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Title: Lonely Planet Norway, 2nd edition (3rd edition now available - see below)
Authors: Graeme Cornwallis, Andrew Bender and Deanna Swaney
Copyright: © 2002
Publisher: Lonely Planet
Relevance: Lonely Planet Norway is an ideal guide book for reporters and other travelers visiting Norway. Although there is excellent coverage of Oslo, the book also spends significant time on the many other regions in this beautiful, yet somewhat foreboding, country.
Review: This second edition of Lonely Planet Norway brings with it a series of facts, folklore, legends, sites, sounds and tips about this chilly, yet truly friendly land. The book starts off -- as is standard Lonely Planet practice -- with general facts about the country. Readers are treated to a brief cultural and political history, notes about Norway's famous and (very very) cold climate, the country's geography, geology, ecology, plants and animals, its government and politics, the economy, population, demographs, education, arts, society, religion, and finally, Norway's two official languages: Bokmal and Nynorsk.
Facts for the Visitor follows. Here, Lonely Planet Norway features suggested itineraries based on how long a visitor has in the country; how and when to plan your trip; Norway's tourist offices around the world; visas and other required forms; currency; books; and other important details such as health care options for visitors; common dangers, business hours, public holidays, food, drink, sports and shopping.
Since there are few options in terms of getting to Norway, the usual "Getting There and Away" section of the book is comparatively short. Getting Around, however, has a bit more meat to it, as the book covers internal air travel, bus, train, bicycle, hitching, boat, and other transportation options. Of course, it's unlikely that a correspondent will be hitching or using a two-wheel form of transit to file a story, but traveling as the natives do can often help newcomers learn local customs and culture far faster than almost anything else.
Reporters who have been to Norway and who have ventured outside Oslo know the tremendous scenery that Norway offers. Consequently, we were pleased to find a few key scenic journeys listed in the book. The Oslo-Bergen railway, for example, is one of the great train journeys in the world, as is the journey Voss to Lom. Similarly the trip from Sogndal to Andalsnes and the trip from Bronnoysund to Kjerringoy is likewise explained. Although we would like these sections to be larger, it is certainly in the book's favor that they are mentioned and illustrated at all. Any travel reporter or writer looking for a peaceful and tranquil place on which to base a story could do worse than look in these regions of Norway.
Oslo in depth
Of course no book about Norway would be complete without spending a fair amount of time on Norway's capital, Oslo. The book spends almost 40 pages dealing with Oslo and its suburbs, such as Drobak, Drammen, and Fredrikstad. The usual sections on hotels, restaurants, sights and diversions are listed -- and are segmented by how much each will cost.
Next up: Southern Norway, including short sections on over a dozen communities, such as Tonsberg, Larvik, Risor, Lyngor, Mandal, and Rjukan. The section on Central Norway includes coverage on towns such as Hamar, Lillehammer, Trollheimen, and Otta. Bergen and the southwestern fjords of Norway are covered next. Bergen, the home to many a fishing ship in days gone by, is first on the list to be outlined. The book spends 15 pages in and around the area discussing this beautiful town on the sea. Hardangerfjord, Voss, Mjolfjell, Stalheim, Dale, Norheimsund and Oystese, Ulvik and Osa, Rosendal, Utne, Lofthus, Kinsarvik, Eidfjord, and of course, the once bustling fishing center of Stavanger. are also covered.
One of the interesting aspects of Lonely Planet Norway is reflected in the book's careful detail of small towns and communities throughout Norway, some having populations of fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. The book, therefore, mirrors the small town and laid back nature of Norway outside its capital, Oslo. Writers who are set on "kicking back" and finding a place to finally write that novel they've never had time for will do well when visiting one of these smaller communities.
The Western Fjords are up next. Here, authors Graeme Cornwallis, Andrew Bender, and Deanna Swaney cover over two dozen small communities and regions. Thus, we have short sections on Sognefjorden, Flam, Undredal, Laerdal, Vik, Jostedalsbreen, Nigardsbreen and Briksdalsbreen. Also covered are small communities such as Skei, Stryn, Olden, Loen, Floro, Maloy, Selje, and Geiranger.
The authors present the Trondelag region of Norway next and include brief sections on Trondheim and the route north, including small communities such as Hell, Stiklestad, Namsos, Rorvik, Leka and Steinkjer. Throughout the book there are also dozens of useful sidebars on interesting Norway-related subjects such as playwright Henrik Ibsen, sculptor Gustav Vigeland and the country's 31 stave churches, some dating back 900 years.
Pack your woollies
Towards the Arctic Circle, we find special sections on the Arctic Highway and the National Park ("Nasjonal Park"), Fauske, Narvik, Bodo and a dozen other small communities of interest to explorers, travelers and reporters. As befits a country whose borders extend to the far, far north, the book also spends a fair amount of time on a section entitled The Far North. As if you can't already feel the cold piercing your long underwear and GoreTex parka, the book spends some time outlining communities well inside the Arctic Circle and above the 70° North. Brrrrr.
For the truly adventurous -- or reporters who have really, really upset their editors -- there is a section about the regions of Svalbard and Jan Mayen. For those travelers not acquainted with these far-flung regions, Svalbard is 550 km more or less due north of the most northerly point in Norway and Jan Mayen is roughly 1,200 km northwest of Trondheim. If you have the hankering to visit these remote areas, Lonely Planet Norway.
Although the vast majority of city dwellers and a large percentage of country folk speak English, it's always nice to know a few key phrases. If only to make it look like you're making an effort and not speaking English in a loud voice. Although the four-page language section and the two-and-a-half-page glossary won't make you a native speaker, it is better than nothing and certainly knowing how to say hello, good-bye, yes, no, please and thank-you will go a long way during your visit.
We thoroughly enjoyed Lonely Planet Norway especially its comprehensive coverage of Norway's history, culture and environment. For nature photographers, writers, and correspondents, the country provides a huge number of outdoor pursuits and breathtaking scenic journeys. With over 70 maps and quite a few color plates, Lonely Planet Norway provides a comprehensive introduction to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Recommended.
End of Review
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