A cruise in Norway? What a lovely idea, especially in summer

Friday, August 26, 2011

A cruise in Norway!? What a lovely idea; I’ve never been to Norway; have always wanted to go. The fjords, Vikings, Norse gods, gorgeous people, fresh fish.

But Norway is north of Boston. I live in Boston and try never to go north from here. Boston is north enough, cold most of the year, frigid in the dead of winter, lots of snow and ice. I don’t do north. Give me the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, get me out of the cold.

And yet, it is summer, so Norway can’t be all ice and snow in August, can it? The brochures from Oslo and Bergen show people in shorts and short-sleeved shirts frolicking near the fjords.

But our first few days on the ship of Hurtigruten cruise lines will be at the top of Norway, where the reindeer and possibly Father Christmas live. In fact, we’ll be visiting the town that is the furthest north in the world on one of our stops, and they advise to “dress in warm clothing; bring gloves and hats.” My granddaughter tells me to please say hello to Santa Claus and tell him she’s a good girl.

They also note that the Gulf Stream flows around Norway, making it warmer than one might think. We can expect temperatures in the 60’s, and the coldest we’ll feel is somewhere in the 40’s. That can’t be too bad.

But what to bring in summer in Norway? Layers, and lots of them. Everything from summer to winter clothes, but at least no formal gowns; Hurtigruten tells us that life on board is casual and “no tiaras” will be needed.

The Norwegian cruise line sent us a long reading list for this trip, and as usual, I wish I’d had this for about a year, as everything on the list looks interesting. Notable are the number of Norwegian writers who have won the Nobel prizes in literature and New York Times Best Book of the Year awards. I choose a group of books about Norse myths, Viking travels, and literature and quickly read Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, which in addition to being one of the 10 best books of the year as selected by the New York Times Book Review, also won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize. A sweet, tender story of a boy growing up in Norway.

As do Bostonians, Norwegians have a lot of winter in which to sit inside and write, after they ski – remember Lillehammer in 1994, when they hosted the Olympic Winter games? And they’re wonderful writers, although from Petterson’s book and Sigrid Undset’s Nobel winner Kristin Lavransdatter, there is always an element of darkness in these stories of daily life in the country that is either very very dark or light all night long depending on the time of year.

There is great detail in the stories I’ve been able to read in the brief time before I head to Oslo, and I’ll stuff a few more books into my luggage to find out about these hardy people of the mountains and sea who made it to New England five centuries before Columbus set sail from Portugal.

The only other fact I know about Norwegians from my brief past readings is that they love to tango. Why, so far from Buenos Aires?

I will try to find out.


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