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Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Land of the midnight sun

Norway, the land of the midnight sun
photo credit @ragsyno


Norway, beautiful land of the vikings,  the drop dead gorgeous country was my first solo international travel and it was fun.  I said Cape Town was my favorite until I stepped foot in Norway.  I was instantly enamored by the beauty of this country. It is not a wonder that its citizens are one of the happiest people on earth. 


                                                               serene lake in Sannesmoen


It is a country I have always dreamt of visiting even before my sister started living there. 
I have looked forward to traveling between the fjords, experiencing the northern lights and even the midnight sun e.t.c. I made this trip during summer of 2017, so I have experienced the midnight sun but not yet the northern lights which I plan to see someday.  



                  What is the midnight sun? you might ask
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs during summer in places south of the Antarctic Circle and north of the Arctic Circle – including Northern Norway.
The earth is rotating at a tilted axis relative to the sun, and during the summer months the North Pole is angled towards our star. That’s why, for several weeks, the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle.
Svalbard is the place in Norway where the midnight sun occurs for the longest period. Here, the sun never sets from 20 April to 22 August. I didn't visit Svalbard, but Drangedal, the midnight sun didn't last this long but did last for weeks in June. It was beautiful to experience bright sun light during the night. The first few weeks I could hardly sleep as the bright midnight sun filtered through the curtains and into my room leaving it as bright as day. 


                                                   selfie of me during the midnight sun
Norway has so many beautiful natural phenomena and made an impression on me, and I would visit again even if my sister lived there or not. 

It’s tempting to wonder about all the sights and experiences that have been made under the midnight sun through the ages – by people living off the sea in the Lofoten and VesterĂ¥len archipelagos, or the Sami reindeer herders of the far north. I have heard and read so much about Lofoten and it is on my list of the next place to visit. 


The phenomena has at least made a lasting impression on several Norwegian artists and writers. 
There are many sights and activities  open at night during these weeks, so you can go midnight golfing, cycling, river paddling, or sea kayaking – or maybe just find a quiet spot to fish. If you love camping, you can just pitch up your tent and stay up with the sun. There is just so much to do during the summer. And Norway summer is chilly, compared to warm Nigeria, in fact it was colder than any cold I thought I experienced in Nigeria.

I like how the paint most houses in bright colors, particularly red. I also like how all the streets and houses are decorated with various colors of flowers. 
                                                             colorful houses

It is true that Norway is an expensive country, but there are ways to have a low budget trip. For example, my accommodation, transportation and feeding was taken care of as I have a sister there, for those who do not have relatives in Norway, there are ways to keep down the cost. It is a beautiful country you want to visit and the people are friendly. 

It’s hard to find truly useful advice for budget travel to Norway, I guess because most backpackers don’t stay in Norway long enough to learn all the budget hacks here, while Norwegians, well, make Norwegian salaries.

Norwegians are the first to admit that their country is really expensive, but the truth is most Norwegians can afford to live in Norway in an expensive way. And the secret is that there are ways to avoid those expenses, if you really want to.
1. Plan your trip early
Plan your trip early, even a year ahead. Book for your flights early too.
Start your trip as you mean to continue and take advantage of the low fares offered by budget airlines such as Norwegian and Ryanair into Oslo and other regional airports. 
 Be careful of extra charges for baggage, seat selection and food on low cost airlines and make sure to factor this into your ticket price or consider foregoing the extras!
 If you are traveling in groups then get an airbnb and share the cost, if not you can still get an affordable airbnb as it is cheaper than hotels. 
It is relatively easy to travel independently in Norway. Alongside the advantages of flexibility and traveling on your own schedule, it can often be a much cheaper way to travel. 
The buses and trains are a great way to explore Norway, you can also book a cheap rental car if you prefer. 
Norwegian buses and trains are usually cheaper when booked directly and in advance of traveling – it’s often the case that the earlier you book the cheaper the fares that are available. For example, the Norwegian State Railways (NSB) offer a limited number of minipris fares: these are discounted tickets on train routes which can be secured by planning and purchasing early.

2. It’s beautiful everywhere 
You don’t have to cover huge distances to see Norway at its best, because it is stunning absolutely everywhere. You just can’t get enough of the beauty. 



Took a trip to BrekkeParken, a Telemark Museum founded in 1909 from a base at Sondre Brekke farm. It is breathtaking and I would recommend  visiting it if you are around Telemark. 
How does this help you as a budget traveler in Norway?  You might ask. Well, it means that you don’t have to visit tons of different destinations in Norway in order to experience its beauty. In fact, you really can just fly to Porsgrunn for a weekend break and you’ll see more stunning scenery than you would spending days on the road in some countries.


