Goodbye Norway, it’s been a blast
Our six weeks touring Norway and Svalbard by bicycle and boat is over. As we head out of Bergen en route for the Shetland Islands, we can reflect on a society that has to be one of the more idyllic on earth; no huge population pressure, an abundance of wide open spaces, a standard of living and social security that is the envy of the world – no wonder they top the Happiness Indexes !
But for us it’s the ability to cycle along the lonely fjord coastal roads, over the hills and into the glacial valleys, to see at least a few of the 50,000 islands that dot its coastline, and of course experience the Svalbard environs and even further on to almost 83 degrees north, that has made it a destination well worth recommending.
The incongruous sight of farmers with massive tractors presiding over plots that would merely qualify as 10 acre play-farms in New Zealand, is one that left us gob-smacked. That their sheep go for their summer holidays up to the summer valleys of the mountains where they roam the Commons for 4 months, emphasises yet again for us that countries have all manner of different models for their rural sector; the proliferation of holiday cabins hanging from the sides from the steepest of fjord walls in what otherwise would be a deserted landscape, each with it’s own tunnel it seems linking it to life on the eastern inner of this elongated maritime nation reminds just how wealthy the place is, with an infrastructure we can only dream of; and the abundance of traditional fishing villages, modern fish farms, ship building, cruise ship tourism and oil rig servicing industry reinforces how diversified the economy here is.
And it’s not resting on its laurels. Already Norway has the highest per capita ownership of electric vehicles, the 2nd largest sovereign fund in the world, and of course the most extensive social security infrastructure on earth. The aim of the sovereign fund is to provide Norwegians with an international investment income flow, so that as oil revenue falls away the country’s income remains protected. It’s only 7 years away from being 100% EVs, and leads the world in fish farming technology which it continues to export. It’s electricity is 98% renewable (hydro) meaning it can export aluminium and steel.
Neither are the Norwegians stingy. Their foreign aid is 1.1% of GDP, almost 5 times the meagre contribution of 0.23% that New Zealand makes.
Happy and rich – that is the Norway of today. We’re sorry to leave – thanks for the memory.