5 REASONS TO VISIT EASTERN NORWAY

5 Reasons To Visit Eastern Norway

Want to experience all of Norway´s natural beauty and vivid history while avoiding hoards of tourists clamoring for the perfect fjord picture to instagram? Then skip the West Coast and head on over to the Norwegian East Coast instead.

This underrated section of the country is full of spectacular things to see and do. The following are only 5 of the many reasons you should be considering Eastern Norway for your next trip:

1) To Climb Gaustatoppen

Gaustatoppen is the Telemark district´s tallest peak and an experience that should be illegal to miss, should you be in the East. On a clear day you can see one sixth of Norway from the top. Not only that but the mountain sits next to a beautiful velvety lake reflecting colours beyond the imagination.

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Lake view from the top of Gaustatoppen

This hike is a meer two hours to the top and well worth the effort. However, be warned as boulder-covered paths and slippery snow may make for treacherous climbing conditions for the less experienced hiker.

2) Heddal Stave Church

When heading towards Gaustatoppen from the east, it is impossible to miss the Heddal Stave Church. Being Norway´s largest stave church, Heddal is sure to impress, regardless of religious belief or lack there of.

 

Heddal Stave Church

Built in the 13th century, this church stands tall in the Heddal valley. This view is as peaceful as it is intriguing. Make sure to take a closer look to see the perplexing thick black lacquering covering Heddal Stave Church´s wooden panels.

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Heddal Stave Church up close

3) Fredrikstad

Fredrikstad´s Old Town is the epitome of a quintessential European fairytale village. A walk through the small cobble-stoned streets will take you back to early Nordic life. On a sunny day this city glistens with antique lustre, housing many boutique stores and some of the most magical cafés you could dream of.

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A candle-lit lunch consisting of: karbonade, parsnip soup & chocolate caramel slice

4) See Munch´s House in Åsgårdstrand

You´ve heard of the painting The Scream, but did you know the artist who painted this masterpiece, Edvard Munch, was Norwegian?

The Scream
Source: wikimedia

In the beautiful little white-washed town of Åsgårdstrand you can visit the famous Munch house in all it´s orangey glory.

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The beautiful town of Åsgårdstrand – known for it´s white houses

Here you can also stop into the Munch Cafe for a bite to eat. Don´t forget to order on one of the famous ´krabbelurers´ if you´re a fan of doughnuty-goodness (who isn´t?)

5) Visit Ancient Viking Burial Grounds

Take a trip to the Vestfold district and you will discover the Borre Mounds. This impressive landmark is host to one of the largest viking burial grounds in all of Scandinavia. Not only are the mounds beautiful to look at, but you can actually climb on top of them. Because who doesn´t want to stand on top of viking souls?

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A cheeky snap buy a viking burial mound

 

So why not skip the tourist traps this summer and check out Norway´s Eastern treasures?

 

NOREFJELL

Today is officially the second day of summer in Norway.

The sun is beating, folks are working in their yards, and children don ice creams galore. Who knew Norway could feel this tropical?

In fact, it´s so balmy I´m even….dare I say it….missing winter. Or maybe not missing it, but looking back on it nostalgically; an unusual notion in the mind of an Australian.

As such, today´s post is dedicated to our alpine trip to Norefjell in early March.

Norefjell is a popular ski resort in the Scandes Mountains region. Being relatively close to Oslo, it is easily accessible and provides an array of thrilling slopes to test for beginners and advanced skiers alike.

Cabins tucked away between tall pines, peek out to greet visitors on the way up the mountain and make for a cozy weekend stay.

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It was here that I had the opportunity to try skiing for the first time.

Having had many years of experience in figure skating, I was feeling optimistic about hitting the slopes. Thus with boots, skis and helmets in tow we made our way up to the ski centre.

Here we found the children´s slope, or ´barnebakken´. My incredibly patient boyfriend, Robin, suggested we practice here. In hindsight this was certainly a wise idea.

The scene was truly something out of a fairytale. A thick layer of evergreens steeped in fluffy white clouds waiting at the bottom of the slope; a perfect background for snowflakes twinkling in the sunlight. Everything had surpassed all my expectations…except for the skiing.

My first hour proved to be a difficult feat. Whining and moaning, I tirelessly attempted to copy Robin´s expert instructions. Many hours of slalom-trials later something just clicked. Somehow it all became easy and I rushed down the children´s slope, dodging obstacles at lightning speed. It was at this point that Robin suggested we try one of the more advanced slopes.

Entirely unprepared and feeling uneasy, I hopped onto the chair lift and endured what seemed like the longest ride up the mountain. We got to the top of one of the slopes. Upon seeing the steep drop, panic overtook logic and my eyes welled with tears. Seeing my fear, Robin suggested we go onwards to a more gradual course. It was only once I reached the top of this slope was I told that I would now have to ski down both the gradual and steep slopes to get back down to the carpark. Somehow I figured we could catch the chair lift down and avoid the sheer drop of the second slope.

Numb from fear, I took off down the slope. About 20 seconds into the course we realised we had taken the wrong slope and instead were accidentally on a black course, the most advanced. Luckily, the more gradual slope was within eye sight and simply required a small detour to reach. However, being off the course, this snow was light and fluffy rather than dense and compact, certainly not ideal skiing conditions.

