As a boy my son had a crazy passion for Trolls, these little gnomes, like elves, are not very nice characters who inhabit the unexplored forests of Norway.
A little malignant, with a decidedly ugly appearance, they are distinguished by their big noses and their size, which vary from small to giant, they cannot expose themselves to sunlight otherwise they are transformed into stones.
He had an endless collection of them. About the Trolls, and their legends, he knew everything and of course about their homeland, Norway.
So much so was his eagerness for that land that in the end, his father and I convinced ourselves: let’s take him over there!
At the time I had no idea but this country really has something magical, Trolls aside, it looks like a land that comes straight out of a fairy tale, like leaving this earthly world and entering a Disney cartoon.
Oslo is a clean, tidy city, an open-air museum, with statues standing in every corner. A city that embraces its sea in a harmonious and sunny way.
And it is also alive, swarming with people. A succession of well-kept gardens, with bright flowers that seem to have just blossomed.
Oslo is a whole experience, from the magnificent Royal Palace with its large park, to the museum that hosts the Munch’s Howl, to the port where ancient wooden boats catapult you in an instant in past centuries, where fishing boats sell freshly caught shrimp that when you taste them you feel like you have the sea in your mouth.
Boats leave from the port to navigate the fjord that welcomes the city and also to reach the various islands. On one of these is the Fram, the Museum of Viking Ships.
That’s where we’re headed. It’s the best for a boy.
Before leaving Oslo you could not miss a visit to Vigeland Park. Among green lawns, fountains, gardens and terraces there is a permanent exhibition of human sculptures, the harmony of men’s bodies, women’s and children’s bodies merge into one another until they join in a loving, grotesque and sensual interweaving.
Gorge in Norway
After the park it is time to leave the city. Now off we go.
Our destination is Gorge in the interior of the country. I have a surprise in store for my son, he doesn’t know it but for a few days I rented a cottage by a lake.
I want him to sleep with grass over his head, to look out the window and see squirrels, roe deer, reindeer and cows running free and to have canoes to wander around the placid waters of the lake.
Until I saw it with my own eyes I would never have believed that all this could be true.
It takes us hours to get there but it’s worth it. For three days we live in this paradise. We hike, walk on plateaus and climb mountains. Nature is lush, water is everywhere, omnipresent. Waterfalls, streams, rivers, lakes and more lakes, streams, swamps.
Nature is so beautiful, the stillness of the water, the purity of the colours, that it really feels like being inside a painting, a postcard, a cartoon where everything is pure magic. It is so strange to us that the darkness arrives at midnight, and even more so that after three hours the sunrise is already rising.
The lake seems to be all ours, we are the only tourists. The water is so still that it seems fake, the sky reflects so much that we no longer know where one ends and the other begins.
All right, canoeing in the water starting. We adults try but it’s my big boy who seems to make himself one with the waters of the lake and stays hours and hours paddling far and wide.
Norway an ideal place for Pic-nic
We are organized because, apart from nature, it takes us a few days to understand one important thing: in these less touristy areas of the hinterland if you want to dine in some small restaurant (prices skyrocketing) you have to do it before five in the evening, because then they close, everything closes and dinner skips.
But we are Italians, we are all busy discovering these wonders and the night never seems to come and we forget that we have to dine very early and so we stay without eating for two nights…
But then we got smart, we keep in the car some supplies, bread in crates, cheese, cold cuts, water, beer… and every other possible and imaginable Norwegian delicacy that we have never tasted.
Then we realised that around here they dine so early because after dinner, taking advantage of the sunlight, they can go back to work the land…
We leave the little house on the lake and start our tour. Just travelling by car is worth the trip.
Lom and Sogndal towards the Jostedalsbreen glacier
There are so many things to see that we should stop every ten kilometres. Churches, for example. In Lom we visit one of the oldest in the country. And then the suspension bridges over the waterfalls. Tumultuous torrents that run between large boulders. Small villages with a fairy-tale flavour.
Our destination is Sogndal from there we will continue northwards to meet a perennial glacier, the Jostedalsbreen.
The landscape is constantly changing. To go on we have to go over bridges that seem to never end, roads, like the one in the picture above, that look like rubber, or we have to board boats that take you from one side of the fjords to the other. Everything is a surprise, even the hotel that welcomes us for the night. It is on the banks of a fjord with an unpronounceable name. His name is Gordon. He looks like something out of a period film. I could turn around and find myself in front of a lady of the nineteenth century. It’s white wood, the floor creaks at every step. From every window the gaze rests on the sea of the fjord, it seems that the whole structure wants to stretch out over the waters, taking to sea as a ship would do.
