Nordic Travel

picture of norwegian fjord

Norwegian Fjord Ferry

Nordic Travel

One of the great benefits of Sons of Norway is sharing experiences about travel to Scandinavia. Here we will provide travel tips and recommendations and links to travel resources. We will note experiences that members found particularly memorable. For a free interactive forum for Vonheim Lodge where you can submit and upload information, please go to Vonheim 108 forums to visit. You will need to create a user name and profile to post.

picture of Bicycle Hotel

Bicycle Hotel

Lillestrøm Bicycle Hotel

A new bicycle hotel has opened in Lillestrøm, Norway, as part of a project commissioned by Norwegian National Railways. Finding a natural home in Norway’s “best cycling city,” the hotel was constructed to further encourage commuting around the city on two wheels.

For a small monthly fee, the Lillestrøm Bicycle Hotel allows cyclers to store bicycles indoors while they’re out of town or at work, providing a safe location and convenient storage option. With the hotel’s practical location right next to the train station, it also offers commuters an incentive to choose commuting by bicycle and train over driving.

Bicycle hotels are not a new concept in Norway – there are several across the country – but this hotel is the nation’s largest yet, with nearly 5,000 square feet (465 square meters) of storage. The Lillestrøm Bicycle Hotel can house 400 bikes at a time, a feat that took some inventive engineering to accomplish. The architects looked for interesting ways to maximize the space in the compact urban location by constructing multi-level storage racks to accommodate as many bicycles as possible.

In an effort to maximize the functionality of the building in a way that would also benefit those living in the area, the roof of the hotel offers a publicly-accessible green space with benches that provide visitors stunning views of Lillestrøm.

Currently there are also bicycle hotels in Norway’s cities of Drammen, Gulskogen, Sandefjord, Moss and Asker – more will surely appear across the country as the popularity of the concept rises.

Start riding!

Cycling can be a positive step toward a healthy lifestyle – a step that should be rewarded. Through the Sons of Norway Sports Medal program, you and your fellow lodge members can earn pins for the mileage you bike. Reach out to your lodge sports director or Sons of Norway Headquarters at sportsmedals@sofn.com for more information.

picture of Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø, Norway: A Rising Northern Star

It seems the world is finally catching on to something Norwegians have known all along: there are many things for tourists to see and do in Norway, even above the Arctic Circle. The city of Tromsø, which is known as the “Arctic Capital,” is a great example, having been recently named one of Lonely Planet’s Best Places to Visit in Europe1. While the top 10 list includes plenty of scenery and activities, none are quite as unique as those offered by this Norwegian gem.

The city sits 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and with each season comes major changes in temperature and availability of sunlight for residents and visitors. For example, winter brings the Polar Night, a time when the sun sets in November and won’t rise again until January, is followed by slowly increasing amounts of daylight. This change peaks from May to June, when Tromsø enters the time of the Midnight Sun. Like most Norwegians, the residents of this jewel of the North enjoy outdoor activities all year round. As Lonely Planet notes, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy the great outdoors surrounding Tromsø. For nature enthusiasts there are a variety of wildlife excursions, like whale watching trips, and opportunities experience the natural wonders of Tromsø by foot or dogsled. For those looking to enjoy the fjords there is also kayaking and fishing. All night trips are offered in every season, for those seeking Northern Lights or the feel of a never-ending sunset.

For those who prefer a more “urban” experience, Tromsø also has much to offer. The main shopping and entertainment street in the city center is a pedestrian paradise where people stroll, shop and enjoy the city. The city is also home to wide array of festivals, throughout the year—from music to film to cultural events, there is always something happening to draw in visitors.

Although it is still more than a year away, Tromsø is already anticipating the grand opening of Krystall, a hotel that is being built in the fjord. Yes, the snowflake shaped, floating hotel will be in the fjord, resting on the surface of the sea. Krystall is being built as a luxury hotel that will leave no lasting environmental impact. It will also offer guests the possibility of sleeping under a glass roof that will allow the Northern Lights to dance across the bedspread. It will be yet another beautiful reason Tromsø deserves to be among the top destinations in Europe.

