In the days prior to our arrival in Norway the national police forces had been increasing the level of security to the highest in many, many years, because they had reason to believe that an act of terror was imminent. The norwegians are, understandably, slightly nervous after the terrorist Breivik shot and killed a large group of politically active people on the island of Utøya a few years back. This time a group of Syrian fundamentalists were about to enter the country with harmful intentions. Everywhere in the medias we heard about closed borders and were informed that we would have to wait for many hours to get into Norway.
But as we arrived at the border station in Charlottenberg, Sweden we just saw one police car, with two officers inside having their lunch. No panic around here, and we drove right through without questions.
It has been five years since my last visit to Norway. But prior to that I have been there quite often. A large part of my family live in the area around Elverum, east of Lillehammer. Lillehammer is perhaps best known as the host of the 1994 Winter Olympics. In 2016 it will once again host olympic games, when the Winter Youth Olympics take place.
The reason for our trip to Norway was the annual family gathering in my family. Normally this takes place in Denmark, but every fifth year the norwegian branch of the family are hosting the event, and then it moves to Norway. This would also be Anton’s first visit to Norway.
We checked into our pre-booked cabin on a nearby campground. The temperature was well above 30 degrees celsius, so if anyone should have the notion that Norway is dark and cold, I can certainly recommend a visit during summertime. Central Norway has continental climate and the weather is not influenced by the Atlantic Ocean in the same way as the Fjordland out west. In and around Elverum the temperatures often climb above 30 degrees celsius. The evenings are bright and sunny due to the location in the “high north” (in fact not too far away from the polar circle) - so we all had some difficulties falling asleep in our cabin berths. I dare say that the inside temperature climbed well above 45 degrees celsius! We left open windows and the door, in spite of the many mosquitos. Sometime during the night we were finally able to bring down the temperature to around 25 degrees and we slept well the rest of the night.
Upon arrival we went to a grocery store to stock up for our stay at the camp ground. We payed around 400 Norwegian Kroner (63 dollars) for a bit of paté, bread, plastic utensils and a liter of milk (which later froze to ice in the noisy - but effective - cabin refrigerator!) Yes, everything is very expensive in Norway. It remains one of the richest countries in the world, with many billions of “oil-dollars” in reserve. But these are meant for future generations, and will not likely benefit the current population. I believe you have to be norwegian to completely understand this!
The area around the river Glomma is stunningly beautiful. The water will use the entire scale of colours from indigo blue to bright green and the yellow fields and traditional red wooden houses all add to the motives that only the best photographers and painters can truly capture.
On many occasions I have spotted moose in this area. And I proudly told Anton that in recent years also wolves have been seen. Needless to say we went out on a few trips to see if we could get some first-hand impressions. I knew that it would be difficult to get near the wolves (thank God!). Especially in daylight. But small groups of moose are often seen, so we took off full of hope and drove along the small, deserted roads through the woods to see what we could find. Completely without any luck! The moose must have been hiding behind some large rocks or wide trunks! We did not see anything even remotely resembling a moose, even though we drove over 100 kilometers in total through the deep woods. Anton kept up the positive vibe all along. And even though we did not see wolves or moose we did see the norwegian woods from their most stunning side. The lakes, the glades and the dense conifers are definitely worth a drive. So we did return to modern civilization with a certain sense of satisfaction.
The family gathering took place on a farm on the banks of the river Glomma. We had a wonderful time from early afternoon until late in the evening. Almost without any mosquitos, which was a bit unusual. We did get bitten a few times, but far less than expected. We stayed for a long time down on the jetty on the water. Anton jumped into the blue and only very reluctantly agreed to come up again after quite some time. We all agreed that all people in the entire world should have a jetty on the river Glomma. I could have been sitting there for days. We had a wonderful day in the wild and Anton had so many impressions to digest afterwards that he had trouble sleeping. It is often like that when he has had a day with particularly many good experiences...
The next day we left our cabin and moved in with my fathers aunt a little further up the road. This is my late grandmothers sister, and now that my grandmother is no longer with us, the closest I get to have any grandmother nowadays. We all enjoyed just sitting in the kitchen, chatting about the family and about the good old days, just like I have been doing my entire life on all my summer holidays. We even had some serious thundering and a lightening struck a transformer in the area, resulting in a 5,5 hour long blackout. All we really could do was to sit and chat and have a good time. As darkness approached outside we found some candles. And just as we closed in on the 6-hour mark that normally means compensation from the energy company (in Norway), all the power came back. Good for the things in the fridge and freezer. But almost a bit sad for the cozy atmosphere. By the way, we had a nice moose-stew that night. Prepared on a gas-burner. I can highly recommend a moose-stew! The meat has a slightly “wild” taste. Alexandra would have loved to try bear, which my cousin Håkon told us is delicious, albeit rather special. But no bear meat was available at the local store.
After almost 4 days in Norway we drove down from Våler to Langesund, where we took the ferry to Hirtshals in Denmark. The drive through Hedemark, Oslo and Telemark is very beautiful and you almost feel like driving through one major film set. A few times I thought back on my childhood favourite movie “The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix”. The only negative “feature” is that there are so many automatic speed cameras. You really cannot drive anywhere in Norway without seeing them. I just got used to not driving any faster than allowed, but I DID have this “Big Brother” feeling... The same thing happened in Sweden a few days earlier. They too are fond of automatic speed enforcement. So a piece of advice: Stay below the limits. It doesn’t pay to break the rules here!