Saturday, 14 April 2012

Norway Notebook (2)

We docked at Trondheim shortly after dawn, on a cloudless, bright sunny day, and had until 12 noon to explore on foot - I have posted lots of pix on my Facebook page. Since then, we have been steaming through the archipelago of small islands, sometimes in astonishingly narrow channels between enormous granite rocks, rounded by the pressure of ice many millions of years ago. Most of the passengers seem to be Norwegian, and the rest of us are German, Australian, British, French and - in at least one case, to my certain knowledge, because he and I are sharing a table for two at dinner (the only mealtime with set seating) - Belgian. My dinner companion does not in the least resemble the TV detective Hercule Poirot. He is a retired engineer, a widower who, since the death of his wife two years ago, assuages his single state by globetrotting. He is booked on a tour of Scotland in June, following an itinerary devised for him by a Scottish friend who lives, like my engineer, in Bruges. It is the most relaxing holiday I can possibly imagine, amazing scenery viewed passing continuously from the comfortable seats on deck or below through picture windows, wonderful weather and the quiet continuous babble of people mainly speaking Norwegian, a language I do not understand. Every now and then we pass a small fishing boat. Every little flat piece of ground and inlet seems to have small brightly-painted houses with their pitched roofs and quayside, boatsheds and slipways. Lastly, and possibly more controversially, there is the unquantifiable sense that one is in a country with no real need for tourists. Norway is blessed with such vast quantities of oil and gas, to add to their established industries of fishing and mining that everyone is well off. Nevertheless, all the staff on the boat are Norwegian, from the captain to the chambermaids. The art on the walls in Norwegian. Everything one eats seems to be grown, fished or reared in Norway. There goes the announcement of the first sitting for dinner - see you later!

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