1 http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/lonely-planets-best-places-in-europe-2015#ixzz3dLfp9G5q

picture of Tour Norway

Tour Norway

Summer Festivals in Norway

In recent years, the number of festivals in Norway has grown immensely. Crowds from local towns and all over Norway flock to rock, pop, hiphop, jazz, chamber music, beer, stand up, and cultural festivals… In the summer you don’t need to travel far to find a good festival experience. Here you will find information about some of Norway’s summer festivals.

Bergen International Festival (May 27– June 10) Bergen International Festival is a music and theater festival arranged in Bergen and is Norway’s largest of its genre. It contains a variety of music, theater, dance and visual arts at a high national and international level.

Norwegian Wood – Frogner Park in Oslo (June 10-13) Norwegian Wood was first held in 1992. The initiators were three friends who wanted a festival for the bands and the music they liked. Over 20 years later Norwegian Wood is one of Norway’s leading and longest running rock festivals, and several of rock’s biggest stars have visited the legendary sight in Frogner Park.

Bukta – Tromsø Open Air Festival (July 16-18) Bukta is an annual rock festival held in Tromsø, Norway. An important part of the Bukta Festival is to promote and develop the North Norwegian rock scene and every year they have nearly 40% of the bands/ artists from the region.

Country Festival – Seljord (July 22-26) Seljord Country Festival is Norway’s largest country music festival. Through its 17 years, the festival has accommodated over 50,000 caravans, tents and campers, been visited by nearly 500,000 people and 213 artists including some of the world’s biggest country stars.

Sommerdagen in Meløy (July 28-August 2) Summerdagen in Meløy is a music and activity festival that focuses on outdoor experiences. Experience some of the best Meløy has to offer with hiking trips, glacier climbing in the midnight sun, kayaking among small islands and white beaches, and ice climbing on the beautiful Engen Glacier. The evenings are spent in the company of festive crowds and a selection of Norway’s best performers on stage.

Olavfestdagene – Trondheim (July 28-August 2) Every year around Midsummer Olavfestdagene fills Trondheim with a festive party, diverse quality concerts, lectures, pilgrimages, worship services and free events – experiences that will move you. Olavfestdagene offers a variety of rich programming for both children and adults.

Oslo Jazz Festival (August 10) Oslo Jazz Festival is held over six days in August each year. For nearly 30 years the festival has offered a wide range of jazz experiences. The festival overview is representative of the flora of jazz and related music, from gospel and blues to Latin jazz and electronica

picture of Tour Norway

Tour Norway

Tourism in Norway Looks Back Over 100 years

Norway’s vast, unspoiled nature is a perennial attraction for tourists from around the world. Since the mid-19th century Norway’s scenic fjords, enchanting waterfalls, endless coastline and towering mountains have made it a top travel destination. Department Head at Norway’s National Library Arthur Tennøe recently told NRK, “The way we market Norway has not changed a lot in 100 years.”

Heading into the 19th century Norway was on the brink of independence from neighboring Sweden. There was a strong sense of pride and confidence spreading throughout Norway that stemmed from a movement called National Romanticism.

By the latter half of the 19th century Norwegians were ready to become a free nation. Popular culture was focused on preserving a distinctly Norwegian culture by emphasizing its natural beauty and unique folk art. As Norway’s national identity was swelling so, too, was the number of tourists.

Most of the world wanted to experience the sites that Norwegians were proud to call their home. So much so that Norway’s pristine nature has attracted foreign dignitaries and wealthy couples to see the waterfalls, mountaintops and fjords. As hotels began popping up and railways were established the ease of transport and accommodation encouraged tourism.

“The national romantic image of Norway was noticed abroad,” says Tennøe. By the time Norway gained its independence in 1905 its first advertisement was produced by Norway’s State Railway (NSB). The illustration featured Norway’s mountains, midnight sun, stave churches and national railway. Tennøe adds that “The fjord landscape, high mountains, midnight sun, skiing, Nordkaap and the Sami culture all gave Norway its status as an exotic destination.” And that view of Norway has remained the same.

picture of Northern Norway

Northern Norway (Wikicommons)

Best Places to Visit in Northern Norway in the Winter

Northern Norway is known for its natural beauty- the midnight sun, breathtaking aurora borealis and pristine wilderness attract tourists from around the world. Travelers who crave dramatic experiences in natural settings may want to check off a few bucket list items in wintery northern Norway. Below are a few ideas on what to see and do.

