Natasha Coutinho (MUMBAI MIRROR; July 10, 2017)

Norway is a picture perfect Scandinavian country with lots of glaciers, mountains and deep coastal fjords known for fishing, hiking and skiing, notably at the Lillehammer Olympic village. The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden, and has Finland and Russia on its north-east, the Skagerrak strait to the south and Denmark on the other side. Norway has an extensive coastline as it faces the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea. Its capital city, Oslo, is famous for its Viking Ship Museum. A constitutional monarchy, Norway divides state power between the Parliament, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court but has had over 60 kings and earls, the present one being King Harald V of the Dano- German House of Gl├╝cksburg.

The country is numero uno on the World Happiness Report, the OECD Better Life Index, the Index of Public Integrity, and the Democracy Index. Taapsee Pannu, who was in the country a week ago, has returned with lots of memories to share.

Land of the Midnight Sun
I was in Norway for four days. I went in the last week of June and had planned the trip for this time of the year because I can’t handle a Scandinavian country in winter. From the end of November to late January, the days are really short and bitterly cold. But from the end of May to late July, the sun never completely descends below the horizon in areas north of the Arctic Circle which explains why Norway is often called the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun.’

Since I’m not a winter person, I decided that I would wait for summer to visit so I could enjoy the beautiful coast. Make sure you carry sunscreen as well as a winter jacket because you never know what the weather will be like, and comfortable shoes as you need to walk around a lot. Travel using public transport like buses and trams, sit outside and eat on a sunny day and click pictures like a fan of the city without worrying about anyone.

Old world charm
Every street looks like it is straight out of a postcard and there aren’t too many skyscrapers in Oslo. The city is cosy and you can still feel the old world charm. It has a good public transport system, which made it easy for me to move around. I would hop on to a bus or a tram, snack on the streets and capture tonnes of selfies.

I visited a lot of museums, including the Astrup Fearnley Art Museum, which is known for its American and European pop influences. The building itself is a piece of modern art. I also visited the Fram Museum which dates back to 1936 and tells the story of the Polar exploration while the Viking Ship Museum is famous for its vintage ships, especially the headline-grabber, Oseberg ship, which was excavated from the largest ship burial in the world. I also spent some enjoyable hours at the Norwegian Folk Museum and the Kon-Tiki museum which houses vessels, maps and a library of over 8,000 books. Oslo Fjord, is another haunt, a part of the Skagerrak strait, connecting the North Sea and the Kattegat sea area, which leads to the Baltic Sea.

The Vigeland sculpture park is the world’s largest and made by a single artist. Meanwhile, the Akershus Castle, which dates back to the 1290s, is a medieval castle and a royal residence which has never been beseiged by a a foreign army and was also used as a prison through Norwegian history. Akershus Castle today contains the Royal Mausoleum and is used for official events and dinners for dignitaries and foreign heads of state. The Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Defence Staff Norway (armed forces headquarters) also have joint modern headquarters in the eastern part of Akershus Fortress. The Oslo Opera House which is the home of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway.

I also dropped by the city hall and the Nobel Peace Centre where you can dig out any details on the Nobel laureates.

Of salmon and seafood
I wouldn’t recommend Scandinavia as a shopper’s paradise. But if you enjoy Nordic cuisine like me and beautiful locations, it’s the place to be. I collect fridge magnets from all the places I travel to, so that’s the only thing I brought home from Norway. But I will always remember the place for its salmon. For local food, Aker Brygge is the go-to place. That’s where the Norwegians meet, shop, eat and drink. Another option is to hop on a boat to one of the islands for a bite or just enjoy fresh seafood from the boats.

For local food, Aker Brygge is the go-to place. That's where the Norwegians meet, shop, eat and drink.Another option is to hop on a boat to one of the islands for a bite or just enjoy fresh seafood from the boats.