We’re on the KLM flight to Amsterdam, where in Schiphol we will rendezvous with Veronica. In sum, Norway has been a splendid beginning to our journey. A bit otherworldy in Lofoten; deeply affecting and unforgettable landscapes there, in the Sognafjord region, and on the drive onto Oslo; the opportunity to get our feet wet (wetter than we expected) as they, dry as can be, helped us scale, and scramble, and hike, and walk up and down slopes of unexpected difficulty and expected though still startling beauty;
cities and towns of a well-put-together country,
which, together with the universality of English, made our time negotiating a foreign land easy and stress-free; and two cities, though not spectacular, containing charm and enough urban offerings to occupy us engagingly for the short stays we allotted them. As a combination of highlights and ease, of newness and distinctiveness, Norway has been a sure winner as a place to start. Sarah and I have already accustomed ourselves to an existence of living abroad and underway. Gideon is a bit less settled, as the reality of a relatively kid-poor day-to-day requires adjustment. Yet spending so much time together, just together, in the countryside afforded bonded-us the time to bond even more in a right manner — an ubuntu-cultivating-practice which the Celtics pursued one year with a preseason stretch in Rome, setting themselves up for their successful championship run.
Norway is interesting (and fortunate) in other ways we should at least flag. Greatly owing to North Sea oil, as well as its people’s own human and social capital, it is among the world’s very wealthiest countries, producing a per capita income around twenty percent higher than the US and forty percent higher than Sweden. Yes, Sweden. This impressive wealth combines with broad income equality (its Gini coefficient is one of the lowest in the OECD), and enormous attention to public infrastructure, places, spaces, and goods. Rural areas and structures, notoriously poor around the world, are also sumptuous.
Roads (and gads of tunnels) are superbly designed and maintained. (We drove through the world’s longest car tunnel – 15.2 miles! – four times. We had not even known about it when we first came upon it in its rural area, and saw the sign announcing its 24 km. Imagine our momentary surprise.) Cars, in our two weeks of looking, are entirely dent and blemish free. Parks abound. Even the trees in the countryside have gotten on the program.
Materials used in the built environment are of immensely high quality, with textures that draw and excite the eye, mind, and body.
There is much to admire and consider about Norway, which even a cursory two-week visit such as ours should suggest to just about anyone, including and, especially during this era of mean politics and policymaking, to Americans.
After our mostly landscape oriented time in Norway, we have scheduled a couple of weeks of heavy-duty art, architecture, and urbanity in Netherlands and Belgium. This portion of our travels is not a change of pace insofar as these two countries also have extremely well-put-together societies (ignoring, Belgium’s schizophrenic ethnic composition and politics), yet it is a change of pace in the activities which will form the core of our stay.
We try to live focusing on the present, on the place we currently inhabit and the activity we undertake, maximizing the present’s potential. Nevertheless, on a journey which, in demanding so much planning, has compelled a great deal of forethought and prospective investigation, and, especially, with so many lustrous places ahead, it takes effort not to look down the road, especially, it seems, for Gideon when attaining and straining for a good vantage point directed at the geographically distant but temporally around-the-corner Serengeti.
–Danny, written July 29-30, posted in Amsterdam 1 August 2017