Visit the Knut Hamsun Centre in Hamarøy and learn about the life and work of the heralded Norwegian novelist who lived from 1859 to 1952. His work inspired other authors such as Thomas Mann and Ernest Hemingway and his famous books Sult (Hunger) and the Nobel Prize for Literature-winning Markens Grøde (The Growth of the Soil) have sold millions of copies around the world. More information and photos of the centre’s unique architecture is at www.hamsunsenteret.no

View northern Norway’s natural wonders such as the total solar eclipse on the arctic archipelago of Svalbard (March 20, 2015). Try not to blink- the eclipse will last a mere 2 minutes and 24 seconds. Let the spectacular northern lights wow you during peak season between December to March. The further north and more remote you go, the better your chances are to experience this dramatic natural phenomenon.

Have a look at Europe from the top. The northern-most point in Europe is Nordkapp—the North Cape—about 1300 miles from the North Pole. With winter temperatures ranging between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit, you may have to bundle up a bit. Take in the view of the Barents Sea from the visitor’s center atop a 1000 foot cliff. http://www.nordkapp.no/en/

En route to Nordkapp, experience the Sámi culture in the cultural capital of Karasjok in Finnmark. Originally this indigenous people lived as nomadic reindeer herders in the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia, and around 18% of Sámi people still do. To learn more about the Sámi people, go to Sápmi Culture Park, where you can sample traditional cuisine and listen to a joik performance, the traditional Sámi style of singing. For a more modern cultural experience, visit the Sami Centre for Contemporary Art. http://www.venturenorway.com/sami_center_for_contemporary_art
http://www.visitsapmi.no/

Hit the town in Tromsø and try beer made in the world’s northernmost brewery, Mack, from nearby Balsfjord. While you’re in town, take in a concert at the modern Arctic Cathedral and tour the older Tromsø Cathedral, the only Norwegian cathedral that is made of wood. Go dancing at one of many thriving dance clubs including salsa, swing, ballroom dance, tango. Hike a trail at Tennes where there are 6,000 year old rock carvings. http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Rock_carvings_at_Tennes

Embrace the cold and stay in a snow hotel between the months of December and April. Not far from the Russian border the town of Kirkenes is home to the brilliantly illuminated Kirkenes Snow Hotel http://kirkenessnowhotel.com/ The hotel has 20 themed rooms made of snow and ice and a room temperature of 23º F/-5º C and thermally-insulated mattresses. Next door to the hotel, wilderness restaurant Gabba is built like a Sámi tent where local specialties such as salmon and arctic char are prepared over an open fire

picture of Northern Norway

Northern Norway (Wikicommons)

Visit Northern Norway

If you’ve visited Norway you already know it is a beautiful country that boasts spectacular fjord views, stunning displays of the aurora borealis and vibrant art and culture offerings. What you may not know is just how remarkable Norway can be when experienced at its most remote, in northern Norway.

The world’s largest travel guidebook publisher, Lonely Planet, recently released their Best in Travel guide for 2015. Ranking fifth on its list of the world’s top regions to visit in 2015 is arctic Norway. Described in detail, Lonely Planet writes, “northern Norway will blow your mind with its heartbreakingly beautiful landscapes of glaciers and fjordriven mountains, all bathed in crystal-clear light. Welcome to one of Europe’s last great wildernesses. Experiences like crossing the Arctic Circle as the aurora borealis comes out to play, spotting polar bears on the icy tundra of Spitsbergen and eating reindeer stew in a fire-warmed Sami lavoo tent will be etched on your memory for ever more.”

2014 has been a banner year for tourism to Norway. The success of the Disney film “Frozen” as well as a joint partnership between Innovation Norway, Norway’s tourism organization, and Disney has resulted in a 350 percent increase in viewership of their website in the U.S. In addition, data collected by Skyscanner comparing flight searches from the U.S. to Norway showed a 153 percent increase over the same time period last year. Going back even further, there has been a 130 percent rise in commercial overnight stays in the three most northerly counties in Norway over the past five years.

