We have spent quite a lot of time in Norway, about 6 month in total now, on various cruise itineraries. It’s an interesting country full of contrasts; midnight sun and then complete days of darkness, mountains and fjords, remote farms and large cities. So I guess it also makes sense that they have some weird and wacky things to do in Norway and I thought I’d share some of them with you. Cos, well, I thought it would be fun.
1. Play an ice instrument
The world’s only Ice Music Festival is held in Geilo during the first full moon of the year. Musicians brave the cold for this event held in an ice cave and using instruments which are made from blocks of ice. Harps, guitars and horns are all constructed using chainsaws shaping the instruments out of 600 pound ice blocks pulled from a nearby frozen lake. To get the best sound, musicians will seek ice with no impurities such as bubbles or dirt. They’ll be celebrating their 20th anniversary in February 2020. www.icemusicfestivalnorway.no
2. Ski into the Atlantic Ocean
So, the ultimate goal is to stop before you get to the ocean, but, you know…if you fancy a dip…
From Narvik in Nordland county you can take the 15 minute ski-lift up 1,002m to Narviksfjellet where you will have a perfect view of the Atlantic Ocean. These slopes have the highest fall in all of Scandinavia so its recommended for expert skiers only and also that you head up between March and June when visibility and light is optimum.
3. Hunt rats in Oslo
Delve into the darkness under a manhole cover to participate in a rat safari! Arranged by The Department of Water and Drainage in Oslo, this is a very suburban experience taking place in September on Culture Night and is called Ratburrow. There are approximately 600,000 residents above ground…and predicted about the same number of rats underground. How fun.
4. Hug a bear
Ok, so I don’t recommend that you actually hug one as you may not live to tell the tale…but there is a chance of seeing one. There are about 100 Eurasian Brown Bears remaining in the country and if you travel to the Svalbard area you may come across one of the 3,000 Polar Bears (which is more than the human population in this region). Just remember that no human can outrun a Polar Bear and they are the largest predator on land.
5. Watch UFOs
In the valley of Hessdalen, south-east of Trondheim, a beam of light has been seen ‘dancing’ for up to an hour each siting, and is red, yellow or blue. Back in 1984 approximately 15-20 sightings per week were recorded but despite numerous investigations, no one can work out why these lights occur. However, the locals are grateful that the UFO theory has made them a popular tourist destination to this day!
6. Meet a real Viking
Want to turn back time and meet a real Viking? Head to Gudvangen Viking Town to experience life as it used to be. Walk through streets and alleys, row a Viking ship, try food cooked in iron and stone kettles and drink from a horn. www.vikingvalley.no
Or find the longest Viking house in Scandinavia, called Longhouse and measuring 83m long, you’ll always find a lamb roasting over an open fire. For more info check out the museum in Borg, Lofoten www.lofotr.no
7. Disappear into a canyon
The valleys and river beds in Norway were created by ice about 10,000 years ago. Canyonging takes you from jumping stones in rivers to swimming in waterholes or hiding behind a waterfall. Expect to jump into water from 3m cliffs and move expertly in challenging terrain. This isn’t for the faint-hearted.
8. Dive into the strongest whirlpool in the world
Saltstraumen in Nordland county is the strongest whirlpool in the world. Back in the Ice Age, the tidal stream formed in the mountain in vertical tunnels. The brave can swim through these tunnels to experience some of the most incredible fish and sea plants due to the richness of oxygen in the water. You can have up to 50m clear view on a good day and may even sight a 50kg cod. But, this is for strong swimmers only as the speed of the water can reach about 20 knots. And let’s not forget this is Norway, its also extremely cold!
9. Run nude across a bridge
Graduation for students happens on 17 May and its tradition to celebrate and become a ‘Russ’ over this period. What is a ‘Russ’? Well, basically someone who is absolutely blind drunk! Each school has its own rules but the events can include fishing in a cesspool, running a specific distance naked (or across the Mjosbridge is popular apparently), kissing the teacher or having lunch on a roundabout. Apparently their behaviour is taken into account when deciding their final grades…which sounds a bit harsh to me!
(there is no appropriate image for this…move on…!)
10. Ride the wet highway
Hurtigruten operates ten ships which cruise from Bergen in the South of Norway to Kirkenes in the North. This voyage takes five days and stops in 35 harbours and is known to be one of the most beautiful journeys in the world. Guests can jump off at any of the ports to go explore and then join the next ship to continue their journey on this wet highway. Hurtigruten carries both people and guests and has been in operation since 1893.
That’s exactly what you thought I was talking about, right…?
11. Give porridge to Santa
Norway has not one, but six types of Santa. Ocean Santa, Forest Santa, Sand Santa, House Santa, Farm Santa and Siberian Santa. An adult Santa is believed to stand at 15cm high and weighs just 300g. Although few may still believe in Santa, its customary on Christmas Eve to put a bowl of porridge outside of their house for Santa to enjoy. The next morning, excited Christmas lovers will check if the porridge has been eaten… I’m sure the wildlife enjoy Christmas just as much as Santa does!
12. Try various extreme sports in Voss
If you are an adrenaline junky, then head to The Extreme Sports Week at Voss, the largest in the world. Competitions include kayaking, rafting, mtb-bmx, skateboarding, skydiving, paragliding, hang gliding, cliff diving, wind tunnel, BASE and longboarding (don’t ask me to explain what half of those are!). It’s become a bit of a music festival as well so if you’re interested you can check it out https://ekstremsportveko.com/about/
13. Go to Hell
Literally. There is a town called Hell in Norway which stems from the word ‘Hellir’ meaning cave. Located in North Trondelag, close to Trondheim, people have been living in Hell since 6000 BC and today its home to approximately 350 people (obviously no longer living in caves). The 1990 Norwegian Miss Universe came from Hell and there is even a church called Hell Church…possibly not the most positive start to a wedding or an optimistic place for a funeral…!
14. Learn to play the devil’s instrument
A normal violin has 4 strings and is one of the hardest instruments to learn. So try learning the Hardingfele with a double set of strings. Invented by Mr Isak Nilssen Botnen (1669-1759) there are many myths associated with this instrument. It’s believed that those who have mastered the Hardingfele can make people do all kinds of strange things, including luring folk into waterfalls! The magic of the instrument is emphasized through its decoration, with the head usually carved into the shape of a woman or lion’s head.
15. Learn Norwegian
This sounds pretty simple right? But did you know that there are 8 different languages in Norway? Literary, New Norwegian and six minority languages: South Sami, North Sami, Luesami, Kvensk, Romans and Romani. If you buy a book, its likely to be written in Literary with 14% printed in New Norwegian. New Norwegian was formed from local dialects as a distinct Norwegian language after being part of Denmark from 1450-1814 and having many Danish influences in their language. It’s an ongoing battle as to which language should be primary and school kids currently have to learn both Literary and New Norwegian.
16. Stand on a collapsing rock
Prekestolen, or Pulpit Rock or Preachers Rock – whatever you want to call it – is 604m above the Lysefjorden, and is 10,000 years old. You can either hike to it or view it from below by boat if you’re not that energetic (guess which I did?!). It’s a popular tourist spot (300,000 visitors per year) despite the fact that it could collapse at any time (predicted to be within the next 10 years) and in doing so will create a tsunami effect and likely wipe out the town of Stavanger… The movie ‘The Wave’ is a dramatised version of the potential threat.
Oh, and fun fact…you may have seen Tom Cruise scale it in MI:6, this was the only time the hiking track has ever been closed and it was filmed over 5 days.
17. Go reindeer racing
This is a traditional sport for the Samies, a minority group in Norway. Usually held at Easter, this World Championship of Reindeer Racing is held in the Northern town of Kautokeino and involves a reindeer pulling a skier. The reindeer is not allowed to be tamed, although for the safety of the competitor, it shouldn’t be too wild either! The competition is held on a fixed track and should be run as fast as possible…hopefully with the reindeer and skier crossing the finishing line together!
18. Run a marathon at midnight
The annual Midnight Marathon takes place every June in Tromso. The sun is shining 24 hours at this time, being so close to the arctic circle. Apparently locals get more energy from this continuous sunlight so the marathon is thought to help use up that extra energy!
19. Swim with Killer Whales
Killer Whales aren’t known to harm humans and its been said that going on a swimming safari is one of the most spectacular things you can do. However, you’ll need to be prepared for the cold as their season is November to Mid-January when the water temperature may make you shrivel a little…! The Killer Whale safaris start in the Lofoten area where they come every year in search of Herring, so you’ll get to see plenty of those too. Being that there’s quite a big difference between Herrings and humans, you’re going to be pretty safe!
20. Meet a bull Musk
You know those huge brown animals from the Ice Age? Well, if you go to Dovrefjell, a national park in the counties of Oppland and Trondelag, they almost guarantee that you will meet one of these shaggy creatures. The ‘safari season’ for viewings is between June and September and you’ll want to keep your distance, because they grow to 400 kilos and can move at up to 60 kms per hour. Oh, and although the male Musk is called a Bull, its technically just a very large goat.
21. Sleep 2,068m above sea level
Ever fancied staying in a cottage 2,068m high? There is only one cottage at this elevation, called Fanaraken and is owned by Den Norske Turistforening. It used to be a weather station before being turned into one of the most popular accommodations in the area. Apparently even when the cottage is full, they will allow guests to sleep in their sleeping bags where there is space…its worthwhile to wake up the magnificent view over Norway’s longest fjord, Sognefjorden.
Photo courtesy of www.visitnorway.com
22. Ski off a roof
It makes sense that Norwegians are expert skiers and are practically born with skis on their feet. You will see several ski jumps as you drive through the country and also strips of street lamps where there are no roads, which is to guide cross-country skiers in the dark winters. Sondre Nordheim (1825-1897) used the roof of his house as a ski jump. He lived high in the mountains on a squatter farm where it was essential to be able to walk and run on skis. Many places in Norway will teach their unique skiing techniques, but you may not want to try skiing off a roof until you have a few lessons under your belt.
23. Join a milk pail throwing competition
You need to be strong for this one, but this traditional Norwegian outdoor game is a simple one. Participants have to throw a 5 litre milk pail as far as they can. The ladies can opt to throw rolling pins if they prefer, or horse shoes can be used. Spectators are advised to keep a good distance during the contest…!
Yep, this one is so bizarre I struggled for images…!
24. Whistle at the Northern Lights
According to folklore, if you tease or whistle at the Northern Lights you will be thrown to the ground with your clothes on fire! I’ll take a punt that you can merrily whistle away at the Northern Lights and be quite safe, but they are a pretty awesome phenomenon which can be seen in the winter months when its darkest.
25. Live in total darkness
Located as close to the North Pole as Norway is, it is one of the countries which experiences total darkness from 25 September until 18 March in its most northern towns. These are called Polar Nights, although sometimes the locals will see a bit of yellow or turquoise twilight. When the sun returns, understandably, there are celebrations!
Ok, so that’s my round up of weird and wacky things to do in Norway. Have you done any of these yourself? Or got any other suggestions? I always love your feedback 🙂
A big thank you to Becky and Jay Brammer and Nancy and Bill Bastian for the inspiration for this post, it was so lovely getting to know you all on the last cruise, please join us again soon!
Thanks for reading, see you next week.