Norway, Midsummer 2007

It was a dream come true. For a long time, I have wanted to go to Norway to participate in midsummer celebrations. Here is my image of the midnight sun in Norway (found only, for this trip, on a moodily romantic postcard).

Lofoten sunset

In addition to watching the stunning midnight sun, I wanted to drink heartily with Norwegian celebrants and dance around a glorious bonfire. That's what a Norwegian colleague did, many years ago, and I remember his photos and Web updates of his trip. This year Dan had a conference in Trondheim on June 13-16. Close enough. We added on vacation to make it work.

Only to learn that Norwegians celebrate midsummer on June 23rd, not the 21st. We added on more vacation to make it work.

Only to find that in Norway it's rainy and cold even in June, and with mountains everywhere, even if the sun were shining you wouldn't necessarily see it at midnight.

No matter. No matter at all. The trip was glorious. We covered a route about as long as Maine to Florida. SClick here to see the map. Travel by air is shown in pink, by land in blue, and by sea in green. There is plenty of each. I've estimated the location of the arctic circle in grey and put in what I hope is an enticing picture for each place visited. You can zoom in and out for more or less detail.

Here is the itinerary, with links to pages containing photographs of each place. Enjoy!

June 9-11: Bergen

June 10: "Norway in a Nutshell"

June 12: Ålesund

June 13-15: Trondheim

June 16-17: Bodø to the Lofoten Islands and via Vestgåvøy to Harstad

June 18-19: At Sea - Harstad to Honnigsvåg; Nordkapp (the North Cape); and on to Alta

June 20-21: From Alta to Tromsø

June 21-23: Oslo

June 24: Oslo to Iceland by air

A Few Words about Social Norms in Norway

These are a few things that struck us--admittedly foreigners and American tourists--as odd and perhaps a little charming in their strange way.

  • Speeding. No one speeds. This is serious. If you go only five percent over the limit (which, if not otherwise marked, is 80kph, about 50mph), you will be fined about $300. Ten percent, or 55mph, gets you a $600 fine. More than that, Norwegians can get their licenses taken away. Tourists may be escorted by police to the nearest border (which could be Russia for heaven's sake!) and told not to return.
  • Drinking. This is not like speeding. The government discourages drinking by imposing high taxes on alcohol and limited outlets for obtaining it. But as nearly as we could tell, everyone drinks. In the summer they drink because they're happy. In the winter they drink because they're depressed. But one thing the Norwegians do take very seriously: They do not drink if they will be driving. The consequences are too terrible. (See speeding, above.)
  • Access to travel. Because of its fjord-cleft coastline and glacial mountainous interior, Norway has had to struggle to make its roads continuous. Even today, many state highways are connected only by ferry. These ferries are considered part of the highway system and are therefore inexpensive, frequent, clean, and capacious. In other places, the Norwegians have built some of the most wonderful tunnels in the world. The longest is 24 kilometers. We wish that someone had hired Norwegians for the Big Dig in Boston!
  • Luttefisk. You gotta love luttefisk, a uniquely textured holiday dish of fish preserved in, well, lye. Or you gotta hate it. There's no middle ground when it comes to luttefisk.
  • German tourists. Would someone please tell us why all the German tourists in the world come to Norway in huge RVs? They're causing major RV traffic jams up there!