The boost in tourism and the positive accolades from trusted travel resources like Lonely Planet signal great things for Norway’s tourism industry. “This is a guide that is created by the people who use it. So it is not a journalist who has single-handedly made this list. Instead it is each and every visitor’s own experience that has made northern Norway score this high, and that is very exciting,” said Geir Solheim, Department Director of the Norwegian Hospitality Association in an interview with NRK.

To learn more about Lonely Planet’s rankings visit, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-intravel/regions If you’d like to learn more about all northern Norway has to offer, be sure to read the March 2014 issue of Viking magazine at http://msp.imirus.com/Mpowered/ book/vvk14/i3/p1

picture of Tromsø

Tromsø

Tromsø: Hub of the Arctic Real Estate Boom

Norway’s healthiest real estate markets have typically consisted of cities like Oslo and Stavanger, the country’s North Sea energy capital. Thanks to a growing local economy, a newcomer is now at the forefront of Norway’s real estate market, Tromsø. Known as Norway’s “capital of the Arctic,” Tromsø is a beautiful city and municipality set among mountains, fjords and islands. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the city’s dramatic scenery as well as access to fantastic fishing, skiing and camping.

Lying roughly 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø enjoys a warmer climate than other cities along the same latitude due to the Gulf Stream. With a population of 72,000, Tromsø is “the only big city in the northern part of Norway,” says Einar Storhaug, an agent with EiendomsMegler 1, Norway’s largest broker.

Economic expansion in Tromsø has fueled home prices over the past two years– jumping 10% in 2013 and an additional 8% in the first half of 2014–making the area Norway’s most robust property market in terms of growth. Newly constructed higher end homes in the area have been exceeding 7 million kroner, or about $1.13 million. Among the most prominent new developments in the area is Promenaden, a 62-unit building on the city’s main island of Tromsøya. At roughly $1,365 a square foot, Promenaden’s 1,200 square foot penthouses are close to the average cost of apartments in prime locations of Paris.

Jan-Frode Janson, president of SpareBank1 Nord-Norge, credits the real estate boom in Tromsø to the strength of the local economy. Growth in areas such as fishing, construction and oil and gas as well as job expansion by energy companies Aker Solutions and Subsea 7 are expected to bring an influx of international professionals to the area. In addition to interest among professionals, property directors are also seeing interest among empty nesters who have sold their family homes and are looking to relocate.

picture of Preikestolen

Preikestolen (Wiki Commons)

Preikestolen

The famous tourist attraction, Preikestolen, or the Preacher’s Pulpit, is getting crowded. In 2014, the renowned cliff received 205,000 visitors due to favorable spring conditions, and in 2015 an additional 70,000 visitors are expected. The steep mountain platform stands 1,982 feet overlooking Lysefjorden, outside of Stavanger, in western Norway. The “pulpit’s” nearly flat surface measures about 82 by 82 feet. Now the tourism association has to figure out what to do with the attraction’s immense popularity.

Called one of the world’s most spectacular views and natural attractions by Lonely Planet, Preikestolen was formed by a passing glacier around 10,000 years ago, and features a dramatic crack along its plateau. Geologists have confirmed that the plateau will eventually separate and tumble into the fjord, though this will not happen any time soon. Folk tales claim that when seven Lysefjord sisters marry seven Lysefjord brothers, the plateau will plummet, resulting in a deadly tidal wave.

Because of the recent increase in tourism the Preikestolen Foundation is undertaking measures to limit how many tourists may visit the famous cliff at once. "It is quite crowded when there are 500 people up there," says Mayor Ole Tom Guse, in Forsand. He attributes the sharp uptick in visitors to the power of social media and photos of the area’s breathtaking landscape. He adds, "The hike up to Preikestolen has come to stay…That is why we eventually have to find a way to regulate the stream of tourists." In 2013, a national scouting camp took place in Stavanger and sent 1,500 scouts per day for four days to the top of the mountain.

