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Thursday
Oct252018

* * Norway is Amazing

The first thing you need to know about Norway is that it is haltingly, startlingly beautiful, with crystalline lakes, enchanting fjords, rugged mountains, and pastoral farms. I’ve always wanted to go and time has been marching on. Finally my wife and I decided to make this old dream come true.

In Norway, there is a new wonder around every bend in the road. The fjords are simply magnificent, indescribable. I’ve heard it said that the whole country is as grand as Yosemite. Our 3000 km loop from Oslo across to the west coast to Stavanger, then Bergen and Alesund, then back through Lillehammer, proved that to be true.

Speaking of roads, the only straight ones are in the many tunnels, and some of them are curvy. Their highway engineers know how to go underground, and it’s a good thing, too, because above ground is marvelously corrugated.

There are many toll roads. There are no toll booths. Every car is required to have a chip on the windshield which is periodically scanned by sensors and an invoice is simply applied to stored credit cards.

Incidentally, speaking of credit cards, in Norway people use them to pay for EVERYTHING, mostly via hand-held readers that print receipts. Your credit card pays for meals, ferries, parking, and groceries. The one place we found pay toilets (in the tourist area of Bergen), no cash or coins were accepted; only credit cards.

Speaking of toilets, most communities of any size have free public toilets. As do the convenience stores, which are all modern and immaculate. Even remote villages had public toilet facilities, and all had running water, electric hand driers, and lights. And they were spotless.

There were pedestrian and bike paths everywhere, and people of all ages used them frequently.

The default intersection was the roundabout, and they worked great, moving significant levels of traffic smoothly and with little problem for anybody. I’m home now, immediately frustrated with the wasted minutes and fuel at every one of the countless signalized intersections we have around here.

Driving in Norway takes a level of skill, attention, and especially cooperation that I doubt most Americans are able or willing to provide. The roads, even the major highways, are almost always two-lane affairs, often 1.6 lanes or narrower. Some country roads lack room for oncoming cars to pass, and each must cooperate to use sporadic wide passing zones. Lorries (tractor trailers) navigate even narrow highways with an astonishing level of aplomb. Most of the cars are new and small, and we never saw one with crash damage. Norway has taken to electric cars in a big way. Driving is a full time job and nobody is on the phone.

As I alluded, above, they use the Metric system, like seemingly everybody else (but us). My rental car, a six-speed manual Ford Escort, used 5.5 liters in 100 kilometers. Can you do that conversion?

Overall, Norway is highly energy efficient and pollution conscious. There is zero roadside trash and no billboards. Did I mention it is astonishingly beautiful?

The federal government plays a huge roll in the welfare of all Norwegians. They pay high taxes. In return, they get government sponsored higher education and universal medical treatment. Minimum wages are high. Waitresses make $22/hr and don’t rely on tips. They love their health care system and are gobsmacked learning ours leaves millions uninsured. They can’t believe Americans are brainwashed to believe theirs is terrible. Get this: when they get sick, they go to the doctor and get treatment AT NO CHARGE.

Speaking of America, they are deeply vexed by what’s happening politically in our land and are far more educated about us than we are about them. One AirBnB host said, “We’ve hosted lots of Americans and not a single one approves of Donald Trump.” They see him as unstable and dangerous.

If there is any poverty, we didn’t see it. Even the most out of the way hamlets seem prosperous. The tourist trade is booming. Did I mention that Norway is beautiful?

 

Scenic landscapes. Lovely, well-educated, relaxed people. Fascinating history. I don’t think we’ve talked to anybody here who doesn’t love it.

Finally, Norway is a resource rich nation, primarily oil. Norway has invested the money reaped from taxes and exploration fees in their Government Pension (Oil) fund, currently around $1 trillion, an astounding $195,000 worth per citizen. It has holdings in stocks, real estate, and energy reserves throughout the world. America is a resource rich nation, in oil, coal, natural gas, and minerals. The American corporate owned government has channeled most of the wealth generated from those resources to an unfathomably wealthy elite, and America is now approximately $21 trillion in debt, an astounding $65,000 debt per citizen.

Which nation do you think will have a better future?

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