Friday, March 13, 2015

Driving in Norway

Norwegians are the most polite drivers I have ever encountered in the World.

In some ways, I'm surprised they ever get anywhere.  They do not drive fast, they are quick to yield to other drivers, and they are cautious to a fault.

Principally because of oil and gas revenues, Norway is a very wealthy nation.  They have put a lot of money into their travel infra-structure.

They have lights on almost every highway.  They have tunneled to a point where you wonder if it is a nation of moles.  They have huge bridges.  Since Karen does not particularly like tunnels and I do not particularly like heights (as in, really tall bridges that almost never, but occasionally do, fall down), Norway has covered most of our basic fears.  They have everything except extra lanes to drive in.  For the most part, Norway is covered in two-lane highways, brightly lit, which go all over the place through tunnels, over bridges and to the occasional ferry.

Norwegians are extremely polite.  As a result, they drive in lines, one behind the other, for miles, with no attempts to pass.

If we were actually moving at a decent speed, this would probably be fine.  However, the Norwegian speed limits were apparently set with peace and serenity in mind, not with the concept of actually going anywhere.  Of course, perhaps the real problem is that Norwegian speed signs can reduce people like me to the giggles, since the Norwegian word for "speed" is "fart".

Huge sections of the highways are posted for "farts" at 60 or 70 kilometers an hour.  Either of those generate comments from my lovely passenger like "why are we going so slow?"  Sixty kilometers an hour is basically like you have released the parking brake, but have not yet started the engine.  Seventy is only slightly better.

The ridiculously low fart limits are enforced by the liberal use of "traffic cameras" which seem to be placed every 10 kilometers or so (which translates to 6 miles, in a "who cares" kind of way).  There are warning signs that a traffic camera is coming, so a person like me could hit the pedal in full fart once he passes the camera and slow down when the next one is announced.  It seems like most Norwegians are not like me and they diligently plod along at "almost no kilometers an hour" as posted, so people like me are trapped in a perpetual polite Norwegian line of law-abiding citizens.

The tunnels are incredible.  They are all over the country and some are huge and go deep under the fjords.  Apparently, even more are coming.  On our travels, we went on the deepest car tunnel in the World, at about 1,000 feet deep and one of the longer car tunnels, at about 8 and 1/2 miles long (the longest is at an unbelievable 15 miles).  We also went into a tunnel that had a round-about in the middle of the tunnel, dividing it into two additional tunnels.  They are their own eco-system, with steam forming over your car windows, exhaust billowing around and your ears suggesting that a more natural environment might be more pleasant for all.  In many, but not all of the tunnels, huge fans are constantly trying to clean the air, usually only partially successfully.

The tunnels are not pleasant places to be.

When we are outside the tunnels, the views of the mountains, valleys, fjords and mountain lakes have been gorgeous!!!!!

Of course, farting along at 60 kilometers per hour, you have a lot of time to appreciate it.

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