Norway; remote and comfortable

Much of Norway is rural. Quite rural in most areas. The second home boom that has infiltrated untracked forests and coastal headlands in the US has been accomplished differently in Norway. Most of the second homes are clustered around ski areas and places where winter sports are enjoyed. A second home just for the view is not as common as here. Many rural people will have a time share or small apartment in the city in what seems a kind of contrary move. And, like most countries (think USA and Australia) the larger portion of the human population is coastal. So it is in Norway and this means that much of the interior is rolling moorland. Further north and this might be tundra but without permafrost it is heath and moor; or perhaps bogland and muskeg. Snow covered for six or seven months and wet underfoot the rest of the year.

This creates good land for migratory shorebirds Birds that winter in the tropics or even deep into the Southern Hemisphere and return to Scandinavia or Siberia or northern Canada to breed in the time of plenty – plenty of insects that is.  The vegetated landscape varies due to elevation and the aspect of the slope (N, S, E, or West facing); south-facing land get warmer than north facing and higher elevations lose tree life at about three thousand feet. Over all the forests in Norway are largest in the southeast toward Oslo. The central portion of the country is to high for trees, though 2000′ lower than Denver, and the western side is quite rocky and cut by fjords, though there are many smaller bits of forest land on the west side. The northern lands are rugged in the winter and usually have acidic sphagnum based soils.

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But, wherever you got in the areas of habitation there are always ski slope and cross-country trails. I am sure the Norwegians would ride bicycles like the Copenhagen Danes if the land were flatter; they love their outdoor sports. Many hotels have a small lift and ski slope out back. Some roads are closed in the winter but many areas remain open and well attended through the cold er snowy season.
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There are lakes, lots and lots of lakes. Norway has fresh water for drinking and creating power. It is a country that plans on banning internal combustion engines in cars by 2025 and looks to be largely powered by natural sources in the same era. There is a bit of irony here as much of the affluence that the country has is based on its sales of oil and gas from north sea reserves.
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Under the eaves of many hotels there were the mud nests of the House Martin. This is a swallow that looks very much like the North American Tree Swallow but builds a hanging/self-supporting mud nest like Cliff Swallows (our barn Swallows use a lot of mud also but their nests sit in a beam or board)
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Our American Robin is a thrush and for the most part a woodland thrush. In Norway the Fieldfare is the robin – or maybe its the European Blackbird – I guess there are two thrushes that will remind you of our robin.  The Fieldfare is a robust bird that wanders the lawns and fields garnering whatever but can in an omnivorous sort of way.
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There are about thirty (most references say 28) “stave” churches left in Norway. Made of local wood and in and out of vogue many have burned and, if rebuilt, have been replaced by more modern construction. Fire was one primary cause of the disappearance of these Medieval buildings (most built between 1150 and 1350, but other causes were the Black Death that swept the country starting in Bergen in 1349 and the Reformation which altered the outlook on religion continent-wide. The Europeans to the south were using stone to make castles and gray homes while the Norwegians used wood. Stave churches are almost always carved in intricate and meaningful ways and represent both Christian and Viking aspects of the culture. The doors and the finials are carved and the eaves and peaks often harbor dragon heads to keep bad spirits at bay. The presumed prince of evil spirits was the reasoning behind having a side door for women to enter and leave the church. The large corner posts are the staves and the plank walls that run atop a sill from stave to stave are called stave walls. Thus the name stave is imbedded in the structure and the name has persisted. The image above is of the Lom Stave Church and is in the small town (aren’t they all) of Lom.
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This was snapped out the window – sorry for the reflections. As you get higher and more central in Norway the trees have stopped being part of the landscape and the mountains are often not vegetated or perhaps sparsely vegetated. The snow and ice linger into early June and wet ground replaces that. It isn’t the most inviting place for tourism in this season but it is quite lovely. By the way, Norwegian road-builders are in class of their own. The switch back roads and tunnels are unequaled anywhere in the world. As we descend into the fjord lands on the west coast we will see some of the achievements of these engineers and craftsmen. 

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