard Metallica fan, but because they do things their own way, and they do it very well. I understand it might seem a bit unlikely, but I stand by my belief that this place embodies the spirit of Norway. At first glance, it may seem unassuming and introverted, but once you step inside, you'll discover a world brimming with creativity, delight, and attentive service. If you're planning a trip to Oslo and want to experience this culinary gem, I strongly recommend securing your reservation well in advance. The locals are well aware of Geita's charm, and the evenings tend to sell out consistantly, especially after I dared to call Geita the best restaurant in Oslo. And if you were to visit Oslo for a few days, don't hesitate to let yourself be tempted to a few more great restaurants.

  • Eat: on an island; the cutest restaurant in Tvedestrand

    Tvedestrand is a tiny yet enchanting gem for various reasons, and a restaurant being one of them. The centuries old coastal town nestles snugly in one of the thousands of inlets along Norway's southern coast. It's delightful to take a leisurely stroll around the village itself, but my recommendation lies beyond the mainland. In July, you can hop aboard the "badebåt" (swim boat) and set sail for Furøya. Furøya is a petite island nestled in the heart of the Tvedestrand fjord. Firstly, the island itself is incredibly picturesque, adorned with exquisite old cottages, grazing goats and sheep, and numerous swimming spots. Moreover, it hosts an insanely cozy restaurant where regular concerts during the summer are held, adding to its magical allure and creating an unforgettable experience. I visited a few years ago and was utterly captivated by the whole atmosphere there. It was a sun-drenched summer day, and me and a gang of friends enjoyed a delightful meal at the Furøya restaurant. The goats casually wandering around the restaurant often sparked moments of hilarity. If you fancy an extended stay, you can even spend the night there. Check out the options on the DNT website. Furøya is a well-kept secret, known only to the locals, adding to its charm and exclusivity. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive either at Kristiansand Airport (KRS) or from Oslo (OSL). Public transport really takes forever, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Destination: the cosiest pub and a high-end hotel; two faces of Stavanger

    For many travellers, Stavanger acts as a springboard for a jaunt to Preikestolen. Preikestolen (looking a bit like a springboard itself) is a mighty chunk of rock offering a breathtaking vista etc. Anyway, there's a jolly good chance you'll spend an evening or even a night in Stavanger. If you fancy a spot of coffee or a pint, mosey on over to my favourite little café, Hanekam. Amidst the already colourful street, Hanekam (cockscomb in English) stands out as the most vibrant establishment. The patrons consist of regulars, students, and young expats. The atmosphere is relaxed, and you'll strike up conversations in no time. Back in 2016, when I was a lonely immigrant, I sought shelter from a torrential downpour and stumbled upon Hanekam. A British bartender was manning the bar and struck up a chat on instinct. I immediately felt a tad less like a stranger. That's why I've developed a soft spot for Hanekam. On far other end of the spectre, but very much worth mentioning is a very, very special hotel. For those who have been following me for a while, it is by now well known that, as a former interior designer, I harbor a great love for design and architecture. When choosing a hotel, I often weigh this, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This was the case in Stavanger as well. One of the most popular architects of the early 20th century was responsible for the design of a gem of a building in the functionalist style (you know, Bauhaus). For some reason, this style resonates with me immensely. To the untrained eye, it may appear as an ordinary modern apartment building. However, when compared to what was common in the early 20th century in terms of construction, you can see how groundbreaking it was. The global economic crisis forced architects to think radically differently about form, function, and material. Hmm, my enthusiasm is getting the better of me again. I was talking about a hotel. It is now clear that I am attempting to describe the most elegant hotel in Stavanger: Eilert Smith Hotel. While the exterior is a manifestation of functionalism, on the inside, you immediately find yourself in the grandeur of mid-century design. This seems to be a reference to the period when Stavanger became prosperous, consciously or unconsciously. Anyway, in terms of hospitality, Eilert Smith Hotel stands head and shoulders above when it comes to Stavanger. And this is not only because of the elegance of the rooms and common areas. The staff also understands very well what guests expect when choosing such a hotel for their stay. Truly, everything is done to make your stay as pleasant as possible, and all with a kind of natural elegance (which I wish I mastered). It might be strange for a blogger, but I am a bit short of words to sum up what makes the level of service so special in a few sentences. Perhaps I can best use a scene from 'The Bear' (SE02, EP07) to illustrate it. It feels a bit like the staff passing notes to each other all day with little details about the guests, making everything and everyone seem to be excellently synchronized. I don't know how they do it. But they do it excellently. The occasion obliges me to also mention Re-naa. Located within the Eilert Smith hotel, this is the only 2-Michelin star restaurant in Norway. Despite what my language may imply (I know, it sometimes seems a bit pretentious), I'm not a fancy guy. Let alone having a fancy bank account. So, unfortunately, I can't tell you about what it's like to dine at Re-naa. Perhaps in another life or after a favorable lottery result. But with those two stars, I reckon you're in good hands. Kind regards, Captain Obvious. And how do you find your way to this sometimes windswept corner of the world? It might surprise you, or perhaps not, but due to the fact that Stavanger is a true oil capital, there are direct flights to nearly every major airport in Europe. So, you don't have to hesitate for a romantic weekend getaway. From Stavanger, you can catch direct flights to: Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona, Manchester, Newcastle, Esbjerg, Stockholm, London, Krakow, Kaunas, Gdansk, Frankfurt, and Aberdeen.

  • Destination: why the flag of Norway is fluttering just about everywhere

    Once you're on vacation in Norway, you'll notice the Norwegian flag fluttering quite a bit on all sorts of occasions. First and foremost, it's a sort of national pride (not to be confused with nationalism). That is because Norway is a fairly young country, with a long history of dependence and domination by other (Scandinavian) powers. But there's also the use of a Norwegian pennant, indicating whether people are at home or not. Of course, this isn't something you'd see much in the larger cities, but in the countryside and areas where many Norwegians have their holiday cabins, you'll often see a Norwegian flag or pennant flying. And, it's widely used for marketing purposes; the brand 'Geographical Norway' you probably heard of? Beanies, sweaters, jackets, the lot. They all have Norwegian flags glued onto them...for some unfathomable reason. Also, during the day of the Constitution, which takes place on May 17th, there's a kind of Red-White-Blue haze over the country. It's a delightful day, it really is. No military parades, but a parade for, and by the children. As they are seen as the country's future. What a country, right? If you ever consider coming here, it's not a bad idea to visit Oslo during may. Just saying. Now a bit about the history of the flag. The Norwegian flag, commonly known as the "Flag of Norway" or "Norges flagg" in Norwegian, has a history dating back to the early 19th century. The design is a combination of a red background with a blue cross outlined in white that extends to the edges of the flag. Did you know, by the way, that the Danish flag (a white Nordic cross on a red background) is the oldest continuously used flag in the world? It’s been continually in use since the early 14th century. Alright, back to the Norwegian. The origins of the Norwegian flag can be traced back to the early 19th century when Norway and Sweden were in a union. The union between Norway and Sweden, known as the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, lasted from 1814 to 1905. During this time, the Norwegian flag went through some changes. In 1821, a contest was held to design a new flag for Norway. The winning design, created by Fredrik Meltzer, featured a red field with a blue cross, similar to the current flag. However, it wasn't officially adopted at that time. In 1825, the Union Mark was added to the flag to symbolize the union with Sweden. The Union Mark was a blue square in the upper left corner of the flag, containing the Swedish and Norwegian coats of arms side by side. This design was used until the dissolution of the union in 1905. After Norway gained independence from the union with Sweden in 1905, the Union Mark was removed, and the flag adopted its present form. The red background represents the blood and sacrifice of the people, the blue cross signifies Norway's link to other Scandinavian countries, and the white border around the cross represents the country's commitment to peace. The Norwegian flag has since become a symbol of national identity and pride, and it is displayed on various occasions, including national holidays and events. And more often so for joyous reasons, instead of well...nationalistic ones. If you have any plans waving a Norwegian flag around while being here, please to take notice of the flag etiquette as states in the Norwegian flag law. Here are some key points: Respectful Treatment: The Norwegian flag should be treated with respect and dignity. It should not be used for inappropriate or offensive purposes. Correct Usage: The proportions and colors of the flag should be in accordance with official specifications. The red color should be a specific shade known as "Norwegian Red," and the blue cross should be a darker blue. Flag Position: When displayed with other flags, the Norwegian flag should be given a place of honor. It is customary to raise the Norwegian flag first and lower it last when displayed with other flags. Half-mast: The flag should be flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning. The decision to lower the flag is typically made by the government and may be done in the event of the death of a prominent figure or a national tragedy. Flag Burning: Burning the Norwegian flag is generally not illegal, but it is considered highly disrespectful. It is not a common or accepted form of protest in Norway. Commercial Use: The flag can be used for commercial purposes, but it should not be defaced or used in a manner that is disrespectful. Private Use: Individuals are free to display the flag on their private property. There are no strict regulations governing the use of the flag by private citizens, as long as it is done with respect.

