Sun, fun, fjords and more
The Travelers: American Jerry Chan and his Beijinger wife Cicylia, Jerry’s mother Pat, his sister (and Norway resident) Teresa and her 6-month-old son Emil-Alexander.
The Destination: Norway
The Plan: Visit Teresa in her picturesque home in Nesodden, a kommune (district) of Oslo, located on a peninsula west of the main city on the other side of the Oslo Fjord, and take a five-day driving tour of central and western Norway, with stops in Valdres and Sognefjord along the way.
The Reality: Traveling with a 6-month-old baby in any country can be difficult, and Norway’s steep prices can be crippling on a limited budget. Flying to Oslo from Beijing also requires a transfer in either Copenhagen (Scandinavian Airlines), Paris (Air France), Frankfurt (Lufthansa) or London (British Airways). Word is, however, that a direct Beijing-to-Oslo flight via SAS is in the works – check www.flysas.com for updated flight schedules.
Where to Stay: Norway has its share of hotels, pensions and quaint bed-and-breakfasts, but perhaps the most interesting accommodations are the hytte – wood cabins that are often set in the most stunning of natural locations across the countryside. These cabins are either serviced or self-catering and come complete with bunk beds, food, kitchens (some with wait staff and cooks in tow) and wood-burning stoves. Many are privately owned, but the Norwegian Tourist Association (DNT) owns and operates an extensive network of hytte around the country that are available for public use. Check out www.turistforeningen.no/english and www.visitornorway.com for additional lodging options.
Where to Play: From beautiful hikes and freshwater fishing to cross-country skiing and cruising the fjords, Norway’s family-friendly attractions range far and wide, but the best part was a two-hour hike (of easy to moderate difficulty) up a mountain peak in central Norway, where the family stayed overnight in Slettningsbu (a hytte owned by the DNT). The clean mountain air and close encounters with the natural environment were unforgettable.
Where to Learn: Like all European capitals, Oslo is a town filled with history, including picturesque Vigelands Park – home to a collection of fantastic and somewhat bizarre human statues by early 20th century sculptor Gustav Vigelands. On the west coast, the city of Bergen (aka “the City Between Seven Mountains”) – known for its surrounding mountains, quaint coastline and antique architecture – is also a must-see for its rich history and culture. But the family found that the best learning experience came from taking in the pristine nature and awesome beauty of the Norwegian countryside.
What to Eat: Highlights of the family’s Norwegian culinary indulgences included meals of whale and moose meat steak, fresh lake trout and salmon, mouthwatering sausages, and rakfisk wrapped in potato pancakes, as well as sinfully sweet cherries, strawberries and mountain berries galore – including the biggest raspberries and strawberries they had ever laid eyes on (available depending on the season). Don’t miss out on the caramelesque Brunost (“brown”) cheese made from goat’s milk and other world-famous Norvegia and Jarlsberg cheeses.
Best Way to Tour: Renting a car is highly recommended (the Chans booked their four-door Volvo via www.autoeurope.com). Driving through the winding mountain roads, including a trip through the world’s longest tunnel (24.5km) in Laerdal, was an unforgettable experience. The 20km Flam Railway, which is based in the picturesque town of Flam, deep in the heart of Aurlandfjord (a tributary of the 204km Sognefjord, one of the longest fjords in the world), is also a tourist highlight offering fantastic views of rustic dales and thundering waterfalls as it ascends 865 meters from the town of Flam to Myrdal. When it comes to touring Norway, however, nothing beats an old-fashioned hike (or mountain bike trek) – the country is literally teeming with trails.