Up in Norway


Readers may remember that I had a series last year entitled “Up in Norway.” Well, I’m ripping off the title for today’s column. Actually, I ripped off, or semi-ripped off, the title from Hemingway, who wrote a story called “Up in Michigan.” Remember?

Last week, and the week before, we published on this site an “Oslo Journal,” which reported and commented on the Oslo Freedom Forum. To see that journal, consult my archive, here. (Such a grandiose word, “archive.”)

The conference over, I took a trip into deep Norway. There’s a little journey you can sign up for called “Norway in a Nutshell.” Dorkiest name in traveldom; but a seriously wonderful trip. They say that the train from Oslo to Bergen, via Flam and a couple of other places, is one of the most beautiful, stunning, and inspiring train trips in the world.

They are not to be argued with . . .

On my way to the Oslo train station, I see something really strange. “Totally random,” to use a modern phrase. A marching band is assembled in the middle of the street, about to begin a rehearsal. That’s not so strange, I guess. But it’s 7:20 in the morning.

They’re in full regalia, this band. And, in addition to the musicians, there are baton twirlers. One grim man, in front of them all, holds a flagstick and stares straight ahead.

At 7:20, the band absolutely lets ’er rip. It’s loud, unapologetic, and startling. They are playing a pop song, which I can’t recognize. It sounds a little like “I can’t smile without you. I can’t smile without you . . .”

I find all this thrilling and otherworldly, given the hour. A deafening marching band, in the calm and orderly streets of Oslo, at 7:20 in the morning. Those sleeping may not find it so thrilling, however.

(In all likelihood, the band was rehearsing for Constitution Day — essentially the Norwegian Fourth of July — a few days off.)

On the train, a female voice over the p.-a. says something charming — inadvertently charming. She says, Watch out for thieves, because in recent times there have been some “stealings.”

Isn’t “p.-a.” a weird, wrong-seeming abbreviation? But who can argue with the all-knowing, all-deciding

You’re riding along for a couple of hours — I lose track of the time — and, all of a sudden, snow. You’re not in Kansas anymore. Or at least, it has snowed in Kansas. Things seem to change — to get more severe, more dramatic — so fast.

I think of an old license plate (do they still have it?): “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.” Well, Norway is “wild and wonderful” too. It lives up to its billing; it justifies, or surpasses, the hype. Words are so poor — at least any that I can summon. I’ve seen some pretty dramatic landscapes in my life. But, holy mackerel . . .

A snack called Lefsa is a nice discovery — a little like a cinnamon crêpe.

Later en route, I order a slice of pizza — which is served with two packets of Heinz ketchup. Really. Is it because I’m americano — or do they gives those to everyone?

At Myrdal — in Norway now, not Sweden — I of course think of Gunnar and Alva. Many thought that Reagan, Friedman, et al. had finished off their ideas; but you can’t quite finish them off, you know? The forces of collectivism, unilateral disarmament, social engineering, and the like are ever at work . . .

Before coming to Norway, I was on the National Review cruise, along the Seine. (For my “Cruise Journal,” consult my archive at May 9 and 10.) In Normandy, we were told that grass roofs came from the Vikings. And, here in Viking Land, I see just that (just those?): grass roofs.

As I travel through the land, I see names I recognize: for example, Lund. And Voss. I knew Lunds and Vosses back in Ann Arbor, when I was growing up. I also see the name Rokne. The man we knew as “Knute Rockne” (All American) started out as “Knut Rokne,” right? (And he started out in Voss — Voss, Norway.)

Last year, like a little kid, I wrote about an ad I spotted in Oslo. This was a print ad — a poster — that showed a beautiful woman in mid-stride. The effect was slightly spoiled, for me, by the text — which included the words “full fart” (meaning a sprint).

Well, I spot the ad again: and, again, like an incorrigible kid, chortle a little.

Waterfalls are everywhere, absolutely everywhere — dramatic ones, too. There seem to be as many waterfalls in Norway as there are rocks. And one thing about a waterfall, an especially powerful one? It’s so loud. Talk about “white noise.”


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