  • Drink: a flappe-latte-drinkety-winkety; the best coffee on Senja (Norway) and a stay on Tranøya

    Honesty compels me to confess that we had, in fact, taken a wrong turn. Our intent was to seek out one of the scenic roads of Senja (Norway), and we had misinterpreted one of the symbols on a roadside sign as indicating the beginning of such a route. Later, it became apparent that this was the exit for a national park - undoubtedly worth a visit, but time was a somewhat scarce resource for us. So, after approximately 40 minutes of driving, we found ourselves at a T-junction. To one side stood an aged white church, and on the other, a flagpole with a fluttering pennant. The flag read "Senja Roasters." Suddenly, an urge for coffee overcame me. Or maybe not. Perhaps it was more a sense of complete astonishment that such an establishment could reside in such a remote location. As we parked the car, the intrigue deepened. Stepping into Senja Roasters, confusion took the best of me. Not due to a lack of comprehension, but because of the setting itself. The interior, the aroma, and the multitude of languages being spoken, all conspired to suggest a bustling metropolis. Copenhagen, or Madrid... or Boston. Yet, one finds oneself on an island, amidst one of the most secluded corners of Norway. The atmosphere is undeniably cosy. A couple of industrious Gen-Z’ers clatter away at their laptops, the proprietress tends to roasting beans in the back of the establishment, and a young Spanish twentysomething, who utters around three words of Norwegian, charmingly takes my order. All the while, gazing through the window, one is reminded that this is not Copenhagen, Madrid, or Boston. The coffee is amazing. Its flavor exquisite. And the mandarin muffin, equally delectable. Even though the primary draw is undoubtedly the exceptional coffee, I feel compelled to emphasize that there's something noteworthy about the person who has chosen to establish a business right here in a drowsy corner of Norway, and thus bringing back life to an area where the population has been gradually declining for years. It takes an incredible amount of courage. And courage, in this world, deserves far greater recognition. Thus, I call upon every tourist to ‘take a wrong turn’ and indulge in a cup of coffee at Senja Roasters. Afterwards, one can explore Ånderdalen National Park at leisure - the very park that regrettably eluded our time constraints. So I think I should rephrase. There’s no such thing as ‘wrong turns’. Not on Senja at least. I completely understand if, after perusing this snippet, you find yourself eager to spend a few nights on Senja. As luck would have it, in the summer of 2023, I discovered Tranøya; a tiny island nestled just off the coast of Senja. Here, amidst the backdrop of an ancient church, stands an extraordinary old farmhouse tended to by two sisters. In fact, they more or less grew up here. They've essentially transformed the island (Tranøya) into a destination in its own right. Beyond the blissful slumber accompanied by the gentle lapping of waves, this serves as your base from which you can explore the stunning surrounding nature, embark on boat and fishing trips (did you know that the world's best fishing waters are around Senja?), partake in guided or independent ventures. For the history enthusiast, there are tours offering a glimpse into the bygone way of life, and, of course, you can venture out with a kayak or a SUP board. There's something special about islands. They are like tiny reserves where authenticity and history seem to be preserved just a bit more diligently than elsewhere. Moreover, your heartbeat almost instinctively slows down. Allow yourself to be enchanted, much like I was, and secure a few nights in this enchanting paradise. It's so beautiful, it's nearly ridiculous. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Narvik Airport (EVE). From there public transport isn't really an option, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Drink: if you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there (pssst, it's a hidden bar in Oslo)

    Nestled in the heart of the capital lies a peculiar stretch of street. For some inexplicable reason, this patch of asphalt has become a sort of clubhouse for the heroin addicts that inhabit the city. Allow me the occasion to advocate a bit for them. Often, they appear disheveled, shabby-looking and burdened with plastic bags containing dubious contents. Yet, it is essential to recognize that most of them have merely fallen on hard times—whether due to whatever life has to throw at some of them or a party that spiraled out of control, leading to unfortunate consequences. My point is this: they are not criminals; they suffer from drug addiction and bear the weight of an image problem. The fact that they still roam the streets of Oslo speaks to the Norwegian state's commitment to caring for its sick citizens in various ways. Unlike many other cities, an addict here will not beg for money. The reason I bring this up is that as you stroll through the heart of Oslo on your way to my next recommendation, you will undoubtedly come across a few (heroin) addicts. I hope that you may look upon them with a slightly different perspective and, above all, not be afraid. I would be delighted to guide you to Prindsen Hage, a hidden outdoor bar in Oslo. In essence, it resembles a beer garden you might find in Berlin. The only difference is that you won't see any conspicuous signage advertising its presence, save for a very small sidewalk board that is sometimes there, and sometimes not. Moreover, the surrounding buildings entirely obscure your view, making it improbable to stumble upon Prindsen Hage at all. Yet, once you step inside, you'll understand the rationale behind this secrecy. It is never overcrowded but always exudes a convivial atmosphere. Particularly on a delightful summer's day, it becomes an idyllic haven. You can bask in the sun or find ample shade. While others flock to the waterfront promenades on scorching days, this place offers a much more serene sanctuary. The ambiance is tranquil, complemented by pleasant music, truly evoking the sensation of being in a garden. There are about four food stalls where you can order Indian cuisine or pizzas, along with several bars serving delicious local beers or whatever has your fancy (mine is beer). The fact that such an expansive inner courtyard is preserved in the midst of such a costly location, right in the heart of the city, is, in my view, a testament to an idealistic approach to urban planning. *Keep in mind that Prindsen Hage is closed during the cold months!

  • Destination: how a gunpowder storage facility became Oslo's coolest cultural hub

    The first question you need to ask yourself is how far away from the other tourists you want to venture. The second question might be how on earth you'll get there. The answer to both questions is quite clear I guess, considering the fact you're reading this blog post on 'Ha det Mamma' in the first place. Kruttverket saw the light (again) a few years back. As the name suggests for those who speak a Germanic language, it's an old gunpowder factory from a time when the surrounding residential area didn't exist yet, for goods sake because it did blow up at some point. And now, after a lot of energy, renovations, and subsidies, it has become a new cultural hot-spot that exceeds every expectation. And I'm not exaggerating. There's a café serving delightful coffee and cocktails, jazz is played on Sundays, there are multiple saunas run by Oslo Badstue Forening, an exhibition space where I once saw 15 different photos of a naked man in a forest, and occasionally there are markets where you can buy original art from local artists. Moreover, in addition to all this, the location is exceptionally picturesque. Situated right next to a bubbling river, you almost feel transported to a sort of Japanese onsen, especially with all the sauna-goers populating the charmingly crafted sauna installation with their steaming bodies. Certainly, as autumn sets in, the Norwegian idyll is complete. Aside from the fact that Kruttverket may well be the most intriguing cultural hub within the municipal borders of Oslo, it might also be the place with the highest concentration of artists and craftsmen. Kroloftet is a collective of artists and craftsmen situated right next to Kruttverket. Here, you'll find workshops for ceramics, woodworking, and an abundance of studios and work-spaces. Definitely worth taking a peek inside. You won't want to leave any time soon when you finally made it there. This place sprinkles a cloud of glitter over a somewhat colorless part of the city. It's one of those places that often makes me wonder, "How on earth is this even possible?"

