Friday, January 28, 2011

What a difference the sun makes..

I've never thought to ask Norwegians if they find an unhealthy tendency of staring into the sun when travelling to places more south during the winter. The darkness has been something I noticed but did not dwell on - it simply seems like a fact of winter life. That is, until you go somewhere with sun and are reminded. In this case, I didn't have to go very far - just hopped down to Copenhagen, but the sun here is stronger already - a few weeks before it really comes back up in Norway. I walked around yesterday squinting and seeing spots, but it's a wonderful feeling to recognize direct rays of light and a bit of heat from those.

The danes seem to have noticed the sun too - it's only around -4 C outside, but the sun on the benches by the water make public spaces habitable again.

Other notable first impression differences between Denmark and Norway..

The letter 'c' has returned to language, rendering words like center (Nor: sentrum, Dan: centrum) a bit easier to comprehend.

Wine and alcohol are sold at grocery stores - no more nationally regulated special shops with limited hours (guess it's harder to control when you share a border with Germany).

Everything is organic (or √łkologisk) - even the hot dog stands...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Topography and Weather

It's easy to be deceived looking at a map or in the experience of traversal, but the entire country of Norway (~149,000 sq mi) is a little smaller in land area than the U.S. state of California (~164,000 sq mi). Despite it's size, a 16 hour train ride (or drive) will only get you from Oslo in the South to about half way up its length (to Mo i Rana, just below Arctic Circle). This phenomena is attributable to a general lack of high speed infrastructure resulting from the wild topography and un-accommodating weather found throughout the land. The results of this have historically been the isolation of communities and the development of hundreds of drastically different dialects among the here).

On a "short" drive, just reaching three hours (110 miles) into Telemark's mountains from downtown Oslo, some sights illustrate these points.

GPS gave us this as a main highway.

Happened to be mostly a trucking route, and they were widening the road.

People actually live out here.

The sun reached this part of the valley around 11am.

This hydro power station started the town of Rjukan in the early 1990s - located in a valley that is too deep and steep for the sun to reach 6 months out of the year.