Not even a minute into the long route back to the carpark and I was already on the ground with a twisted knee. If you´ve ever fallen while skiing, you know how difficult it is to get back up, but let me tell you…it is certainly something else with an injury. With shooting pains, I hobbled down the first slope alongside Robin. We reached the bottom and Robin alerted one of the ski staff members. Sitting in the snow, drenched and frozen to the core, I waited for the medic to arrive by snowmobile.

After much fuss, I was finally back in our cozy cabin with a mug of hot chocolate.

And such was our trip to Norefjell; a breathtaking winter wonderland with an unfortunate ending.

At least, this little fellow enjoyed himself…

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12 NORWEGIAN CONSTITUTION DAY TRADITIONS

The 17th of May commemorates the signing of the Norwegian constitution and is certainly considered cause for celebration by Norwegians all over the globe.

The following are some of the common 17th of May traditions:

1. Eating ice cream

A favourite among Norwegians of all ages. Ice cream is eaten throughout the entire day, and is common even in cake form.

2. Watching the parades or ´trains´

The Children´s Parade, or ´barnetoget´, occurs at mid-day and consists of school age children in traditional costumes marching through the streets to the delight of large excited crowds. The children are followed by their eldest counterpart, Russ students celebrating their final year of high school and throwing out Russ cards to be collected by younger students. Later in the afternoon is the ´borgertoget´, or Citizen´s Parade. Both trains are considered highlights of the day.

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A young boy collects Russ cards

3. Family gatherings

No 17th of May is complete without the extended family coming together to celebrate.

4. Wearing a bunad

A bunad is Norway´s traditional garb. Each region of Norway has it´s own unique form of the bunad, in which men wear a buttoned-jacket, rolled up pants and thick knitted socks while women don a shirt layered with a dress, jewellery and crown.

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Vestfold Bunad

5. Exclaiming, ´hipp hipp hurra!´

Heard all through the streets on 17th of may by Norwegians young and old.

6. Eating sausages

A classic Constitution Day snack, grills all across the country sizzle with sausages to feed the masses.

7. Doning a flag

Of course, the Norwegian flag is most common to see, but flags of immigrants living in Norway are also set out in order to show respect.

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8. Watching celebrations around the globe on TV

17th of May is not only celebrated in Norway, but around the world. Norwegians everywhere send in pictures of their ode to the special day which are then televised all over the country.

9. Eating spekemat

Also eaten at christmas time, this salted and dried meat fills the plates of hungry Norwegians.

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10. ´Gratulerer med dagen´

Literally meaning ´congratulations with the day!´. This expression is also said on birthdays

11.. Drinking beer

Tuborg, Carlsberg, Ringnes, craft beers, you name it, Norwegians will be drinking it on 17th of may.

12. Watching speeches in the park

After the Children´s Parade comes speeches by the Parade leaders, poems read by school children and singing of National songs.

 

Thanks for reading and hipp hipp hurra!

WHAT I LEARNT SWIMMING IN A FJORD

When your boyfriend suggests a day down at the fjord, your answer is always yes.

Being pleasantly greeted to the sound of songbirds, we trecked our way through the pine trees and down to the shore.

As an Australian girl, being near water means swimming and today was no exception. However, this time I would learn a very important lesson. One I will not forget.

Let me explain.

Recently, the weather has been much hotter than what you might expect of a Norwegian spring. Some days have even reached a balmy 33 degrees C in the sun. So, naturally, I assumed it would be a great time for a swim.

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Upon reaching the little inlet, my attention went straight to the water. Never have I seen anything so crystal clear to the point where I could see every little detail of the bottom. I was beyond enticed, and this was my undoing.

I kicked off my sandals and got ready to jump in. Immediately I noticed how painful the pebbles were under my feet. In comparison with the soft sand of Australian beaches, the Norwegian fjord is surrounded by pebbles. Nevertheless, I continued.

Suddenly, my feet were in the water and this is when it hit me.

It´s too cold to swim in Norway in May!

With my legs stinging in pain I had failed to consider that though the weather may be hot, the water may not be. Now, don´t get me wrong, I can handle cold water. I´ve never been one to shy away from a swim, even during winter….or Australian ´winter´ at least. But this was different.

I wanted to just get out and sit on the shore, but I was already too late. I had been dared into swimming, and I was going to do it.

After several failed attempts at getting in, my boyfriend decided he would count me down to help motivate me. Finally, I was in and severely regretting it.

Never again will I attempt to swim in a fjord in spring.

SPRING IN NORWAY

This is my first spring in Norway.

When I arrived here in February everything was covered in a frozen slush. Winter was still abound, but signs of it melting away were everywhere. From the unevenly whitened lawn, to the salt stains on my leather boots, the weather mimicked my own transitional period.

Over the past three months, however, there has been a very definite shift. As my grandpa would say, `Spring has sprung´. It certainly has.

As of yet, it has exceeded my expectations in almost all realms of beauty.

Lawns are full of hot pink tulips. Young deer scamper through the blossomed-scented forest. And I am told there is still more in store.

By far my favourite progression to witness has been that of the wild flowers. Here, blåveis and hvitveis grow rampantly and unabashed amongst buttercups.

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blåveis bouquet

Many a day has been spent picking these beauties and holding buttercups to my boyfriends chin, watching the shadow of proof reflect his love for butter. Surely, there´s no place on Earth quite as lovely.

I cannot wait to see what summer will bring…