  • Destination: direct flights from London and Manchester to...Stavanger; an unusual weekend break

    I dare to assume that Stavanger wasn't the first destination that crossed your mind when the wild idea of a long weekend getaway with your loved one or your friends took root in your head. Perhaps Paris came to mind, but that's predominantly inhabited by the French who speak exclusively French. Or maybe Amsterdam, but all the hotels there are booked solid with English-speaking bachelor parties. However, there are direct flights from London and Manchester to Stavanger. And there are solid reasons for that. After reading this article, you'll understand precisely why a long weekend in Stavanger is a brilliant idea. Let me guide you. Stavanger Airport is just a half-hour drive from the city center. Here, you pick up the electric car you reserved (you'll need it later, you'll see). Then, you drive to where you'll be staying. I have four options for you, catering to different price ranges but all equally fantastic. Accommodation Eilert Smith: One of the most unique hotels in the entire country for a hundred reasons. Here, you can have breakfast served in your room if you wish. This world-class breakfast comes from the kitchen of Re-naa, Norway's only 2-Michelin-star restaurant. Everyone working here has elevated hospitality to an art form. Something you must experience at least once in your life. The top floor of the hotel features a breathtaking suite with an exclusive view of the city and the coast. If that's a bit much, as I can imagine, the other rooms are also of absolute world-class, with breakfast in bed, of course. Utstein Kloster Hotell: Just outside Stavanger, a short half-hour drive away. This historically rich hotel has all the elements you'd expect from a hotel in a typical Norwegian setting. Beautifully situated on the coast, you have numerous options for outdoor activities here. Kayaking, cycling, paddleboarding, or relaxing in the sauna for two. Villa Madla: If you want it all to yourself, without the interference of hotel staff, Villa Madla is an excellent choice. As one of the most stylish and architecturally attractive buildings in Stavanger, it's a place you won't easily forget. I mean, your private pool, your sauna, and a spectacular sea view. Bring your friends. Hotel Victoria: Elegant sophistication encapsulates the essence of Hotel Victoria. Every element here is meticulously curated – from the exquisite rooms to the outstanding and incredibly attentive staff, not to mention the splendid breakfast and beyond. In terms of the overall package, this may well be Stavanger's finest hotel, perfectly tailored to suit every taste. Additionally, its central location ensures that everything is within easy walking distance. If you find the aforementioned options a bit too niche, then this is unequivocally your best choice. Food Re-naa: The culinary highlight of the entire Norwegian west coast. Words fall short, even for a blogger, to describe the magic the chefs use to conjure up the most extraordinary dishes. For ordinary mortals like me, this is a 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience. I mean, 2 Michelin stars; there are only 413 restaurants worldwide with the same status. Eg&Du: A delightful place for lunch. The fish soup is fantastic, but my personal favorite is the pickled fish dish. The service is excellent, the ingredients are mostly local and outstanding, and the prices are more than reasonable. SÖL: The menu here varies from day to day because access to local ingredients also varies. The flavors are honest and sophisticated, all in a tastefully decorated restaurant in Scandinavian style. The dishes are often inspired by Nordic cuisine. Honestly, I'd prefer to dine here. The service is excellent, the dishes without exception of high quality, and the prices are excellent considering what you get in return. Matmagasinet: Social eating at its best. Primarily a wine bar, the dishes they serve are comfort food at a high level. Especially if you're with a group, this is a particularly nice and casual place to eat and drink through the evening. Matmagasinet is a bit outside the center, but it's always busy. That is to say, particularly popular with the locals, and that's often a good sign. Also worth mentioning are: Restaurant K2 (beautiful food, beautiful ambiance), Sabi Omakase (the most incredible sushi you'll ever taste), Fisketorget (for seafood lovers), and Bakernes Paradis (a wonderful cozy cafe with a bakery; it doesn't get more Norwegian than that). Activities Preikestolen: Of course, this is one of the major attractions of the Stavanger region. And for good reasons. The 40-minute drive there is already spectacular, but the view after the climb is unparalleled. You might want to pray for clear skies because with dense fog, it might be advisable to postpone your visit for a day. Make sure to bring decent shoes (and a guide). Hiking boots are not necessary, but your simple Adidas sneakers might get wet or muddy. Gamle Stavanger: This is the oldest part of the city. The beautiful old seaman's houses now house many galleries and small shops. Whatever the weather, this neighbourhood exudes tremendous charm and makes you acutely aware that you are indeed in Norway. IDDIS Graphic Museum: As a big fan of graphic design and printing art, I couldn't resist recommending this. It's a beautifully designed but small museum where you get a nice impression of the most iconic graphic design that every Norwegian feels nostalgic about. There are also fantastic exhibitions by contemporary graphic designers and artists. Additionally, the museum is housed in a wonderful fusion of industrial heritage and contemporary architecture. Sauna: When you're in Norway, you owe it to yourself and the Norwegians to go to the sauna at least once. In recent years, the sauna culture here has experienced a true renaissance, resulting in a multitude of incredibly fun saunas in almost every city. In Stavanger, you can choose between Damp or Røkt (a bit rougher 'round the edges; but that's how I like it). As a fervent sauna-goer (I do it every week), I've become addicted to the natural 'high' you achieve when you jump from 80 degrees Celsius directly into the cold seawater. At some point, you don't feel what's warm and cold anymore, and that unleashes something in your mind. So if you've had a few too many beers and wake up without energy on a Sunday morning, go to the sauna, and you'll be back in shape after an hour. Speaking of too many beers... Drinks Øvre Holmegate: Stavanger's nightlife street where it's lively both during the day and in the evening. My favorite places for a drink are Hanekam and BlygeHarry. Beyond that, it's all up to you. In this small street, there's something for everyone. Espier Bar: Go here for an aperitif. A cocktail or two, preferably just after sunset so you can still see a bit of the city and the view. Besides the excellent cocktails and stylish decor, you come here mainly for the view. Pjolter&Punch: They shake the most legendary cocktails here. In fact, if you could take a master's course in cocktail preparation, I think everyone would graduate cum-laude. The Irishman: I probably don't need to explain this. And since I'm a big fan of old-fashioned pubs, this had to be on the list of recommendations. Of course, I've left many places and attractions unmentioned, thereby doing great injustice to the respective entrepreneurs. But this is a blog where, based on my own experience and taste, I try to inspire you, not least to ensure you have an unforgettable time in Stavanger. May the weather gods be in your favor and book your flight to Stavanger not too long from now.

