Norway: Getting Back to the Basics in the Mountains | Terra Incognita | DW | 26.09.2007
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Norway: Getting Back to the Basics in the Mountains

Norwegians enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living. But join a Norwegian on his holiday, and you might find yourself struggling with 19th century standards in a basic mountain cabin.

This is the Norwegian holiday spot of choice

This is the Norwegian holiday spot of choice

In Norway, people are fast to adopt new technology. A typical Norwegian home will have broadband Internet, a flat screen TV, perhaps a Jacuzzi and at least one car in the driveway.

But when it comes to relaxing, outdoor toilets, as well as no electricity or running water is the choice of many.

Anne Marit and Karl Petter Brun, for example, wouldn't trade their small wooden cabin for the world. The Brun's drive for two hours from their home in the city of Trondheim and then walk another 20 minutes to get to their cabin.

Surrounded by wild moorland and the mountains, the couple relaxes with no cars, no electricity and no running water. Candles and oil lamps light the inside of the cabin, whose sole source of heat is a wood stove.

For Karl Petter, it's a total break from his everyday life as a headhunter.

"It's tradition," he says -- and isn't bothered at all by having to haul water in buckets from a nearby stream.

"And we can relax, both in body and mind," Anne Marit adds. " I think this is the best way to relax, and to really load our batteries."

Luxury is nowhere to be found

Thousands of mountain cabins dot the Norwegian countryside, from the very south to the high Arctic north. Many of them are family-owned and handed down from generation to generation.

Einfache Holzhütte irgendwo in den Bergen Norwegens

It doesn't get any simpler than this

But, of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a family heirloom like that of the Brun's. For them, the alternative is the public tourist cabins, such as Jøldalshytta.

Tourists checking in at Jøldalshytta have often spent the entire day walking across the mountains from other tourist cabins. But they're not expecting any luxury or intimacy here.

"We provide simple accommodation and they have to share a room," says cabin supervisor Ann Synnøve Handeland. Meals are eaten at a long table in the dining room. On the breakfast table, guests find products from the small mountain farm just next door.

"Everyone is talking to everyone," Handeland says. "You don't have cranky people in the mountains!"

People are focusing on health and environment

Many of the cabins in Norway's remote mountains were originally summer farms. They turned into holiday homes as farming modernized and needed electricity and water.

Norwegen Landschaft Hütten in den Bergen

Norway's remote mountain regions are the ideal place to relax

Handeland says that people choose such a down-to-earth holiday because they want something genuine, which is not so busy.

"It's pure nature," she says. "The Norwegian people have always been like this, but to a greater extent now, with more focus on health and environment."

Today, anyone has the right to roam and even set up their tent wherever they please in Norway's wilderness. But strict regulations prevent new construction or any motorized activity in these areas.

People here hope this will never change, so whatever happens in the modern world, they can still escape to the remoteness and basic standard of a simple cabin.

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  • Author Lars Bevanger (August 2007)
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  • Author Lars Bevanger (August 2007)
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