Have Bag, Will Travel
- 1,087,314 hits
Search my Site
Tag Archives: Haugesund
… if you have ever wondered why sometimes products change their name to be more universally accepted then here here are some examples why…
One of the reasons that we have tended to avoid travelling to Scandinavia is because of the notoriously high cost of living and the lofty prices relative to southern and eastern Europe. Read on…
The Axe Factor
Sure enough, in the morning, it was still steadily raining and over the first cup of tea of the day there developed an awful realisation that this might turn into a ‘killing off time’ sort of day.
We took our time and then stretched breakfast out for as long as we realistically could and discussed our rather limited choices. I could read but Kim hadn’t brought a book with her and she wasn’t excited by my spare one which was a rather heavy going ‘history of modern Spain’ so that meant that a library sort of morning also seemed to be ruled out.
As we lamented the weather and talked through the options however the rain started to ease off and by half past ten, although it had not stopped completely it was at last possible to go outside.
It was another depressing morning, the city crippled under the weight of a leaden grey sky, as we set out in a northerly direction along the black granite coast towards Huagesund’s most famous visitor attraction, the Haroldshaugen Norges Riksmonument a couple of kilometres outside of the city. We joined a handful of local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ kagools and hiking boots who were wandering along the coast line cinder path stopping occasionally for no apparent reason than to stare out into the grey nothingness of the North Sea.
We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Viking Age and a starting off point for longships full of heathen bullies on their way across the North Sea to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.
They could certainly travel that’s for sure. The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century. These Norsemen used their famous longships to travel as far east as Russia, as far west as Newfoundland and as far south as modern Spain in a period known as the Viking Age.
Whilst we tend to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was quite complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from archaeology and modern research. A romanticized picture of Vikings as noble savages began to take root in the eighteenth century and this developed and became widely propagated for over a hundred years.
The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers are part true, part fable and although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.
But now it seems historical revisionism has gone too far for some people especially for Professor Simon Keynes, an Anglo-Saxon historian at Cambridge University – ‘There’s no question how nasty, unpleasant and brutish they were. They did all that the Vikings were reputed to have done.’
They stole anything they could. Churches were repositories of treasure to loot. They took cattle, money and food. It’s likely they carried off women, too, he says. ‘They’d burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction.’ It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise. It was maritime blitzkrieg at first.’
Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000. Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.
According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group. In Minnesota, 868,361 Minnesotans claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State. No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th 1960; the name is partly meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.
The Club website helpfully explains. why it was chosen..
“it represented both an aggressive person with the will to win and the Nordic tradition in the northern Midwest.”
The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club. Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams. Their traditional nickname is ‘The Chemics’ after the main industry in Widnes, but the club now generally use their more modern nickname.
The Football club from Stavanger is not just nicknamed Viking it is called Viking Stavanger. The National Team of Norway, who might be expected to be called The Vikings are in fact called Løvene which means Lions. Other National Teams that are called Lions are Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Senegal and Singapore; England are called the Three Lions.
Haraldshaugen was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway’s unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I and was unveiled on July 18th 1872 by Crown Prince Oscar to commemorate the one thousand year anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord. Truthfully I found it a bit disappointing I have to say, a seventeen metre high granite obelisk surrounded by a memorial stones in a Stonehenge sort of way, next to an deserted car park, a closed visitor centre and an empty vending machine but I’m sure I am being unfair because places such as these are not really meant to be visited on a cold, wet day in January.
We walked back along the same route and into the suburbs of the city which felt a bit like a deciduous tree coping with winter; existing, hibernating, waiting and watching for the first signs of spring. The people with pale complexions, weary streets, grass burned brown by frost and houses battered and besieged and firmly closed to the outside world, a city beaten to the edge of submission by winter and still only part way through.
The rain showed no sign of easing off so we settled in to an afternoon of sport on the satellite television which was promising a full afternoon of English Premier League football. I sampled the first can of Frydenlund and was pleased to discover that it was very nice indeed and then sat down for the match.
To be honest the shops in Haugesund weren’t especially thrilling but we did stop at a co-op supermarket to see what sort of things Norwegians eat and how much they pay for them. We had some difficulty in understanding the prices and everything seemed horribly expensive but then we realised that a box of cornflakes couldn’t possibly be £25 so finally understood that prices were in øre which is a hundredth of a krone and effectively therefore the equivalent of a penny or a cent.
In the morning by a minor miracle the rain had stopped and the pavements had been dried off by the piercing wind so when we woke and discovered this we were hopeful of a dry day.