  • Destination: Hardanger highlights; puppy-love and the Hardanger Fjord Lodge

    Let me confide in you with a secret. The initial time I stepped foot in Norway, I found myself madly in love. Yes, undoubtedly, with the awe-inspiring landscapes and cherry blossoms, but also with a captivating young lady. At 18, in the throes of naivety, still mentally a child, as is the way with most young men of that age; it was what they call puppy love. Yet, in that moment, it felt authentic. As time passed, that enchantment waned, but my fondness for Norway endured, truly blossoming in and around the Hardangerfjord. The allure of the beauty and expansiveness left an indelible mark, drawing me back time and again. I won't endeavour to present an exhaustive list due to the sheer magnitude, but I do wish to offer insights to enrich your exploration of this magnificent region. Allow me the liberty of promptly acquainting you with the most enchanting lodging along the fjord coast. Let me commence by detailing the setting. Nestled along a narrow road, typical of the Norwegian fjords, this hotel in the diminutive village of Mauranger, boasting fewer than 30 houses, discreetly houses a world-class establishment. It's a well-kept secret, and you might inadvertently pass by; there's no sign or arrow, ensuring only those with a genuine desire stay. My emotions are stirred as I attempt to capture this place in words. Upon entering, meticulous attention to detail becomes apparent. The hues on the walls, floor tiles, furniture, and materials exhibit a sophisticated nonchalance. This initial impression permeates every facet, from the cuisine, where the attention to detail rivals no hotel chain, to the overall experience. I boldly assert, without hesitation, that this is the most characterful accommodation along the entire Hardangerfjord. When embarking from Bergen to explore the fjords, one owes it to all of Hardanger to revel in Norwegian hospitality at its zenith. Secure a night at the Hardanger Fjord Lodge; it promises to imprint a positive memory on your Norwegian journey and is a tribute to dedicated individuals infusing energy and love into such places. The surrounding area offers plenty of activities; consider a scenic walk through Bondhusdalen to the azure blue glacier lakes further down the valley. Another highlight on your traverse through Hardangerfjorden is Rosendal, a comprehensive experience offering aristocratic allure, a splendid rose garden, a classical music festival, a quaint café, and the prospect of overnight stays. Providing historical context, Baroniet Rosendal was a singular barony in Kvinnherad, Vestland, established in 1678 by King Christian V of Denmark-Norway. Completed in 1665, the castle now serves as a living museum, offering tours, concerts, lectures, theater, art exhibitions, accommodation, and catering. In a nutshell, the estate, a bequest of affluent nobility, invites a delightful afternoon. Rarely have I encountered such a splendid collection of roses, and a '60s Jaguar E-type in the parking lot provides testament to the refined taste of the clientele, a realm I, despite my humble apartment and wornout Mazda 3, am delighted to join. Oh, and one can spend the night here too. For those eager to conquer a fear of heights, a stylish method presents itself. In 2016, architect Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk unveiled a spectacular design, offering a breathtaking view of the immense Vøringsfossen and inducing a thrill with a narrow bridge over a vast chasm. Admitting to a modicum of acrophobia, not sufficient to deter me from traversing such bridges but ample to grip the railing and savor the panorama with a knot in my stomach. Yet, it's the epitome of waterfalls, and Hølmebek's design is nothing short of breathtaking. A must-stop on the descent from Hardangervidda, particularly in autumn when the softer light and yellowing birch trees in the lower valley enhance the experience. It's one of those places worthy of a spot on your bucket list. Curiously absent from my discourse is Trolltunga, and that's by design. I find it somewhat overrated. Undoubtedly, the vista is spectacular, and the protruding rock offers an opportunity for a picturesque Instagram photo. However, the wait of half an hour, orchestrated by around 40 influencers taking a fair amount of time while diligently positioning their back-ends into the best angle for a modest Instagram following, seems contrary to the essence of a visit to Norway. Let's skip that, shall we? The true allure lies in locally produced fare, and Hardanger, in particular, is a fecund source of an array of fruits and dairy products. Exceptional apple cider and cheese are crafted here. Spildegaarden, for instance, offers a glass of ice-cold apple cider and a delectable lunch in the spring sun. The lovely hostesses / owners greet you with a generous smile and a heavy Norwegian accent. Besides Spildegaarden there are numerous gems along the Hardanger Fjord that beckon exploration of locally produced drinks and food, too many to enumerate. Maybe read my article I wrote previously on farm shops, consult the map, and chart your course. Heit Sauna Sørfjorden extends an invitation to a steaming sauna and a rejuvenating fjord bath. From my vantage as an experienced hiker, nothing surpasses the delight of unwinding muscles in a sauna with a panoramic view of the fjord, mountains, and snow-capped peaks after a day in the open. The sauna, perched at the quay's edge, offers a captivating panorama. A sauna master warmly greets you, ensuring the sauna radiates warmth. The Finnish-designed sauna stove, fired with wood, complements the experience. It's a bit of a rite of passage to take a dip in the icy fjord water. After a few immersions, a peculiar equilibrium is reached, and the demarcation between warmth and cold becomes imperceptible. A uniquely invigorating and almost transcendental encounter; reservations are prudent as this spot garners popularity. For an exceptional dining experience, securing a table at Buer is imperative. Nestled in a narrow valley with a glacier view, its remote location metaphorically mirrors Buer's distinction as the premier restaurant in the entire Hardanger region. Helmed by a proficient chef from Voss and attended by a charming Danish waitress, it's an unequivocal recommendation! Here, a distinctive and thoughtful fusion of wine and dishes unfolds. The ambiance is warm, and each staff member radiates enthusiasm. The presentation and flavor of the dishes here truly attain world-class status. If the urge for dining out strikes, do yourself a favor and reserve a table at Buer. A commendable performance! As a parting gift, consider an idyllic tip for complete relaxation during an overnight stay. Christel and Sverre now offer a diminutive 'lookout box,' affording a splendid view through the trees onto the Hardangerfjord. Beyond being exceptional hosts, it's a quaint retreat, unassuming and exclusively yours. And everything is there, squirls included! Jolly charming alltogether! As previously noted, an attempt to encapsulate the entirety of the Hardanger Fjord in a single blog post would be ambitious (understatement). Expect more articles detailing specific places along the fjord. My objective is not exhaustiveness; rather, it's to furnish original tips to check of some of the Hardanger highlight for an enchanting trip through this gorgeous area. And do share your encounters with me. I'm on Instagram and LinkedIn. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Bergen Flesland Airport (BGO). From there public transport is a bit of a challenging way to explore Hardanger properly, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Destination: 5 (and probably 30) reasons why Norway is the ultimate winter destination

    In the realm of winter sports, Norway shines as an unrivaled destination, offering not just awe-inspiring landscapes, but also a steadfast commitment to sustainable tourism making itself into a winter sports haven. While the specter of climate change has cast a shadow over traditional skiing hubs like the Alps, Norway has emerged as a sanctuary for snow enthusiasts. In this discourse, we shall delve into five compelling rationales that position Norway at the zenith of your choices for your forthcoming winter sports escapade. 1. Breathtaking Natural Splendor and Diverse Topography Norway's panorama is a tableau of spellbinding magnificence, presenting a varied expanse of terrains that are ideal for an array of winter sports activities. From the grandeur of its fjords to the vastness of its plateaus, the nation showcases a sprawling constellation of ski resorts catering to enthusiasts of all proficiency levels. Whether you are an adrenaline aficionado in search of the thrill of downhill skiing or a nature devotee yearning for cross-country trails meandering through pristine forests, Norway stands as an epitome of choices. The sheer assortment of landscapes ensures that each winter sports devotee discovers their own niche. 2. Steadfast Snowfall Amidst the Changing Climate Among the most disconcerting byproducts of climate change is the diminishing snowfall in numerous traditional winter sports locales. Nonetheless, Norway has managed to maintain relatively consistent snow conditions owing to its northern latitude and proximity to the Arctic. While climate change remains a global concern, Norway's determination to safeguard its natural marvels and offer a remarkable experience to its visitors is palpable. Travellers can be confident that their winter sports plans will not be thwarted by the absence of snow, rendering Norway an unwavering and eco-friendly option. 3. Cutting-Edge Network of EV Charging points Norway's dedication to sustainability transcends the realm of winter sports and extends into transportation. The nation has made remarkable leaps in championing electric vehicles (EVs), boasting one of the world's most advanced charging networks. This network is not confined to urban environments; it is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the country's winter sports infrastructure. Skiers and snowboarders traversing the snowy landscapes in electric vehicles can embark on their exploration sans the apprehension of running out of battery power. This ecologically conscious approach not only curbs carbon emissions but also elevates the overall experience by affording convenience and tranquility. 4. Distinctive Après-Ski Culture and Indigenous Gastronomy Après-ski, the cherished custom of unwinding and mingling after a day on the slopes, assumes a unique character in Norway. Surrender to the snug embrace of log cabins as you savor heartwarming delicacies such as fårikål (lamb and cabbage stew) or rakfisk (fermented fish). The nation's opulent culinary heritage is bound to tantalize your taste buds, providing an ideal means to rejuvenate and connect with fellow enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in the local ethos as you unwind by the fireside, exchange anecdotes, and forge indelible recollections against the backdrop of snow-clad vistas. And bring your ‘raskebriller’! 5. Escape the European Congestion: A Revitalizing Alternative to the Alps The overcrowding witnessed in conventional winter sports destinations within the Alps has led to compromised experiences for myriad travelers. Prolonged queues, congested slopes, and limited lodging choices can detract from the delight of the sojourn. In stark contrast, Norway proffers an invigorating respite from these throngs. With its meticulously designed resorts and a focus on sustainability, you can relish expansive slopes and forge a more personal communion with nature. Norway's dedication to judicious tourism ensures an unhurried and authentic winter sports odyssey, unburdened by the overwhelming multitudes. I have taken the liberty to create a small preselection regarding the very best ski areas. Of course, there are numerous other options, but these stand out as the finest in every aspect. 3 hours of driving from Oslo Airport (OSL): Hemsedal 2,5 hours of driving from Oslo Airport (OSL): Trysil 3 hours of driving from Oslo Airport (OSL): Geilo 1,5 hours of driving from Bergen Airport (BGO): Voss 3 hours of driving from Oslo Airport (OSL): Beitostølen

