Too Much Sun in Norway
“People here complain about the weather.” You can stick that label on any population in any place in the word. Find me a place where people don’t complain about the weather? See, can’t be done, even Google can’t help you on that one.
Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona…Norway, who doesn’t complain about the weather? There is comfort in complaining about the weather, you have no responsiblity and you can’t do anything about it. No one votes for weather, and there is no Church of the Cumulonimbus to offend; we pretty much get to enjoy a childlike wonderment (Fyi, this doesn’t include Global Warming, which is real. If you are using a computer, then you have faith in the same science that holds that climate change is happening right now).
According to local complaints, summer bypassed Norway. June and July were busts in Oslo, so say our neighbors. My cousin in Trondelag said last summer was glorious, this summer was just rain. And to complain about rain in Trondelag is really saying something.
I have been lucky, too lucky. Since arriving August 3rd, the weather has been uncharacteristically nice. The temperatures have been moderate to warm and in the Oslo fjord we have enjoyed abundant sunshine. I almost think it has made some locals uncomfortable. When you are prepped to suffer in cold and wet Norway, this seasonal aberration is quite a shock.
My flight to Bergen last week afforded me a fantastic and undeserved sunny survey of the Norwegian countryside. I expected cloud cover and obscured views, instead I got brilliant rays of sun and long shadows. Come with me.
Norwegian Air Flight DY 620 was scheduled to depart at 16:20 on Tuesday, 29 September. Actually, my journey starts over 60 kilometers away. First, I have to schlep my bags and backpack up the hill to wait for the ever faithful #32 bus. With nice weather the wait is no bother, even when #32 is late, which it usually is. Aboard, we descend the steep road, Vækerøveien, to sea level and the Lysaker Bru (Lysaker Bridge) stop. Schlep again to the Lysaker Station, up the steps to the train platform, and then wait for the train to Eidsvoll with the stop at the airport. The bus ride was about three 3km, the train is 55 k.
Leaving early is my M.O. With copious time at the terminal I waited, looked at the far green hills out the expansive windows and made a feeble attempt to work from my iPad. Three high rank navy officers waited with me. I kept stealing looks at their salad bars trying to read their careers. No luck. Just before 16:00 we boarded.
Ah, that new plane smell. And to my pleasure a lightly occupied flight. The navy officers boarded. Oddly, they all sat in different rows.
The sun was still out. The time was 16:20 and we were still at the gate. I guess the navy has no pull. Norway.
And we’re off, climbing south and then banking right, climbing. The sun, already low is bathing the patchwork of farm fields and woods in a rich light. There are just enough shadows to give perspective but not too much to conceal.
The fasten seatbelt sign goes dark, I enjoy my ritual Kviklunsj (a norwegian kit-kat, but they just survived a big lawsuit from kit-kat so it’s all good – plus you get a map inside the wrapper of where to take a sunday hike with the family). Still climbing.
The farm fields are gone. Flying west, chasing the light, we fly over forest, and lakes, and rock. In valleys there are villages with some hopeful farmers clinging to the hillsides. But mostly a big beautiful empty.
In this clarity and from this height you can see the effect of glaciation on the land. Long and thin striations are visible if you know what to look for. I now suspect we are over the Hardanger Vidda, the famous high mountain plateau. It’s an escape destination for so many Norwegians and a home to so few.
I am seated on the starboard side, row 6 and next to the window because no one else was in my row. I’m glued to the window. I’ve never seen anything like this. And then I saw a phantasm, a white spectre floating above the barren plateau.
In the resolution of distance I realized it was a mountain. No, too wide and level, but so massive and white…it was a glacier. Later I figured out it was the famous Jøkulen. All alone, so singular in this very late summer landscape.
I knew this plateau fed into the fjords. Would I get to see them, in the sunshine? Surely that would be both too much to expect or ask.
Yes I would.
Flying to the south and parallel of Jøkulen, dark recesses to the west betrayed the depth of the fjords. Oh my God, it’s still sunny, this really might happen.
A deep and wide blue artery cleaved the earth. That was no river, it had to be a fjord. Which one? Uff, it is big.
16:36 I felt the Boeing shift from level to descent. A prominent suspension bridge comes into view. The warmly vibrant low sun throws a spotlight on its white superstructure against the backdrop of green mountain valley walls. My poor iPhone through a pressurized window just can’t do this justice. I fear these words can’t either.
A man was glued to his window in the row 5. I screwed up the courage to break all conventions of nordic travel and asked this total stranger a question. Surely he would be kind, he would appreciate the importance of this moment.
16:44 My slightly better than home-made Norwegian asked. “Hardanger Fjord,” he replied. And there it was. I basked for a moment, because maybe a moment would be all that I would get.
1646 Low clouds begin to blanket the fjord, the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign activated.
1648 The intercom crackles. With a flourish of rolling r’s and a surprising pleasure in the mundane announcement, the pilot gives the landing advisement. He must have been a theatre kid. His english version of the same message though was flat. Lost in translation.
1649 Flight DY 620 banks left quickly and then melts into low clouds.
1652 Another small bank left and the beginning of a bumpy ride to earth. The ubiquitous clouds of Hordaland and the vantage of the plane remind me of the beginning of Dr. Strangelove. Thankfully in Bergen they make lovely music, not war.
More left banking
16:53 A brief glimpse of an Oil rig, the moment is too fast for photo. Good God they’re big!
16:54 We are through the clouds. Nope we’re back in.
16:55 Now we’re though. There is big suspension bridge next to high tension line. Becalmed nearby is a large fishing ship, white with blue. A pleasure craft is in motion, casting a spray of victory in white as it passes.
16:57 Thud! Rumble and roar. We’ve landed.
16:59 Gate 31
17:00 full stop
17:02 I am off the plane, the three senior naval officers are off too. I presume I will never see them again.
Hordaland is covered by clouds, this feel right. Too much sun in Norway is something no one wants to complain about.