Hilde Charlotte Solheim, the Director of Travel and Culture for the commerce federation Virke, thinks Preikestolen’s popularity is due to a mix of improved facilities and status. A project in 2013 and 2014 helped make the steep paths more user-friendly. Sherpas from Nepal were hired for a six-month project to widen paths and make them a little less rugged. These updates have already resulted in a drastic reduction of hiker injuries and rescue missions, and have helped ease trail congestion considerably.

picture of Huk Stranden

Huk Stranden (Wiki Commons)

Our Top Picks – 7 Beaches in Norway

It should come as no surprise that Norway is beautiful in every season, but did you know that it has some pretty great beaches too? Norway’s long coastline is an eclectic mix of rocky shorelines, fishing villages and busy harbors, inlets that snake into fjords and sandy shorelines that create the perfect beaches. Norway’s south coast is typically the ideal destination for beach goers in the summer but there are gems up north as well. We have compiled a list of seven beaches to visit in Norway. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to someday visit one of these seaside strender (beaches).

Hukstranden, Oslo

Located on the beautiful edge of the Bygdøy peninsula, patrons can sun themselves on the sand, the grass or the rocks nearby and watch the ships coming and going in the Oslo harbor. Popular with city residents both young and old this beach is a great escape, but still close and convenient to downtown Oslo.

Listastrendene, Farsund

Farther south are the sand beaches of Lista, located in the larger municipality of Farsund. Seven miles of beautiful sand beaches provide beachgoers an opportunity to go for a dip and daredevils to windsurf and kite in the southernmost waters off Norway.

Sommarøy, Tromsø

Hard to believe this is Northern Norway, but Sommarøy is a tropical island looking paradise just a 20 mile drive from Tromsø above the Arctic Circle. “Summer Island” is a quaint fishing village and a treasured tourist destination because of its white sand beaches and beautiful scenery.

Solastranden, Stavanger

Just a couple miles from the Stavanger airport is Solastranden. One of the most popular beaches in the region, Sola is busy year round with visitors biking, hiking, swimming, kiting, and grilling on the beach. Stay at the Sola Strand Hotel and take a peek back in time by catching a glimpse of WWII wreckage marooned on the south end of the beach.

Orrestranden, Jæren

South of Solastranden are the beautiful beaches and sand dunes of Jæren. Orrestranda is one of Norway’s longest sand beaches and can easily be confused for the iconic beaches of Cape Cod. Surf in the beginning level waters, enjoy a bike ride around the area or play it safe by visiting Orre’s “Frilufthuset” (recreation center) wildlife museum.

Bleikstranda, Vesterålen

Another option above the Arctic Circle is Bleik beach on Andøya, an island in the Vesterålen archipelago. Found on the National Tourist Route, this beautiful area is known for its fishing, whale watching and Northern Europe’s longest sandy beach. Steep cliffs, long bridges and views of the midnight sun will make the long journey worth your while.

Bystranda, Kristiansand

Literally translated to city beach, Bystranda is located in Norway’s fifth largest city of Kristiansand. The exquisite Scandic Hotel sits within walking distance of the beach and serves as a great vacation destination for tourists. With a sandy beach, swimming pier, sun deck and even palm trees, Bystranda is one of just five beaches in Norway to be awarded the Blue Flag environmental certification.

picture of oslo opera house

Oslo Opera House

Maintaining One of Oslo’s Most Iconic Landmarks

One of Norway’s most distinctive and popular landmarks is being placed under the protection of a state historic preservation order. Oslo's beautiful and extremely unique white marble-covered Opera House quickly became one of Norway’s top attractions when it opened in 2008. Four years and millions of visitors later the building’s exterior is showing signs of wear and tear that the state agency tasked with its maintenance are struggling to keep up with.

While several of the problems are environmental, such as algae stains from the fjord and yellowing marble from air pollution, others are more directly attributed to foot traffic and careless visitors, like coffee stains,indiscriminately stamped out cigarette butts and unwanted vegetation growth between the marble tiles from soil and seeds carried in on the shoes of visitors.

Hege Njaa Rygh of Statsbygg, the state agency tasked with care for the building, suggested that upkeep of the exterior usually “goes well” with the use of a vehicle similar to a street cleaner, but it is not safe to use in freezing temperatures. “In freezing temperatures, it’s so damp and slippery that soot in the air really fastens itself to the building,” says Rygh. “Then it’s even more difficult to keep it clean.” Budgeted funds for the building’s upkeep amount to NOK 20 million a year.