                                                               brekkepakken
                                                     we love flowers

                                                               brekkepakken
                                                                   view of skien
Though I should add that there is a catch: if you visit just one place in Norway you will definitely be coming back to see more.
3. The best things to do in Norway are free
If you lover nature, you will love Norway. Everything in Norway is beautiful. People don’t come here for the amazing shopping,(like Dubai) booming nightlife, or really anything that you have to pay for. People visit Norway to see the nature and that is the truth.

Okay yes, you could spend a lot of money on a fjord cruise or rail adventure (and it will totally be worth it), but you can also hike up from whatever city you flew into and it is going to be breathtaking. For those who love hiking. 
The best thing about Norway is that a lot of its most spectacular sights are free. Norway is home to incredible hikes and stunning fjords, there are waterfalls to chase and glaciers which will take your breath away. From wandering around the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Bergen,Telemark and Roros to admiring the man made wanders of the Atlantic Road and Trollstigen, many of the sights that Norway is famous for don’t cost a cent. And exploring old historical buildings is also free. 

                                                                     steinvika


skien


We went to take a nature stroll in the Steinvika gea Norvegica Geopark known for the observation of the Ordovician limestone  and shales and even fossils. I enjoyed the beautiful walk around it. The scenery was gorgeous . 

4. You can camp anywhere
Camping is one of the cheapest ways to travel, not just in Norway, but especially in Norway which operates the ‘right to roam’. This means you can pitch a tent anywhere in the countryside, forests or mountains provided you stay at least 150 metres away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin. If you wish to stay for more than two nights you must seek the permission of the landowner.
Visitors are required to tread lightly and leave no trace. It’s essential to pick up rubbish and show respect for nature.
Campsites are another great accommodation option in Norway.  The standards vary by individual campsite but facilities include showers and bathrooms as well as communal kitchens. Most campsites came with the added bonus of spectacular views which were incredible to wake up to
5. Bring basic food supplies 
When planning to visit Norway, and you have no relative there. It is advisable to pack your food supplies because it is cheaper. Or you can shop for those in a low cost supermarket. Although you will save more money if you can bring your own supplies, especially dry food, then purchase the fresh food in Norway. 
6. Cook instead of eating out
It’s expensive to eat out in Norway where even basic convenience foods such as a roadside hotdog can cost over 5 Euro and takeaway pizza over 20 Euro! As well as food supplies do also pack camping cooking utensils. 



 7.Drink tap water
Tap water is drinkable in Norway so save money and the environment by bringing a reusable water bottle!You do not need to buy water, so you can save money on that.
8. Stock up on duty free alcohol if you like alcohol
Alcohol is expensive and a pint of beer can cost over 10 Euro.  If you do plan to drink, take advantage of the full duty free allowance at the airport on arrival. Oslo Airport has a duty free shop for arriving visitors and many stock up on the reduced price alcohol.
 9. Sightseeing
Like anywhere on the planet, Norway’s cities can be expensive. I spent most of our time exploring its spectacular countryside as that’s where my sister lives and I love countrysides, there is so much to see. You could go hiking, or for a walk along the ocean , or go to a park or play ground for free. 
 Norway is one of the most naturally beautiful places we’ve ever seen. If you love outdoor activities and beautiful scenery, you simply must go there. We took a round trip boat ride from Brevik, the scenery was just breathtaking. It costs about 130 Norwegian kroner per adult and 65 kroner for children. 

Breivik


rocking Ms Dikkon boat



                                                            olavsberget camping Og Badeplass

drangedal

Kragero is another beautiful charming touristy town in Telemark County. The surrounding is beautiful with a cluster of about 495 Islands. While in Kragero, you can walk by the ocean, visit the museum, take a walk around the charming coastal town, dine by the water, visit historical sites or cultural attractions. Kragero was my favorite town. 


                                                     
                                                               kragero
                               goofing around                                             Rosemary striking a pose in Kragero
beautiful kragero

I am also fascinated by historical buildings, old churches that still looked well maintained. So I visited a number of them. I was more drawn to Var Frue Kirke, (Church of our Lady) built in 1899. I love the architectural design. 
I went to a lot of places I won’t be able to mention in this post. 





10. Walk To Your Destination(if you are in Oslo)
Walking in Norway makes sense for so many reasons:
First off, Oslo is such a beautiful city and it’s a joy to walk its streets and discover its many treasures. It’s a reasonably compact city and most attractions can be easily walked to. The cluster of central Oslo attractions can all be reached on foot within 30 minutes or less. Even the further afield attractions such as Vigeland Park can be reached in under an hour.
Secondly, walking will save you money on transportation
And finally, walking is always a great idea early in your trip as it helps you get the lay of the land and find good restaurants, grocery stores etc. 
You can also walk around small towns in the Telemark county as well, I did a lot of walking in Skien, Drangedal, Porsgrunn  and Kragero and it was fun. 


We took a ferry ride and road trip to Sweden and Denmark, that will be in the next blog post. 
                                                               kragero
                                                        
A Troll figurine. They have a lore about trolls. Some Norwergians decorate their homes with a troll figurine.

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