National Geographic : 1971 Jul
National Geographic, July 1971 15,000 reindeer still roam wild-I encoun tered another motorist standing beside his car, miles from anywhere. I pulled up. "Kanjeg hjelpe Dem?" I asked in my frag mentary Norwegian. "Can I help you?" "No, thank you," he replied in English. "I was only looking." He nodded toward the horizon, then got into his car and left. I gazed at what had held his eye: The great Hardanger Glacier in the distance had turned to a sheet of molten gold in the afternoon sun. Norwegians seem never too busy to admire their surfeit of scenery, I reflected, and lin gered there, just looking, for many minutes. At last another car drew up alongside. "Kan jeg hjelpe Dem?" its driver inquired. "Nei, takk," I said, gesturing toward the glacier, and drove off. He, too, stayed there drinking in the view, and, for all I know, the chain went unbroken until I reached Oslo. TWO YOUNG GUARDSMEN with plumed hats and shouldered rifles paced before the entrance to the Royal Palace. I tested one of them with a wink and won my mental bet-he grinned broadly. As a con stitutional monarchy, Norway must have its royal trappings, but sometimes prefers them worn in a loose-collared way. His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Harald, had a busy schedule occasioned by the illness of his father, King Olav V (page 15), but had kindly granted my request to be received. A tall, strong-jawed man in his early thir ties, His Highness wore a dark pin-stripe suit and an admirable tan from sailing on Oslo fjorden. He excels at the sport, having twice competed in the Olympics, and he spoke of his new boat-a Soling-class racing craft, about 25 feet long, designed in Norway. Among many other things, we discussed Norwegians' love of the outdoors and their national character, which His Highness found somewhat similar to that of the British, es pecially in their sense of humor. Throughout our hour-long conversation he spoke in flaw less, unaccented English; during the German occupation in World War II, he spent part of his boyhood near Washington, D. C. When I asked what major problems face his country, the Crown Prince cited inflation (about 41/2 percent a year), the influx into the cities of people from rural areas, and pollution. Sometimes in winter, he said, the snow is gray from industrial fallout from the Con tinent, so Norway's pollution is really inter national. Once, a few years ago, the snowfall was reddish, tinted by sand blown all the way from the Sahara. If Norway's problems are similar to those of other countries, they seem less severe than most. And I could find only one that pro voked more than mild controversy among phlegmatic Norsemen. It is an oft-told joke that "everyone in Nor way speaks at least four languages, and three of them are Norwegian." For years debate has sounded in the Storting-the Parliament - over Norway's official tongue. The most commonly used language is Riks mal-also called Bokmal-basically Danish in root. Many Norwegians, however, prefer not to be reminded daily of the "400-years' night," when their land was a poor stepchild of Denmark. They advocate Nynorsk-New Norwegian, based on various regional dia lects-which, paradoxically, is closer to the old Viking tongue. Still others are crusad ing for an amalgamation of Riksmal and Nynorsk, called Samnorsk. Most newspapers publish in Riksmal; radio and TV stations broadcast a portion of their programming in Nynorsk; both are officially recognized, and both are taught in schools. "But even the teachers who instruct pupils in Nynorsk go home and speak to their fami lies in Riksmal," said a hitchhiking university student I picked up on my way out of Oslo. "It is silly, the whole thing." He left me at Eidsvoll, where Norwegian statesmen wrote their constitution in 1814. I continued up the 60-mile length of Mj0sa, Norway's largest lake, then up Gudbrands dalen, the lovely valley that was birthplace of Peer Gynt, dramatist Henrik Ibsen's rascally anti-hero. Long into the twilit night I drove, enjoying the brooding beauty of the Rondane and Dovre Mountains. My tape recorder Side road of the sea, majestic Geirangerfjorden thrusts between steep-walled mountains. Beyond a resort hotel waits the German liner Hanseatic, one of a flo tilla of European cruise ships that ply Norway's fjords. Ice-free the year round because of warm Gulf Stream waters brought by the Norway Current, these arms of the Atlantic serve the nation as vital highways. KODACHROME © N.G.S.