So yup, went even farther north this last trip. Couldn't stay away from the Arctic for very long...
This voyage wasn't supposed to happen this year. Had my year's travels already planned and when the opportunity came up, D, of all people talked me into it. He is usually the voice of "reason", pointing out how many trips I already had in the books. And how adding another one might burn me out.
Norway isn't known to be a frugal destination but costs seemed to be more "reasonable" as you ventured to its far north. I don't have my receipts anymore to prove it, but it just felt that way. Perhaps it was the lack of really "fancy" places to eat and shop compared to Stavanger and Oslo.
What I appreciated more this time around is that shops and restaurants weren't pining for your business. They are doing well, people are eating out and things are just normal and calm. No ultra bubbly and fake personalities there. Works for me. I don't need my dining and shopping experiences to be all "Disney". That's the introvert in me talking.
What I still wasn't used to was the intensity of the people there and in the Nordic countries as a whole. When they look at you, they Look at you. I wonder if I have that affect on people as I am one of the more intense people I know. D says yes. Having the tables turned on me made me blush a lot. I also noticed how shaking hands with someone you've spent time with is done with both hands and held for much longer than I'm used to here.
Once people know you are not new to their country, they seem to open up and literally embrace you. My going around enthusiastically gushing about how much I love Norway to every Norwegian I met probably did it. They are so fiercely proud of their country, it really pleases them that people appreciate it enough to return. They are tired of hearing people complain of how Norway is "expensive" or "extortionate".
I was really embarrassed in shops when other tourists would exclaim loudly "Can you believe what they want for those sweaters?!". People please -- Norwegians in the larger cities speak great or perfect English! To their credit, the shopkeepers didn't roll their eyes or sigh or shake their heads. They must hear it so often that when I was trying on a sweater, the young lady working there told me it was 100% wool, that's why it is heavy and cost what it does.
I replied with "Yes, they are so warm! I come from Canada and own 2 of them.". That brought a look of relief to her face, as if she was gearing up to further justify their value. Nope, she was preaching to the converted. I didn't buy that particular piece but did end up adding 3 more Dale of Norway sweaters to my collection. Thank goodness for them as it got really cold out on the water.
One thing she said stuck with me. She called Canada "The Scandinavia of North America". Never heard of us referred to that way. I like it.
For better or worse I blurted out "Yes" to my hiking guide when he simply stated "See you next year". Thought he was working his Jedi mind trick on me. Seriously, a mere suggestion is all it would take for me to return. Though there's something to be said for being straightforward and honest. He is an interesting guy. Spends summers at home (Voss) guiding in Norway and the rest of the year living in Grenada and teaching skiing in the Sierra Nevada. His "slow" speed is my moderate.
While in Bergen I was walking around the pond/lake by Christies Gate taking the scenic route to the bus stop when a man (think he might have been a fisherman as he was dressed like the other fisherman at the Fish Market) gestured something that resembled a salute. So I just smiled and said Hello. Then he completely threw me off with "I want to see your eyes".
I was still walking and took me a few seconds to realize his gesture was "remove your sunglasses" but my first response was to laugh (not too loud) because that was a first. Felt a bit rude afterwards because I didn't stop as I really didn't want to but I did turn back, then smiled once I saw I wasn't going to be followed. Solo female traveller paranoia and quick flashback to Oslo. No worries there. Again, forgot what country I was in.
That was after an earlier interaction where a young woman who was working for the Red Cross (name tag) started speaking Norwegian to me and once she saw the blank look on my face, quickly apologized in English. All I could think was "Wow, I can pass for a local?!" and "What a cool way to start a trip". I was happy to donate but don't believe that was what she was asking.
The 24hr daylight when I reached the far north didn't phase me at all. It felt normal, as if I've been used to it all my life. No idea where that came from. I really want to experience 24hr of darkness one day. Expecting that I just might be weird enough to love it too. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) aside, I think there is something very romantic about the extremes of light and dark.