City officials as well as architects with Snøhetta, designers of the Opera House, would like to see an improvement in the timeliness of the building’s cleaning and maintenance to ensure that it remains a well-preserved landmark. Jørn Holme, Norway’s national preservationist agrees saying, “We don’t just have responsibility for historic buildings, but also modern architecture of high international standard...the Opera is such a building.” The preservation order, or fredning , will apply to the exterior of the building, the lobby and main auditorium, and its immediate surroundings.


picture of oslo

Oslo Norway

Free Things to do in Oslo

Planning a visit to Oslo this year? Here are some great budget friendly ways to take in the sights and sounds of Norway. Additional travel suggestions can be found at www.visitoslo.com and www.visitnorway.com

The Changing of the Guard:

1:30 p.m. marks one of Oslo's best free attractions, the changing of the Royal Guard at the Palace. If you visit on a weekday while the king is in residence you will also get to hear the Royal Guard band during the ceremony.



Museums:

Oslo is home to museums of all kinds that offer free admission. Visitors can tour the Nasjonalgalleriet(National Gallery), the National Museum of Architecture, Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, the Norwegian Museum of Magic or the Armed Forces Museum just to name a few. Free guided tours are also available at the Norwegian Parliament Building.

Festivals:

• The Oslo Book Festival
- Norway's largest literature festival hosts hundreds of large and small literature events at Karl Johans gate and the House of Literature in September.

• National Music Day
- 20 to 30 outdoor stages playing everything from rock to lullabies. (June 1, 2013)

• VG Top 20 Live
- Scandinavia's largest concert is held on City Hall Square at the end of June each year.

• Oslo Culture Night
- An annual event where Oslo's cultural institutions extend their hours into the night and host unique events within music, theatre, art, literature and film. (Sept. 13, 2013)

Parks and More:

Oslo's Frogner Park and Vigelandsparken are some of the most popular free attractions, but don't forget these other wonderful places:

• Akerselva
- Offering beautiful riverside views, these trails are at their most magical in September during the autumnal equinox when all electric lights are turned off and replaced by 3,500 torches and candles for a torchlight river walk with light sculptures, choirs, jazz, dance and art installations.

• University of Oslo's Natural History Museum Botanical Garden
- Built in 1868 and 1876, the greenhouses include a collection of heritage plants, which are preserved here as a sort of living museum of plant history. If you’re visiting in the spring, be sure to check out the flowering trees in the Arboretum, or in the winter visit Victoria House and see giant Amazon water lilies.

• Our Saviour Cemetery
- Includes the tombs of Munch, Ibsen and Bjørnson.

• Akershus Fortress
- While entrance to the castle requires admission, walking the grounds of this historic site offers pleasant views of the city and harbour.

Markets:

Popular with tourists and locals alike, visit Oslo's oldest second-hand and antique market,Vestkanttorvet. (Saturdays, March-Dec.) There is also a handicraft and second-hand market (Søndagsmarkedet) around Blå at Grünerløkka held on Sunday, year round. Includes knit wear, jewelry, ceramics, glass, wool, clothes, toys, paintings, etc.

Oslo's Opera House:
Open with free admission seven days a week, the Oslo Opera House also provides excellent views of the city.

Oslo Cathedral:
Originally consecrated in 1697, the cathedral re-opened in 2010 after four years of renovations. Visitors can expect to see beautiful stained glass windows by Emanuel Vigeland, detailed ironwork, murals and original acanthus carving.

Oslo City Hall (Rådhus):
Oslo City Hall is the city's administrative body and the seat of the City Council. It is decorated by great Norwegian artists from the period 1900-1950, with motifs from Norwegian history, culture and working life. Public tours are offered every day in June, July and August, as well as Wednesdays the rest of the year.

Oslo Kiteboarding School:
The first lesson for anyone looking to learn kiteboarding or snowkiting is free from the Oslo Kiteboarding School.

Ice Skating:
Many of Oslo's ice skating rinks are free and open to the public in the winter months, including the Narvisen Ice Skating Rink and Frogner Stadum Ice Skating Rink.