There was a reason that I put Scandinavia on my bucket list, I was not quite sure why till I am visually here. I wish the weather is better and I am not shooting through the tour bus window all the time. Completely unknown about this country, it has been an eye-opening experience getting to know this beautiful and sophisticated country.
Norway has only 5 million people inhabited this long and skinny land full of absolutely gorgeous fjords (a waterway), endless green fields and meadows, storybook-like houses, and mirror-like bluish-green waters. Most of the farmhouses are painted red with white trim. From distance, the dramatic color contrast among green, red, white, blue, and other colors creates a picturesque landscape.
|typical waterfront houses|
In the cities, residential houses are mostly sitting on the hillside. Almost all houses have contrasted coloration and barely two identical houses next to each other. The architecture of the regular houses and commercial buildings are both impressive. Old houses and buildings are packed with fine details and characters. Newer buildings have also maintained their classic flare. From its architecture, we know there is a significant history behind it.
Upon our arrival, the first two meals are served inside the hotel. We had no idea about the food prices till we stepped outside our comfort zone and were shocked at the food prices. I would say, The prices paid for hole-in-the-wall places can sit us in an upscale restaurant at home comfortably, with wine, appetizers, and dessert. One cup of coffee no refill is between $5-7/cup, a hamburger is $17-22, French Fries $27-30, bottle water $5-7, Danish $5 just to give some examples.
Northwest fresh salmon is great. I don’t want to say Norway has better fish, but the cooking method and spice used makes the same fish very tasty. I have to guess that they might use all organic vegetables because the taste is just like what I remembered in my childhood (when the pesticide was not used). It is not the stir fry that I am familiar with, but it is so fresh and crunchy. I thought the Chinese is the only ones knows how to make vegetables crunchily tasty.
Breakfast place seems to all come with a mini bakery and at least half a dozen varieties of bread are served in loaves. You cut your own, big or small, no waste. A big array of cheese selections is impressive and fish is served in all breakfast. Coffee is good, but when we asked for decaffeinated coffee, we were handed over a jar of Nescafe. Also, only regular tea is served, no herbal teas. The coffee cup is smaller, 8 oz is their regular size. I have seen the mugs in the stores. They are all 8 oz. This explains why we have seen mostly tall blonds with slender figures. Today is our 6th day of the trip and I have not seen any overweight people, men or women.
Many women have long blond hair and fair skin, very little make-up. And, almost all the teenage girls have nothing on their faces, pure and naturally beautiful. No nose rings or tattoos either. Clean, Orderly, and Organized are what I witnessed around the cities.
Woodcrafts, knitwear, furs, and leather products are Norway’s signature products. Sales tax VAT is 25%. One regular sweater with a pattern costs about $500. Simple wood souvenir items start at $20-30 each if it is made in Norway. From what I know, Income tax is on average 30-35%, and the higher bracket 40-60%. Everything is so expensive, how do people make their living and are elected ‘the happiest people in the world?
|Original Trading Houes|
We all know Norway has acquired tremendous wealth from its natural resources such as oil and they have one of the best social welfare systems. Norwegians are hard-working people. Traditionally they are frugal and have very good saving habits. Their minimum wage is about $35-40 per hour using a waitress as an example. A teacher’s starting salary is about $90,000…. For such earnings, a high tax rate does not drain them down. In fact, they only have a 3.7% unemployment rate. The average income is $50,000, and 80% of the people are house owners.
The crime rate is low. It has something to do with their gun control law. Nobody can own a gun without officially applying for a license and going through regulated training. Due to the long winter and shortage of sunshine, people tend to become depressed. Drinking is therefore becoming a problem. Fine for drunk driving is one month’s salary plus three weeks of traffic school. I like their straight and no bull shit rules.
The Internet has not been going on steadily and our busy tour schedule does not give me enough time to download and go through the pictures taken each day. I hope to catch up soon and I want to share this trip the best I can upon my return.