We left Bergen by bus to Flam at the head of the Aurlandsfjord. There we boarded the Flam Railway for a spectacular ride across the steep and narrow Flam Valley. The one-hour ride took us through countless tunnels and switchbacks. We were dazzled by the glacier carved ravines, waterfalls and ski areas. In Myrdal we boarded another train to Oslo where we disembarked in Norway’s capital and largest city. If you can only have one day in Norway, make this the day.
Oslo is all you would expect a Scandinavian capital city to be with wide pedestrian streets, parks, museums, an ancient fortress, a waterfront with many restaurants and shops filled with beautiful Scandinavian designs. Our last full day in Norway we visited the City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is given each December, the Viking Ship Museum, Vegeland Sculpture Park and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump.
That evening our group gathered for our farewell dinner. We toasted a wonderful trip, new friendships and future travels!
When the sun comes out in Norway it’s impossibly beautiful. The backdrop is bright green on land and lovely blue on the water. Buildings are painted bright colors and the predominant color is a rich red, which contrasts beautifully with the environment.
The natural environment is spectacular – high mountains, lush green trees and fields, copious amounts of fresh and salt water. The cities are clean with orderly streets, many public parks and wonderful public transportation systems. The rural areas are studded with small summer homes, many of which were once isolated fisherman’s homes.
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. The street facing the harbor has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Crowds of young people and tourists from the cruise ships docked in the harbor crowd the fisherman’s wharf and pedestrian shopping streets. Even outside the tourist area, the town is clean and bright. We took the tram to the top of the hill, enjoyed the view, and then walked back down to sea level. The trees and flowers were very reminiscent of another beautiful coastal city – Seattle.
Norway’s economy was based primarily on its fishing industry until oil and gas were discovered off the coast. It is now the 4th largest petroleum producer in the world. The economy is booming. Much of the income has been used to improve the country’s infrastructure - wonderful roads, bridges, ferries and tunnels connecting even the most remote villages. Our last day in Bergen we boarded a bus to an outer island to visit a museum which illustrated the traditional fishing culture in contrast to the industrial jobs made possible by a nearby oil and gas transfer station.
The economy is robust. Norwegians typically make at least $30/hour. Lower paid jobs are taken by immigrants. Income taxes are usually about 28% and goods and services have a 6-25% VAT, which makes things expensive. As in all northern European countries, prices are high - a beer and a modest sandwich or bowl of soup is about $30 in a restaurant, but groceries are comparable to US prices. Even with the current strong $US, this is an expensive place to visit. But with high salaries, free health care and education (though university) and, excellent pensions Norwegians enjoy a prosperous and worry-free lifestyle, ranking very high on the world’s happiness.
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