Just to satisfy ourselves we searched the Norwegian breakfast television channels for a forecast and after a few minutes surfing eventually found one. The weather man appeared in front of a map full of symbols and, I don’t know why she did this, but Kim turned up the sound so that we could hear what he was saying! I think she failed to take into account that whatever it was he was telling it in impenetrable Norwegian. I asked her why she did that and she said that she thought it might be helpful!
We were flying north in Europe for the first time since Iceland in 2007 and after we crossed the North Sea the plane approached the rugged and heavily indented Norwegian coastline and crossed a scattering of ghostly islands and through the darkness we could just about make out small hamlets and villages clinging determinedly to the granite rocks.
“‘That’s an outrage’ I said, clutching my receipt like bad news from a doctor. ‘I don’t know why I don’t just pin money to my jacket and let you people pick it off me!'” -Bill Bryson – ‘Neither Here Nor There’
Although I have an ambition to visit all of the countries of Europe the quest has slowed down a little in the last eighteen months with limited opportunities to see new places due to several return visits to different regions of Spain, an annual holiday to the Greek islands of course and repeat visits to Poland, Germany and France. So by early 2011 and without a visit to a new European country since Estonia in December 2009, it was surely time to put this right.
One part of Europe that we have so far missed out is Scandinavia so with January Ryanair weekend flight bargains to Norway, Sweden and Denmark this was the perfect opportunity. There were a lot of destinations to pick from and after comparing all the options we finally choose Norway. We could have flown to the capital Oslo but it turned out that the airport is almost seventy kilometres from the city, which would have meant a lot of travelling in a short space of time, so we decided upon Haugesund instead, a city on the North Sea coast in between the two better known destinations of Bergen to the north and Stavanger to the south.
Actually, as it turns out I remembered later that I had in fact been to Norway before but this was not an authentic visit because this was to Norway at the World Showcase at EPCOT in Disney World in Florida, USA.
One of the reasons that we have tended to avoid Scandinavia is because of the notoriously high cost of living and the lofty prices relative to southern and eastern Europe but with flights at just £12 return (ok, plus the ludicrous £10 administration fee of course) we calculated that we could afford a couple of days of sky high northern European alcohol and restaurant prices without too much pocket pain.
The reason that Norway in particular is so expensive is that after World War Two, thanks to shipping, the merchant marine industry and a policy of domestic industrialisation the country experienced rapid economic growth. Then, from the early 1970s, there was further accelerated growth as a result of exploiting large oil and natural gas deposits that had been discovered in the North Sea.
Today, as a result Norway ranks as the second wealthiest country in the world in monetary value, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. It is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of its gross domestic product. Norway has rich resources of oil, natural gas, hydroelectric power, forests, and minerals, and, after the People’s Republic of China is the second largest exporter of seafood in value. Following the financial crisis of 2007–2010, World bankers declared the Norwegian krone to be one of the most solid and reliable currencies in the world.
Because of this happy position Norway is one of the priciest countries to live in or visit and regularly features in the top five places where you can quickly run up an overdraft. For residents a high proportion of income is spent on housing and the monthly groceries for example for a typical family costs roughly £1,000. For Visitors dining out is an expensive luxury and a typical three star hotel in Oslo costs a whopping £150 a night, starting at the smallest hotel room and definitely without a balcony or a view.
Alcohol, however, is the real killer (financially not medically) because the Government slaps on punitive taxes to stop people from drinking and the price of a bottle of spirits is four times that of the United Kingdom.
Norwegians can only by wine and spirits from special liquor outlets called Vinmonopolet (literally, wine monopoly) and there are normally only one or two of these in each city, depending on its size so some people living in the countryside have to travel great distances just to buy a bottle of wine or alternatively they just stay at home and brew their own.
It’s not all bad news for Norwegians however because high prices go hand in hand with the country’s high standard of living. Hourly wages are extremely high to attract workers that would get the same pay in Norway’s oil or fishing industry and consequently products in the shops and supermarkets are expensive but to Norwegians, their pricey lifestyle is just something that they have come to terms with.
With budgets in mind the search for a hotel produced the highly recommended four star Clarion Collection Hotel Amanda situated right on the waterfront and at £110 a night all inclusive including evening buffet that seemed just about perfect so we had no hesitation in booking the room.
On the day of departure and anticipating low winter temperatures we packed appropriately because Haugesund is just slightly further north than the Orkney Islands so we were expecting cold weather. And with alcohol prices in mind we left space for a three litre carton of red wine from the duty free shop at Stansted airport!
It was a lunch time flight and with the one hour time difference we landed at Haugesund airport on the nearby island of Karmøy at half past four where due to the high northerly latitude of 59º it had already been dark for over an hour.
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…