Summer holidays close to home

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Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians launched their annual summer holidays over the weekend, which marked the start of the three-week period known as fellesferie. The myth that “everyone” heads for southern Europe or farther afield isn’t true, though, with three out of five Norwegians planning to stay in Norway, some of them in rather primitive style.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

These colourful outdoor chairs adorn a small beach on the island of Utsira, an hour’s ferry ride off Haugesund in the North Sea. It’s become a popular destination, as Norwegians set off on summer holidays this year. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

A new survey conducted for Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, shows that only 14 percent of those questioned planned to spend their entire summer holiday abroad. Another 32 percent of Norwegians said they’ll combine some traveling abroad with time off in Norway, either at home, at a hytte (holiday home or cabin) or traveling around their own homeland.

State statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) reports that around 50 percent of Norwegians either own a hytte themselves or have access to one. Norwegians who travel a lot for work are among those who especially opt for time off at their hytte, either on the coast, in the mountains or some other rural area.

As many as 14 percent of those surveyed by DNB said they had no plans for summer holidays at all, opting instead to take off or travel at other times of the year. That way they can still enjoy long, light evenings and weekends, often shorter work schedules in the summertime and then travel in the off-season when there aren’t so many tourists.

The national employers’ organization Virke reports that Norwegians will be spending an average of NOK 40,650 (USD 5,000) on holidays this year, a level that’s higher than for many years. The bigger holiday budgets are linked to Norway’s resurgent economy and low unemployment rate as oil prices climb back up towards USD 80 a barrel. That’s set off lots of new offshore drilling projects and more activity in the oil industry in general, which has ripple effects on many other sectors of the economy.

This old cabin, called Kvåho, is located in the eastern forest of Finnskogen near the Swedish border. It has two bunks and can be used free of charge, with occupants only expected to clean up after themselves. PHOTO: Statskog

Not everyone is well off enough to spend so much on holidays, though, and cheaper options abound. Norway’s allemanns-retten secures the right to hike and camp even in privately owned areas of the forests, hill, mountains and coastal areas around the country. Tents can be pitched almost anywhere, as long as they’re not close to a home or other occupied building. It’s also become popular to hang up hammocks between trees for sleeping outdoors, especially in the forests around the Oslo area.

It’s also possible to spend the night in a wide variety of cabins owned and operated by the national trekking association DNT for modest fees, while state forestry agency Statskog has opened more than 100 cabins around the country to the public, some of them at no charge. Most were built shortly after World War II to house forest workers and accommodation is basic, with no electricity or running water, but that’s also becoming increasingly popular.

Increasing numbers of Norwegians and others are keen to drop all the comforts of home and rough it in the great outdoors during holidays. State broadcaster NRK ran a story recently about a business owner from Germany who traveled to Norway on her own and stayed for a week in a basic cabin in the vast forest of eastern Hedmark county. “It’s wonderful, just being out here, totally quiet and alone,” she told NRK as she fetched water from a nearby stream. She claimed it was the best holiday she’d ever had.

The term fellesferie, meanwhile, stems from the times when entire factories, businesses, stores and restaurants in Norway would actually close done for several weeks in July. That allowed employees time off for hoped-for sunshine and warmth, which already has been abundant this spring and summer before the holidays even begin.

Few commercial operations shut down anymore, although visitors and locals alike can encounter signs on some restaurants and shops that they’re “sommerstengt” (closed for summer holiday) and will re-open sometime in early August.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund