If you remember back about 4 or 5 weeks, I had submitted a fun birthday present of a DNA kit for scientific testing. Well, the results are back, and are not exactly shocking, with a preponderance of the odds of my ethnicity definitely located where I would have most expected it. ie. the United Kingdom and perhaps northern France and Belgium.
However, the big green blob on the image below, indicates there is also a pretty good chance (10%) of Norwegian ancestors a few hundred years back. I certainly don't have the chiseled Norwegian male looks or any sort of ability to run up and down mountains on skis, but my interest is piqued and Norway has entered my Top 10 to-do list. I did visit Oslo on a school trip when I was 13, but I wasn't looking for long lost relatives then.
I may well slowly start investigating my full family tree now, and a trip to Norway could be on the cards if a potential second or third cousin pops up.
From a travel point of view, Norway is one amazingly exciting destination and here's the Top 5 reasons why.
THE NORWAY TOP 5
Less than 850 miles from the North Pole lies Svalbard (above), a mountainous archipelago situated between the northern coast of Norway and the top of the globe. It's home to arctic fox, reindeer and the polar bear. It's also possibly the best place on earth to view the Northern Lights (below), Winter is a season of darkness, highlighted only by the stars, the moon and the frequent bands of green light that dance across the darkened sky.
Organized tours to the area can include dog sledding, snowmobiling, cave exploring, mountain trekking and of course, Northern Lights viewing.
2. Cruising the coast
There are several expedition ship cruise lines to choose from if you want to explore the stunning fjords of the Norwegian west coast perhaps before heading up to the Arctic and even over to Greenland or Iceland. Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions and Zegrahm Expeditions all have small ship discovery vessels that sail these routes from Late Spring to early Fall. If you'd like to experience this with an extra degree of comfort then Silversea's Silver Explorer (below) is the ship of choice. It's an all-suite vessel, comes with butler service, and the fleet of 12 Zodiac boats means you can visit truly remote locations.
I don't think I've actively promoted alcohol consumption before, but for medicinal purposes only, I have read that this is the tipple of choice when in Norway!
Aquavit (below) is known as the Scandinavian spirit. It's potato-based (like many vodkas) and is flavored with herbs and spices, most notably caraway and dill. Drink a shot to warm up in the winter or as an aperitif before formal dinners. Skål!
Norway topped the list in a recent United Nations Happiness report, and a few days in Oslo will likely make it clear why. New Nordic cuisine is rocking the culinary world and from the Michelin 3-star restaurant Maaemo to trendy food halls and many rather hip restaurants, palates will be delighted at any price level. The Bjorvika waterfront (below) has been completely revitalized in recent years, but there is also the urban attractions of famous museums, and both contemporary and historic accommodations.
If you head due west from Oslo and stop at the coast you will be in Bergen (above). If not taking the cruise option to view the fjords and glaciers, than Bergen is your likely starting point for the land-based version. Founded in 1070, it's a beautiful historical city flanked by mountains. Jostedal Glacier (below) is the largest glacier in continental Europe and is reachable from Bergen. Here you are able to enjoy experiences ranging from simple hiking on the glacier to rappelling down into the glaciers crevasses if you want.
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