Mar 31, 2011

Norway? More like Snoreway!

(you'll have to forgive me for the spacing of images - I wasn't sure how to make it right, so rather than play with it just left it as is)

The other night I was with a friend who said "Why would anyone want to come to Norway, what's in Norway?"

And I suppose for some people cold dark winters and relatively mild short summers aren't their thing, along with many of the social and cultural aspects of Norway. There are many aspects about Norway some may not like, living here. For example, night life is not as big as it is in other countries, and all alcohol stores are state run, and close on Sundays and after certain times (meaning most people forward think it). To most people, Norway is probably boring. This happens to be an opinion offered by Norwegians themselves (possibly more than foreigners even), especially when it comes to Oslo, which many Norwegians apparently consider one of the most boring cities in Europe.

So, I suppose the point of this is to give some reasons to visit Norway...

 1. Geirangerfjorden:
Actually, just fjords in general. They are all around the entire Norwegian coastline, spanning many many kilometers, of dramatic, beautiful, untouched scenery. There is not many other countries where you will see as spectacular a sight as this.

2. Aurora Borealis and the Midnight Sun:
Norway is often called the "land of the midnight sun" though I'm unsure why, since you can experience this in all of the extreme North. Essentially, it is the time when the sun doesn't go below the horizon during the summer. Very beautiful, but I prefer what happens in the winter - Auroras. This is something of which you cannot describe which is amazing to see, and cannot be experienced in many other places.

3. Trondheim:
This is one of the best 'cities' in Norway, with some of the most amazing history, many old buildings and some of the best cultural things to see and do (and eat). Anyone visiting Norway should visit Trondheim.

4. Bryggen:
Bryggen in Bergen is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a part of 'old Bergen' along the wharf, with lots of preserved buildings, and lots of history. The city of Bergen itself is also worth an extended visit, as it has many museums, cafes and so on.

5. Flåmsbana:
The Flåm train line runs through multiple small towns in Norway, and is incredibly scenic, passing through steep mountains, with many breathtaking waterfalls and cliffs. It is a very popular tourist attraction, and for good reason. Such sites cannot be seen elsewhere.

6. Preikestolen:
Near the town of Stavanger, this is also a popular tourist attraction, and a national icon, of sorts. It is also called the pulpit rock in English, and overlooks the Lysefjord. It's a small hike up there, but the view is always worth it.

7. Vega Islands:
This is another UNESCO WHS in Norway. It is about halfway along the western coastline of Norway, North of Trondheim, and is a series of many small Islands, dotted with old fishing towns. Many of the towns in the area are very scenic, and the islands themselves are also very beautiful. There is many pictures of this area around, but I don't think any capture it well enough. My favorite part of the area is Lofoten (not quiet in the same location, but very nearby).

8. Vikings:
...and other viking-related things. Throughout Norway there is a lot of Viking history, many museums, many old stave churches, and remnants of the forefathers of the country. It is something which Norwegians are quiet proud of, and eager to show to visitors, and something which is deeply embedded in society and culture. It is also probably one of the main reasons most people would want to visit Norway, apart from the nature.

I suppose 9 & 10 would be Women and Food, respectively, but i'm too lazy to talk about that. Perhaps another time.

Mar 24, 2011

Libya, Japan, and Money

There is somewhat mixed feelings of the recent turmoil in Japan. While it is a devastating and ongoing crisis, which will probably have economic effects all around the world, a recent article suggests that Norway stands to benefit economically from this (greatly).

You see, the electricity that Japan supplies from it's nuclear reactors has to be replaced somehow, and in the short term the simplest way to do this is of course - natural gas. This is something that Norway (along with Russia, Ukraine, and other countries) have an abundance of. Apparently, Norway stands to earn an extra few billion US dollars from this.

On that same note, Norway has also offered aid to Japan, but last I heard hasn't actually sent any. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg had extended the offer of search and rescue teams, however it is essentially up to Japan to ask for the aid from Norway, before they will send it.

Recently however Norway has sent planes to Japan to bring tourists back home.

As for Libya, this is a situation that doesn't directly affect Norway economically, as it is hitting the fuel prices in other countries, in fact it will likely also benefit Norway (Libya is one of the 10 largest exporters in the world for crude oil, thus the prices have gone up, Norway has lots of oil - with increased prices Norway again stands to make lots of money from this).

However, Norway is more proactive on this particular issue. It has one of the biggest foreign aid budgets of any country, and is an active NATO/UN member. So in this particular case, the Norwegian military services are sending some planes to help enforce the no-fly zone in Libya, which to some people (particularly Americans who send planes into military operations all the time) this may not sound like a big deal. However, Norway has only used these planes (F16's) about three times in the last decade or so. So to Norway, it's kind of a big deal.