  • Destination: a romantic winter holiday in Norway; the most surprising ideas

    Despite the current month being August, with sunflowers in full bloom and vibrant red apples being harvested in the Hardanger region, winter is coming! I understand that for you, the reader, the notion might appear distant, yet in this area, autumn is short. In the higher reaches of Southern Norway, freezing temperatures can make an early arrival as October. Therefore, it's just about time to book your forthcoming winter holiday in Norway. Or to be more precise; I would rather suggest the most romantic Norwegian winter destinations. Permit me to embark by asserting that the idea of Norway in the throes of winter may carry a more formidable timbre than the actuality it embodies. In reality, the season unfolds with an enchantment that rivals, if not surpasses, that of summer, its allure magnified by virtue of its extremities. A blanket of snow covers the landscape, the chill is penetrating, and the hues of the wintery colours are undeniably beguiling. The soft radiance of twilight confers upon the scenery an air of enigma. Also small villages and townships undergo a metamorphosis, cocooned in an embrace of cosiness. The gentle glow of cheerful lights is ubiquitous, and the warmth of crackling wood fires permeates the atmosphere in the months leading up to the holiday season. Moreover, the cultural season is in full swing, with concert schedules overflowing, stages abuzz with myriad performances, and gastronomic establishments bustling with activity. This piece of writing is meant to kindle a spark of inspiration within you, impelling you towards a voyage through wintry Norway. Whether it be a weekend escapade infused with romance, a week of camaraderie and skiing, or perhaps an exploration of the most captivating Christmas markets. Take it from me that it absolutely is a unique experience! I no particular order: Røros may be a name that has yet to grace your ears. Should such be the case, I commend to your attention the series 'Hjem til Jul' (Home for Christmas), which graced Netflix's catalogue a few years ago. The picturesque and kaleidoscopic lanes of this diminutive town, known as Kjerkgata, were the captivating backdrop to this Norwegian Christmas series that interweaves mirth and poignancy. I vouch that after but a few scenes, you shall find yourself ensnared in its spell, a yearning to embark upon a pilgrimage to Røros enkindled within you. Without delay, I propose the epitome of romance in accommodations: Erzscheidergaarden. For those inclined towards leisurely mornings and a breakfast at your own conveiniance, Ålbyggården proffers an equally alluring option. To fully get the most out of the experience, ensure your presence between the 7th and 10th of December, when one of Norway's most intimate Christmas markets graces the scene. A mere hour's flight from Oslo aboard Widerøe shall deposit you amidst this festive tapestry. For those in possession of a bit more time, the marriage of Røros with a sojourn to Trondheim is a proposition worth considering. The journey, spanning approximately two hours by car, merely necessitates the prudent reservation of a vehicle, ideally one endowed with four-wheel drive. Snow, ice, the lot. Should the Northern Lights be your prime reason for a visit to Norway, then I entreat you to read my little piece on this celestial phenomenon, or better yet, to swiftly secure a flight to Tromsø. Beyond the town's mantle of inviting charm, it serves as the portal to Arctic Norway. Here, the prospect of witnessing the Northern Lights is most promising, the spectacle of whale sightings beckons, and an array of epicurean restaurants and bars, about which I shall expound further in a separate discourse dedicated to Tromsø, awaits your discovery. For those among us wanting to see the allure of emerald curtains of light waltzing across the night sky, from the comforts of a generous kingsize bed, seek no further. I mean, this is where you fall in love...with the Northern lights. For those as clumsy as myself, friends compare my physique with that of a llama, the forthcoming passage may hold little appeal. However, for the accomplished sportsperson, prepared to dust off their skiing gear and arrange an icy expedition to Hemsedal or Beitostølen, opportunities await. Mark my words! Each destination is equally worth a winter adventure and are only a several hours' journey from Oslo. Unlike several European counterparts grappling with the ramifications of shifting climatic patterns, an assurance of abundant snowfall beyond December can be secured in these enclaves, complemented by superlative skiing infrastructure. Pray tell, have you seen the utter 'coolness' and elegance of Telemark skiing? How would that look on the slopes. Naturally, the capital city exudes an inviting ambience during the winter months. In proximity to the parliamentary building, a grand Christmas market is set up every year, summoning enthusiasts to partake in ice-skating, savour mugs of mulled wine, and intermittently engage with the personage of Santa Claus. Yet, it must be acknowledged that elements of kitsch pervade these proceedings, in my modest opinion. Those who, akin to myself, seek an atmosphere of authentic snugness shall find several options at their disposal. Of these, two stand out as particularly enchanting: the Christmas market within Bærums Verk, and the charming village of Drøbak. The latter warrants special attention, not merely for its picturesque scenery, but also for the profusion of Santa Claus figurines that abound, alluding to a certain seasonal icon. A mere thirty-minute drive from Oslo, Drøbak beckons. While in the capital, I entreat you to indulge yourself with a few nights at the Amerika linjen, a hotel of absolute distinction. In the downstairs bar, a menu of cocktails awaits that is destined to etch itself into your memory. Once your selection is made, a knowledgeable steward shall tell you with the entire tale of the chosen cocktail (which is often related to Norwegians emigrating to the United States), an experience that transcends the ordinary. Furthermore, nestled in the depths of this establishment is a jazz club, adding another layer to the overall sense of elevated indulgence. A jazzclub! I mean, come on! As an antidote to the bustling city of Oslo, the allure of an exquisite cabin awaits a mere hour's drive from the capital. Should your heart yearn to immerse itself within the tranquil embrace of this wondrous land, there exists no need to search further. Gazing upon a panorama of snow-laden hills, a riverside sauna, accompanied by an invigorating ice bath for the cold-hearted, and the coveted possession of a private jacuzzi coalesce to create an idyllic setting, especially in wintertime. Few scenarios surpass this in terms of romantic allure. Beside the hearth, alongside a cherished companion, a bottle of fine wine, and the exchange of profound conversations, life is smiling! Book one here, but be swift in deciding. These cabins sell out! No need to question why. And I can tell, because I was there in a brief, precious moment in time. If you're planning a romantic (long) weekend in Oslo, please do not hesitate to read the separate article I wrote on the matter. **Getting there: a car makes your life in wintry Norway easy and comfortable. For the best overview of what's on offer, I would like to suggest to have a look here. One could consider a four-by-four. Just slightly more easy to drive on snowy roads. Let the adventure commence!

  • Destination: a Norwegian getaway; my top-5

    Since the internet loves lists, I won't refrain from serving you one as well. But first, let me briefly define how I prefer to define a 'getaway.' For me, a getaway is a stay in a unique location, far away from noise, hassle, and large crowds. Preferably in nature and in stark contrast to the environment I encounter on a day-to-day basis. In my case, that's not too difficult. I spend 8-9 hours behind two large screens in a dull office in Oslo everyday. What you probably also understand is that this list is far from complete, as the number of breathtaking cabins and huts is simply too large. Therefore, I've compiled a list of my 5 favourite Norwegian getaways in different areas, at different price points, and with varying levels of luxury. May they inspire you! Let's set off, in no particular order. Fjord Panorama As the name suggests, you have a beautiful view of green (depending on the season) mountain ridges, water features, and the sky. The cabin itself is an architectural masterpiece and is equipped with all conveniences and luxuries. There's a private hot tub and a projector screen so you can watch your favorite Norwegian series from your bed on a big screen. A pantry kitchen, a king-size bed, and a cozy balcony are also part of the facilities. This is where you go for a romantic weekend. And imagine keeping it as a surprise. That scores you a lot of points. From Oslo, you can fly to Sogndal airport in just an hour. From there, it's only a 15-minute drive to Fjord Panorama. Wonderinn Delta If anything defines a getaway, it's Wonderinn. I'm a bit tired of the influencer culture with overly attractive girls promoting everything, because locations like this don't need that at all. The location itself is spectacular enough. You stay in a cube made of mirrored walls. From the outside, no one sees you, and you have a great view of wide rivers and rolling fields. Furthermore, all the ingredients for a great experience are present: a hot tub, a fire pit, a decent kitchen, and of course, a shower and toilet. Moreover, Wonderinn Delta is only 40 minutes from Oslo (and Oslo airport). Kråen Gård The tiny homes hype took off just after the financial crisis a decade ago. They are now everywhere, including in Norway. Kråen Gård rents one with a fantastic sea view. Kråen Gård is a small farm specializing in the sale of locally produced food. Here, you experience a kind of countryside romanticism that is so uniquely Norwegian. I would like to recommend it to everyone with only a remote sense for adventure. You feel as if you’ve come to the end of the world, one of the most beautiful and calm ‘ends’ that is. Pan Treetop In the midst of one of the most extensive forest areas in Norway are the Pan Treetop Cabins. The award-winning designs have almost become iconic (and you have to be early if you want to spend a few nights here). You camp about 6 meters above the ground and have a magical view of the vast landscape. There's a good chance you'll see a moose walking by from a comfortable height. In fact, these forests can be considered wilderness. Bears live there. Not many, but they do. The Pan Treetop cabins are about a two-hour drive from Oslo airport. Perfect for a long weekend away. Holmen Lofoten This is a location beyond compare. You may have heard of Lofoten. It is a world-famous island group in the far north of Norway. The rocks rise here as steep points from the ocean. Without exaggeration, wherever you look, the view is spectacular, whatever the season. Holmen Lofoten is actually a hotel, but due to its spectacular location and small scale, it has still earned a spot on my list of getaways. Another reason to settle here for a weekend is the excellent food they serve. Ingredients are almost without exception local and of incredible quality. From Oslo, you can fly to Leksnes airport in just under 3 hours. From there, it's a little over an hour's drive to Holmen.

