The Road to Norway

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Today we proudly present the stunning photos taken by photographer Gianluca La Bruna and his comments on his visit to Norway a couple of years ago.

Born and raised in Italy, Gianluca rented a car and hit the roads of Norway. The following story, is Gianlucas own, accompanied by his stunning photos from the trip.

310815-Road-To-Norway_2-Gianluca-La-Bruna” I’m originally from Italy and my city is in front of the sea side. Summer to me has always meant warmth, sea, and beaches. I think most of the people that come from my town tend to avoid cold weather.

But in the summer of 2013 I just felt like I wanted to do something different. I felt like I needed nature, wilderness, breathless landscapes and silence, interrupted only by the echoes of the waterfalls. What I needed was a road trip. Away from the unbreathable hot air, away from everything I knew, away from everyone I know. I wanted to go to Norway!

As many people do before starting a travel to a new country, I started to read.
I swallowed some Norwegian books (Hamsun, Erlend Loe, Nesbø and some plays by Ibsen), while listening to Grieg, in order to be emotionally prepared for the trip.

I also saved some money, because the first thing everybody told me was that Norway was super expensive. For this reason, I decided to rent a car

in Sweden, fill it up with every kind of food, my tent, my backpack and a couple of cameras, and I took a ferry from Strömstad to Sandefjord.

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“Here I am”, I thought. I was in Norway with a map but with no clue where to go. According to my budget I had two weeks more or less. Two weeks to experience as much as I could. I decided to travel the South, to reach the West coast and to go back. Just a car and the road.

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I went to Risør, in Aust-Adger county. There, a nice young guy told me that I just missed the most important event in that city: a wooden boat festival that attracts many tourists. I didn’t care that much actually, because that white wooden town attracted me like no others. There, I really felt that I was in the North, far from everything, and I decided to forget my map. I just kept in mind that in three days I needed to be in Stavanger, then… whatever, I would have checked later.

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My travels through fjords had just started, I didn’t pay attention to the names of the little jewels I discovered, but I remember every single face I talked with, every food, every animal, every waterfall.

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I had to stop while heading to Stavanger, because I saw some crystal-clear water gushing from white rocks, and in the middle, a little rainbow! “You got to be kidding me!” I thought.

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When I got to Stavanger it was raining. A lot. Stavanger is in the Rogaland county, it has a famous university and its music scene is exciting. Here I met two girls, they played in a metal band (they talked to me about music in Stavanger) and with a pint in my hand, they told me about the Pulpit Rock (Prekestolen in Norwegian). They also told me about this tongue of rock suspended 600 meters onto a magnificent fjord. I am forever thankful to these girls for letting me know about this place!

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The morning after my destination was Forsand, a little town where the Pulpit Rock is located.

Well, at first I wondered how on earth I ended up in here? It was pouring rain, the parking lot was unbelievably expensive, and from where I was the Pulpit Rock appeared like an ordinary brushwood. I neither had proper clothes, nor proper shoes. After five minutes outside my car, I was soaked to the bones. Miserable, I decided to walk, not to throw away 100 NOK of parking fee.

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Maybe “walk” is not the appropriate word. At some points I had to climb, to jump, to fall, to clasp rocks, and so on, but after 2 km (it is 3.8 km to reach the top) it was not raining anymore, and I was actually flushed, striving for reaching the end of the path.

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And all of a sudden, there it was. The Pulpit Rock, and the Lysefjord that opens up in front of your eyes. It was really early in the morning, so there were not many people around, apart from some very nice Dutchmen that took a picture of me while I was lying on my stomach looking straight into the nothingness.

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Coming down was bittersweet, I wanted to stay the whole week on the top, but at the same time I felt the evil pleasure of seeing all the tourists who had started to flow panting for the scale.

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In the evening at my camp, I met an Australian guy who was on his way to Bergen to meet his Irish girlfriend, who was studying there for her Erasmus. We played guitar together, jammed in front of a bonfire, and he gave me his metal kazoo which I still have on my bookshelf.

Anyway, he asked me to follow him to Bergen. Bergen was a hell of a detour for me, but fair enough, we went to Bergen.

Bergen, in Hordaland, is the second-most populated city in Norway, and is truly amazing! I stayed two days there, which is the longest stay I had in one place in Norway. I, my new Australian friend and his girlfriend admired the remains of the quays, Bryggen, a World Heritage Site and (shame on us) we tasted whale meat. I know, one’s not supposed to do that, it’s bad. In our defense, I can say that we were on tourist frenzy, it was 4 or 5 days that the sun didn’t show up, and we needed to try new stuff. At the fish market, the nicest I’ve ever seen, I also met an Italian guy. He told us that with the money he earned from that job (which I think must have been a tough one) he could afford 6 months rent of a studio in Paris.

Well, now I had to head back, my money was running out.

Going towards Oslo, I wanted to pass through the county of Telemark, with its heterogeneous landscape (they say it’s like a small Norway itself, representing a heap of all Norwegian landscapes), full of stavkirker (stave churches) (typical Norwegian wooden churches) and stabbur (storehouse on pillars).

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Rjukan got my attention: a former industrial town that got its name after the close 104 meter waterfall Rjukanfossen. It’s famous for the Vemork hydroelectric plant. An old man there told me that in 1944 some Norwegian partisans sabotaged its machines, so that the Nazis were not able to make experiments with heavy water for the atomic bomb. It is really a powerful building.

There I also had a ride on the Krossobane, a cableway built to let the workers of the plant enjoy some sun now and then, since the valley is in the shade for the major part of the winter. Krossobanen was the first cable car to be built in Northern – Europe.

After Rjukan I meandered aimlessly through Telemark, meeting loads of people, eating the best salmon I’ve ever had (and also the worst food I’ve ever had: a cheap tin can of an already made reindeer stew), seeing beavers and even seeing a family of moose; two adults and a little dude. I almost set on fire a wooden bench, met a German couple that cooked on my grill (and err… destroyed it), caught by surprise by five rainbows one attached to the other, played guitar alone in the dark, walked barefoot on the grass while a creepy mist was rising from the ground. All of this and much more I left behind in Telemark.

When I finally got to Oslo, after a long trip accompanied by the sweet music of Kings of Convenience, I was kind of sad. I mean, I really liked Oslo, but I already missed my wandering into the wild. Luckily, I happened to be in Oslo during the year of the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birth. That meant that I had the chance to admire two exhibitions of this fantastic Norwegian painter completely for free.

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When I got back to the city I felt dazed, bewildered. I had the feeling that Norwegian nature had changed me, in some way.

After all, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood? ”

The Road to Norway, written by Gianluca La Bruna
All photographs: Gianluca La Bruna

310815-Gianluca-La-Bruna-on-twitterGianluca La Bruna
is an Italian photographer who has been working as a photographer, exploring several photography fields.

He is also a photojournalist, event photographer (music concerts, festivals, ceremonies, conferences), cinema and theatre photographer, food photographer, landscape photographer, portrait photographer and wedding and child photographer. He also shares his iPhone pictures on Instagram – exactly as you do!
This article has previously been printed in This is Scandinavia. We thank the publisher and Gianluca for their kind permission to republish the article with images.