The next morning the sun shines. We find the first perennial snows, my short-sleeved son takes flight to touch them.
We continue to Norway’s most famous fjord, the Geirangerfjord. Car and all of us board the boat and go up the fjord.
The emotion is tangible. It is the majesty of the walls that sink sheer into the sea, the waters are motionless in a blue colour that you have never seen before, the waterfalls that descend from a dizzying height take your breath away. It is the silence, it is the small boats that give a sense of fragility and impotence compared to the size of the place. It is all this that makes this place unique in the world.
And there he is, all smiles, happy as ever, our boy.
The fjord ends in the village of Geiranger, where we land. We take a walk, as if we didn’t want to leave this place. We buy a basket of raspberries from some kids. They are delicious, ripe and juicy.
We go up the road, the only one, to get out of the fjord. The sharp bends follow one after the other. When we get to the top we can’t not stop. From up there the view sweeps into the fjord, the Costa cruise ship moored in front of the village (which just clashed with the landscape) is so small that it doesn’t look like it either.
We would like to stay longer, we would like our daughter to be here with us to enjoy this wonderful show, but she couldn’t, she is in Ireland studying and we are so proud of her… The photos are a ritual, not to be missed.
The Troll Road
We continue our journey towards the famous Trolls’ road, the Trollstigveien. Finally, we enter the legendary world of the Trolls. And there they are! We get out of the car now, we’re all kids now…
As soon as we set off, we travel through a beautiful glacial valley. At a certain point it is as if the road we are travelling along suddenly ends, you can’t see it anymore. We are a little apprehensive because we know that the concrete ribbon we have to follow falls into a hairpin bend behind the other down to the valley below. There are several metres of difference in height, and it is frightfully impressive the gap that opens up under the wheels of the car. It feels like we are on a roller coaster that is about to plunge into nowhere. The experience is one that leaves its mark, as soon as we get to the flat we stop to see the road we’ve just travelled… it’s a thrill.
The valley that opens in front is, if possible, even more majestic.
Molde is our next stop.
It is a small town at the beginning of a fjord, near the open sea. We have to take a boat to get there but it is now the norm. We go to dinner early, the cod is delicious, the price for a dinner of only one astronomical course, but this is also the norm.
Between Molde and Kristiansund lies the famous Atlantic Road, described as one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
Atlantic Road a road on the sea
Our trip to Norway continues on the famous Atlantic Road. It is sinuous, it seems to touch the sea and then return to rise again, it is a dance between sky, earth and sea that we find ourselves walking along.
You have to stop, look at this road from every angle, imagine it when the ocean waves invade the lanes. Nature always regains possession of its spaces… but today is a beautiful sunny day and this concrete ribbon that unwinds as if it were a work of art gives the best of man’s mastery.
We remain to admire it, while we take a walk on the rocks, we buy a small souvenir in a wooden hut stuck between sea and land.
We go even further north to Kristiansund, which is without doubt the capital of cod. On the harbour we are welcomed by a statue of a woman with the famous fish. After wandering around aimlessly, and having eaten the famous freshly caught raw shrimps, we take the boat as if it were a taxi, first we take a tour of the city from another perspective, and it is definitely worth it, then we disembark on the other side of an arm of the sea, to have lunch in a famous restaurant that our guide points out to us. The codfish is amazing, and strange to say the price is quite modest.
We take the boat back to the centre.
All the cities visited have in common the complete integration with the sea. The sea enters into it, delimits its perspectives and circuits its views. Water is the omnipresent element that sets the rules.
It would be nice, the next day, to go north again, maybe as far as Trondheim, but our ten days are coming to an end and the next day we have to head south.
The next morning we leave the sun on the coast and after a few kilometres we start to climb a mountain pass. The air gets cold, and shortly afterwards we find ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm. The show is surreal, the fog is thick and we proceed at a walking pace. Norway unpredictable, changeable, surprising.
We still have one more day before the return flight. We spend it in two small villages near the airport south of Oslo, Tordenskiold and Stavern.
They are an enchantment. Small, silent, well cared for. The white wooden houses are reflected in the sea, moored in the small port between boats of all kinds there is a Viking ship on which we get on immediately … we will not be arrested!
We’ll have the last meal of cod and a nice walk on the rocks smoothed by wind and water.
My big boy is happy, he thanks me and squeezes me in a hug.
To discover also this characteristic Norwegian city read this article about Bergen NorwayBergen Norvegia