  • Language: learning the easiest language in the world; how to say thank you in Norwegian

    I frequently host friends from overseas, and inevitably, the perennial question arises as we venture into town: 'how do I say ... (thank you)... in Norwegian?' For the true language enthusiasts, Innovative Language promises a fast-track towards considerable fluency in just three months. Remarkably, for English speakers, this journey is often swifter than anticipated, given that a significant array of English words traces its origins back to Old Norse, yes, that's right! We have a lot in common. For those not inclined towards linguistic pursuits and disinclined to ascend their Norwegian proficiency to a B1 level, keep reading. The typical Norwegian, with few exceptions among the boomer generation, converses fluently in English and exhibits an extraordinary willingness to assist when asked. Hence, responding to popular demand, it is fun to read a bit on etiquette and expressions. This knowledge might serve as a source of personal pride when a Norwegian graciously points you towards the nearest coffee establishment and you can thank them for doing so. Let us set off: "Hei!" The 'Hi' salutation is applicable throughout the day, whether addressing the mayor, the doctor, or a cherished companion. It's all fine. "God dag!" A more formal greeting, reserved for daylight hours. For instance, I employ it during visits to my girlfriend's grandmother, recognizing that older individuals often place a premium on courtesy—an inclination I share, despite not yet reaching the status of seniority. "God morgen!" A simple expression meaning 'good morning'. The temporal boundaries are somewhat nebulous, yet I refrain from its usage after 11 am, using it only after if it concernes my girlfriend, with a coiffure disheveled from a night of on town, emerges from her slumber around noon. "God kveld!" This way of saying 'Good evening' carries a touch formality. I use it when meeting my girlfriends grandmother for example. The elderly often appreciate a bit etiquette. "Takk!" This is how to say thank you in Norwegian. Expressed for a myriad of occasions, gratitude extends to having your coffee served to you, the polite declination or acceptance of an offer (Nei, takk; ja takk), or acknowledgment of a (not so very personal) compliment. "Tusen takk!" This one you use in profound gratitude as it translates as 'a thousand thanks), whether in the sprint for a bus where the driver kindly waits or upon receipt of an exceptional gift, this phrase is the on the use. "Mange takk!" A refined variant of the foregoing translating as 'many thanks', nuanced and elegant, though regrettably a bit old fashioned. But that's how I like it. Nevertheless, as a tourist, you might gain some bonus points here! "Takk for hjelpen!" Norwegians, are known for their strong willingness to help out. Be it a lift to the next village, directional guidance, or clarification of a puzzling matter, their seamless transition to English is met with an immediate commitment to sort you out. Thus, it behooves you to extend your gratitude in Norwegian. So preparing yourself by mastering the phrase 'takk for hjelpen' (thank you for helping) will pay off. And as mentioned before, you're not that far off from learning Norwegian quickly as an English speaker. Much of it you'll already understand while reading. So might as well give it a try, right? Why not test and try a little bit.

  • Stay: the hotel in Oslo that isn’t a hotel, but is still a hotel but also isn’t; Numa Stays

    Close to the heart of Oslo (or close to the royal heart of Oslo at least) there exists a unique kind of lodging that defies convention. Numa Stays Oslo. It's not your typical hotel, yet it embodies the essence of one, all while remaining remarkably budget-friendly. Join me as we dellllllllve into this intriguing concept. It may seem as though I've gone to great lengths to craft a title that's as complex as can be, and indeed, that's true. However, it was the only way to describe the hotel I'm about to discuss in this post. And here's why. I've become rather selective when it comes to accommodation. While I occasionally opt for hotels for sheer convenience, my inclination has shifted towards a different preference. What I truly desire is a comfortable bed, a clean room, and the flexibility to make my own choices. To some extent, Airbnb fulfils these desires, but all too often, it comes with host-related hassles and uncertainties about room conditions. Moreover, there's the matter of breakfast – a pivotal aspect of my travels. It's not that continental hotel breakfasts aren't good; it's just that I firmly believe that food plays an indispensable role in shaping one's experience of a destination. I yearn to sample a myriad of flavors, being a devoted enthusiast of delectable bread and dainty treats. Therefore, my ideal morning involves venturing out for breakfast and a cup of coffee at a place that resonates with me. And that's precisely what you can do excellently in Oslo – curate your own breakfast experience. If you share my sentiments, then I have an exceptional recommendation for you: Numa Stays. The affordable hotel concept is elegantly simple – self-check-in via a mobile app, generously spacious and tastefully designed studio’s, and an ambiance free from the clamor of fellow hotel guests. These 'hotel' rooms are discreetly scattered throughout the city, though they typically find their home in some of Oslo's most distinguished neighbourhoods. This is a noteworthy feat, considering that square meter prices in these areas are often exorbitant, making it challenging to establish a any viable hotel of any kind. For instance, in Oslo's Urianienborg, you can find studios for approximately 160 euros / dollars / whatever coin you use per night, a bargain considering this is one of the city's most sophisticated districts, housing numerous embassies and showcasing an impressive array of street-parked Porsches. It's important to note that the appeal of Numa Stays extends beyond the luxurious neighbourhoods. These areas offer serene nights, as well as a plethora of charming local and off-the-beaten-path restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques. Before we conclude, allow me to recommend the best-situated studio – one that lies in close proximity to the Royal Palace, within walking distance of the city centre and Majorstuen. You can book your Numa Stay here. Oh and one more thing, pets are allowed! So bring your furry, scaly or feathery friend if you please. After you've woken up wonderfully in your Numa hotel, it's time for a fantastic breakfast. You find yourself in the heart of one of the capital's most elegant neighborhoods. Surrounded by stately townhouses and beautiful apartment buildings from the late 19th century, you can stroll to Oslo Raw in less than 5 minutes. You can confidently consider this one of the best places in Oslo for breakfast. And, as you might imagine, most mere mortals have their breakfast at home. Therefore, it won't surprise you that the clientele here is, well, quite unique. It's mostly young people, dressed in expensive attire, who somehow manage to look like they've just returned from a holiday all year round. But don't let superficial appearances distract you. You're here for a good breakfast. Oslo Raw opens its doors at 9 AM on weekdays and 10 AM on weekends. They pull out all the stops, serving everything from oatmeal to turmeric lattes and chaga hot cocoa. This establishment offers delectable vegan and predominantly healthy fare, making it perfect for those seeking a nutritious start to their day. On the menu, you'll find acai bowls, coconut yogurt, wraps, avocado toast, and Belgian waffles. Do indulge in a smoothie and a "savory waffle" featuring beet hummus, avocado, and pickled red onion – an exquisite treat. Here are a few more recommendations within walking distance if you're staying in Frogner or Uranienborg: The most renowned park in Oslo: Frogner Parken. A lengthy shopping street boasting numerous charming boutiques: Bogstadveien. An exceptional wine bar and an equally outstanding restaurant: Cru. The bar at Hotel Sommerro. There's often live jazzzzzzzzzz there.

