Get lost in Norway
Travel writer and guide Dave Fox talks about his favorite Norwegian places
By Glenn Eriksen
Norwegian American Weekly
There was something different about the meat.
“It was the most tender meat I’d ever tasted,” says Dave Fox, veteran tour guide for Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door, but it didn’t look like anything he’d seen before. Since he and his group were dining at Elvesæter, a mountain lodge in Norway, he figured it had to be local game of some sort.
“I think it’s reindeer,” he said to an inquiring diner, “but I’ll ask the waiter.”
“It’s whale,” announced the waiter.
Fox stopped chewing. While whale meat is fairly common in Norway, Fox wouldn’t have chosen it, had he known. And the news was even harder to swallow for the two Greenpeace members at the table, who, at least until that moment, had been savoring the moist morsels. Whale meat in the mountains? Travel really is full of surprises!
It is just one of a busload of memories Fox has collected over his 12 years of guiding Rick Steves’ clients through the natural and cultural wonders of Scandinavia. Although Fox treasures the places his tours visit as they sweep through Sweden and Denmark, it’s the voyage to Norway aboard the overnight ferry from Copenhagen that is truly special. “I love gliding into Oslo, to the city that feels like home.”
In a way it is. Fox spent a year as a high school exchange student in Drøbak, just south of the Norwegian capital, where he experienced (or more precisely, survived) the prolonged and uniquely Norwegian graduation ceremony known as russefeiring. Later he studied linguistics at the University of Oslo.
From Oslo, Fox leads his tours north to lovely Lillehammer, site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. But it’s the final portion of the tour, over the mountains of Jotunheimen, across the fjords and ending in Bergen, that really stands out.
“The scenery is unbeatable,” says Fox.
As a solo traveler, Fox says some of his favorite experiences have been above the Arctic Circle, among the people of Norway’s far north.
“It’s a very different culture,” Fox says. “Whereas the people in the south are considered more reserved, the people up north are said to be gjestfri (hospitable).”
His favorite places include the Sámi capital of Karasjok in Finnmark county, and the village of Stamsund in the Lofoten Islands, where the hostel stands out as an extraordinarily scenic and friendly place. It is run by the affable owner known simply as Roar, who creates a convivial atmosphere in which guests from far-flung lands get to know each other. Then there is Tromsø, a “fascinating city, in that it presents an urban setting in an otherworldy sort of place,” Fox says. Perhaps it is no coincidence, he muses, that Tromsø is home to both the northernmost university on Earth and the world’s northernmost brewery.
When asked to name his favorite place in Norway, Fox doesn’t hesitate: “Drøbak.”
On the shores of the Oslofjord an hour’s bus ride from Oslo, it’s where Fox lived as an exchange student and where members of his host family still reside. Fox says he can walk around town on any given day and run into someone he knows. Although not on many tour itineraries, Drøbak is a wonderful place to visit, Fox says. “On a sunny weekend day it is an amazing place, alive with activity.”
In addition to guiding tours, Fox teaches classes in travel writing and makes public speaking appearances. He is the author of “Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad,” a hilarious collection of travel stories. To learn more, go to www.davethefox.com.
This article was originally published in the March 18, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.