The odder side of Norway

Do you remember the movie “Free Willy”, starring Keiko the Orca? He died from pneumonia in 2003 – in Norway. You can visit where he died – and other odd attractions while touring this country.

Norway is mostly about the wonderful landscape. But if you want a break from the breathtaking scenery to experience the odd, the strange, and sometimes the downright bizarre things in this country: Here are the top pics for you to visit.

1. The Offerdal Tunnel – the world’s steepest tunnel

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Steep, narrow, and somewhat dark… (Image: The Municipality of Årdal)

This 2200 m long tunnel is found in Årdal, Sogn og Fjordane County out west in Norway. It is recognized as the world’s steepest road tunnel. Due to poor map data, half of the tunnel was blasted with a wrong climb. Hence, the other half had to be corrected to end at the right spot in the village Indre Ofredal. This meant to allow for 15.5% climb in the the tunnel. Enjoy!

2. The Gardnos Meteorite Crater

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The crater is ca 50 km wide. (Image: Solveig H / Tripadvisor)

If space stuff is your thing, then you may want to visit the Gardnos Meteorite Crater. It is situated just outside Nesbyen in Buskerud County. It is one of the easiest accessible meteorite craters in the world, close by the road. It was made 546 million years ago when a 300 m wide meteorite crashed at the site at a velocity of 72.000 km/h, creating this 50 km wide crater. PS: Make sure you tag along one of the hourly guided tours – without someone telling you what this is, the whole area may seem like just another piece of Norwegian nature.

3. The World’s longest indoor wooden staircase

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Get ready for some legwork! (Image: VisitRjukan)

Fancy some legwork while touring around in Norway? Then you can visit Mår hydro power plant in Tinn in Telemark county. Along the tubed water fall powering the plant, there is also built a separate wooden staircase encased in its own tube. The 3875 steps will have you going for a while, and the staircase is recognized as the world’s longest indoor wooden staircase. PS: This place is not far from Vemork Heavy Water Plant (see below), so you can kill to birds with one stone by visiting Mår and Vemork.

4. The Vemork Heavy Water Plant

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The Vemork Heavy Water Plant before the sabotage. (Image: Arkitektnytt)

The Vemork plant is famed for being a target for one of the most courageous sabotage operations during WW2. Norwegian saboteurs managed to blow up the production facilities of this plant, which made heavy water (deuterium oxide – D2O). At the time, heavy water was considered a key ingredient to make an atomic bomb, and the Nazi German occupiers were busy at shipping heavy water to Germany, allegedly trying to be the first to make this weapon of mass destruction. Hence, the place needed to go. And they succeeded. The operation has been the subject for several movies, and you can visit the scene. The big building in the image above is no longer there, but there is a display and guides who will tell you the story and show you around. Worth a visit, if this is your cup of tea.

5. Keiko’s Memorial Cairn

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Keiko’s Cairn at Halsa. (Image: AtlasObscura)

“Free Willy” was a movie which apparently touched a large audience. The star of the movie, Keiko the Orca, became an overnight sensation, and scores of fans followed in his wake wherever he went. He ended up living in the Taknes Bay in Halsa, Møre og Romsdal County – which is also where he one day in December 2003 caught pneumonia which led to his demise. He is buried (in lack of a better word) just a few meters from where he died, and you can even pay your respect to Keiko by adding your stone to the cairn nearby. If that is your thing.

6. The Hessdalen Phenomenon

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Are they UFOs? (Image: VGD)

In the 12 km long valley of Hessdalen in Trøndelag county you may encounter strange light phenomenons. Some say it is UFOs. Others say it has perfectly natural explanations. But the fascination of the Hessdalen Phenomenon keeps attracting scores of people who spend the night under the stars at the UFO camp in hope to see the strange lights. Bring your tent and enjoy the night!

7. Hell

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Not as evil as the name may suggest. (Image: NRK Trøndelag)

Yes, you can visit Hell. Hell is a small village in Trøndelag county, and has unsurprisingly gained some fame due to its name. At the railway station, you will find the sign above. “Gods Expedition” is archaic Norwegian for “Goods Handling”, and has become THE place to have your picture taken. Especially in the winter, when most instagram images carries the caption “Hell has frozen over”. They even used to have a blues festival here – “Blues in Hell” – as well as being the place where the punk band The Boys recorded their “To Hell with The Boys” album.

8. Another Hell

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Helvete greets you calmly – but beware when you step into the canyon to see the giant potholes… (Image: Forskning.no)

If visiting Hell isn’t enough, you can also visit Helvete, which is “Hell” in Norwegian. This area, which is found in Espedalen in Oppland county, you will find som crazy, wild potholes – hence the name. It is a canyon where huge potholes were created during the ice age some 10.000 years ago. Some of these are 50 meters deep and 20 meters wide. Tread carefully!

9. The Leprosy Museum

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A somewhat eerie feeling at the Leprosy Museum in Bergen. (Image: Bymuseet Bergen)

Yes, there is a thing called the Leprosy Museum. It is found in Bergen, and represent a genunie 19th century experience of a very special hospital from the age of untreatable leprosy in Norway. The St George’s Hospital – which is the formal name of what is now the museum – was closed in 1946, when the two remaining patients died. They had lived there for half a century. With their deaths, more than 500 years of caring for the leprosy stricken ended due to the discovery of medical treatment. A lesser known fact for most, perhaps, is that the Norwegian physician Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen, who also worked at the hospital, was the person who discovered the bacteria causing the devastating disease in 1873. Hence, leprosy is often referred to as “Hansen’s Disease”. It is now cureable, so no risk by entering…

10. The Statue of Liberty

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She’s smaller than her sister in NYC, but with a proud heritage. (Image: tripadvisor)

Not simply a replica of the one in the harbor of New York City: This one –  admittedly  seriously dwarfed by her sister in said harbor – stands in Visnes in Karmøy in Rogaland county. The story goes that the copper used to clothe the big one in NYC came from Visnes. From mid-19th century until 1972, the copper mine at Visnes was among the largest in Northern Europe. Some have questioned if the copper really came from Visnes. The mine was at the time owned by a French mining company – the same company which donated the copper to the famous statue – which owned several mines around the globe, and the copper could come from any other mine. But given the old mine’s considerable size and export volume, the inhabitants of Visnes are confident of its place in history. For you, it’s a too good story to miss, so make sure you visit her.

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