  • Gear: on the good foot; Hanwag is my favourite hiking boot

    I can still vividly remember my first multi-day hike here in Norway. It was in a gorgeous area in the south of Norway called Setesdal Vesthei. I had slowly gathered some gear together. A few years before my move, I had bought a faded second-hand 55-liter backpack. I still had a pair of hiking shoes that I had received from my mother during high school, and I had a sleeping bag that was slightly too cold. But hey, who cared? I was alone, the weather was fantastic, and I was ecstatic about doing exactly what I had always dreamed of. After spending the night in a DNT hut, it was time to make the 6-hour hike back. Time can be deceiving when you're in the mountains, so luckily, I had kept track of how much time the journey took me to ensure I would arrive at the bus stop on time to catch the bus that passes through the area only twice a day. During the descent from 1200 to 200 meters, I suddenly felt mud splashing against my shins with each step. It turned out that my 10-year-old hiking shoe was falling apart. Or, the entire sole was disintegrating. Makeshiftly, I tied the sole of my shoe to the rest of it with a piece of cord and hurriedly descended the mountain. I made it on time to take the bus back to Kristiansand, but only just. What I became acutely aware of then was how important good shoes are. That has stuck with me ever since. And that's why I want to give you some advice on what makes good shoes and how to distinguish the junk from the quality (because I've made the mistake of buying bad shoes a few times). First of all, I'm not a fan of synthetic materials. There are certainly good synthetic shoes, but when it comes to maintenance and durability, leather shoes are simply in a different league. After a long search and trying at least 10 different brands and 40 different shoes, I treated myself to a pair of these Hanwag hiking boots (the Tashi ones, in a massive size 45, or size 13.5 if you're located on the wrong side of the Atlantic). I actually had to save up for them, because they don't come cheap. But considering how many kilometers I've already walked in them, they actually cost about the same as three pairs of synthetic shoes that would have been far gone by now. And on top of that, if you see how they're made you'll understand. They are just extremely sturdy shoes that eventually mold to your own feet. I wear them all year round, even to the office during wintertime to keep dry and warm from all the ice and slush. After which I shift to more appropriate office-proof footwear of course. It does require good maintenance because moisture and temperature fluctuations demand a lot from leather. That's why I use Norrländsk Läderfett after every walk to keep the leather supple and waterproof. Moreover, it smells as if going below decks on an old wooden sailing boat. Or maybe even like strong Earl Grey tea. Absolutely delicious. But I'm aware opinions might differ on this matter. Whatever durable hiking shoes you buy for your Norway adventure, make sure you break them in properly before you start roaming the Norwegian wilderness. And by breaking them in, I mean letting the shoes conform to your feet. This will prevent you from spending the rest of your vacation in Norway suffering from blisters. Expect to walk between 10 and 20 km before your shoes become completely comfortable. Just put them on when you go to the grocery shop or during your sunday stroll. You'll be doing yourself a massive favor. Believe me!

  • Gear: dangling between the trees; why a hammock (and the right hammock gear) is a great outdoor hack

    One of the things I find truly wonderful about Norway is the right to stay in nature (read more about it here). When you travel with a heavy backpack, one of my favorite items is a hammock. (and of course the correct hammock gear you need to stay steady and comfortable). In my modest opinion; it is a great outdoor and hiking hack. They are lightweight, they occupy minimal space, and allow you to sleep almost anywhere without having to consider a rocky surface. However, there are a few factors to consider if you rely solely on a hammock as your accommodation. Be sure to consider the temperature. Even in the height of summer, when the evenings hardly cool down, lying completely still in your hammock exerts additional pressure on the bottom of your sleeping bag, resulting in reduced insulation between you and the air flowing beneath the hammock. My absolute recommendation is to bring along a large sheepskin. It provides a luxuriously soft surface and offers fantastic insulation. If you have a bit more to spend, consider purchasing a reindeer hide here in Norway beforehand. This ensures a delightful night's sleep. Invest in a good hammock as well. Take your own weight into account and decide whether you want a mosquito net or not. Despite the weather forecasts, you may still be surprised by a nocturnal rain shower. To protect yourself from this, it's handy to bring along a tarp that you can suspend high above your hammock using guy lines. This will also shield you from the morning dew. I wrote about it before. But do bring a proper sleeping bag. And with proper I mean one that has a 'hood' that you can pull over your head. They often come with a special pocket meant to be stuffed with a sweater or any other fluffy fabric to mimic a head pillow. And again, do not underestimate the temperatures. Consider one that is still comfortable in -10 degrees celcius. You will not regret it, I promise. I have two. One suitable for the summer, and one very thick one for the autumn and winter. The final tip is for just before bedtime. Make sure you move around a bit. For example, do 30 squats. When you crawl into your sleeping bag with your muscles warmed up, you can be sure of a comfortable slumber. It's not your sleeping bag that provides warmth, rather, it retains the available heat within. And that heat comes from you. That's why a hammock is a great outdoor hack! Convinced right?

  • Gear: keep yourself dry and organised; why dry bags are a must when traveling in Norway

    Rarely does inclement weather deter me. And that's not because I'm impervious to heavy rain, storms, or snow. It's mainly due to my incredibly limited free time. I leave home at 5:15 in the morning, and if traffic is kind, I'm back around 6:00 in the evening. Often, weekends are filled with various tasks as well. You catch my drift. I embark on fewer backpacking trips into the wilderness than I'd truly like, given the circumstances. But when I do venture out, foul weather doesn't discourage me in the slightest. In this piece of writing, I'll share a few tips that can truly elevate your outdoor adventures. First and foremost, a high-quality backpack is of the utmost importance. If you're in the process of selecting a new one, take a quick three-minute read of my previous piece on the subject. What truly revolutionized my outdoor experience were dry sacks. In fact, dry bags are a must when traveling in Norway. They come in various sizes. The clever thing about these sacks is that you need not rely solely on your backpack to keep your belongings dry. Imagine you're on your way to a mountain hut or setting up camp, and it starts pouring shortly after lunch. You still have a four-hour hike ahead. By the time you arrive at your destination, everything is guaranteed to be drenched. And when you're in the wild, don't underestimate how long it takes for things to dry. This is where dry sacks become an absolute necessity. Not only do they keep your belongings dry, but they also help you keep your backpack organized. For instance, you might have one dry sack for your phone, power bank, flashlight, and any other electronics. Then, another (larger) dry sack for your food items. If you're carrying coffee, tea bags, and breakfast, there's nothing more frustrating than discovering they've all turned damp in the morning. If you're traveling off-season (before May or after September) and plan to make a campfire along the way, having a dry fire starter is crucial. This is where those dry sacks come in perfectly. Here's my top tip: if you spot a birch tree (preferably a slightly older one), carefully peel off some of the bark. Birch bark dries rapidly and makes for fantastic kindling. In no time at all, you'll have a roaring fire. So, what goes into your dry sack when you're planning a campfire? Matches, a lighter, a stack of birch bark, maybe some paper, and old candle stubs. What few people realize is that peanuts contain a fair amount of oil. Hence, you can use them as makeshift fire starters. Just be sure to check for any wildfire risks beforehand. Ignoring regulations could land you a fine or, worse, an uncontrollable forest fire. Dry sacks also prove handy for keeping your clothing dry. Of course, clothes take up a lot of space, so you might not need to keep all your garments dry. However, at the very least, pack a pair of socks, underwear, and perhaps a spare pair of trousers. Nothing beats being able to change into something dry when you've reached your destinationafter getting caught in the rain. Depending on the type and size of your sleeping bag, you might consider getting a dry sack for it too. However, often the bag the sleeping bag comes in is already waterproof. Over the years, I've purchased numerous dry sacks of various types. For beginners, this set of dry bags is a must!

  • Music: one handshake away from Miles Davis; how I got starstruck in retrospect

    You may have come across some of my writings, and I certainly hope that you have. Now and then, I take the liberty of hoping that my words have found their way to your discerning eyes. If that's indeed the case, then you're probably aware of my deep affection for the melodious tunes of jazz and the lesser-known gems hidden within the intricate labyrinth of musical genres. Let me not lay any grand claim that jazz is an obscure art form (which it absolutely isn't), but it's fair to say that some consider it a refined taste, an acquired appreciation, if you will. Now, let's flip through the pages of my life's recent chapter: my journey from the bustling canals of Amsterdam to the serene embrace of Kristiansand. To be entirely honest, my knowledge of this newfound haven was as shallow as a wisp of morning mist. Before my move, Kristiansand was just a name on a map, a place I had only visited once for a job interview. I was stepping into a blank canvas, intentionally so. Sure, I had read up a bit about it, but the perilous condition known as "analysis paralysis" had taken root in my mind. When you overthink things, your intuition tends to fade away. The pros and cons pile up until they become an impenetrable wall, making decisions an elusive pursuit. Let's keep this story concise. The revelation that awaited me in Kristiansand was nothing short of remarkable. Equally astonishing was the day when, after my first night in this new territory, I ventured into the modest town and discovered elegantly designed posters announcing an upcoming music festival. This extraordinary event was a showcase of artists I had long admired. My excitement knew no bounds. However, here comes a confession: my financial situation at that time was far from rosy. The expenses of my move and the unexpected salary delays due to an administrative maze had left me in a dire financial state. You can probably picture it now. Buying a festival ticket seemed like a distant dream. On that first day, though, I was blissfully unaware of the delayed salary, so I impulsively purchased a weekend pass. Fast forward three weeks, and the much-anticipated moment had arrived. Eivind Aarset, Nils Petter Molvær, Jan Bang, Arve Henriksen, and other virtuosos were about to grace the stage, and I was overflowing with excitement. The details of the first concert have faded with time, but the memory of the final performance remains vivid. It was a live remix, a musical feat where two performances merged seamlessly. A curious concept, indeed. Sitting next to me was a cheerful woman, clearly savoring every note. Our conversation's origins are a bit hazy now, but it began with mutual curiosity about our presence there. We exchanged jokes and playful banter until the next musical piece commanded our attention. After the final notes, we introduced ourselves. "I'm Marylin," she said, "a percussionist." My response, a mix of curiosity and anticipation, was, "Will we have the pleasure of witnessing your percussion skills on stage tonight?" Alas, she humbly shared that she wouldn't be performing that evening but regaled me with stories of the illustrious artists she had collaborated with. The next concert and live remix on the same stage marked the end of our conversation as the audience dispersed. Later, I found myself at Vaktbua, a cozy café hosting an afterparty. Once again, I was surrounded by luminaries, as nearly all the festival's artists were in attendance. What followed was a lavish soirée filled with dance and drinks. At a point when Norwegian law dictated the end of alcohol service, the party migrated once more. By then, I had struck up a conversation with a Czech journalist, who happened to have an invitation to this new destination. To keep things brief, I was invited to join them. This time, our destination was a spacious underground venue beneath Dronningsgate. Its ambiance was more reminiscent of a lively tavern than a typical underground setting. Drinks flowed freely, food was served, and the room buzzed with virtuoso musicians. My memories of that night are a bit fuzzy, but it suffices to say that it was a splendid evening that solidified my sense of belonging in my new city. The following morning, I woke up with a substantial hangover. As I strolled along Bystranda, the city's beachfront haven, I found myself delving into the depths of the internet. Suddenly, the memory of the lively woman I had met resurfaced. Her name had momentarily slipped my mind but soon returned. In a world abundant with talented female percussionists, the name "Marylin" isn't exactly common. Remarkably, I swiftly located her, confirming her collaborations with musical giants like Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and Jan Garbarek. She was even the only woman to have graced Miles Davis's band. Once again, I was struck with awe, though this time, it was tinged with the remnants of a hangover, against the backdrop of a city completely foreign to me. That very afternoon, the festival's final series of concerts began. I didn't cross paths with Marylin again, but by then, I had fallen head over heels for the eccentric yet enchanting world of PUNKT. I embarked on two more visits to this extraordinary festival, each time indulging in a captivating tapestry of musical wonders. Punkt caters to a niche of musicians and enthusiasts dedicated to the spontaneity and virtuosity of musical expression. The atmosphere it creates is nothing short of magical. As a fervent music lover, I feel compelled to champion the remarkable artists whose talents, while interconnected within the musical sphere, often elude the broader public's awareness. If you have even a modicum of affection for music, I implore you to experience this splendid festival at least once in your lifetime, complemented by the manifold pleasures and amusements that Kristiansand has to offer. You can find more details in the accompanying article I wrote earlier. And, of course, I couldn't resist curating a modest little Spotify playlist to offer you a glimpse of the auditory tapestry that awaits (or eludes) you at the Punkt festival. To Jan Bang, if you happen to come across this, you are a hero! And to Nils P. Molvær, if by some chance you read this, rest assured that if I meet my end, "Alone in the Bathtub" will be played at the ceremony—twice.

  • Transport: my own ambivalence; electric rental cars in Norway

    It is certainly no secret that my heart beats faster when it comes to sustainable development and the significant reduction of the immense pressure we, as humanity, place on ecosystems and the Earth as a whole. In fact, I occasionally jestingly refer to myself as a part-time activist. I must confess, therefore, that I work on my travel blog with a certain ambivalence from time to time. On one hand, I wish for everyone to stay where they are, never booking another flight ever again and adhering to a purely plant-based diet. On the other hand, I hope that as many people as possible come to experience the splendid nature of Norway, thus realizing its paramount importance on so many levels. With all that in mind I thought I would share some tips with you on how to minimize the carbon footprint of your journey. When it comes to infrastructure and transportation, Norway is truly remarkable. The sheer quantity and intricacy of the tunnels, train tracks, and bridges are unparalleled. Let us begin with the train tracks. One lesser-known fact is that you can explore Arctic Norway by train. From Stockholm, you embark on a night train journey of approximately 20 hours to Narvik. This journey far surpasses the time taken by car. Furthermore, the voyage takes you through breathtaking natural landscapes like Abisko in Sweden. And above all, the increasing popularity of nighttrains is for good reason. They're comfy and they carry a certain romantic nostalgia. But maybe that's just me. The regions of Sørlandet (Kristiansand) and Vestlandet (Stavanger, Bergen, and Trondheim) are also easily accessible by train. What makes the Norwegian rail network exceptional is that sometimes, the journey itself becomes the destination. For instance, on the route from Oslo to Bergen, you could disembark at the base of a glacier and set up camp by a crystal-clear river. The trains are almost invariably punctual, the staff incredibly friendly, and the apps and websites required for planning your journey are exceptional. Plan your train journey here. Travelling with an electric car is also an excellent way to traverse the country. You need not enlist a project manager to meticulously plan your trip from charging station to charging station. In fact, the network of charging stations is one of the, if not the best, in the world. Just take a look at this map. I can scarcely imagine a finer way to explore this beautiful country in tranquillity and silence. Virtually every car rental company boasts a substantial fleet of electric vehicles. A tip: be sure to secure your booking early, as EVs are quite popular as rental cars. What I strongly discourage is embarking on a cruise, and the reasons are just so abundantly clear. Not only does the fuel consumption of these vessels inflict incredible harm, but also the vast quantities of discarded food from all the buffets contribute to an exceedingly elevated waste level. This, in turn, engenders significant emissions of methane (a type of super greenhouse gas). Moreover, a considerable proportion of the lesser-paid positions are undertaken by individuals from low-income nations, often toiling for seven days a week, enduring grueling 12-hour shifts. Ignorance is bliss, but please be mindful when it comes to these types of arrangements. If you opt to stay in hotels, consider bypassing the major hotel chains. While their websites may boast grandiose sustainability statements, it is ultimately the independent and small-scale hotels that source their provisions locally and make a significant positive impact in small communities. Another aspect that might not immediately come to mind, yet exerts a substantial influence, is your diet. Whether you are camping or lodging in independant hotels, procuring local produce is remarkably effortless. While journeying, it is highly recommended to keep an eye out for 'gårdsbutikker' (farm shops). Here, you can purchase the most splendid edibles directly from the producers, without the need for a truck to drive a single meter. The Toogoodtogo app is also splendid, boasting a multitude of affiliated businesses. You can peruse nearby offerings, place your order through the app, and collect it at a designated time. This aids in preventing good food from going to waste.

  • Eat: the Royal navy had no clue (updated 25.09.2023)

    The word 'Dass' is a somewhat rude way to describe a toilet in Norwegian. And that's what hangs above the toilet door in bright letters. However, that doesn't set the tone for what awaits you here. It's in fact quite the opposite. But it does indicate that things are laid-back around here. The service is absolutely perfect, mind you, and strictly adheres to etiquette, but it's carried out by a hip dude wearing a cap, complicated sneakers, Berlin-ish retro glasses, and matching mustache. That's the kind of vibe you should have in mind. I reckon El Brutus is, in a way, a place for discerning palates who aren't afraid of surprises. The first time (out of four) I dined at Brutus (now it's El Brutus) left an impression. They had Icelandic pancakes (blibber-blabber-kakur), whale tartare, and something with beetroots on the menu. The dishes and the combination with the chosen wines can best be described as being tickled in a way that you can't possibly sit still. And in my case, that's a huge compliment. The portions are small but they make an impact with their simplicity and bold flavors. Nothing is what it seems, as the menu describes the dishes rather vaguely. But that's what makes it awesome. Don't expect any pretentious Barolo's or heavy-handed Bordeaux wines here, but rather obscure natural wines sourced from tiny vineyards on an island that not even Columbus, the Royal Navy, or NASA knew about. I've eaten there three more times afterwards, and I'll surely do it again. Especially since they've now changed their name from Brutus to El Brutus. I guess this is the most exiting winebar in Oslo. And then I haven't even tasted their newly presented Spanish menu. Anyway... Habla español to me cool-looking-waiter! *Update 25.09.2023: We tried El Brutus, the Spanish take on what once was just Brutus. Flavours were 'ok', the wine great. But perhaps it was the potent combination of inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing wage costs that necessitated the rather hefty pricing of the dishes. A small plate of cauliflower, for instance, cost around 180 NOK. That together with a rather 'blank' and uncommitted waiter, made that things didn't really add up in my head. So, I don't really know what to say...because I would love to be as lyrical as I was the first time I had dinner at Brutus. But it didn't add up.

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